[She… uh…] Yami was unsure how to respond. She understood it was a rhetorical question, but the manner in which Drake had said it made her try to think of a response.
[No, no. I understand.] Drake quickly clarified himself. This was going to be a lot more troublesome than he was anticipating. He may be able to play off disabling the shield around the Lamia, after all, the glyphs which made up the shield were absolutely shoddy. It would be a simple matter of just touching it with a bit of his mana, and the entire formation would fall apart at the seams.
The real trouble however, was obviously going to be the Lamia herself. Thinking back, showing himself to Ella in his Draconian form solved a problem he didn’t even know existed. Even if she had taken a liking to his current form, that was only after she had gotten somewhat used to him. If he had showed up as a humanoid, much like the rest of this group, he may have never gotten her to trust him in the first place.
This all boiled down to the root of the problem. Drake currently looked like no more than a normal, if somewhat rare, brand of transformed human. Yami wouldn’t be much help either, as this entire expedition was made to capture and kill useful monsters. It wouldn’t be unlikely for a rogue members of the group to come back with Yami, and with no real way to establish a language connection with this Ali, Drake was stuck. Unless…
I need to be able to convince Anri that I can talk with her somehow with some outrageous ability I picked up on the way. Well… that’s not entirely untruthful. Gwyn certainly did teach me the ability. But… Drake was, in a matter of speaking, stuck.
It would be too easy to contradict Drake’s story afterward, and even if he was able to actually talk with Ali without Anri getting suspicious, he certainly wouldn’t be able to convince her so easily. To make matters harder, Drake had absolutely no intentions of hurting the young elf beside him.
Drake had long since confirmed that this was the same group who had burned down Ella’s village, so this entire group could go die in a fire for all he cared. Rather, he was planning to take care of them all in one fell swoop once he was able to release Ali back to Therion and Ella. Anri however, was different, even if she was a tad… crazy. Unlike all the others who tended to treat them like they were property or outright despise those like Yami, she was intensely interested.
To put it simply, the more people who had the mindset of Anri, the better, even if she was a bit sick in the head.
“Drake, are you alright? You look like you’re sick.” Anri put her hand on his shoulder, asking him worryingly. A look of clear worry was on her face, as if she was afraid that she had somehow harmed him, and she crouched down next to him.
“No, no. I’m fine. I just hadn’t eaten in awhile, so the meat I ate is causing me a few problems.” Drake grabbed his stomach in a grimacing manner, before giving her a fake smile. This girl really was different compared to the others. Her entire leather attire… the complete lack of a weapon, and even the laid-back attitude that constantly exuded from her, it all pointed to the fact that this girl likely wouldn’t hurt a fly, even if that same attitude would easily backfire in such a new world.
So, there really is only one option, even if there’s almost no chance of this Lamia believing me. Thankfully, she doesn’t need to. Drake thought to himself.
Drake directed his thoughts towards the small imp on his opposite shoulder, making sure to keep his eyes on the threatening Lamia in front of him.
[Yami, I need you to take care of something important for me. Try to convince the Lamia that I’m here to help, and that I have Ella and another friend trailing the convoy right now. If she will let me close enough to the cage, I can disable the barrier holding her inside easily.]
[Are you sure? Drake, as you are now, it’s dangerous.] Yami looked to Drake with a small grimace. It was a simple truth, if anyone besides a certain elf who was caught up in that Lamia’s tail, they would almost certainly be crushed to death. Even if Drake was quick enough in activating his aura, it wouldn’t be enough to save him from a series of crippling injuries.
It was easy enough to notice the change in Drake’s physique as they tracked their way to the small group of humans. He was noticeably slower, and he even got winded, something that had never once occurred while he was still in his Draconian form. To top it all off, while the small cloak Drake had made along with his other clothes might help him a bit, it couldn’t compare to the armor like scales the Draconian body had.
[I’m sure. I just need her to trust me, so say whatever you need to, I don’t care.] Drake said. They would arrive tomorrow at their destination, and at that point, it would be much too difficult for a rescue operation.
[Right.] Yami quickly responded, her small voice ringing with conviction.
“Umm… Do you need to sit down somewhere? I’m fine just staying here and chatting with Ali if you wanna rest.” Anri again looked to Drake with worry. She truly was a sweet girl.
Hiding his smile, Drake waved it off. “No, I’m much more interested in the monsters around here. Little Yami here is really the only one that I’ve gotten used to, so seeing such one like Ali really is quite amazing.” Drake fibbed.
Truthfully… Drake would have preferred the sweet, child-like demeanor of Ella over this bloodthirsty Lamia any day of the week, but that wasn’t what he was here for.
