109. Big and Scary Demon
It was only when we were certain we were far enough away and not being pursued, did we set up camp. As usual, I helped start the fire with my magic while my companions got to work with preparing their meals and their whole sleeping layout thing.
Once I was finished with my job, I ignored the two Humans and instead sidled up to the Cyclops man I had aided. He was a traveling merchant who just so happened to be heading in the same direction as us.
I peered into his face inquisitively; he was not like Jaakko, who had a hardened look with a large jaw that extended over his mouth. His face was rounder— his entire body was rounder. As if he just had too much to eat.
“Ah, yes. And you are Salvos, yes?”
Nodding, I refrained from verbally confirming my identity since Daniel told me it was rude. I grinned and leaned over to him.
“Do you know Jaakko?”
There was a raised brow. A single raised brow, since he only had one eye. That seemed to be enough to answer my question.
“Huh, nevermind… so, why are you going to the land of the Kobolds?”
The Cyclops man raised a tin canister and deliberately sips from it, before taking a refreshed breath and answering the question.
“Such inquisitiveness. Most Humans do not possess that— when they hear of my destination, they spit at the ground and laugh.”
“Well, I’m not most Humans. I’m Salvos!”
I could not resist the urge. Also, I was not technically lying. Adan bellowed a laugh, grabbing at his belly and shaking his head.
“I can see that. Ah, to think you would actually attack a guard of the Vaun Qieur Empire while in the presence of one of its forts. It was a smaller one, but a fort nonetheless.”
“I didn’t like how he pushed me!”
“Of course, Humans have such odd… perspectives on gender sometimes. However, to answer your question, I am simply a merchant. I go to wherever I can, selling my goods to anyone who desires to purchase them. And it just so happens that I am stocked up on merchandise that is considered valuable in those lands.”
I cocked my head and identified him. He was a Level 56 [Trader]. Not particularly high leveled if he was a [Warrior] or [Mage] or some other combat Class. But as a non combat Class, he was one of the highest leveled ones I had seen thus far.
“You’re going all the way to the land of the Kobolds just to sell some stuff?”
“Not any ‘stuff’. Look here.”
He produced something from his bag. It was white, almost shiny, and I recognized it immediately.
Adan pocketed the antimagic piece of ore and leaned back against his large sack.
“Banclite is not something too uncommon in the Human lands, and it is even plentiful in the Beastmen plains further to the west. However, these ores are far more rare to the east. Dwarfs are known to be willing to spend an exorbitant sum of gold coins simply to acquire it. And while Kobolds do not trade in coins, they offer other such recompense.”
I narrow my eyes for a moment, and then the implication hits me.
“So, you give them common items which are cheap here, for common items there— which are rare here, so they’re expensive and…”
Trailing off, I glanced up at Adan.
“Did I get that right?”
I beamed, satisfied at myself. However, before I could interrogate the Cyclops man even more, a voice from the side cut us off. Daniel approached us, facing him.
“Hey, uh, Mr Adan, would you care to join us for our meal? Just as apologies for the trouble.”
I made a face of disgust. Adan did not. He happily accepted my Human companion’s offer. I had to join them in pretending to eat— or at least, I was doing the pretending— before I had to go and pretend to sleep.
Since Adan was traveling in the same direction as us, we decided it would be better for us ‘criminals’— as Daniel called us— to go together. We would probably have to go our separate ways some time before the Plaguelands. And while I enjoyed the new company, I was a little upset because…
“Yum… delicious food is so good…”
I only barely managed to stop myself from choking on the soup Adan had made. Apparently, it was a delicacy from his culture; the meat he used was not actually meat, but a kind of minced fish or something. To me, it was all the same: terrible.
The Cyclops man eyed me with his single eye almost suspiciously, as if he suspected something was off. I could not blame him; I was not even trying to be discreet at all.
I had put in effort in faking it when I was in Viechester, but this was supposed to be my time. I quickly excused myself from the brief lunch meal and went off into a nearby thicket to puke.
“Are you alright, Salvos?”
A voice drew my attention. It was Edithe. She pushed aside a tree branch, rustling its leaves, as she approached me.
“You haven’t seemed well for the past few days.”
I scowled and crossed my arms.
“Of course not!”
The Human woman walked up next to me and took a seat. She studied my face for a moment. Then she sighed.
“Is it because you’ve been forced to to eat and sleep since Adan’s been around?”
“Yep, there’s that. And also…”
Taking a deep breath, I began to recount the reason why I was upset; the thing that had been sowing grief within me since we arrived at the Vaun Qieur Empire.
“This was supposed to be my trip. That’s why you let me arrange it! It was supposed to be relieving for me— I was supposed to be free from pretending.”
“Free from pretending?”
She gave me an inquisitive glance. I shifted my feet uncomfortably— it was not like she could understand what I was feeling. Edithe was a Human who lived amongst Humans. They accepted her… usually.
Sometimes they acted weird because she was a woman or whatever, but this went beyond that.
“All I’ve done since I have become a [Changeling] has been pretend. Sure, I do like pretending sometimes. It’s fun pretending to be a Princess with Rachel. However, pretending to not be me and pass it off as me is just…”
“You dislike it.”
“I really do!”
I drew my knees into my chest and hugged it.
“Jaakko, Helen, and Zack. When I last saw them before they left Viechester, they called me their friend. That was why they came to help me when they heard Daniel and I were being hunted by the Harrowed Vindicators. And Saffron too, she gave me an artifact to contact her with. Even though she rejected my request for her aid towards the Valiant Dreamers Company, she reassured me that since we’re friends, she would answer something more personal.”
