Xanhilt drooled, eying the two humans with great hunger. It was safe to assume that the “magic depression,” as John called it, affected them in similar and different ways. It definitely affected their moods, but unlike the humans who got tired and wanted to sleep, it made the saurian’s hunger for meat greater.
The entire day had tapped on Xanhilt’s carnivorous side, especially when the female human had introduced herself. He’d been triggered since then. He had done his best to keep it subdued. It worked for a time, too, while they focused on John preparing to face the knight. But after this trying trial against the dryad and her flayed servants, Xanhilt found himself feeling ravenous.
Under the moonlight, he gazed longingly at Noname’s unprotected neck while she rested her head on John’s shoulder. Xanhilt’s gaze switched to John. His appetite dimmed slightly since he’d gotten to know this human longer compared to the other who Xanhilt found a little more troublesome and unpredictable.
But that was his carnivorous side talking. A side of him he’d spent countless hours subduing through mindful ponderings, meditation, and by having food ready at all times. In the old world, he was afforded great luxuries earned by the hard dutiful work of his high-ranking military mother. But now, he had to fend for himself as a carnivorous saurian, one that had sworn not to eat friends or friends of friends.
And it’s safe to assume that Noname has gained her spot among our cohort, Xanhilt thought.
Xanhilt sighed. The female was off-limits. And she had proven useful enough if a little strange.
I’m not ready to trust a hired killer in their previous life, no matter the differences between our worlds.
Saurian society had assassins, too. Many good, hard-working saurian officials had fallen to them. Assassinations became so prevalent, there was a time when captured assassins who were found guilty of the act would be publicly executed. They would be eaten alive by a group of unassociated carnivores.
Xanhilt’s stomach grumbled as he looked longingly at the unaware humans.
“It doesn’t do me any good staring at you two,” he said. “It’s unfair for me, though, since the other options won’t be as satisfying as something fresh. But you are my companions, and I am a good saurian. I just hope you don’t mind that I do sometimes wonder what it’ll be like… to… have a nibble.”
Xanhilt’s usually cool blood heated up, his embarrassment setting in. He hugged his knees into his chest, riding out the stormy feelings until he got better control of himself. He should be better than this. He was 18. He was of age now. Yet, he was acting like a little child who wondered what their herbivore friends would taste like.
Being a carnivore is a burden. Xanhilt hissed sadly.
The saurian looked across the basin and found nothing of worth. No freshwater. No game animal he could catch using the skills Mother had taught him. The forest area confounded him with its lack of animals. The evil nature of this area drove away normal creatures that could avoid it, perhaps.
Turning his gaze toward the nearest shambler corpse, Xanhilt remembered the taste of blood that had dabbled his tongue when Noname had used her blessing to cut down a dozen of them. Maybe they wouldn’t be too bad of a meal. But Xanhilt had his doubts. The young mistress’s eruption had damaged the corpses considerably. He’d have to bite down to the marrow to make a decent meal out of them.
He was not going to enjoy it. His carnivore instincts told him to eat the girl. But despite his drained willpower, Xanhilt had always grappled with his carnivorous side since an early age. He refused to lose control. Instead, he thought about his personal interface.
“Let me allocate my points… there… then I’ll initiate the safe harbor in a minute,” he said as he approached a shambler. He wondered if it would be a good idea to wait until he was about sleep before calling for safe harbor, which would extend the time he imagined. But he doubted they would use up all of the time safe harbor offered.
Might as well get it over with.
He was about to call out to the system to start the safe harbor when he heard a noise outside the basin. It was nearly impossible to see now as fingers of mist seeped from the surrounding forest and filled the basin under cover of night.
Xanhilt flicked on [Brightlight Orb]. At the same time, he saw another [Brightlight Orb] flick on above him, bathing him in light. As the two light sources shone through the mist and darkness, Xanhilt could vaguely make out the shape of another person standing across from him. They were very tall. And they had… feminine features?
“Oh, look, it’s another monster,” said a girl that Xanhilt could vaguely see. She charged him, her fist cocking back.
“No, I’m not a monster,” Xanhilt said, ducking to the side. For a moment, he saw an opening to sink his teeth into her side. No! I should think with my magic, not with my teeth.
His moment to retaliate closed when the sole of her boot struck his midsection.
