“Bah, another night, another watch.” Robert said with a low, growling tone.
Robert, the old man Drake had grown accustomed to on their slow carriage ride, was currently on watch. Although he certainly had grown used to it, given his unique abilities, he often grew tired of the other’s excuses on why they couldn’t take just one of his shifts and let him get a full night’s sleep.
“Not that it matters all that much, anyway.” He murmured to himself. “I would have taken the night shift tonight even if they tried to argue against me.” Robert’s thoughts drifted back to Drake, and those burning yellow eyes of his. “Something doesn’t sit right with me about that boy, but I’ll be damned if I don’t know what.”
Unknown to Drake, the reason Robert was so often chosen to be the guard for the various cages of the monsters was his race’s unique ability. Before the haphazard runic barriers were put up, he was one of the few who could withstand the various gazes of the Lamia, as well as the various other arcane magics that the “beast races” were born with. Such was the ability of those who chose to reborn as a Breton, a heavily diluted mixture and man and elf, and one who while resembling a normal human, had a magical resistance to spells and mana that few others could match.
It was certainly one of the more unique abilities. Most, like that of the dwarves, simply had what could be considered as cosmetic changes. Changes like the sudden ability to consume stone as simple food was one such example, but it could hardly be called a truly combat based ability. Of course, they were all given racial abilities. The elves unreasonable vision, and their agility far surpassed that of other species like the dwarves, while a race like Breton’s were truly a rare species, their overall physical abilities left something to be desired. Their exceptional magic resistance however, made him more than suited for the night watch.
And while the rare ability of his race would likely save him any other time, it was this exact trait that would inevitably lead to the poor man’s death.
[Yami, so it’s just the old man that’s left then?] Drake said lazily. He had long since incapacitated the other lone guard that was left on his side of the encampment, and had slowly been enacting his plan on the large majority of the camp.
[Yep, it’s just him left guarding Ali and the rest of them.] Yami relayed back to Drake from the air. The last guard, Robert, was currently leaned up against a tree, and was faced towards all the various cages of those that they had captured. Ali, the harpy, the various hellhounds, ground dragons, displacer beasts, along with a few others, all of them were lined up in a line, much to the dissatisfaction of several of the captured species. It wasn’t all that surprising, at least from Yami’s view.
No creature, even those with less intelligence, enjoyed being captured and carted around like a piece of luggage like these humanoids forced them to. Their innate distaste for one another was dwarfed in comparison to their hatred for their captors, which was all the more reason for someone like Robert to keep himself turned towards them at all times.
Yami gave a short sigh, before leisurely floating down to Drake’s shoulder. “So, what are you planning? It’s not going to be as easy as sneaking up on this one. He’s more cautious for some reason or another.”
“Still trying to think of one.” Drake admitted wryly. Although he wasn’t paying that much attention to who was going to be stationed as a guard, looking back on it now, he wished he had.
The old man from the carriage looked to be particularly on alert, although he couldn’t say for certain why. Was he really that suspicious to the old man when they were talking? The loudmouth elf certainly had no issues with going straight to sleep, and she was the one who he really fought it out with the most on the ride here.
The real problem however, was just how he was going to manage the second guard. Even if the guard he had already incapacitated woke up in the morning, he wouldn’t remember a thing. His magic slowed the minds of those who were affected heavily by it, so to him, it would seem as if he just passed out on the spot, without a shred of memory to help him in the morning.
If Drake just charged the old man however, he would undoubtedly remember that particular detail in the morning, which would ruin the entire strategy of getting this group to introduce him to the main camp. In other words… he needed a distraction.
“Yami, I’m going to need your help with this one, and I don’t mean with just scouting.” Drake said frankly. “He shouldn’t see you as much of a threat, so I need you to get close, so I can sneak up behind him somehow, and knock him out.” As long as Drake could get close enough, his magic would do the rest. That much was simple, at least in Drake’s eyes.
“Oooh” Yami’s eyes sparkled with excitement and mischief as she nodded. “Will do.” She said.
The first to move was, naturally, Yami. Approaching from the sleeping area of the small camp, she leisurely flew into sight of Robert without a care in the world, and an ever so slight mischievous grin appeared on her face.
“How are you doing, mister? Aren’t you happy that you get to get some sleep early tonight?”
Yami couldn’t help but laugh playfully as shebobbed back in forth in front of the old man, and instantly began talking, much to his confusion. Without a special kind of link, like those between monster cores, all that he could understand from an imp like Yami was the confusing, bell-like voice that Drake had first heard all those weeks ago.
