The majestic, bright orange sun was slowly setting in the west; it’s dying light filtering through the thick woodland canopy as the huntsmen finished preparing their temporary campsite. After making sure the surrounding area was secure, the group sat around a small fire dressed in regular adventurer's clothing, mainly comprising of a mixture of tattered leather armour, with the exception of Rock, who due to his massive frame wore blemished plate armour.
“Captain, after the mission in Kelthos, I think it’s time we updated our disguises,” said Rock while putting his finger through a rusty hole in his shoulder guard. Anyone with a hellroots amount of sense will be able to tell we are hiding something.” Rock threw a stone into his mouth, chewing it with a loud crunching noise. “I’m not saying we need S-Level adventure gear, but trying to pass off as D-rank is becoming impossible, especially since the adventure guild lowered the rank requirements last fall.”
“Who’s the lucky lady you want to impress?” smiled Kelora as she skewered a chunk of meat and placed it over the fire. “Remember there are two reasons to our shabby outfit, the first is to be unnoticeable, the second is to lull our opponents into a false sense of security, so if they are foolish enough to try anything, it’s the last thing they do.”
“What terrifies people isn’t that the huntsmen are dangerous and powerful, but they are an unknown element,” interrupted Verz. “We strike and disappear like night wraiths, only fighting the battles we know we can win. This type of disguise remains until it's effectiveness is compromised. Then we will look at changing our tactics.”
Kelora flashed Rock a victorious, smug grin as the grey, stone-like eyes of the elemental rolled upwards in defeat. “You’re the boss, captain.”
Ethemeusa was sitting in silence staring into the fire with the young demonic goblin nestled in her lap. Being the most maternal of the group, already having adopted two basilisk lamia variants back at headquarters, the job of looking after the goblin fell to her. “Captain… What are we going to do about the demon? It’s already been three days.”
“I say give her a promotion, a hunky elf and a massive pay raise,” laughed Kelora, not missing the chance to annoy her best friend.
“Har de har. I mean the good looking, non-retarded one over there,” hissed Eth as she pointed at Mors, who was laying on the ground between Verz and Rock in the same makeshift clothes as the goblin.
A wicked grin appeared on Kelora's face causing Ethemeusa to facepalm. “I didn’t mean it like that. If we really are friends, please let that one slide… please.”
“Fine, but you owe me,” replied the demoness before turning to Verz. “Eth does have a point though, captain. Most types of demon have an extremely strong bond, their primary sins permitting, between parent and child, mainly to stop them trying to kill each other but also so that the parents can then teach their young restraint and basic survival skills. Demon younglings without parents rarely survive long, mainly due to picking a fight with the wrong opponent or doing something incredibly stupid.”
“Like absorbing enough energy to level a small continent in order to slaughter a room full of strangers that they have just met?” questioned Verz. Even though she was worried that the boy had not yet awoken, she was secretly relieved. Since finding out the information from the Sun Clan’s seer, she had invested a lot of time and resources into discovering the location and timing, but now that she had him, she had no clue how to proceed. She knew she needed to make a good impression and earn the demon's trust but due to her past, she had no experience dealing with children. Verz was brought up, both through childhood and then the horrors that befell her afterwards, in the mindset of survival of the fittest, resulting in more than one adept's death before she excused herself from their training duties.
“Bit extreme, even for a demon, but yes. I wou-” responded Kelora.
“I think you are ignoring something pretty big,” interjected Ethemeusa. “He has draconic heritage. If the stories are true, then when a dragon is born, it must immediately fight to the death with its twelve siblings, only then will the mother consider the child worthy of raising. Once the drake has eliminated the competition, the mother then beats it to the point of unconsciousness to ensure she earns its respect. It's dragon's pride as well as the arrogance of being the brood survivor making it unmanageable otherwise."
“Pfft, his base race is a demon, and he doesn’t have any siblings so why is that important?” said Kelora clearly irritated. "The heritage of a demon is not so weak as to succumb to a dragon's."
Verz looked at the demon boy. “So he will only respect overwhelming strength but at the same time need some sort of emotional bond and guidance?”
Kelora was the first to respond. “Who knows, he’s a creature that shouldn't exist, and thankfully I have never had children so this is all theory. Anyway, I guess you already have taken the first step. Blasting that body to pieces in front of him showed off your strength and then offering him the option to come with us instead of taking him by force, kinda worked. In fact, I doubt anyone would be more qualified than you to become that little monster's parent. Getting a kill streak like that off the bat is pretty damn impressive.”
Verz frowned and was about to retort when a faint voice came from the boy, stopping their conversation in its tracks.
Although she was aware that the boy could not speak, or at least not her language, which if it was a different language was yet another mystery surrounding him, Verz leant in to try and hear the words.
When she was no more than five centimetres from his face, the demon boy’s eyes shot open, locking onto hers and sending a cold chill down her spine.
The boy’s lips opened. “MOVE!”
Verz was genuinely shocked, not at what he said, but that she could understand him. “What did you say?”
Annoyance flashed across the demon's captivating, reptilian eyes, briefly replacing the grief that was evidently there. “Move… you’re invading my personal space.”
If it had been anyone else, Mors would have probably attacked them on sight, but something inside of him had already accepted the silver eyed woman. He didn’t think it was due to the visions the God of Death had shown him, no matter how pity-inspiring they were, or the fact that they shared a common enemy. Mors briefly pondered if this was some sort of trick played on him either by Grim or the woman but as it was roughly in the direction he wanted to go anyway, he decided it didn’t matter.
What did matter, though, was the varying emotions coursing through his body and mind. Rage, loss and most of all, emptiness. In the void, he had somehow been able to suppress them but now he was back in his body, they hit him full force, making it difficult to take a breath.
Verz noticed a blood tear, drip from one of Mors’ eye as she backed away to give him some room. I was right; this boy has definitely lost someone close to him but how is that possible? Weren’t the summoned meant to be clean slates, with no memories of their past lives?
“That's not good,” said Kelora as she stood up to peer over Verz’s shoulder. “A demon only cries blood when they have been hurt to the point of creating a blood pact with themselves. Either the demon kills those responsible for their suffering, or they die trying. It’s where the saying ‘Blood Rain is always preceded by a demon’s tears’ comes from. I wonder who drove him to this point.”
“Sun Clan,” spat Mors, his voice laced with hate, not in response to Kelora's question but as the only word that he could vent his anger at. The black knight came a close second, but now he had some of his previous life's memories, that name, although descriptive, was too good for him.
Kelora internally sighed in relief. If the demon's rage were targeted at them, they would have to kill him, making this whole endeavour a complete waste of time. Sitting back down, she smiled at Verz who was displaying a thoughtful expression. “See, you even hate the same things. Perfect mother material.”
Verz glared back. "Seeing as you're so insightful in parental matters, I guess it would only be fitting to increase your time training the adepts by a year. I think that makes two years now, doesn't it?"
"And they call me a demon," sulked Kelora, tending to her now burn piece of meat.