“So, what now?” Called out Drake. “You’re free to go wherever you want to, even back to that old, burnt out village if you want, but I imagine that such an idea isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.”
The two Lamia, after getting the intense emotions of meeting each other out of the way, were now discussing with Drake just what to do next.
The newly named Aleria, alongside Ella, simply looked to each other for a moment, as a nervous energy began to build up between the two, something that was obvious even to Drake. While it didn’t happen often, Ella seemed to have a habit of tapping the ground nervously with the end of her tail when she was thinking about a difficult subject. That, combined with the teary-eyed expression of the young Lamia, made Drake think that she was certainly reluctant to leave his group.
However, even if he wanted to advise her, it would ultimately be up to Aleria. Saving Ella’s village member simply to split them up again would be too difficult a subject to speak about freely, and one that Drake was outright against. No, he would let them decide, even if it meant losing the company of the cute little Lamia.
“… Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting to be saved.” A quiet, subdued response was all that came from the white-haired Lamia, and her expression sunk even deeper into a melancholic state as she looked back to Ella and then the rest of the group.
Her companionship alongside Anri was a symptom of that attitude. She only wanted to make the most out of her life, one that she had entirely resigned herself to. Whether she was to be killed as soon as they returned to wherever they were going, or if she was simply going to be made a sick kind of attraction for the humans, she wanted to make the most of it. A simple elven girl with a fascination with monsters had made her happy, even if it was only to a small extent. But now, with her old way of life destroyed, and given all the freedom in the world, she was left overwhelmed with what decision to make.
Compared to Ella, who was entirely content with Therion and Drake, and even Yami to some small extent, she was left without a solid path to choose.
“I just don’t know.” She whispered to herself.
Of course, this wasn’t surprising to Drake in the least. In fact, he would have been surprised if she knew what she wanted right away. A simple monster, like that of the Ground Dragons in the cages, would have been content to simply run away and survive. That made perfect sense, given that they lived much more on instinct than Ella or Aleria. So, this left Drake with a rather simple answer.
“Just join us for now then.” Said Drake with a discrete wink to Ella.
“I-I… I just couldn’t. Not after all you’ve done for me.” Aleria quickly denied Drake’s offer. However, as Drake watched the battle within the Lamia rage on, he was beginning to see more and more of her true nature.
She was more naturally guarded than a young girl like Ella, and the simple response of not wanting to be overly indebted to someone was a normal emotion. She was also likely cautious about just what their motives were for saving her in the first place. An altruistic motive such as simply wanting to save her would be unbelievable, no, an outright lie to someone who had lost so much already. She would simply dismiss it altogether, in an attempt to save herself from more pain.
And, the matter of just what he truly was couldn’t be solved as easily as it was with Ella, in fact, his status as both a Human and Draconian would likely only further distance himself from her. After all, it was his species that burned her entire village to the ground, even if he wasn’t connected to them in any way now. Again, another natural response.
In that case, all it took was a bit of persuading
“Don’t think that I’m asking this just because I saved you. I’m doing this for Ella. I’ve grown quite fond of her, and she enjoys our company as well. How would she feel if I rescued you only for you to go wandering out into the wilderness to get yourself killed? How would that make me look?” Drake’s demeanor changed into the more domineering attitude that seemed to come so easily to himself lately.
“I don’t want her to lose the last piece of her old life. Not after everything else…” Drake’s voice trailed off, as he looked to the two Lamia. Ella was the last piece of innocence that he saw in this world. If he could just keep her in the safe, carefree world he created for her in the past few days, that would be more than enough for him.
“Miss Aleria… please.” A heartfelt voice began to tug at Aleria’s heartstrings, as Ella poignantly pulled on her arm in a pleading motion. “Can we?” Her violet eyes began to shine with tears. At the very least, having Ella so eager to stay with them certainly made things easier.
Looking down at Ella’s small plea, Aleria shook her head reluctantly before looking to Drake with a mute expression. “Fine. I’ll do what you want. But, I need you to at least let me and Ella take back some of the eggs that were stolen from my village. I don’t know what kind of plan you have with these humanoids, but they can’t be allowed to keep all of them. I’ll allow you to have one if it is so distasteful for your plan, but they are vitally important for me and little Ella.” The determination in her eyes were clear. This was absolutely not something she would budge on.
As for Drake, such an idea was actually quite beneficial for him. Ella had grown very attached to their group, whether to compensate for the loss of her own village, he didn’t know, but she wouldn’t try to use it against them so easily. Drake would even get to choose out of the eggs that they decided to bring back. There was no reason at all to decline the offer.
“That’s perfectly fine. It’ll make some trouble for me in the morning, but I’ll handle it somehow.” Said Drake with a sly smile. It certainly would cause a bit of trouble, but nothing he couldn’t handle. It would be simple mistake, especially if they couldn’t take all of them.
