Advent of the Soul – Chapter 3

Silence. Everything seemed to freeze in time for the pair. Drake didn’t meet her gaze, he couldn’t. With what he just uttered, the woman must be shell-shocked. If he looked at her now, his will would break as guilt and shame would overpower him. He didn’t know how long the silence stretched, but it felt like an age. The silence was broken by the solid thud of her golden orb dropping to the floor. It made him flinch.

“Y-you can’t-Wha…” Her voice was soft, shock permeable. What was going on? Her mind just couldn’t process his words, too shocked at the moment to think properly. She didn’t notice her hands beginning to shake.

“I’m sorry Mer, I never meant to look like I was pulling you around, only to let you down like this.” He was quiet, guilt clearly in his voice. He flinched when he heard a sniff. Dammit, did he have to make her cry too!?

“But, but why? Did *sniff* did I do something wrong? Is it because I haven’t let you take me yet? Or is it… is it because I’m not… human?” She was trying to think of something, anything to reason out why he would do this. She felt a pain in her chest, right where her heart was. She didn’t understand any of this, why was this happening? She felt something wet slide down her face, but paid it no mind. He whipped around to face her.

“What?! NO! …No. It’s not like that. The reasons why are more to do with my side of this, rather than what you’re thinking. It’s…complicated.” He looked down at the table as voice grew soft, unable to look her in the face. He just felt so frustrated with himself, and ashamed. How could he make such a beautiful and innocent woman like her so upset?

“Then why…why can’t I be your wife?*sniff* I’d do anything for you, anything you’d ask of me!” Which was true, she would have done anything he asked. Her mind just couldn’t comprehend all this, couldn’t think of anything else to reason it out. Her chest just hurt so much.

“I know that. It’s just…difficult to explain.” Now he just felt lower than dirt, how could he just babble out excuses at a time like this?

“Then at least try, please! I have to know why! If I don’t…” If she didn’t, she didn’t know what she would do with herself. Drake felt a tug on his very soul, the anguish so evident in her voice. He looked at her, trying to use her sleeves to catch her falling tears, only for more to replace them. Her eyes were red and puffy, crying silently as her shoulders trembled. He looked away with closed eyes, trying in vain to shut the image from his mind. His conscience wouldn’t allow that, as he could hear the sounds of her sadness. He sighed in resignation. He would tell her the truth, he owed her that much.

“…Alright, I’ll try. You deserve that much of me.” He’d never rest easy again if he didn’t make up for the pain he caused her. He never meant for tonight to go like this but it was too late now. All he could do was square his shoulders, take it like an adult and move forward.

He took a moment to collect his thoughts, thinking of where to start. Taking a deep breath, he pushed away his guilt and shame for the moment, if only so he could focus. He turned to Mer’ndra, watching as her crying slowed. Her shoulders had stopped trembling and had grown quiet, sniffling every now and again. Tears still fell, but were slow enough now that she could wipe them all away with one hand. She turned her attention to him, her puffy red eyes meeting his guilt filled orbs. Drake closed his eyes as he took another deep breath.

“Before anything else I… just want to apologize. I never meant to hurt you like this, and I truly am sorry for doing this to you. I just wanted to make sure you knew this before anything else.” His lips formed a thin line after he spoke, watching her reaction. She sniffed, but made no other sound, and gave him a slow nod. He was glad that she acknowledged his words at least.

“Alright. Now my… hesitance at becoming your husband has more to do with that I can’t become your husband, rather than not wanting to.” She looked at him, slightly confused.

“Can’t become… does that mean you’re *sniff* already married?” Her amber orbs began to water once more at such a thought; to have taken a man when his heart already belonged to another…

“No, I’m not married to anyone right now, human or Mamono.” His guilt lifted a tiny margin when he caught the relief in her eyes when he mentioned he was single, but returned when her eyes widened in slight shock at the word Mamono.

He sighed. “Before you ask, yes I know you’re Mamono; I’ve known this ever since you first revealed yourself to me, although, I didn’t fully recognize what kind you were until you mentioned that you were a Ryu.” He folded his hands together on the table, straightening his back. He did let the barest hint of a smile appear when he noticed that she was becoming more focused on his words rather than the pain. He quickly hid it, feeling that he shouldn’t be smiling at all.

