23 hours later
“I’m Hungry, beastie where’s the food?” Ivyieth whined for the third time as they traversed the hallway, her hair had been cut and it now barely reached her shoulders.
They were in search of a certain living quarters. Going from door to door, as Shizuka’s frustration grew with every passing moment.
“Beastie, I said I’m hungry, didn’t Elder brother tell you to take care of me?” Ivyieth continued to whine.
“Please…Shut it…” Shizuka grumbled wearily, the drake had seemingly learned the common language over night from simply listening to her speak in her dreams...Something that had truly annoyed Shizuka. (“Ugh…I had to fall asleep from exhaustion! Damn! And she said almost a day passed!?”) Shizuka thought in annoyance as they came about the last set of rooms along the hallway, entering the first room, that being the kitchen.
“Here, fine. See those storage cabinets up there? Third one from the left, there’s some non-perishables there the rebels ‘gathered’.” Shizuka pointed towards one side of the kitchen and Ivyieth rushed to the set of cabinets.
Seemingly counting her way through from the right, and as vines grew out of her legs to raise her, she opened…the fourth cabinet. “Beastie lied, there are only empty plates here! What’s the point of that if there is no food on them!?” Ivyieth exclaimed with an annoyed pout as she turned to face Shizuka.
Who really couldn’t be bothered to deal with her any longer, as Shizuka had already walked over to the nearest bedroom and knocked on the door.
“Oi! Don’t ignore me…” Ivyieth grumbled with a hiss in her voice.
Seeing that nobody answered the door, Shizuka turned to meet the drake’s glare with her own smug grimace. “Or what munchkin? Ya gonna tell on me or somethin’, ya little shit for brains?” She snarled back, her accent coming out fully.
Then watching in confusion as Ivyieth’s annoyed expression suddenly turning into that of an angel’s…
“And what…did I tell you about that tongue of yours, Shizuka?” Thea said with a sigh as she opened the second door to her left.
“Ah…I-” Shizuka glanced in between her and the little demon, “Sorry…Ma’am…” she apologised respectfully, blushing with embarrassment from being annoyed by something akin to a child.
“It’s fine, we’re all more than a bit tired still…” Thea said with a chuckle, leaning in as she saw Ivyieth discover her mistake, now rummaging through the correct cabinet. “And I know what it’s like to be an older sister, they can be frustratingly cheeky hmm?” She whispered to Shizuka with a grin.
Shizuka’s shoulders slumped, “Y-Yeah…she wore me out while I was cutting her hair yesterday, I fell asleep before I even knew it so…Sorry, I wanted to come by earlier.” She said, apologizing once more.
“Don’t worry about that, but I’m guessing by what I’m sensing and seeing that…she’s Ivyieth?” Thea asked.
Shizuka was about to answer but Ivyieth cut her off entirely, appearing in between them with what seemed like a pouch of jerky held in her hands. “Mhm!” She said whilst munching on one piece of meat, speaking after she managed to swallow. “That I am! Are you his Chosen? You are, right? I can feel the bond between you! How is it like? To be a Chosen? Ah, what’s your name again?” She barraged Thea with questions.
“Ah-Ahah…Slow down or you’ll choke,” Thea said with a weak chuckle as Ivyieth bit into a second piece of meat larger than her own hands. “I’m Thea Selene from Druvia, and yes I’m Erik’s Chosen. You must be the drake we rescued then. Ivyieth? Am I saying that right?” Thea asked after introducing herself, crouching down before the seemingly innocent young girl.
“Yes you are, also why do you call him Erik? His name is Erikathyr the White, Guardian of Nature’s Spirit!” Ivyieth argued with a raised brow.
“His name isn’t exactly easy to pronounce either…” Shizuka grumbled.
“I guess it’s because that is how he introduced himself the first time and it’s how we’ve been calling him since? He never really corrected us so down the line we might have figured it was okay.” Thea answered, although unsure herself. “Ah…let’s talk a bit more quietly, she’s still asleep.” Thea then said as she closed the door behind herself, leading them over to the kitchen’s wide wooden table and its chairs.
“Speaking of her…how is she?” Shizuka asked as they all sat down, all but Ivyieth who made herself a bed of vines nearby and laid down upon it, continuing to chew on the jerky contently.
