They say The Drink is much like life, no two people tasting the same flavor. The only coherent description you’d find would be its seemingly-impossible trait of being the best thing the person had ever tasted, no matter how wild in difference or contradictory all individual descriptions turn out to be. Taste, smell, consistency, nowhere would one find the same words. While the strange, black ichor-like beverage does have some odd effects like women becoming monsters, and men having increased sexual passions and vigor, many consumers report feeling generally happier with their lives.
Why, nobody knew. Better said, none seemed to care enough to find out.
“A drink! A drink here for our visitors!”
Visitors they were not, however. Mere bypassers, attention caught by the one so proudly boasting by a carriage on the side of the so-travelled street on top of a pile of crates. Out of the carriage itself, guarded by a giant towering boar-beast at the front, walked out a man carrying out yet another crate to the front, those she stood on.
White hair. Red eyes. wingless to the eye, existing yet shapeshifted away, yet horns and spade-ending tail still remained. Black lipstick contrasting such pale porcelain skin. As eccentric as her behavior was, so too were her clothes; all silk-smooth robes tied in so many parts, all so colorful to the eyes, even a near-transparent silk bandana lay covering her hair which flowed out in the shape of a hundred braids ending in jewels. A gypsy, anyone would immediately say.
“Has anybody heard any rumors about a black drink going around?” She asked, placing her hands on her waist and leaning forward with her ever-present smile, glancing at the little crowd that formed of monsters just bored enough to end their stroll. “No? What an honor to be the first one to speak of it, then!”
With a stomp on the crate, a little glass bottle filled with that strange black liquid broke through the closed crate’s top, flying up high just enough for her to grab it in mid-air. Behind her, however, the man stood immobile with a horrified look, the kind of which could convery with ease the sentence, ‘Do you have any idea how much those cost?!’
“Frederika’s the name, and the Black Drink is my trade!” She boasted, taking the cork off and letting its visible black trails of aroma escape for all to see. “Quenching your thirst is merely a bonus to what the magic within can do. Anyone have anything getting him or her down? Love life, physique, stamina, it matters not what it is, this drink will solve the problems you didn’t even know you had! So generous I am, that I might not even charge for a demonstration… Here!”
Jumping down from her pile of crates without spilling a drop and landing by the crowd, she extended the bottle with its cork still hanging by the thread tying it to the neck. Inevitably, all stepped back with skepticism in their faces, yet her smile still stood strong as ever.
“You don’t have to drink it. Just by smelling it alone you’ll find something… very fascinating!”
As she passed it by everyone, one monster in particular remained in place, though expression still giving away the same thoughts as the others. A lizard, she who wore a pair of glasses with a strange gaze wherever she looked, as if it were unfocused.
“Don’t fear, my girl. I promise it won’t do a thing. Just tell us all what you smell.”
Hesitating with the options of decline or acceptance, it took her a moment before she took enough courage to force her head forward. With a slight inhalation, the aroma flooded her senses, that of a surprisingly pleasant smell. Expression of fear died down as quickly as her paranoia of the strange liquid, soon to take a rather deep inhalation afterwards.
“Strawberry!” Repeated Frederika, loud enough for all to hear. With skepticism in the crowd easing down enough, the next monster she extended it to responded with curiosity rather than an immediate fear. A dragon, sporting the same type of obscured focus in her eyes, yet with the hint of dark circles under them revealing a different cause altogether. Her first inhalation had been deep, working a wider grin on Frederika by the trust she had managed to earn. And yet, at that moment, her brows furrowed in confusion.
“Chocolate!” Exclaimed Frederika. “What do we have here? First strawberry, and now chocolate? Someone must be smelling wrong! Or perhaps they aren’t…?”
Another, yet this time a man. ‘Man’, however, may have been too much of a word; a young adult, mayhaps. Same ordeal, yet now even quicker, progress of what confidence she mustered within them visible at every step. And just like the last one, baffled perplexity appeared within the second.
“A flower, a flower!” She said, taking the bottle back towards her as she took a step back. “Not even food flavors now, eh? Who wants to have the first taste?”
