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    Laura S. Fox
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

This Strange World Needs A Kicking! - 17. Loving Someone Else

Chapter Seventeen – Loving Someone Else

“You say that you got cold feet and denied it all.” Galien patted his lips with his index finger with a pensive expression on his handsome face. “Indeed, I can see why Pepin is upset. But you, Sebastian, why are you so distraught? Cold feet come natural to you.”

“Is this some kind of ice joke? Because it sucks.”

“Just like you,” Galien said airily.

What a smartass.

Kai pursed his lips and punched his cousin in the shoulder. Suddenly, the duke was no longer laughing. “How am I going to fix it? I don’t want Pepin to be mad at me. He’s making all the food I eat, you know? He could like poison me and such. And I wouldn’t blame him for one moment.”

Galien sighed and smiled. “Pepin would never do such a thing. Let me let you in a little secret, Sebastian. No one ever resists me. I’ve built quite the reputation for myself, and I’m rightfully proud of it. So Pepin’s constant refusal to fall into my arms, I have to admit, it still stings.”

“What are you saying?” Kai looked at Galien with hopeful eyes.

His cousin gave him a slightly troubled look. “I am afraid I will give you too much power with what I will say next. You see, these are the methods of a rake, which I am, but you are nothing like that. Everything is black and white with you. When you send a lover away, it’s forever. Which also makes me believe that if you ever fall in love, it will be forever, as well. I can only pray that the man who’ll be so lucky to earn your affection will respond in kind, or else, you will be condemned to a life of unhappiness.”

“Will it help me? Fix things with Pepin?”

“Yes and no. Pepin loves you, Sebastian. He has loved you always, and he will continue to do so to the day he dies. Regardless of what he might tell you now, he will get over it.”

“So, you say that he won’t be upset anymore?”

“In his heart, he will be. But in his continuous and unfaltering adoration for you, he won’t show it to you. So, look inside your heart of ice and convince yourself of that. You won’t lose Pepin if that’s what you’re afraid of. If I, the famous rake of Kelonia, failed to change his mind while he knows for sure that you can never love him the way he does love you, then no one will.”

“Does it mean that I should… just continue like before? Business as usual?” Kai asked.

Galien nodded. “Can I please ask something of you, nonetheless?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Don’t hurt Pepin more than necessary. Even you, as unfeeling as you are, must know it that his young heart, no matter how brave, can get scarred. You wouldn’t want to do that to him, right?”

Kai shook his head. “No, I like him. He’s my best friend, and I don’t want him to suffer because of me. But why did you say that knowing all these would give me power? That would make me turn into a rake like you or something?”

“When a rake knows that he’s loved, no matter what, he cannot help but continue to take and take from that person,” Galien said. 

“That sounds bad. But you’re not bad,” Kai said with determination. “I don’t think you’re a rake, like people say.”

Galien shot him a surprised look. “Don’t let others hear you say that, dear cousin. My reputation is at stake. And I’ve changed as well during the last three years we haven’t kept in contact.”

Kai smiled and wiped his eyes. “I’m sure you’re not a rake, because you said that only Pepin has ever refused you. I also saw Conrad giving you the boot.”

Galien smirked and brushed a rebellious strand off his forehead, which stubbornly came back. “Hmm, I beg to differ. I had a chance to test what made you take Sir Conrad to your bed. Only a tiny bit,” he explained by offering a measuring of sorts with his thumb and forefinger, “since I respect you so much.”

“You? And Conrad? What did you do?”

His reaction was quickly misinterpreted. “I won’t tell you a thing. It’s not my place to cause jealousies. Not here, at your court, at least.”

I’m not jealous, only curious, Kai wanted to say, but Galien was already on his feet, probably keen on getting out of there and seeing about other things, much more entertaining than having to comfort a coward.

“I will apologize to Pepin,” he said loudly.

Galien turned on his feet, and his eyes narrowed for a moment. “Prince Sebastian never apologizes. Not even to a goddess,” he added enigmatically, and with that, he left the room.

