An hour earlier.
“Wait, your plan is to what?”
“I’m going to join up with the humans for a bit, if only to see just what they’re doing.” Drake answered. “You three will circle around them, stay hidden, and follow me back.”
“Also, Therion, this group will probably lead us to other humanoids. Doing this would be a great way to let me find the group that killed your brothers as well.”
Honestly, Drake had thought of a few ways to attack the group who had burned down Ella’s village. If he wasn’t still injured, he probably could’ve trapped them all in his mana fog before killing them one at a time. The problem was, he didn’t have enough control of his mana to suppress certain portions of the parasitic effect. For normal battle, it didn’t matter. Anything that was an enemy would be weakened severely once they came in contact with it, even to the point of death if they stayed in it for too long. And for those without armor or a way to remove his mana shards, any attack from his mana that hit would be almost certain death if they weren’t able to death with it for long enough.
However, this method of attack was entirely too dangerous if he was trying to save someone. He remembered clearly what Ella had said regarding this group.
“I heard them talking… they kept talking about cages… so I think they took someone.”
According to Ella, they had likely taken at least one or two of her village members, and Drake didn’t know where they were, or how to avoid hurting them with such a method.
What’s more, in this new half human, half draconian body, he could tell that his physical abilities had significantly decreased in comparison to how he felt before. Whether this was just due to lesser physical state, or only due to the injuries after his fight with the wyvern, he didn’t know, and wouldn’t without any way to restore himself.
So, he was left with the more covert option. One that would allow him to at least learn where the other Lamia were, and any potential threats to himself.
Yami quickly disagreed, and firmly latched herself onto Drake’s arm. “I’m not letting you go alone. You’re not going to leave me again.” Her eyes looked up to Drake, and were concrete in her conviction. “Therion and Ella can stay back, but I’m going with you.” She stated firmly.
The thought of letting Drake go in and letting himself be hurt again was something that she would absolutely not allow. She had learned her lesson with the wyvern. She wouldn’t let him be that reckless again.
“Yami…” Drake grew a wry smile. He kew how she felt, but doing so would make it a bit more difficult.
“Those humans sometimes take imps as servants! You can say that you did the same. It’s works out perfectly!” She let out a smug smile as she looked to Drake. Now he didn’t have any reason to leave her behind.
Drake let loose a small sigh as he looked to Yami. The way that she was now, she wouldn’t listen and stay behind with the others.
“Fine, you can come.” He threw his hands up in defeat, as he turned and crouched down next to the small Lamia. “Now, Ella, you have to stay with Therion while I’m gone, alright?” She always seemed to be leery around Therion, although he couldn’t really blame her.
“Hmm…” Ella closed her eyes and put on a very serious face. Her tail swatted the ground in a slow, steady cadence as she thought. If Drake didn’t know any better, he could have sworn that she trying to think of a way to join him as well.
“I’ll stay with Mister goat-man, but you have to come back soon.” She opened her eyes and answered cutely.
Drake couldn’t help but smile and gave the little Lamia a quick pat on the head. Ella giggled and smiled. “Be back soon.” She said.
Glancing off to his side, he gave Yami a quick nudge on his shoulder before he turned out towards the path they had been tracking.
“Let’s see just how these humans are.”
“So, you have an imp, eh?” Brian looked thoughtfully to Yami for a moment, before turning back to Drake.
“So boy, what made you come all the way out here, it’s dangerous.” The gruff dwarf asked.
Drake simply gave amall shrug as he approached the small, armed group. It looked like these were the main members of this group. Each of them looked to be not much older than him, although given that this was his first good look at some other humans since their transformations, he could easily be wrong.
Drake scratched his head awkwardly as he answered. “I’ve been hiding out ever since all the monsters started spawning. I picked up this little one not soon after, so you’re really the first group that I’ve come across since then.” Drake chuckled to himself, smiling as he did.
I just hope this passes for the truth. Drake thought.
Drake had no clue what abilities those who had transformed through the alien’s choice of races had. Yami had told him back when they first met that the humans were capable of identifying some of her race’s unique features, such as them being used for contracts, which is why some of them were captured in the first place.
