IS, V4, Chapter 4: All Fun and Games

Freedom is more important than life. thus slavery is a far worse crime than murder. I was just an executioner, it wasn’t my job to actually punish people for their sins; though for Amber, killing was more like a hobby.

The two of us had finished our leisurely stroll through the tall-grass, hills, around a small lake, and towards the war-zone: It took us a few hours to walk forty miles in a relatively straight line. We found ourselves standing at the edge of a fairly steep cliff; a hundred meters below us, two armies were clashing in the middle of the surprisingly wide ravine.

There was only enough room for about six-hundred wood-elven heavy infantry to fight at one time, so most of the troops were spread out to the east and west. The reason that they were fighting in that gorge was pretty obvious; along the rocky walls were large luminescent blue and green vines tangled together.

Even from where we were standing, I could feel the waves of mana-pressure oozing out; although, it was only at the level of the first ring of Lorthon. It wasn’t nearly enough for Amber and I to be comfortable, but there was definitely a huge difference between zero and one.

The spectacle below us was actually pretty amusing, so Amber and I sat down on the edge of the cliff and watched. I recognized the eastern side as Hithu because their front-line soldiers were similar to the paladins, that we had encountered in that forest town; there were even a few dozen golden-armored, champion-types.

Farther in the back, there was a row of azure robed mages who were chanting various water spells: which was incredibly cliche. They weren’t conjuring it out of pure mana, but taking it from the colossal vines that lined the walls; then they created barriers to defend against the fireballs and arrows that were raining down on them, and their own silver-chainmail wearing archers.

Among the chaotic battle in the center, were several axe-wielding three-meter tall bear-tribe warriors. They didn’t have any defensive equipment, but there were silver bands around their necks, ankles, and wrists; It was obvious that they were warbeast slaves, fighting for Hithu.

I could clearly see two brown-furred females, and five males; though they were obviously a disposable vanguard, that was meant to break through the enemy shield-wall. The battle had been raging for quite a while, and the corpses were piling up at the center; there were quite a few spear and arrow riddled bears, among the northern and southern edges.

The bulk of their forces seemed to have been leather-clad pike-men and chainmail-wearing mace-men. I was actually pretty surprised that there weren’t more bodies piled up around the battlefield, since they were fighting for at least three hours before we arrived.

They were certainly powerful, but their massive size made them easy targets. The western army was from Lum, or at least that was my educated guess given the circumstances.

Even though they didn’t have paladins or champions, their heavy spear-men seemed to be holding out pretty well. It was interesting to observe the “Healers,” who were wearing green cloaks and scattered throughout the cluster of red-robed mages; they were channeling regeneration magic from a surprisingly long distance, without even requiring a line of sight.

If they weren’t receiving help from their patron deity, it would have been impossible for people with such weak auras to accomplish such a feat. I could feel Hithu’s intervention on her side as well, it was like watching two children playing a game of chess: they were both terrible at it.

In that situation, Lum’s ballistas and those bears would have been like each side’s queens; yet, they were barely even firing the gigantic crossbows, and the idiotic slavers were sacrificing their best warriors like they were pawns.

Amber leaned her head on my left shoulder, and quietly purred “I’ve never eaten the hairless kind before; what do they taste like?” while wrapping her arms around my waist and putting most of her weight onto my body.

I smirked while thinking of the best way to describe the flavor of elf, but we had apparently reached that cliff’s breaking point. Well, considering that we were over a ton… it wasn’t particularly surprising that the dirt and rocks couldn’t support our combined weight for very long: especially when a certain tigress was slamming her tail against the ground, in anticipation of the upcoming elven cuisine.

It seemed like we had been falling an awful lot since our trip to that damn space-station; if we had been humans or wood-elves, our bodies would have splattered onto the blood-soaked battlefield. Fortunately, even without using magic, we didn’t receive any damage from landing feet first: the ground wasn’t quite so lucky.

My left ankle did tingle a little from the impact, but other than that I was perfectly fine. Amber had a bit more momentum than me, yet her fall was much more elegant.

Since the southern cliff collapsing made a lot of noise, the two sides had plenty of time to retreat away from the crash-zone. There was no way for any of the six-thousand soldiers in that gorge to have heard about our exploits the day before, since it was much farther away than they would have been able to ride on horseback or march within a day: unless Hithu went through the effort to directly warn them, but that wouldn’t have been very god-like.

