Advent of the Soul – Chapter 4

Sunlight slowly began to shine through small spaces between the inner curtains as morning crept forward. On a large futon below said curtains a lone pair of occupants rested peacefully. While one was fully content to stay within the confines of the subconscious the other was beginning to awaken. Without any other movements a pair of green eyes opened groggily.

‘…time to get up…’ Running a hand though his hair, Drake propped himself up with his free arm.

“…haa…” ‘…gotta admit, I haven’t slept that good in a while. Now where’s that damn clock…’ Looking about, he could only make out dark shapes with the lack of light. What light he could see came from the curtain drawn window before him.

‘…odd, could’ve sworn the window was behind my bed…’ Dropping his hand it soon came to rest on something warm. Blinking he turned to his hand, wondering what he was touching. He would have thought it was one of his cats, but the smooth texture obliterated that notion. Vision clearing as he woke further, Drake began to notice features that he had earlier missed.

A scaly, clawed hand rested peacefully under his own, positioned as if ready to shake his hand. Eyes trailed up the arm, soon coming to rest upon the body. Even in the low light, Drake could make out the curves of the body, very feminine curves. Between the figures arms rested a healthy pair of breasts, pressed firmly together to create quite the tantalizing view of cleavage. Casting a quick glance further left, he found a dipping waist and flaring hips that few women could ever hope to have.

Moving back, he gave this ‘valley of heaven’ another appreciative glance, before looking further right. While the body was certainly pleasing to his eyes, it was the face of this sleeping beauty that made him pause. Breath caught in his throat, he made no sound or movement, as if doing otherwise would disturb the goddess before him.

Eyes closed and face relaxed, the woman before him looked completely at peace. Gazing at her parted lips, he could just pick up the soft sound of her breathing, slow and methodical.

Despite her beauty something was bothering Drake, yet with his mind half-awake, he couldn’t figure it out. He gazed over her other features, hoping they would give him a clue. Thankfully the light had only grown brighter, making Drake’s task much easier. At the sight of the horns atop her head, and the luscious lavender hair that flowed across her frame, it all came to him.

Mer’ndra, the Ryu that had found him on the bank of the lake last night; the mamono that had taken him into her home and fed him a warm meal, and the woman that attempted to seduce and coerce him to become her husband.

His hand clenched at that last part, but relaxed when he remembered the events after. His refusal, her tears, his reasoning, her understanding… It boggled his mind still, how she seemed to recover so quickly last night. His eyes trailed over her tail absentmindedly, slowly following the curve as it went around his side of the bed.

Drake turned back when he felt a pressure on his hand. He found her clawed hand gripping his own, soft murmurs accompanying it as she ruffled slightly. Her mouth opened as she released a cute yawn, bleary eyes blinking open slowly. Once in focus, she turned her soft amber orbs to him, smiling sweetly.

“Hmm, good morning Drake.” He gave her as half-grin.

“Heh, morning to you too Mer.” Amber looked into Green before a small squeeze gave Drake a reminder.

“Ah, um, Mer? Suppose I could have my hand back?” Blinking as her mind tried to break down what he said into something she could understand, she looked to her own hand. Her right hand held the gold orb as it always did, her left…

“Oh, hahaha ha…” She quickly released his hand from hers, laughing nervously as her face gained a healthy flush; a bit more awake now. He chuckled good-naturedly, letting her know he was more amused than upset. Face still red, Mer’ndra removed the covers and got up from the futon, moving to the windows. Feeling he knew what was coming, Drake closed his eyes as he stretched. His forethought proved correct for when the Ryu moved the curtains aside, morning sunlight streamed through the windows.

Still, Drake winced at the abrupt change in light. Opening them gradually he allowed his eyes to adjust as Mer’ndra opened the window wide, before moving to the other. As she busied herself with the second window directly in line with the futon, Drake stood as he finished stretching.

Sighing in content Drake had to admit for the second time, if only to himself, of how well he had slept. He wasn’t a pro by any means in terms of telling time without a clock, but if the days were anything like back home in the mid-summer, he’d guess it was around 7AM. Not that it really mattered much, but he was still amazed; while not much of a morning person, he’d usually be fully awake in about half an hour. Yet here, the same had happened in less than 10 minutes… must have been the food.