On top of that, in a variety of fantasy novels, and other sources, magic that allowed others to see through lies was often used, although it had an equally vague rule-set behind it. Sometimes it required some type of magic circle, and other times certain individuals were able to see through lies on the spot, through unique abilities they were given.
So, he decided to play around all these abilities, just in case.
“Is that so?” The dwarf smiled, before walking over to Drake, and clapping him on the back, causing Drake to wince a bit.
“Well, it’s good to meet ya. Want to join up with us? We could use the extra manpower, we’ve lost quite a few the past couple of days to some accidents.” It was obvious at a glance that the dwarf seemed to be genuine. The rest of the men behind him had already put their weapons away, and had started to walk back to their various carriages.
“I’d love to.” Drake said with a smile.
As the two walked back together, Brian took a glance up at Yami as his eyes shone with interest.
“Hey boy, let me borrow your imp there for a moment. First one I’ve seen up close. Most of the damn things fly away quick.” He held his hand up to the imp, as if to motion her down to his hand.
Drake quickly put off the request as they walked back. “Sorry, but she’s shy, and doesn’t like strangers very much.”
“Really now, that’s a shame. Mind if ya let me examine her at least?” The dwarf was a bit disappointed but refused to give up. It was rare that he was able to get so close to a monster without them being in cages, or locked up entirely. And among the few other creatures that he had seen tamed, the beast master wouldn’t let him get within 20 meters of them to actually identify them.
“Examine her?” Drake’s voice became lower as he slightly squinted his eyes. “Didn’t I just say that you couldn’t touch her.” He said in a threatening tone. The thought of how pushy the dwarf was towards Yami was starting to anger him.
“Hey, hey now. I don’t mean actually touch her.” Brian held his hands up defensively, as he tried to defuse the situation. “Don’t ya know? The identify spell. Don’t tell me you haven’t used it yet.” The dwarf sounded shocked that Drake hadn’t heard of it.
“Can’t say that I have.” Drake responded sourly.
“Here, give me the chance to show ya, that alright?” Brian said as he patted Drake on the arm.
Drake took a moment before he glanced over to Yami. [That alright with you Yami? This is the kind of thing we need to know.]
Through her abilities, she got the gist of what the dwarf wanted. Unhappy, she said, [Urrgh… Fine.] She clearly wasn’t the biggest fan of the idea, but since Drake asked…
“Alright, go ahead.” Drake responded.
“Thanks!” The dwarf grinned happily. “Identify.”
As the dwarf looked at Yami, information began to stream into his mind.
Monster identified as an Imp. Named: Yami. Partner: Drake. Original threat level: Class D Current threat level: Unknown. One of the demonic class species. Originally born as a normal imp, this individual has gained access to a powerful and forbidden magic, able &@ inflicting &@*$#!#*$@! atta*@&. Capable of class B ev&$*@)!# Warning: Identify level insufficient.
Brian’s eyes widened as he began to process the information from the spell. Honestly, it was surprising to him that Drake had never used such a useful ability, as all those who had transformed during the weekly time limit had been granted access to it. However, that paled in comparison to the information about the imp. Such a creature was beyond valuable, so much so that he could hardly believe his eyes.
The identify spell worked in a tiered fashion. At first, only low class monsters such as goblins were able to be identified. As one used it, they were able to retrieve more and more information about that class until you “graduated” to the next level. As for the dwarf, he might as well have been the designated spotter of the group.
With all things, such an ability had a drawback. While it didn’t use up mana, what it did instead was just as bad. It left those untrained to it with what was equivalent to a massive migraine. This feeling lessened as the skill became more powerful, but at the beginning it was almost completely useless, only showing little more than the target’s race, and that was as long as one used it within 2 meters. Such an immense feeling of wasted effort combined with the massive headache that followed after every use led most to give up almost immediately, but the dwarf had stuck through it.
Up till now, he had identified easily over two hundred monsters since he transformed, and his skill had grown immensely as a result, allowing him to examine monsters all the way up the B class, something that he was quite proud of himself. For him to be unable to see all the information of a monster such as an imp, let alone see its current level, it was completely outstanding.