“Not only do I know you’re Mamono, but I know what happens to men that copulate and are infused with the Mamono’s power; they become incubi.” Despite what he had said earlier, Mer’ndra couldn’t help but be a little impressed at the knowledge he displayed. Yes, it was common knowledge to nearly all Mamono, but for an unclaimed human to know this much… who WAS he? Not privy to her thoughts, Drake continued.

“Which brings me to the biggest reason why I can’t become your husband. I can’t become an incubus, I won’t, because if I do…I can’t ever go home…” His voice grew quiet once more, staring at only his hands. Now, he didn’t fully know anyone on the forums, being new and all, but Drake knew some of them would call him nuts. A chance like this was practically a miracle in of itself, laid out on a silver platter. Still, it didn’t mean that he didn’t miss his home, his family.

“Can’t go…home? But de… Drake, I’d never…oh.” Her head bowed as she made the realization, with a hint of guilt. Even if she allowed him to go anywhere he pleased, after becoming an incubus, all Drake would care about would be staying with her and sating their desires.

“Yeah, I know. But even if I was immune to becoming an incubus, just by marrying you here would mean giving up the life I once knew.” By now her tears had slowed considerably, some still fell but were so few that she had stopped wiping them away altogether. Her eyes were still slightly red, and sadness could still be seen in her body language.

“Drake, I know that humans don’t seem to like Mamono in these lands, but I’m sure if you talked to your parents…” She was stopped by Drake shaking his head.

“No, it’s nothing as simple as just talking to them; I’d have to get back over to them first.” He sighed as he looked at her, amber eyes blinking in confusion. He couldn’t blame her; she didn’t have all the needed clues to piece it all together.

“Look, I know you don’t understand, what with me being so vague.” He breathed through his nose before shaking his head. “Ah, to hell with it. Here’s the short of sweet version: thanks to that spell I’m now stuck here in this world without a reason as to why or a way back home.” He sincerely wished he had a different approach to this, but felt that he would just drag it on unnecessarily. Nevertheless, he still spoke rather bluntly, in his opinion. The dragoness blinked as she processed his contrite explanation.

“You said ‘this world’, what did you mean by that?” He gave the girl a weak chuckle.

“Exactly as it sounds Mer’ndra, simply put I’m not from your world. I was somehow, for whatever reason, brought here against my will to perform the will of the unknown caster.” There was a small treble of sarcasm in his voice at that last bit. He knew it sounded silly, crazy even, but it was the truth. And so the die had been cast, there was no turning back, for better or worse. He never noticed the contemplative look she gained.

“You know… that does make a little sense.” She contemplated aloud, holding a hand to her chin.

“I know it’ll take some time to- wait, what?” He stared at her, trying to comprehend what had just happened. Did she just say what he think she said?

“I said it makes a little sense.” She gave him a small smile, if a rather weak one. To think that she could still give him a smile at all, even a weak one, made Drake feel all the more guilty. Taking note of what she said, he blinked.

“Ok, you’ve lost me.” She elaborated at his confusion.

“There are some things about you that I’ve noticed are a little odd. The most apparent of course are your clothes. Torn as they are, they’re of a make that I’ve never seen before, even among the people here; more so with your pants than your shirt.” Blinking, he reflexively gave his current attire a once over, reminding himself of the various tears and rips they carried. He shrugged as if to explain his state of dress. Her smile held a little more amusement.

“Next would be your interactions with me. There’s nothing wrong with the way you’ve spoken to me…” ‘Aside from the obvious.’ Drake added to himself with guilt. Mer’ndra continued, eyes closed as she placed her hands in her lap.

“You have been both kind and respectful to me, if somewhat wary and bewildered.” Looking at her as her eyes reopened, a weak half smile formed.

“You’ve got to admit, it’s not like I don’t have a good reason for that.” She gave a nod.

“True.” With a sniff she wiped away a stray tear. “My point is, instead of acting like those I know back home or the humans in these lands you’ve treated me just as one would another person.” Her smile held a bit more of her previous warmth. Drake quickly adverted his gaze.

“I wasn’t exactly kind with the… latest exchange.” The past part was muttered, more to himself than anything. She heard it nonetheless, her face taking on a sad tone.