Putting those thoughts aside, Drake absentmindedly noted that the room had grown brighter, seeing as his draconic hostess had opened the other curtains. Looking out the open window Mer wasn’t at, a relaxed smile appeared on his face. The clear blue waters glittered in the morning sunlight and were very calm. In the distance he could just make out a line of deep green; he surmised it was the surrounding forest. A large mass loomed beyond the tree line, which Drake was surprised to recognize were mountains.

A soft breeze came through the window suddenly, making him release sounds of contentment as the air seemed to caress his face and torso. His eyes closed as he enjoyed the sensation, feeling it pass through his ruffled hair. Hearing the sound of hinges moving to his left, Drake opened his eyes as he looked to Mer’ndra, her back to him as the girl released her own sigh of contentment while her golden orb floated beside her. Eyes still closed she turned to face the only male in the house with a smile.

“Beautiful view, isn’t it?” She never noticed the look of shock that crossed his face, nor the blush.

“Y-Yeah it is…” How could he think otherwise? It seemed that her top had loosened during the night, for before Drake were Mer’ndra’s breasts in full view. Larger than a mere handful, they looked full and firm under his gaze, moving almost hypnotically as she breathed. That became more apparent as she stretched, her hands reaching above her head, puffing out her chest as if reflexively. He couldn’t help but stare, even if he knew it wouldn’t help his current situation at all. Thanks to her top still tied well enough at the waist, her full modesty was still safe while at the same time bringing the pair of globes closer together.

Memories of last night shook him from his stupor. Yes, her breasts were large and marvellous, but they were only one part of her body. Looking up to her face, his eyes soon met hers as she finished her stretch. He gave a nervous smile in return for her own.

“Uh Mer? I think you might need to do a little… re-adjusting.” He idly scratched his cheek with a finger as she tilted her head to one side.

“Ara?” Blinking, she wondered what he meant before feeling a soft breeze across her chest. Glancing down, her face turned nonplussed.

“Mou, not again. This happens every morning.” Hands on her hips, she huffed in annoyance with a pout. Drake, on his part, was thoroughly confused by her reaction. Wasn’t she supposed to freak and try to cover her modesty? Or hit him instead? With that tail of hers she could – wait. He reminded himself, not for the first time, that the woman before him wasn’t human, but mamono. For them life was far more carefree and not so reserved as most humans were.

Eyes closing, he sighed as he ran a hand through his hair, straightening it a little. It was too early for this kind of excitement as far as Drake was concerned. Chuckling ruefully, he looked upon the dragoness, thankful that she was covered once more, just finishing the readjustments to her attire. Not that he wasn’t enjoying the view but realistically this wasn’t going to help any. A giggle interrupted his thoughts.

Focusing on his hostess, he found her giving him a very amused look of coy, her hand failing to hide her sly smile. She looked him up and down multiple times, he wondered what she could be thinking…

“Looks like I’m not the only one in need of some… readjusting.” Another burst of giggling escaped her as Drake gazed at her, somewhat confused. Turning to the floor to think, he caught sight of something rather large, and pointing straight towards Mer’ndra. His reaction was instantaneous.

“GAH!” Reaching forth with both hands to cover his still clothed member, he spun on his heel to cover his embarrassment. But luck just wasn’t with him that morning. Standing on loose sheets, the momentum of his spin, and having both arms close to the body essentially made Drake spin like a top before falling onto the futon in a heap.

There was a moment of silence before the sound of crystal clear laughter resounded within the residence. Drake laid there on the futon, partly wrapped in the sheets, frowning as his face flushed a deep red from embarrassment. While his blush was slow to disperse, the frown had readily changed into exasperation. He knew she wasn’t laughing at him but at his actions; it didn’t make it any less embarrassing. Untangling himself from his cocoon, Drake stood without further issue, facing away from the dragoness.

Her laughter had subsided into giggling, wiping away the unbidden tears from her amusement. If every day turned out like this morning, she wouldn’t have any complaints. She watched as he pulled on his tattered pants, buckling his belt soon after. He then held his shirt, or what was left of it, for inspection. He turned it around, to see all sides of the ruined garment. With a resigned sigh, he shook his head before slipping the shirt on.

