next morning, Merlin opened his eyes and found that he felt rather different.
His entire body felt lighter than usual. When he sat up, he found that he did
not feel the least bit tired. In fact, he felt more energetic than ever.
“Good morning,” he said but received no reply. He glanced to his side and saw that Asha was not in bed with him.
“How odd,” Merlin thought. For the past few days, Asha would always slip into bed with him regardless of whether he welcome her or not. So used had he gotten to her habit that it felt rather strange to be in bed alone.
He got out and immediately sensed something was amiss. Last night, he could still feel the magic radiating from the barrier Asha created, but now he couldn’t feel anything.
He opened the door and the wind that blew into his face didn’t have a trace of magic in it. Merlin squinted his eyes and his heart sank. There were no runes surrounding his hut. This meant that Asha’s protective barrier was gone.
“Asha!” he called out. Had some angry townsfolk come here at night and lynched Asha? If it was a large group of men, then Merlin had no doubt that they could successfully do it.
“Asha!” Merlin cried out again.
“Why are you being so loud in the morning,” Asha grumbled.
With a sharp breath, Merlin saw Asha emerge from behind the hut with her pet pig following closely behind her.
“Asha!” Merlin said and stepped towards her. He had never felt so much relief to see the nymph in the morning. He was about to spread out his arms and embrace her, but stopped himself at the last moment.
“You sound like you missed me,” Asha smiled and closed the distance between them. She used her index finger to poke his chest. “Were you thinking about me?”
Merlin gritted his teeth. The feminine and erotic Asha from last night was gone. She had become the impudent nymph that she always was.
He answered her question with another question. “What happened to the barrier? Why is it gone?”
“I removed it after you went to sleep.”
“Why did you do that?” Merlin exclaimed. “We could have been killed in our sleep!”
“No, we wouldn’t have.”
Merlin breathed heavily, unsure of what to say. He was waiting for Asha to explain herself.
“Usually I feed on the life force of normal men,” Asha said. “Feeding on normal men with normal parents gives me the magic I usually have.”
“But last night I drank your life force,” Asha said and grabbed Merlin’s crotch. “You are a human, but you also carry the blood of a demon. Your body and soul contained ancient magic which your human blood does not give you access to, but when I drank it, it fused with my blood and I was able to cast spells which are beyond what I would be normally capable of.”
Merlin gulped. He began to wonder if she killed the entire population of Marlborough.
“After you fell asleep, I found that my body was bursting with magic. I traveled to Marlborough and laid a circle of runes around the entire town, trapping everyone in it. Then I cast a spell which erased all the memories anyone in that town would have of us. There is no need for a barrier if no one knows that we exist.”
Asha’s right hand began to glow purple. Then using her magic, she drew a rune in the air.
“This is the one I used.”
Amazed, Merlin studied the rune. Before he met Asha, he theorized about runes designed to interact and modify memories, but he never managed to successfully design one. The one Asha drew so easily was more complex than any rune he had ever made. Her fingers flicked in the air as she finished the final details of the rune.
“Amazing,” Merlin mouthed. He could see the magic flowing inside the rune, its shape and details perfectly interacting with one another.
“What did you write inside the rune?” Merlin asked.
“These are characters we nymphs use to create paths for magic to flow,” Asha said. “They are far superior to the primitive designs I have seen you use.”
Merlin gritted his teeth as he held his pride being trampled to pieces. What hurt the most was that he couldn’t even reply for he knew that she was right. He could spend his entire life creating runes, and he would still feel unworthy of even being her apprentice.
“It’s hard to believe that all the demons were ensnared by the primitive runes you drew,” Asha said. “I suppose that it was greed that blinded our judgment.”
As much as it pained Merlin to admit it, had it not been for sheer luck, then the spells he used to entrap the demons would not have worked.
“Did you design this rune yourself?” Merlin asked.
Asha nodded. “All nymphs need to know a rune that allows them to erase the memories of a man, just in case if he is still alive after we have sucked out his force.”
Merlin swallowed. The moment she said that, a dangerous gleamed formed in her eyes. She was remembering all those delicious meals where the man was strong enough to survive her life sucking magic.
“I don’t think you’d be strong enough to survive if I decided to treat you as a regular meal,” Asha smiled maliciously and poked his chest. “You are lucky to be alive, Merlin.”
As shameful as it was to admit it, Merlin had to acknowledge how careless he was last night. Had it not been for Asha feeling merciful, she could have easily killed him by sucking out his life force, or she could have put him under he spell and ordered him to unlock the Grimoire book.
“That will never happen again,” Merlin said.
“You fool,” Asha’s smile widened and the gleam in her eyes became that of a predator. “Don’t say that when you are so hard.”
Asha squeezed him and Merlin drew a sharp breath. Merlin felt so mortified that he wanted to sink into the ground.
“I’m sorry,” Merlin said and lowered his head. He knew that he was apologizing for no reason, but in this situation, he did not know any better.
“Good boy,” Asha giggled and patted his head. “I like a man who knows when to admit defeat.”
Asha walked into the house with the pig following her, and behind the pig, Merlin followed. He sighed. He felt pathetic. With just a few words, Asha had crushed his pride and taken control of him...and all of that without a single spark of magic.