The Lamia lowered herself closer to the ground and gave Ella a short hug, before promptly looking to Drake with an expectant gaze.
“So, just what do you want me to do next?”
Drake held up in hand in a playful motion. “As for that, just give me a moment to think. Essentially, you’d be joining Therion and Ella, but I need a moment to create something for just that.”
Step one, completed. Manage to somehow convince the adult Lamia to join Ella and the rest of them. Step two, figure out just how to make a device that would allow Therion to talk with the Lamia somehow. Needless to say, being in a group with only one other person that doesn’t share your language isn’t much of an issue. When there’s more than one however, it can quickly lead to resentment, or outright betrayal if not handled carefully.
Drake still didn’t trust her. She didn’t have a contract, and even though Therion had a solid defense against the gaze of the Lamia, he had heard the various stories of the strange magic they used. Even when he first met Ella, he was subject to that instantaneous magic, even if it did minimal damage. So, Drake began to think of a solution.
His ability to speak seamlessly between species was reliant entirely on the bonds between the monster cores of the species themselves. He was simply acting as a conduit. Gwyn’s magic was simple enough to understand that much, thankfully.
If he could somehow make that same conduit a feature of a mana crystal, however small or large it needed to be, then he could effectively form a direct link between two species. But just how to do that was a complete mystery to Drake.
Unlike Gwyn, who seemed to thrive off various forms and mixtures of magic, or even Anri, who had focused her efforts on creating something so mundane as cooking magic, Drake had never been one to really experiment with his mana. The demonic races had a very singular use for magic, and that was for combat. The more utilitarian uses, such as Yami’s scouting magic, was still something that was needed for war. Even the fact that Drake was so easily able to connect himself to Therion’s core so he could speak was purely out of Gwyn’s ingenuity.
Well, there’s no way to test these sort of things out without actually trying. Drake thought with a depressing sense of humor.
Drake first created a small, crystalline piece of mana, made purely out of his Sin of Pride. Then, he tried something that he had first noticed when he fought the wyvern. His natural mana, while powerful, simply lacked enough power to be called truly potent right now. However, if Drake put in the effort, he found that he could actually infuse a simple crystal with much more mana than it would normally ever hold naturally, without affecting the overall size too much. Satisfied with the result, he then called Ella and Therion over to him.
[What are you planning to do with them two?] Asked Yami, puzzled.
[If I can somehow link their cores directly with this crystal, then they should be able to speak with each other seamlessly.]
[Oooh, really now?] Yami took a break from watching the sleeping camp members and quickly landed on Drake’s head, interested.
Drake then took the crystal, and held it out towards the two, which Therion took with some curiosity. His eyes widened with surprise as he felt the mana inside the small crystal was almost three times more potent than normal, but he simply waited for instructions.
“Now listen, I want you two to try to focus on the crystal. Therion, you know how it felt when I connected a stream of mana to your core, right?” Drake asked.
Therion thought over for a moment, then his eyes lit up in understanding. A simple nod was his response. It was a unique magic, and one that allowed himself and Master to speak for the first time.
“Good.” Drake smiled. “And Ella, do you remember how you felt when I first found you? When you could first understand me?”
“Un.” Ella replied happily. “Mister Drake was really scary at first,” She glanced towards Therion with a burning gaze, and when Therion caught her gaze, he flinched, unsure how to take that gaze. “but then suddenly I could hear your actual voice.”
“Good, good.” Pleased by Ella’s words, he knew he was getting through without explaining in too much detail. This was the most important part of Gwyn’s magic. If neither one of them understood how it worked, or even felt, then it was likely this experiment would end as a complete failure.
“Therion, using the mana in the crystal, try to extend a connection to Ella.” Drake said.
The Satyr’s eyes widened in surprise for a moment, before quickly gazing at the crystal in his hand. He focused on a crystal, and after only a second, a thin, hazy line of mana slowly floated out. It was certainly more unstable than when Drake did it himself, but Therion was able to make it work. The line of mana slowly touched Ella, much to her own wonder, and soon the hazy line of mana condensed completely, before forming a direct connection to the crystal. Seeing it as a sign of success, the Satyr quickly attached the crystal to himself as well, before looking to Drake with a pleased expression.
“Master, I believe it was a success.” The satisfaction in his voice was clear.
“Oooooh! Mister Goat man!” Ella immediately shouted out in wonder and joy as she looked to the Satyr. If she could jump at this moment, she would. Instead, she was bouncing up and down in pure happiness like a springboard. “I finally understood you!” The excitement in her voice was clear as could be. She quickly slithered her way over, and Therion was having quite the ordeal attempting to keep the little Lamia from scrambling all over him in excitement.
