Chapter 75 -
"Please, have mercy!"
I stood there, gritting my teeth while mounted on what I thought was a simple flying lizard.
As the deep and gravely voice of the creature underneath me shouted in fear and panic, the black mist surrounding us dispersed, finally letting me get a look at it.
The creature I was using as a cushion was in fact pretty humanoid. It had the same two arms, two legs, and head, but on its back was a pair of wings akin to a bat.
Even from what I could see, there was even skin like a human's, though it was a muted light grey/red. In between the fingers and around the palm of my right hand, I could see the familiar features of two eyes, nose, and a mouth.
But when it came to similarities, it also ended at that. First of all, the creature was huge. The spot I had ended up planting my knee in wasn't its belly, but its chest. I had hit the base of its sternum. A quick estimate put it at twice my height if it stood upright.
The skin as well, aside from its unusual colour, only covered a small percentage of the creature's body. The chest and belly, front of the shoulders, much of the arms, the outer half of the wing arms as well as the entirety of its webbed membrane, and most of the face were covered with skin, but the rest with what I could see from my current angle was covered in shiny black scales.
Speaking of the face, while most of it was blocked by my comparatively tiny hand, I could see that its golden eyes were slitted vertically and its mouth was filled with sharp, pointed teeth. Away from its central features, the face was framed with the same black scales as much of the rest of its body, covering from the neck to the chin, receding from the cheeks, circling around the eyes including a few scales edging in under the eyes. The top of its head was covered in what looked like spiked hair at first glance, but on a second, closer look revealed that it wasn't hair, but thick spines that had the same general appearance as hair. Those spines were oriented as if they were hair slicked back with a strong hair gel. The spines didn't sway with the gravity nor wind, but flexed visibly against the hard ground.
While I couldn't see its legs nor that tail I had spotted when it was flying, the hand it had loosened from trying to push away my arm might have been shaped like a human's, it was covered in scales and ended in sharp, black claws.
Those claws were certainly big, but mine were way sharper and stronger. I had no doubt about that.
Despite having such a close look, I couldn't even tell if it was male or female. Biologically, it seemed to be more reptile than mammal. The fact that there were no nipples on its chest further strengthened that thought, making its deep voice hardly indicative of its sex.
I looked into that amber eye that peeked between my fingers. There was a clear look of fear in that eye that stared back.
"I apologize for attacking you, so please, don't kill me."
Things would've been so much easier if I was really dealing with some stupid lizard, but this definitely wasn't such a thing.
At the very least, depending on why it chose to attack me, we might be able to deal with this without any further violence.
Keeping a wary eye on it, I slowly nodded, then let go of it and stepped off of its body.
As I backed off of it, the creature lifted its body up and sat cross-legged in front of me. It rubbed its arm where I gripped it before turning directly to me.
Now that I got a look at it, its facial features were pretty prominent, but well ordered. If I had to pick, I would've said that the word handsome fit that face to a tee. That narrow, pointed chin, the large mouth that somehow didn't seem out of place, the flat nose, and sharp-looking eyes. Individually they would've ruined the face, but together they somehow fit to make a whole that greatly surpassed the parts.
(Wait, why am I thinking about that? Priorities!)
I shook my head of that thought before looking square at it again.
Thankfully, its lower body was covered properly with a pair of well worn leather pants. At the end of those pants, scaled legs emerged. But contrary to my expectations, the what grew from those legs were less describable as feet and more as talons, four toes ending in long, sharp claws with a single rear-facing toe ending in an equally large claw. In addition, they were much longer than a human's relative to its body size, making this person's standing height that much higher.
A closer look revealed that its aura really was as massive as I had seen while it was flying, as countless tendrils whipped around like flames in the wind. They extended especially far from its clawed feet.
(Looking at things, this creature most likely uses its legs as its main weapons.)
That was probably how it had managed to gore my back as badly as it did. It had been a long time since I had taken that much damage, though it was still relatively little compared to some of the nastier instances back home.
Strangely, the pants this creature was wearing was of proper length, suggesting that it was tailored for its dimensions specifically rather than simply putting on whatever it found. Though it didn't exclude the chance that it was a dungeon drop, there wasn't any visible evidence that it was magical.
The fact that it wasn't wearing a shirt and the general look of its facial features suggested it to be a male, but then again, it was clearly a reptile first, with only some features that resembled mammals. It was likely that the females of this guy's race had no need to cover their upper bodies from a modesty perspective, and it was simply possible that that masculine facial structure was considered extremely feminine by its race's standards.
Or their aesthetic standards could be strangely similar to humans and those square shoulders and tight abs could be considered attractive to their people as well.