“Your words… I won’t lie and say they didn’t hurt. But I guess I am part of the cause to your reaction.” He faced her in confusion as her cheeks gained a slight blush of embarrassment.

“I will admit, I was acting a bit presumptuously. I was just so thrilled at the prospect of finally finding my husband. I guess I got a bit-“

“Now just wait a minute!” The interruption stopped her cold. “I’m not going to just sit here and let you take any responsibility for my actions. I was the one who chose to deny your advances and it was my choice on what words to use. I could have used more eloquent words to lessen the impact, but you would be hurt my them either way. Fact is, I made the choice, so I hold sole responsibility. End of discussion.” His serious eyes gazed into her shocked ones. After a moment his shoulders slumped as he gave a rough sigh. Rubbing the back of his neck, he spoke with a softer tone.

“Sorry, didn’t mean for it to come out so rough. Still, I won’t take those words back, I meant what I said. You presented me with a choice, and I made the one you didn’t think I would make. You did nothing wrong.” Recovering from her shock, Mer’ndra tried to speak, yet she couldn’t think of how to carry on the previous topic. Another uncomfortable silence engulfed the small home, the discomfort however was noticeably less than previously.

Drake had to admit though, Mer’ndra’s speedy recovery was remarkable, if not a little unsettling. He had to remind himself though, as a Mamono her thought process was different from a human’s; that and he didn’t really know the girl. Then again, it still seemed most likely that she was putting aside the feelings for now before dealing with them. He could still see a bit of sadness in her eyes, even if she tried to hide it behind her renewed warmth when their eyes met.

Shifting in his seat, Drake noticed how much his pant legs had ridden up. Straightening the sides of his torn jeans, he noticed a small lump around where his left pocket would be. Intrigued he reached in, wondering what it was. His hand soon closed around the object in his pocket, a small but very familiar object. Grasping it in his hand, he pulled it out…

Mer’ndra was going through a whole range of emotions, sadness, guilt, acceptance, curiosity, and many others. She had thought of how events would play after she had found her husband. Starting off sometimes with a bit of foreplay or a nice meal and conversation as tonight had begun. Or completely skipping that, going straight to coiling around one another, kissing and groping and feeling every single inch they could, screaming to the heavens above of their love as they copulated…

Yet none of that happened tonight, to her befuddled disappointment. She wondered where it had all gone wrong, when they had just met or during the talk during dinner, she didn’t know. And it wasn’t like Drake hadn’t been interested in her. She had noticed all the little signs; the glances to her and her body, the ease of comfort in her presence, and how could she forget the bulge in his pants that grew every time they touched? Yet even then, he had declined her ‘offer’.

This both confused and intrigued her at the same time. His actions, his speech, everything about Drake was just so different from what she knew, just who was he? Sure his explanation did make a crazy kind of sense, if only on the basic level. But it still didn’t explain everything about him, and that peaked her curiosity. Before her was an enigma, a mystery that had yet to be solved.

It would take time of course; you can’t learn everything about someone in one day. And she had the perfect opportunity to give her the time needed to unravel this mystery. Maybe it was better this way. Yes, she had wanted to wrap herself around him and let them both bask in the pleasures of sex, she still does, but the thought had drifted to a little corner in her mind for the moment. The heat of her passion had simmered down thanks to the past conversation. Yet she still wanted him, which confused her somewhat.

She knew why she wanted him; he was roguishly handsome, with a piercing gaze and strong build despite the lack of muscle mass at the moment. He was also intelligent, perceptive and held a good sense of humour. Yet that wasn’t what confused her, what did was the simple fact that as she thought over his good qualities, sex didn’t come roaring into the forefront of her mind, not at first. It was the strangest thing for her as a Mamono, feeling a warmth in her heart but not her core at the same time. Mer’ndra was truly at a loss, understanding this no better than she understood Drake. She wondered what this could mean, giving the man of her thoughts a quick glance.

Her head quirked as she caught Drake’s movements. Seeing him fish for something in one of his pockets, she questioned what it could be. She was surprised by the glazed look he directed to his hand, smiling as if seeing an old friend after a long absence. As he fiddled with the object in hand, she found that it turned out to be a necklace of strange design.