Mer’ndra was immediately reminded of Drake’s situation, her earlier good cheer subsiding. Stuck in a world not his own with no knowledge to its purpose, carrying only a personal trinket and the clothes on his back of which even those wouldn’t last long. Coming to a decision, she slithered close behind him, resting a hand on his shoulder.

Turning to face her, he found her round eyes filled with kindness and something he couldn’t discern.

“Hey. What do you need?” He frowned in confusion when she shook her head.

“It isn’t what I need Drake, but what you need.” At his questioning glance she elaborated. “Your clothes are both dirty and in tatters. You won’t be traveling anywhere dressed as you are now.”

He gave her a weak chuckle. “Yeah well, it’s not like I have a spare change of clean clothes to switch with.” She smiled as she guided him around the divider.

“Maybe you don’t, but I do.” She stopped him before he could speak. “Why don’t you get cleaned up while I make us some breakfast? When you’re done I’ll have a fresh set ready for you.” With that she gave him a nudge towards the bathroom door; his protests left unheard as she moved passed the divider, golden orb following soundlessly.

Blinking as her form moved once more to the kitchen, Drake chuckled with light mirth. Knowing he wouldn’t get anywhere by arguing, he made his way to the bathroom door. Strangely, the entry to the washroom was a sliding door and not a hinged one. Giving a light shrug, he opened the door and stepped inside.

Drake immediately found himself in the ‘changing room’. To his left were cubbies to put ones clothes, and on his right was a pair a shelves; one with towels, the other with a number of soaps. Looking at the soap bars curiously, he picked one up. Fitting in the palm of his hand, the bar was lime green in colour and giving a cursory sniff, he found it to have the hint of maple. Placing the bar back down, he rubbed his fingers together, surprised to find no residue present.

‘Now that’s odd. Even when dry, a bar of Zest back home would leave something on your hands, even if it came right out of the package. Then again, with the lower level of technology everything here would be 100% natural…not to mention the use of magic…’ Turning from the odd soaps, he placed a hand on the doorway before him, using the other to part the flaps above him.

He gazed about at the one thing he knew for sure would connect Japan and Zipangu, if nothing else. Cool grey stone tiles covered the floor, surrounding a bathtub that covered near three quarters of the entire room. It was currently empty at the moment, allowing Drake to see the soft marble that layered the tub. The walls were covered in a rich tan hardwood, a few shades darker than the rest of Mer’ndra’s home. The same was used for the lip of the tub, which gave the room a rich, earthy scent; Oak if he guessed correctly.

Drake had never actually used a Japanese bath before or had been to Japan for that matter, much to his chagrin. But now it looked like he’d get the chance after all.

Feeling something hit his head, Drake looked up to find a riveted ceiling. Each side converged to a centre grate that released some of the steam he surmised. Shifting his gaze he looked over the rest of the bath. In the small area surrounded by the tub sat a single wooden stool and a pair of wooden buckets.

This he wasn’t surprised by; seeing plenty of anime that featured bath scenes Drake knew how different the bathing habits of Japan were, compared to the rest of the world.

Looking once more to the tub all he found was a single wooden faucet that would let water pour in, and nothing else. No taps, no levers, not even a bell cord. Looking over the walls for any telltale sign, his eyes noticed a large knot in a wood panel that didn’t seem to fit to his immediate right. Feeling with his fingers it sunk into the wall with a muffled click. Instantly, water gushed forth from the faucet, soon covering the bottom of the bath within seconds.

For a moment he simply stared, listening as the hot waters filled the tub. Soon however, he left the bath; he still needed to ask about the soaps after all.

Coming through the doorway, Drake emerged to the sound of Mer’ndra’s soft humming. She had yet to leave the kitchen area, surrounded by an assortment of pots and bowls. Her back was facing Drake as he approached, where he noticed she was wearing an outfit identical to yesterday. Raising a fist, he cleared his throat, the sound sharp in the morning air. The Ryu’s soft humming came to a halt, her head perking in an instant.

“Hmm?” She looked over her shoulder, amber eyes soon landing on Drake. Giving a soft smile she turned to him, drying her large hands in her apron.

“Is there something you need Drake?” She cocked her head to the side, causing a slight heat to flare on the man’s face.

“Uh… N-no, there’s nothing wrong. Just, I was trying to figure out which of your soaps I could use but…” He trailed off with a nervous chuckle, feeling the fool.