There were two surviving bear-tribe warriors, both of which seemed extremely exhausted and about to bleed to death from various arrow and spear wounds. Both of them were female, though I was pretty sure it wasn’t a coincidence; the men had seemed to have been a bit more reckless in their fighting styles.

One was kneeling on the ground, with a wound on her left knee; the other had lost her right eye and most of her snout, but she was still prepared to fight against me. I smiled at them, then roared “Liberty or death, you decide!” in the Kodiak language: I had no idea if they would actually understand it though.

They both seemed a bit shocked, surprised and confused; for a few seconds the battlefield had become silent, aside from the purring tigress: who was hugging me from behind and resting her chin on the top of my head. I snickered, then yelled “Make your choice! Slavery or freedom?! If you side with the elves, you’re going to die with them! Otherwise, just stay there and try to keep yourselves alive!” in deafening voice, which disoriented the paladins to my right.

The relatively large-breasted bear-girls were loitering near the northern rock-wall; they had a familiar, hopeless look in their small reddish-brown eyes. We probably didn’t seem all that threatening, compared to the ten-foot tall grizzlies or the hundreds of soldiers that created a short wall to our left and right.

However, the Hithu champions who were wearing some sort of golden-mithril armor, seemed to be incredibly cautious. On the Lum side though, I heard a woman’s voice shouting “Fire the ballistas!” which was followed by the sound of several fairly large bow-strings contracting a few hundred meters to the west.

I could see a wall of water immediately being erected to defend against the onslaught of seven spear-sized arrows, followed by a rain of the smaller kind; then the paladins, pike-men and champions started charging toward the phalanx of bronze-armored spear-men. On each of their relatively large and thick circular shields, there was an emblem that resembled a green tree; the design was nearly identical to the one that represented Hithu, but their lack of creativity wasn’t particularly surprising.

The hundred meter long line of broad-sword wielding knights, had barely even considered Amber or I a threat. Although, when I made my first move, they had seemed to change their opinion pretty quickly.

It didn’t take much effort at all, for me to send a concentrated burst of aura out of my right hand; my mana easily overwhelmed the hundreds of elves, who had been maintaining that pathetic barrier. I froze the water, creating a massive slab of ice that was hovering a dozen meters above the majority of their archers and mages; gravity did the rest of the work for me.

Amber roared “No fair! Then I get to play with the other side!” as she quickly pushed off of me and sprinted to my left, at an unreasonable speed. Her fur didn’t change colors because she barely had any mana after her explosion a few hours earlier.

Even with just the kinetic force of her punches on their bronze shields, the sound that reverberated throughout the gorge was definitely loud enough to be mistaken for cannon-fire. Although, each time she trust her fist into one of their chests, their broken bodies were launched back into their allies: because of the thick armor.

Their mages were attempting to use flamethrower-type spells against her, but she just shrugged them off. The heat was absorbed by her crystalline fur, and was typically converted into mana; though it wasn’t nearly enough for her to actually do anything with it.

She elbowed a spear-men in their bronze-helmet covered head, and it was completely torn off; the crumpled metal, flew into an unarmored green-cloaked healer’s abdomen, tearing straight through her back: or at least that’s what it looked like from my perspective.

To be completely honest, once she dove into the huge crowd of elves… it was pretty difficult to tell what she was doing; but I could still easily see her, since she was at least three feet taller than everyone else. With one swift kick, she could sweep away a dozen armored warriors; and at times she even used her tail as if it were a whip, to kill enemies that tried to attack her from behind.

However, I only had a few seconds to watch her before the wave of mithril-plated knights approached me, completely ignoring the screams of the comrades behind them. With the help of various metallic spears, swords, axe-heads, and even shields, I created a barricade to protect the two wounded bears.

Once the cubs were relatively safe, clenched my fists and grinned at the oncoming enemies. Their faces were mostly covered by helmets, though the champion types were a bit more bold; their green and blue eyes were blinded by faith in their false-goddess’ divine protection.

I didn’t try to completely block the hundred meter wide ravine by myself, because it would have been a waste of energy and mana; all I needed to do was kill whoever was within my reach, and eventually they would all be dead. My first target was a beautiful elven girl, with long flowing blonde hair, silver irises, and two golden-mithril short-swords that matched her plate-armor.

