“You’re leaving already?” I asked, stretching out my naked body seductively on the small bed.
The sheets were rough against the skin, but for someone who had been sleeping on the dirt for the last couple of weeks, even this bed was comfortable. My eye’s peaked around the room once again. It was smaller than before. I could see bars across one wall. The toilet had moved to the corner of my room and was no longer made from porcelain, but cheap iron. Despite those changes, the floor still looked like carpet, and I could still see my stuffed animals and a window leading to the outside.
As I slept with the dream demon, enjoying another bout of amazing sex, the illusions started melting away. They hadn’t dissipated entirely, but it was enough that I got a good idea of the living conditions I was in.
Meanwhile, the man I had slept with was hastily putting his clothing back on. “I, uh… shouldn’t have come back here. The elder’s said…”
“The world is melting.” I casually interrupted him.
I didn’t use any of my skills consciously on him. I could have thrown seductions and Eye of the Beholders at him. He, just as likely, could have deflected them. However, I didn’t feel like this was necessary. Something deep down inside me told me that control wasn’t so simple as forcing absolute loyalty or magically manipulating someone’s mind. I remembered what forcing control got me, a Kappa with his brain splattered on a tree trunk.
“Huh? Oh, yes, the illusions. Without mastery over dreams, the visual and auditory hallucinations we gave you start to break down.”
“Is that so?” I asked, having guessed most of that already. “I would have thought illusions were quite deadly.”
“That… depends. Few species are as good with illusion magic as the cambions. We pride ourselves on that, but even we have limitations. We can alter our appearances. We can change perception. But, a trained mind can push through those setbacks. That’s why we have to keep our guests in a half-sleeping state. Trained warriors could break the illusions instantly.”
“But, couldn’t an illusion at just the right moment be a powerful weapon? A sword being two inches to the right of where you see it can be the difference between life and death.” As I spoke, the man was already shaking his head.
“The mind is very good at resisting changes. While someone is experiencing something, illusion magic can’t affect it. For example, if I wanted you to see me taller, I would have to leave your view or somehow make you look away from me. When you looked back, I’d be taller. However, even then, you remember me being shorter and the illusion will quickly break. For it to work best, you’d never see me before, having no reference for my appearance. Then, the illusion magic would continue to work.”
I nodded slowly. None of this was new information to me. Illusion magic had been one of the things I studied when trying to figure out how to class up. I had read about it’s many many limitations. He had only touched the tip of the iceberg. There were various other issues. For example, resistance items for illusion magic were relatively easy to make, and any adventurer worth using illusion magic on likely had a means of resisting it. Furthermore, most warriors didn’t depend on sight to fight. Even if you could alter his perception, most warriors fought on instinct.
Knowing all that, the reason I asked him had little to do with wanting to know more about illusion and more to do with keeping him talking. He seemed freely willing to discuss things when I asked questions. Asking questions kept him in the room. It allowed me to continue to gain his trust and comfort.
“Ye-yeah…” He suddenly blushed, lowering his head.
I looked down as well, forcing myself to ask the question I was avoiding. “My friend. The elf. Is she… alive?”
There was a brief silence before he spoke. “I’m… not sure. I need to go.”
I had suspected that asking that question would lead to a quick end to our conversation. As Peers walked to the cell door and opened it, the illusion magic completely dissipated. He likely had released whatever magic was affecting my vision. I was now undeniably in a cell. For what it was worth, I could locate the wash basin now. As the cell door shut and he walked off, only glancing back once before he was out of sight down the hallway, I laid back in my somewhat itchy bed and sighed.
I had decided to let Min go. She was too good for me anyway. However, letting Min go didn’t mean I didn’t want to know she was safe. Of course, the answer to that question was simple. Min was a previous lover of mine. The Stalker ability could quickly and easily ascertain her situation. If it worked, she was alive. If it didn’t work, she was dead. So, why didn’t I use it?
If I used the skill and it didn’t work, what would I do? I’d know for certain that Min was dead. Would I sink into despair? Would I spend the next month barely eating and crying every night? No, the thing I feared the most wasn’t how I would react. I feared that when it was all done, I wouldn’t react. What if I felt nothing? This world broke me. My high mental resistance made the horrors of this world palpable. Any normal woman would, at the very least, suffer from PTSD if not become a gibbering mess. I recognized this. I recognized my thoughts were no longer normal.
So, how did I truly feel about Min? Had I just used her all of this time to escape any personal responsibility. Would I truly care when she was gone? Those were answers I didn’t want to find. Those were thoughts I didn’t want to have.
“Is she a friend?”
The words weren’t my own. They came through the wall. It was a lot easier to tell now that there was a cell next to mine, and this woman appeared to be in the neighboring cell.
“She was… someone who was left behind.” I hesitantly responded, not wanting to explain myself.
“I understand.” The woman through the wall responded.
I breathed a sigh of relief. At the very least, with this stranger, she understood the desire to keep to yourself. At the very least, I had someone to talk to. We didn’t speak of anything of much importance. She told me of how she had come to this place. She had been out picking herbs when an monster attacked. Her protective brother told her to run. He had promised he would find her. He didn’t.
She had become lost and nearly starved. Upon collapsing after a week of exposure, it was then that the cambions came. At first, she had thought they were her saviors. She had shouted for them to come to her. Then she had realized they were cambions. At that point, she was too weak to resist. She ended up being dragged back to their village.
She hadn’t said the cambion colony was a village, but I quickly gained the understanding that cambions were just as capable as demons or humans. It was clear by the way she and Peers talked that they had built a small secluded village in the forest, only feeding off scraps they could catch nearby. Scraps being people like me and her. Nearly dead, unconscious people who might have died in the wilderness if we hadn’t been saved by them.