“You sound so cool!” Ella grabbed his arm, slightly yanking at it from her excitement. “You’re not scary at all anymore, Mister Goat man.”
Drake could only laugh at the scene between the two.
“Wait, is this what she’s been calling me, Master?!” Therion cried out outraged at the nickname.
“I’m a Satyr, not a damn goat!”
This is what I wanted for the girl. Drake thought. As long as she keeps that naïve outlook on life, I’ll be happy for her.
Swiftly removing the crystal from the increasingly perturbed Satyr with a thought, Drake looked closer at it with some concentration as it floated closer towards him. The mana lines in between the two were solid, and given by how well they were conversing, it was a complete success. Now, as for the last member of the trio…
Holding the crystal in his hands, he focused the crystalline mana towards Aleria. There was a faint, ever so slight fear in her eyes as the mana link approached her, but she allowed Drake to make the link, much to her muffled laughter as she began to hear the Satyr’s constant cries of indignation.
[Interesting. I didn’t think it could be used this way at all]. Yami looked on at the trio, a sly grin clear on her face as she watched the show between Ella and Therion.
Drake widened his eyes in realization as he suddenly looked up at Yami, who had taken a convenient position between his horns again.
[That reminds me, do you want to be linked to the crystal? I understand that you have no problems with Therion, but it might be important in the future for understanding the Lamia.]
[Hm, I suppose so…] She stated with a hint of debating if she wanted to or not, but she quickly made up her mind. [There’s really no harm in it after all. Besides, I quite like the Satyr getting a taste of his own medicine for all the times he’s tried to toy with me.] A short, brief laugh escaped from her lips, as she quickly sent a link of her own to the crystal.
She quickly began to cackle into short fits of laughter as she began to hear Ella go on and on about ‘Mister goat man’. [Yep. No problems here. You truly are amazing, Drake.] She added with praise. Even if Yami could understand the meaning behind words, something as complex as a nickname was beyond her abilities as an Imp. She was more than happy to fully understand the show unfolding in front of her.
“Master…” Therion called out again for help. It was clear that Ella’s excitement was clearly starting to wear on him, but given the rules of one of Drake’s past orders, namely to “care for her,” he was left unable to stop her by force.
Doing his best to contain his laughter, Drake walked over to the duo. “Come on, come on, be nice to him. He carries you around most of the time now, after all. You wouldn’t want him angry at you, would you?” Drake admonished the young Lamia as best he could. It would be important for them to get along, especially now that there wasn’t a language barrier between them.
“Huuuu….” Ella began to pout in place, as Drake looked down on her with a slight grin.
“It’ll be alright, just be nicer to him. Now…” Drake clapped his hands.
“It’s time for all of you to go. I have to deal with the mess that I made because of that damn old man in the morning, and you three need to be well away from here when that happens.” Drake looked off into the dark thicket that was off into the side of the camp.
As long as they were well out of sight, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. This group seemed to be much too afraid to go out and hunt for Aleria if she escaped, especially with how many monsters they had caged up. If too many went out to search, the others could easily escape if something went wrong.
“Therion, take the crystal with you, and keep it on you. With Yami connected to it, even I could track you three back to where you are. Speaking of which, just where did you hide the wyvern core that I gave you?”
Drake just noticed, but Therion walked into the camp with Ella with the wyvern core nowhere in sight. He had completely covered it in a large amount of his own mana, so it shouldn’t cause a problem if Therion simply left it somewhere for a moment, but losing such a prize would definitely earn Therion a few more days of carrying Ella by himself.
“Rest assured, Master. It is safe. I plan to return to it as soon as I leave here.” Therion gave a short bow as he responded, which Drake found more than satisfactory.
“Good. Head out, and stay out of sight.”
“Umm… Drake.” Yami suddenly leaned over into his ear, and whispered. “The Harpy, it seems she isn’t as dumb as she looked. She’s trying to get me to free her.”
“Oh?” Drake was surprised.
The entire time that Drake was with Anri, and even when he was freeing Aleria, she hadn’t even made a real motion to speak to him. From how everything was progressing, he had just assumed that her species was one of the more instinctual species, no better than the Ground Dragons, but at least not outright savage.
The Harpy, at first glance, seemed like an average, if somewhat petite woman. A slight shade of Auburn hair, arms that slowly melded into wings, and talons instead of feet would be the only things that would give her away as inhuman, if somewhat obviously. No doubt that if she was too large, a species like her simply wouldn’t be able to fly as well. Judging by the lack of runes around her cage, she had no magic to supplement flight at all.
Well, it’s not like I owe anything to these people. Freeing all of them would just get me into trouble, but if one or two escape, it shouldn’t be too big of a deal. Drake shrugged, as he walked over to the cage.