She first noted that the band was made of a type of grey metal she couldn’t identify. Also, the chain itself was most intriguing; it was of small rectangular links, as if the chain was made of interlocking cubes. A style that was simple in design yet perplexed her as to its fabrication.

As Drake fastened the clasp behind his neck, Mer’ndra noticed a small pendent-like object which hung from the chain. It was quite peculiar, as it looked similar to some of the characters of her home language, yet it was a symbol that she had never encountered before. She wondered what it could mean.

Made of a different metal from the chain, it was a duller grey and bore small scratches here and there. Ignoring the ring that held the pendent to the chain, the symbol started with a straight line moving from right-to-left, turned straight down, then back across left-to-right. Inside the little three sided box, a line went straight down between the two main lines, bisecting another pair of lines that followed the main pair. Like the letter ‘E’ but with a fourth line across and a second straight down.

From the lower corner was a line that curved down, hooking inward to the centre of the symbol. Between the bottom line and the hook were what looked to be four tear-drop like shapes; three pointing in the same direction as the hook and the forth on the far left of set pointed in the opposite direction.

All in all, it was an odd yet simple piece of jewellery, one that held a hint of masculinity; which seemed odd since most if not all metallic necklaces of that size were worn primarily by women. It was strange that he would have something like that on his person this whole time. Regardless, even if she didn’t know what it meant she had a feeling it was an item of great importance to Drake, possibly something from his home.

“I didn’t even realise it wasn’t around my neck…” The words left his mouth just above a whisper. He smiled softly as he held the pendent between his thumb and index finger, rubbing it lightly.

“Might I ask what it is?” Mer’ndra had never seen anything like what Drake now carried around his neck. Holding the pendant in hand, he gave a wistful smile while gazing at it.

“…it was a gift from my sister to commemorate the day of my birth a couple years ago.” Her head bobbed slowly, acknowledging his words.

“It must be something of great importance to you, being a gift from family.” He gave an absentminded nod.

“It is, more so now that I know I have it. If I were to ever lose this…” He closed his eyes, gripping the pendant in a firm fist. Shaking his head, he turned to the dragoness with serious eyes. His posture alone told Mer’ndra that she would have to wait to find out what that symbol meant.

“This just further cements the fact that I’m not from here; a stranger in a strange land so to speak, that I don’t really belong here…” He paused as the Ryu reached over and placed a comforting hand over his. She understood, now wasn’t the right time for trivial inquiries.

“Just because you’re different doesn’t mean you can’t belong here.” He shook his head as a small smile graced his lips.

“I appreciate that, truly I do, but it isn’t that simple. There are things about me that stand out too much. Sure I can change my clothes and hide my necklace, but my lack of knowledge will paint a giant target on the back of my head. I don’t know the full history of these lands or the various landmarks. What most people here would find as common knowledge is completely new to me. I don’t talk like the people of these lands either. It’s like someone from Zipangu travelling here without learning any knowledge of the area beforehand, whereas for me, it’s your entire world instead.” Mer’ndra’s eyes widened as she began to comprehend the full scope of Drake’s issue. However, where he saw a problem, she saw a solution. Hiding her growing excitement with a small smile, she caught Drake’s attention.

“I believe I know a way to help you Drake.” Arching a brow, he couldn’t hide his curiosity.

“Really? What do you have in mind?” She smiled as she composed herself once more, back straight, chest out and hands in her lap. She took a little pleasure at Drake’s quick glance at her presented cleavage, and the flushed look he bore when he realized he had been caught. He rubbed the back of his head as he released a nervous laugh, Mer’ndra giggling despite herself but made no comment on it.

“Simple, I’ll accompany you on your search for answers.” Before he could answer she continued. “It’d be a good thing for the both of us. You get a travelling partner that can help you understand this world, and as an added benefit my presence will help ward off many Mamono as we travel. No one likes to travel alone, and through you I get to learn more about humans in general.” He stared at her, mouth moving without words coming out. He gave up before releasing a mirthful chuckle.

“You’re completely set on this aren’t you?” She seemed much more cheerful now, to which he was thankful for. He received a nod in return.

“That’s right. Besides, you’ll need me if you want to get back to shore unmolested.” She spoke about it so casually that it put him off a bit. A shiver went down his spine at the ‘unmolested’ bit, knowing that what she spoke of was true.