“Oof!” Xanhilt didn’t have high [Resilience] like John, and the girl clearly had invested in [Strength]. The outcome led to Xanhilt hitting the ground in a pained heap, barely able to breathe. If he hadn’t worn the [Necklace of Small Health], the damage might’ve been worse. He was stunned but not out. Unfortunately, it was taking longer to recover while having a hungry and tired [Soul].
He couldn’t believe this. After all of the struggle to survive today, he was getting trampled on by a random person. He could barely concentrate while in pain and having a drained [Soul]. The best he could do was speak.
“Stop,” he begged. “I’m not a monster. I’m a hero.”
The girl mounted him, bunching up the front of his dirty tunic within her fist. The other fist cocked back, ready to pummel him. But she halted before the blows rained down.
“Really?” she asked.
“Yes, really.” While she hesitated, Xanhilt saw an opportunity to use [Gale Stream] on her. But then he noticed two other humanoid shapes appearing as more [Brightlight Orbs] formed above.
“Sasha, you impetuous girl, when I say wait and confirm, I mean it,” a male voice said.
Sasha looked from Xanhilt to the other people in her party and back. She grinned. “I got confirmation, Victor. It’s a weird-looking guy. Kinda reminds me of my cute pet lizard.”
“I am not a pet lizard. I am a saurian,” Xanhilt hissed. “And I’m not alone. I have friends. And we’re all heroes, here.”
One of the male shapes walked into Xanhilt’s view. He assumed it was the one called Victor.
“There was a certain challenge here last I checked,” Victor said. “Are you telling me you and your friends dealt with it?”
“Yes,” Xanhilt growled pridefully.
“And you must’ve been rewarded handsomely from the effort, I’m sure.”
Xanhilt was about to say yes when a niggling feeling in the back of his head quieted him.
The human named Victor brandished a strange stick in his hand—[Novice Wizard Wand, Good]. He waved it around as another human who was very wide, and strong-looking drew close. Sasha remained on top of Xanhilt.
“While it’s quite dubious to think you’re a hero with your lack of humanity and all,” Victor said, “I’ll take you on your word for now. But if I am to be led that the knight here was defeated by you, I’ll have to see some evidence.”
Victor crouched down, his face hovering over Xanhilt as Sasha chuckled menacingly. “You wouldn’t mind showing us, would you? You’ll be safe with us, of course. We have our blessings intact, and I can imagine you and your friends are all tuckered out right now. And in need of some momentary protection.”
Xanhilt’s urge to bite Victor in the face was intense. But he knew he was in a bad spot, and he didn’t know the rules regarding hero-on-hero conflict. He was almost inclined to think the so-called hero gods were hands-off here and would be unreliable. Reigning in his carnivorous side for the sake of his group’s safety, Xanhilt let out a long and resigned breath.
“I’ll show you as long as you leave this place,” Xanhilt said.
They weren’t going to take everything, which was surprising. Xanhilt was certain they would try to rob them completely, but they only sought after a few items. They took the damaged war scythe since it matched with the tall human female called Sasha, granting her a weapon art. Her brother, a human named Dimitri, took the pouches of good magic stones from the treasure chest. Victor took his time to weigh his options between the key, the journal, and the magic core.
“I’m not a complete vulture,” Victor had said as he chose the key and journal. He returned the magical instrument to the treasure chest as if it was a gift from him to Xanhilt’s party. “But let this be a lesson for you and your friends. It’s one thing to earn an incredible victory, but it’s another thing to defend what you’ve earned.”
“I wouldn’t think heroes would steal from others,” Xanhilt growled as he stood with Sasha holding his shoulder. Dimitri stood next to unconscious John and Noname, not necessarily in a threatening way, but it made the saurian wary.
My humans are absolutely vulnerable right now, Xanhilt thought.
“It is strange that we can do this without any response from the gods,” Victor said. “Don’t you find that kind of interesting? Are the gods disinterested in the infighting that can occur between heroes, or is this part of their test to weed out the strong among the weak?”
Xanhilt decided not to play along. He waited for the thieves to leave. Victor attempted to engage him further, but the human shook his head when he found the saurian silent.
He paid John some attention. “He looks like the gung-ho hero type,” Victor said. “All brawn and no brains. Someone who’ll go down easily with a couple of tricks, I bet.”