Her blades glowed bright-red as they generated an incredible amount of heat; she smirked at me as she shouted “Face me demon! I shall purge your wicked soul in the name of Hi-” but was cut off when a ballista arrow pierced through the center of her face. It made me wonder exactly how low the requirements to become a champion of Hithu were… but I wasn’t really expecting that much anyway.

A handful of paladins were vigorously swinging their blades at my back and sides; so I used my alligator-like black-scaled tail, to make a wide sweep behind me. Since the tip and ridges across the top were incredibly sharp and practically unbreakable, if they hadn’t been wearing mithril armor, their bodies would have been shredded; their internal organs were still ruptured from the force of my flailing appendage.

Then I roared “Rhooooooh!!!” which didn’t particularly mean anything at all, but it was so loud that the helmet-wearing elves who were closest to me, either passed out or had their inner-ears burst: causing them excruciating pain and ultimately their brains hemorrhaged until their deaths. With around fifty bodies immediately dropping around me, I managed to effectively gain the attention of the thousand or so assorted infantry that were filling the valley around me.

I heard a man with a high-pitched voice, yelling “Kill the abomination! In the name of our Goddess Hithu, attack the foul beast!” though it was difficult for me to tell exactly which of them was speaking. There were just so many of them, wearing similar attire, and even the champions seemed like clones; their auras all sounded and looked about the same as well, so the only noticeable difference were their relatively unique weapons.

One man charged at me with a golden halberd, which had a light-blue aura; it didn’t pierce the skin on my chest, but it was definitely very cold. He was slightly outside of my reach, so I spit a glob of venom in his eyes and easily obtained his fancy pole-arm.

With the overly long axe in my left hand, I made a clean swipe across the necks of six paladins; the frosty nature of the magic was completely unnecessary, but at least their decapitated corpses didn’t spray copious amounts of blood all over me. Unfortunately, the shaft bent and the blade became deformed after only a dozen or so swings; it obviously wasn’t made with durability in mind: My unreasonable strength probably didn’t help either.

Eventually I stopped playing around with the broken toy, and began using my body a bit more energetically. There were enemies swarming around me like ants, I didn’t even try to dodge or block most of their attacks; if it wasn’t one of their champions wielding a magical weapon, it didn’t really matter how many times they swung their mithril blades against my skin and scales: I wasn’t even fazed as steel spear-heads poked at my thighs, shoulders, chest, and the back of my head.

With both of my fists clenched, I jumped two meters in the air and stomped down on a female knight’s head, whom had lunged out of the encirclement in a failed attempt to impale me. Her helmet crumpled and red mist sprayed out of the joints of her armor, as it was all quickly crushed underneath my right foot; As I was landing, I sweeped with my left heel and my tail in a semi-circle.

They raised their shields or tried to parry with their swords, but I had more leverage and momentum; they were knocked back, dismembered, or eviscerated depending on the thickness of their armor.

I thrust my right hand through a brave knife-wielding champion’s breastplate, as he rushed out toward me; then used the bottom of my left fist like a hammer, knocking three paladins away from me and snapping at least one of their necks in the process.

After a few minutes of my first attack, there were no more arrows flying through the skies; I could hear explosions and Amber’s roars resounding in the western distance though, so I knew that she was still fighting. The scent of roasted elven flesh and burning wood, wafted in the air; however, it was drowned out by the overpowered stench of ruptured intestines and urine.

Battlefields were usually a cornucopia of unpleasant smells, sights, and sounds, most of which I had become accustomed to. Hearing bones crack, metal clanging, women and men screaming in their high-pitched voices, and their commanders shouting unreasonable orders… it was all pretty hilarious.

My laughter probably seemed out of place amidst the cries and chaos, but I was free. There were no silly obligations to pretend like I wasn’t having fun, as I jumped around and easily crushed anyone who was foolish enough to come within my range.

Eventually, I made my way past their melee troops, and began annihilating all of the leather or chainmail wearing archers that I came across. The ice had already melted by the time I had reached it, and there was a large zone of chilled, elf-paste; which felt pretty disgusting on my bare feet, but that abysmal swamp was much worse.

Before me was a massive cave opening, lit by the bright blue glow of the luminescent vines and flowers that lined its walls. Their commander and all of the troops that were cut off by the glacier I had created, had managed to escape through the use of that tunnel.