“Just what the hell are you trying to say?” Robert scrunched his face up in annoyance, as he attempted to wave her off. “Go on, get out of here.”
“Don’t you worry now,” Yami flitted around his face a bit more, annoying Robert. “You’ll be fast asleep in just a moment.” She replied sarcastically, much to her own enjoyment.
As Robert continued staring at Yami with a faint sense of annoyance and anger, it didn’t take Drake long at all to sneak the small torchlight the man had around himself, and the various cages of the creatures. With a short signal to Yami, she quickly flew to the left while Drake approached from the right, and covered the man’s mouth before letting loose a stream of Greed mana.
“All done, good job Yami. Now, all that’s-” Drake was suddenly stopped by a sudden, strong punch to the gut, which left him breathless as he jumped back out of instinct.
The same man which Drake expected to go down in less than a second was actually standing up, much to Drake’s surprise. Aside from the severe coughing fit the man was having, he seemed to have fought off the effects of Drake’s greed mana.
“Come on now.” Drake looked down at the man sourly.
“You…” Robert could barely get a word out without starting another coughing fit. “I knew it. I just knew it.” A mad smile was beginning to grow across his face as he looked up to the pair, shaking his head all the while.
“Everyone! Wake up, now! We have ourselves a traitor!” He managed a yell, as the shout resounded off the cold, metal cages and barriers that were guarding the creatures, and echoed off into the distance.
As he shouted out, Drake and Yami looked to each other passively, as Drake couldn’t help but shake his head in a sad, heavy manner. After all, even if Robert wanted them to, none of them would wake up until he wanted, Drake made sure of that.
“You were the last one, you know. All you had to do was go down without a fight.” Drake couldn’t help but be a bit upset at this. Especially with how his mana somehow managed to fail.
As Robert waited, a faint look of horror slowly began to grow on his face as he continued to expect the shouts and sounds of the others in the group. He yelled out, loud enough for anyone to wake up, in fact, the whole camp should be closing in around them now. So why?
“Y-You… What did you do to them?!” Robert suddenly yelled out in a furious panic, mortified by what might have happened to the rest of the members.
“You damned idiot.” Drake responded with a sneer. Because of this single mistake, he was going to have to deal with a whole host of problems in the morning. “It’s not like this matters anymore, so I’ll go and tell you.” Drake grinded his teeth angrily.
“You see, I have a very special form of mana, one that you seem to have some kind of resistance to, otherwise you would have dropped like a rag like the other guard did.” Drake said pridefully.
“As for the rest of them,” Drake glanced around with small smirk on his lips, “they’re fast asleep, and won’t wake up as long as this little thing is inside them.” He quickly fashioned a small, spherical core of crystalline mana. “So, they’re not dead yet, if that’s what you were worrying about.” Replied Drake with a bit of sarcasm.
Unlike the normal type of mana that Drake so often used, this piece was one that he had experimented with as he was waiting for them to slowly cross his path. Much like his applications of the Greed mana that was so effectively used against one of the guards, it acted to sedate and control the members of the group who he had used them against. Controlling his mana once it entered a body was certainly a novel experience, and one that he probably wouldn’t be able to replicate with a large amount of mana, but it did the job.
With it, he could effectively kill anything that didn’t have this man’s unique resistance to his mana, and even then, Drake wagered he could make it work on the old man if he really wanted. However, that defeated the purpose of attempting to do this quietly. And, as for the rest of the group, for all those besides Anri, they would die off, one by one, as their bodies slowly atrophied from the inside. A fitting death for the group of people who so viciously destroyed Ella’s village.
Glancing past Robert, he quickly raised his hand and blasted a shard of mana straight through the flimsy, opaque shield that surrounded Ali, before wedging itself firmly in the floor of the cage. Within moments, the entire construct broke apart into pieces, leaving the Lamia surprised but in a pleasant mood seeing it disappear completely. Drake then quickly directed Yami over to her, to give her instructions and to lead her out of the camp.
The old man watched in shock as Drake so casually destroyed the holding barrier that kept the Lamia inside it’s cage. The only reason such a creature didn’t attempt escape before was due to the other members of the camp. Without them, there would be nothing to stop it from crushing the bars that held it within a minute and escaping.
“You… you damned monster! Why would you do this to your fellow human beings?!” Robert cried out angrily. “We’re supposed to be working against these monsters, not with them!” He motioned towards the group of monsters in an exaggerated motion, furious at what Drake was doing. It was simply insane from Robert’s perspective.
“Fellow human beings?” Drake almost cried out in a hysterical laughter from the notion, throwing back his head in disbelief.