Did that mean Min was also being fed on at the moment? No, I couldn’t think about that. The temptation to use Stalker returned when I thought about it. How would I react if I saw through Min’s eyes as she was being ravaged by some incubus? Well, as long as there was doubt, I didn’t have to face that dilemma.
Instead, I decided to simply worry about myself right now. Of course, I tried to provide the woman in the wall Eva some emotional support as well. At the very least, she staved off some of the boredom I was feeling trapped in this cell. But talking to her sometimes made me feel a bit like a sociopath. As she cried about the horribleness she endured, I struggled to empathize with her. The acts she depicted as horrifying were the same acts I enthusiastically enjoyed. It became difficult to understand each other on a fundamental level when we saw the world so differently. In the end, I realized I was only acting sympathetic. The feelings just weren’t there.
At some point a man came to deliver food. The food wasn’t particularly impressive. The illusion likely improved on it greatly. It was some thickened soup made to fill someone up. I decided one of my next steps here would be improving my food situation. Like Peers, the man was extremely attractive to look at. Unlike Peers, when I gave him a flirtatious smile he only responded with a snort. It seemed like he was aware that I was no longer under the affects of the illusion.
When he headed to the cell next to mine, I heard the rattle of keys and the door being opened. For me, there was a slot he slid the food into, so the difference immediately caught my interest.
“No, no, no, no, no!” A woman was screaming.
It was of course Eva. I couldn’t see what was going on, but I could hear the ruffle of sheets and ragged breaths as she kicked and resisted. There was a thump as the bed was forcibly shoved, and then all I could hear were her whimperings. It was hardly the hard-thrusting sex I was used to. It was quiet, muffled, and reserved. It was the sound of an unwilling woman being raped.
I fell down to my butt, my food untouched. Missing the bed, I ended up landing on the dirt floor. Tears fell down my face as I silently cried. However, I didn’t cry because of the trauma. I cried because I felt no trauma at all. Rape is horrifying? Mental fortitude stole that away from me. I cried because a woman nearby was being raped, and I felt nothing. No, feeling nothing would be considered a blessing. I felt excited. People next to me were having sex, and my impulses responded with sexual excitement. I was wet, and horny, and I wanted to touch myself while listening to the ragged breathing being shared by the two people next to me. The only reason I didn’t was because the thought disgusted me too much. At least, I hadn’t crossed that line yet.
However, I wasn’t horrified by these acts in the slightest. In fact, I felt sympathy for the monsters who needed the sex to live. That was what horrified me. I frightened myself.
“That’s right… I’m no longer human.” I whispered to myself.
I spoke to this woman. I tried to sympathize with her. However, I wasn’t like her anymore. I was like the cambions. I was like a sex demon. Even speaking to her had only been to satisfy my own boredom. Nothing I did came from compassion or love anymore. I had sex more than anyone, but at this moment, I realized I had lost the capacity to feel love.
“I hate this world.” I muttered as the man finished up and the cell door creaked open and locked shut.
This world had broken me. I had accepted that since the first week in the goblin cave. However, the extent of my broken nature was starting to come crashing home. It only reinforced that this village might very well be the place I deserved to be. This was my home.
A few hours later, Peers had returned. I wore a smile on my face as I greeted him and the pair of us fell back on my bed. I ignored the reality that I was extremely turned on by the time he arrived because of the noises of sex I had to listen to. We had incredibly sex again, and he left. This started to become a routine.
His visits continued on for nearly a week. I occasionally asked him more about the village and he spoke reservedly. He didn’t mention Min and I didn’t ask. He also started to come with better food. Vegetables, fruit, and decent stews that made me look forward his visits for more than just good sex. He started coming three times a day, and the worry that furrowed his brow the first couple of days started to disappear. Instead, his lips started to match my smile.
Occasionally, I would talk to Eva. However, she seemed to grow more and more silent as the week went on. Every day during the handing of lunch, she would face the rape from that man. It seemed like each succubus fed from the same person. As I could hear their acts, she could likely hear me with Peers too. The difference between our encounters were so vast, it was a wonder that she hadn’t grown more suspicious earlier. Clearly, we weren’t the same. Did she think I was insane? However, she didn’t ask me about my behavior, and I didn’t ask her about hers. It was a place where everyone kept their secrets, and it suited me just fine.
Then one day, Peers didn’t come. I had been dumping my gruel soup away and had been depending on Peers entirely for meals. So, as a result, I hadn’t eaten all day. My stomach growled uncomfortably as night started to set in. My neighbor cried herself to sleep without talking to me, and I was pacing back and forth in the room, a little concerned that the last week with Peers had amounted to nothing. I had hoped the trust would build to the point where I could leave my cell soon.
That was when the door suddenly opened and Peers walked in. He looked haggard and messy, his expression slightly panicked. I looked on in shock as he ran up to me and grabbed my shoulders.
“What? What is it?” I asked worriedly.
“We have to go.”
“What?” I was surprised my thoughts so closely matched what he said.
“I’m helping you escape. We have to leave now.”
“Now? Why, what happened?”
“We’ll talk later, here take this.” Peers pushes a robe at me with a hood that would cover my face and immediately starting pacing impatiently. “Put it on.”
“Alright.” I responded, starting to put the robe on over the raggy clothing that they had provided me. “But, if we’re leaving… Peers, is Min okay?”
Peers’ pacing immediately stopped and his expression fell. “The elf? We… we found an elf not far from where you were picked up. She was badly wounded. The council decided to feed on her before she died. Aria, I’m so sorry. The elf didn’t make it. She’s dead.”
I froze. “Oh.”