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Lyle ran as far as he could, escaping to the nearby forest to prevent himself from doing any harm to the others while he thought things through.

He felt disgusted. By himself. By that thing inside him.

What he had done to Melanie...

Even if she forgave him, he couldn't forgive himself.

He had nearly raped her!

Even now he could feel her silken brown curls upon his hands, smell her sweet fragrance, taste her tongue on his...

He remembered the way she shivered and melted against him, forcing him to support her body and be pressed by her soft peaks, remembered her small, erotic moan as he pinched her tender nipple...

And he felt sickened

But not by her.

No, he felt this way because he had forced himself on her, had almost violated her in the worst way possible.

He knew it wasn't entirely his fault. He knew that at the time, his body had been influenced by some strange, overpowering force.

But he should have had more self-control, dammit!

He was weak, if not in body then in mind.

And that weakness was something that Melanie almost had to pay dearly for.

He had to be stronger, more firm.

"Against us, you think such things matter? There is a fine line between mere arrogance and foolishness. But boy, were you not prepared for this when you begged us to help you save that precious sister of yours?"

Then, in a flash, a person appeared in from of him. He looked like a classic example of a noble with his golden coat, upturned collars and pair of twin swords by his waist.

He emitted a cold indifference, an arrogance that Lyle was very familiar with.

"You...!" Lyle gnashed his teeth in resentment.

Of course, this was the voice he had heard just before he attacked Melanie.

After a sudden burst of anger, he pounced on the man.

With a closed fist he fired a fast strike at the newcomer.

The attack split the air, aiming accurately with deadly force at the man's head--

But he passed right through, as if the man were merely a mirage.

There was a loud crack as the tree behind the man was crushed, spraying tiny bits of wood to the sides and burying his hand into its truck.

The man laughed, the sound cruel and mocking.

"I'm not even truly here, how can your attacks harm me?"

Lyle pulled his hand out and snarled at him. " Bastard. You... because of you, to Melanie, I almost...!"

Lyle was usually calm, but what this man had caused made him unable to hold back his anger

The man shrugged, unrepentant. " Your actions were your own. I merely...weakened your inhibitions a tad bit"

Lyle couldn't help but shake his head. " Even if that were true, I would never touch her like that, so abruptly, so forcefully."

Lyle couldn't deny that he found her attractive. Any straight man would. But to do something like that...

Thinking of how he had merely taken her lips by force sent a wave of self-loathing into him.

And increase his hatred towards the man before him.

The man looked at him with an upturned nose. "She didn't resist near the end. No, she even opened herself up, inviting. Forcefully? Please, that woman was merely surprised, shy. Go back and continue. I'm sure she won't be getting off that bed anytime soon."

"You're sick." Came Lyle's reply, nearly spitting out the words.

"And you are a brat. It's merely sex. It means nothing."

He walked behind Lyle, hands behind his back. "Besides, that woman wants you. You can smell it. Well, I can at least. She has likely already developed some feelings for you since some time ago. So you need not worry."

The words were spoken carelessly, as if to him such a thing was not worth thinking much about.

Lyle said nothing.

He of course didn't put any stock in those statements.

Melanie, how could she have such feelings? Ridiculous.

Yes, perhaps she may be a bit attracted to him. He knew women found him desirable. This was something he had learned from his various interactions with females during the travels that he had sometimes needed to take when completing A'daire's assigned missions.

There was quite a few times when he saw a girl show interest in him.

But anything more than that from Melanie was hard to believe.

He was not especially dense in such matters, he merely didn't think it was a reasonable assumption to make.

Yes, he and Melanie had spent some time together. Lyle did, admittedly, sometimes tease the girl a bit. Sometimes when he was in a good mood he would even treat her like Iris and pat the older girl on the head.

He couldnt deny he was fond of her. She was like a small animal.

She had faithfully served him for a long time now, and their relationship was good...but their small interactions, they couldn't allow such feelings like those.

Romance was never something that had ever been an aspect in their lives together.

So those words, why would he believe them?

As if reading his mind, the man laughed shortly. "Ha, boy, you don't know, do you? Those interactions, for a woman, are often times much more effective than actively pursuing them. Your daily lives are closely intertwined with each other's and that closeness is not to be underestimated. Simply making those small interactions has gradually imprinted you onto her heart. By now she probably knows you more than she knows even herself. So these concerns of your are unfounded. Now, go back and finish what you began. The small energy you two created is vastly insufficient for my needs."

To that, disregarding the last bit, Lyle didn't know what to say.

The words had merit, but he still didn't find them persuasive.

Even if it were true, his actions just now, though not entirely in his control, remained completely unjustified.

" I won't let myself be used by something like you. No, I think that you are fine the way you are" He refused

He understood that this thing likely needed to feed off sexual energy, like a succubus would. Or, in this case, incubus. He wasnt going to allow this creature any more power with which to use against him.

