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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! - 22. Dragons Are People, Too

Chapter Twenty-Two – Dragons Are People, Too

Pepin was, above all, an efficient and outstanding servant. Kai had no idea it would take so little for him to be back into his pants, shirt, and boots, and out of the room, with a fully dressed and dutiful servant on his heels.

“Your Majesty, your sword!” Pepin hurried to keep up with him. 

“Right, give it here,” Kai said quickly. “Say, Pepin, do you believe we could make this dragon cry like the last one? I don’t feel like fighting one for real. They’re kind of cute, don’t you think?”

“I don’t believe that Your Majesty would still find them cute once you see half of your castle on fire.”

That was a good point, and Pepin was entirely correct, but Kai still had his hopes that he would strike a friendship with a dragon or two.

They hurried out on the external wall and up to the tower. The good news was that no sign of smoke could be sensed in the air, but everyone was in a frenzy, and armed guards were aligned along the walls, armed and ready to shoot from their bows, ballistae, and whatnot. Galien and Conrad joined them shortly.

“Where is the dragon?” Kai asked impatiently.

Just as if his words had the power to summon the mythical creature, a loud flapping of wings announced that they would soon see the dragon. Kai stared in fascination as the impressive creature soared from the ground and hovered in midair, at a height enough to allow him to stare into the golden eyes from up close.

“Hey, hold your fire, everyone!” Kai shouted at the top of his lungs. “Actually, put all your weapons away! It’s the mother dragon! We’re friends!”

Maybe all dragons looked pretty much the same, but Kai was sure enough he recognized those eyes from before. 

“My name is Adhe,” the mother dragon spoke. “I thought you’d like to meet my little whelp, Iri.”

“Oh, he hatched?” Kai asked with excitement. “I totally want to see him. Hey, everyone, it’s all fine!” he shouted and leaned over the wall to gesture at the troops gathered and ready to fight. 

What his voice, as loud as it was, couldn’t carry to everyone, was just passed from one soldier to another, and the weapons were being lowered, although Kai could tell everyone was prey to a lot of confusion. Well, they had to get used to it because he did things differently around here.

“Where is the baby?” he asked and opened his arms, ready to hold a baby dragon for the first time in his life.

“Your Majesty,” Conrad said in a tense voice, “how are you friends with this dragon?”

“The same I’m friends with you,” Kai said promptly, “completely by accident, but you know, it was a happy accident.”

“A prince making friends among dragons,” Galien commented. “Who would have thought?”

Kai could tell his cousin was amused by the entire scene without even turning to look at him. Adhe turned her head and nudged at something hiding behind her right wing. A small creature emerged, whining softly. His mother cooed and encouraged him while Kai stretched his arms as far as he could. 

The whelp was darker than his mother, and his eyes were a lighter color. But most of all, he was so pretty with his tiny scales and clumsy little feet on which he could barely stand. Kai wrapped his arms slowly around the small body and lifted the baby dragon to hold him close to his chest. “Guys, look!” he exclaimed and turned to show the little wonder to the rest of the group. “His name is Iri, you said?” he asked the mother.

“Yes.”

“It’s such a beautiful name for such a beautiful baby. Look, Iri, this is Pepin who managed to repair your egg when it was cracked. He’s a cool guy. And this is Conrad, who has eyes just like yours. He’s a big shot warrior. And a heartbreaker,” he added in a conspiratorial voice. “And this is my cousin, Galien. Don’t believe everything they say about him being a rake and all that. He’s a good guy, too.”

The baby dragon was examining everyone with curious eyes, but when he turned his attention on Galien, Kai felt him tense. “Hey, little buddy, what is it?”

Iri suddenly sneezed, sending a wave of flames directly into Galien’s face, much to Kai’s horror. 

“Oh my God, Galien, are you all right?”

But instead of witnessing something horrible like a charred face, he only stared into his cousin’s eyes that looked quite amused. Galien took out his handkerchief with a fancy gesture and wiped his face of a bit of soot. “I’m fire resistant, Sebastian, don’t worry. Just a little gift from my mother’s lineage.”

“Cool gift.” Kai breathed out in relief. “Iri, I think I should return you to your mother before you sneeze into other people’s faces, people who aren’t as lucky as Galien to having been born from a fire goddess.”

