Fatherhood — Part 1
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
It was late into the night. The moon was out and the stars glimmering upon the rural city of Alfyro. And yet, many of its alleyways remained unlit.
A pair of men dwelled within one such backstreet. One was hooded. He wore it so low it covered his eyes. But not his identity. His dog-like ears could still be seen even underneath the thick fabric. The other appeared much more like a local. His outfit was near indiscernible from that of any other hoodlum’s. The most attention-grabbing part of the second man was not the rag he wore, however, but rather the mark upon his face. It was swollen, near twice its regular size.
“Well? Are you going to talk? Or do you need more convincing?” The beastkin, Vergillus Gyroll, looked upon his conversational partner with scorn.
With his back to the wall and more pain on the horizon, the human had no choice but to speak. Every detail he could think of leaked from his mouth as he rambled.
“Ay man, I don’t know nuffin specific! All I gots for ya is that the guys that used to run this hood got crushed by some demon lord and the dragons he was keeping!”
“Why would a demon lord attack this, of all places?”
“Man, I don’t know how real this is ’cause it’s just the word on the street, but everyone says he went crazy and started killing people left and right ’cause some moron kidnapped his daughter!”
The explanation led Vergillus to scoff as he once again reflected on the insatiable greed that was humanity’s nature. Performing an action as dangerous as kidnapping a demon lord’s daughter proved that they were far beyond help.
The humans, however, were not the only target of his contempt. Demon lords were as well. The two were equally stupid. While the former simply lacked the foresight to see the consequences of their actions, the latter never considered them to begin with. Demon lords were too drunk on power to even know the meaning of restraint.
A conflict between the two was so fitting it could also be called poetic.
“So he crushed them? What happened to beastkin, no, all the inhuman slaves they kept?”
“Shiiiet, mang, that ain’t something you gunna be happy to hear, but one of my boys, he saw it happen. The demon lord took them. He loaded them up onto the dragons when he was taking his daughter home.”
In other words, the humans had offered their slaves as sacrifices. They had given the girls up to the demon lord in an attempt to save their own skin. And Vergillus’ daughter, Lyuuin, had undoubtedly been amongst them.
“Where can I find this demon lord?”
“I can’t say, mang, I ain’t got nuttin real on that. Only thing I know is that they hit us up from the north, so they probably up in that Wicked Forest hood.”
The Wicked Forest was a place that Vergillus had heard of. He knew that, if his people wished to raid, they would first have to ensure that they were well equipped. The preparations would consume many resources. But he had to go.
He recognized that his opinion could have potentially been skewed by bias, but he felt that his daughter was one that most would consider beautiful. Even the demon lord. And demon lords were as unrestrained in their lust as they were everything else. It didn’t take much for him to guess the fate that befell her. It was a fate that filled him with such rage that he clenched his fangs hard enough to draw his own blood.
“T-That’s it, aight? ‘Cause I don’t know nuttin more. Now lemme go already!”
Vergillus found himself annoyed by the human’s annoying whining, so he gave him one last punch to knock him out before turning and exiting the alley.
He had accomplished his goal and located his daughter. It was time for him to leave the city. As a warwolf, Vegillus’ night vision was far superior to any human’s. But he knew better than to remain in enemy territory. Wasting time would only put his men in unnecessary danger.
“Just wait, Lyuu… Your father is coming.”
Vergillus clenched his fist as he hurried back to where his men were awaiting his return.
“We will break through! Trust your allies, and trust yourself! But don’t fight alone! Work together!” Vergillus shouted a mix of orders and encouragement as he swung his magic blade and cut down a nearby monster.
It, Wolf Fang, was a relatively well-known weapon, one that his people often referred to as the Cuspid Blade. Its reputation as a contingency used only in times of war was well deserved; it had demonstrated its efficacy throughout the generations as it was passed from one chief to another. Vergillus had brought it along as a contingency. And yet, he still felt woefully underprepared.
He knew that the Wicked Forest was where the legendary Supreme Dragon resided. And he knew that it was far too dangerous to be claimed by any. But still, he had greatly underestimated it. Though he had yet to fully explore it, he was made painfully aware that warwolves stood nowhere near the top of the forest’s food chain.
Most other monster-infested territories revolved around apex predators, individuals that were much more powerful than all others in the area, regardless of species. Under normal circumstances, there would be exactly one monster of this calibre in every zone. But the Wicked Forest was different. All of the Wicked Forest’s creatures were powerful enough to take over ecosystems and become their apex predators should they leave their natural habitats.
The warwolves had only spent a single day within the forest’s confines. But they were already riddled with casualties. A third of the warriors Vergillus brought with him had been injured, and some had been hurt so badly that they were no longer capable of moving. It was only a matter of time before they were wiped out.
He noticed that the number of monsters in the warwolves’ vicinity began decreasing right as the thought crossed his mind. Soon, the lull hit its apex. Every nearby monster seemed to have vanished altogether.
It was the perfect opportunity for him to sift through his thoughts and evaluate his options. So he did.