“Right! Isn’t she just beautiful.” Anri responded cheerfully, showing Ali off as if she was her own. “Honestly, the others just don’t see what you and I see in them. Even the less intelligent species are just so interesting, and it’s fun to feed them.” She looked to the surrounding creatures with an endearing look, as if she didn’t wish to be anywhere else.
“Wait, are you the one that feeds all of them?” Drake was genuinely surprised.
Not even regarding Ali, all of the others looked to be like monsters that could tear you to shreds with a thought. Sure, the Ground Dragons looked to be like scaly, more raptor-like versions of a certain golden, loveable, bipedal bird from a particular fantasy series, and the Harpy looked to be at least somewhat human-like, the others were almost certainly genuine monsters.
It was easy to distinguish the ones with intelligence against those who didn’t. The Ground Dragons had hissed at him a few times as he passed their cage, but that seemed to be in caution rather than out of any real sense of savagery. The Harpy acted much in the same way, although she was much more reserved than any of the others, only choosing to sit down pathetically in the small cage she was put in.
“Aren’t you afraid of getting attacked? At least with Ali, you know she won’t actually hurt you.”
Although anyone else could take that statement with a large grain of salt…
“Hm…” Anri pondered to herself for a moment, before shaking her shoulders in a lazy manner.
“Haven’t really thought about it all that much. I make sure to stay safe, so there’s not much point to thinking about it past that.” She said with a smile.
What point was there to thinking about what might happen? That was the mindset behind her actions. Yes, what had happened with Anri was a special case. The Lamia was simply too quick, and since then, the barrier around her cage had stopped her from grabbing anyone else, as well as stopping other particular abilities she had. Since then, she had made sure to stay well out of any potential attack range of the others.
Of course, such a mindset couldn’t help but leave Drake grimacing with a tentative smile.
This girl’s way of thinking is just too extreme… Drake thought.
[Drake.] Yami’s voice suddenly cut into his thoughts, her inner voice ringing with a sense of excitement. [I think I may have convinced her though… It seems that she is just a little bit… aggressive.] She ended with a sense of emphasis.
[Right… so I’ll be able to get close enough to disable the shield?] Really, that was all Drake needed.
[Uhh…] Yami responded nervously. The conversation between the two must have been somewhat unsteady given how unsure of herself she was. [She says she needs you to look at her. According to her, the Lamia species have the ability of almost complete control over humanoid species for a short period of time, at least for those who have a low tolerance to such things. She… apparently killed at least a few men who looked at her the wrong way. So, if you’re actually a Draconian like you say you are, such an ability will be significantly lessened, only creating a sort of suggestion than flat-out control.]
They have such an ability? Drake’s eyes widened in surprise. The attack on their village must have truly come out of nowhere, or have certain restrictions to keep them from using such an ability so easily in combat. Otherwise, such an attack would have only ended in a one-sided massacre. On the other hand…
[If this body doesn’t work the same as my old one, then it’s basically suicide, huh?] Drake felt himself sigh internally at the sheer magnitude of the proposal. Such a risk, however unlikely, would likely mean that Ali would almost certainly attempt to kill him right away for attempting to trick her. Honestly…
WHY THE HELL IS EVERYONE IN THIS DAMN CAMP OUT OF THEIR MINDS!?
Taking a moment to breathe, Drake calmed himself as best he could, or at least as much as screaming voice inside his head would allow.
No… everything should be fine. My connection with Ella and Therion prove that I still have my monster core, and my attraction to the wyvern’s core proves that I still have the need to absorb the cores of other powerful monsters. Drake began to rationalize the proposal to himself as best he could.
I just have to withstand the hypnotizing blast from the Lamia, and as long as I still have the resilience of a Draconian, it’ll be fine… Even still, with my demonic magic, I should be able to fight off such an influence if it comes down to it. And, with Therion… or… Ella… Wait a minute… The memory of his first encounter with Ella began to float to mind, along with the strange, almost instantaneous charm he felt for the young Lamia when he met her.
Ella fucking hypnotized me! The realization hit Drake like a sack of bricks. It made perfect sense. That strange feeling that washed over him… the beautiful look of Ella’s eyes… that strange enamor he had with her tail!
Although, even after knowing such a thing, he still thought Ali’s tail looked breathtaking… so maybe he simply had a thing for that now…
Still! He was going to have a major talk with her whenever he got back.
Rule #1. Hypnotizing the people who rescue you is always a bad thing.
[Uh… Drake, you alright?] Yami asked tentatively. She felt the whirlwind of emotions Drake was going through, and while none of them were overwhelmingly negative, she could only pick out one or two topics, which only confused her even more.
[Yeah.] Drake answered. Telling Yami would only make her upset. She was already somewhat sensitive about Ella to begin with, and telling her that she had attempted to influence him when they had met would only cause more trouble.