Kai scratched his head. Galien’s advice was probably good, but he cared about Pepin and his feelings. So he would do what Prince Sebastian never did. He would apologize and something more. While he wouldn’t follow Galien’s words to the letter, they served to make him realize something of great importance. Yes, now he knew exactly what he would tell Pepin.

***

He walked throughout the castle and had to ask at least a dozen people or so if they had seen Pepin until a stable boy pointed him in the right direction. It wasn’t unexpected that the servant, as heartbroken as he must have been, had chosen a secluded place to lick his wounds. Kai ignored his grumbling stomach. Since Pepin hadn’t come around with breakfast, he had had nothing to eat, but that served him right. If only his suffering of hunger could have repaid Pepin for the terrible thing Kai did to him, that would have been great. Kai was sure he could go on without eating for a long time with a little bit of willpower.

He found Pepin on a bench in the large garden attached to the castle. The blond head hung low, and his hands were gathered in his lap. Kai cleared his throat, and Pepin raised his head. He quickly dabbed at his eyes and stood. 

“Sit down, Pepin,” Kai said and took place by his side. “I’m sorry for being such a huge jerk.”

Pepin stilled, and then he stared at Kai. He didn’t dare to look, but he could feel those beautiful blue eyes inspecting him, their owner most probably in shock upon hearing the mighty Prince Sebastian apologizing. As the silence stretched, he began to feel increasingly uncomfortable. “You’re not saying anything. Why?”

“I don’t know what to say,” Pepin replied, his voice honest and direct.

Kai sighed and moved his head from one side to another. “I suppose you’re right. Look, I was a major asshole this morning. I mean, I remember everything.” He squeezed his eyes tightly. Only the ice magic running through Sebastian’s veins kept his cheeks from burning like on fire. 

“And you regret it,” Pepin supplied when he didn’t add anything to that.

Did he regret it? Kai frowned and started to think for once in his life. Not really. It had been pleasant; heck, it had been amazing. Not that it made things right toward Pepin or anything, but he was there because he wanted to be as honest as he could without revealing his true identity. “I don’t,” he said back. 

“You don’t? But then… I mean, Sebastian, what do you want?” Pepin asked, and this time, he sounded hurt.

“What I want is…” Kai said slowly, searching for the right words, “that you start loving someone else. You know, some guy who truly deserves it.” He felt like an extra in a chick flick, giving life advice to the main character.

Pepin made a strange sound, and Kai turned toward him, alarmed. He expected to see the servant in tears, so he was in utter shock to see that he was actually laughing, although he was covering his face. “O. M. G.! Did I break you or something? What’s so funny?”

Pepin uncovered his face. His eyes shone with unshed tears, but he was smiling. He was beautiful like that, and Kai wanted to caress his face and pinch his cheek, not sure in which order. 

“You’re funny,” Pepin retorted. “How could I love someone else when you’re here, apologizing and saying such crazy things?”

“I’m not sure I follow your logic,” Kai said. “I’m a complete asshole. First, my mother gives you to me like you’re some kind of object, not a human being, and you’re practically sent into slavery since you’re five. Then she tells you you’re supposed to be with me forever, and you have no choice but to obey her since I bet she’s pretty scary if looking at this face,” he pointed at himself, “is any indication. Then you believe yourself in love with me, again, because it’s not like you have a choice. And then I go and mess with your head because I’m a gay drunk --”

Pepin stopped him with a kiss. 

“No, no, no, Pepin, bad boy!” Kai said, too astonished to find something smarter to say and to try to pull away.

Pepin snickered. “Whatever you use on Conrad, don’t try it on me. It won’t work.”

“I see. I need to find something else, then. But seriously, wasn’t I enough of a jerk toward you all your life?”

Pepin’s smile turned secretive like the servant was privy of something he didn’t care to share with the world. “Not recently. I’m more in love with you now. Actually, I’m in love with this new Sebastian. Don’t ever turn back to being the old one, all right?”

