Drake laid back, stationary in the carriage as he and the others were making the slow journey back to wherever they were heading. The obstinate half-elf had attempted to continue the small game Drake had suggested, but without any real reason to do so, or way of making him, she was forced to give up after a few minutes of prodding him.
Truthfully, the journey with them was quite relaxing, as long as he ignored a certain elf in the carriage. Lately, he had been forced to travel everywhere by foot, so it was quite nice to be carried along by something else for once. And so, they rode on for what seemed like hours, passing along the heavily forested area that made up the small nature reserve Drake had made him home in, and eventually approaching the outskirts of the city.
According to what Drake could hear from the annoying half-elf and the old man, they probably wouldn’t be able to make it back that day, and would have to stop a portion of the way there. They would eat, rest up, and resume the journey the next day.
As for Therion and Ella, even at a normal speed, they could easily keep up with them. That was likely the reason behind why Drake kept hearing the half-elf complain about the various attacks they had gone through. Traveling with so much “loot” simply kept them from moving quickly, and even if they had tried, the elephant-like monsters they used for travel likely couldn’t run very far. It was a classic case of trading movement speed for the sheer value of carrying a ton of goods.
Drake meanwhile, was looking forward to when the group finally stopped for a break, and it didn’t take more than a few hours for his wish to come true.
“Aahhhh… Thank god we finally stopped, I’m starving.” Sabrina, the half-elf stood up, stretching. On their left was a large cluster of trees, and on their right, a little more than thirty miles off was the remains of the ruined city. Grabbing a small bag, she quickly jumped off the carriage, and marched off to start construction of what looked to be a quick, makeshift fire to make food.
“C’mon boy, time to get something to eat.” The gruff old man said as he jumped off the carriage. He quickly made his way over to Sabrina, helping her as best he could to gather stray pieces of wood.
The truth of the matter was, ever since Drake had revealed himself, the man could barely glance at him without feeling like a deep pressure was crushing down on him. Something about him was off, but there’s no way in hell Brian would listen to him. Regardless of him being one of the most reliable members, he had noticed that all of the more “inhuman” races had a certain tick about them.
Sabrina was one such case. Being her uncle, he had known her before the world went to shit, and she was a wonderful girl. She was just about to graduate high school, and regularly came by to help him with the various projects he was always working on around his house. Afterwards however, it seemed like her personality had undergone a complete 180, and she had a horrendous time controlling herself.
Not all of them had such a drastic change, but it was always there. Lori for example, the short woman who Brian seemed to be infatuated with, she could barely keep her hands from moving. It certainly was useful when she had work to do, but at the same time was extremely troublesome.
And Brian. Once he found something he was interested in, he would concentrate on it until he got what he desired. It was an admirable trait for a leader, especially given that he was one of the only people to focus on being a spotter for the group, but that same trait was still troublesome.
“Bah.” The old man muttered under his breathe. Maybe he was just overthinking this all. In another day, it wouldn’t matter if the man was any trouble anyway. Besides, it was impossible for anyone to cause any real damage with almost a dozen of them here.
Meanwhile, Drake had taken his time. Besides the two in front, and the two in his small carriage, there were only seven others in the other various carriages. Drake felt the group’s eyes gather on him as he slowly climbed his way out of the cart, and landed on the ground, with Yami resting neatly on his shoulders.
Yep. I’m definitely out of the ordinary. Drake thought to himself.
From just this group alone, it was easy to tell that horns definitely didn’t seem to be part of the common package of transforming from a human. Sure, there was a pretty large variety, but right now, Drake couldn’t do anything about it. If he had known better, he may have tried at least dissipating them before he ever met them, but there was no point now. There’s no use in crying over spilled milk; what’s done is done. Besides, it’s not like having Yami accompanying him would make him any less obvious.
Those were the thoughts shooting through Drake’s head, but he could at least make the best of it. Walking over to a somewhat upbeat elvish girl, he started helping her gather up firewood.