<Scarlet, apparently this is a dragonkin.>
Along with Alicia's words, a small window opened up at the corner of my vision, showing me the creature's information. Skipping through the irrelevant information, I found its level, which happened to have been 223. It was good that I avoided letting Claret take it on. That forty level difference between it and her was quite significant, and risked serious injury.
Conversely, it showed how much a few dozen levels meant even at this range, as the fight wasn't that difficult at all. Mostly just annoying.
<A dragonkin? So does that mean it's related to dragons in some way?>
<Ummm, I don't know, but I heard that they are powerful servants of the Demon Lord?>
(Are they are aren't they?)
Putting my question of how Alicia posed that as a question aside, I glanced over towards Claret in the hopes of getting an answer from her centuries of experience.
But rather than her usual full desire to lavish me with attention by being ready to give me what she thinks I want at any moment, the dark spirit was hugging a long, black, thick object while rubbing her cheek against it. For a moment I thought I saw her tongue lap it it a bit, but it was probably my imagination. She was drooling though, which was a bit disconcerting.
It took me a moment before I remembered that I had ordered her to not move earlier, so while she wasn't following the word of the order, she was, for the most part, following the spirit of it, so I couldn't really complain. About that at least.
"If there's anything I could do to for you to forgive my transgression, just ask."
The creature fell prostrate in front of me. While it was nice that it was docile, going this far was just a bit unnerving.
"Damnit. Just as things finally started to look up, I had to piss off a vampire, and a strong one at that. I can't believe I'm doing this, but I can't die, not already. Not so soon damnit..."
The creature mumbled under its breath, but my ears that even put real bats to shame was more than capable of catching its words. Hearing them, I had a closer look at it.
(Huh, its hands are clenched into fists and are filled with tension.)
Leaning to the side a bit, while it was a bit difficult to tell, I was sure that it was gritting its teeth as well. It was a bit strange, but the fact that it obviously didn't like the idea of genuflecting actually made me feel a little better.
<Claret? What do you know about dragonkins?>
Turning my attention back to the dark spirit, as I asked her my question.
"Huh? Oh, umm...!"
She quickly got up from where she lay and stood at attention. It didn't escape me that there was still a line of drool dripping from her chin.
"Master, dragonkins are one of the dark races of this world. They're generally decent in strength, even the young ones wouldn't be considered weak. They're considered a type of lesser dragon by most, but some of them can be as strong as some of the strongest dragon races. Quite a few Demon Lords have been dragonkins. You might recall, but overall they do tend to have a lot of the common features of dragons like how they have six limbs, how they fly with their wings, spew elemental magic from their mouths, are scaly, prideful, annoying, have long lives compared to most races, few in numbers, a little strong, and pretty annoying."
There was quite a lot of important things that Claret had skimmed over like they were nothing but common knowledge. I needed to ask her about them in the future, but for the most part I got the bits that were immediately important. Especially the fact that she felt that they were an annoying species.
"Huh? A spirit is following a vampire? And a greater spirit at that? So I wasn't mistaken before about that? But...?"
The dragonkin looked back and forth between Claret and me.
(Oh, it really can see her. Or rather, if it couldn't, then there's be no way for it to have been able to attack me, I guess.)
"To think you're such an incredible vampire! In that case, you are a female, are you not? I'm not quite on top of discerning such things of vampires, but I don't think I'm wrong. How about I take you as my mate in exchange for forgiveness? Few ever get to experience the pride and prestige of being the mate of a dragonkin!"
The creature raised its upper body, giving his chest a mighty pound and showed me a full-faced smile, flaunting its rows of jagged teeth.
But rather than accept his proposal, my answer was quite different.
"Haaaaa? What makes you think I want something like that?!"
I could only shriek at him for making such a proposition. The very way it suggested it was offensive, putting aside how terrible I thought of its idea. There was no way I could accept.
"Wha?! But, there's almost nothing higher of an honour to becoming the mate of a dragonkin!"
"Like hell I want something like that!"
The very idea made a chill run down my spine.
"No, but...if you don't want that..."
The look of pure shock that appeared on the creature's face was as if what I had said was incomprehensible to it. Or rather, considering how the conversation went, it was probably safe to presume it to be a male?
"See? So annoying."
While I didn't want to accept such a blatantly prejudiced way of thinking, it was hard to argue with the greater spirit.
Turning to look at her to see her expression, I was instead forced to notice something a little unexpected. Claret had pulled that long black thing with her and she had been caressing it like it was her baby or something.
(Or rather, that's my shadow, isn't it?)
It took me a while to remember that I extended it to break her fall earlier, and had forgotten to release my magic. Dispelling it, I felt a distinct feeling of relief that my shadow didn't have any nerve endings for me to have felt what Claret might have been doing while I wasn't looking.