With that, the servant stood and walked away, without one look back. His shoulders were square, and he had a spring in his step.

“That worked all wrong,” Kai said to himself with a sigh.

***

Several minutes must have passed when the sound of approaching steps made him raise his head. He stared at Conrad, and the other stared back with a pissed-off expression on his face. “What now?” he asked. 

Conrad crossed his arms over his impossibly large and hard chest and gave him an annoyed look. “Was last night some sort of ruse? Your cousin was bent on trying to extract information from me. Information,” he added in a stern voice, “I do not possess.”

“What did he do?” Kai asked, curious about what Galien had done, indeed, to poor Conrad. The famous rake must have had his methods to make the proud fallen prince surrender his defenses. 

Conrad huffed. “After we drank, and you left with your servant, he did nothing less but offer himself to me. In quite a shameless manner if I may say so.”

“You may,” Kai offered courteously.

Conrad blinked and frowned. “Given the state of inebriation I found myself in, I have to admit,” he said while setting his chin high, “that, for a moment, I gave in to the temptation.”

Kai began munching on his lips. He could imagine Galien all over Conrad, asking for a kiss. If anyone could pull a thing like that, it had to be cousin dearest. He seemed like a dude who took any challenges with ease. 

“Do you find it amusing?” Conrad inquired, visibly irritated. 

“Come on, dude, you’re bigger than Galien. Don’t tell me he managed to steal a kiss from you.” Kai snickered at the idea. Since he was trapped in a BL story, he had to get acquainted with all the tropes belonging to the genre. 

“No,” Conrad replied and scowled. 

“No? Then how did he sample the goods?” Kai asked the question but mainly himself. Galien seemed pretty sure of his success in doing that the previous evening with Conrad. “You know, did he like, touched you or --”

“He made me fondle his --” Conrad stopped with a frustrated grunt.

“His what?” Kai asked, now more curious than before.

Conrad pinched the bridge of his nose. “It is of no consequence. Nothing happened. He kept asking me about the attempt on your life, making it all too clearly that he’s suspecting me.”

Kai was pretty confident Conrad was letting out some embarrassing details, but he didn’t press on. “I know you had nothing to do with that.”

Conrad seemed surprised at that. “You do?”

“Hey, you practically risked your life to save mine. You and me, Conrad, we’re good, man.” Kai stood and walked over to Conrad to pat him on the shoulder. “And, just so you know, if you feel like, you know, doing the nasty with Galien, don’t let me keep you.”

He left a flabbergasted Conrad behind as he headed over to the castle. His stomach was still grumbling, and he had yet to have something to eat.

***

 

Sebastian stood by the bed, watching Milo sleep. He had had trouble last night convincing him that no reciprocation was needed. And then, he had struggled to sleep throughout the night, with that handsome young man wrapped around him. By dawn, he had somehow managed to remove himself from those loving arms.

He would sneak out like a thief, as that was how he entered Milo’s life. Through no fault of his own, but nonetheless, he wasn’t entitled, not for one moment, to Kai’s best friend’s attention and especially affection. He let his hand caress Milo’s face gently and then leaned in and placed a small kiss on his cheek. 

For a moment, Milo stirred in his sleep. He had to be dreaming something pleasant, as his full lovely lips were curled in a smile. 

Sebastian sighed. This strange curse made him do unfathomable things such as caring for the feelings of this young man who was of no royal or noble descent and should have been indistinguishable from most of the people surrounding them. And yet, he was unique, and Sebastian wondered briefly when it had been the last time to think like that of anyone. 

Everyone was replaceable. He was nothing but a man with a duty, and he would stop at nothing on the path to achieving it. For certain, not at considering the sentiments of a commoner, regardless of how handsome he was. 

He withdrew slowly, avoiding making any sounds. He snuck out of the room and rushed toward the front door, his head swirling with new tangled thoughts that should have had no place there.

