Chapter Twenty-Nine: Bloodlust
“Haa… How many have you killed so far?” I slumped back against a huge tree, attempting to catch my breath.
“Sixty-four,” Nalithor answered after taking a deep swig from his waterskin. “And you?”
“Ha! I’m still winning!” I grinned at him. “Sixty-eight!”
“I will win.” Nalithor turned away from me to search for more beasts. “You may be cute but I refuse to lose to you.”
I laughed at him as he disappeared through the underbrush. Turning our hunt into a competition had certainly made it more interesting. At first we had set out with the intention of collecting samples from a few beasts and killing a few extra to alleviate our mutual anger with the X’shmirans. However, Nalithor had eagerly accepted my challenge and seemed determined to prove himself as the better hunter.
‘Well, this is one Draemiran quirk that I can understand at least,’ I mused, taking a few sips of water.
Smiling, I rose to my feet and stalked through the forest once more. We were still in Vorpmasian territory, but this place was situated between the barriers around the Dauthrmiran Crater and Draemir, leaving it open to the beasts and all manner of other creatures. Thus far the two-hour airship ride had proved to be well worthwhile.
As much as I enjoyed ripping the beasts apart, I actually found more amusement in Nalithor’s desire to prove that he was “worthy” of hunting with me.
I summoned a longsword in one hand and slipped through the trees in search of more beasts. My darkness flowed around me freely in search of prey. My brow furrowed when I failed to sense any more beasts nearby. Nalithor, however, was close.
‘We should delay our competition.’ Nalithor’s voice was strangely singsong, causing me to arch an eyebrow and glance off in the direction of his presence. ‘I found something fun.’
‘Fun…?’ I trailed off with a shiver as the Adinvyr’s bloodlust hit me, then took a sharp turn to join him. ‘Tch, what could you possibly have found that would make you want to delay our contest?’
‘Just come help kill it already!’ Nalithor laughed.
‘Help?’ I arched an eyebrow as I rushed toward Nalithor’s presence. ‘I don’t smell any more beasts. What could he have— Oh.’
I skidded to a stop upon entering an open field and looked from Nalithor to the colossal beast and back a few times. The creature stood at least eight stories high but wasn’t moving. The slow and steady expansion and contraction of its torso was the only indication that the beast was even breathing. Corpses of other beasts, ranging from the smallest peons to a few Duxes, littered the ground around Nalithor, staining the soil and grass a putrid mixture of oil-brown and yellow.
Darkness whirled around Nalithor’s armored form wildly. He leveled his spear at the remaining beast. Pale blue-white flames licked along the edge of the blade. Nalithor’s tail snapped back and forth behind him in excitement as he waited for his prey to make a move. The air crackled with his combined elements, frost even beginning to join in the elemental dance.
“Are you sure you’re the God of Balance? Not the God of Death?” I quipped before summoning a heavier set of armor around myself.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Nalithor shot me a smirk over his shoulder.
Something about the look in his eyes made my heart skip several beats as the feeling of something constricting it passed through. It startled me enough to make my grip on my sword twitch, nearly causing me to drop the weapon. Nalithor’s power, intermingled with bloodlust, continued to rush through me even when he returned his gaze to the waiting monstrosity.
‘W-what was that?’ I clenched my teeth and tried to brush off the lingering sensation. ‘That wasn’t fear. F-fuck. His bloodlust is…’
“And you’ve chastised me for getting too excited.” I groaned, covering my face with one hand as I shrugged off his murderous intent. “Has the damned thing made a move at all?”
“You noticed, didn’t you?” Nalithor purred once I drew closer.
“That they have no scent?” I offered, tilting my head.
“Either that, or something is concealing it. They should reek—especially the dead ones.” Nalithor cast a sideways glance at me when I came to stand beside him. “I think you will need a larger weapon than that, my dear.”
“You’re probably right.” I dismissed my longsword and drew a claymore instead. “How…have you not rushed it already?”
“Give me some credit.” Nalithor smirked, then shifted his attention back to our prey. “Let’s kill it. I’m sure you can keep up with me, right?”
