~ Third Person POV ~
Lennon took a glance at their temporary member. The huge, black beast – now known as Jionni – sat silently in the corner of their camp eating some kind of fruit. He ignored Jionni for now in favor of stuffing himself after a good day’s work of culling monsters that could threaten their livelihood in the coming days.
“Len,” Lennon perked his head up, separating himself from the soup made of vegetables he held and looked at Kayla who called out to him for some reason. “I don’t trust it.”
“Neither do I,” Lennon replied before he took another spoonful of vegetable stew. Relishing the aroma and taste, Lennon takes another glance at his lover with a tired smile. “But we have no choice. Town head is forcing this deal, and we can’t just say no. Sometimes, Sogtharoch makes a good point, for a slacker.”
“Hey, I ain’t no slacker,” the demon in question piped up from his quiet corner of the camp. A tent behind him with some items related to camping within, such as a sleeping bag, pillows, and blankets. They made use of Jionni’s peculiar magic, however distrustful he may be.
“Says the guy who literally slacked away during the war,” comments Mariona who was cuddling with her sister, Merethyl, both of them sharing a sleeping bag that was large enough to accommodate the both of them.
“… Fair point,” Sogtharoch sighed in defeat before he continued to empty his bowl of stew. “Anyways, I’m tired from the hunt, lemme know when it’s my turn to stand watch.”
With that said, Sogtharoch went on his way towards his tent, his figure vanishing underneath the darkness. Lennon locked his gaze with him before the aforementioned darkness consumed his visage. A loud thump was heard across the camp, and Lennon and his team cast their eyes towards the source of the sound.
“I’ll take watch for the moment, you all rest,” Jionni’s low voice causing them to have minor goosebumps. “I’ll call upon any of you if a problem arises.”
After having said his piece, Jionni climbed a tree and vanished under the darkness of the forest, although a quick listen would immediately notify them that Jionni was nearby keeping watch as he declared. A few minutes of waiting later, Lennon saw it fit to ask his unanswered request.
“All right, it’s gone, Mariona, report,” Lennon quickly took the time Jionni was missing to ask his team member about the specifics of Jionni’s combat capabilities, how it acts, how it thinks, how intelligent it is, as well as if it is dangerous towards their party.
“It’s strong, capable of killing numerous Goblins by itself. If we were to fight it, it would undoubtedly kill some of us before it dies, and that’s just its physical strength. If it used its intelligence, we will all die to it,” Mariona stated with a hint of a shiver going through her body. Merethyl noticed this cuddled in closer, kissing her on the lips for a moment before she settled by leaning her head on her shoulders, the silence a good enough response for her love and encouragement to pass by noticed by Mariona. “Thanks, sis,” she gave Merethyl a quick kiss on the forehead before continuing, “anyway, its magic is deadly. It can use magic without chanting, signifying its complete control over its Mana, and its ideas on using them are incredibly unorthodox but deadly. It mainly uses it as support instead of its main damage, but with strength like that, just that tiny advantage is enough to kill an experienced warrior.
“We should just be thankful that it doesn’t know how to properly use its body. Most of its attacks are just brute force, no technique in them whatsoever. That, and it seems docile enough to not want unnecessary battles, and is extremely cooperative unless a command threatens its’ life,” Mariona finished her report and stayed silent for a few seconds.
“… I see,” Lennon cupped a hand under his chin, contemplated about the current findings of her teammate, and came to a decision. “All right… Listen, under no circumstance, are we to fight it. If it targets you, quickly run away and give the red signal.”
Grurnuir who was silently observing from the side snorted and harrumphed. “Then we report that brute to them soldiers. We get a subjugation quest fer its head, we kill it along with them other Hunters, and we get paid.”
“Only if it attacks us,” Lennon clarified with a stern gaze. “Look, I know you want to get revenge after getting that hit, but for now, let’s just stay friendly and alert against its actions.”
“… Fine, but I want its head if it does,” after a quick acknowledgment of command, Grurnuir went into his tent to hit the hay and rest. Say what he will about Jionni, but he is a little thankful about the bringing of the tents, not that he would ever admit it, and he would still jump at the chance to have the head of the black beast who did him in a couple of days ago.
“We’ll head back to our tents now,” Mariona stated as both she and Merethyl got out of the sleeping bag and brought it inside their tent, which they cuddled in some more after some brief kisses and shows of affection.
“Hey Len, you okay?” Lennon shifted his glance towards his worried lover. He smiled bitterly and leaned in for a kiss, which Kayla accepted without a single thought.