Regarding the spirit herself though, there was a look of regret on her face before she slinked to my back and wrapped her arms around me, pulling herself to her usual position and rubbed her cheek against my own.
<So is it fine to consider this a male then?>
<I don't see how he wouldn't be, Master.>
(Well, it seemed like a male to me as well, but there was still the chance that I was wrong.)
But with that confirmed, I was able to move on.
Or rather, considering that I just shot down his proposal, as bad as it was, that one fact didn't really matter at all and was entirely for the sake of self satisfaction.
"So that aside, what are you doing here and why did you attack us?"
"This is my home. I just moved in to a decent place, but then I thought I saw other dragonkin intruding. Wouldn't you kick out some other guy who tried to take your new place you spent so much time finding?"
Personally the presumption that the other one was there to move in was a bit rash, and to even attack without at least trying to talk to the other party first was even more hot headed, but it was also possible that this was the norm amongst dragonkins.
"Oh of course, it's a different story since you're a vampire. You can stay here as long as you like. And if you ever decide you're a bit lonely and want someone to mate with..."
"I told you I'm not interested!"
I shut him down immediately with a piercing glare.
(Why is this guy so adamant about this anyways? It's like he's desperate to get some. That said, I still haven't had a go with this body yet...or even embraced anyone between my two lives...)
I immediately shut down that line of depressing thought and forcibly pushed forward the conversation.
"So you moved in here recently, and attacked us because you thought I was a rival dragonkin trying to take over your territory?"
"That's right. It's my bad that I attacked you not realizing you were a vampire. But your wings really are pretty. Those thin lines, the smoothness of the membrane, and those claws. They're so beautiful that they send a shiver down my spine. Your wings would rank quite highly even against the best of dragonkins."
Frankly, I didn't know how to feel about his compliments. It was kinda nice, but at the same time they were completely artificial. Was it alright to take it as a compliment towards my artistic talent? Or was this some sort of correction caused by my starting settings? If it was the latter, I then I would feel even worse, as it would have meant that even my personal efforts meant little.
Glancing behind the guy at his own wings, I could see quite clearly that his wings didn't differ from my own too much. They were much larger than my own, and had scales creeping up a third of the way up the first joint, but otherwise the overall appearance was surprisingly similar. I had simply modelled my wings off of a bat's, but against my expectation, there was also a non-bat creature that also had a similar wing appearance.
"So you thought I was a dragonkin due to my wings, despite me not having a tail."
Looking down from his wings, there was a clearly prominent tail as thick as his legs sticking out from his hindquarters drooping down and resting on the grown behind him.
"Sorry. I didn't even know that vampires could even have wings."
"Fine. It's probably not normally anyways. So what, would a female dragonkin also have tried to take your territory or something?"
Considering how much he pushed the mate angle, I would've figured that this guy would've tried to hit on a dragonkin woman rather than attack her on sight.
"There's no way there'd be one this far from any of the settlements."
For some reason the guy suddenly looked real depressed.
<Claret, do you know what he means by that?>
<All the dragonkin I know of are past the Abyssal Chasm. Actually, it's really strange for any dragonkin to be on this side of the boarder in the first place.>
It was certainly strange, but she didn't really seem to have any interest as to why. Though I did. That, and the new landmark that she just mentioned, but that was for another time.
"If that's the case, why are you so far from your settlement?"
All of a sudden, that depressed look he had escalated exponentially. It was probably best I don't touch it with a ten foot pole...or whatever that was in metric. Of course, just because I didn't make any intentional moves towards it didn't mean that it wouldn't come my way instead.
"If you have to know, I ran away. *Sigh* I just...I just had enough of everything. Just because I'm a little worse at hunting than some of the others, I'm not quite as good at making things as some, I'm not as fast as a few...I've just...gotten tired of always being worse than someone else, so I ran."
I didn't know if I could quite understand what he was going through, but at the very least I could sympathize with him. That feeling of constant inferiority, while it wasn't something I knew personally, I did know the desire to earn something of your own, something that you could be proud of. To not settle, but instead to strive for something even if there was no guarantee, or even good prospects, to succeed.
"And that's why you came all the way across the boarder?"
"That's right. I didn't want to see any other dragonkins. I thought I'd spend a few decades alone, figure things out, then go back. If I could get some sort of achievement then they'd treat me decently. If not, if I could at least get a bunch of experience and out level most of the others my age, they'd treat me a bit better."
"And for the sake of those achievements, you wanted to make a vampire your mate?"
"I don't think anyone's managed to do that before after all..."
The dragonkin gave out a dry laugh before sighing once again.
I was glad to have figured out what was going on. The circumstances he was dealing with wasn't as unsolvable as I was worried about. At the very least, it wasn't an issue that conflicted with my on mission, nor with me personally.