“They haven’t done a thing for me since I transformed, especially since I’m not a part of your precious group of humanoids.” As Drake finished speaking, a deep, dark mist began to seep from his very body as Robert watched the man who he so clearly despised slowly morph into a terrifying, lizard-like beast. The almost refined, black horns on Drake had turned an almost demonic shade of black on the draconic visage of the monster. It’s claws, talons, and its sharp teeth gleamed dangerously towards Robert.
Then, Drake laughed a grating, bone-chilling laughter that shook Robert to his very bones before the process was quickly reversed, and the same, horned man was standing before him.
“You see, that look, that exact look.” Drake pointed at Robert, as he couldn’t help but laugh hysterically at the man’s horrified expression. “It’s that look that every person besides one lone girl gave me, and even then, it was only to save her friends.” He thought whimsically back to the lone fox girl who jumped out in front of him to save her friends in what seemed like so long ago, before quickly returning back to the present.
“Just what in the hell are you, no human was given that kind of choice?!” Robert now knew full well what kind of horrific thing was standing before him. It was nothing but a monster in human form.
“No human was given that choice.” Drake almost began cackling again out of the sheer irony of the man’s words. “Are you all so blinded now, that you can’t even remember all those who weren’t given the rosy choices of an elf, or a dwarf?”
Drake waited for Robert’s answer, “I was given single option, forced into choosing a beast race.” He stressed his words. “A Draconian.”
“And you…” Drake continued, only adding onto the sarcasm dripping from his every word.
“You act like I’m such a monster, but I haven’t even killed a single human yet. Meanwhile, here you are, acting all kinds of self-righteous when you exterminated a whole village of innocent Lamia!” Drake was starting to work himself up into a rage, thinking back to the distraught and pitiful look that Ella first gave him when he discovered her. If it was anyone else… if they had found her, she would have been killed like everyone else there!
As for Robert, his eyes began to widen with understanding. This man was nothing but one of the many mad beasts from the beginning. He kept his human speech, but that was it, he was just a puppet of the aliens!
“You’ve gone and tried to kill all of us over a damn group of snakes?!” The man couldn’t believe his ears. “They would have attacked us all eventually, did you not even notice how many eggs were picked up from that village? Those aren’t Lamia eggs, boy! Brian couldn’t even identify the damned things!”, insisted Robert.
Brian was able to identify the Lamia, but not to the point of where he was able to receive a ton of information about them. He got a few vital pieces of information, which led them to their successful plan of extermination. The eggs they retrieved however, they were past even the ranking of where he understood what creature they were. The eggs must have truly been a grouping of terrifying individuals, all bundled up in a sphere of shell, and yolk. Given enough time, that camp of Lamia would have become the scourge of the entire region!
“I get it. You’ve gone crazy, but somehow managed to keep your human mind. Yes, that has to be it.” A mad grin began to spread across the man’s face again, this time making him look even more manic than before. The man slowly began to draw his sword, the mad look of his face only growing. “All you need to do is die, and then, everyone will be safe.”
“Tch. Drawing a sword on me, really?” Drake clicked his tongue in disbelief. “Well, it’s not like this was going to end any other way, was it Ali?”
“Don’t boss me around.” An enchanting voice rang out, as a crimson tail quickly wrapped around the man, and completely crushed him in place. The sickening sounds of numerous bones grinding and breaking all at once was enough to make Drake shake his in disgust as the man fell to the ground dead. His body was nothing but a mixed mash of bone and blood.
“That really is a horrible way to die, you know. Don’t you have other methods?” Drake looked to the Lamia and asked.
“Not without getting them to look me in the eyes, and even then, I treasure every kill I can get from these bastards.” She replied hatefully.
Ali turned her attention towards the encampment of sleeping humanoids and as she did, a small, regretful smile crossed her icy face in a flash before disappearing altogether.
“So, what now? Are you just planning on letting all of them go, after all that they’ve done?” Ali quickly returned to the vengeful, and outright vindictive woman that Drake had grown to expect. If anything, Drake’s determination to carry out the plan he first thought of only strengthened after seeing just how much the beautiful Lamia truly hated her captors.
Drake turned his attention to the Lamia, and attempted to reassure her as best he could. “They’ll be handled, don’t worry. Within a few weeks, all of them besides Anri will be dead and gone, and you and Ella will be avenged. It’ll be clean, and nothing to link their deaths to us besides a simple meeting on the road. You’ll be long gone, and I…” Drake paused as he withdrew the mana shard that pierced her barrier so easily. “Don’t have access to such a dangerous magic in the first place.” Drake chuckled with a smile.