The ravine had apparently been more of a chasm, a fissure in the flat surface above. As I attempted to enter the mysterious gigantic cavern, the ground began rumbling violently and it seemed to slowly shut sideways.

I yelled “Oh for fuck’s sake!” as I sprinted back, through the few hundred soldiers that were still alive and killing whoever tried to hinder me. From east to west, the entire crevasse was only about a kilometer across; so I was able to make it to the center in under a minute.

When I arrived, I was immediately welcomed by a bloodstained tigress, who was munching on the thoroughly roasted thigh of a wood-elf. Amber growled “What took you so long?” while grinning; she was sitting on a hill of melted bronze and charred bones.

As I was tearing the cage around the bear-girls apart with earth magic, I shouted “Those damn bastards are trying to crush us, so hurry up and climb out of here! If we don’t get the hell out of here in a few minutes, we’ll have to dig our way out!”

She quickly glanced to her left and right, then dropped the snack and began scaling the vine-covered rock-wall at an incredible speed. Of the two buxom grizzlies, the one who was kneeling the last time I saw her, had bled to death from various spear-wounds on her abdomen and back.

The sole survivor had a blank expression on her furry face, thought it was difficult to tell because her snout had a huge gash in the left side of it and her right eye was just a bloody hole. I sighed and placed my hands on the sides of her face; then I used touch telepathy to tell her “Snap out of it kid! If you want to die, then fine; but if you want to live, hang-on to my back!” in a voice that she was unable to ignore.

She seemed to come to her senses almost immediately, and asked “What’s the point?” in a hopeless and surprisingly feminine tone. However, she still latched onto me when I turned around; both of our bodies were stained in blood, and I actually had a whole elven-ear stuck to my left tricep: Tearing people apart with my bare hands was pretty messy.

Her gigantic frame weighed nearly as much as mine, but I was still able to climb the wall pretty swiftly. I had greatly overestimated the speed at which the walls of the chasm had been closing together; though with a thousand pound bear-woman attached to me, I only escaped with a few seconds to spare.

My reason for saving her was pretty simple, instinct; I knew that she would be useful to me in one way or another, and she wanted my help. People who think deeply about every life or death decision that they have to make, usually end up regretting and lamenting their mistakes; it’s better to just go with the flow, and deal with the consequences afterwards.

Amber was already standing next to me, as I stood up with the three-meter tall girl still latched onto my back; her muscular arms were inadvertently strangling me, while her legs had been wrapped around my waist: She was actually sitting on the base of my relatively thick tail, which couldn’t have been comfortable.

The curious tigress looked at the bear and asked me “Doesn’t she look like Hazel?” in a deep and raspy voice. I snickered and remembered that Coffee’s mother was at least a foot taller and a lot stronger, than the grizzly who was tightly clinging to me.

Then I told her “Well, I was thinking of calling her Cocoa, since her fur is brown… and I’m bad at naming people. I probably would have picked Crystal for you, if I knew that your fur was going to turn out like that.” as we both began walking towards the southeast.

That little exercise was pretty enjoyable, but being covered in blood and guts wasn’t exactly my idea of fun. Even Amber complained “I wanna take a bath…” while trying to remove the ash and various non-charred elf-bits from the hair on her tail, arms, and legs.

Unfortunately, we had to trudge several hours through waist-high grass, before we finally reached our beautiful golden beach. Well, the village was still a few miles away, but we immediately dove into the cleansing waters.

I had actually forgotten about the snoring giant cub, who was somehow sleeping and still tightly holding onto me. It wasn’t really that strange for her to find solace in my presence, since I had connected to her telepathically; It was an experience that most people tended to be deeply affected by.

Cocoa quickly let go of me as I started splashing around in the shallow lake. The amount of grime that was coating the three of us couldn’t be washed off by simple bathing; I needed to scrub our bodies clean with my masterful water manipulation technique.

Even though it was what I would consider “Casual Magic,” efficiently cleaning a certain tigress’ fur had become one of my daily habits. When we were wandering around that abysmal swamp, Amber was constantly complaining about how filthy it was; obviously, we were both covered in slime the moment I had attempted to fulfill her request, but that was beside the point.

Starting with my own skin, I used scalding hot water to scrape off all of the gunk; then I moved on to rinse out my hair in a similar fashion. Once my body had been cleaned, I quickly performed the same actions to both of the giant furry women who were crowding around me.