She blinked at him, before her smile grew. Releasing a giggle into her clawed hand, she grabbed his arm with her other arm and hugged the limb close. Unlike last night, his arm wasn’t immediately sandwiched between her breasts as he expected, but rather, simply pressing against him. He blinked owlishly as another fit of giggles escaped her.

“It’s alright Drake, with how many there are it’s not surprising.” She moved forward, Drake offering no resistance as they soon stood in the ‘change’ room once more. Letting go of his arm Mer gave him the green bar, the one that smelled like maple. Holding it up at eye level Drake again took note of its plane features; no distinguished markings to speak of and lime green with speckles of a darker shade.

“This bar here is that I use for my hair.” Brows raised in surprise he blinked at the Ryu before looking back at the little green bar in his hand. He turned it over with his fingers again, marveling still at the lack of residue.

“You probably go through a lot of these little bars with how long your hair is.” He quipped with a half-smile. She sighed in exasperation while placing her hands on her hips.

“I know! Each one lasts about a month until I need to grab another; I’ve still got plenty in storage but still!” Mer had the cutest pout on her face which made Drake chuckle aloud; her face flushed with her embarrassment. Taking pity on the woman he decided to changes things up.

“So if this one’s for you hair, what do you use for your face and body?” She immediately picked up on the change and sent a small smile his way. Reaching over she grabbed another bar and placed in his other hand; this time a light pink.

“This is the one I use; I don’t know how they make them but it almost feels like you’re washing yourself with a cloud, it feels so smooth. “ Nodding he took her word for it, feeling the different textures each bar hand in his hands. The green one felt almost creamy to the touch, like those back home. The pink one instead felt almost like gel and reacted like rubber from a cursory squeeze. While he felt it was weird, he didn’t say anything about it.

“Water’s probably near done in the bath. I just press the button again to make it stop right?” She gave him a nod.

“Mhmm, just once. I’ll leave you to it while I make us some breakfast. I’ll call when it’s ready.” He made a sharp nod with a smile.

“Alright, wouldn’t miss it.” With a smile of her own she turned and left, leaving Drake by himself. Shrugging off what used to be a plain white shirt he rolled it up and placed it in an empty bin. Putting the soap bars on the shelf he freed his hands to finish undressing. Placing them in the bin with his shirt he grabbed a free towel, the bars and then reentered the bath.

True to his word the tub was nearly filled, steam wafted lazily from the hot waters which instantly dampened his hair and face as he walked through it. Pressing the button halted the waters flow from the tap, and with it the bath became near silent; small droplets fell from the ceiling making small splashes as it met the larger body of water below.

It didn’t really take Drake all that long to wash himself but he still took his time with it, knowing that this would probably be the last time he’d have the luxury in a long while. It felt good to get all the dirt and grime off; he felt more refreshed pouring another bucket of water over himself than when he first got up this morning. After returning the soap bars where they belonged, Drake lowered himself into the bath proper with a sigh of content.

Closing his eyes he let himself drift, letting his mind go blank as he idly ran his hand over the top of the water. His small moment of peace was interrupted by a small water drop hitting his already wet hair. Opening his eyes he laughed lightly as another fell onto his head. He moved to another spot and tried to relax once more as he stared at the ceiling.

This…..just felt all too surreal. He still couldn’t believe it, hell Drake half expected to close his eyes and reopen them only to find himself at his desk. Yet when he closed his eyes and reopened them, that same riveted ceiling was all that greeted him. The man didn’t know how long he laid there, staring at the ceiling but for just a moment, he was at peace.

His surrealist peace was interrupted once more, but not by a water droplet.

“Drake? Breakfast is ready.” Blinking a moment he shook his head while smiling.

“I’ll be right out, ok Mer?” He heard what sounded like a soft giggle before it drifted off.

“Alright, but don’t take too long else the food will get cold.” Chuckling he remained in place for a time then stood from the water none too silently. Grabbing the towel from the stool Drake dried himself off, secretly relishing the feel of the soft towel to himself before wrapping it around his waist.

Sure, last night he felt exhilarated at the thought of where he was, but at the time he was still in shock over everything. The sleep helped wear some of it off and let him think with more clarity. If he were to be completely honest with himself; the truth of it all made him apprehensive as hell.