"Ahem, anyways, that aside...umm...is there any chance you saw an ash wyvern around here?"
"An ash wyvern? No. I've only been living here for a few days, but I haven't seen any."
I was hoping it wasn't the case, but chances were, the people who claimed to see an ash wyvern here probably misidentified our little dragonkin as an ash wyvern. The people at the guild didn't seem very confident of that in the first place anyways, so they probably wouldn't be too surprised to find out that they were wrong.
But being wrong at identifying the target was quite different from being wrong that there really was something to fear. Depending on how dragonkins see the people nearby, his very presence could still be a problem. Even if that was dealt with, there was also the issue that unless if I brought back some sort of proof that the issue was solved, the people wouldn't be convinced of the fact.
But first thing's first.
"So, ummm, rather than becoming your mate, how about something else in exchange for forgiving you for attacking me?"
"Well, I was thinking, maybe you move somewhere else? Go find a new home at a different place?"
"Do you know how hard it was to find this place in the first place?! Most of the good mountains are taken by the big settlements already! Why do you think I had to leave the Dark Lands!"
My head was overflowing with too many unfamiliar terminology, making it difficult to follow this conversation.
<Claret, can you explain to me as quickly as you can what these Dark Lands are?>
<The Dark Lands are territory of the dark races, to the west of the Abyssal Chasm.>
<And that Abyssal Chasm?>
<It's a giant canyon that divides the dark and light lands.>
I was getting the feeling that rather than getting a quick and simple explanation, I was just getting filled with even more new terminology and questions. But at the very least, it was enough for now.
"So I can't convince you to abandon your home?"
"Well...if you can find me somewhere else then...A nice place high up with plenty of prey nearby."
He sounded a bit timid for making such an obvious demand, but it was hardly a concern of my own.
That said, it didn't sound very easy to find. I only knew of three mountains including this one, two of which where right out due to being frequented by the locals, so this dragonkin would only stir trouble just by being there. The third was my home, and while I wasn't sure how good of a hunting field it would be for him around the mountain itself, the dungeon would be excellent to the point that it would be harder to find anything better anywhere else in the world.
But leading him directly to my home wasn't quite something I could do without hesitation to say the least. At least not before I got something of an achievement of my own first.
"There is one place I know of..."
"Yea, it's a pretty good place..."
"There's a but somewhere, isn't there?"
"...Yea, though at least it's not a big one."
"Well, let's get it over with. What is it?"
"...I can't show you where it is yet."
"What?! What's the point then?!"
"Well, it's better than here! And just because I can't show you where it is yet, it's not like you can't start heading towards it!"
(Why does he just presume that it's not viable if he can't take advantage of it immediately? Is he just that short sighted or desperate?)
<By any chance, are you thinking of the dungeon we were living in Scarlet?>
<Master, you want to bring this annoying lizard to your home?>
I couldn't think of any better places, and the mountain I made my home at was quite big. We were only using a single fountain room and sharing the rest of the dungeon wasn't an issue. Or rather, there was no way for us to hog the thing and as long as he didn't reach the 80th floor, we weren't likely to actually meet very often unless if we deliberately tried to.
<I think there's space for more. And if he makes his home on the mountain around the dungeon rather than the dungeon itself and only went in to hunt and gather resources, it's probably not an issue.>
<If you say so.>
Alicia didn't sound entirely convinced. I couldn't blame her as we did go outside quite a lot for the sake of her sunbathing and [Spirit Perception] practice.
<While he's annoying when his mouth is open, dragonkin do make decent allies. They're relatively strong if you can train them up a bit and loyal to those they recognize as their leaders.>
If that wasn't an endorsement from Claret, then I didn't know what was.
"Anyways, if you swear to be my ally and help when needed, then I can let you live near my home. My home is a dungeon at the base of the large mountain to the northwest."
The dragonkin seemed to be pretty surprised by that fact as he looked off to the horizon where I was pointing. Even from this distance the peak of that huge mountain was still visible, though only the upper half stuck out from the horizon and almost all remaining details were obscured due to the distance.
"She really is my master..."
I wasn't quite sure what Claret was mumbling about, nor what she was doing confirming such a thing at this point in time, but this wasn't the time nor place.
"You, you've made that place your home for long?"
"Well, I don't know if it's long, but I guess for three years?"
The dragonkin covered his lower jaw with a mouth, contemplating about something on his own before the corners of his mouth rose and a glint of something positive flashed across his eyes.
"Alright. If you really are the master of that mountain as you claim, then I, Magni, will follow you!"
The oversized lizard in front of me stood up and pounded his chest with his fist while making an outrageous statement.