In all actuality though, it didn’t sound that bad of an idea. Okay, so she only brought up three points, but they were excellent points. He desperately needed someone that could help him learn about this world, the territories, the people, etc, and here was Mer, the first being he meets, ready to go out of her way to help him out. Her last two points were just as important being that truly, he didn’t want to travel this world alone; adventures were always better with someone with you. The second of the 2 was even more important. With Mer around, Drake wouldn’t have to worry so much about some random Mamono trying to rape him in his sleep.

Mind you, Drake wasn’t a complete fool. Despite her readiness to help, Mer’ndra was a Mamono herself, and she had shown plenty of interest in him. Sure it was meant in a good way for him, Ryu’s are supposed to be very kind and loving Mamono, though they do have a libido to match their power. And that threw a small wrench of sorts into the works. Yeah, Mer would help drive off almost every Mamono they encounter, but what about the more powerful ones, including herself?

Well, putting her into that lot wouldn’t be completely fair. She had been both kind, civil and showed self-restraint, considering she held more than enough power and magic to force herself upon him, and he wouldn’t be able to stop her. With that, he believed he could trust her enough to not take him forcefully, heck he already trusted her with the truth.

That was another issue, though not really a problem, yet. Besides her power, she held important knowledge on him, although not everything, she held enough that it could be used against him. But that was just his slight paranoia talking. It was quickly tempered by the fact that one, so far she had shown a very kind nature, a little mischievous but hardly malicious, and two, the fact that practically no-one would believe her should she talk about it.

No, Mer would keep his secret safe and besides, he couldn’t speak about it either lest people throw him in the loony bin. Drake would come up with a cover story later, he’d need one when asked questions, that and he would have to start learning how to speak but not give answers. It was a consequence of his choice and he’s got to live with it from now on.

Feeling the urge to yawn he tried to stem it with a hand while stretching the other above his head, but it was in vain. Mer’ndra giggled lightly before moving back, slithering out from under the table. She kept him in the corner of her gaze as she grabbed the leftover dishes in hand, watching as he stretched.

Drake meanwhile, moved back from the table himself, mentally thanking however came up with the pit below the table. Nevertheless, his rear did feel somewhat sore from sitting on the floor, despite the mats. Stretching out, another yawn escaped without his consent. He shook it off while rolling his shoulder.

“Well, there’s no changing it now, I guess we’ll be getting ready to go in the morning.” Looking to his hostess, he found her placing the used dished in a bucket of water, most likely to let them soak for the night. She turned back to him with a smile.

“That’s right, after breakfast I’ll prepare what we need and be ready to leave before lunch hopefully.” She looked much happier now than a few moments ago. Or maybe ‘happier’ wasn’t the right word, perhaps content? Regardless he soon let it go, it had been a long night and he was tired. Her golden orb was floating behind her again, he noted, and took it as a good sign. Seeing as she turned her attention back to the dishes in the bucket, Drake made his way to the ‘bedroom’.

Standing on the right of the divider, he finally got a look at this corner of the home. To the left he saw, as before, a low dresser just underneath the window with a couple plants on top. On the wall that was blocked by the divider, there was a shelving unit beneath the other window of the corner. It held a mixture of shelves and cubby holes, with at least a third filled with various knickknacks and small scrolls. The third wall was bare, so he turned to the floor. Even with his tired mind he could make out one startling fact.

There was only one bed.

He blinked. “Ho boy…” This is going to get awkward. The bed itself was a larger futon, flat on the floor. A pillow and comforter completed the set, both a deep forest green. Feeling a clawed hand on his shoulder, he turned to find the resident Ryu looking at him, golden ball floating lazily behind her.

“Is there something wrong Drake?” He hesitated for a moment, but then chose to spit it out.

“There’s… only one bed…” Blinking owlishly, she turned to the futon, then back to Drake. Looking at her, he watched the realization dawn, before it was replaced by a modest blush.

“Well, I usually don’t expect company so…” Mumbling off, she looked down, trying to hide her flushed face. Letting out a mirthful chuckle, a look of amusement formed on Drake’s face. He couldn’t help but find her flustered look incredibly cute; he blamed it on being as tired as he was.