But nobody answered. Rather, all kept quiet, wishing deep down anyone else would step up; their fears intensified thousandfold as the inevitable occurred, Frederika beginning to look around for a volunteer which had not yet raised his hand. None trusted the chances of her suddenly picking them by mere chance.
Silent, Frederika stepped forward to the lizard once more; panic befell her, for she understood the lilim’s smile as anything but good. With a gentle movement, Frederika took off her glasses.
“…H-Hey!” Called the lizard in indignation, shock of Frederika’s proximity wearing off. Yet, her indignation died for the panic to return as the lilim put her face right in front of her, eyes staring into hers with less than a palm’s width between them.
“Ahh, so that’s what happened to your eyes… Those glasses must’ve barely helped, no?”
“Gather round!” She said, raising her bottle and glancing at the others. “What if I told you I’d cure this poor girl of her sight? That she’d be able to see a boy striking her fancy from kilometers away?”
Mutters and mumbles broke into the silence which had gathered, at the same time with the lizard blushing petrified. Breaking her trance, Frederika gently grabbed onto her arm and deposited the bottle on her palm, before taking a step back and staring with her silent smile; none need explain what she had to do. Staring at the bottle with fear, though so too with idealistic wonder, a flurry of ‘could it be?’ thoughts cascading into infinity within her mind, she found herself unable to command her arms to move. The sweet smell of strawberries contrasted with the look of molten ashes, a fear of the unknown filling her heart, yet with courage to match; fighting through it, she took a deep breath and quickly brought the neck of the bottle for a sip, quick enough for her to avoid any last-second hesitation.
And then, swallow.
Furrowed brows greeted Frederika immediately after the bottle had been lowered; no longer afraid, it had been replaced with a look of slight embarrassment, that of finding it so mundane in comparison to the greatest horrors she had imagined. Then, she smacked her lips in enjoyment of the aftertaste.
“Strawberry…” She mumbled.
“Strawberry!” Frederika raised her hands to boast at the crowds around her. Fascination and a few dumbfounded looks ensued, all aimed at the lizard. “It tastes like strawberry to her!”
However, a tear soon found its way out of her eyes, unbeknownst to her. Soon followed another, frightening her by the realization despite finding no reason for it, to then close her eyes and rub the watery stream emanating from them. Finishing with a damp hand and bottle still in the other, she blinked to stare at Frederika with a flurry of questions in her mind, yet they all had been erased, replaced instead with a look of absolute shock.
“Feeling different?” Asked the lilim, before glancing about far past the crowd. A step forward, and she nudged the lizard to turn by her shoulders, before pointing towards the distance within the street. “See that boy?”
“Huh?” Asked the lizard. “Uh… Yes, I s–“
Gasp. Hand to her mouth. Blushing, and growing teary eyed now with full reason.
“I get the feeling you’re both single!” She said, taking the bottle before pushing from behind. “Don’t waste any time! Go!”
No questions. No thoughts. Only a single-minded jog towards the boy. As Frederika followed with her eyes, she couldn’t help but notice the glasses still in her hand; none would need them anymore, as well-crafted as they looked.
Amazement from the crowd, ‘Oooohh’s of awe and stupefaction, flooding her ears like musical notes of an ecstatic melody.
“Who wants to try next?” She asked out loud.
“I do!” Said the dragon, strutting forward with her hand raised. Shock befell her as the surprisingly-friendly lilim threw her arm to rest behind her neck, as if both had known each other for millennia.
“What plagues you, my girl?”
“…I have insomnia. I can’t sleep. Every day I’m dead-tired and it just makes me look too irritable to find anyone!”
“Then, to us!” She cheered with bottle raised, a third empty already. Then, shocking the dragon even more, she placed it herself on her mouth, staring with eyes that just shouted ‘Chug! Chug! Chug!’
A loud gasp escaped her as Frederika took it off. Baffled and unreactive, the dragon soon looked at her palms as if the burning fires of a forge grew within her, tiredness dissipating; first with mere twirls of her fingers, then with firm grips and movements of her arms as a smile grew on her face just like how the dark circles disappeared.
