After the battle with the mysterious shadowy figures, it turned out that they were in fact Humans in black camouflage. They reminded me almost of ninjas, which would have been cool if they had not been trying to kill me. I didn’t recognize any of them and whatever equipment they had on them had somehow been destroyed, so we couldn’t even determine how they had snuck up on us or blocked our senses. It was most likely magic, but identifying what type was now impossible.
They had clearly been after either Reia or me, and since I couldn’t see any reason why I would be the target, I assumed it must have been Reia they were after. Perhaps they were slavers looking to enslave Foxkin. It was possible that they thought they could capture Reia and then discover where her village was. No other motive came to mind.
I hadn’t angered or disrespected anyone and I hadn’t even made a name for myself yet. There was nothing that stood out about me, at least to what the general populace would know. No one knew I was from another world other than a few people at this point, and even though my powers were rare, it wasn’t like they couldn’t just be passed off as a rare form of magic. All I could do was scratch my head and consider the possibilities, either way we would need to be more careful from now on.
Reia couldn’t come up with any other explanation either so we just agreed to watch our backs. This wasn’t even that surprising to Reia who was already feeling the stress of living under the new king of La’gun. The laws had not been changed yet, which technically protected the Foxkin from enslavement, but it was only a matter of time and she had already begun to be more cautious.
The Foxkin who had come to our aid had already dispersed for the most part, chasing after the ones that got away. A few had remained to guard our way to the village, but they were currently scouting around in the treetops. The four of us were pretty much left alone and Reia led the way further into the forest in the direction of her village. It was very early in the morning and the sun had not yet begun to rise but we didn’t want to camp out in the forest and so we continued our journey.
“A more pressing concern are these two.” Reia whispered and motioned towards Allein and her brother who were walking behind us.
“We can hear you, you know.” Allein responded before I could.
“Then why not explain exactly what your part was in all of this!” Reia wasn’t entirely happy about the circumstances.
“Reia, calm down. I know why you are concerned but, these two did save our lives. We should give them the benefit of the doubt and let them explain.”
“Fine, explain.” Her response was terse.
Before Allein could reply, her brother jumped into the conversation, “Instead of interrogating us, perhaps you should be thanking us for saving your life. If not for us, the both of you would be dead.” His words were reasonable, and he was clearly furious.
“I am grateful that you came to our aid, but I am a little concerned with your coincidental and very punctual arrival alongside our attackers.” Reia did not back down in the face of the young man’s anger.
“Tch, I’ll see you eat those words!” The young warrior readied his spear and would have attacked if not for his sister’s intervention.
Allein gave her brother a good smack on the back of the head which surprised him, “OWWW! What did you do that for?”
“Brother, why don’t you shut up and let me handle this, okay? You’re too quick to resolve conflicts with violence.”
I wonder whether she notices the hypocrisy in what she just said, I chuckled to myself at the thought which got me three angry glares.
“You have the right to be suspicious, I can understand why you would be concerned. Do not worry, though, we are not your enemy. I am Allein, and this is my…. foolish older brother, Nes. I haven’t properly introduced myself to you Reia, I hope you will forgive me.” She was every bit the lady I imagined a princess would be, well at the least, it was a good act.
Reia crossed her arms across her chest, “continue.” She was acting like quite the hardass. It had me looking at her in a different light and I can’t say it wasn’t appealing to me. For some reason, I started fantasizing about Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell, only with fox ears and a tail.
“Fayde, pay attention and stop looking at me funny!” Reia’s words snapped me back into reality, whoops.
“Right, so Allein, maybe you can explain to us what exactly you were doing following us and do you know anything about our attackers?” I asked Allein while under Reia’s scrutinizing eye.
“I was following you, dummy. Didn’t I tell you we would meet soon? We just happened to come across the attackers while following you.” Her words were much sweeter than when she spoke with her brother.
“If you were following us then I would have known. Why is it that I only knew you were there once we reached the forest?” Reia said impatiently.
“I suppose there is no need to keep it a secret from you, your kin already know. My brother and I are Dragonkin. We were flying far overhead so that you wouldn’t be aware of our presence, do you think we of the proud Dragonkin would dare stoop to working with Humans?” Allein stepped closer to Reia with each word and stood directly in front of her so that she could get a good look at her.
“Do you see my horns? These are the horns of a Dragonkin, my brother has the same.” Allein turned her head as she spoke so that her horns could easily be seen beneath her hair, although the tips of her horns were visible towards the back of her head.
“Impossible, there have been no Dragonkin for thousands of years, how is it that there are now two of you?” Reia was still dubious of their claims and would not relent.
“Fine, then let me show you my dragon form, give me some space, my dragon form is larger than this body.” The three of us stepped away from Allein and she suddenly roared as her body began to shift its shape into that of something much larger.
Her body twisted and contorted until Allein was no longer visible, but instead, a young dragon stood in her place. The dragon was not as large as I thought it would be, but that sometimes depended on the lore of the fiction you were reading. Some dragons were much smaller in size, while some were as large as buildings. Her size was slightly larger than a horse would be.
