Road Trip — Part 1
Editors: Speedphoenix, Joker
“You okay?” I asked as I looked at the demon realm’s agent. Her face had turned blue and she had been left unsteady on her feet. It was a clear case of motion sickness, one she had acquired by riding on Orochi’s head; the way that the snake meandered as he moved had left her in quite the sorry state.
“I-I’m okay,” she groaned.
Unlike the other demon, Leila was perfectly fine. For her, the ride had been much more of an entertaining thrill than a vomit-inducing method of torture. The maid happened to be the type of girl with a natural penchant for roller coasters. Haloria, however, was not so blessed. It wasn’t my fault though. Riding Orochi had quite literally been something she had chosen herself. We had two options. The first was to take an extra day and slowly trek our way through the Wicked forest. The second was to hitch a ride on the Rir and Orochi express and reach a demon-run settlement before dark.
Riding the two adorable little critters had led to a change in Haloria’s schedule, but as far as she was concerned, that was a good thing. The reality of the situation was that the entire demon realm could more or less explode into conflict at any given moment. Time was of the essence. And as such, Agent McHoodface had chosen the fastest option available to her.
Being incredibly hard workers, both of my pets had already started retracing their steps. It wouldn’t be too long before they found themselves back home. The pet/rider distribution had been quite simple. The demon girl was stuck on Orochi while Leila and I rode on Rir. Having the maid sit behind me had been a… heavenly experience. The sensation of her chest on my back was one that had left me a very happy man. That said, I wasn’t going to go ahead and talk to anyone about it. Lefi would murder me if she found out just how much I had enjoyed Leila’s touch. The moment I realized that was the moment I swore that my knowledge of the softness of Leila’s chest was a secret I would take to the grave.
Only after the agent recovered did she finally take us into town. The first thing I did after getting inside was to let my curiosity get the better of me.
“Huh… so this is what demon-run cities look like.” I muttered under my breath as I examined my surroundings. Unlike human cities, demon cities didn’t require ID. The guards had let us right past without even bothering to stop us. Another aspect that stood out to me immediately was just how varied and active the city folk were. The sun was only just above the horizon. It was sure to set shortly, and yet, the streets were still flooded. All sorts of different individuals were wandering about.
There were creatures with heads that resembled some sort of canine walking alongside individuals with heads reminiscent of some sort of avian. Many of the city-goers had horns, but each individual had a different number of them. There were so many tails all over the place that I couldn’t even begin to count them. Reptile tails, beast tails, and demon tails were all within the norm. There were people that walked around on all fours only to suddenly stand up on their hind legs the moment they entered a building. And there were even creatures whose lower halves seemed to have been ripped right off a snake. I’m pretty sure they were called like nagas or something like that.
Classifying the individuals I saw into distinct categories was more or less impossible. The only choice I had was to just dump everything in the miscellaneous tab and call it a day. I guess this must be what it means to be on the mosaic side of the mosaic/melting pot spectrum.
Although I had suspected otherwise, Leila had explained to me that having animal parts didn’t automatically make one a beastkin. Beastkin specifically referred to individuals that looked like they were human save for perhaps the ears and maybe a tail. Individuals with animal-like bodies and/or heads were demons.
Her explanation prompted me to immediately ask whether she was a beastkin as her most defining non-human trait seemed to be her horns. The answer was no. Though her race resembled beastkin, they were classified as demons because their animal-like traits weren’t similar to those of beastkin and because they had the tendency to be proficient in magic. The entire system of classification was convoluted and very difficult for me to wrap my head around.
There was one thing that immediately became clear to me, however, and that was that all demons were innately proficient when it came to magecraft. In other words, even the guys that looked like literal animals on two legs excelled at magic. Wait a second. Does this mean that beastkin and beast-like demons might actually have completely different origins? I remember Lyuu saying something about her people descending from a fenrir or something like that. If that’s actually true, then it means beastkin came from well… beasts. They’re basically just mutated monsters. I think Lefi said something about demons being the result of spontaneous generation. They’re supposed to have just popped up out of nowhere because magical particles decided to bond and whatnot, right? I guess that must mean that the particles decided to emulate whatever other life forms they found nearby during the formation process. Hence why you get these weird half beast-like demon thingies. Something like that would kind of explain why even the beast-like demons still have excellent compatibility with magic. Heh. This is interesting. I’m curious to see just how deep all this really runs.