Nalithor sprung across the bloody field with a wild grin plastered across his face, his pale eyes alight with bloodlust, excitement, and something else I couldn’t quite identify. His power rippled through the air as he swung his blade through the beast’s legs. A torrent of dark yellow blood gushed from the wounds like a wave.
‘Damn it all.’ I laid the flat of my claymore on my shoulder and darted forward, summoning platforms of darkness around the beast. ‘Did he feed recently? He’s much more exuberant than when we were in Abrantia.’
I grimaced at the thought. That was unacceptable. Even if I wasn’t willing to let him feed from me, yet, the idea of him feeding from someone else pissed me off more than the presence of this stupid Chaos Beast did. If Nalithor had fed on someone… I would kill them. Then, I would see to it that he understood he was mine.
‘Ugh, why am I thinking like that?’ I bit the inside of my cheek, hard. ‘He only kissed me like that in order to keep me from killing their precious specimen…right?’
“What do you think, Arianna? X’shmiran or Rilzaan?” Nalithor’s sensual tone snapped me out of my self-pity. I glanced at him from my perch and resisted the urge to roll my eyes. How he managed to be catlike, bloodthirsty, and sensual all at the same time was beyond me.
“It doesn’t look like it was made from corpses, so I would argue that it’s native to Rilzaan,” I replied, returning my gaze to the beast. Pausing for a moment, I examined its leathery hide and the multitude of black spines that ran along many sections of its body. Even if it was from Rilzaan, I couldn’t identify what sort of animal it could have possibly resembled. “I’m more concerned about why it isn’t moving.”
“I want to shred it and yet it’s so uncooperative…” Nalithor sighed, leaping lightly to my platform. He looked down at me with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “At this rate we will have another party thrown in honor of our successful hunt.”
“Don’t invite Darius this time.” I huffed, leaping from the platform.
I sped through the air toward the beast and cocked my arms, pulling the claymore back. Perhaps if I impaled the thing deep enough it would finally respond to us. Unmoving prey was so unexciting. I needed it to roar, to stream. I wanted it to bleed, for it to try to flee in terror. I wanted—
‘Ahhhnnn, has “The White Fox” grown serious?’ Nalithor teased, making me twitch as I buried my claymore hilt-deep in the beast’s flesh.
‘Does he really have to make such an erotic sound?’ I bristled as Nalithor’s darkness swarmed around me. ‘Shouldn’t you be trying to kill it as well, Nalithor? Hmmm?’
I grimaced and tugged at my claymore, attempting to pull it from the beast’s flesh. The blade must have wedged into one of the beast’s ribs, because I couldn’t get it to budge at all. After a few yanks I grew frustrated and summoned all four of my elements around the length of the sword without a buffer. The elements collided with each other and caused an explosion around the length of the sword, blowing a massive hole in the beast’s flesh and shattering a portion of its rib.
‘That’s better!’ I grinned when the monster roared with pain. Visible shudders ran through the beast’s body as blood poured from the wound and streamed to the ground like a putrid waterfall.
“Mmm… Who lost themselves to the other’s desire this time, I wonder?” Nalithor chuckled, plucking me off the beast’s side and back to one of the shadowy platforms. “We should still exercise some caution.”
“Rely’ric, Arianna-jiss!” A voice called from somewhere below. “We heard the roaring! What—”
“By the Elders! What is that?!” A second voice exclaimed.
‘Nnngh, they just had to interrupt.’ Nalithor growled, his hand twitching against my waist. “That is an unclassified type of Chaos Beast. It is much too large for us to bring back to Dauthrmir as a specimen…and too unknown.”
‘Those soldiers are just going to get in our way,’ I pointed out, dismissing my claymore as I examined the whimpering beast’s hide. ‘We’re going to have to get creative if we want to kill this damned thing.’
‘You’re quivering with the desire to kill it…’ Nalithor teased with a purr. ‘One of these days… I will have you trembling with desire for me instead. Stronger than your desire to kill, if I have my way…’
‘Now who’s lost themselves?’ I bit back a shiver as the Adinvyr’s power stroked down my back. ‘At this rate neither of us will kill our prey.