It had to be the curse. Milo could be an innocent tool of those behind it, which was all the more reason to protect him, as well. 

***

“You got the first prize at the cosplay contest?” Tani’s eyes grew wide. 

“Yes,” Sebastian replied matter-of-factly.

The girl thinned her eyes. “Who did you go as? And how come you didn’t tell me?”

Milo had suggested before the event that he could obtain some helpful information from Kai’s sister, but somehow, he had found the idea inopportune. “You are still very young. I don’t see why you should be informed of your brother’s questionable means of raising money for the family.”

“Questionable? Since when do you know so many words? What did you do? I mean, who did you cosplay as?”

Sebastian wanted Tani out of his hair so that he could consult his phone about the means to become a warrior and earn his keep by fighting monsters.

“I went as Prince Sendrian.”

Tani was sitting on a chair in the kitchen, swinging her feet. At his words, she suddenly jumped and caught him by the arms. The reason for her excitement was difficult to glean. She just kept on shaking him and laughing. “No way! Did you take pictures?”

“Milo must have, but I don’t see --”

“I have to see them. I need to show them to all my friends.”

Sebastian knew he must have had a pretty stricken expression because Tani stopped. 

Her eyes thinned again. “What kind of getup did you use?”

Sebastian frowned. He needed to admonish his younger sister. First of all, she should have never opened that manga. Second of all, she had no business seeing him in such revealing clothes. Despite having been seen by hundreds of people, he didn’t want her to see those pictures. 

“What do I have to do so that you stop bothering me?” he asked in a measured voice. 

Tani’s sly smile announced nothing good. “Pay me.”

He took the money from his pocket and extracted a single bill. “Here,” he said as he placed it in the girl’s open palm. “Is it enough?”

For a moment, he wondered whether Tani was having a sudden fit of sickness, as her eyes grew wide, her mouth went slack, and she stared at him without saying a word for several moments. Then, she shouted, taking him completely by surprise, “A twenty? You’re giving me a twenty?”

“What? Is it too little? I must give the rest to Mrs. … to our mother,” he said sternly.

Tani began laughing and clapping, not before she made the bill disappear in her pocket. “You’re giving mom the money? What for?”

“I am the man of this house,” Sebastian said slowly, uncertain what Tani’s strange reactions were all about.

“The man of – This is so friggin’ precious! Wait till mom hears you!”

“I don’t intend to wait. Where is she, anyway?”

“She went to see some friends for a coffee or something like that. I don’t think she’ll want your money, though.”

“Why? Is it too little? Here.” He showed her the wad of bills.

Tani let herself prey to another bout of laughter. “No, but it’s not like we have money problems. What’s gotten into you all of a sudden?”

Sebastian felt wounded by her words. “If we don’t have financial difficulties, why are our meals such a drab affair?”

“What’s that, drab?”

Sebastian pondered. He couldn’t insult Mrs. Martin’s cooking, especially since it was nutritious and had a decent taste.

“You know what?” Tani said. “Let’s do something for her, you know, like siblings. Since you want so much to impress her.”

Sebastian’s goals were much more practical, but he was curious about what Tani had in mind.

“Let’s cook something and wait for her with a warm meal,” she decided without waiting for his input. 

“Cook something?” Sebastian was certain he was making faces. “I’m not some kind of kitchen… I’m not a cook.”

Tani rolled her eyes and grabbed him by the hand. “Yeah, like I don’t know that. I’m not a cook, either. What did you say? That mom’s cooking is bad?”

That wasn’t what he had said. 

“Then we’ll make something fancy,” Tani concluded and began tapping fast on her phone. “We’ll make this,” she added triumphantly and pushed her phone under Sebastian’s nose.

The dish looked, indeed, palatable. Maybe he could try cooking once. What could go wrong?

***

Something had gone wrong. The crust was all flaky and burnt in places, the meat inside was dry, and the kitchen looked like it had been the scene of a battle. 

“It looks nothing like in the picture,” Tani decided in a dejected voice. 