Unbeknownst to Robert, Drake gave Yami a few instructions when his initial plan went awry. While difficult, Drake was able to establish a connection as long as Ali touched the crystal shard in her cage for a few seconds. It required him to shift back into his Draconian form to cement the connection, but once it was established, it seems changing back didn’t hamper his ability to maintain it one bit. It did worry him slightly that he was unable to manage it completely in his new form. Did he mistake his core’s location in his new body? It would definitely need more testing before he was sure of the answer.
After Ali broke out of the cage, it was a simple matter distracting the old man to allow Ali to get close enough to kill him. Drake’s own methods were entirely too… distinct, and he was sure that in some twisted way, the Lamia likely appreciated such a notion as well.
And now, with Ali finally free, Drake had accomplished his small goal of giving Ella someone from her village to help accompany her. Even if she hadn’t been alive for very long, the devastation she endured must have been horrible. Having someone who was like her, and who she knew well, would be the best for the young Lamia. It was a bit of a hassle, but it was certainly worth it, even if the rescued wasn’t exactly the most forthcoming with thanks.
[Yami, could you go and get Therion and Ella, there’s no reason in us really going off, none of the members will wake up until morning.] Drake called out to Yami as he looked out into the darkness. Therion was planned to keep himself and Ella near the encampment and to stay well out of sight. He would be difficult to find, which was exactly what Drake wanted. Without the help of the magical tracking that Yami provided, they would be safe.
Yami quickly agreed, and flew off into the nearby forest where they had laid down to rest for the night. It wasn’t long after that, that Yami returned with Ella and Therion in tow, although much to Drake’s surprise, it seemed that Ella had taken a liking to Therion in the day or so that he had been gone.
“So, uh… Therion, what exactly is going on here?” Drake cracked a smile at the sight of the two stuck together.
Much like Ella seemed to have taken a liking to Drake, and wrapped herself around him to travel, she had now copied with Therion, much to his embarrassment. Her black tail had wrapped completely around the Satyr’s large, muscular torso, and she was propping herself up on his horns, looking over his head. It reminded him quite a lot of the image of a reluctant uncle carrying his niece over his shoulders.
“Master… please get her off of me.” Therion pleaded with Drake, a downcast look clear on his face.
Ever since Drake had left the two alone, Ella had been pestering him to play. It seemed that her so called ‘fear’ of Therion was simply due to his beast-like, guttural language which Drake had long since forgotten. However, given that the two were left alone and by themselves for a whole day, the young Lamia seemed to overcome that fear out of sheer boredom, and the need for a playmate.
Drake had, of course, acted out that role on their journey, carrying her on his shoulders and allowing her to play around with his horns, to resting on his shoulders as she slept. However, regardless of how slow the elephant-like creatures that carried the caravan was, Ella was simply too young and too inexperienced to be journeying for that distance. As a result, Therion was forced to carry the young girl to not lose track of the group, and to keep within distance as his master had ordered. Thus, it led him to his current circumstance.
“So, have you had a fun time?” Drake directed his eyes to the cheerful girl atop Therion’s head, who quickly answered with a cheerful expression.
“Unn!” Ella shook her head excitedly. “Mr. Goat man was scary at first, but once he saw that I couldn’t keep up, he just picked me up, and off we went. We went so fast too!” She laughed cheerfully, her violet eyes shining in the darkness as she did.
“Good. Good job, Therion. You did well.” Drake commended the Satyr. He wouldn’t have been able to rescue Ali otherwise, as Yami was simply too small be help the small girl over long distances.
“So, our little ice queen, aren’t you happy to see Ella again?” Drake quickly pointed his attention to the silent Lamia, who had only watched on as Ella had come in on Therion’s shoulders.
“You…” The Lamia gave Drake a scathing look before she turned back to Ella, who had slowly unwrapped herself from Therion when she finally saw Ali standing there.
“I… I thought I wouldn’t see you again, little one.” For the first time, a heartwarming smile appeared on her face.
“M-miss Aleria..?” Ella called out in disbelief, and began she choke up as tears slowly began to well up in her eyes.
“Miss Aleria!” The little Lamia charged forth quickly, before ramming herself firmly against the so called Aleria, and quickly wrapping around her entirely. The little Lamia’s arms were wrapped firmly around Aleria, and the two held each other, both softly crying into each other’s bodies.
All that trouble I complained about… Drake thought to himself sarcastically. It was all worth it for a moment like this. Drake looked on, watching as the two consoled each other, and cried into each other’s shoulders.