“I’m so sorry about that,” Adhe said and leaned over her wing so that Kai could deposit the baby dragon behind it safely. “He has yet to understand how powerful he is.”

“He’s a strong baby,” Kai agreed. 

“I wanted to thank you for saving my child,” Adhe added. “Do you think there’s a way for me to repay your kindness?”

“You didn’t tell me how you got the cure for me,” Conrad said accusingly. “I assumed you destroyed the dragon.”

“Really, Conrad? Just what kind of guy do you think I am?” Kai turned to face the other. “We solved the quest by wits. I mean, it was mostly Pepin, but I was around so it counts.”

That made Conrad look at Pepin with new eyes. Kai could tell the captive prince was pretty impressed with that revelation. Most probably, he hadn’t expected that his rival in love would do such a thing to save him. 

Pepin looked down with modesty and was saying nothing. 

“Yeah,” Kai insisted, “Pepin totally saved your ass. So you two should hug and be friends or something.”

Although the two didn’t move to do any of what he was so strongly recommending, he knew everyone would be fine, and that was all that mattered. Then, an idea struck him. He turned toward the mother dragon. “Adhe, do you think we could like ride on your back a little? Unless you find that insulting and you’ll only wait to get high enough to drop us and turn us into dust.”

“Please, climb on my back,” Adhe said and hovered close to the wall from one side. 

“Guys, we’re going on a road trip on the back of a dragon!” Kai announced with enthusiasm. “Is it too much to take the four of us?” he asked the mother dragon.

“No, not at all,” Adhe assured him. “I will barely feel you. But you should hold Iri in front so that he doesn’t get scared with so many people around.”

“Sure. Pepin, you first, and hold Iri. He must love you the most since you’re the guy who saved him,” Kai began organizing them. “Then, I’m next, and Galien, you can sit behind me, with Conrad the last because he’s the biggest guy in our group.”

If there were any adjustments the guys wanted to make to the plan, they seemed to prefer to keep them to themselves. Nonetheless, Kai could tell that everyone was pretty excited about the prospect of riding on the back of a dragon. He offered Pepin his hand and helped him climb between Adhe’s shoulder blades, and then he took little Iri and placed him in Pepin’s lap. The baby dragon seemed quite excited, too, if one could take his cooing as a sign of that. 

When he sat behind Pepin and trapped the other between his thighs, he sighed contently. He was on the back of a frigging dragon! If it was all a dream, it was one hell of a dream. Galien placed his hands on Kai’s shoulders as he took his place, and Conrad followed right away. He was a bit sandwiched between Pepin, who leaned against him and tickled his nose with his hair, and Galien, who playfully wrapped his arms around him, only to be pulled back abruptly, probably by a jealous Conrad.

Well, it wasn’t flying first class, but who the hell needed a boring plane ticket when they could ride a dragon?

Adhe soared into the air, and Kai began waving at the people below who were staring at them in utter disbelief. However, as soon as Adhe started flapping her wings to depart, the gathered troops broke into cheers.

Kai felt it was an important moment in the history of Ifigia, so it was a good moment for a short and unforgettable speech. “My peeps,” he yelled from the top of his lungs, “this is a great day for our kingdom.” Adhe was gaining speed, so he needed to make it even shorter. “Don’t forget. Dragons are people, too!”

He had no idea if the last of his words had been carried by the wind or not, but it didn’t matter. He was riding a dragon!

***

“I had no idea Ifigia was so beautiful from above,” Kai commented as Adhe took them over the rich golden fields and green rolling hills.

“None of us had, I assure you, Your Majesty,” Pepin said. “I’ve never been so high up in the air!”

It was so easy to pick on Pepin’s excitement. Kai leaned forward and pressed his cheek against the other’s, enjoying how warm and smooth it felt. He caressed Iri’s head, and the baby dragon tilted his head to stare at him with his humid eyes.

He looked definitely happy in Pepin’s arms. 

“Pepin, I think you have a knack for holding babies,” Kai said.

“You believe so, Sebastian?” Pepin’s voice was low and quiet, almost hard to hear, as, at that height, the wind blew with a vengeance.

“Totally. You’re a natural. I barely held him for a minute, and he almost melted Galien’s face.”

“He did nothing to me, but your hair is killing me, Sebastian,” Galien protested.