She was pulling at one of her pigtails, trying to remove some caked in flour. 

“We failed,” Sebastian declared, trying to sound neutral and avoid expressing his disappointment and frustration. The beef fillet had cost a lot, and he had expected more from his first experience in the kitchen. 

“Where did we go wrong?” Tani whined. “We roasted it just fine, right? I mean, before shoving it in the fridge.”

“Quite a questionable method,” Sebastian commented. “Could it be that we didn’t yell at one another enough?”

Maybe it was a devilish recipe, by how the chef in those videos was cursing those under him, who were slaving away in the kitchen. His yells must have served as some sort of incantation meant to keep the meat juices inside and prevent the crust from burning.

Tani groaned. “I had no idea you could be such a slave driver. Really, you could make a career in television. Although, it may be that because you yelled at me all of a sudden that I dropped the meat in the sink.”

Sebastian examined the girl with thin eyes. “You dropped it?”

“Don’t worry. It was clean,” Tani retorted. “I mean, I washed it well.”

Sebastian frowned. “Well, we should taste it.”

“Do you have the guts? It looks kind of dead.” Tani pushed against the slice of meat with her fork.

“Well, it does look like you overcooked it --”

“I overcooked it? And who said you could be the chef?”

“Hey, I was busy reading the instructions,” Sebastian said defensively. 

His phone buzzed again, but he pretended not to notice. Tani surprised him by strolling over to the table and grabbing his phone. “Why are you ignoring Milo?”

“I’m not ignoring him,” Sebastian retorted. “I am just too busy right now to talk to him.”

Tani eyed him suspiciously. “Did you screw up somehow? Or did he?”

Sebastian would have much preferred Tani to shut up at this point. He had never, in his life, been made guilty of cowardice, but right now, he had no idea how to look Milo in the eyes again. 

“Let’s just see how this thing tastes,” he said abruptly and grabbed his fork. 

He had to work his way through the slice with the knife, and Tani followed his example. They were both leaning over the plate, and they exchanged a look before gathering the courage to push the bite-size morsels they had cut into their mouths. 

For a moment, they kept staring at each other without daring to chew. Then, at the same time, they began.

“It’s, um,” Sebastian started once he managed to push the piece of meat down his throat, “dry.”

“—not so bad,” Tani said right away.

“Not so bad?” he exclaimed, surprised by Tani’s judgment of the drab affair on their plate.

“Hey, it’s our first,” Tani pointed out. “Who’s perfect from the first try?”

I am. I must be. I am Prince Sebastian of Ifigia, and people expect nothing less of me.

“It’s edible,” Tani continued. “And at least, I think we got the spices right.”

Sebastian cut another piece and tasted it. Actually, Tani wasn’t entirely off the mark. The taste wasn’t all that bad. And even if it was dry, the meat could be eaten. 

“We’ll just remove the burnt edges from the crust,” Tani suggested. She jumped off her stool and headed over to the pot in which their dish lay. 

Sebastian walked over to lend her a hand, making sure to avoid an egg dropped in the middle of the kitchen. “I see. It looks like a plucked chicken now, but I suppose it’s better than having to taste all those burned pieces.”

“What happened here?”

They both turned with guilt written all over their faces to witness Mrs. Martin standing in the door, with her hands on her hips. She looked surprised but not mad, which Sebastian couldn’t figure why. The state of the kitchen was deplorable, and she would probably have to clean for a long time to return it to some kind of normality.

“We cooked for you,” Tani said enthusiastically.

“You did?” 

Sebastian couldn’t tell what it was about Mrs. Martin that he liked so much, but when she smiled the way she did right now, she was just so beautiful. It wasn’t an aesthete’s reaction she rose in him, and not one to have anything in common with lust since he never looked at women that way, but it was like her smile reached his heart directly, all barricades useless. 

“Yeah. Kai made some cash, and we thought to surprise you with this. Ta-da!” Tani gestured toward the table with both hands. 