With any luck, at least this one will be nicer. He thought hopefully, a pitiful look on his face. In this group, she was definitely among the most attractive, being a full-blooded elf. It was hard to compare almost any race to the elves really.
She had blue eyes and brown hair, and a smile that looked too youthful to belong to an adult across her face. Compared to the other various members of the group who seemed to be either tanned or sunburned, she had pale skin. And although almost all the other members besides that old woman wore armor, she was just wearing a pair of leather clothes.
As he started to gather wood, the girl looked at him with a clearly mischievous smile on her face.
She brushed up against him, and elbowed him in the ribs.
“Wanna ditch this for a moment, and see the fun stuff?” The girl giggled to herself, before extending her hand out to him.
“The name’s Anri, nice to meet ya. Sorry about Robert and Sabrina, those two are real sticks in the mud.” She held up a hand in apology as she gave Drake a quick glance. Then, as she stood up, her eyes widened in joy as she spotted Yami hiding behind Drake’s shoulder. “Ooohh, look at her. She’s so cute!” She squealed in a quiet, muffled tone, barely containing her excitement as she bounced up and down.
[Drake, I think something is wrong with this one.] Yami let out in a perplexed tone.
He muffled a small laugh, as he extended a hand back to Anri. “Nice to meet you, the name’s Drake.”
At his reply, the girl’s eyes began to shine with excitement as she happily took his hand. As she did, she clasped her hands around his. Her eyes trailed along his hand and along his arm, as she looked at him.
“I’ve never seen someone like you before. You almost remind me of Ali…” Her voice trailed off, as if she was in her own world.
“Anyway…” She smiled awkwardly, and scratched the back of her head. “It’s nice to meet ya. You’re the first one I’ve seen with scales, not to mention the horns. It’s a good look on you.” She chuckled to herself.
“Oh?” Drake reacted. “It’s not that big of a deal, it’s just the choice I was given.”
“Oh-ho.” Anri was even more interested, and leaned in closer, her ears pricking up.
“It’s nothing really.” Drake nervously waved the girl away. His ‘race’ was entirely made by him, and given everyone’s reactions, may not exist in this world. From what little he knew before he transformed into a Draconian, people were given a variety of options, and the most popular ones were likely taken. That would explain why this group seemed to consist of mainly Elves, half-breeds, and other offshoots of the human race, like the dwarf he first met.
However, the kind of power each of these people possessed definitely seemed to vary. That much he understood from the small conversations he picked up from the others around him. For example, his Draconian race was born with the ability to regenerate with mana-infused meat, as well as an incredible amount of power and speed, and the ability to draw in the environment’s mana to augment himself.
He had completely forgone the latter part of his race’s natural ability to use and empower himself using the natural mana in the environment to cultivate the special mana of the dual demonic natures he was given. And, when he transformed, the power he was given was completely fixed at the time of his transformation; it wasn’t possible to change or select what he was given, and even with the normal humans, he expected that they were only given the most basic of explanations. That meant that there were likely a lot of people whose natures didn’t match that of their race.
There were likely quite a few people who were stuck with this unfortunate fate. If someone were born with the talent to boost the destructive power of spells, but didn’t choose a race that was well suited to magic, that talent would go to waste. If the race they chose did match a person’s nature, they could consider themselves in luck.
The group he fought before the week deadline was up would be a good example of such a case. The large, goliath man seemed to be perfectly suited to his race, and would willingly charge into danger and act like his race was meant to. That roguish elf however, he definitely treated the enhanced agility that such a race gave him with a large amount of hesitation. He wasted the talents of such a race because he was unsuited to it, which left him in a worse position than others.
“Hmm… No fun.” The girl looked down in thought, and mumbled to herself. Then, as if shaking off his rejection, she began to drag Drake back towards the rear of the caravan. “Anyway, follow me, you haven’t seen what we’ve been carrying have you? I know that you’ve been holed up somewhere, at least that’s what the others told me.”
Drake’s curiosity peaked, as his eyes widened slightly. This girl was no doubt going to lead him to Ella’s village member but he still had another problem. He could get to the lamia whenever he wanted, but his priority was most definitely getting himself in better condition.
