“Genoneva,” I said, and the name made her jump with surprise. “Is she one of the Tasel folk?”
Tamie nodded, her attention now mostly focused on fixing a boy’s collar.
“How come she needs to use people to use her magic? And why are people letting her do it?”
She shrugged. “She’s a very special case, in many ways. First, she’s simply very strong. Second, Genoneva is a dryad, and dryads all have a very strong blessing of protection. If she ever finds herself in danger inside Bunker, the whole mountain will be swallowed. Well, probably.”
So that’s her deterrent. A blessing.
It was good to know that they could be that strong, as opposed to the one I had received. But there was still one thing that didn’t add up.
“You still haven’t told me why she needs to use people as batteries.”
“I don’t know the specifics,” she muttered, her mind on another task.”She’s obviously wounded. Maybe she’s missing an organ or something equivalent to her kind. She doesn’t just harvest mana for her spells though. All the machines of her guild are alimented the same way. I have no idea how and who made them, and to be honest I’d rather not know.”
I remembered seeing trucks and other vehicles the day of my arrival in this realm. My head was starting to hurt at the thought of the amount of mana that had been consumed that day.
“But… how? Are there really that many people available with the intelligence attribute? Or is it…”]
“The drug? That’s exactly it. She isn’t forcing anyone to become her slave rat, at first at least. They come to her men looking for an easy escape, and they are given black rocks that also happen to make people create mana. Once black spots cover the users’ faces, they will die without regular doses. Then she can do whatever she wants with them.”
Those were depressing facts. While I wanted to believe it impossible for anyone to be gullible enough to fall in Genoneva’s trap, I couldn’t help but be reminded that educated people had wasted their lives on more obvious schemes where I came from.
We had finally reached the stairs to the roof. I hadn’t noticed last time, but there was a ramp Tamie could use on the side. Like every other set of stairs in the temple.
These were steeper than the other ones though, so I offered my help.
“Thanks,” she said. “That’s mostly why I rarely come here by myself.”
Pushing her chair reminded me of the effects of my strength attribute. She seemed weightless.
I could lift both her and the chair over my head without breaking a sweat.
I had completely forgotten about the weight of all the items in my inventory.
Maybe I should take them all out to see the difference.
We finally reached the temple’s colorful roof, illuminated in the afternoon’s golden light.
I could spot a few more drawings and carvings that had been added since my last visit. There even was a small bench.
It was surrounded with empty jugs and bottles that reeked of alcohol, but I decided to ignore that part and simply move the seat to a different spot facing the valley. The scenery was as beautiful as I remembered.
“Alright,” I said. “Enough beating around the bush. So Royin is one of those Tasel folks. What kind?”
The mischievous smile returned to her face.
“You would never guess,” she said.
“Of course I wouldn’t. I didn’t even know what a Tasel folk was a few minutes ago.”
“… Do you really have to ruin my fun?”
“Out with it already.”
“She’s a succubus,” she said before bursting with laughter at my gaping mouth.
“I know, right? I was so shocked when she told me! I was so young and my reaction made her laugh too. Don’t tell anyone though. Very few of the current people know, even among the staff.”
“Wait,” I said with a raised hand. “I’m not sure if my definition of a succubus is-”
“Very beautiful women with the ability to charm any man?” she interrupted. “Yes, that’s totally her.”
That was a shocking revelation. Royin was the furthest person I would associate with a seducing demon.
Well, I guess they are not demons here.
“I have only seen her use her natural power once though, and it was by mistake,” Tamie continued as she gazed down the valley. “She makes a lot of efforts to keep her regular appearance modest. But even seeing her with her hair down used to make everybody lose their train of thoughts. Even the girls!” she added with a chuckle.
“What about Merle?” I asked.
From what I had seen the girl had mostly taken after her father.
Ardos, you lucky bastard.
“Oh, her and Damien, right?” Tamie said, apparently glad to finally have the opportunity to share the gossip she had been saving through the years. “Well as you know Merle is a beastkin, and already very strong because of her class. But it’s her aura that makes people fear her. The effects aren’t nearly as strong as her mother’s, but it’s enough to distract her opponents. And you don’t want to be distracted when fighting her.”
“… What do you mean by ‘her and Damien?’” I asked.
“Oh, you… you didn’t know? They are cousins. Damien’s mother also was a succubus. You haven’t heard people talking about his aura already?”
“I didn’t know. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I haven’t really had time to hang out with a lot of people.”
I remembered that Damien kid, though. The obvious leader of the temple’s young warriors.
He would probably have been a model in another life. Chiseled jaw, long dark hair, generally strong physique. Minus his long sharp claws, if he had a better attitude he would have been the living image of the ideal soldier. The kind they use in propaganda.
“Oh. I forgot,” she said with an apologetic smile. “You seem a lot better than when we talked earlier though. So, without his aura, Damien looks like a regular half beaskin. But when he activates it… he becomes a full one.”
I perked up at that.
“You mean that he can transform?”
“Yes! How crazy is that? He becomes a lion! His mother probably was a very special succubus herself. He rarely has to use his full strength anymore though, because of his class… I don’t know what it is, but it makes him have almost no weak points. That’s probably why he let himself go so much. The lack of challenge.”
She became conscious of what she had just said and color came to her face, despite her trying to calm herself. I didn’t say anything.