Cocoa didn’t say anything to me verbally, but she didn’t seem to be bothered by the rather invasive telekinetic scrubbing. Amber was happily purring while stretching her arms toward the starry sky, and splashing her tail against the surface of the lake repeatedly.

After we were sufficiently cleansed, I sighed and muttered “My metabolism is way too high to go eight hours without eating anything. We should probably catch some fish before returning to Pixietown… or whatever that place is called. Does it even have an actual name?” as I slowly waded toward the blindingly bright pyramid in the distance.

Then I heard a quiet series of coughs coming from behind me, and I quickly turned toward the injured bear-girl. The tired tigress growled “You can deal with that, I’m going to find our dinner.” as she pointed toward the hunched over grizzly, while continuing to walk southward.

We hadn’t made it very far from shore, so I picked the over-sized cub up bridal-style and took my time getting her to the golden sands. My mana was pretty low, but more than enough to deal with a bit of regeneration and recovery magic; though I did have something a little more complicated planned.

Once I laid her down on her back, she grunted in pain; she whimpered as I carefully ran my left hand across her abdomen, and caressed around her lower-ribs. She didn’t speak, growl, or make any audible noises that I could translate into words; however, Cocoa’s thoughts were much more revealing.

The brat had fairly muscular arms and legs, but her belly, hips, ass, and breasts were pretty damn plump for someone who had been a slave. My fingertips barely needed to touch her skin, for me to feel deep within her body; I didn’t have to perform any invasive surgery to notice that she had several broken ribs perforating her left lung, her heart seemed to have been beating irregularly, and that she was in the early stages of pregnancy: with three tiny, embryo-sized, cubs floating around in her uterus.

When I reached inside of her mind, I saw flashes of her past; there was short sex-scene between her and one of the bear-tribe men, that had died in the battle. Then there was another memory, though it was a lot less erotic; after that it was a bunch of random thoughts about various nonsense.

My summary of her reminiscence: she hadn’t been a slave for more than a year, she had never been raped, and she didn’t really care that much about miscellaneous male warrior number three. It wasn’t strange for her to feel depressed, but for the most part she wasn’t broken… at least not mentally.

The internal injuries would have killed her if I hadn’t used earth and water manipulation, along with accelerating her natural regeneration on the broken bones and punctured lung. I was able to fix her snout as well, though it was pretty badly scarred and partially bald.

In under an hour, she was almost completely healed; there was just one injury remaining. Her breathing returned to normal, and she was able to sit upright by herself.

She quietly asked me “What is liberty?” in a voice that was a few octaves higher than Amber’s, but still a bit raspy; It turned out that she could actually speak Lorthon. I smiled at her, while running my left-hand fingertips across the thick and heavy mithril collar that was around her neck; there were several small mana-gems embedded along the center, which discharged a small amount of electricity upon my touch.

Cocoa winced, and I responded “The freedom to live your life the way you want to… basically, the opposite of slavery.” as I wrapped both of my hands around the tight, metal binding, and then carefully used earth manipulation to make the material a bit more malleable.

When I removed her collar, she uttered “Thank you, not just for saving me, but for removing that irritating thing.” while rubbing the bald ring around her neck; the burn scars were pretty severe, but that was one of the consequences of not being ageless.

I snickered at her sincere gratitude, then quickly asked her “Well, I was just curious about what the hell those bastards were even fighting over. Even if you were only a slave, you should have been able to overhear something, right? It’s fine if you just make up a story that will satisfy my curiosity.” as I smirked at the one-eyed grizzly-girl.

She immediately answered “Their masters tell them to, so they kill each-other; they don’t need a more complicated reason. I have a question for you though… Are the two of you, Gods? I’ve never encountered a warbeast or demi-elf as powerful as either of you… or as terrifying; yet, when you placed your hands upon me, I could feel something strange… as if my entire life was a mere moment, completely insignificant.” while gazing up at the specs of light that were cutting through the dark and cloudless skies.

After sighing, I responded by subsequently tearing off the thick mithril shackles from her wrists and ankles. Then I placed the five deformed chunks of silverish metal into a pile, and nonchalantly said “I suppose that it really was just a game to them, huh? Oh well, it doesn’t change anything, their sentence is still hell either way. No, Amber… Puriel and I, are spirits; though that basically just means we’re overpowered, compared to normal-ish elven, bestial, and humanoid races. You can call us demons, angels, sadomasochists, monsters, nudists, abominations… it doesn’t really matter, as long as you know that we aren’t deities of any kind.” as I started plucking out the colorless mana-crystals: They were mismatched shapes and sizes, and looked similar to quartz.