Although the city was mostly made up of demons, there were a respectable number of beastkin about. It almost seemed odd to me. The faction with more power was one that preached demonic supremacy through brute force, but clearly, it didn’t matter all that much when it came to the everyday lives of the populace.
“Wait! Oh! My! God! Are those cat ears!?” One of the individuals I spotted while looking around was a short beastkin whose head was decorated in a pair of feline hearing devices. She was wearing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts underneath what looked like a set of gear meant for an adventurer. Wait, did her ears just twitch? Hnnng.
Spending time with Rir had made the concept of having a canine companion grow on me. But, fundamentally speaking, I had always been more of a cat person, so seeing the cat-based beastkin had led me to freak out. Ermagerd. I really want to touch those ears and play around with them. They’re so tempting! I want to touch them as badly as I want to touch Lefi’s wings, holy shit!
The catgirl seemed to sense the passion in my gaze, as she turned my way and blew a kiss in my direction.
“Take this any further and I’ll tell Lefi, My Lord,” admonished Leila.
“Bad Master. No cheating,” added Enne.
Both the maid that had been walking by my side and the sword girl holding my hand scolded me the moment it happened.
“Y-you girls have got it all wrong. I-I was just acting up because I happened to see something rare. That’s all, I swear! I’m totally innocent!”
“I suppose we can just leave it at that then,” said Leila.
“Y-yeah, let’s,” I stuttered. “Not a word to Lefi about this, alright? ‘Cause I haven’t done jack.”
You know, at this rate, I don’t even think I’ll have any grounds to blame Lefi for wanting to put Leila on demon lord duty. This is totally 100% my own fault, isn’t it? I coughed as I tried to play the whole scenario off and forced my expression to return to a neutral state.
“I can’t believe it,” the federal agent we were with continued to mumble as she stared at Enne. “Is she really the sword? This is unprecedented. I don’t even think I’ve ever heard of a legendary weapon with such an unbelievable property…”
“So, Haloria, where exactly were we staying, anyway?” I addressed the agent with her name in order to avoid stirring up any sort of suspicion.
“W-we should be right over there,” she said with a stutter.
She pointed towards a nearby building, one that looked like a typical western-styled boarding house with a fairly modern design. There really wasn’t anything special about it. In fact, you could say that it’s only real feature was how average it was.
On an unrelated note, Agent McHoodface was living up to her namesake. She had once again donned her hood. It seemed that, as a member of the secret service, she didn’t exactly like having her face exposed in public.
“There, huh? Looks pretty average.”
“That it does, My Lord.”
“U-Uhm, sorry.” Haloria shrank back as she spoke, probably because she seemed to think that I wasn’t satisfied with the overly average hotel. “We don’t really want our facilities to stand out, so we tried our best to make them as average as we could.”
I reflected upon our plans as I looked at the place. The time we spent travelling was supposed to span three days, during which we would stop in a total of two cities along the way and spend a night in each. We would spend our third night at our destination, Regighihegg, the capital of the demon realm. First day aside, we would be travelling via coach. And although we were planning to stop overnight, we weren’t actually switching lines or anything like that after reaching the second city. The coach we were taking was one that regularly provided service between the city we were currently in and the capital. The overnight stop was just another standard part of the trip, one that had to happen given the distance between the initial pick up location and the final destination.
Using Enne as an engine and jetting my way between my house and the capital probably would have shortened the three-day journey down to just a few hours, but unfortunately, it wasn’t an option. The other two wouldn’t have been able to keep up. Actually, on second thought I don’t even know where the capital is, so I wouldn’t have been able to go even if I was all by myself. Kinda would’ve needed to learn a bit more about the demon realm’s geography first.
In games, the term “demon realm” often referred to a place in another dimension, a plane of existence completely separate from the human world. However, that wasn’t the case here. In this world, the demon realm was just another piece of the same landmass. The only difference was that it was ruled by demons. And that was it. The coach we were about to get on wasn’t one capable of transcending dimensions.
“Don’t sweat it, it doesn’t matter,” I said. “A bed’s a bed. Now let’s go.”