He hadn’t improved at all since resting over the few hours in the carriage, something that troubled him greatly. He should have at least started to feel a little better, but that same, hollow feeling still filled him. The wounds he sustained must have been too great to solve so easily by shifting from his mist-form and waiting. His body required him to eat.
“Unfortunately, it really has been forever since I’ve gotten a good meal in me. I even picked up some meat on the way here, so I need to cook this up real quick before I can do anything else.” Drake told her in an apologetic tone. He took care to not let himself seem too desperate, and the last thing he wanted was to make an enemy of the one person who treated him nicely.
Yami must have noticed his attitude. She snuggled up closer to Drake’s neck and said, [You take priority, I can go look for the snake’s location if you’re really that worried.]
[Right, right. Thank Yami.] He responded quickly. He needed to make sure this elf stay pacified. She would be an easy way to seem natural and approach the Lamia.
Setting down a somewhat raggedy, crimson bag on the ground, a faint mist dissipated around the entrance as Drake pulled out a large slab of fresh meat. Drake needed a place to keep some of the meat from the wyvern, along with the scales he had collected. The formation of such a simple bag compared to his clothes proved to be easy, thankfully.
“See.” Drake held out the raw piece of meat. “As soon as I can get this cooked, I can join you. But until then, I need to get something to eat.” Drake said with some urgency.
“Hmph.” The elf pouted for a moment, before a mischievous look flashed through her eyes. She quickly looked back to the others of the group before grabbing the piece of meat out of Drake’s hands.
“Hey, that’s-” Drake said
“Sssshhh, I don’t want the others to see this.” She interrupted. Holding her hands over the piece of wyvern, a searing heat began to come out in waves. It had only been a few seconds, but the distinctive sound of grilled meat began to sound out as she held it between her hands.
You’re kidding. Drake looked on in amazement. From the look of it, this wasn’t simply fire magic. She wasn’t using any fire at all, in fact. There was simply a powerful wave of heat emanating from both of her hands, cooking it like a steak in a matter of seconds. If he had to guess, it looked like a magic that specialized in cooking, although he couldn’t be sure.
“Here, take it and let’s go. You can eat it on the way there.” She shoved the piece of meat back in Drake’s hand and quickly turned to walk towards the various cages the caravan been carrying towards the back.
“Just what was that?” Drake couldn’t help but ask as he followed her. His magic was made for combat, and seeing someone else so easily expand into a specialized field of magic intrigued him immensely.
“Just a bit magic to save time.” She said, waving off the question. “Cooking wastes so much time, especially when there’s so many fantastic creatures to look at.” She laughed as she turned around to face him. “The others take a bit of solace in it. I think it reminds them of the old days.”
Taking his arm, she began pulling him along, with each step becoming faster and more excited.
As Drake followed step by step behind the girl, he stifled a frown. Although he still didn’t know himself, some of the residual effects of his connection with Yami were beginning to affect him. Much like Yami was able to feel out the emotions of those who spoke, Drake was just barely able to feel out the emotions he was speaking to.
For him, it wasn’t even really a feeling. It was more of an instinct. An instinct that told him that she was lying, about something. Something that she wasn’t telling him, rather than anything she said.
“Right.” All Drake could do was hide his true feelings on the matter. Attempting to speak to her about it would only cause trouble. Instead, he tore off a small piece of meat and began to eat as they moved, a deeply rejuvenating feeling washing throughout his body as he ate.
As he was brought to the cages that held the various monsters, he began to hear the cries and calls of various beasts. Certainly, none of them sounded human but…
One doesn’t sound at all like the others. It sounds like the language Ella spoke. Drake began to slow as he approached, his steps becoming more deliberate.
The area near the back of the caravan certainly looked impressive compared to the rest. Several of the cages were covered in a faint, opaque shield, sealing them in completely. Others, such as those covering the cages the Ground Dragons or the Harpy were sealed in with a simple metal cage, given that they likely weren’t able to use the magic that made those shield’s necessary.