Stepping into the change area once more he found another of the drawers ajar, to the left of the one he first used. Pulling the drawer out further Drake found not his torn and ragged shirt and pants, but a new set of clothes cleaned and ready for him. Smiling despite himself, he pulled out the new clothes which were a pair of burgundy draw-string pants and a white long sleeved shirt that sported a collared v neck.

Both articles felt light in his hands, the material looked breathable yet was smooth to the touch. He briefly wondered how this was possible with cotton but quickly dismissed the thought; he was holding a new set of clothes and he had yet to put them on. Draping the clothes over one shoulder he placed the towel in what looked like the dirty hamper, before looking in the drawer to see if he missed anything. Surprisingly enough he found a simple leather belt with an iron buckle and his boxer shorts, which much like the top part of his jeans were unscathed. Shaking his head at such luck he quickly got himself dressed.

After putting on the shirt the warrant question of what to do with the belt passed through his mind, there weren’t any loops on the pants so that wasn’t the reason. So why- The answer came to him as he batted at the lower length of his billowy white shirt. Smiling sheepishly to himself for not noticing sooner, Drake looped the belt around his waist and made it tight enough so it hung from his hips. After some minor adjusting he walked into the main area to find Mer putting the last of the dishes on the table.

The Ryu turned at the sound of the bathroom door opening and closing, only to gain a very healthy blush on her face as she gazed at Drake. Everything fit perfectly on him which was a pleasant surprise; Mer was a little worried about whether they would fit or not. Sure both the pants and shirt were loose but she could better see his frame from a glance and did he ever look handsome to her eyes. Stopping her train of thought before it went too far south, she addressed him pleasantly.

“I see the clothes fit well, how do they feel?” Drake stretched out, both to test his mobility and just to stretch in of itself.

“They feel pretty good actually; smooth against the skin and not irritating at all.” He held a pleasant smile on his face as he rolled a shoulder, liking the feel of the material. Mer giggled a little, pleased with Drake’s assessment. She idly noted that he still wore his necklace, the v-cut of the shirt partially keeping it out of full view. Turning back to the counter she picked up a set of bowls.

“I reheated some of last night’s stew again; there wasn’t much left so why waste it.” He gave her a nod as they walked over to the table once more.

“Smart thing to do really. Besides, I’m never one to turn down leftovers, especially a stew like this.” Mer smiled at the hidden compliment to her cooking, placing the bowls down before sliding her tail under the table once more. Drake followed her example and slid his legs into the hidden space below, sitting comfortably.

There was a comfortable silence for a time as the pair dug in, the hearty meal both warm and satisfying. Mer’ndra gazed at Drake from the corner of her eye, watching as he took his time with every mouthful, relishing the taste. Sure he would probably look better after a shave due to those uneven patches on his cheeks, but to her it did nothing to hide or deter how handsome he was. Mentally shaking her head again, she tried to think up something that wouldn’t lead her to throwing the table aside and ravishing him then and there. Memories of last night came forth, cooling her off and giving her the perfect topic to speak about.

“So Drake, do you have any idea as to where you’ll go?” Pausing as he just took in another mouthful of stew, he turned to her, blinking. Taking the spoon from his mouth he began to chew thoughtfully, taking a moment before swallowing.

“Well… not really…” He gave her a helpless shrug. “Like I said, I don’t know anything about these lands or the people, so I don’t know who exactly to speak with nor how to get there. Whoever I do speak to, I’ll have to be sure they have knowledge on powerful teleportation spells, or might know someone who does first. To find my way home I have to figure out who brought me here in the first place, the why I’ll figure out as I go.” Placing her spoon down for the moment Mer held a clawed digit to her chin in thought.

“And then once you discover who the culprit is you’ll venture to find them.” He gave her a small smile with a nod, eyes closed.

“Exactly. Once I find them, I do whatever I can to get them to send me back.” Not noticing her flinch or the golden orb stopping in midair for a moment, he continued on with another bite of stew, enjoying the taste.

“Don’t get me wrong, being here probably wouldn’t be that bad, but I don’t belong here. I belong in my home, in my own world.” This time he looked up at her, noticing the faint trace of sadness in her eyes before she looked down at her bowl once more, the orb now bobbing in a somewhat solemn fashion. Drake looked back to his stew as well, holding back a sigh as he took another bite.

