This Strange World Needs A Kicking! - 7. Am I Supposed To Make Dragons Cry?
Chapter Seven – Am I Supposed To Make Dragons Cry?
Luckily, Pepin was already inside the royal chambers, busy dusting around with a feathery implement.
“What happened?” he asked and hurried to them.
“Conrad’s hurt. Bring the court’s physician,” Kai said in a steady voice. It was all a fantasy or a dream or a BL show, and probably he would get pulled to the real world anytime soon, but that didn’t mean that he would take the situation lightly.
“Right away,” Pepin replied without asking for additional details.
Kai carried Conrad to the bed and helped him lie down. “Are you all right? Any nausea? Dizziness? Is your whole life flashing before your eyes?”
Conrad tried to laugh, but then he winced in pain. “Why are you so different?” he asked.
“I’m not. That’s who I really am,” Kai retorted.
“Then I’ve been told a lot of lies,” Conrad whispered, and his eyelids grew heavy.
“Hey, hey, don’t you dare feint on me. I have no idea what to do if you suddenly died.”
Conrad’s eyes snapped open. “Why would you care?” he asked, looking pretty suspicious of Kai’s reasons to say such things.
“How could I not? You’re in my care or something.”
“Why would you feel responsible?” Conrad insisted. “I am but a tool for you to use.”
Oh, please, don’t say it.
Conrad continued. “Your concubine, your slave to use as you wish.”
Kai closed his eyes, squeezed them hard, and then released a drawn heavy sigh. “It’s only because you insist,” he said and pointed a finger at Conrad.
“Don’t worry, Your Majesty. I know you would quickly discard me if I failed to have my uses.” His eyelids were closing again.
Kai snapped his fingers in front of him. “You didn’t lose that much blood, right? Why do you keep falling asleep?”
“It… hurts,” Conrad hissed. “I’m so tired.”
“No,” Kai said in a determined voice. “No, you’re not allowed to sleep. I have no idea why you shouldn’t, but that’s how they say in those – I mean, I order you to stay awake, dammit!”
The doors opened, and Pepin, followed by a man with long grey hair, rushed in.
“Your Majesty,” the physician said and took a long and unnecessary bow.
“Yes, yes, I know. Just come here and fix him.”
The physician didn’t have to be told twice. He stepped closer to the patient and began examining him. Kai moved out of the way, not wanting to interfere with the medical act, whatever it entailed in this world.
Pepin touched his arm. “Who did this to Conrad?”
“A suspicious hooded figure,” Kai said promptly.
“Are you joking?”
“I’m serious,” Kai protested. “I think it was someone sent to assassinate me.”
“Assassinate? And you didn’t call the guards?” Pepin raised his voice.
Kai shushed him. “There’s a patient in the room, what the hell? And he was gone, like in an instant. Plus, I had to take Conrad to safety.”
Pepin appeared surprised. “You let the assassin get away,” he said slowly like he was just starting to realize something.
“Well, if it means so much to you, go and tell the guards to search the castle for suspicious hooded figures. Actually, not so hooded, since Conrad grabbed his robe. He was dressed all in black if that helps.”
“The robe, where is it?” Pepin asked impatiently.
“In the hallway, where the attack took place.”
“Let’s go get it, and you can inform the guards on our way to search for this assassin.”
“It sounds like a waste of time, but as you wish,” Kai said, a tiny bit vexed. “Hey, who’s ordering who around here, um?”
Pepin threw him a pointed look. “With all due respect, Your Majesty, you appear to forget how important you are for the kingdom of Ifigia.”
It hadn’t occurred to Kai until now that he hadn’t even known the name of the place where he had been transported by, apparently, a whim of fate. “Again, Pepin, I’m not letting this guy,” he pointed at Conrad, “die on my watch.”
“Why?” Pepin asked and pouted like a petulant child. “Are you in love with him?”
Kai groaned. “Stop being jealous. I just don’t like it, you know, people dying and stuff.”
“So you’re not in love with him,” Pepin concluded for himself.
“He’s a dude,” Kai said. “Why would I be in love with him?”
Pepin exhaled, more relaxed now. “Should we see about that robe, Your Majesty?”
“All right, let’s go, if it means so much to you. Will Conrad be safe, only with the physician here?”
“Why wouldn’t he?” Pepin asked.
“Well, there’s an assassin on the loose,” Kai pointed out. Maybe he was a scatterbrain, but Pepin didn’t seem much different. The servant seemed to have already forgotten about calling the guards and ordering a full-scale manhunt.
“Yes, the assassin,” Pepin said, and his alertness returned in full force. “After you, Your Majesty. And are you sure that you’re not doing this because you love Conrad?”
“Oh, shut up already, you annoying jealous…” Kai hesitated, not knowing what to say so that it didn’t sound too insulting to those delicate and quick to pass judgment ears.
“I am not jealous,” Pepin said airily. “Just concerned.”
“Yeah, concerned someone might take your place. Don’t worry, Conrad seems like the kind of guy who would be completely useless with a feather duster.” Kai grabbed Pepin’s hand. The servant looked at him with loving eyes. He was so hot and cold, it wasn’t even funny. “Now let’s grab the robe and put the guards on high alert, yes?”
“Yes,” Pepin said quietly and let himself dragged away.
The robe was still on the floor, which meant that the assassin hadn’t thought of coming back to wipe his traces. Pepin took the garment and began studying it intently. “As I suspected. The house of Uxilan.” He pointed at a small dark red crest that would have been easy to miss on that black fabric.