“That’s pretty easy to fix. Just need another pillow and blanket right? I don’t want to impose but, since there is only one bed…” He was stopped by another yawn. Hearing a soft giggle he turned back to Mer’ndra, finding the dragon girl laughing into her hand, a soft blush still present on her cheeks. Looking at him with a sweet smile, she said nothing as she motioned to move past him. Understanding he complied, watching as she made her way to the cubby cupboard across the futon.

She bent over for a moment to rummage in one of the lower cupboards. Tired as he was, he had to admit, despite her lower anatomy not being the same as a humans, she had a finely shaped rear. Realizing where his train of thought led he turned away, shaking his head as Mer’ndra released a cry of triumph, before ‘standing’ back up. She turned around just as he did, the last hints of blush leaving his face. Held in her arms was a single pillow atop a pale white sheet.

“Here.” She told him simply, holding out the pillow and sheet for him to take. To which he did so graciously.

“Thanks.” He replied with a tired smile, which earned another sweet one in return. They moved in a comfortable silence as they remade the futon. Bringing the rest of her coils around her, she then pulled off the comforter while absentmindedly using the end of her tail to close the cupboard. Once the futon was clear, Drake went to a knee, shifting the blanket and pillow to one arm. With the other, he moved Mer’ndra’s pillow to the left, leaving enough room for his own pillow.

Grabbing the thin blanket in both hands, he shook it out twice, and then placed the one end near where he thought the centre of the futon would be. Nodding to himself once he was sure, he let the sheet pool a little before draping the rest across his side of the futon. Taking the outside corner, he folded it across, allowing him easy access to enter.

Looking up he found to his tired surprise that Mer’ndra had been copying him move for move, mirroring his actions near perfectly. Feeling his eyes on her the girl looked up, and giggled at his expression. Drake soon joined in with a light chuckle, too tired at the moment to really care. All he wanted to do right now was sleep.

“Umm… Drake?”

“Hmm?” He was just about to grab the sheet when Mer’ndra spoke. He looked up, only to find her beside the dresser with a light blush.

“I’m going to change into my sleep ware.” She slowly turned her back to him as she undid the red sash around her thin waist. Letting it pool in a pile on the floor, she then grabbed her shirt. Before removing it she looked at him demurely over her shoulder.

“You’re welcome to watch, if you’d like…” Eyes wide, his mouth impersonated a gaping fish for a moment, before finding his voice once more.

“N-no no, I’ll-I’ll be f-fine. A-a-I’ll just…g-get behind the di-divider and wait. Yeah that’s right.” He mumbled incoherently a moment before moving to the other side of the divider. Sitting down he blushed in embarrassment. Man, he’d never been that tongue tied since…well ever! Hearing her soft laughter made his face flush redder. He shook his head as he tried to calm himself down. He must really be tired if he reacted like that, it was just so unexpected, and he wasn’t prepared at all for it.

Hearing the sounds of shifting cloth, he was reminded of what she was doing. Blush born anew, he was thankful that he soon heard the sound of a closing drawer.

“Alright for me to come back around?” His question was answered by the sound of her giggles.

“Yes, it’s alright.” Releasing his own soft chortle, Drake stood up and came back around the divider. He stopped once he laid eyes on Mer’ndra, or to be more precise, what she was wearing.

He wasn’t surprised by it being a kimono and sash combo. What did surprise him was how sensual it was. Hugging her glorious curves, the top went from her shoulders all the way past her hips, like the shirt she previously wore. Her shoulders weren’t bare this time, only a ‘v’ area, from her neck and collar down to show all her bountiful cleavage, was open to the air. Speaking of which, it seemed her bosom was more pronounced, as if the kimono was pushing her breasts together.

Moving on despite his primal protests, he took note of the kimono itself. Coloured a darker shade of lavender compared to her hair, the material was laced with a pink floral design, possibly of a flower native to Zipangu he guessed. The sleeves, hemmed in a blushing pink, flared out around her mid forearms. The sash was the simplest piece; a solid band of royal blue hemmed the same as the sleeves.

What drew his attention most was not the tantalizing view of her cleavage, but that the top was partly see-through! He could just see her creamy skin beneath the floral pattern, and where it was once hidden yet eluded to, now he could even see the perfect shape of her breasts.