With Haloria as our guide, we entered the inn and got ourselves set up to spend the night in town.
Like everything else about the inn, the food it served was just… average. It wasn’t particularly good, but it wasn’t particularly bad either. Dinner alone had made me miss Leila’s cooking. And breakfast the next day hadn’t helped much to resolve the issue either. Like dinner, it had been about as average as average could be.
Haloria showed us to the coach that would take us to the capital shortly after we finished our mediocre morning meal.
“Wait. This is the coach?” Seeing the vehicle caused me to freeze up. It was just… wrong.
The carriage part of it was fine. It was a bit on the larger side, which wasn’t even all that abnormal given the distance it had to travel, but that was more or less it. The problem lay with the… “horse.”
A coach, as literally specified by most dictionaries, was a vehicle drawn by a horse. Specifically a horse. This coach, however, was not. In the horse’s place was a giant mammoth with a hard-looking shell. The creature breathed with such force that you could almost see the air puff out each time it exhaled.
The easiest way to describe it was to take a quick look at Monster Hunter and call it a popo with a rhenoplos’ shell. Errr, actually I guess all that does is make it even harder to understand, huh?
It was a creature that I had encountered before, the kind that was really annoying not because it was strong, but instead because of how much noise it made.
“Can you really even call this stupid thing a coach…?”
To reiterate, there was no horse. Having a horse was literally part of the definition of a coach, alternative definitions aside of course. And that was only one of the problems I had with it. The other was the fact that the mammoth-like creature was undoubtedly a monster, albeit one of a more tame variety. Of course, the first thing I did as the question crossed my mind was turn towards Leila and ask her about it.
“I believe coaches used horses in the past,” she said. “But as the times changed, demons stopped holing themselves in small tribal communities and began living in cities. One tribe brought Delmell Marmeaux with them as they moved, and they soon became quite popular. They’re used often enough for you to see them in towns like this all the time.”
“Wow… That’s neat,” said Enne with a look of fascination.
“Does that mean you’re interested in history?” I asked.
“Mhm. Leila’s lectures are always really interesting.”
“Why thank you,” giggled the maid. “Then how about I teach you a bit more on the way? I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to talk.”
“Yes please,” said Enne. “I can’t wait.”
Though she normally seemed completely and utterly devoid of emotion, Enne was visibly excited by the prospect of having Leila continue to educate her. The sight brought a smile to my face. It was picturesque. Seeing kids smile sure does soothe the weary soul, huh? I wonder why that is?
The agent we were travelling with returned from speaking with reception right as I finished basking in the happy aura radiating off of the small child.
“I’m sorry for the delay. Everything is in order now. We’re free to board,” she said.
“Alright then, leggo. Up you go, Enne.” The entrance to the so-called coach was a bit far off the ground, so I lifted Enne onto it.
After getting the little one onboard, I took Leila’s hand and helped her climb in as well.
“Thank you very much, My Lord.”
“Don’t sweat it.”
Only after that did I finally board with Enne’s real body in tow.
“Oh, hey!” I was greeted by a familiar face the moment I climbed into the cabin. “I’m pretty pawsitive I recognize you, you’re the guy that was meowggling me! I remember you getting real furantic because both the kid and busty girl you were with got really mad at you!”
“Could you not put it like that?” I replied. “You’re making me sound like some sort of deplorable degenerate.”
As I entered, I realized that the cat-eared beastkin I had spotted last night was sitting right there beside us in the coach’s cabin.
Editor’s note (Joker): Hey, guys! Joker here. I know, I know, it’s been forever, but I have a good reason. Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers released a couple weeks ago and I’ve been playing through that. Got the main story done, and my character geared up with the best current gear, so I’m doing pretty well. Patch 5.01 should be releasing the 15th-16th of July, which should release the current set of 8 player raids, Eden, so I’m looking forward to that. It was such an amazing game, I was in so much awe of the skill that the developers had. Definitely a must play for any JRPG fan, even if you’re not an MMO fan. Many headpats to me and Nirvash, for some godforsaken reason… and thanks to CaTastrophy427, Anime Dragon, John Watson, Mischa, and kx for your questions. And if you have a question for me, leave it below with the hashtag #AskJoker and I’ll reply. See y’all in the next chapter! (Maybe)