Just as he did, he was hit with a sudden realization. “Right… Aleria, correct? Come over here.”
Just as there needed to be no signs of him helping the Lamia, him simply using his mana to tear the cage apart would be more than suspicious. Having Aleria bend the bars so the harpy could escape should be simple enough.
“The Harpy wants out too, just bend the bars a little so she can squeeze through. She’s tiny enough.”
“Tch, fine.” Aleria gave a brisk look at Drake, before muscling the cage free of almost half the bars on one side with her tail. It seemed that after she learned the humanoid camp was asleep, she could be as loud as she wanted.
The Harpy quickly jumped out of the cage, the look of gratitude clear on her face. She looked to Aleria, then Drake and Yami, before quickly flying off into the night.
“Simple enough.” Drake nodded. “Now get gone you three, I want to get some sleep!”
As the others began to wake up the next morning, there was quickly a commotion among the group over the sudden disappearance of Robert, the old man guarding the monsters, and the complete lack of response from everyone else. The blood stains from the corpse were impossible to hide, but it was easy enough to get Therion to carry the body on the way out. That left them unable to decide just what had truly happened, although both Drake and the other guard were quick to be blamed for the incident.
“Just what in the hell happened here?!” Sabrina was absolutely furious. Her uncle was missing, or outright killed in the middle of the night, and no one was awake to even hear it? Somehow, both the Lamia and the Harpy had went missing, but neither of the other two guards claimed to have any clue what happened to them. They both said they had mysteriously fallen asleep during the night.
About half a dozen eggs were missing as well, and those looked to be one of the most lucrative things from this expedition. Normal monsters were incredibly difficult to train, even for those who specialized in such a thing. Oftentimes, they had to resort to capturing only the most docile of creatures, much like the Elekks they used for transport. The eggs would have been the perfect solution, raising up normally feral monsters in an environment where they could be more easily controlled.
Now, with more than half of the eggs gone, and only the smallest of the bunch remaining, the set would be much less lucrative than before.
The new guy… Drake. Why would he stay if he was responsible for it, it didn’t make any sense. From all signs, it was the Lamia itself who had caused all the damage to the cages, and if that was right, then it could have easily caught and killed Uncle Robert if the runes were destroyed.
But, it just shouldn’t have been that easy. He was one of the only ones who was almost immune to that things gaze ability, it shouldn’t have been near enough. No… if none of the others woke up during the time they were escaping, it must have been another species altogether, one that forced them all into sleep. That species could have destroyed both the Lamia’s runic shield, and worked together to kill Uncle…
Uncle Robert’s ability would have been nothing but a hindrance to him then. If something as simple as attacking those who were sleeping broke the effect, and the species itself wasn’t overly powerful, then he would be the only one who couldn’t be forced into sleep. He would’ve been killed simply to keep him quiet.
“Damn… Damn!” Sabrina raged on quietly to herself. Brian had already made his decision. They would move on, like they always had before. Deaths among the group weren’t anything new, they had more than a few get killed in various attacks, or even by the monsters themselves once they were captured through sheer carelessness. They would count it as a blessing that he was the only one, and continue back to the main camp. The death of one man wouldn’t make that much of a difference but still…
“Why, why did it have to be him?” Her rage quickly turned into a sad, sobbing motion as she quietly rode back. The strange, gnawing feeling in her chest only growing as the day passed.
I’ve done it. Drake thought with a certain degree of success.
Initially, he and the other guard had been questioned extensively once everyone had woken up. They wanted to question what had happened during the night, and of course they would, one of their men had gone up and missing with a pool of blood being the only thing left behind. Anyone would be skeptical of him, after all.
But why would he stay, why would he leave them alive, what would he have to gain from freeing a Lamia and Harpy, and not all of them at once? And lastly, why simply steal only a few of the eggs from the Lamia village, not all of them and just where would he put them? It wasn’t as if he was simply apart of another group of humans, they hadn’t seen any tracks to indicate that at all. So, without any real reason to suspect him, they simply wrote off the incident as an unfortunate accident.
Drake couldn’t help but chuckle. He had accomplished everything he wanted. Within a matter of a week or two, everyone but Anri would collapse and likely wouldn’t wake up after that. The mana cores that he so painstakingly formed inside each of their bodies were antithetical to the entire system of natural mana that they used. The magic users would likely notice the effects first, but even they wouldn’t be able to understand why it was happening.
And as for the Lamia, and Therion, they would simply find a safe area to rest in near the encampment, where they were far enough out to not be captured. He had confidence that even if they were found by a rogue group, that Therion would be able to handle them easily with Aleria. Drake would simply enter whatever camp the Humanoids had set up, have Yami look for the large, stone-like man that Therion said seemed to be their leader, and he would finally fulfill his part of the contract with Therion.
Everything was going just as planned.