“Boy!” The dwarf almost jumped in excitement. “Just where did you find that imp, wait, no.”
The dwarf seemed to think to himself. “You said you found that imp, where did you go, what did you do?”
“Why do you ask?” Drake suppressed a snarl. The dwarf was entirely too excited. He had seen something, although he had no clue exactly what.
“Your imp, it’s utterly remarkable.” Brian shook Drake’s arm with an uncontrollable fervor. This was simply too fantastic
“P-please, I just want to hold it.” The dwarf held out his hands again, almost in a pleading motion. At this point, the others in the carriages began to look over at the small scene Brian was beginning to make.
[See. This is exactly how I expected him to act. Humans are such scum.] Yami’s voice seethed with disgust.
For Imps, if the other person didn’t put in effort to speak to them telepathically, they interpreted the language spoken almost entirely through the emotion in the language itself using their abilities. And as for this particular dwarf, how he “felt” about Yami rubbed her the wrong way.
He was acting like she was some sort of pet that could be handed off at a whim. Like nothing more than a tool to be analyzed and poked and prodded until it revealed all of its secrets.
“No. Now let’s leave.” Drake told him in a scathing voice. The dwarf had seen something that had excited him immensely, and he didn’t like it one bit. Thankfully, it seemed like nothing was too out of the ordinary though, given that he didn’t immediately turn on Drake the moment he finished examining her. Identify… just what kind of ability was that?
Drake began to walk towards the carriages with little issue, as the dwarf attempted to poke and prod him on the topic at every chance. This guy… he was trouble.
The carriage the dwarf had gotten off of was the first carriage. Drake made sure that he walked straight past it to get onto one of the others. However, as he passed, he noticed it had a small woman on it, almost comically so. Comparing them to human “dwarfs” wouldn’t really be a good comparison. The human symptom resulted in misshapen proportions due to genetics, while this old woman seemed to be perfectly normal, as if someone had shrunk down a human to a height of roughly two feet. What’s more was that she was almost cuddly in nature. Strange really, given her age. Although, given her race she really could be any age. She…
Drake shook his head at the thought of her. That was unusual, very unusual. Whenever he saw the old woman, it was like he couldn’t get his mind off of her.
You’ve got to be kidding me, it seems like she has some kind of ability that I don’t know about either. Drake scowled to himself.
“Damn it all. I just wanted to get a better look at that imp, you wouldn’t…” Drake heard the dwarf start to complain just as he began to get out of earshot.
And I have that annoying little dwarf to deal with now too. Drake couldn’t wait until they started moving again. At least then he could hopefully get some useful information about these people.
Although, as Drake took a closer look at the carriages, it was interesting to see just what kind of creature they were using to pull them around. They would best be described as smaller elephants, but even that didn’t do them much justice. From what he could see, they could vary in color, and while they kept the tusks of elephants, these jutted straight out instead of the normal curve that was normally seen. What’s more, they actually had horns, and quite large ones at that, that jutted out from the top of their heads. They were hitched up to the carriages through a series of straps and hooks that allowed them to walk forward with ease.
Interesting. How come I’ve never seen something like this before. Drake was amazed by the creatures.
Reaching the second carriage, Drake quickly climbed up in the back without a word, much to the vexation of the driver. It looked to be a fairly pretty girl, with hair that was a deep brown, an average build, and coupled with an adorable look on her face when she’s annoyed.
Ah, there it is. Drake thought, spying a certain tell-tale trait. She looks to be some kind of elf, at least I think so. Hidden just behind her hair was a faint point to her ears. It was unlike the ones he had seen on that dagger wielding elf he had slammed against the ground before. If he had to guess, she was probably some kind of sub-species, given how popular those were.
Next to her was an older man, and unlike the girl, he looked to be absolutely human. Graying hair, normal ears, and an equally annoyed look, which was significantly less cute. Strange though, why is a human here?
Looking at the elf, Drake smirked a bit as he got a better look at her face, and waved towards her apologetically.
“Sorry, sorry. That dwarf back there was bothering me a bit too much.”
The two looked to each other as the older man turned to Drake.
