117. Xidra the [Herbalist]
I made sure we were a decent distance away from the ruins before I came to a stop. I lowered the Kobold woman to the ground, shaking my head in relief.
“That was dangerous.”
I remarked as I beamed her way. I placed my lower two hands on my hips and used a third hand to point a clawed thumb to myself.
“Luckily, you found me! Or did I find you?”
The [Herbalist] picked herself up and dusted herself off. Her clothes were covered in grime and dirt— they were slightly torn, revealing some of her vibrant, green scales underneath. They looked so smooth, and I thought they seemed strong. Not like fleshy Human skin.
Her tail faced the sky as she got to her feet, turning to me with her violet eyes. She had slit-like pupils layered on top of her yellow sclera. They peered into me curiously. I waved at her, excited to finally meet a Kobold. Then I realized I was not in my Mortal Form.
“Oh, wait, this—”
She walked up to me and hugged me.
“Thank you. May the Nexeus be saved, thank you so much.”
I blinked and stared at her.
“Are you… not scared of me?”
Letting go of me, the Kobold woman took a step back and frowned.
“No. Why would I be?”
Her tongue stuck out as she spoke. The words came out like a hiss— almost as if she were whispering her words. But they were clear and as loud as anyone else I had ever spoken to.
“But I’m a Demon. Are Kobolds not scared of us Demons?”
“You saved my life, Demon. Whether you were a Human, Spirit, Elf, Dwarf, Beastman, or even Goblin or Orc, I would be grateful. However, to answer your question: us Kobolds bear no ill feelings toward your kind, nor do I find you particularly terrifying.”
“Humans are scared of me all the time!”
I felt slightly offended that she did not think I was worth getting scared over. Sure, I liked that she did not scream and run from me or attack me like Humans would. But a middle ground like with Adan where he found my appearance frightening yet bore nothing against me for it would have been better!
“Your appearance is certainly alien. Such a sight would be more jarring if we were not in the Dead Zone.”
“Dead Zone? Don’t you mean the Plaguelands?”
“Perhaps that is what Humans call it.”
The Kobold woman picked at one of her scales, as if in thought. I pointed at her, sputtering.
“Wait, you think I’m less scary than a [Ghoul]?!”
I crossed all four of my arms. I felt like hugging myself to console me from all the hard facts she was saying. I paused, recalling the earlier scene.
“If Kobolds are not afraid of Demons, why did those Kobold men attack me?”
“Not all of my kind share the same sentiments as me, of course. Those who hail from the Cult of the Old Gods view things differently. Their [Cultists] think Demons are one of the bringers of the end. Alongside Spirits, of course.”
I cocked my head.
“And they hate Demons?”
“That is correct.”
I felt like Edithe or Daniel right now, when they had to deal with me when I first came to the Mortal Realm. I rubbed at my temples— although I felt nothing from doing it. I did not know why either Humans did that when they were upset if it did not help!
I finally managed to muster up. The Kobold woman nodded.
“Indeed. However, it seems I have forgotten to introduce myself.”
Her tail lowered and her chest puffed up. She placed one hand behind her back, and the other on her chest.
“I am Xidra, a Level 74 [Herbalist] from Unarith. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“I’m Salvos! A Demon! From the Netherworld!”
I happily greeted her back. Xidra’s lips did not curl up, however her forked tongue peeked out once again. Was that a smile for Kobolds? I tried copying it.
“I am also kind of lost. I’m supposed to go back to Ghostlight— my companions are there.”
The scales on her forehead rose up. I tapped a finger on my chin.
“A Human town? It should be somewhere to the… west? East? Of here.”
Xidra shook her head.
“Those are two completely different directions.”
I threw all four of my hands up in the air.
“I don’t know, ok? It’s somewhere!”
“I am not familiar with the Human lands. I know of a few of those I am acquainted with who are more knowledgeable than me on that topic. But that requires my return to my city first and foremost.”
I looked at Xidra. Then the realization struck me.
“You want me to bring you there?”
“An escort would be appreciated.”
I considered this as the tail of the Kobold swayed behind her back. She was expectant— waiting for an answer.
“I mean, I guess I could help you? I don’t know where your city is, though.”
“It is fine. I know the directions out of the Dead Zone. I can lead you there.”
I shrugged. I could have wandered around the Plaguelands until I hopefully found Ghostlight. Or maybe Daniel and Edithe would have randomly stumbled across me, and we would have been reunited. But I highly doubted such things would happen.
Helping Xidra was the best option— and I wanted to see a Kobold city too! So, it was good all around for me and my companions. I nodded to myself, satisfied.
“Do you want me to carry you? Or can you walk?”
“Walking is fine.”
Xidra spoke confidently. Her tongue almost reached her nose as she met my gaze.
“It may not have appeared that way, but I am very much capable of handling myself.”
I tossed the Sickle Grenade at the [Ghoul] as it leapt for Xidra. The blast sent the undead flying back, as she stumbled away after me. A [Skeleton Archer] raised its bow, but I was faster. I loosed my own Blazing Bolt at it. It fell backwards, but it did not die.
