As Drake opened his eyes, he was met with the sight of the gleaming white teeth of the wyvern surrounding him on all sides, but… strangely, he hadn’t died.
I’m… alive. Drake couldn’t help but think to himself. The last thing he remembered was the violent crashing of the wyvern’s teeth on his crystallized mana. After that, the wyvern should have been able to kill him easily after that. Simply put, he would have been nothing more than dog food.
Is this… Drake attempted to get a better look at his body, only to see the red mist of his mana surround him completely. The faint cracks in the mouth of the wyvern allowed Drake to see inside, but even then, his hands completely eluded him.
I can’t believe it. I was right. It finally activated. Drake confirmed.
At the moment of his impending death, he had instinctively activated the opaque, crimson gem in his inner mind. As it was built of that strange Lord’s mana, he assumed that it would be an ability similar to the formless smoke the doppelgangers used against him. What he had formed certainly wasn’t smoke, but was much closer to the crimson mist he expelled as a basis for his mana.
At face value, he seemed to have taken the most useful part. Without a real body to attack, it gave him a complete immunity to physical damage, and had fully combined with his own mana. With such a form, he could hopefully incorporate it with his other powers in the future.
[Drake! Drake! No… NO!] The piercing cry of Yami’s voice echoed out in Drake’s mind. She was utterly distraught, and her voice stabbed at his mind repeatedly with her heartbroken cries. Her telekinetic screams had begun to make his mind numb. He scrunched over, his head spinning as he attempt to calm her down.
[Yami, I’m fine. I’m just-] Drake tried to answer, only to be cut off.
Just as suddenly as Yami began to cry out, Drake felt the wyvern begin to thrash and cry out in pain. Seeing an opportunity in the chaos of the wyvern’s movement, he was able to discreetly move and enter the mist that had surrounded the wyvern.
Searching to see what had forced the wyvern to roar out in such agony, he quickly found the cause. Yami was floating above the wyvern’s thrashing form, and was violently channeling mana into the crystal collars he had formed during the fight. Tears were streaming down her petite face, but an undeniable fury was held in her red eyes.
[Die.. die.. DIE!!] A furious wave of Yami’s telepathy shot out from her, and the deep sense of sadness and loss began to hit Drake through their link. He slightly shuddered from her intense emotions that swamped through him like a crashing wave. He couldn’t help but feel the deep affection of how much she cared for him.
[Yami, calm down. I’m fine, look.] Drake attempted to calm her down, only to see her rage more and more out of control, the crystal collars beginning to dig deep into the wyvern’s neck as it cried out in torture.
Drake was worried. Why isn’t my link getting across to her? Don’t tell me she can’t hear me!
Although it appeared that her link was working for him, as he was now, he seemed completely incapable of answering her. He noticed that he didn’t have a mouth to speak with, and while he was certainly noticeable as a mist of crimson mana, he had put out massive amounts to control and kill the wyvern. There was no way Yami would be able to notice him in such an area.
Meanwhile, Yami was in the process of finishing off the wyvern entirely. She had pierced the wyvern’s scales not long after Drake had escaped its mouth, and seemed determined to give it an excruciating death. Although he couldn’t see what she was doing, they shared the same sense of mana. And through it, Drake couldn’t help but be awed by the sheer ferocity of Yami’s magic.
She could simply form a block of crystal in the wyvern’s neck, and kill it, but that’s not what she’s doing at all. She’s… snaking the mana throughout the wyvern’s entire body, and crystallizing some portions so she can push further in. This is nothing but pure torture. Drake thought as he looked on. He wasn’t sure how to feel about Yami’s actions, but he understood her mindset.
It has to be said that the reason Drake was so afraid of using his mana close to Ella is because of its effects.
