1 Encounter

Slowly the morning sun rose over the awe-inspiring Odon forest. The roar of various beasts and the chirping of excited birds filled the air. The violent morning breeze carried a fragrant but yet woody aroma, with a waft of ash submerged within.

Deep within the forest, a beautiful ship sailed on a crystal clear, but ghastly rapid river. Its length and width extended as far as a normal human could see. Due to its unique clarity, the ship seemed to levitate as it floated on the surface of the water.

On the deck of the ship, James's eyes lingered on a school of blue fishes. He wore a faint smile while his fingers drummed on the ship's railings. He wore a black mage's robes, one of many available to him and the other youths.

Five days had gone by since the journey started, and it had been smooth, peaceful and boring. Just the way he liked it. Especially after the mayhem he experienced during the selection.

With the resources on board the ship, he didn't have to worry about food or clean water. And with Henriksen's strict warnings, none of the youths engaged in petty squabbles. However, a few heated conversations arose occasionally, but none of them dared to fight on the ship.

Although Henriksen acted oddly most times, most of the youths feared him a bit. Like James, they preferred to enjoy the peace while they still can. After all, none of them knew what to expect when they arrived at the Village.

"Hehe... you keep staring at those lil fishes... is there anything special about them?"

The smile on James's face instantly disappeared as he heard the too familiar voice. Before he could say anything, he felt an all too familiar tenderness press against his back.

'I shouldn't have come out. I thought this psycho was still asleep.' James slowly shook his head while turning.

"What do you want this time?" James said. A faint smile graced his lips as he stared at Aebalar.

"Why do I need to want something to see you? You looked so cute staring at the fishes, I couldn't help myself... hehe." Aebalar had a borderline orgasmic smile as she inched towards James once more.

'Damn it. Why can't she fucking leave me alone? I would have endured this nonsense if I could turn her to an Exp farm, but who would have thought this ship purified curses?' James thought. His upper right eyelid twitched involuntarily as he distanced himself from Aebalar.

He wanted nothing to do with the crazy redhead, and he had attempted to avoid her over the last couple of days. However, his efforts were fruitless. Due to the limited space on the ship.

Initially, he attempted to turn everyone on the ship into his personal Exp farm, but his dreams were short lived. After cursing Lilis, the system told him the hoog wood had a purification ability. Although he could curse the youths, it wouldn't last the dawn of the next day. Because of this, Rowan was no longer James's Exp farm.

James didn't bother to place the curse a second time or find new targets, because it could attract the suspicion of those present. After all, why would he of all people suddenly become touchy with them? And with Aebalar present, he couldn't summon his damned souls either.

"So, when are you going to give me back babies?" Aebalar pouted. Stretching out her arms like a little kid.

"I have told you already. I don't know what you're talking about. On the other hand, if you want me to put a baby in there," James paused as he pointed at Aebalar's stomach. "You'll have to get on your knees and beg for it. Maybe bark a bit and lick my feet," James added.

'This should get her to leave me alone." James thought. A sly smirk graced his lips while his mocking gaze lingered on Aebalar.

Naturally, he knew what Aebalar referred to as her babies. However, James had no intentions of giving back the lesser demons. No matter what.

At that same moment, Aebalar reduced the distance between them once more. Contrary to James's expectations, the little demon had a bright grin on her cute face. One that eroded his smug grin. He knew that anything could happen with the psycho.

'If she thinks I'll back out from a fight, she's in for a rude awakening…' James mused.

Mentally communicating with the system, he made preparations for the battle. Although Henriksen's strict warnings still played at the back of his mind, he would rather damn the consequences than let Aebalar walk over him.

A moment later, Aebalar stopped in her tracks. Only a few inches separated her from James. They could literally feel each other's breath on their skin. In any other setting, one would have assumed they were young lovers. However, anyone who knew either of them would laugh at such a ludicrous thought.

For a moment, the whistling of the violent morning breeze ceased. At that same moment, neither the howls nor the songs of the divergent birds echoed. Even the flowing rivers seemed to have gone quiet. Yet, James and Aebalar continued to stare at each other with keen interest. Unlike James, who glared with a sadistic thrill, Aebalar smiled with orgasmic delight.

"Hehehe… Is that your way of proposing to me? Have you really taken a liking to me?" Aebalar ran her fingers along James's thigh, laughing as she teased him.