“I…don’t really know yet Shizuka. I don’t know but, I can tell that she’s been through a lot…you should’ve seen her when she was awake…” Thea said, her expression growing dark as she recalled the sheer panic and terror within her sister’s eyes. “Erik had to put her to sleep with magic…”
“Oh…That bad huh? I’ve heard stories of...what succubae do to their prisoners, while I was with the Dark Guild. It’s nothing pretty I-Ah sorry, I shouldn’t be talking about that…” Shizuka apologized again, seemingly walking over eggshells as she spoke.
But Thea just smiled, “It’s okay, I just can’t help but worry and…something else is on my mind per say…”
“This drake is all ears, and I guess the hairball too.” Ivyieth said with curious eyes, “I can’t say I’m not interested in why a Chosen looks so worn out, have you ever slept sometime this week? You’re still a lowly human, you shouldn’t push yourself.”
Shizuka groaned, “Get off your high horse princess, we’re the ones that saved you, you know?”
“No, Elder brother saved me. You were just there, probably being useless.” Ivyieth corrected with an innocent smile.
Shizuka pondered over strangling her.
Seeing the tension Thea chuckled, “Sorry…you just remind me of how I and Kayle were when we were little.”
“L-Little? I’m 19!” Shizuka argued.
“Pfft, I’m 112, and I’m still young and beautiful. Unlike you, beastie.” Ivyieth said snidely before relishing into another slice of jerky.
Shizuka stifled a growl, (“Can I have a few moments with her alone in a locked room?...”) she thought to herself as her expression and tail twitched. “So…what’s on your mind, Lady Thea? You really do look tired, have you slept?”
“Hey I asked the sa-” Ivyieth was about to say when a tendril of pinkish spirit energy grew out of Shizuka’s hand, entangled itself around a slice of jerky, and shoved it into the drake’s mouth.
Ivyieth didn’t complain much, instead, she mumbled out something inaudible while chewing on the food.
“I…” Thea faltered from speaking, sighing right after. “I’ve come to know of something…that is difficult to deal with…” Willing herself to at least try, but unsure if she should weigh others down with her problems.
“Tell me.” Shizuka then suddenly stated, sitting before Thea with her arms crossed and eyes narrowed, “I can sense your emotions, remember? You’re worried of Kayle I’m guessing, but when you started speaking of this other problem you felt angry, confused and afraid. So come on, tell me what’s wrong.”
“Ha…can’t hide anything from you Spirit Beasts huh?” Thea mused with a weak smile.
“Spirit Beast? What’s tha-” Ivyieth tried to speak once more, but Shizuka just shoved another slice of jerky into her mouth.
Again, Ivyieth didn’t complain much about being hand…tentacle?...fed.
“Well? Come on then, spit out it.” Shizuka said, “And don’t give me no shit about wasting my time, yeah, I can sense that little bit of guilt you’re feeling too. And it’s frustratingly annoying not knowing anything!” she exclaimed but glanced away, too embarrassed about her own tone to face the person she looked up to.
“Right…Thank you, Shizuka.” Thea said with a warm smile, “I guess I really shouldn’t keep these things to myself…” she sighed before laying forward onto the table, resting her arms over it. “Kayle was charmed by the succubus that was in charge of disrupting Fort Balgor, over a year ago now. The fort where my mother and her very best were stationed to assist the army. She remembers things that demon did and saw…She found out that...Makaela killed our mother, to protect one of her sisters who at the time was also charmed.”
“Wait…that’s…” Shizuka was at a loss for words.
“I do not see your issue.” Ivyieth then said, “Just kill this Makaela person, what is there to think about?”
Causing Shizuka’s ears to shiver as she turned on her, “Because Lady Thea and Miss Makaela are friends!” she exclaimed in annoyance. “Gah, why are you Dragons so insensitive!?”
Ivyieth shrugged, “From our perspective, it is you lower beings who make too much of a fuss about petty things.” She told Shizuka, then turning back to Thea. “And if you care about the person who allegedly killed your mother, but you have her reason for why she did it. Ask yourself, or better yet ask herself, would she still have killed your mother if her sister wasn’t the price?” Ivyieth asked as she bit into more jerky.
Shizuka groaned, “You…make a good point but…still, grow a heart why would you…”
“No, she’s right.” Thea then said, “I can’t think this over by myself.” Standing up suddenly, “I have to talk with Makaela…I-I can’t sit on it any longer.”
“T-Thea wait shouldn’t you at least sleep o-” Shizuka said as she rose, but was cut off.
As the Lair around them suddenly shuddered and quaked.
For several moments, the walls, ceiling and floor shook viciously. And a loud crash reverberated throughout once the quaking ended…
“W-What the h-hell was that!?” Shizuka exclaimed in surprise.