Kai turned to see all of his hair smacking Galien in the face while the guy was trying in vain to brush it away while still holding on with one hand. That was really funny, so Kai laughed in his face. “Sorry, sorry.” He grabbed his hair, as well as he could manage, and pulled it on one side. “Do you think you can braid this thing?” he asked Pepin.

“Of course, Your Majesty,” Pepin said dutifully and got to work while still somehow managing to keep the baby dragon close.

“See, Galien? Don’t ever say that I don’t care about my cousin dearest,” Kai threw over his shoulder.

“Indeed,” Galien agreed. “You’re surprisingly accommodating, Sebastian. I’m starting to wonder just how much you changed during these years we haven’t seen each other. All those stories I kept hearing about you must have been exaggerations.”

“Yeah, totally. I’m a good guy,” Kai said with emphasis. Not a modest one, for sure, but still, compared to Sebastian, who could probably make the entire kingdom tremble with a flick of his wrist or a frown, he had to be the salt of the earth.

“Oh, Conrad, yes, hold me tightly like this,” Galien suddenly moaned, taking Kai by surprise.

Too bad he couldn’t turn completely to see what was going on.

“What on earth are you spewing, you rake?” Conrad asked, obviously scandalized. “I’m barely holding my arms around you.”

Galien laughed. “You’re so easy, Sir Conrad. I’m loving you more and more.”

“And, with all due respect, I’m hating you more and more, Sir Galien,” Conrad hissed back his reply.

Kai snickered. “Are you hearing these guys, Pepin? They’re a total riot. I think we might be hearing wedding bells soon.”

“Do you wish that Conrad would marry your cousin?” Pepin asked.

“You know how they say, couples that fight a lot love a lot, or something like that.”

“And I’ll be marrying you?”

Pepin’s question sobered him up in an instant. Could he be convinced that Sebastian would agree to that once they switched back? Because if it were after him, he would say ‘yes’ to Pepin in an instant.

His eyes wandered at the horizon. Black tendrils of smoke rose in the distance, ominous and frightening. “What’s that?” Kai asked.

Galien and Conrad stopped their bickering. 

“Oh, no,” Galien whispered. “But how is it possible? You destroyed the House of Uxilan, did you not, Sebastian?”

“As far as I can tell,” Kai shot back, unnerved by the sudden grave tone of his cousin’s voice. 

“That’s their territory. They’re rising again,” Galien said somberly. 

“They what? Can you take us over there, Adhe?” Kai asked.

“Your Majesty, no,” Conrad said in the same solemn tone as Galien. “The land of the House of Uxilan is poisoned, as are the trees and everything that still lives in there. It would be sure death.”

“All right,” Kai admitted. “But what are we supposed to do?”

“Turn back to the castle,” Galien recommended.

“And prepare for war,” Conrad added.

Kai felt a cold shiver down his spine. Now that didn’t feel like playing anymore.

***

Sebastian moved his fingers against his nose, wincing at the pain he still felt. Nothing was broken, and Mrs. Martin had confirmed it, but the sensation was there, irking him to no end. The skin had been sliced a bit, and Kai’s mother had taken to bandage it, which had made him protest at first. After a look in the mirror, something convinced him that it was for the better. Along with the few scratches on his face, that bandage made him look less like the weakling Kai was and a bit more like someone who would find it easier to demand respect. That, along with the unadulterated yet controlled fury in his eyes.

The plan had to be put in motion, and the soonest, the better. Alone in his bedroom, he could start his training so that he could repel such attacks in the future. As Sebastian well knew, that would take a long time, but that didn’t mean that he would postpone it for one moment more than necessary.

The first thing he had to do was the most difficult. To ensure that his enemies wouldn’t use Milo and the young man’s affection toward him in order to corner him and make him surrender, he had to do something. There was also the matter that those minions that served who knew what evil force could also take it upon themselves to hurt Milo, and that was, indeed, impossible to allow if it cost him everything.

He drew in a sigh and grabbed his phone. Without a doubt, it would be painful, but he was not a man to live his life by halves. With another heartfelt exhale, he began typing quickly to find a way to break up with someone without hurting their feelings. His lips began moving as he read page after page of teen breakup advice. He would have found it all quite ludicrous if he hadn’t been in the unnegotiable position of having to convince Milo that he genuinely wanted them to become perfect strangers.