“You must be wondering how come I know so much about them, aren’t you?” she said without looking at me. “It’s just that when we were younger we used to always be together. They were my friends. But then Damien got his class and they both changed. Classes, in general, tend to do that.”
“I see,” I said. “It must have been hard.”
“It was. But everybody has it pretty hard around here. I’m not special.”
That’s a good way to look at things when you’re powerless. Even if it’s also very sad.
“So, since we’re on the subject of transformations,” I started with a tone a wished was aloof. “How common are they?”
“At least in the savage lands, I can say that they are very rare. Damien is the only one I know who can do it. He’s pretty famous for it too.”
She put her hands on the wheels and turned her chair so that she could face me. Then she made her chin rest on her interlinked fingers.
“So. Your spell. Details?”
“It’s a fire spell,” I said.
“Yes!” she said with a fist pump. “I thought it would be wind-based, since you’re fast and all, but fire is even better! What does it do?”
“It has two phases. During the first one it charges mana, and during the second one it consumes it to create a ball of fire with me at its center.”
“A… ball of fire?” she blinked in confusion. “So it’s like a hollow sphere? Alright, that won’t be very strong but I can work with that. Isn’t that dangerous, though? Does it cause an explosion?”
“I’m not sure if causes an explosion since I haven’t used it yet. And no, not a hollow sphere,” I said. “A ball of fire. Like a miniature sun.”
She was silent for a while, probably trying to make sense of what I was saying. She spoke when she realized it didn’t make sense.
“You do realize that something like that would kill you, right?” she said with disbelief. “You would burn yourself alive. What kind of crazy class gives spells like that?”
“It’s complicated,” I said. “But I can tell you that I would be safe for me to use it.”
“What do you mean ‘complicated’?” she said with a bit of edge. “There’s no way any fire class gave you full immunity to fire already when you went to your first dungeon just the other day!”
She straightened herself and crossed her arms. “By complicated, do you mean that you are somehow unable to tell me the class in question even though I told you mine?”
She was hurt. Was I being selfish?
Maybe, but would it be wrong? I can’t just make it public that I can turn into a djin at will.
“Listen,” I said. “It’s not what you’re thinking. It’s not even about my classes. I have… a special trait and at times it’s possible for me to be unaffected by fire. But I need you to trust me when I say that not mentioning the details is for the best.”
With transformations and the existence of Tasel folk being a known variable, I felt safer with people eventually seeing me with my left eye open. There would be an initial surprise but they would end up making their own conclusions without me having to even join the conversation.
Unless things drastically changed, the word “djin” would never leave my mouth if I could help it. There was no need to make things more complicated than they already were.
“But you’re human, right?” she said, frowning. “A variant? Are you saying your trait is a variant?”
“You could… say it is,” I said. “In a way.”
“Does it include a transformation? I saw how interested you were about Damien’s. Is that it?”
“It does. But I really can’t say any more than that.”
She turned her gaze to the valley. It was as beautiful as ever, but today that beauty felt distant. Cold.
Tamie let out a deep sigh then gave me a small smile.
“Okay, Edward,” she said. “I will trust you.”
We stayed like that in silence for a few minutes, just looking at people that were far enough to look like ants.
“We will probably need some ether cores,” Tamie said at some point. “For the rifle, I mean.”
“Alright. Where do we find them?”
“Mostly in monsters. I think Lima could help.”
That was another item added to the bucket list.
Now that I think about it, Ardos should be done by-
The roof’s door flew open with a loud noise, and noise of animated conversations reached us.
“I’m telling you! I don’t give a FUCK about… Wait who is this in our spot?”
I turned around to a dozen of the temple’s young fighters climbing the stairs to the roof. They were lead by Ormidillio, who was holding bottles similar to the ones already littering the surroundings.
His frown became a smile when he recognized us.
“Bahaha, I can’t believe it! Two pieces of trash hanging out together! A real match made in heaven!”
His words were met with laughter and snorts from his friends.
“Let’s go,” said Tamie as she maneuvered turned herself around. “Ignore them, they will be in trouble for coming up here anyway.”
“This is the funniest shit I’ve seen in ages!” the boy continued as we got closer, before gesturing toward me. “You guys really believe the crap they say he did?”
“You know damn well it’s all bullshit,” said another one. I recognized him as one of the two boys who had hidden themselves among the miners earlier. “He either got lucky or stole someone else’s accomplishment.”
I reached the door but the slimy brat stood in the way.
“I told you to stay out of our way, trash,” he spat.
I looked at him with indifference. There were plenty like him anywhere. Weak people who had somehow landed on a tiny bit of authority. They felt worthless unless they abused it and that ironically made them unworthy of any kind of attention.
There was no time to waste on him.
“Right now, you’re the one in my way,” I said. “Move.”
He chuckled and looked at his friends, “Seems like all the rumors made this failure believe he was something! Tell me, what will you do if I don’t move?”
I stayed silent and just stared at him.
After a moment of silence, he laughed and his friends followed suit.
“Yup,” he said. “Nothing, that’s what you are and can do. However, as your senior, I am feeling generous.”
He took a step to the side and dramatically waved at the exit. “You’re free to go.”
I took a few steps past him but heard a yelp and spun around. Ormidilio was forcibly pulling the chair of a panicking Tamie backward.
“You can go, but the cripple has to stay for messing with our sleep!” he laughed.
Guess it’s time to teach him what his parents couldn’t.