The bear-girl giggled faintly; then she told me “You may call me Cocoa if you wish, but my true name is Karavailon of the Ursus Arctos Clan. Though I suppose I’m the last one left… there are other Ursus clans, but I doubt any of them would be willing to accept me into their families. Heh, well, being on my own doesn’t really sound that bad; thanks again for saving me, but I think we should probably part ways here. Now that I have my life and my freedom, I’m going to find a nice forest, with a river of course, and try to keep from being captured or killed for a few more years.” while slowly standing up, and brushing the sand off her back, legs, and small fluffy tail.

I stood up as well, and asked her “Why don’t you work for me?” with a smirk on my face. She gave me a scrutinizing glare which almost felt a little threatening, with her relatively small reddish-brown eye.

Then she chuckled for a few seconds, before answering my question with another question “I’m only good at two things: fishing, and cutting people in half with large, sharp, bladed weapons. What kind of job are you offering?”

After snicker at the racial stereo-type, I told her “Yea, I was actually interested in hiring you to provide Amber and myself, with a large quantity of fresh fish and other tasty creatures that live in this lake. Well, we won’t be there very often, but our base-camp is right next to a pixie village. Anyway, before that though… there is one piece of business that I would like to deal with first. I kinda need that pile of mithril and mana-crystals, since it technically belongs to you, I propose a trade. Do you like gold or red better?”

The grizzly-girl seemed slightly confused by my question, and asked me “Gold, I guess… you don’t exactly look like you’re carrying any on you… What kind of currency is red anyway?” while scratching the back of her right fluffy round ear, with her talon-like obsidian fingernails.

I smirked at her, then opened my third eye… and carefully plucked it out, with my left hand and a bit of nature manipulation: To minimize the damage to the optical nerve, and remove it with relative ease. Kara gasped at the strange display, and slightly struggled as I shoved the squishy orb into her right eye-socket; then she groaned as it oriented itself automatically, and the tentacle-like veins and arteries began connecting to her circulatory system.

She winced and then yelled “What is this?! Agh, it feels like my head is splitting apart!” while holding both of her hands against her forehead. After a few seconds she calmed down and said “Oh, never-mind, it’s fine now.” with her right eyelid still closed.

As she was freaking out, I had already begun regenerating my missing sensory organ; I had gotten used to replacing eyes, so it wasn’t really that big of a deal. When she opened it for the first time, she had a startled expression, and immediately closed it again.

Then she blinked a few times, before staring at me intensely; eventually I asked her “Can you actually see my aura? It should be pretty unnoticeable, since even my internal mana-pool is practically empty at the moment. Although, I’ve heard that my usual aura is practically invisible anyway.” as she carefully scanned the surroundings, and finally honed in on a certain tigress.

Kara smiled as she watched Amber lifting a rainbow-shelled lobster out of the water with her left hand, and murmured “Everything’s so… colorful, and beautiful.” Then she plopped herself down onto the sand again. I needed to carry a hundred pounds of mithril back to Pixieville, so I used my last bit of power, to magnetize the enchanted iron into a clump.

I sighed as I lifted the relatively light, but extremely awkward, ball of twisted metal that was wrapped around my left hand; as I started trudging eastward along the beach, I turned to the bear-girl and asked “Are you coming or what? You can watch the pretty tigress as we walk. Unless you’re planning to go wander off into some shitty forest and get yourself killed or worse?” while smirking.

She giggled quietly and began following after me as I continued traveling toward our ‘base,’ though it was just a random spot near the pixie village: which smelled like Amber’s urine. Well, she did have a very peculiar musky scent; it was an acquired taste… not literally.

It took half an hour to arrive, by that time I had several giant rainbow-lobsters trying to kill my left arm; while something akin to a meter-wide, yellow sting-ray, with small blue spots all over its body, was squirming around in Kara’s large hands. Luckily, she managed to avoid being stabbed by the poisonous barb on its three-foot long tail.

If there wasn’t such a relatively massive supply of mana in the water and air around the deepest parts of the lake, those large animals wouldn’t have been able to survive and thrive. Amber was walking to my right, splashing through the tiny crashing waves; in her arms was definitely one of Yuri’s creations: a miniature hippopotamus.