When he first discovered the crystal form of his mana, it was capable of turning small portions of a tree to nothing more than ash after a period of time. Now he had gotten used to using it and after his ascension to a Lord, his mana had become even more diabolical. It was to the point where it would decay and emaciate almost anything that came in direct contact with it for too long. The wyvern had been able to stave off these effects in their fight through its simply enormous life force. But once a large mass of these crystals had entered its body… that was another matter entirely.
“STOP IT… STOP! PLEASE!! GRAHHHHH!” The wyvern roared out in excruciating pain as it weakly attempted to fight off the mana that snaked its way through its body.
[Die, you damned dragon!] Yami’s voice echoed out again. In her rage, she had completely forgone targeting anyone, instead letting her telekinetic thoughts blast out.
Drake attempted to scowl, and quickly looked for Therion and Ella. They were nowhere in sight. Good. It seemed they were still hidden in the wood line. Yami must have flown out on her own will, and Therion had made sure to keep Ella safe like he told him to.
I need to get my body back. But, how… Drake cursed to himself at his powerlessness.
Gwyn wasn’t exactly forthcoming about how this power worked. According to her, it was entirely experimental… which wasn’t exactly surprising given how she acted. Then again, did he really need her help with this? His magic was always instinctual, so… he could just make it work, right?
“Maybe… I just need to cobble together my body and think of my mist form coming together.” Drake muttered.
All of a sudden, Drake heard a deep, harsh laughter wash through his mind, filling him with a deep sense of familiarity.
“You manage to survive the battle only to lose yourself in such a way. Truly laughable.” The Draconian’s voice sounded out, prideful and condescending as always.
You… Drake’s form shuttered.
Having locked up the Draconian in his mind, he assumed that he would never have to deal with the Draconian ever again. And now, it actually had managed to communicate with him.
What do you want… and how did you manage to talk to me? Drake questioned.
“Kehehee, well, that’s thanks to you now, isn’t it?” The Draconian boasted.
“The gem you left in my castle, well… your castle, it doesn’t truly belong to either of us. Such a thing, its power was made through ruthlessly exploiting a weaker Lord. As such, it is exponentially less refined that my own power. Such a technique was created it using that witch, although it certainly seems to be a useful technique for cowards like you.” He laughed shortly before continuing.
“You seem uncertain on how to reform our body, and the little gnat is still raging using our power. Such a thing could be dangerous if it goes on for too long. She draws her power from us, and in this form, you’re left unable to draw in mana. We have no true body to absorb it, after all. The gnat’s little temper tantrum will do nothing but weaken us if she overexerts herself. She won’t tire, but eventually it will leave us completely drained.” The Draconian said, struggling to hide his contempt for the imp. That the little bug had managed to force him to help the human who had trapped him annoyed him to no end. He suppressed a snarl before continuing.
“So,” He stated sternly. “Focus on the core you made. Without it, you’ll be stuck in this horrid form.” He finished.
Drake looked over to Yami as he thought over what the Draconian said. He had appeared to help Drake reform so he wouldn’t be left drained. Otherwise, he likely would have left Drake to rot.
Now, he just needed to help Yami. And to do that…
I need to focus on the core. Drake thought to himself. I want my old body back…
Drake’s misty, wavering form stopped moving completely. The world seemed to stop, and in Drake’s mind, he could feel himself link to the opaque core in his mind. Confirming the link, he focused on the opaque core as he thought of returning to his old body. He heard a small laugh from the Draconian, but ignored it, focusing on reforming his body.
In a flash of crimson light, the mist-like form of Drake began to coalesce together. Within only a few moments, the mist began to lose its loose form, and his physical body began to manifest. Initially, the mist only formed a hazy outline, but as it continued to coalesce together, the mist around it became more and more physical. In one swift motion, the outline of his body solidified, and he could see the hazy beginnings of his body again. Then, as the mist faded in the final moments of his body forming, the mist completely assimilated into Drake’s body, and he stood there on his knees. His head slowly glanced up to search for Yami.