“You just had to jump in our carriage, huh?” The man gave an empty laugh as he looked to Drake.
“Brian is gonna be on our ass about that as soon as we stop to rest.” He let out a long, drawn out sigh as he scratched the back of his head.
He looked to Drake expectantly for a moment before he finally ran out of patience.
“Well? Take off the scary garb. If you’re gonna ride with us, I want to see your face. Brian may have let you get away with it because of that thing on your shoulder, but I won’t.” He waved his hand in a hurrying motion, an irritated expression clear on his face.
Drake barely heard the request as anger began to boil up inside of him. Thing? He better be damned sure he wasn’t talking about Yami.
He held in the urge to throttle the man on the spot as he took off his hood. And if he said one more word like that…
Just as he took of the hood of his cloak, the man’s eyes widened suddenly as he got a look at Drake’s face. This man… he was no older than his mid-twenties. Given how he acted, he would have sworn he was around his age. What’s more, jutting out of his head on both sides were a pair of black, ridged horns and an undeniably fierce expression. He almost didn’t look human. It was as if… someone had taken a brush and had sharpened all of his features. It was like the elves, but at the same time entirely different. It was more, menacing.
“Right. Good.” The man quickly turned back around, a distinct shiver running up his spine at the sight of the man’s eyes. They were burning yellow, almost like a fire. It was entirely unnatural.
That was strange. Drake thought. The man looked afraid of him. It was the sort of reaction that someone would give you if they were in a place they shouldn’t be, and you had a weapon. The sort of look that made Drake think the man feared for his very life for just a small moment.
[Yami, I look normal, right?] Given the man’s reaction, Drake had some serious doubts. In all his excitement about his transformation, he had completely forgotten to actually look at his face, and he wasn’t about to bring up his mana to form a mirror for himself now.
[Hm, what do you mean?] She gave a rather vague response. [You look perfect, Drake. Just as you should.] She finished abruptly.
Drake sighed internally at Yami’s response. That just about confirms it. Yami must like my new look, and doesn’t want it to change, even if it makes me look different. He gave a small laugh and poked her in the side.
[It’s not good to fib, you know? Especially when I can feel you getting all anxious.] Drake grabbed Yami by her shoulders before tickling her all over. Short, bell-like laughter rang out as Yami quickly began to plead for him to stop. Honestly, he couldn’t believe her.
Her emotions were a total mess. She wanted him to get even closer to her, while at the same time wanting him to let go and stop at every moment. Everything that came across their link was completely contradictory, and Drake couldn’t help but begin to smirk as he tickled her even more.
[Stop, stop, pleaaaseee…] Tears were beginning to build up in her eyes, and she was beginning to run out of breath.
[Fine.] Drake stopped with an evil smile. [But next time, don’t fib, otherwise you’ll face the consequences.] Drake did his best impression of an evil cackling through their link. Needless to say, it’s incredibly difficult to sound scary when you are almost bursting out in laughter.
“So, you actually play with them, huh?” The elvish girl had turned around given all the commotion she had heard from behind her. She had a barely disguised look of loathing on her face that told Drake all he really needed to know about how she felt about Yami.
“Surprised it doesn’t try to bite your fingers off. The vile things are savage.” She said.
What is with all these people? Drake thought. It’s like they don’t see her as anything more than a goblin. He thought with a distinct scowl.
The way that she was being treated really told him all he needed to know about this group. A group of people like this were sure to be the kind of people the ruthlessly slaughter all of Ella’s village members.
Sure, you can hate monsters, despise them even, but don’t let that blind hatred extend to all creatures. Doing that will lead you to make nothing but more enemies than you can count, and with races that can guarantee that they will keep that hatred with them. Drake was quickly beginning to see just how these people thought.
That same feeling must have been what led them to wipe out the Lamia almost entirely. A race like Ella is entirely different from some savage, unthinking beast. They have entire societies, and could think and feel just as much as the rest of them.
“She has a name you know, it’s Yami.” Drake’s hands began to clench instinctively. If this woman said one more word about her, she was going to get a fist to the face, consequences be damned. Why the hell did so many people seem outright hostile towards her?