Sighing, I cast my gaze up towards the sky. Edithe followed it, sitting next to me as the clouds above floated freely through the world. The blue skies were its Lair, an ocean where they could go wherever they wanted without worry.
“If they ever found out what I truly am, wouldn’t they hate me? Hadrian too. Especially him. Since he’s a Vampire, wouldn’t he want to kill me just like that bandit lady did?”
There was a moment of silence. Neither of us said anything. Until finally, there was a soft laugh. Edithe was giggling, her hands covering her mouth and her lips curled up into a smile.
I stared at her, shifting back slightly. For a moment, I saw someone else there. My red companion who loomed over the red haired woman. He was laughing at me— and I did not understand why. But then I was back in reality and Edithe was gently grasping my hand.
“It’s nothing. I’m just a little bit surprised to see you worry over such things, that’s all.”
“I worry about a lot of things!”
I protested but she waved it off.
“Honestly, Salvos, if you’re really tired of going around as a Human, we could always split ways with Adan— something we suggested but you shot down.”
“Because I like him…”
“And the only reason he’s with us in the first place is because you decided to cause a fuss which got all of us in trouble. This is just a consequence of your own actions.”
She was right. I knew that, and yet I pouted anyway. Edithe smiled however, undeterred by my dour mood. She scooted over closer to me, her voice carrying a kind tone as she lifted my chin.
“But it doesn’t have to be this way, you know? Sometimes there are solutions. Sometimes, you’ve just got to ask.”
“What do you mean? Doesn’t everyone hate Demons?”
“Most Humans do, yes. But fuck them. Who cares about them.”
I stared at her judgingly.
“You were one of them!”
“I was. But not anymore. I am often an idiot, so I do think my statement holds true especially to the past me.”
A brush of wind swept past as Edithe faced me.
“Sometimes, your problems can be resolved if you just communicate. Not all the time. But this time, you probably can.”
“Why is that?”
“Because Cyclops’ aren’t like Humans. They don’t follow the same traditions we do. You have heard of the stories haven’t you? The reason why Humans hate Demons.”
I shrugged. I did read some things about it, and Daniel had told me some information as well. It just was not something I particularly cared about. The reason did not change the effect, which was how I lived, and how I would have to adapt to survive.
“Cyclops society does not have a reason to hate Demons. In fact, I do not think they frequently interact with Spirits either, since the Spirit Lord never made a contract with their Species. So, if you just talk to Adan about it, I’m sure he wouldn’t have a problem with it.”
“You think so?”
I felt a surge of hope rise up within me. The thought that I would not have to eat or pretend to sleep gave me strength. I glanced over at Edithe with big, round eyes.
And she shrugged.
“Maybe? I don’t fucking know… but it probably will work?”
I pointed an accusing finger at her.
“You lied to me!”
“I did not. I’m just offering you a suggestion, Salvos. Look, it doesn’t hurt to try asking him some prodding questions—”
I stuck out a tongue like Rachel sometimes did. Edithe shook her head.
“Also, there’s no way Hadrian is a Vampire.”
“He is! He definitely, definitely is—”
After that conversation with Edithe, I found Adan sitting alone in a small clearing. He had his bag placed leaning against a rock as a bunch of trinkets were strewn about, arranging them neatly in rows.
He was rubbing at his chin, murmuring to himself as I walked up behind him.
“...perhaps I can sell some of the mithril ores in a Human city before I reach Unarith. Kobolds have no use for metal, after all.”
The Cyclops man paused and glanced back at me.
“Ah, Salvos, did you need something?”
I walked up next to him, eyes fixed on the inventory of goods he had. A few bright objects caught my attention, however I focused and turned to him.
“Yep. Actually, I wanted to ask you a question.”
He waited for a moment as I took a deep breath. There was no point being reticent. I could have skirted around what I wanted to know, slowly trying to direct the conversation to what I wanted, but that was such a weird Human thing to do. So, I spoke simply.
“What do you think of Demons? Do you hate them, or are you fine with them?”
Adan paused, blinking. He glanced over at me with his single eye, thinking for a moment. Then he shrugged.
“I am fine with Demons as long as they are fine with me.”
I narrowed my eyes. There had to be more than that, right? I tried again.
“Even if they are big and scary and with four arms?”
“Especially if they are big and scary and with four arms.”
He chuckled and collected his items, putting them back in his bag. I cocked my head.
“A Demon that’s big and scary and could rip me in half is one I’d rather be on the good side of. Ah, unless being on its side draws the ire of an army of angry Humans. Then I would prefer to be left alone completely.”
I blinked, taking a step back. Then I narrowed my eyes.
“You’re not very loyal, are you?”
“I am what I’d like to call ‘pragmatic’.”
He smiled, drawing out a grin from me. I placed my hands on my hips and stared up at him.
“Then what if I told you I was that big and scary Demon?”
Adan frowned and folded his arms across his broad chest. Then he let out a light laugh.
“That is something I would very much be interested in seeing.”
I perked up. Spinning around, I quickly ran behind a tree.
“Wait here for a moment.”
I transformed out of my Mortal Form after undressing and returned quickly. I was now as tall as the Cyclops man. He had a look of disbelief on his face. Before a smile cracked up on his lips.
“I do see. And it seems I gave the correct answer, didn’t I, Ms Big and Scary Demon?”
I beamed back at him, happy that I made the right decision too. I was tired of pretending. Maybe I would have to resume pretending once we returned from the Plaguelands. But for now, I was free to be me.