He found her, hovering over the wyvern’s body like a demon ready to pounce on the wyvern if it even moved a single inch. A crazed look decorated her face as her hand glowed with Drake’s magic, flickering erratically like a ball of fire. Then, as he watched the wyvern, Yami motioned her hands sharply into a fist before constricting the crystal collars, as she continued to dig further in even upon the Wyvern’s death.
[Yami, stop, I’m alive.] Drake sent out the message as soon as he could. Yami was still furiously attempting to torture the wyvern. She was still shaking in place as she glared at the body. The moment she thought Drake had died had truly broke her small heart. In her eyes, she was losing the one true friend in her world when Drake had died, and the sooner he could show her he was alive, the better.
[D-drake…] Yami’s body stiffened when she heard his voice, and she called out to him, barely able to speak once she heard his voice.
Yami quickly spun around, desperate to see him, almost over turning into a full spin. She then looked at him… and stared.
“Drake…” Yami bit her tongue due to what she saw in front of her. “that can’t be you, right?”
Drake looked to Yami with an unblinking expression before standing up with his arms outstretched, motioning for her to come.
“Of course it’s me. Look at…” Before Drake could continue speaking, he saw what she meant. It couldn’t be. His arms, they were human again.
What the hell is happening… Drake thought to himself.
His hands… they no longer had scales covering them. There were still some along the upper side of him arm, but other than that, he was normal. Drake quickly spun around, trying to get a better look at his body.
He still had a tail, and it was still as red and scaly as ever. His face though… his arms, his legs, they were all mostly human. There were still scales running up his forearm, and feeling the side of his face, there were some there as well. It was likely he had scales running along other sides of his body, and as he took a quick feel of his hair, he could feel the horns he had gotten used to.
“What exactly am I now…” Drake said numbly. He was trying to process what’s just happened to him, but his mind was blank unable to find an answer.
Yami hovered tentatively above Drake, still in disbelief in what she saw. She hesitated for a moment as she bit her lips. A tense look came over her face and she yelled out, “I’m sorry!”
Shooting out a crystal shard at Drake, she attacked him mercilessly. This all could have been a cruel trick played on her by unknown force. Drake watched the shard fly towards him, and with a simple wave his hand, the shard quickly dissipated into mana.
He gave a nonchalant shrug, and smiled sadly at Yami. “It’s me.” Drake knew exactly how she felt. Her emotions were a whirl of distrust, hope and fear. He couldn’t really blame her, given what she had just gone through.
“S-so… it’s really you then.” Tears began to well up in her eyes the moment she saw Drake wave away the shard as if it was nothing. They were the only ones capable of directly affecting it, and she was so unsure of herself, she didn’t even think of using their bond.
She flew straight into Drake’s chest, and latched onto him fiercely, not willing herself to move an inch away from him.
“I.. I t-th-hought you were dead.” She stuttered with tear struck eyes. “I thought I would never see you again, and… I-I just lost myself.” She hiccuped slightly to herself, still burying her head deeply in Drake’s shoulder. “I wanted so badly to take revenge for you, that I flew out from Therion without a second thought.”
Yami stayed clutched to his chest. She refused to move, and Drake lacked the will to try to move her. It wouldn’t be so bad to let her stay there for a little bit longer… still though, she was surprisingly strong. Without any scales, her grip on his skin was starting to hurt a bit, not even considering the small point from her horns…
“U-um… Yami. If you could give me a moment.” Drake couldn’t keep the embarrassment from his voice.
Drake suddenly had a problem that he had ignored completely as a Draconian. When he acquired his Draconian body, he really hadn’t felt the need to look for or even to make clothes. In fact, it looked perfectly normal given the comparisons between other monsters and himself.
But now, especially with Yami so intent to not move an inch away from him, it felt more than a little awkward. His Draconian body did a good job of restricting the feeling of Yami’s movements. Scales after all, did very little in the way of feeling anything, it worked more as a suit of armor. But now, with her firmly latched onto him, he couldn’t help but feel much more exposed than he had before. The faint movements of her skin on his was multiplied by this small fact, which only furthered his embarrassment.