Clearing his head of such a subject, he sighed.
Let’s just get this over with. Drake firmed up his nerve as best as could, and turned to the seductive Lamia.
He heard a small, melodic hissing sound from Ali as he looked toward her, almost as if she was gasping in surprise. Without being connected to her, he was honestly unable to say for sure. Then, he looked straight into her eyes.
Drake immediately felt a sense of pressure, very similarly to how he felt with the wyvern he fought but… it was different. The wyvern had sent wave after wave of an almost physical force on him in battle. It made him slower to react, and above all, if it was only just a little bit stronger, he likely would have not been able to fight at all. Only run and hide like Yami and Therion were forced to.
This force however, it was entirely different. It wasn’t an overwhelming force, and it didn’t put any sense of pressure on him. It was like a snake, slowly winding around him, attempting to subvert his own will and turn it into her own. And… it held the faintest sense of familiarity as well. Ali was certainly more adept at using such a technique compared to Ella. In actuality, Ella might have only used this power in an unconscious manner, given the sheer scale of difference in power between the two.
However… given all these points, the sheer fact that Drake was able to think at all was a positive. Normal men were thrust into a state of unthinking obedience, and even those who had a resistance to such things had to fight the influence.
He felt the mystical energy struggle against him, but noticed that a large portion of it was sinking straight into his own monster core in his chest. Once it entered, Drake felt the energy dissipate completely, and even more so, the demonic energy in his body flared to life once it encountered large pockets of the energy in his body, as it attempted to fight back.
Seeing the mysterious energy struggle to find any footing to control him, Drake looked on with confidence.
Knowing when such an influence is attempted has made a huge difference. Drake thought mischievously. As it is now, with just a thought I can dispel it. Drake thought with a smile.
“So, are you actually telling me the truth?” He heard a whisper, resounding in his mind as he looked into Ali’s eyes. He felt the magic constrict him, as if it was trying to force him to tell her. Thinking about her situation, it was likely that moments like these were the only times she could truly talk with anyone. Who knows, maybe Anri was forced into this same state without knowing at all when she was first captured.
Focusing on his core, he sent a small burst of mana coursing throughout his body, while keeping the strange, ethereal link between them intact. “What if I told you I was?” Drake answered cryptically, a small, smug smile clear on his face.
“You…” She paused for a short moment, as an unmistakable look of annoyance lit up, and her tail tapped the bottom of the cage rhythmically. “So, you’re telling the truth. Fine. At least I know that little Ella was kept safe.” Drake felt the connection snap, and Ali turned around without another word as she sank into her coils.
So, I guess that means she accepts? Regardless of how the attack on her village affected her, Drake was starting to get the feeling that this was just the way that she always acted.
“Hooooh, Drake, Ali actually tried to talk to you! What was that? You had this weird look on your face, like you were all zoned out.” Anri eyes shined with curiosity, excited that Ali seemed to have finally been somewhat friendly towards someone other than herself.
“Still, just what did he mean by, ‘What if I told you I was?’” Anri murmured quietly to herself to herself. “I told her not to use her ability on others, but Drake acted like it didn’t really affect him.”
Hmm, whatever. It’s just good that she seems to be getting better. Anri thought happily.
Although it was only known to the young elf, Ali was of the type that didn’t show her feelings well, that much was obvious. Otherwise, after her first encounter, Ali wouldn’t have tolerated her so much, even to the point where she edged to the bars of the cage over the minutes where Anri talked.
“Not sure myself, it’s like my body just seized up whenever I looked at her.” Drake fibbed again.
“That’s weird,” said Anri, as her eyebrows scrunched up in curiosity. What did Ali do anyway?
“It’s passed now, so I’m fine.” Drake smiled. “Hey, Anri mind handing me my bag? I think I’m starting to feel a bit better.” Drake patted his stomach, as if to indicate the problems from earlier were starting to subside. He then pointed to the small, crimson bag that was strategically placed a few feet behind her.
“Huh? Uh, yea sure.” She turned around, and in one swift motion, Drake released a stream of crimson mana towards one of the glyphs that made up the shield. In a short, sputtering motion, the glyph cracked apart in an instant, leaving Anri none the wiser.
The close attention Anri seemed to pay the Lamia had been a major annoyance this entire time. Even if Drake had the chance to help, using such magic would only out Drake as an enemy. But now, with the glyph destroyed, even if the shield could be put back up, it would incredibly weak, and made of even poorer quality than the flimsy formation this group had put together before. Given the strength that Ali undeniably had hidden in her tail, she could break it open with a single swing, leaving her wide open as long as she had the time to deal with the bars. Time which Drake planned to give her.