‘Or…do you want me to make you let me go?’
‘You could try. I would win,’ Nalithor stated, glancing down at me before returning his focus to the monster. “Arianna-jiss and I will tear the creature apart with our magic. The two of you should retreat to the ship—you do not have protection against beast blood. This…thing…bleeds more than one might expect.
“Send word back to Dauthrmir. I want the academy’s scholars and an escort sent here to examine the creature immediately.”
The soldiers scampered away to do as ordered, and Nalithor finally released my waist. I felt his bloodlust spiraling out of control while he examined the beast…or at least, his bloodlust was at a point that would have made me lose any semblance of control. Nalithor’s pulse and breathing were both calm, while his gaze was both excited and calculating.
I just wanted to rush the damned thing and tear into it.
“Am I going to have to put you on a leash?” Nalithor laughed when I shot him a flushed glare. “Do you remember how you killed the monster in Abrantia? I think it is safe to assume that this one should share similarities.”
“It had some sort of core powering it, I think,” I grumbled, crossing my arms. “I felt something shatter when I pierced it. Felt more fragile than bone.”
“Very well. Let’s execute this one and then return to Dauthrmir,” Nalithor murmured, darkness swirling out from him to prod at the monster. “I think dinner and drinks are in order before we return to more mundane tasks.”
‘I’m going to need more than a few drinks to deal with his teasing!’ I sighed, shaking my head as the Adinvyr leapt for the beast.
I watched in silence as Nalithor pelted the creature’s open wounds with darkness, fire, and lightning. Strangely, the scent of burning flesh never reached my nose. I could detect Nalithor’s scent and the scent of the forest just fine, but anything related to the beasts was beyond me. It unnerved me. ‘What could possibly interfere with our senses in such a way? This many beast corpses should have us both running for cleaner air.’
While Nalithor continued to tear into the beast, I decided to spread my darkness through the forest in search of whatever was interfering with our senses. My gaze snapped up to the sky when I sensed a new, unfamiliar, source of bloodlust. A familiar musty scent assaulted my nose moments later. I felt my lips curl into a ferocious snarl when I spotted just what was barreling toward Nalithor.
‘That fucking piece of trash! Why does it have a Godslayer?!’ I sprung from my perch and summoned clawed gauntlets around my hands, rushing to intercept the crazed Angel.
The corrupted bastard let out a screech of terror when I collided with it. I knocked the Godslayer from its hands and then, with a savage kick, broke one of its wings and sent it slamming into the thick pool of beast blood and gore that coated the field below. The Godslayer clattered haphazardly to the ground somewhere. I landed on the Angel’s back and crouched, debating with myself what to do to the disgusting creature first.
“A sneak attack from a pathetic flappy-thing, huh…” I gripped one of the Angel’s wings and twisted it at a sharp angle. “You may suck at surprise attacks…but you sure do scream well.”
I ripped the Angel’s left wing in half and grinned when he wailed and bucked beneath my feet. He tried to dislodge me from his back as I tossed his torn wing aside, but I just laughed and gripped his other wing, breaking a piece of it as well. The bastard blubbered and cursed at me, his words near-unintelligible through his pained sobs. His corrupted blood was indistinguishable from the blood of the beasts that surrounded is. It disgusted me.
How could creatures, who were supposed to be powerful and regal, stoop so low?
“Ah, ah, ah.” Nalithor purred, catching me around the waist and hoisting me off the Angel’s back. “Don’t kill him yet.”
“But—” I growled at Nalithor when he placed me a few feet away from the Angel. “He was trying to kill you!”
“We’ve been over this; a Godslayer can’t harm me.” Nalithor chuckled. He took several steps toward the whimpering Angel and then lifted him by his ragged robes. “Ah… What would Gabriel think if she saw you like this?”
“No one cares about the Whore Queen!” The Angel snapped, clawing at Nalithor’s hand. “We will overthrow her, and then we will purge every last Devillian from—”
“Aye, so your kind has said for centuries.” Nalithor sighed, tossing the Angel aside like an uninteresting toy. An unseen force snapped the corrupted creature’s neck before it even hit the ground. Nalithor pivoted to address me next, his expression one of amusement, “Arianna, where did the sword fall?”