“Behold my dragon form.” Allein’s voice in her dragon form was deeper and more animalistic and her eyes were like that of a reptile.
Allein stretched out her wings and let out an immense roar which shook the trees around us and forced me to cover my ears.
“Do you believe me now?” She snarled while stretching her neck within arm’s length of Reia.
It was an impressive sight and Reia was certainly taken aback.
“Very cool! It looks like I won’t need to walk anymore!” I said while laughing, but no one laughed with me, I thought it was funny.
“Now I know why my kin were willing to listen to you and I suppose you were telling the truth about watching us from the skies, but that still doesn’t answer the question of why you have been following us.” Reia certainly looked somewhat intimidated but she wasn’t willing to back down.
“I would like to know that too. I mean, you’ve been invading my dreams and stalking me nonstop it seems, why?”
Allein returned to her Human-like form. It was somewhat disgusting watching her transform and it looked painful too, but it didn’t seem to faze her.
“We have our reasons for it, you are important to us Fayde, important to me.” The way she said that, it sounded quite intimate, but I couldn’t fathom why.
Before I could say anything, Reia spoke first, “And why is Fayde so important to you, what do you even know about him?”
“I know much more about him than you, Reia. I have seen much in his dreams, I even saw you there…” Allein was clearly toying with Reia, and I could see it was working. She looked at me questioningly and I could also see frustration on her face.
“That’s not all, I know he came from another world. Do you think that it was mere coincidence, or by design? Fayde is important to this world, he is important to Demihumans. He will bring our people salvation and I will be by his side to support him, that is my purpose. You on the other hand, are not needed.”
Reia unsheathed her sword and was releasing quite a bit of murderous intent towards Allein and I took this opportunity to diffuse the situation.
I walked in front of Reia and spoke to her gently, “Reia, calm down. She is just trying to get a rise out of you, that’s all. It’s what she does, trust me, I have had plenty of opportunities to be on the receiving end of her malicious tongue, but she isn’t as bad as she seems.”
My words were meant to calm her down but it seemed to have the opposite effect and Reia turned her glare to me, “Oh, is that so? You have had plenty of time to play around with her in your dreams have you? I don’t have time for this!”
Reia sheathed her blade and stormed off, not giving me anytime to get a word in my defense. I sighed and turned angrily towards Allein, “Was that necessary? You went too far.”
Allein shrugged and gave me a playful smile, “I was taking it easy on her, it’s not my fault she got so easily upset.”
She giggled and then continued, “Maybe the little fox girl has a crush on you?”
I was getting tired of her teasing and snapped at her, “Enough Allein! Let’s hurry up and follow her before she leaves us all behind.”
“Hmph, and after I went through the trouble of saving your life, perhaps I should have left you to die?”
Her words hit me, she was acting insufferable towards Reia, but it was true that she saved our lives. I wasn’t about to thank her with things the way they were currently however.
We quickly ran to catch up to Reia, but with her mood the way it was I knew better than to walk beside her. Instead I followed quietly behind with Allein and Nes behind me. Nes had been quiet for a while but he seemed to be pleased with the exchange going the way it did.
These two were trouble and I felt Allein had an ulterior motive for what she did. Unfortunately, my experience with women had never been good. I was married quite young and then by the time I got over the divorce, there hadn’t been much time for me to start dating again. Most of my experience was with my former wife, whether it was when we were dating or after we got married. Sadly, much of the time we spent was not pleasant.
As we walked through the forest for a time, things had gotten quiet, circumstances being as they were. It gave me time to think and I wondered at Allein’s words and Reia’s reaction to them. Her reaction did seem a little much, does she really have feelings for me? I sort of sarcastically brought the topic up earlier before I went to sleep, but from the way she acted then, it didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. And what’s with Allein? I’ve never been in a situation like this before, it’s confusing, I sighed deeply yet again. I felt as if years were coming off my life every time I sighed, but then I remembered that I was immortal.
The silence continued for quite a while but eventually we arrived at the outskirts of the Foxkin village nestled somewhere deep within the forest. It was a relatively small village with huts made mostly from hide. There were wooden spikes and a trench which had been dug as a defensive perimeter. A few Foxkin guards stood at the entrance to the village and nodded towards Reia when we walked past. They had already been alerted to our presence from a member of the Foxkin patrol who went ahead after helping us fight the Human attackers.
A couple of Foxkin warriors were huddled near a fire pit which had been dug out of the earth at the center of the village. It was a cold night and they were huddled to keep warm with thick fur hides covering their bodies. The village was quite the contrast to the Human town of Enrain. These Foxkin reminded me of primitive tribes on Earth. Most of the villagers were sleeping in their huts, but we were soon greeted by a small group of Foxkin who hurried to meet with us.
“Reia, my daughter, you are okay? When I heard word of Human invaders following you into the forest, I grew concerned.” The man who spoke was an older Foxkin male wearing a fur cap on his head which did not cover his ears.