She looked up to him with bloodshot eyes, and tenderly said, “C-can’t I just stay here a little longer, please?” Drake could feel her latch onto him a little more as she finished asking. She was already sure of what she wanted the answer to be.
Drake couldn’t help but sigh. Dammit. I know this is probably sentimental for her, but she doesn’t realize how bad this looks. Ahh…
Drake reluctantly let Yami have her moment. Thankfully, Therion had always been faithful to Drake’s orders. Him and Ella wouldn’t come out of the forest until Yami returned, which at least gave him a small reprieve. It was a job anyone could do, but at that moment, he was glad it was Therion there to stop her.
“Mmn,” She rubbed her head into his chest, still slightly sniffling as she did. His new body… it was so soft… but firm at the same time. It felt like she could stay there forever. Giving him one last, short hug, she let go with a short, content sigh. “Thank you, Drake.” Yami fully broke off from Drake’s chest, as if she was fully content.
“Right.” Drake replied with a half-smile.
Now to take care of the real problem here… In an attempt to take his mind off the situation, he had been watching his surroundings. Normally, whenever he finished fighting or using his mana, he was always quick to reabsorb it. But as it was now, the mana around them was quickly beginning to warp the surroundings. The grass of the field was beginning to change into a bright, crimson color, and while it seemed that no living animal had come into contact with it, he wanted to be sure to avoid corrupting any living thing with it.
Drake quickly summoned up the mana surrounding him. It had started to go rampant without a magic user to control it, and this was the best opportunity to make it useful.
Quickly fashioning his mana around him, he attempted to create a thin, segmented piece of clothing through his mana. He had managed to do something similar with his gauntlets, and even if that piece was suited purely for battle, he had made it work. An outfit like this though… Drake could barely even make it look passable. It looked like it was little more than a red cloak that covered his entire body, complete with a poorly made set of pants. Even still, it gave him some sense of privacy, something that was desperately needed after his conversion to this half human, half draconian form.
And now to more important matters. Drake walked over to the desiccated body of the wyvern and kneeled next to it.
Yami had done a number on it, that much was certain. It had died a horribly painful death as the crystals she had controlled had dug into every muscle she could think of to prolong its torture. Truly, she was someone who held grudges, far more than Drake ever expected.
Drake’s eyes trailed to the center of the wyvern with some interest, and turning to Yami, asked, “While you finished off the wyvern, did you get a feel of where the core is?”
He knew that every creature had its own monster core, and given the size and power of the wyvern, this one would truly be the most powerful Drake had gotten his hands on. It would likely even be enough to advance his own demonic mana core to its next stage.
Yami looked spitefully at the body and replied quickly. “It was somewhere near the wyvern’s heart.” She discretely looked at Drake’s new face, but quickly turned away before he noticed. He had… changed since his transformation. “I should be able to dig it out if you need.” She replied with a slight sense of embarrassment.
“No need.” Drake laughed, oblivious to Yami’s gaze. “Go and get Therion and Ella. I’m going to carve out some of the meat so I can eat before I retrieve the core. This body that I made doesn’t have any injuries, but even so, I still feel severely drained compared to how I normally am.”
“Alright.” She replied succinctly. “I’ll be back soon.” With a wave of her hand, she quickly flew back to the wood line. It wouldn’t take more than a few minutes for them to get back, which would let Drake get some well needed meat.
Forming the spiked gauntlet he used against the Helboar, he quickly began to rip his way through the wyvern. The body was still hot, and the blood seemed to almost steam in the open air. Even with the blood occasionally jetting from the body as he cut deeper, all that Drake was doing was nothing more than slicing off strips of meat. It also gave him the opportunity to skin the wyvern and collect its scales, something which he had begun to plan for after he acquired his new form.