I grabbed the Kobold woman by the arm and began pulling her with me. Her feet trudged along the black dirt. They were wobbly. She could barely walk.
“I apologize, it seems my confidence from earlier was misplaced—”
“Oh, just let me pick you up!”
I carried Xidra around my shoulder as the small horde of undead lumbered after us. Night was beginning to set— the green glow of the sky returned. The thick miasma was starting to even affect me, slowing my movements.
[Self Haste] managed to bring us away from the undead. I had to flee through a forest of dead trees— I nearly fell into the ground when it opened up. I had thought I was walking on sand, but it was apparently what Xidra called ‘quicksand’. There were Skeletons at the bottom waiting for me, but I managed to pull myself up before they could drag me down into it.
Night finally fell by the time we found a safe spot in the Plaguelands. We were inside a shallow cave right by a field of blight flowers. I collapsed to the ground, sprawling my body like I was some kind of insect.
“I… hate… this… blight.”
Xidra spoke simply. She offered a hand, revealing a bright petal. It was white— almost eerily so— and it seemed to shine with a cloak of mist. I narrowed my eyes.
“What do I do with it?”
I backed up from the Kobold woman as she devoured one of the petals on her own. She wiped at her mouth with her sleeve and faced me with a confused look.
“It’s from a cleansing flower. It is good for you. It fights off the blight. Take it.”
Hesitating, I found my eyes lingering on the glowing petal. It certainly looked more delectable than consuming the meat of a dead person. I picked it up with two fingers, grimacing.
I hurriedly stuffed it into my mouth. I chewed on it for a moment— and my eyes grew wide. I did not grimace. I did not reel. The taste that was savored with each bite came at me like a powerful wave smashing into a lone rock out in the sea. The storm lasted a moment, yet it left its mark. The flavor washed through the palates of my mouth. It was… it was…
It tasted like nothing.
As if I grabbed a rock and bit into it. I blinked and stared at Xidra.
“What is this?”
“Do you like the taste?”
She revealed her tongue and leaned against the cave wall.
“It has special properties that bring out the taste of your favorite dish. For me, I can almost feel the texture of the delicious surk cabbages sprinkled with tazko ginger in my mouth.”
The Kobold waited for my response. I shrugged.
“It tastes like… rocks?”
At least, that was how I imagined rocks tasted. I had never tried, although I now wondered what they actually would be like to eat. Definitely more edible than the disgusting meats Humans eat.
“That’s an odd comparison. Unless you actually find the taste of rocks to be pleasing. I apologize, I am not very knowledgeable on how Demons work.”
“Every Demon is different.”
I snorted and sat up. I faced the cave entrance, making sure no undead were trying to sneak up on us. My [Passive - A Hunter’s Sense] did not alert me to anything.
“I’m sure if Haec were here, he’d have liked eating something. I just find food disgusting, that’s all. Maybe wild Demons are all the same. But even I’m not sure if that extends beyond them being wild.”
Xidra’s eyes glazed over. Her confusion was evident. I explained.
“Everyone is different. I’m sure you think you’re different from those Kobolds who held you captive. The same applies for Demons. We’re not just one type of thing. Humans think we’re all evil— that we are all the same. But that can’t be further from the truth.”
She slowly nodded. Placing both her hands together so that her claws dug into her scales, the Kobold woman spoke slowly.
“Perhaps I misspoke. I did not intend to offend you by generalizing your Species. I was simply curious about the general traits of a Demon. Apologies.”
I waved a hand off.
“At least you aren’t attacking me like a Human would.”
I grinned, and she let out what sounded like garbled laughter. Relaxing slightly, I gave her a curious look.
“How about you Kobolds? Do you… do you need to sleep?”
She blinked, crushing my hope in an instant.
“Of course. Why would we not?”
I deflated. I started off into a corner to pout when Xidra called out.
“Us Kobolds need sleep for only three hours every day. However, I seem to be sensing a theme— do you dislike the necessary functions of us mortals?”
“May I ask why?”
She prodded me, which made me uncomfortable. Daniel and Edithe just accepted that I found them weird— they never asked why!
“It’s because… I dunno, I just don’t think it’s efficient? Fun? Exciting?”
“Is that really it?”
I twiddled my thumbs.
“...I also think that it sets me apart from them. As a Demon, I don’t need to do all that. And I’m proud of it, ok?”
Xidra shook her head. She was disproving. Her voice— still like a whisper— took on the tone of a lecturing parent. Like Edithe when she realized I did something bad.
“You can be proud of yourself— of your Species— however putting other Species’ down for what they are is not right. It is the exact kind of mentality those who are pursuing me have. And you saw how they treated you when they saw you, right?”
“I… think so? They wanted to kill me.”
I frowned and raised a hand.
“Wait, why did those guys even bring you here? Why did they have you tied up?”
She did not answer. Instead, she assumed a lying position on the ground. Her tail wrapped itself halfway across her waist as she closed her eyes.
“Think it over, Salvos the Demon. For now, I will rest. Perhaps I will answer your questions tomorrow.”
I stared at her as she drifted off to sleep. I folded two of my arms across my waist and stuck a tongue out at her.
“I was wrong about you. You’re weird too!”