The stubby legged, fluorescent-pink skinned, chubby, bull, was not even slightly cute; the creature’s mouth had several large, tusk-like teeth, and it was constantly making loud screeching noises as it attempted to tear out her throat. Its torso and head were incredibly plump: The beast had a short tail, no hair, thick hide, big nostrils, small ears, and solid, glowing, red eyes.

For the most part, it was just a typical pygmy hippo, like the ones that I had seen on many Earths before then, but I knew from Uriel’s records that it was one of her experiments. There was a general rule that for the most part, non-humanoid or sub-dragon animals couldn’t use magic; however, the five-hundred pound water-pig, was periodically casting simple flamethrower and fireball spells.

While it was completely futile against me or Amber, against the indigenous races of the region, just one of those creatures would have been incredibly dangerous… yet they traveled in herds of ten or more. The small adult hippos were at least five feet long and a meter tall, which was pretty damn big compared to an elf; its body was so fat, that the two-hundred and fifty centimeter tall tigress was actually having trouble holding onto the slippery beast.

The herds were migratory, but typically stayed close to the shore, and their main diet consisted of grasses that grew near the beach. They were still herbivores, regardless of their aggressive nature; because of their large bodies, it was possible for them to store a decent amount of mana in their fat and blood… well, enough for a few dozen half-assed fire spells.

Trailing behind Amber were seven adult female Yuri-hippos, three adolescents of each gender, and at two very small calves. Herd animals typically weren’t very intelligent, and since we captured their leader, the rest of them were trying to barbecue us.

Fortunately, the excess mana in their creation magic, was absorbed by my black scales, and replenished enough of my power for me to protect Kara: since she wasn’t as fire-resistant as the two of us. When we reached the pixie village, it was incredibly dark, so the nocturnal residents were busy dancing and singing above the tents and shells that they called homes.

However, the group of gigantic monsters which were chasing us, had replaced their cheerful demeanor with a fearful one. Many of the fluttering little blue-girls were screaming and returning to their huts to hide, while Angelica, Hanael, and the thirty-three aerial soldiers were hovering around in a defensive formation: with their shiny poisoned spears pointed in our direction.

The black winged, one foot-tall woman seemed surprisingly calm, given the strange circumstances; the dove was panicking pretty dramatically though, and was crying loudly. I sighed as I was finally able to sedate the annoying hippos, just a little electrical discharge to let them calm down a bit; I didn’t use it on the smallest ones though: They were fairly passive, and also might have died from the mild shock.

Livestock, pets, and working animals; those three concepts are always bordering on the edge of my laws. In a world without magic or technology capable of such a feat, it would have been quite difficult to tell the difference between a being which was controlled by a soul, and those that were what I would consider “Programs.”

It wasn’t based on intelligence, nor was it related to sentience… since by definition, all creatures that could think, were conscious. There was actually a physical part of any animal’s brain, which dictated whether or not they were capable of being controlled by a “Player.”

Well, most of the terms that I prefer to use to describe what I understand about souls, are based on my experiences with virtual realities that Azrael had created. All living beings, organic or otherwise, were programmed in one way or another: If not, then they would have to control every aspect of their bodily functions consciously.

In that world, “Nature” was designed by others, not just Yuri… but Terra and similar beings had created many of the animals and plants to be similar to “Earth.” It wasn’t really that strange, I had lived countless lives, yet many of my memories were from variations of the same universe and reality; it was a significant place, though I really should avoid ‘that’ topic: As much as I hate secrets, some things are better left unknown.

Anyway, the method to discern whether or not a creature is connected to a soul, is usually pretty simple; depending on the world however, it’s occasionally impossible. For that one in particular, it was especially easy though; anyone with a basic mana sense, would feel a neutral aura from soulless life-forms regardless of their mental state.

Visually it was a bit more difficult, but for someone with elven ears like myself, it sounded as if a single note was constantly playing: rather than a series of ever-changing chords and sometimes chaotic or serene melodies, it was just that one tone.

I didn’t need to hear, see, or smell the pink pygmy hippos to know that they fell under the “NPC” category; because Yuri never creates non-humanoid life capable of becoming a “Player.” It was one of her own rules… we all made mistakes at some point in our endless existences, sins that even an eternity of suffering couldn’t undo.