'Is she expecting this to turn me on or what?' James remained silent. His left eyebrow shot up as he watched Aebalar laugh.

"You're no fun... I heard you human like this a lot," Aebalar quipped. Her fingers had made its way to James's chest, slowly caressing it.

"No one wants to stick it in crazy," James retorted.

Since he already knew Aebalar's abilities, he wasn't afraid she could curse or poison him.

"Hehe... is that how you speak to all the girls? I bet they find you quite annoying... but I like it though. Hehe..." Aebalar's hands rested on James's shoulders.

The distance between them at this point, was non-existent. If either of them leaned forward a bit, their lips would lock. If it were any other person, Aebalar's allure would have suppressed their fears. After all, she was a beauty by every definition of the word. Unfortunately, James had never been one to think with his lower half.

He enjoyed the occasional flirting now and then, but he would never fall for a psychopath. He knew better than that, after all, he was a bigger one himself.

"Ahem... Ahem..."

instinctively, James and Aebalar turned at the same time. Turning towards the east, there they could see a smiling young man at the entrance of the cabin. He awkwardly scratched his head while staring at the duo.

"I know you love each other very much, but shouldn't you consider the rest of us? We don't want to remember how lonely and miserable our lives are, okay?" Henriksen grinned from ear to ear. He gave James a thumbs up while flashing nonsensical smiles at Aebalar.

"It seems we're always getting interrupted. I'll come find you again, okay? Who knows, maybe I'll let you put a baby in me," Aebalar whispered.

Before James could say anything, she pecked him on the nose before skipping away like a little girl.

James watched with a wry smile as the young demon skipped away. Of all people, why did the crazy one survive? He thought.

While Aebalar made her way to the cabin, Henriksen walked towards James.

"I don't know if I should be happy or sad for you, brother. But you eternally have my respect, not everyone would chase death to tap a piece of ass," Henriksen said.

James didn't bother to answer him. From the short time he had spent on the ship, he knew Henriksen was a massive troll. He was in no mood to feed him.

Saying nothing, James walked to his previous spot.

"Friend, don't be like that... Haha... I was only playing. It's a long journey, we should at least get to know each other better. I—"

"I'm glad you brought that up. Are you ready to tell me about our destination?" James interjected.

Henriksen chuckled while slowly shaking his head.

"I thought as much. Then, we have nothing to talk about," James said. Dismissively, shooing Henriksen away. He didn't bother with him anymore, he had once again diverted his attention to the school below.

He could talk about anything else, but would shy away at the mention of anything relating to the village. No matter how much the youths asked, Henriksen didn't budge. The same silent reply greeted them. The silence only made the youths more anxious. With the imaginations running wild, most of them expected a bleak future once they reached their destination.

"Don't be like that. It's not that I don't want to tell you guys anything. I do, but it's not yet time. Trust me, I will reveal all when the—" Henriksen's voice suddenly cut mid sentence.

<Ding!>

Warn—

Like Henriksen, the system's warning paused mid sentence. At that same moment, James's brows creased slightly.

"What's going on here? What happened to them?" James muttered.

He narrowed his gaze as he stared at fishes below. No matter how much he stared at them, none of them moved. They seem to have been paused in time. Even the flowing river was like stagnant lake. The rustling leaves on the trees at either side of the river had gone still.

James suddenly turned his head. There, he could see Henriksen standing like a living sculpture. His mouth was still open and his left leg was still in midair. Apparently, he had been walking towards James earlier.

"System, can you hear me?" James mentally asked.

He didn't know why, but a sudden sense of dread gripped him. He felt as if he had be forgotten in time, and the cold grip of death was coming to claim him.

"System? Respond if you can—"

"Oh? Who would have thought it was a human? Little boy, how can you move?"

James's body tensed up as he heard the wraith-like voice. It felt as if a thousand rusty nails screeched on a metal surface. He didn't know where it come, and frankly, he had no intentions of finding out. His senses told him something frightening approached.

Just then, James saw a shadow cast on the deck of the ship. This wasn't just any ordinary shadow, however, it covered the whole ship. Extending several meters away. James didn't know when, but the skies had turned pitch black and the waters blood red.

'Who the hell is capable of doing this?' Terror filled James's mind. It had only been five days of peace, he didn't expect his rotten luck to fight back so soon.

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