“Over there, somewhere.” I motioned to my right. “You could have let me kill it, you know… You got the beast all to yourself!”
“Adorable.” Nalithor smirked, tousling my hair as he passed. “Let’s find the sword and then take our leave before the stench grows overwhelming…or before you run off and find something else troublesome.”
I watched in silence as Nalithor lifted the discarded Godslayer. He grimaced while examining it and then, to my surprise, engulfed the weapon in flames. The liquid metal dripped to the ground with a hiss and ignited the beast blood. Nalithor let out a displeased huff and froze the surface off the blood, snuffing out the flames. He tossed the ruined weapon aside and then pivoted to return to me.
“Let’s go.” Nalithor nudged the small of my back. “Where there is one Angel, there is usually another. If they’re bold enough to attack a god…” He sighed, shaking his head. “It wouldn’t do for them to turn their blades against you instead.”
Despite his words, Nalithor looked pleased and like he wanted to return to hunting. Neither of us dismissed our armor while we padded through the forest and back to the waiting airship. Although the waiting pilots and soldiers expressed worry upon seeing us, Nalithor dismissed their attentions and led me aboard with another heavy sigh.
“We could have hunted more if you’re that disappointed with your prey,” I commented dryly as I took my seat and allowed my armor to disappear into my jewelry. “I wouldn’t mind thrashing a few dozen more beasts.
“Don’t tempt me.” Nalithor chuckled, taking a seat next to me. “Besides, I wanted to ask you to heal this for me.”
He pulled back his sleeve to the elbow and offered me his wrist, revealing deep gouges and claw marks on the back of his hand and all the way up his forearm. The scent of his blood was intoxicating. I wanted another taste. ‘I had best heal this quickly…and distract myself while doing so.’
“Were you aware that Dilonu and Tyana were coming to Dauthrmir?” I asked, taking his arm in both hands.
“I would have told you, had I known!” Nalithor huffed in indignation. “They’re here for the spring festivities, along with other dignitaries from the Rilzaan Alliance. Darius’ escort has been ordered to remain by his side at all times, and—”
“You could have, you know, told me.” I motioned at my temples with one finger before returning to mending his wounds. I gave him a firm look and continued, “Darius was a wreck when I found him this morning. He was huddled in a corner with his light going out of control. When I found out why, I…”
“Trust me, I sensed that bloodlust of yours.” Nalithor laughed, shifting so that he could bring his free hand up to my face. A devious grin settled on his features as he turned me to look at him. “I nearly lost myself to your desire, you know. I wanted their heads rolling at my feet, their bodies torn and broken. I…”
“Calm down, you’re—!” I exclaimed as he lifted me onto his lap and nuzzled me, his elevated pulse making blood flow from his wounds faster. ‘New subject, new subject. U-uhm… Why does he have to smell like dessert?’
“How did it feel? Tearing those assassins apart?” Nalithor purred, coiling his tail around my hips. “You made such a mess of them, too…”
“How did it…feel?” I blinked at him for a moment as he chuckled. “They were too easy. Not really a challenge.
“Nalithor, your wounds. Stop fidgeting. Let me—”
“That’s not what I meant,” Nalithor interrupting, pulling me closer until my back was flat against his chest. “For you to have done that to them… You truly enjoy putting filth in their place, don’t you?”
‘Filth…’ I tensed when my mind flipped back to the Humans I’d torn to shreds this morning. Their fear. Their pain, and the bright red blood I had painted the courtyard with. An involuntary shiver ran through me when I recalled, and I found myself glancing to the side, flushed with embarrassment.
“Ahhh… There it is.” Nalithor laughed, startling me when he used his tail to pull my hips down against his. “You really are an exquisite huntress.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say after a comment like that, so I opted to focus on my work instead. While healing him, I realized the flow of blood from his wounds had slowed. They’d even begun to heal in places. I bristled and shot him an irritated glare over my shoulder, earning only a mischievous laugh in reply.