The silence was wholly uncomfortable as there was a noticeable awkwardness in the air. Mulling through his thoughts Drake tried to think up a new topic to distract them both…that’s it!

“So Mer, after we leave the lake where do we head first?” His eyes met hers as she looked up, a bit of surprise found in those amber orbs.

“Oh! Ah… well, there’s a small town nearby, to the north of here. There we can grab what supplies we need but after that, well…that depends if you’ve got a destination in mind.” He gave a light snort.

“Which I don’t have yet.” With pursed lips and crossed arms Drake stared at the table, as if it held the answers he needed. Mer’ndra looked at him before releasing a silent sigh, back to square one it seemed. Knowing where they were going first before anything was good, for the short term. What they needed was more long term, an end goal of sorts that they could strive towards but what could it be? Her mother had told that when sear-

“That’s it!” With a gasp her eyes lit up with excitement.

“Wha- what’s it?” The Ryu’s sudden exclamation had ripped him from his inner thoughts with a great jolt. As his heart steadied Drake could see Mer nearly as excited as when they met face to face last night.

“My mother, Drake! She’s someone you can ask about last night and how you got here!” Blinking, his mind was quick to process what the mamono was saying.

“Wait, your mo- but she’s-”

“Like me, she’s a Ryu but she’s lived for at least a century Drake if not more, think about it! She’d definitely know a thing or two about powerful spells and those that could use them.” Her face held a smile that Drake felt could be infectious. He held it off though as he rested an elbow on the table, scratching the side of his jaw with the opposite hand.

“I don’t want to bust your bubble Mer but, wouldn’t your mom find it odd that you’ll be travelling with a guy for who knows how long, and you aren’t married yet?” The question caught the Ryu flat footed a moment, blinking before idling scratching her cheek with a claw.

“Well… I-I’m sure we’ll think of something by the time we get there, hehe.” She gaze a nervous laugh before pointing at him. “Anyway, it’s the only lead we’ve got, right? Could be worse couldn’t it?” Drake looked to the table again, moving his head from side to side. Grasping his chin with a hand Drake turned pensive to hide his thoughts.

As much as he didn’t want to admit it, Mer’s idea held merit. If her mother was as old as Mer made her sound, then there was a pretty big chance that meeting the elder Ryu could prove fruitful. And it wasn’t as if they couldn’t take smaller leads on the side right? Who knows what they might stumble across?

Truth be told however, Drake had his reservations about seeing Mer’s mother. This was Mer’s Mom they were talking about after all. The young Ryu may have been a bit understanding if sad to the whole ‘I can’t became your husband’ shtick, but her mother? Odds are she wouldn’t be as understanding.

So yes, on the one hand meeting the mother whose daughter’s heart you broke is not something Drake would like to face thank you very much. As pessimistic as it sounded he was sure the elder Ryu wouldn’t take no for an answer even with his reasons.

On the other hand though, during however long it’ll take to reach Mer’s mother they might figure out a way to make the eventual meeting not so nerve racking on Drake’s part. Hell, might even find a way home before then!

He gave himself a nod; like Mer said it could be worse. He could have been found by a slime or even worse a Dark Elf! Drake held back a shiver at that thought and turned to his mamono host.

“Well, you got a point. Since it’s the only lead we have we might as well take it and see where it goes.” He quickly finished the last of the stew before focusing on the Ryu once more.

“Alright, so what’s our path? If your mother is in Zipangu how are we going to get there?” He watched as she finished the rest of her own stew before putting her bowl down. Raising a finger to her cheek she hummed before perking up.

“I’ve got it, we’ll retrace the steps I made to get here. Give me a second and I’ll show you.” With that she turned from the table to the shelf behind her, scanning the scrolls and tomes with contemplating eyes. Drake meanwhile had moved back from the table and stood up, stretching his legs a little before wordlessly picking up the empty bowls and taking them to the sink. Mer caught this from the corner of her eye just as she came upon the tomes she needed. When Drake came back he got a thankful smile.

“You didn’t have to do that Drake.” He gave a shrug.