Mrs. Martin walked over, took them by the shoulders, and then looked at the strange dish with unhidden amusement. “Let’s see what you two did.”

“You shouldn’t eat it,” Sebastian said sternly. “The meat is dry, and we burned the crust.”

“What a doomer,” Tani said with a sigh. “Just try it, mom. It’s not as bad as Kai makes it to be.”

To his astonishment, Mrs. Martin let go of their shoulders and cut herself a piece. She tasted it, chewed for a while, and then appeared to have swallowed. “It’s the first time you two are cooking,” she said.

She wasn’t smiling anymore, and Sebastian tensed. Of course, now came the reprimand for their terrible lack of skill. He yelped when Mrs. Martin grabbed him and kissed his head and then did the same with Tani. “You’re good kids, you two.”

“We totally are,” Tani said, full of herself. She wasn’t in the least impressed by being hugged by Mrs. Martin, unlike him. 

“And because you two are such good kids, you’ll now clean the kitchen.”

That seemed to deflate Tani in an instant. “Do we have to?” she whined.

Mrs. Martin ruffled her hair. “Yes, you do.” Her voice was still affectionate as she told them that. “Well, Kai will have to trade in another chore.”

“Why?” Tani was not getting ready for battle. 

Mrs. Martin threw Sebastian a soft, knowing look. “Milo’s in front of the building and doesn’t want to come up. He’s waiting for Kai.”

“Just tell him you’re busy.” Tani pushed his phone into his hand. “No way you’re leaving me behind. I’m your fallen comrade. Don’t do it, Kai.”

Mrs. Martin laughed. “I’ll help you this time, Tani. And don’t worry, Kai won’t be off the hook. I’ll make sure he pays his debts in full. Now, off you go, Kai.”

Didn’t he have a choice? He would rather stay and clean. A look at his surroundings convinced him that it would be a rushed decision. He stuffed his phone into his pocket and walked out, a lingering pleasant sensation still with him after being hugged like that by Mrs. Martin.

TBC

 

Well, I hope you had fun with Sebastian's and Tani's cooking attempts. And, of course, that you noticed Pepin's secret smile during his conversation with Kai. The characters will continue to fool around some more, but, slowly, things will start to turn a bit more serious, feelings wise and not only.

Thank you for keeping up with the story! As always, your comments and reactions are more than welcome.

Until next time,

Hugs,

Laura

Copyright © 2021 Laura S. Fox; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

Ok so i had a small tiny miniscule thought that maybe possibly Conrad was involved in the attempt, but now its grown. i mean what better way to free yourself from servitude than a life debt. I just dont think he intended to get stabbed.

And why do i get the feeling the chef they were watching name rhymes with Jordan Gamsey?

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TBH, I feel like there is a lot of background information that I am missing, Sebastian's, Kai's. I'm really curious how thoroughly they are stirring the pot in their new worlds.

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On 7/25/2021 at 5:10 PM, Wesley8890 said:

Ok so i had a small tiny miniscule thought that maybe possibly Conrad was involved in the attempt, but now its grown. i mean what better way to free yourself from servitude than a life debt. I just dont think he intended to get stabbed.

And why do i get the feeling the chef they were watching name rhymes with Jordan Gamsey?

You're right about the chef... but as far as Conrad is concerned, his motivations might become a lil' bit clearer later on :)

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19 hours ago, johnnyboy2285 said:

TBH, I feel like there is a lot of background information that I am missing, Sebastian's, Kai's. I'm really curious how thoroughly they are stirring the pot in their new worlds.

That is true, and I hope that my slow reveals of their backgrounds will be satisfying :)

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On 7/26/2021 at 9:08 PM, Laura S. Fox said:

That is true, and I hope that my slow reveals of their backgrounds will be satisfying :)

I just realised that I am the most curious about Conrad, then Pepin 

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4 hours ago, johnnyboy2285 said:

I just realised that I am the most curious about Conrad, then Pepin 

There will be more about them, too :)

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