As he passed, he did notice something peculiar, however. The harpy, which looked to be a fairly petite woman, seemed to perk up at he passed, and stared intently at him. She didn’t seem to attempt to communicate with him at all, but simply stare intently in his direction. Strange.
Drake shook his head to clear his mind of the matter. No point in trying to save those who don’t try to save themselves. Even if she is intelligent, if she doesn’t try to ask for help, then there’s no point.
Anri slowly approached one of the cages, as a blue, mystical light began to shine in her hands. Through his eyes, Drake could very easily see what she was doing. Much like Gwyn’s barrier, around several of the cages was a spherical shield that trapped whatever was inside with a small layer of runes.
However, this seemed to be a much lesser version of Gwyn’s ability. Where Gwyn was able to instinctively allow or attack anyone who came in contact with the shield, this barrier was almost barbaric in comparison. Anri was disabling the barrier altogether so she could get closer, and only through enabling the shield again would it be able to prevent anyone from entering or leaving again.
“Hey Ali, I’m back.” As the barrier slowly dissolved, Drake could see who she was referring to.
In short, she was breathtaking. In complete contrast with Ella’s innocent look, this Lamia completely exuded sex appeal from the moment Drake saw her. At first glance, she resembled a dark elf, complete with the characteristically pure white hair that streamed down her back. The only real clothing the Lamia had was a very form-fitting bikini with a small dancer-like ornament covering just below the waist. However, the slightly seductive way she held herself, her piercing yellow eyes, and the long, crimson tail that trailed from her waist gave away her true nature at a glance.
“This is a new friend that I just met, and I wanted to show you to him. Isn’t she so pretty Drake?” Anri turned to Drake with a smile, as he could only look on in wonder at the lamia.
However, this “Ali”, only gave Drake a brief look before turning away with a look of disgust, as if she couldn’t care less at the new visitor that Anri had brought her.
“Sorry, for some reason or another, she really can’t stand others.” Anri held up a hand in apology, before approaching the cage to get even closer.
“Hey, isn’t that-”
In a flash of movement, the Lamia quickly wrapped her tail and quickly coiled around Anri, with an utterly demonic look on her face.
“Come on now, this again?” Anri called out in a light, cheerful tone. Firmly wrapped in the Lamia’s coils, she simply grinned before speaking as if nothing was wrong, much to the Lamia’s displeasure. “You would have already killed me if you were planning to. So, let me go and we can talk.”
[This girl is utterly insane, Drake.] Yami looked on in horror as Anri talked to the Lamia as if she was simply having a small dispute.
Drake knew how utterly powerful a Lamia’s coils could be. He had experienced a bit of that strength when Ella had coiled around him in his sleep. With just her childlike strength alone, she had made it difficult for him to breathe, so he could only imagine just how powerful a fully-grown Lamia’s tail was. The image of the Lamia cracking the elf in half with just a small effort was something that Drake could imagine quite easily.
With a short, almost melodic hissing noise, Ali slowly uncoiled from around Anri, before placing her outside the cage, quickly adopting the same sneer as she looked to Drake for a moment.
“See, she’s harmless.” Anri said with a big smile.
[Yep, definitely insane.] Drake quickly agreed with Yami.
“So… does this happen often?” Drake asked awkwardly, keeping well out of the range of the Lamia’s tail. The obvious mention of “again” from Anri definitely gave Drake the impression that this happened a few too many times.
“No, no, not at all.” Anri replied, laughing off the question. “I think she just wanted to show off since you were here, scare you a bit, ya know?”
You were the one who she had wrapped up, not me. Drake thought morbidly. There are a hell of a lot more ways to scare some stranger than picking up their friend in what could easily be considered a death grip.
“So, how did this all start?” Drake couldn’t help but ask. This Lamia was in complete contrast with Ella’s personality, although that alone could be due to her age. Still, with what must have happened after the attack, it’s not that strange for her to be outright hostile to everyone.