“I don’t mind, personally. Besides, it gives you more room on the table to work with.” Sitting back down he looked at Mer with an expectant look, one that she returned with a confident smile. Opening the tome in her scaled hands she flipped a few pages, stopping at what looked like a folded piece of parchment wedged between the pages. Pulling it out she closed the tome before setting it aside, taking the parchment and begun unfolding it with care.

To Drake the map looked like something straight out of a fantasy novel, like Lord of the Rings or something. While the parchment wasn’t frayed or damaged, it was far from the white coloured paper back home with its mix of yellow and brown hues. As he expected, the black lines running across the parchment formed a land mass he didn’t recognize, accentuated by the list of words of places he’d never heard of. The Iron Mountains? Moranath? Cold Breach? Yeah, this definitely wasn’t home.

His eyes were all over the map until he spotted a large circle on the lower right of the map, which appeared somewhat close to the eastern coast if he read it right. Inside the circle was what looked like a lake alongside a rough square somewhat above it. The small block had a name written above it, it was overlapped slightly by the penned circle but Drake felt he could make it out well enough. He tapped the area with a finger.

“This area here is where we are, right? And the village you spoke about earlier to the North is this place here, Daruune, right?” Looking at Mer he received a smile and a nod.

“Yes, that’s right. You were close with the city though, it is called Daruumed.” Drake gave a nod as Mer tapped the area lightly with a claw. “Daruumed isn’t that large but it does lie on the main road we need to take to reach the port on the coach.” She trailed her claw along the parchment before reaching another block, this one nestled right on the coast.

“This is Water’s Gate, the port I arrived at when I finished my voyage across the ocean from my homeland of Zipangu to this land here, called Malaven. It’s about a 3 days walk between Water’s Gate and Daruumed, at least that’s how long it took me.” Drake gave an understanding nod.

“Alright. So once we get to Water’s Gate, and say we get a ship going to Zipangu that very day, how long would we be at sea for?” The Ryu bobbed her head from side to side as she pondered the question.

“Well, if good weather holds like it did on my voyage here, about a week and a half, give or take.”

Drake blinked. “That’s… quite a bit of time on the water. Lot of time to think.”

Mer gave a nod. “Mhmm. By the time we get to Zipangu we should be able to figure something out. Speaking of, once we get to Zipangu it’ll take us about another week to reach my mother’s temple.” ‘And another week to make things work between us.’ Don’t get her wrong, Mer wasn’t unkind by any means but that didn’t mean she was just going to give up after her first attempt failed. Drake was the one, she war sure of it; Mer just had to find some way to help him see it too. The man beside her released what sounded like a mix between a grunt and a sigh while scratching the back of his head.

“So it’ll be about 3 weeks at the least before I can meet your mother, if our luck holds out.” He shook his head ruefully. “Well, nothing to help it I suppose. Might as well get started then.”

Mer was a little confused over his wording but she still beamed at him at his want to cooperate.

“Great! I’ll get our packs set for the trip. Why don’t you wait out on the veranda while I get everything ready?” Mer saw his face become unreadable while he blinked.

“You sure? I mean, is there nothing I can do to help out?” The Ryu felt her heart warm at the question but shook her head, giving the man a compassionate smile while placing her hand over his own.

“It’s sweet of you to offer, and I appreciate it, but for right now I’ll get it done faster on my own.” Drake wasn’t offended by the refusal, not really. He gave a nod and once Mer released his hand from her grasp he stood from the table, stretched, then wordlessly made his way outside.

Mer watched him go, a small frown occupying her visage once Drake closed the door behind him. Folding up the map she stood from the table before grabbing a blue scroll from the shelf, her golden ball floating beside her. Unravelling the scroll revealed a series of sigils and symbols, forming many circular designs. Mer would have to thank her friend for teaching her how to use these seals, otherwise she wouldn’t have ever been able to leave home with all she needed on her own. They were so invaluable, she could see why her Kunoichi friends used them.

She turned to her thoughts as she began to store away all her other scrolls and tomes, her body on autopilot.