“Now to eat.” Drake looked to the fresh slabs of meat with a renewed hunger. However, tearing into the first bite of the wyvern, he immediately was met with a deep sense of revulsion along with the ecstasy of the meat he normally adored.
“Ughh…” Drake spit out the piece of wyvern, and turned to the meat he had so carefully excavated. The wonderful taste of mana in the meat was clear but…
Don’t tell me this body can’t eat meat raw. Drake’s demeanor dropped instantly. The advantages of his old body allowed him to heal almost instantly whenever he ate mana-infused meat. But now… he was stuck in a weakened body with no real way to actually eat the meat that he needed.
“Why now?” Drake couldn’t help but complain. He had assumed this form purely out of an accident. It was likely he could transition between forms, but that was exactly the problem. He didn’t have the power to do so right now; that’s what the meat was for. The fight with the wyvern had taken too much out of him, and while directly absorbing mana from the air could help, it was a poor substitute for his Draconian ability.
I suppose if I cooked the meat I could eat it, but it’s not like any of us exactly specialize in fire magic. Drake thought sourly to himself. Sure, he was part dragon… but he never put any time or effort into attempting such a thing. Even worse, given the color of his scales, he was no doubt an offshoot of a red dragon, the exact species that was well known for their blistering fire attacks. He never expected his lack of effort on such a thing to backfire so spectacularly.
“Drakeee!” Yami called out to him excitedly, with Therion and Ella close behind. She quickly draped herself around Drake’s neck as she smiled faintly.
Therion’s jaws dropped as he stared in shock while Ella nearly jumped up in surprise as they saw Drake’s new form.. “Master, you changed forms. You-” Therion quickly tried to assume his normal, butler-like expression, before failing miserably in his attempt.
“You look like me now!” Ella finished happily. She quickly slithered over to him, and wrapped herself around him, examining his new horns. Taking interest in how Drake’s horns elegantly jutted out of his head, she parted his hair.
“Look at your horns… they poke up right out of your hair, do they hurt like that?” Ella continued talking about Drake cutely on she went on about his various changes. Wrapping her hands around his horns, she tried to pull herself even higher onto his body, much to Yami’s pointed looks. “And your body, what happened to all your scales, do they just disappear?”
Even as a partial human, she finally had someone around her that looked like her again. The scales covering portions of his body and his reptilian tail only cemented that fact in her mind, causing her to be absolutely giddy to be around Drake’s new form.
“Ah, thanks Ella.” Drake smiled awkwardly. Truthfully, he still felt awful about being stuck like this. No way to reform himself into his normal Draconian form, and stuck out in the wilderness without a real way to create fire. Even if he was able to create fire at all, he had some serious doubts about his capabilities now that he seemed to be half-human. Now, there really was only one real plan to use the wyvern scales, and being unable to change forms only reinforced his idea.
Therion interjected quickly, attempting to quiet the small Lamia as he addressed Drake. “Master, your aura. You lack one completely.” It was well known that there was only one type of being that completely lacked an aura. Humanoids. This, among Drake’s humanoid appearance, was what confused Yami so severely at first. She simply couldn’t believe that a being as powerful as Drake wouldn’t output any aura, given his distaste for such an act.
“Really now?” Drake’s eyes widened, and he began to smile ever so slightly. That was a useful piece of information. “Well, this isn’t so bad after all.”
This really would be the best way then… Drake thought to himself.
Drake looked to where he had been extensively digging further into the body of the wyvern. Extending his arm out towards the center of the wyvern, he quickly pulled out the core in one swift movement. Surprisingly, it was almost the size of a grapefruit, and if size gave any indication of power, then this would be more than enough to advance himself. He looked to the core with a deep sense of thirst before he quickly summoned up his crimson mana.
Before he fell to temptation, he covered the core with his mana, as the core shook in protest before he quickly solidified crystal around the core. Time was of the essence, and he simply didn’t have the time to absorb such a large core. The chances were too high that he would advance, and potentially undergo some form of breakthrough. He handed the crystal to Therion and turned to Yami, an intent look on his face.
