Chapter 3: Eat. Devour. Absorb

Sitting in a small corner of the cave, Frank ruefully looked at the girls whispering to each other, concern written all over their faces. But of course, two important people that composed the core of the group were currently passed out for who knows how long. He felt resentment at that, he was a man too, he had his pride too. Yet he couldn’t voice it out, because he knew better than anyone else that he was a coward. He was not reliable, so why would they ever consider his opinion? It sucked.

Frank hated being ignored, like he didn’t amount to anything. He was human, he was bound to feel jealousy. In his eyes, he knew that he couldn’t compare to John’s mature and experienced vibes, or Stephen’s handsome looks and smart-alecky attitude. He had nothing that made him stick out of the background he was always blended in. That’s why he always tried to flirt and woo the women in the group, he wanted to have a role, that something that labeled him and gave him colorful strokes. Becoming the buffoon of the group? Why the f*** not.

Looking at the lifeless corpses drowned in their own pools of blood, he furrowed his brows. He was aware that doing something like that was out of his abilities. Even just smashing a rock on someone’s face as Stephen did was impossible for him. He was just that coward.

“Look! They’re waking up!” Sarah’s excited voice swept through the cave as she stood up, followed right after by Natasha and Daphne who had likewise excited looks on their faces.

Peering over from his position, Frank noticed John and Stephen’s eyes slowly opening up, which prompted the women to eagerly skip over and surround them as they made sure both men were okay.

Damn, he also wanted that.

Forcing himself to look cheerful, he stood up and approached their slowly rising bodies, “You’re finally awake! Hah, I thought you were having wet dreams and thus refused to wake up.” his boisterous laugh filled the place.

But as always, he was ignored…

“How are you feeling?” Natasha queried, her eyes furiously scanning them up and down for any sign of injury, “And why did you suddenly faint? What happened?”

Stephen and John gawked at each other, not bothering to answer Natasha’s questions. They felt different from before, but it was hard to pinpoint exactly where. If Stephen had to put it into words then he’d say that he felt oddly alive. Not that he wasn’t before, but that was only physically alive. Now he truly felt like he was living, as if he broke free from some kind of cocoon that was shackling him down. Even breathing in itself became an enjoyable act, however odd the thought was.

Frowning, he licked his lips, feeling famished. John looked at him quizzically, a bit put out and curious by the sudden changes they underwent before an appetizing scent wafted into his nostrils. As if on cue, both Stephen and John’s eyesight fell on the green-skinned creatures they had killed beforehand. Following their gaze, Natasha arched an eyebrow at them before explaining, “They’re dead and… you shouldn’t worry too much about it… it was self-defense.” she started with an understanding smile, “Once we go back we’ll help you explain to the officers what transpired here. Plus they seem more like animals than humans to me… so yeah…”

“Um! There’s no need to worry, they were the bad ones.” Sarah added her support.

“Yeah… what you d-did was perfectly justifiable.” Daphne reluctantly smiled, feeling rather uncomfortable speaking to them.

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“Don’t fret over it, we can always bury the corpses. No one will ever know anything.” Frank joked with a cackle, eliciting a displeased glare from Natasha who proceeded to berate him, something that made him oddly pleased.

“Guys… are you still hungry?” Stephen suddenly asked, his glistening eyes having a hard time tearing themselves off the creatures dipped in their own gore. 

“Yes, why?”

“I think I’ve just found our dinner.” the group looked at him with puzzled expressions before making space for him when he and John scampered back to their feet. Consequently, their appalled visages gnarled into sheer horror when they saw what John was pointing his finger at.

“It looks good to me…” he said, receiving a nod of approval from Stephen, “Don’t you thin–” he stopped mid-sentence when he noted the hastily scurrying back group fellows, “What are you doing?”

“What are YOU doing!” Natasha shot back, her voice tinged with dread, “If this is a joke it’s not funny!”

“Y-yeah buddy… leave the jokes to me, okay?” Frank chuckled nervously.

“Jokes? What are you talking about?” Stephen was confused, “Weren’t you hungry?”

“We are! But we have no intention to eat that!” Sarah exclaimed in abhorrence, her face scrunching up as if she had swallowed a lemon. Just the thought of even smelling the corpses was enough to make her stomach churn, let alone the fact that they were humanoid creatures, not simple animals.

“Why not?”

“It stinks! and… and…”

“Stinks?” it was at that moment that both newly-roused men knew where the problem laid on. To them, the dead bodies had an inviting fragrance that drew them in the more they whiffed it. But the rest of them actually believed that the corpses reeked. That was indeed worthy of opening a debate about.