“What bullocks,” he murmured to himself. Where were the lavish gifts? Where was the decree that they would never cross paths again? And where, above all, was his usual conviction that he was doing nothing but the right thing by parting ways with a lover?

He squeezed the phone in his hand hard. If he were in his body, the stupid phone with all its foolish advice would crumble. But he was not him, and the rules of this world demanded that he had to heed inane advice on how to part with someone you were in love with.

Still in love with. He had never loved before, and he was now acutely aware of it, and the burning sensation in the middle of his chest was of the worst kind. Sebastian wanted to believe that such feelings would come to pass, but only the thought of erasing Milo from his mind and heart appeared impossible.

As hurtful as it was, he needed to go ahead and do it. Milo would love another, and there were chances that if Sebastian defeated his enemies, he and Kai would return to their bodies. Maybe Kai would return Milo’s affection, and this breakup or whatever it was would appear as just a tiny bump in the road, as they said here, in this world.

So why was his hand trembling, clutched on the phone? It was the just thing to do. Never before, when it had come to protect what and who was worth protecting, had he ever hesitated. This vacillation wasn’t him.

“Let’s see,” he said out loud in an effort to spur himself into action. “Take your time to think why you want to break up,” he read, mumbling under his breath.

Oh, that was easy. If he didn’t do it, Milo would be in mortal danger, and that was something he couldn’t have. Therefore, all the teen angst supposed to accompany his decision wasn’t present. 

“Consider the other’s feelings and possible reactions. Will they cry? Will they get mad?” Sebastian continued to read. He stopped. How would Milo react? He didn’t think he would be able to stand seeing Milo cry. Just the thought of those green eyes swimming in tears was enough to make his stomach clench like he had just eaten a dozen lemons. How had he done it so many times before? Had he ever been impressed by tears? Not that his former lovers usually cried when the time to part with them came. He was more used to being threatened and insulted but not to tears.

No, that was clearly not an option. Milo crying would make him come undone, and by that, he would condemn the young man to a horrible fate. 

“Be kind and don’t judge the other person, but be honest about your reasons why you want to break up.”

No, that advice was just another piece of waste, Sebastian decided. He couldn’t be honest about the real reasons; Milo would become worried, Mrs. Martin would probably find out, and then the police would be involved. Sebastian wasn’t in the mood to start watching prison series to discover how to survive in that kind of environment and plan a jailbreak, for the simple reasons that it didn’t go along with his plan.

Of course, he would heed the advice telling him that he would do good to tell Milo why he had liked him in the first place. That would take a lot of time, but it would be worth it if it made things easier for Milo.

“Show the other person respect by telling them about the breakup in person.” Sebastian stopped for a moment. “No, let’s cut this off the list.”

For his plan to work flawlessly, he had to stay away from Milo. He couldn’t avoid him since they attended the same classes, but limiting interactions was desirable. 

Sebastian closed his eyes for a moment. He now knew why he hadn’t fallen in love before. It complicated things unnecessarily, especially when they demanded the most attention, like right now. The chances were he would not be able to go through with it if he were to look upon Milo with the same eyes he had done so lately.

He spent some more time reading through the advice offered by various websites. The conclusion was one and only: he would break up with Milo via text.

His fingers hurt as he forced them to type. But as soon as he was done with it, he would be able to focus on his training.

I want to talk about something important.

Sent. Sebastian didn’t like blocks of text, so he needed to deliver his message in different texts.

What? Where to hang out tomorrow?

He hadn’t expected a reply, but now he couldn’t back down. Quickly, he checked what he was supposed to say next.

You are very important to me.

It was the truth and the most crucial part of what he was doing right now.

Really? You are, too. I’m just joking. I know I’m important to you.

Milo’s message was peppered with all sorts of smiley faces. Sebastian had found them a bit childish, but now they were glaring at him with their happy smiles, and he hated them a little. Now, the big ‘but’ followed.

But I don’t want a boyfriend right now.

What do you want then? Milo’s text appeared promptly on the screen. Are you proposing? Because that would be crazy, but I wouldn’t say ‘no’ if that’s the case.

Proposing? Sebastian stopped for a moment and winced at the pain in his nose. The last thing he needed was to blow his nose right now. He pressed the back of the hand against his forehead and wished those pesky sensations away. 