Most of Uriel’s inventions had a particular application, or served some sort of purpose; she enjoyed increasing the efficiency of animals or plants, and playing with DNA was the usual method to accomplish that. Upgrading races or people that she deemed inadequate, was her idea of redeeming herself: gaining positive karma. Well, I won’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, because I usually cause more harm than good with my own methods of ‘fixing’ the worlds I pass through.

Rather than simply slaughtering the thirteen helpless beasts, I wanted to give them to the pixies. Starting with the bull that was still trying to kill Amber, I used blood magic to slightly alter their programming: If they had souls, my little trick would have been a pretty severe crime.

All I really did was overwrite their instinctual need to roam, with the desire to want to stay close to and protect the little blue humanoids; I also gave the hippos the ability to recognize those with my mark as friendlies or allies. Since I altered their genetic code in the process, even their descendants were born with the same inclinations.

Once they had recovered from my electrical pacification, I was able to verify that my spell worked the way it was meant to. The group of blubbery pink animals, ignored Amber, Kara, and myself; then they proceeded to stare at the hovering azure pixies for a few seconds, before losing interest and starting to graze on the grass that was located on the eastern side of the village.

Afterwards, I had to begin the tedious explanation to Angelica and Hanael of what I had just done, while preparing the yellow stingray to be cooked. Karavailon was attempting to restrain the two violent and relatively powerful magical crustaceans; Amber was using her purple flames on the highest heat that she could achieve with the limited mana, to melt down the mithril scraps, while I was using a bit of water magic to mold the molten metal.

Many of the pixies were still terrified of the gigantic creatures that were looming right outside of their homes, but it wasn’t really my problem; I had hired two fairly competent seraphs to deal with that annoying job.

When the relatively flat fish was finally filleted, I placed the steaks into the mithril shield; then I finished helping Amber with the creation of the significantly larger pot: which was four feet in diameter, and a meter tall. The metal was thin, but sturdy and dense, so it weighed a hundred pounds and was big enough to fit both of the meter-long rainbow-lobsters at the same time.

The screeching crustaceans nearly overpowered the giant bear-girl, but she managed to holdout until I had filled the heavy pot with water. Once our delicious meals were cooked, I ‘payed’ Angelica and Hanael with a pound of meat each; then Amber, Kara, and I devoured the rest; though the starving tigress ended up eating most of it.

It was a surprisingly peaceful end to an abnormally long and relatively interesting day. There was a Full Moon that night, her mana was serenading us with a beautiful melody; although, I was probably the only other person who knew the lyrics to her depressing song… Well, I was the one who wrote it after all.

I smirked at the bright blue circle in the sky, and murmured “Death Is Only an Illusion, huh? Heh, Iris always hated that one. Luna…” as I laid there on the golden sands, with a purring sixteen-hundred pound kitten laying on top of me.

Amber whispered “Michael… I love you.” before closing her eyes and purring. I wrapped my arms around her body and hugged her tightly; then she unconsciously latched onto my left horn and started chewing on it loudly, as she growled “Mine!” and started pulling on it viciously.

Her claws scratched at my chest, and her toe-nails were digging into my shins; I snickered quietly, and muttered “I love you too…” while gently petting her neck with my left hand, and scratching her back with my right. Our tails were intertwined between my spread out legs, and if I wasn’t so exhausted, I probably would have been extremely aroused.

As I drifted off to sleep, I heard a vaguely familiar feminine voice screaming inside of my mind “Michael! I’m going to fucking kill you! Do you hear me, bastard?!” I sighed dramatically, and ignored the auditory hallucination; it continued to curse me until I managed to pass out.

Author’s Note

Yep, these past four chapters have all taken place within two days of the story… if I continued at that pace, this volume would be over 200 chapters long. I wanted to show a lot of character interactions between Michael and Amber, Hanael and Angelica, Lorelei and Ailyn, etc.

The world is a massive place, and so many things are happening in places that I haven’t even talked about yet. Sigh, there’s so much that I need to write about lol.

Anyway, this chapter took me a while to edit because I added at least half a page to it, in various areas. The next chapter I’ve only just begun, so it will probably take at least a week.

[url=http://www.royalroadl.com/fiction/494]Please Rate or Review if you haven’t already :)[/url]

[url=http://www.royalroadl.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=10670]This is the thread that tells you my progress on the next chapter![/url]

 

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