Xanhilt struggled to keep his mouth shut. Getting robbed after the effort of earning their loot was terrible, but standing still while his friend got insulted made Xanhilt feel incredible rage.
“He even has a darling woman at his side,” Victor said.
“Lucky girl,” Sasha chuckled, tapping her fingers on Xanhilt’s shoulder.
Victor reached for Noname’s face with a free hand.
Xanhilt tensed, preparing to unleash [Gale Stream]. He may not have accepted Noname as quickly as John had, but Xanhilt would risk the trouble for her anyway.
There was no need. John, even while deep in slumber, rose to the occasion. He lashed out with a loose punch that nearly struck Victor’s face.
The scoundrel fell backward, surprised.
Xanhilt watched with interest to see if John was going to attack again. Instead, the fist-fighting human slouched further against Noname as he remained asleep.
“I put that punch… on you because… you were being a jerk,” John said, sleep-talking.
Sasha roared with laughter. “He was going to beat your butt even while in his sleep, Victor!”
Victor shot to his feet indignantly. “Of course, imbeciles like him only know to communicate with their fists.” His eyes cut toward Xanhilt. “He’s the type that’ll get you killed. You better watch yourself, my scaly friend, before you find yourself sore from following an ignoramus like this one.”
“If we ever see you again, you better watch it,” Xanhilt said.
“Oh!” Sasha’s grip on his shoulder tightened. “I like the sound of that coming from you.”
Victor chuckled. “I hope you do come for us since trouncing simpletons such as yourselves is a favorite pastime of mine. But for now, I must bid you a farewell! Until next time.”
They left with Dimitri watching their backs and Sasha making a weird gesture toward Xanhilt. She kissed her hand and blew at him. The saurian could only think of sinking his teeth into her flesh and crunching her bones. She would be a delicious meal if the opportunity presented itself.
Xanhilt hissed. He watched them go while a storm of anger and hunger roiled inside of him.
Soon as ten minutes passed, Xanhilt called for safe harbor. He secretly wished that monsters would be drawn to it and attack Victor and his thieving party.
But if they were confident enough to walk around at night, they must know something Xanhilt didn’t. It was pitch-black darkness in the misty forest right now. Shamblers could hide easier in the shadows even with the [Brightlight Orbs] shining the way.
Yet, they have the confidence to go around and rob fellow heroes at night. And I have no idea what’s they’re true strength is since I can’t identify that. I don’t know their blessings, either.
“Ugh,” Xanhilt grunted, angry with himself for being cowed by lowlives. He looked at his friends who were none the wiser, feeling sorry.
Hungry and tired, Xanhilt refocused on his original plan to eat the shambler corpses.
Before he did, he found something strange.
A little creek flowing through the basin had appeared from nowhere. Fish swam through the creek. At the same time, he heard clucking sounds. Since the shimmering safe harbor barrier pushed back the mist, he could see all around the basin and spot little feathery forms. They looked like chickens, a type of domesticated animal that was mass-produced in the old world.
“Food, water, shelter,” Xanhilt said. “Safe harbor grants all of these things.”
Despite the misfortune of being robbed, Xanhilt felt a little thankful. He could eat and drink and sleep sufficiently tonight. His party would wake with plenty to aid them. Then they could tackle the last leg of their journey to reach the end of the compass and see what waited for them there.
And it seems to be the direction those three bandit heroes are going.
Xanhilt looked over at John.
The saurian figured his friend wouldn’t be happy with the conduct of his fellow humans once he was informed. He imagined John would have certain words for Victor… and if words couldn’t settle it….
Well, John would be John, and Xanhilt found that appropriate. That put his mind to ease, knowing they would exact some sort of vengeance on those bad humans eventually.
Xanhilt jolted suddenly, an errant thought striking him like a blow to the head. “How come I haven’t seen another saurian?”
Xanhilt of Xazcor and Hyltfyx, Lvl 18
Race: Outersaurian, Rank 2
Blessing: Lightning of the Gods, Rank 2
Total AP: 226
Resilience: 15 + (10)
Unspent AP: 0
Talents: [Intelligent Spirit, Rank 1], [Identify, Rank 2], [Urmatia Linguistics, Rank 1], [Inner Compass, Rank 1].
Magic Cores: [Gale Stream, MCP 17], [Brightlight Orb, MCP 1].
Available MCP: 0
Items: [Necklace of Small Health, Good] … … ….