She’d admit, if only to herself, that last night most certainly did not go the way she thought or wanted. The ache in her heart didn’t abate despite the smile she put up, and wasn’t likely to leave anytime soon. She just couldn’t wrap her mind around it; Drake was certainly interested but he still pulled away. Why? It wasn’t because of her looks that much she knew, that bulge in those strange pants of his wouldn’t be there otherwise. Maybe she came across too strongly? This was the first night they had met after all…

She sighed. Looking at the now empty book shelves she moved across the room to the kitchen. She thought back to last night, the reasons he gave for refusing her advances. To be honest, if this were in any other circumstances she would have been sure Drake needed some help upstairs. Coming from another world? Unheard of. Then again, her mother did say that Lord Poseidon and the other gods lived apart from this world…

Mer shook her head, she was getting off topic. What helped Drake was that he had proof to back up his claim, that and she believed him. As crazy as it sounded what he said made sense, she could feel it. That and something about him just seemed…different, she couldn’t put her claw on it but there was something about him that drew her attention.

Nearly done with her packing she turned her thoughts to changing Drake’s mind on staying, and quickly to her frustration she was drawing blanks. With a huff and puff of her cheeks she cleaned out the last cupboard to distract herself only to come across a familiar bottle. Holding it in her scaled hand Mer, for a moment, just stared at the bottle filled with the Succubus potion her mother had given her as a gift before leaving home.

Inside this bottle rested an answer to her troubles. Drinking this, Drake would become an incubus, his mind filled with lewd thoughts and would desire the mamono before him. Mer’ndra would then use her body to fulfill his every desire, helping him pour all his love into her and on her. It’s what she wanted, what any mamono wants but, why did she get she get a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach just thinking about this? Nothing made any sense. Mer released another sigh before looking at the door to her home away from home. She looked back and forth between the door and bottle, unsure of what to do…

Drake let out a breath after stretching his arms above his head. He looked over the waters as it glistened in the morning sun, resting his arms on the wooden guardrail. Closing his eyes he took in a deep breath, taking in the clean air and forest scents carried on the wind. For a time he let his mind go blank, the sound of moving waves and the feel of the breeze gave a very peaceful atmosphere. He didn’t know how long he just rested like that, but he wished he had a lawn chair to sit on.

Green eyes opened as a small frown appeared. 3 weeks. 3 weeks out there in a world where taking one wrong turn meant becoming the husband to one of the many sexually inclined denizens on the world for the rest of his natural life. Sighing he looked down at the waters below, catching sight of the necklace dangling to and fro from his neck. Grasping it he rubbed it pensively, thinking on the world full of challenges that lay ahead. The sound of a door opening pulled him his thoughts, turning to the source. He found his Ryu hostess moving through the door with a rucksack in each hand, a somewhat troubled look on her face.

“Everything alright Mer?” His voice snapped her out of whatever musings had held her.

“Ara? Oh! No, nothing’s wrong, just thinking about the trip.” He looked at her a moment before giving a nod. He didn’t want to prod her and make things possibly worse.

“Alright then, if you say so. Everything secure for the trip?” Here he got a smile.

“Yes, I’ve got everything we need aside from food for the trip, we’ll grab some in Daruumed then grab the rest we need at Water’s Gate.” A small grin crept on his face unbidden, a strange giddiness starting to bubble up.

“Cool, so which bag’s mine?” Again Mer gave him a look, confused on his choice of words before passing it off as one of his mannerisms. She passed Drake the bag in her left hand which he took with a nod of thanks before wordlessly throwing it over a shoulder. The action drew a giggle from the Ryu before a question of her own.

“How about you, do you have everything?” Drake gave her a nod.

“Yup, got my necklace and my-” He paused a moment before perking up, as if he suddenly realized something. Without a word he placed his pack on the ground before moving past Mer back into the house, leaving the Ryu to tilt her head in confusion. She watched as he went straight to the bathroom before quickly coming back out, a bundle held in his hand. Mer looked with some surprise as Drake came out, opened his pack and began stuffing in what remained of his strange pants and belt. Once done he turned back catching Mer’s look of surprise. He gave her a somewhat sheepish shrug before slipping his pack back on. He gained a confident smile.

“Now I have everything.” That seemed to snap Mer from her trance, where she gave him a smile in return. Closing the doors behind her, Mer moved to the side gate, her golden orb following dutifully. Drake turned back to the lake, trying to commit the view to memory. He felt a tap on his shoulder, turning to find Mer had used the tip of her tail to get his attention. Giving her a sheepish chuckle Drake strode towards Mer, taking his true first steps on the journey through this strange and wondrous world…

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