He wanted to save his daughter. As soon as possible. But although he didn’t want to admit it, he knew there might not be anything left for him to save. There was no guarantee that she was still alive.
His men, however, were. They had immediately agreed to his proposal even though they knew the risks. They had claimed that it was their duty to follow through on their chief’s orders. They were good men. And that was precisely why he didn’t want to lose them in the pursuit of a faint hope.
Vergillus needed to carry out his duty as chief and order a retreat.
It was a decision he likely would have made even if he had prioritized his own desires over his warriors’ wellbeing. Their formation had collapsed. His fighters needed to heal before they could once again tackle the forest’s dangers.
The chief readied himself to announce his decision but was interrupted before he could. By a voice that he did not recognize.
“Hey, over here.”
Every warrior’s head turned in the speaker’s direction almost immediately.
He immediately identified the man as a demon. One of his eyes glowed red, while the other shared the same peculiar colour as the hair that adorned the young man’s head: black. His features were odd, but they weren’t nearly as suspicious as his complete and utter lack of equipment. The demon was in the midst of the Wicked Forest, one of the most ridiculously dangerous places known to any sentient being. And yet, he was dressed in casual wear. He didn’t have any protective gear, nor any weapons at the ready. He didn’t even have a spell or two standing by; his magical energies appeared to be in an idle state.
Vergillus was baffled. He couldn’t help but suspect that the demon either bore a deathwish or was so incredibly powerful that he didn’t need to remain on guard even when pitted against the forest’s endless onslaught.
Warwolves, like all other beastkin, had incredibly sharp senses. They could tell if an individual was hostile by taking in their scent, observing the extent of their perspiration, reading their expressions, and watching their muscles. And though he seemed suspicious, Vergillus knew that he wasn’t hostile.
The demon’s words seemed to indicate that he would be able to get the warwolves somewhere safe, somewhere the monsters would never reach. And that he had intentionally initiated contact to make the offer.
Vergillus didn’t know if he could trust the demon, but at the very least, his words seemed true. His lack of equipment served to prove that he really did know an area that could be considered safe. And it was likely his base of operations. Or maybe, just maybe, his home. It seemed completely unbelievable. It made little sense for one to choose to live within the Wicked Forest. Vergillus understood that well, as he had already had its terror permanently engraved into his mind.
His tale would have been much more believable if the demon was a seasoned warrior. But he didn’t look the part. Of course, the warwolf knew not to judge others by appearances. Especially demons, as they often were not what they looked to be.
Of course, the demon’s proficiency in battle had nothing to do with his trustworthiness. There was still no guarantee that he truly intended to help.
That was why the warwolf pondered his options. He momentarily brooded as he tried to choose between refusing and accepting the other man’s offer. If he chose the former, he would have no choice but to retreat whilst incurring losses. If he chose the latter, however, there was a chance that he could do away with any losses before they occurred.
And that wasn’t the only benefit.
If the demon was truly a local, then there was a chance that he would know about the demon lord.
After a brief moment of silence, the chief came to a decision. He pushed his way through the ranks and approached the demon.
“Can we trust you?”
“You already know I’d answer with a yes either way, so honestly, I don’t think what I’m about to say matters. But yes, you can, and should, trust me. It’ll be what’s best for you.”
Watching the demon shrug made Vergillus chuckle to himself.
The man had a point. And as he didn’t sense any hostility from him, he saw no reason to doubt him. There was, of course, the off chance that the demon was simply skilled in the art of masking his intentions, but Vergillus chose not to consider it. He knew that being overly suspicious would get him nowhere.
“…Fine. Men, lower your arms.”
“Come on, boss! You don’t have to do this. We can still go on!”
One of his men immediately objected to the decision. But rather than get angry him, Vergillus did exactly the opposite. He was filled with a sense of pride.
“Thank you. You’re all very reliable, loyal to the bone. But far too many of us have been injured. We will need rest if we wish to push on.”
“…Right. Got it, boss.”
With the sole dissenter pacified, the warwolves immediately got to work. They got ready to move.
“So you’re the warwolf chief?” the demon raised an eyebrow as he asked the question.
“That I am. I should introduce myself. I am Vergillus Gyroll, leader of the Gyroll Pack. Thank you for your help,” said the warwolf with a nod.
“So does that mean you’re Lyuu’s dad?” The words that came out of the demon’s mouth were nonchalant, casual in nature. It was like he knew nothing of the bombshell he had dropped.
“Y-you know my daughter!?”
Everything began to click. The demon appeared to be casually wandering around the Wicked Forest in spite of it being the Supreme Dragon’s nest. He was completely unarmed, which meant he was likely extremely powerful. And he even knew the name of Vergillus’ daughter.
It could have only meant one thing.
“Then you must be the Wicked Forest’s Demon Lord!”
“Yup, that’s m—”
He was the prime evil that had kidnapped Lyuuin. And ravaged her.
“Curse you, Demon Lord! Consider your life forfeit!”
A violent rage overcame Vergillus’ mind as soon as he reached the conclusion. His thoughts were far too clouded for him to realize that the tone the man referred to his daughter in was amicable at worst.