‘Really! He intentionally riled me up? Just so that he could draw on…’ I felt my face flush darker, so I refocused on his forearm. ‘Ugh, really? Drawing on my “enjoyment” to heal himself?
‘I don’t know if I should be flattered or if I should kick his ass.’
“Just what will it take for me to earn access to this?” Nalithor questioned, drawing a claw down the side of my throat. He laughed when I shivered in response to the contact. “You’re quite flushed, my dear. I can’t imagine why.”
“The innocent act doesn’t suit you.” I shot him a glare, causing him to laugh again. “I should kick your ass.”
“You’re more than welcome to try. However, I will win.” Nalithor purred, squeezing me with both his tail and his free arm. “Dinner, mri’lec, and then research when we return… You know, if we keep up this pattern, you may as well start staying in the palace with me.”
‘I really don’t know how to take a comment like that…’ I let out a small sigh and released his now-healed arm. “If I have to deal with the presence of those people in the palace, I’m going to need something much stronger than mri’lec.”
“Anything stronger than that and you won’t be able to focus on our work,” Nalithor remarked, catching both of my wrists in his hands. He turned them over to reveal his blue-black blood staining my skin, the sight of which made my pulse race.
With a low chuckle, Nalithor used his magic to cleanse the blood from my skin, leaving a prickling sensation on my palms. After a moment of hesitation, he let me out of his lap so that I could fasten myself into a seat properly. I glanced to the side at him, discovering that he was sulking a little in his seat. His disappointed expression was adorable, and his tail was twitching alongside him at a languid pace.
“Are you…sure you shouldn’t run home to Darius?” Nalithor asked, shifting his gaze to the side at me. “You said he was quite the mess this morning.”
“It’s not exactly a home if he threatened to kick me out of it. Nor do I claim to have a home to begin with,” I pointed out with a half-shrug, smiling when Nalithor’s tail smacked hard into the floor. “Although, as his sister, I should probably tend to him… I don’t want to. Not with the way he’s been behaving as of late.
“Besides, he’s probably called some of his harem boys over to the house already.”
“I hope you’re prepared for another late night then,” Nalithor remarked, sinking into his seat as he relaxed a bit. “We probably won’t receive any data from the scholars for another six hours, minimum, so we may not get to factor our newest prey in.”
“That’s fine, I don’t mind.” I laughed, shaking my head. “Even when we’re focused on work, your company is still pleasant. While hunting is preferable…taking it easy every now and then is alright too.”
“We’ll have to continue our competition some time.” Nalithor grinned. “Taking a corrupted Angel out like that however… I would say you have won for today. You are far too cute when you go on a rampage.”
“As much as I enjoy your acceptance of my ‘questionable’ nature, I still don’t quite understand it.” I sighed as he snatched up my hand and kissed it.
“You will understand once you have the opportunity to go to Draemir, I believe.” Nalithor smiled, lowering my hand from his lips.
‘Draemir huh?’ I wondered, watching as Nalithor maintained his grip on my hand even as he nestled into his seat and shut his eyes. ‘What does he want from me anyway? With his antics, I would think he’s interested in me, but…’
I bit back a sigh and shifted my attention away from the Adinvyr. There was no way in the hells I would outright ask him something like that. Becoming involved with a deity didn’t seem appropriate…and yet I wanted to risk it anyway. I hated the idea of giving him up to someone else.
‘Am I a hypocrite?’ I glanced back to Nalithor’s peaceful expression, then up to his platinum horns. ‘Perhaps…I will wait and see if he makes his intentions clearer. I have a difficult time telling if he’s truly interested, or if he just wants information out of me. Deities just…use people, right?’
Looking away from him again, I stared out the window to my left and watched as the dense forests between Dauthrmir and Draemir blurred by. The glowing blooms reminded me of the starlight above but, sadly, clouds obscured the sky I had grown so fond of over the past few weeks. Rumbles in the distance indicated it would soon storm, likely bringing rain along with it.
‘Perhaps instead of mri’lec we can have something warm instead.’