Still, how did this elf get around that? Drake pondered to himself.
“Oh, it was quite sweet of her.” Anri started. “You see, while the others are all out here for either experience and testing themselves, or simply to ‘take revenge’, as some wanted, I just love meeting all of them.” She replied chirpily.
“I mean, look at her, she’s so beautiful. Then there’s the Ground Dragons, the Harpy, they’re all so amazing. Why wouldn’t I want to get to know them better?”
“But, this Ali just tried to kill you…” Drake replied. This girl’s logic was simply too extreme for him.
“If she wanted to, she already would have, like I told her.” She continued. “Like I was saying, one day I was going around and admiring all of them when I suddenly got snatched up by Ali here.” She gave the Lamia a knowing look, which seemed to only embarrass her as she looked away.
She can’t understand a word we’re saying, but she probably recognizes the name she was given. Drake smirked to himself.
It was the same with a human language. If you hear the same word over and over again, especially when it’s used to refer to yourself, then it becomes obvious to know when someone is talking about them. Given this girl’s personality, she had probably spent quite a lot of time around the Lamia as well. It was no surprise that the Lamia would be interested in what Drake and Anri were discussing.
“Ali had crushed a few guys who had come close to her before, so I was curious just why she did it. It’s not like she ate them or anything, she’s much more refined than that.” Anri looked to her lamia friend proudly.
“After she killed them, she simply threw them out of the cage, before curling back into her tail. But, whenever I was captured, she hesitated.” Anri’s eyes began to shine as she reminisced back to that day.
“Honestly, I was a bit upset at how the others had treated the Lamia we came across. Unlike the Ground Dragon’s or some of the others, they seem much more intelligent, but the group wouldn’t listen to me. So, when Ali picked me up and began to squeeze down on me, I simply smiled at her.” Anri didn’t bat an eye when she told Drake all this. Drake stared in disbelief at what he just heard, reassuring himself that she was insane.
“She hesitated, and hissed at me pretty loudly for a moment, like she was trying to scare me.” Anri scratched her head embarrassingly, as if it had just happened yesterday.
“I just kept staring at her, admiring her. Ali seemed confused, and instead of trying to hurt me, she kept me firmly in her grip as she gazed down at me. Then, with a small hiss, she simply let me go after roughly a minute, and simply set me down outside the cage.” Anri ended the story, looking down at her hands with a small smile. Her fingers twiddled in front of her, as if she was embarrassed at what she had said.
“She’s not dangerous, at least not for me. So ever since then, I’ve been coming by whenever I got the chance, just to chat with her.” She said.
So, in the end, it was all thanks to this girl’s boundless curiosity that this Ali didn’t kill her. Instead of Anri showing the fear that she expected, she was perfectly content, as if she couldn’t believe that she would do such a thing, even though she clearly said that it had killed others.
Drake began to think to himself.
Likely, this Lamia held a huge grudge against the humanoid species for destroying her village, just like anyone would. Just like Ella likely would have if she had seen the horrors of what had happened to that village.
Drake pondered to himself for a moment, before looking to the Lamia and Anri. This elf looked to be the only one of this entire group that actually cared for those that they captured. True, Drake could forgive any sins against monsters that had very little intelligence. Humans had, after all, wiped out a wide variety of species over the centuries that were detrimental to them.
But, to do the same to another intelligent species such as the Lamia? That was truly unforgivable. They had families, sisters, and would grieve just as horribly as a human would when they died in that horrible attack. For anyone to so easily resort to such heinous acts, it made Drake furious. He had to calm his nerves by gripping his hand into a fist before gulping down his anger, in an attempt to stifle his bloodlust.
Then, just as Drake began to solidify on how he planned to take care of this group, he heard a small whisper in his mind, warning him of a message.
[Drake, this Lamia says she wants absolutely nothing to do with you. Rather, she would… crack you open if you dare attempted to get too close.] Yami hesitated on transmitting the message, fearful of how Drake might respond.
[Wait, she said what now?] Drake replied.