Ivyieth swallowed and then sniffed the air, “Hmm…I smell Demons.” She mused in draconic.
At the same time
Erik rested against the wall, munching on a half-burnt mess of meat he held by the bone. Before him lay Nerick and Ivara. Both of them were sprawled out, on the ground, as it lay mostly shattered, melted in some placed and as massive craters in others.
Ivara whined as she lay upside down, staring at Erik’s food hungrily but too worn out to move. Nerick was the same, not hungry, well maybe a bit hungry, but also completely drained. For almost a day straight Erik had thrown them about like sacks of meat, punched and kicked their bodies into breaking, burned them, electrocuted them, froze them…and so much more.
Nerick was still catching his breath and the ‘Break’ had begun fifteen minutes ago, his arms and legs wouldn’t respond since he had laid down and his heart had yet to exit its current dangerously quick pulse. From their new bond he also knew that Ivara was just as tired, the feeling of exhaustion being transferred in between them back and forth making the both of them feel even more so.
“Huh, maybe I took it too far this time?” Erik mused as he crouched before Nerick.
“Y-You…Tore…m-my…a-a-arms off…f-five…tim-times!” Nerick managed to say through weary stutters.
“Bah, quit your whining. Be thankful you don’t have more limbs for me to abuse.” Erik said with a wicked chuckle as he stood up.
“W-What…did y-your…p-par-ents…do t-to you!?” Nerick exclaimed with a fatigued voice.
“Again, be thankful your body is only half as resistant than a drake’s…” Erik told him as he threw the now empty bone aside and raised his arms up before himself and over them both. “Bolster bones and reinvigorate flesh, refresh the mind and renew the heart. Blood of life, which runs through our rivers and fills our seas, world’s tears which rains upon us. Restore strength which has been used. Draconic School; Drako; Greater Rejuvenate!” Erik chanted, and a jet of water suddenly burst out of his palms, forcefully rushing down upon Nerick and Ivara.
The water engulfed them entirely, swirling about as tendrils whilst slowly entangling around them. The water glowed a dim blue, as sparks of light within formed before rushing into each of their bodies, the light slowly turning into a bright green before suddenly splashing down onto the ground. Releasing them.
Nerick took a deep breath in, then breathing out in complete relaxation. “Now that…is a useful spell.”
Ivara did the same, but then suddenly rushed to the side, leaping onto the bone Erik had thrown aside. Wrestling with it briefly, she then began to gnaw on it, drooling as the first crack formed. A path to the juicy marrow she craved for within.
“Don’t get used to it, all kinds of healing magic has limits. The more it is used on you, the less effective it will be the next time around.” Erik warned as he sat down next to him.
“I’ll keep that in mind, but still, that felt so damn good after…how long have we been going for?” Nerick asked.
“Almost a day, given another hour or so.” Erik answered as he grabbed one side of the bone, Ivara hissing at him thinking he was trying to take it back, and started to wrestle against him for it.
Nerick chuckled at the sight, “Woah Ivara, he’s just playing. Don’t get antsy.” He told her, his expression paling as he received his mentally communicated response. “You should…let go…” Nerick warned him.
“Right,” Erik said with a smirk, letting go of the bone and watching as Ivara tumbled back, but her resolve was unaffected as she immediately pounced on the bone once more.
They watched her wrestle with the bone for several silent moments, until she finally broke it, and delved into the marrow within.
“Hey Erik…thanks.” Nerick then suddenly said, breaking the silence.
“You’re welcome, fool. I realised, maybe a bit too late, that everyone needs a push or two from time to time.” Erik said with a sigh.
“Kyllix?” Nerick guessed, “Where’d he go anyway?”
“Home, from what he said. He has things he needs to protect as well.” Erik answered with a smirk, glancing at Nerick.
“Ah-Haha…” Nerick chuckled awkwardly in embarrassment, “I can’t believe I actually said all that…back there…”
“But you did, so now you better stand on your two legs and face it.” Erik told him.
“Yeah…with this power, I can.” Nerick mused, as he glanced down at his bruised and scarred hands. “But what about you?”
“What about me?” Erik asked back with a raised brow.
“Come on, I admit I’m not the smartest lad at technical stuff but, I ain’t dense.” Nerick said as he smirked now, “I’m talking about Thea and Makaela, what’s going on?”
“Ah…Is that how it looks like?” Erik asked, sighing again.
“It’s painfully obvious, how you and Thea look at each other, how Makaela acts around you.” Nerick explained, “So, who’s it gonna be?”