Yet as arousing as the piece was, it was somewhat conservative also. The inner edgings of the top itself were hemmed just like the sleeves. The band of solid colour was large enough to just cover her nipples, hiding them perfectly. Her most sacred place was hidden just as strategically, as when the flaps were crossed over, a mass of flowers converged. Being more solid than the material between them, the flowers created a natural cover.

All of this zipped through his tired mind as it tried to both reboot, and commit the image to memory at the same time. Needless to say it was proving difficult. His attention returned to the woman’s face by her soft laughter. Her reaction to his wasn’t that surprising; she couldn’t help but be amused by his wide-eyed, gaping visage. Holding a clawed hand to her face to stem her amusement, she gave him a teasing smile.

“I take it you approve?” Not trusting himself to speak for the moment, Drake simply nodded, closing his jaw with a loud clack. She seemed content with this, as she then climbed into the futon, orb at her side. Facing him, she looked at his unmoving stance with amusement.

“Well, aren’t you going to get changed and join me Drake?” Face flushing heavily; he gave her a tired, half-hearted glare as he removed his tattered shirt. Giggling at his look, she observed him with no small surprise as he unclasped the belt of his pants. Her surprise turned to intrigue she found that instead being bare before her, he wore a pair of odd, short grey underpants. With a small amount of disappointment, she watched as Drake climbed in beside her.

Throwing her another half-hearted glare, it was soon replaced by a tired smile as he got comfortable, a yawn escaping his mouth.

“G’night Mer.” Pulling the sheet up to his chest, he laid his arms over his stomach. He gave Mer’ndra one final glance and a nod before looking to the ceiling, eyelids drooping heavily. The last thing heard was her soft voice, before finally succumbing to sleep’s inviting embrace.

“Goodnight, Drake.” She spoke softly as she watched his eyes close, his body relaxing as he quickly fell asleep. She looked at him with more of a loving gaze as she watched his chest slowly rise and fall. Mer used a claw to gently move a lock of hair from his forehead, smiling as he slept on undisturbed.

She didn’t know how long she simply watched him sleep, his face calm and serene. Gathering her courage she brought her face close to his, holding her hair to one side so it wouldn’t bother him. Mer’ndra traced the lines of his features with her eyes, following every line and mark. For a time she gazed at his parted lips, wondering what it would be like if she softly pressed her own lips to his.

She whetted her pink lips as she moved closer, enough to feel his soft breath on her face. She noted that even asleep, he breathed through his nose. Her heart began to hammer in excitement; she wanted so much to just kiss him, at least once…

With regret she drew back, knowing that now wasn’t the right time. Instead, she placed a chaste kiss on his forehead, as softly as she could. She pulled back, watching as he mumble nothing to himself for a moment, head shifting before resting once more, this time facing her.

Mer’ndra smiled longingly as she lay down on her side, facing him. She positioned the uncovered part of her tail around Drake’s side of the futon, fully encircling yet not touching him. She would never deny how enamoured she was with this man. She knew him for less than a quarter of a day, and yet already she desired to stay beside no other.

The pains in her heart returned as her mind drifted back to the earlier conversation. However, she couldn’t find it within herself to fault him for it, despite the truth that his words were the direct cause. She firmly believed in his reasons, however ludicrous they sounded; the evidence more than justified him. Heat had risen in her chest when he vehemently refused her any responsibility, those serious green orbs of his made her heart flutter.

Looking at him once more, she placed a clawed hand close to his shoulder, merely an inch away. With the other she cradled her golden orb close. The lights dimmed as her eyes closed, welcoming the darkness of the night. Her thoughts briefly turned to the necklace he wore. That odd yet unique piece of jewellery helped her learn a little bit more about Drake. She understood that it would take time to really understand him, which was the main reason why she would travel with him on his journey. It would give her the perfect chance to figure out the mystery that was Drake.

So sure, their first meeting didn’t go exactly as she thought it would. But that didn’t mean she would give up on him, oh no. This may have been a small bump in the road, but she would push on, knowing there would be many more ahead of her.

‘And maybe…’ She thought to herself. ‘Just maybe, I’ll find a way to be with him… as his wife.’

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