To Lyle's statement the man responded with a narrowed gaze of contempt. "When you speak to me, boy, you shall do so with respect. My name is Azamat. When talking to me, you will address me as such." The voice spoke with disdain. " And when you find yourself in the need of my power, you will regret not doing as I say. If you persist in your stubbornness you will see how cruel life can truly be."

" Your posturing has no effect on me, monster. And do not forget whose body you inhabit. You and the other two had best understand how dangerous it can be to bite the hand that feeds you." His voice was caustic, provoking the man.

Just as Azamat was about to open his voice the two heard a pleasant, refreshing laugh.

"What sharp words! I think this one is a bit angered at you, Azamat my dear. How cute." A second voice intoned.

"Etain." Azamat spoke with evident displeasure. "I had thought you would be resting."

"And I had thought you wouldn't be going behind our backs and try to assert a foothold on his body before we are all on even ground." Came a rough, sneering voice.

In an instant two others showed up before him. One was a sinfully beautiful woman, hair a shocking green, matching her dress which hugged her lush curves and bore a familiar serpent made of golden thread.

It's mouth was open, over her heart and posing to take a bite with its sharp fangs.

He had never met a woman so sensual, so heart-stopping. Yet there was an untouchable purity to her, as if she was not part of the mortal realm.

The other was older than the other two, wearing a metal mesh and other pieces of armor that only protected his vitals. His hair was a deep red and he had an imposing aura.

"Nakir, Etain, don't tell me you mean to say you wouldn't do the same? Why, how noble...is what I would say if it were true. Sadly, for you, I know otherwise. Do you think a person such as myself would allow you both to get ahead of me?" Azamat smiled sharply.

" Your words seem a bit off." The woman then held a hand to her face in a show of surprise. " My, don't tell me you are not confident at beating us fairly and so must resort to things like this?"

Lyle could tell they were not all too friendly to each other.

Though he was initially confused, he knew the voices. Of course, these people could only be....

He laughed. "So, you three are the things that helped me back then..how disappointing. I was expecting beings of pure evil, not three overgrown children fighting over the shiny new toy."

These things wanted to control him?

As if he would allow that!

That thing, Azamat, he especially made Lyle feel enraged.

He was the one who urged Lyle's body to act that way.

Lyle could only blame his own shortcomings for allowing that, but that man or whatever he was, had went too far.

It seemed that Lyle's words made the three angry, for all six eyes darkened and they began to stare at him with undisguised enmity.

" You would do well to watch that tongue, boy. It can get you into more trouble than you care to deal with." Azamat warned.

" Empty threats." He sneered. "You cant do anything to me. If you could then why havent you already done so?"

They said nothing, confirming his suspicions.

"What are these things?" Lyle held up his arm, showing the snake design.

Etain ran a hand along his arm that bore the image, making Lyle frown.

How could she...?

"This one is my mark, a sign that part of your body belongs to me. Lovely, isn't it?" She smiled at him oddly.

Nakir patted him on the back roughly. "Heh, and this one here is mine."

Azamat pointed. "Which means the last can only belong to me. These are our marks, boy, signifying our Union with your body."

"You see, my dear, each time you use us these marks will glow and become more lifelike. Burrowing deeper into you until they reach your very soul. But only one of us can posses your body. So whoever you use most will win, well, you" The woman explained

So, that was it.

He had thought it would be something like that.

But...

"Why bother?" He asked, frowning. "You have had many opportunities to possess another."

For what reason did they choose to go through the trouble of competing against one another?

Nakir answered. "Boy, your body is extraordinary. The stronger the host, the more power we can exhibit within this plane. This is why we want you. You are a cut above the rest. Not one of us is willing to give you up. So, speak, what is it that will get you to offer yourself up willingly? For a few decades, we can give you things you can only dream of."

Then they all spoke to him, enticing him with sweet promised.

"I can make you an unsurpassable king. With my power you will make all the forces of this plane bow to you. The minds and bodies of all the women in this world will also follow suit, yours to play with as you wish."

"I can make you an unprecedented conqueror, an emperor! Using me, you will have the strength to create or destroy all in your path."

These were all subtely different, depending almost entirely on how he wanted to live. King or Conqueror, alike but never the same.

"My power has little to do with either domination or destruction but it will allow your glory to spread even to other worlds, making all beings in awe of you as if you were their god. Take me, accept me, and nothing will be beyond your reach. You could even steal from the gods themselves."

Surpassing all barriers, able to hold anyone and everyone in thrall. Whether it be this world or any other, everyone will know his name and revere him. Not dominating minds, but swaying hearts. Devouring everything that peaks his interest...

These three deals sounded very similar, but in truth were vastly different in various ways. And these were only materialistic things. If the boy desired something more abstract...Well they could do that, too...

Azamat, Nakir and Etain all looked at him expectantly.

Next, their voices overlapped and became one.

"Choose one of us now and for a time we will give you this world do do with what you see fit. No. Even the more advance, newer worlds would be yours to hold. Money, women, personal power, everything and anything can be yours with but a word..."

As their words were spoken the wind, trees, and very ground seemed to tremble, the once loud sounds of the forest going silent.

This entire world seemed to await his decision.

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