Stephen racked his brain, trying to understand why he was craving so much to eat something that would have made him frown in disgust any other day. But the smell was so good, he was hardly holding himself back from devouring the carcasses, and he could tell John was feeling the same. Yet from the looks of it what they were desiring was not normal, and that disturbed him. He knew for a fact that it was very abnormal, or so was what his rational side quietly told him. But his stomach deeply wished for him to sink his teeth into that flesh.

He was getting scared.

“Good… we’ll take the bodies out and go find something to eat.” John proposed, but his eyes were dazed, “Is that good?”

Natasha nodded, seemingly not noticing his weird behavior, “Yes… just be careful outside, okay?” she wanted to stop them from delving into the forest again, but they really needed food and water if they wanted to get out of that place.

“No worries.”


The wind breezed through their hair as the two men made their way into the forestland, dragging the cadavers along by their skinny legs. The weather was about to get nasty, so they threaded through the woods with haste, hoping to catch something to satisfy the group as well. Stopping on a clearing, they propped the creatures on the soil.

The sky rumbled with angry thunders, the perfect prelude of the monsoon that was about to fall. Stephen took a moment to reorganize his thoughts before speaking in a low tone, “Do you think we are weird?”

John remained as expressionless as ever, “I don’t know…” he gazed at the sky for an instant, “I feel like I’ve changed… but I don’t know if it for better or for worse…”

“That… that screen-like thingy… did you get it too?” the younger man inquired hesitantly. Right after he killed that greenish thing a message had suddenly popped in afore him, yet he hadn’t enough time to mull over it since he had fainted right after that.

“Uh huh.”

“Good… I’m not crazy, haha…” Stephen turned around and started sauntering back, “Let’s go.” but his words fell into empty ears, the older man was still rooted to his spot, glowering hungrily at the lifeless creatures sprawled inelegantly on the ground, his breath hastening.

“I… I…” John clenched his fist, fighting back a stubborn urge that seemed about to burst out of his body, “I’m hungry!” he crouched down, clutching the sides of his head as he squeezed his eyes shut, “Why do I need to eat so desperately!?” he roared out, his face twisted in pain.

“J-John…” Stephen widened his eyes, “You…” he was speechless, yet he couldn’t help but feel weird mutations going on through his body. Before he knew it, he was also squatted on his knees, short-winded. “What is going on…?” he barred his eyelids down for the ocular appendages within had started burning. His hand covered his mouth, seemingly a meaningless struggle to hamper his canines from prodding any further out of his lips.

His fingers dug slits on the muddy soil as he tried to grasp onto something to vent out the waves of pain flooding his body. A foreign yet tempting voice in his mind coaxed him into unleashing what he was caging inside, yet he refused to bow down to its whims, which only further intensified the agony he was enduring.

His head abruptly crooked to the side with a crunching noise. He gasped, his eyes altering into a deep mirror-like red color before reverting back to normal. His tongue unconsciously traced over his teeth as he haltingly stood up, slowly strolling his way to the nearest corpse.

A quick glimpse to the side disclosed a ravenous John who was deliriously gobbling down the humanoid’s left arm, his mouth deep into its flesh, blood smearing his cheeks before dripping down on his clothes.

Stephen felt compelled to imitate his groupmate, so without any more hesitation, he grabbed the corpse by the arm, and dived his canines into its neck. With a violent haul, he tore a chunk of flesh out, blood spattering out as he licked the remains off of his lips with a pleased hum. Satisfaction seeped into his bones as he kept on eating it, munching noises echoing out in the small clearing. His actions were done unconsciously, clearly driven by something.

Time slowly passed by, and when Stephen finally came to his senses, the first thing his eyes fell on was the half-eaten humanoid close-by him, a red mess all over the place and on his hands, “W-what the hell!” he scooted back in frenzy, his shoulders quivering from the lousy realization that had dawned upon him. He felt full. No trace of his previous maddening hunger whatsoever.

John that was a few yards away was gaping at the space in front him, fingers fluttering up and down as he tried to touch something. “John! We… we… did we just?” his voice cracked as he stuttered out, his vocal cords not cooperating with him to formulate a complete and comprehensible sentence.

“…”

“John?”

“Look to your side.”

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“… my side?” Stephen dumbly parroted, “What…?”

Following his instructions, he tilted his head to the right. What greeted him was a bunch of overlapped screens similar to what he had received before quietly hovering before him.

[You have gained 1 point in Dexterity.]


[You have gained the skill Basic Sword Arts, Lv.1]


[You have gained 1% in Evolution.]


[Eat. Devour. Absorb. Stave your hunger with the world, for you are The Predator.]
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