Anri turned back around, bag in hand, and gave it back to Drake with a smile. “Thanks, I think I’m gonna head back now, if you don’t mind. Better to rest and eat up.” Drake responded, as he turned his back to walk to the rest of the caravan.
“Oh, uh, sure. Go ahead.” Anri said. At least she was able to find a friend that actually shared her interest. They would have plenty of time to talk once they returned to the town. Maybe even she would be able to afford to release Ali, even if others would disagree with her. However, her small dream was something that never came to pass.
Later that night, well after they stopped further down the small path they were taking to the town, they stopped to rest for the day. Once the sun started to set, it was usually much too dangerous to proceed, given the wide array of monsters that specialized in hunting at such a time. And, given how many people they had lost due to stupid mistakes such as approaching the Lamia, it had become increasingly difficult to find enough people to watch over the entire caravan.
Thankfully for them, they had another man that was fresh and willing to help, given that he had gotten picked up on the way there.
“Hey, boy, are you sure you don’t wanna let me handle that imp of yours? I promise I’ll be gentle with her.” Brian begged Drake. Again, the annoying dwarf was trying his hardest to let Drake examine Yami for just a little longer, given the simply outrageous status that a creature as insignificant as an Imp had.
“For the last time, you damned Dwarf, I said no. Now beat it.” Snarled Drake.
“Come on, just for a moment.”
“I said no!” Drake yelled out.
Honestly, none of these people had a bit of sense. Thankfully, he wouldn’t have to deal with them for much longer.
“Bah, fine. Just go back then.”
“What did you think I was trying to do?” Drake muttered to himself.
Currently, he was on “guard duty” if it could even be called that. It was little more than sitting next to a small torch that was lit up, and staring into the darkness for a couple of hours until the next shift. According to the others, they had been expecting to be attacked by the monsters that had been trailing them for the past few days, but surprisingly, had no trouble since he had arrived.
Not that this surprised Drake at all. Therion was quite the specimen himself, and could easily fight off any others who even attempted to come close. That is, if any actually attempted to even get close to Therion. The Satyr was quite ferocious in his own right, to the point that many species wouldn’t attempt to approach out of fear of attack. That much was obvious given how easily he adapted to his usage of Drake’s greed abilities.
“Still… why does it take everyone so long…” Drake murmured. He was tired of waiting.
His entire plan hinged on catching them when they were asleep. Simply killing them would be too messy, and if he actually planned on infiltrating the humanoid settlement to find those who had killed Therion’s brothers, then arriving with an incoming group would be the perfect solution. So, this left Drake with his current plan.
“Finally.” Drake smiled. The camp was finally turning quiet, as the various fires around the camp went out, one by one. It was finally time.
[Yami, fly up, and tell me the locations of all the guards in the camp.] Drake said.
[Right, just give me a moment.] Yami quickly scouted out the small encampment. The large, elephant-like beasts that carried the carts were much too large to simply stay attached to the carriages overnight, and although they were pacified quite easily through the fruit that they were fed with, they were kept off to the side, fast asleep. This left the carriages they carried arrayed in a small group, leaving the cages to the very rear with its own guard, and the actual members, with another two. This only left three awake, Drake included.
Telling him of all this, Drake could only smile. Keeping track of those he couldn’t see would be difficult without his eye in the sky. With Yami, he could dispatch the only other guard on this side with ease.
Breathing in deeply, Drake began to focus on his demonic core. Using his crystals would be out of the question, as it would leave too drastic of a wound. It would be too obvious that the guard was actually attacked. Even the greed portion of his mana was too deadly, although if it was restricted, it should prove to have exactly the effect he wanted.
Disappearing into the darkness surrounding the camp, Drake slowly circled around to the first guard. How the guards were set up, each had their own sector to watch. If they were all turned in the same direction, it wouldn’t be much of a guard after all. As a result, Drake was easily able to make his way over, and sneak right behind the man.
Covering the man’s mouth, Drake quickly let out a blast of his mana, without him knowing who or how someone managed to approach him. Drake felt the man go slack in his arms, as he held the guard in his arms.
It was just like he thought, his greed mana was perfect if it was just restricted a bit. During his fight with the doppelganger’s, Drake saw how it affected those who he fought, and how his mana worked through the eyes of the Draconian. After he trapped it, he recovered his memories of that time, and with it, the knowledge of just how it was used during the fight.
The sin of greed worked much like a domain, at least when he spread it out in a wave around him. It weakened and slowed the minds and bodies of everyone who didn’t have his unique mana, and concentrated on a single guard, such an attack would weaken him more than enough, since Drake wasn’t intending to kill him. His mana would knock him out almost instantly as his demonic mana entered his body and drained him completely of his mana, then stamina.
“Now then, one down. One to go.” Drake looked to the rear of the caravan, and smiled.