“I’m fine, it’s just… Why did the town head agree to make a deal with it?” Lennon was stressed out about this fact. ‘The town head and the beast having a deal? Hah! As if he could gain something worth of value from the… beast…’
Suddenly, it made sense. The beast was from a dungeon, it was sentient, and had some feelings for sentient life. He put himself in the shoes of the town head, the oncoming civil war, the monster surge, then there’s that pressure from the foreign country…
He recalled the personality of the town head. Kind, gentle, caring, and a plain old family guy… Put two and two together…
“Well fuck me sideways and shove a sword up my ass,” this got Kayla’s attention who blushed and glared at her lover who made that totally, unexpected comment. I mean, they did do it, the ‘fuck me sideways’ stuff, and it was reverse with Kayla saying it, nothing about the sword though…
“Kay, listen to me, if what I’m thinking is true, then the beast… Jionni is the only way to survive the coming days…” Lennon whispered into her ear, prompting Kayla to widen her eyes.
“What do you mean?” Kayla tilted her head in confusion.
“I’m saying that Jionni’s place… HIS dungeon is the only place to avoid the incoming war…”
After hearing that, Kayla had a moment of realization where she pieced the facts together, and her one thought was this.
Inside a certain tent, a certain black-skinned, horned demon could be seen struggling to sleep. Sweat beads flowed down his forehead and into the sleeping bag, his figure tossing and turning within the confines of the constricting bag.
His pained whispers escaped his mouth as his face scrunched up in fear and pain.
Sogtharoch got up, his eyes wide and breathing ragged. He looked at his arm, that damnable tattoo etched on his skin. He gritted his teeth and decided that sleep was not on his to-do list for the moment and went outside his tent, the pale moonlight glistening off his dark skin.
The sound of wind passing through his ears was calming, his erratic heart rate now slowing to a crawl. A rustle of the leaves causes him to glance at the source at full alert, the nightmares of the war still fresh in his mind. What came was a figure he was familiar, but not fully acquainted with.
“’Sup, big guy?” he greeted with a nonchalant smile. The big guy in question, Jionni, blinked and sat down on the grass.
“Nothing much, just watching,” Jionni replied with a drawl. Sogtharoch read his mind and concluded that Jionni was really just watching.
“Huh, well then, time to switch roles, you rest, I watch,” Sogtharoch said with a cheerful voice, fake in his ears, but genuine to others. He did this for who knew how long, ever since that war and that damned curse. Keeping people he knew at arm’s length is his modus operandi, couple that with his mind-reading, and you have a paranoid person wanting some peace of mind, as well as a method to get rid of his curse.
And then the method came knocking right at his door, in the form of a monster in which no likes have ever seen. Using his [Mind Reading], as well as his [Memory Diving] in which he was exceptional at, he learned that the beast in front of him was no ordinary beast. Memories of iron boxes, tall buildings made of glass, his death, and his reincarnation passed through his brain in waves, but that’s not what he was after. No, instead, it was his ability. The ability to grow strong without limit, the ability he calls, [The System].
There wasn’t anything like this he encountered in his entire life of strife, bloodshed, and loss, and if it wasn’t for the damn curse put on him in the form of a tattoo on his arm, he would’ve been stronger than his current self by 10-fold.
Demons, by nature, were stronger than any other race. They were strong magically and physically, but they had a problem with breeding, meaning their population was extremely low. At least they have a long lifespan.
The problem with him, however, was that during the war, their enemy thought of a weapon that would lead to their downfall. The name was not made public, so he had no idea what it was called, but he knew its effects. Basically, it gave those affected by it a limit on how much their strength can grow. Once it reaches that limit, they can no longer grow stronger, even if they trained themselves to death.
What’s worse, even technique was affected. They couldn’t get better at their weapon handling, their body control, or even their magical capabilities. In short, they were screwed and were toyed by the enemy. Villages and cities fell, countless lives were lost, innocent or not, and members of the armies deserted for fear of their lives.
Sogtharoch would’ve too, if not for the damn collar stuck on him at the time. Yes, Sogtharoch was a war slave who was freed after the end of the war. He could’ve lived a life in a village somewhere, but he didn’t want that.
He had a dream, and that dream was impossible to grasp… Until now.
If he could replicate that ability, even just get a piece of it, maybe he could grow too. Years being stuck at a wall was not pleasant, not at all. Being left behind by his former teammates, being forgotten, hell, even being ignored and dissed was infuriating.
He would climb this hurdle, no matter the cost.