His hair was platinum color just like Reia’s, and they shared some similar facial features. He must have been sleeping when he was alerted to the danger and had remained awake until we arrived in the village. His face was very clearly marred with wrinkles from lack of sleep and constant worry.
“I am fine father, my kin arrived in time.” Reia’s father embraced his daughter as she spoke. There were two young female Foxkins and one older woman who were accompanying the Chief. The two young girls also ran out to hug Reia and were chattering away. There was no movement from the older Foxkin woman which I found peculiar. At first I thought it might be her mother but from the way she was acting, it didn’t seem so. Now that I think about it, Reia never did mention her mother, did she die?
“These two must be the Dragonkin!” The Chief said once he noticed Allein and Nes standing behind me. He seemed as pleased to see them as he was to see his own daughter which did nothing to lighten the mood.
“When I heard that there were Dragonkin among us I couldn’t believe it, but now I see you with my own eyes! This is a miracle, it must be.” He was talking rapidly and rushed over to Allein and Nes to look at them closely.
“And this must be the Human friend you spoke of.” I was the last to be noticed but I didn’t mind.
“Come, all of you, hurry inside my hut. The night is too cold for these old bones!” He chuckled while leading the group towards his tent.
“Don’t be ridiculous, you are still young for a Demihuman, but you’re right, it is cold.” Said Allein much more polite than I was used to.
“Ho ho ho, this one has a way with words, doesn’t she?” He was very pleased by her compliment.
Reia’s father led us to his hut which was larger than the others and the inside was comfortable and warm. There was a fire pit dug out in the center of the tent with a cooking pot hanging over it and the fire was large enough to warm the entire tent and provide light. There were various tools and knick knacks scattered about the tent and also a few more members of Reia’s family.
I wasn’t too knowledgeable on the family structure of Demihumans, but from the little I heard from Reia, all members of a particular family lived in their own tent if possible. So living in the Chief’s tent would be all his wives, children, and other close relatives. Chief’s and Khans who were leaders among the Demihumans would normally have large families due to having multiple wives. It was even expected of them to practice polygamy and have many children in order to strengthen their tribe. It could even be said that all members of a tribe were family.
We had been prepared a place to sit around the fire and the four of us sat down with Reia’ father. We were offered tea and some kind of flat bread with soup. I wasn’t hungry but I felt it would be rude to turn it down so I tried my best to eat the food.
Reia’s old man started up the conversation after we sat, “You have no idea your good fortune! Lately, there have been roving bands of monsters scouting through the forest and the warriors were out in force tonight hunting them. If not for that, they may not have been able to make it in time to help you.”
“Roving bands of monsters? What do you mean?” I was curious about this, did monsters truly roam together like that?
“Ah, yes, you might not be aware of this due to your….. circumstances. My daughter told me everything about you. It seems the dungeon up north somewhere has been sending out patrols lately, we think it might be an invasion.”
“An invasion? You don’t think they will attack here do you?” Reia replied concerned.
Her father looked at her and waved dismissively, “don’t worry, they have not found our village. Our warriors have been keeping them away, but it does seem they are looking to attack Enrain. The dungeon must be overflowing with monsters, this happens every few years or so.”
This was news to me, I didn’t know dungeons sent out invasion forces, that’s crazy!
“I was the one who brought the Foxkin to you, I found them on patrol when I was flying over the forest. You should be grateful!” Nes proudly declared to the group earning him a glare from Reia, who was still not over the earlier conversation.
As I was thinking about the invasion, I realized something and said, “Wait, if they are going to invade the town, we must warn them! Do they even know what is going on?”
“The Kingdom does have scouts that patrol the area but the monster patrols have been using the forest for cover, they are getting more clever. They probably don’t know what is happening yet. We only just discovered them not long ago and have been hunting them down as much as possible. It was only small groups here and there, scouts probably.” This news the Chief shared was troublesome.
“Have you seen any larger groups moving through the forest?” Reia asked.
“None yet, but it is still early. They may send out raiding parties before the invasion as well. If we can keep them away from the village, we should go unnoticed by the larger force. They will have their eyes set on Enrain. I sent scouts further North to investigate, I should know more tomorrow when they return.”
“It doesn’t matter to me whether those Humans are wiped out, let the monsters kill them.” Allein’s callous tone angered me.
“Allein, these are innocent people we are talking about. We can’t just let them be killed, there are thousands of people in Enrain.”
“Hmph, innocent? Fayde, these Humans enslave Demihumans and kill them, is that what you call innocent?” I was taken aback by her anger but I knew she was wrong.
“Do whatever you want Allein, I will not stand by and do nothing while people die. You said you wanted to help Demihumans, this is not the way to go about it.”
Allein saw the resolve in my eyes and relented, “Alright, fine. I get it.”
“That’s enough for now, why don’t we all get some rest and we’ll discuss this tomorrow, clear heads and all.” Reia’s father said in order to diffuse the situation.
We all agreed that would be best and when we stood, Allein winked at me and said loud enough for everyone to hear, “I’ll see you later.”
Another deep sigh left my lips.