Erik shook his head, “I’m not ready. Not for that…not yet.” He said, his expression growing dark as he gazed down at the shattered earth.
“Ah…Right, Etheria…Sorry.” Nerick awkwardly said, glancing away as he felt guilty for bringing it up.
“Don’t be, she was my fault. I…Never realised, I was under their complete control like a fool.” Erik chuckled even more awkwardly, “How…How did you notice?” he then asked.
“Hmm? Say what?” Nerick asked in confusion.
“How did you realise that Kayle was the one you wanted to protect.” Erik asked more clearly, causing Nerick’s expression to light up bright red.
“Ah-Yeah, that…I guess I always knew, I’ve known her for a long time and she’s…always been there. I guess I can’t see myself not being with her, I don’t want to see myself without her. Or something like that?” Nerick answered in embarrassment, as Ivara suddenly bit into his left hand. “Ow! Sunnofa!”
Nerick jumped from the jolting pain of dozens of long and sharp wyvern fangs enclosing around his unnaturally rough skin, barely piercing the surface of his skin but still hurting enough to surprise him. “Gah…The hell you feeling jealous for!?” Nerick asked as he held his hand before his face, Ivara dangling off it as she gnawed and growled.
Then suddenly letting go…and biting his nose.
“Motherfu-Gah!” Nerick panicked as blood splattered into his eyes, his nose not being quite as resistant as his hands…Spinning about, he grabbed Ivara and tried to pull her off, only to make the pain worse as the wyvern held on tightly.
When suddenly, the Lair shook all around them, followed by a loud crash from what sounded like the surface above.
“What the…” Nerick stopped spinning and glanced about in confusion, Ivara still hanging off his nose as he turned to Erik who was just standing back up.
“They’re here, finally.” Erik said, as a wide grin grew on his face. “I’ve been expecting you.”
Umbra trembled as he kneeled before his worst fear, an infuriated Azkel, as her violet eyes burned with rage directed towards him. Even as an illusion, even if she wasn’t truly there, Umbra was terrified out of his wits.
He had nowhere to run.
He knew he couldn’t hide.
He knew he wouldn’t survive today.
“Grovel.” Azkel hissed, “Beg for forgiveness, beg for your life. Not that I will give it to you. You know how this works, don’t you Umbra?”
“Yes…Mistress…But I will not beg, I will not grovel. I failed, and my punishment I shall accept.” Umbra said, choosing to die with dignity, something Hunter, Ether and Lust were not allowed.
“You wish to die with honour, Fae? You? Fallen of your race?” Azkel mused with a cold chuckle.
“I have not fallen, I have ascended. My people, know not what they miss. I will not die a fool, neither will I die a coward.” Umbra vowed.
Amusing the Devilling, “Hmm, very well. You wish to exit this life grandly? Your wish is granted, I was in a good mood before this anyway…You will command the remnants of Uncle’s army, you know where the drak-…Dragon’s Lair…is.”
Umbra’s shadowy eyes widened, “T-Thank you mistress! I will not-” then remembering what had occurred to Hunter, Umbra froze.
Azkel broke out into a wicked laugh, “Oh please, pull yourself together Fae, your mana isn’t even compatible with the ritual. As I said, you have a second chance…But you won’t be going alone either.” She said, gesturing to behind him. “Meet the reason for my good mood…Father sent me a gift!” Azkel exclaimed with enthusiasm.
“Greetings, dark creature.” Said a voice that seemed to whistle through like a breeze.
Umbra glanced back, and froze once more from what he sensed and saw.
“A new ally of ours, the new Head of Soul, you shall call him Ether as all the rest before him…But between you and me, his name is Hayato.” Azkel explained as Umbra inspected the being’s appearance.
Humanoid with tanned skin, and dark brown eyes that seemed to always be open wide. Out of his head instead of hair, grew short dark grey feathers that smoothly ran down his back. They reached his waist where the feathers suddenly grew long, forming a bird’s wide tail.
Out of his long arms and seemingly connected to the feathers on his back, also grew a pair of dark grey feathered wings with linings of white on the inside.
The strange young man grinned widely as Azkel continued, “He will be ordering you around from now on, Oh and also before I forget…”
Hayato’s eyes met Umbra’s inspecting gaze, and the Dark Fae suddenly felt as if every fibre of his being was screaming for him to run.
As if a predator, had locked eyes with its prey.
“He’s a Spirit Beast, so play nice, or he will eat you~”