“It’s time we catch up with that group of humans.” Drake said firmly.
“Oi, how much longer do you think we got till we get to the camp?” A burly dwarf called out to his companion next to him.
They had run into a few problems on their trip back to the main encampment. Honestly, due to the various creatures and items they had picked up, it could have been much worse. They had to fight off several groups of monsters who had attempted to retake some members, although they were careful to not get in over their heads.
They had also acquired a few creature eggs, some of which even they were unsure of. The various other creatures, ground dragons, a stray harpy, a small pack of hellhounds, all of them were useful in their own regard, and they would surely be rewarded well for returning with such a large quarry.
The cores alone from the various monsters they were able to kill should be suitable for a wide variety of upgrades. Something that was in rare supply for those who were restricted to the main camp.
“Considering our surroundings, probably a little less than a day. Shouldn’t take long at all.” An older woman responded next to the dwarf with a smile. She was unreasonably short as well, although her features differed significantly from that of the dwarf. An intelligent looked filled her eyes as she tinkered with and sculpted on a small branch she had been whittling away at.
“Right, right.” The dwarf muttered to himself. The old woman had always enjoyed these long trips. He had met her soon after his own transformation, and they had hit it off quite well. It was strange, but he felt a kinship with her, despite her firmly denying being another dwarf.
Whether or not the old woman was playing coy, it didn’t matter. Simply passing the time with her always helped him relax a bit, especially after some of the more recent battles they had endured.
“So, what do you think about the ground dragon we picked up? You think we actually have any chance of putting them to good use?” Brian turned to old woman, talking to simply to pass the time.
“Hm…” The old woman, Lori, simply chuckled in return. “I have some doubts about it myself, but anything can work these days, I suppose.”
“Right, but who is actually gonna train the damn beasts. Hell if I’m-” The dwarf suddenly quit speaking as he spotted a figure up in the distance. They were cloaked in a strange crimson garb, and were merely sitting on the side of the road, leaned up against a tree.
It must be understood that no one took risks like that anymore. Those who transformed were powerful, sure, but not compared to the wide variety of beasts that they had fought. Oftentimes, it was only through sheer numbers, and a bit of strategy that they were able to win. Given that their group now numbered only a little over a dozen, they were prepared for small groups, or in one particular case, even a small village if they were prepared enough.
But, a single man or woman, no matter who they were, simply wasn’t enough.
The dwarf quickly raised his hand, waving down the others to stop. In one motion, he grabbed his sword from his side, and quickly dropped off the small carriage they were using for transport.
“Stay up there, Lori. You’re no good for fighting.” The dwarf looked at her wearily.
She merely smiled and went back to whittling. “Don’t be so worried. It’s probably just a stray that got separated from another group.”
“Tch, damn woman. Not everything is so simple.” The dwarf murmured to himself. No one who was alone like this would ever be so straightforward.
Motioning several others down from their own carriage, he and four other men slowly made their way over to the stranger. They noticed a slight movement from him as they made their way over, but the stranger still didn’t stand.
As they approached, they stopped within ten meters and called out to the man.
“Hey, do ya need any help? We noticed you there just laying by the side of the road.” With their swords in hand, they were prepared.
The stranger slowly stood up, his face covered by his hood, and with his crimson cloak fitting loosely over his body, along with a large knapsack over his shoulder. The entire outfit looked quite shoddy. Poor man must have just picked it up from somewhere.
The stranger waved to them, and called back as he walked over. “Thank god, I thought I would have never seen a group pass by.”
The men looked to each other, and nodded, each lowering their weapons to their sides.
“Not a problem at all. So stranger, what’s your name? And what’s that little figure on your back?” This close, they could see a tiny girl on the man’s shoulder, intent on hiding as best she could from their view.
“The name’s Drake, and this little one here is Yami.” Drake called back, his lips slightly curling upwards.