So, I want to break up. Sebastian fired the text quickly. 

This time, Milo didn’t send a text right away. Since this had turned into some sort of conversation, Sebastian tried to wait patiently. The three dots were pure torture to watch.

You’re joking, right?

No, he wasn’t, not at all. He just had to stick with the plan, and soon all would be over. But the cookie-cutter example of what he was supposed to say next couldn’t convey what he felt in his heart.

I will always cherish every single memory I have of you.

That was it. That was all. Sebastian wiped his face angrily. No wonder he had been fine for all the twenty-two years of his life he had lived so far. Nothing compared to this, and he wasn’t supposed to cry over such a thing. When had he ever cried? It had to be Kai’s tears, and there was no other explanation.

The phone ringing startled him. He stared at the screen, at Milo’s beautiful smiling face, and hesitated. Why was he calling? They had broken up already. The next item on the list said that…

Right, it said that he needed to hear the other person out. He inhaled, exhaled, and answered the phone.

“Are you seriously breaking up with me over text?” Milo’s voice was perplexed, above everything else.

“Yes,” Sebastian struggled to get out of his mouth. “Indeed, I am.”

Milo stopped for a moment. “You’ve been crying. I can tell. What’s going on, Kai?”

“I’m definitely not crying. I want to break up. It is my decision, and now’s your turn to talk. I’ll listen.”

“You’re… Is this some sort of prank? I know you like a good laugh, but come on… this… this is hurtful,” Milo said in a low voice.

Sebastian hated those anxious inflections he could pick up even like that over the phone. “No, it is not, I assure you.”

“Then why? Why do you want to break up? Did I push you too hard? I mean, I thought you wanted it, too, the way you talked and – You know what, it must be my fault, so just tell me what it is. I can fix it. Please, just give me a chance.”

Sebastian closed his eyes and put the phone away so that he didn’t blurt out some incredible truth. “Believe me,” he said in a steady voice, “it is not your fault. You are wonderful and --”

“And what? What didn’t work? I hurt you somehow, didn’t I?” Milo was getting gradually more rattled with each word he was saying.

“You did nothing of the kind.”

“Then please just tell me. How can I make it work if you’re not telling the truth?”

“The truth?” Sebastian echoed. “You wouldn’t believe the truth.”

“Try me,” Milo said aggressively. “I know you’re kind of aloof most of the time, but I never pegged you for a dishonest guy. So shoot it to me straight.”

Sebastian sighed. “People are here to hurt me, and they could do the same thing to you because of our association.”

“What? What people?” Milo sounded even more confused now.

“Assassins,” Sebastian said promptly. “They were sent here to eliminate me.”

Milo stopped for a moment. “Here? Assassins? What the hell, Kai? This joke is just taking it too far, okay, buddy? You’ve never been cruel to me before. Actually, to no one. This doesn’t sound like you. When you talk like this, you don’t sound at all like the Kai I know. Who are you?”

“I told you. I’m Prince Sebastian --”

“That stuff again? You know what?” Milo interrupted him. “I’ll let you sleep over your little prank. But I expect proper apologies tomorrow. The sooner, the better.”

Sebastian stared at the phone, being his turn to feel perplexed over how Milo cut off the conversation. The young man didn’t believe him. 

It didn’t matter. Now that the breakup ritual was over, he could concentrate on honing his skills. He doubted Kai had any fighting aptitudes, so he had to start somewhere. With steady fingers now, he began browsing.

TBC

Well, because @HanselMuffin put the idea in my head, I needed to have Kai ride a dragon. And hopefully, his little speech and adventure softened somewhat the rest of the chapter. Yeap, things are about to get real, with a new war at the horizon, and Sebastian having to break up with Milo. 

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

On 8/29/2021 at 5:45 PM, Wesley8890 said:

You just have to have drama dont you? Cant have cuteness every chapter! Milo is gonna kick his ass

He-he, if you don't know me by now... And Milo won't take it easy, indeed!

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Well, because @HanselMuffin put the idea in my head, I needed to have Kai ride a dragon.

Oh my God! I can't believe I'm only reading this precious gift months later! 😭 

 

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On 11/16/2021 at 5:01 AM, Aevylio said:

Oh my God! I can't believe I'm only reading this precious gift months later! 😭 

 

Better late than never!

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