“We’ll see how you sleep this night, girl! But… I think we can do more than that!” Her other arm then caught the third to smell the bottle in the same fashion, grunt of sudden horror following from her before he struck her body with his. “You, how about you?”
“Uhhh… I don’t know. I just came here to see what happened.”
“You can’t hide it from a lilim, boy. You’re single! Never taken! You know what kind of demon realm you are in, you should’ve found someone like two years ago! What brings it?”
“…I just never found the one I wanted.”
“Oh…?” She asked, closing in further for mere whispers to be heard between them. “What might it be that you’re after?”
Embarrassment befell him, struck silent for a moment.
“Oh my. Rare indeed, and yet you have one by my other arm. Plan on something?”
“I-I don’t know, what should I do? What should I tell her? It’s not like I can go up to her and–“
“Oh my sweet summer child!” She shouted out loud, leaning her head back for all to hear. Unavoidably, or almost in purpose, the man grew red as a scarlet. “Fear is the spice of life, and the main dish is the courage to act!”
Before he could even act, she let go of the dragon and rammed the bottle’s neck at his mouth; though protesting through it all, all of its contents left the container, switched into another. Not even a mere second to react had he been given, before she used her force to throw him against the dragon, making the two fall onto the ground, man over monster. No embarrassment resulted, however, not even a mere sorry, but instead a quiet stare into each other’s eyes before a joyous laughter started from nothing into a cacophony, both to embrace each other and they stood up. At the same time, furious applauses and cheers elevated, sight undeniable for the crowd.
At the ready, the man opened the crate which fell victim of such kinetic energy brought by the first bottle, to then throw her another. She caught it and took off the cork, to raise it and chug down, bottle left perfectly vertical with her head leaning back. After a gasp and her mouth passing to clean her mouth, she put the cork back and raised it high.
“Who wants another?!”
Many raised their hands, all chanting all manner of words to bring attention to themselves, yet with such noise only drowning out each other into an incoherent mess. She then lowered it before throwing it high aimed to fall within the crowd; as it fell, all raised hands neared towards the bottle like magnets. Around them, she soon noticed so many other people gathering, no doubt struck curious by the scenery happening on the street, and even a familiar face returned; the now glasses-less lizard, holding onto the arm of the boy she had targeted with both wielding a smile in their looks.
“I’m feeling generous, folks! Bottles for everyone! Let none be left wondering of the Black Drink’s miracles!”
With a clap of her hands, Maurice stepped back in absolute fright, for next to him the contents of a crate had disappeared in a cloud of smoke. There they reappeared in Frederika’s arms, carrying them all, soon to take one and throw it into the crowd for the same reaction.
“Love life, injuries, afflictions! Nothing these bad boys cannot cure!” She exclaimed, throwing one by one at different parts of the crowd, seeing it grow greater and great with those curious enough to arrive; all grabbed, all drank, all found themselves with such great smiles none had wielded before the first taste. So many people with their lives improved, so many customers who’d no doubt return… “Exhausted? Be renewed! Lonely? Throw it at your lawn and alraunes will transform! Even your mother-in-law can be fixed! Nothing is impossible, only the sky is the limit! “
Only one bottle she had been left with. Taking the cork out like the other, she drank it in the same manner as before.
“Hey, ‘Rika,” spoke Maurice, dragging another crate towards her, “you gonna need ano–“
Snap. With a mere swift movement, she embraced him and passionately let her lips connect with his. Immediately thereafter he felt the Black Drink running down his throat, fed it by her in such lewd manner, to soon grow out of the shock and embrace her back, pushing himself on her enough for her to lean back as he grabbed her. With his hands around her back and hers around his neck, the two continued silent before a loud gasp escaped the two as lips parted way.
“Do tell me next time you’re going to do that.” He said, seeing her giggling grin at his words.
“What better way to give them ideas than a demonstration?” She answered, smug as ever.
Such it was, the perfect crime: To sell demonic energy refined in liquid form.