“Oh-ho, so you named it, did ya?” The woman laughed in a derisive tone, as if she couldn’t believe someone would actually name a simple monster.
[Drake.] Yami spoke to him in a soothing voice. [Don’t let them get to you. If you get angry, then they might as well have won.]
He gave Yami a small smile and poked her in her side again. [Getting lectured by my own friend, now what am I gonna do? Thanks.]
“And what about you, do you have a name?” Drake poked fun at the girl, which made her raise up in annoyance.
“Of course, I do, it’s Sabrina.” She said quickly. The old man nudged her side, which made her turn to him. He muttered something under his breathe, which seemed to calm her down a bit.
She huffed to herself before looking to Drake, her eyes trailing over his horns and face. “And what’s your name anyway?”
“Drake.” He said, laughing to himself. The old man had taken the wind out of her sails so quickly, Drake wondered exactly what he had said.
“Drake.” The muttered the name, as if to affirm it to herself. “So why are you out here anyway, surprised you haven’t been killed by some troll.”
“What, are we playing twenty questions now?” Drake could start to see a pattern here. This woman was about as hot-headed as he had ever seen, despite her being an elf. The reason the old man was sitting next to her seemed to be to help control her a bit. On another note, isn’t this breaking the lines of what elves are supposed to be, anyway? What happened to the cool, calm, and collected species?
Drake chuckled to himself as he thought of an idea. “How about this, I answer your question, and you answer one of mine. You’re really the first group I’ve come across anyway.” Drake said with a clear smirk.
“U-uh, yea, ok, sure.” Drake had caught her off guard completely.
“I’ve been hiding out since the deadline set by the “gracious” species up in the sky ran out. Not much since then.” Drake kept it simple. Easier to not screw up his story that way. And, it was the truth in a sense.
“Hiding out? Where do you hide out in in the wilderness?” She abruptly asked another question, curious about him.
“Nope, my turn.” Drake said with a smirk.
“Now, what are you guys doing out here? This is pretty out of the way, all things considered.” It was Drake’s turn to finally figure out this group’s plans. He was a “human,” after all. They wouldn’t have any real reason to think that he would be here for a rescue.
“Tsk, fine.” The woman clicked her teeth in frustration, scowling at his words. Looking out to the surrounding area, she carefully scanned the wood line with a surprising amount of effort.
“We’re out on a small expedition. We have the privilege of being able to go out and hunt. We collect some monster cores, and capture some of the more unique ones for testing.” She said.
“Now, my turn again.” She was obviously happy to be the one asking questions.
“Why do you carry that thing around? It’s not like the monsters we capture. At least they’re useful.” She adopted the same derisive tone as before, looking to Yami.
“She’s not a thing.” Drake snapped, feeling his emotions spike. “She’s my friend, and I bet she’s a lot more useful than all the monsters you have here combined.” This woman got on his nerves.
“Tch, you’re friends with a monster?” She muttered something under her breathe as a faint light of understanding started to shine in her eyes. “That’s right, imps can make contracts, can’t they? They have that uh… telepathy skill if I remember right.” She clapped her hands together happily, as if she had solved a puzzle.
“That’s just adorable.” She said with an irritating smile.
“It’s my turn.” Drake cut her off again. Someone needed to teach this girl some respect, it’s as she was born without a hint of survival instinct in her body.
“What are all the monsters you captured anyway, since they’re all so special.” Drake decided to egg her on a bit. If she felt angry, then it was likely she would attempt to show off.
“They’re damned sure more useful than that little imp, that’s for sure.” She spat out angrily.
“We have some hellhounds, a harpy, two displacer beasts, whatever the hell those actually are, a few ground dragons that looked useful, and a lamia. The lamia came with a bunch of strange looking eggs too, so we brought them as well. And hell, those displacer beasts required me to put a hell of a lot of magic around it just to keep it in its cage, more than that imp could ever make me do.” She looked quite proud at that little accomplishment, although for Drake, he merely listened passively as he finally heard what he needed.
Good. One of Ella’s village members are here after all. Now, all I need to do is wait. Drake thought with a passive smile.