“Who are they?”
“You destroyed them,” Pepin said. “They were dealing in black magic and tried to keep you from marching through their territory.”
Kai didn’t dare to ask more about that. “Apparently, I didn’t do that good of job, if some of them are still alive and trying to stab me with pointy blades.”
“Pointy? Oh, no,” Pepin gasped.
“What? What is it?”
“Let’s hurry back to Conrad,” Pepin said quickly. He was the one to grab Kai’s hand.
“Now who’s in love with the guy?” Kai tried to joke.
“It is possible that he was poisoned,” came the hasty reply.
“Poisoned? Oh, shit, that’s bad.”
They started running.
The physician must have reached the same conclusion if his drawn face and worried eyes were any indications.
“How bad is it?” Kai asked directly.
Conrad had his eyes closed, and his face had a sickly pallor. He was sweating profusely and looked gone to the world.
“You did well to freeze the blood, Your Majesty,” the physician replied. “But it is poison, and not even ice magic will prevent it from spreading.”
“Is there an antidote?”
“Yes, there is one, but not easy to get. Leaves of angelica, hyssop root extract, and --” the physician hesitated.
“And?” Kai asked, tapping his foot.
“The tear of a dragon,” the old man finally answered.
“Are you kidding me? I mean, is this a joke?”
“How am I supposed to make a dragon cry? Should I tickle him? Have him watch sappy movies?”
“I do not know, Sire,” the physician said apologetically.
“All right,” Kai said and began to pace the room. “I was heading over to that dragon cave anyway. I’ll figure out a way. Pepin, get my horse ready, and whatever I need to take with me to fight dragons.”
“Just killing a dragon won’t make him cry,” the physician pointed out. “They are creatures made of fire and anger.”
“Well, then I won’t kill him. I’ll find a way,” Kai said. “The rest of the ingredients, do you have them?”
“Yes, of course,” the old man replied. “But, Sire, it is a perilous quest. Of what I heard, to touch a dragon’s heart, one needs to reach it. Cold steel and magic won’t work. And the few who ever succeeded if we were to believe the tales, went against dragons alone.”
“Fine by me,” Kai said. “I’m overpowered anyway, and I need to put my skills to the test. So I’ll go face this dragon by myself.”
“Don’t you dare,” Pepin shouted, ignoring that they had an audience.
Kai frowned. “Don’t lecture me, Pepin. I’m going, and that’s final.”
“Sire, if you allowed me a piece of advice,” the physician intervened, “allowing this man who until yesterday used to be your enemy, to perish, wouldn’t be seen as an act of malevolence. You could always get another concubine.”
“Talk to the hand,” Kai said and put one palm up in front of the physician.
That made the old man confused enough to stop making his case against Conrad.
“And make sure to keep him alive until I get back, or there will be consequences.”
What consequences those would be, he had no idea, but, at the moment, putting the fear of Prince Sebastian into those old bones looked like the right course of action.
The physician went back by the patient’s side right away. “Of course, Your Majesty,” he said grimly.
Kai felt a little bad about lying to the old man, but dire times called for dire measures. “Pepin, get guards to the door. They should be here at all times, in case someone tries something shady.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Pepin replied as a servant should. “But you’re not going alone to the dragon’s cave. I’m coming.”
“Why? I don’t need a sandwich while I’m sneaking into that beast’s lair.” Actually, he might get hungry, but whatever, he’d just grab some supplies.
Pepin seemed calm and composed. “You need me.”
Of course, he had no idea about the way to the dragon cave. “Why?” he chose to play his hand. “Do you happen to know how to get there?”
“Of course I do,” Pepin replied, now full of indignation of being suspected of such lack of knowledge.
“Then you’re coming,” Kai said like it was the most natural thing in the world to change his mind at the drop of a dime.
“I’ll make all the arrangements,” Pepin informed him. “We’ll be riding west before nightfall.”
“Yeah, let’s hurry. And you know what? Grab some sandwiches for the road.”
“What are those, sandwiches?”
“You take a slice of bread --” Kai began, “oh, shoot, never mind. Some food and water.”
“Of course. What kind of royal servant do you think I am, Your Majesty?” Pepin bristled, now taking offense over this underhanded attack at his skills.
With Pepin rushing through the door, Kai started looking around for things he might need in his quest. His eyes fell on Conrad. Even pale and worn by the poison trying to wring the life out of him, he was still handsome.
He took a step toward the bed, then another. He hovered and whispered, “I promise, you’ll get better.” He touched Conrad’s face with hesitant fingers, taking in the contour of his nose and lips.
The physician shifted in his place. “Your Majesty,” he cleared his throat, “you might need this.” He offered him an empty vial. “For the dragon’s tear.”
“Oh, right.” Kai shook his head. A warm and unfamiliar feeling deserted his heart as he pulled his eyes away from Conrad’s face. “Don’t worry. I’ll make him cry a river.”
The physician inspected him with clever eyes. “They keep gossiping about a change in our cold but just Prince Sebastian.”
Oh, no, Kai groaned internally, not this again.
“But it was foretold,” the old man added, “that love would do that to our protector.”
Love? Even this old dude thought he was in love with Conrad?
“What change? I have no idea what you’re talking about, man.” He used a harsher voice than usual to stop the physician from talking nonsense.
“Forgive an old fool, Your Majesty.” The physician cowered and looked down.
Well, even to his ears, he sounded like a total prick. Everyone was right to fear him. And since it served, he could use that to his advantage. But better not get used to it, Kai thought. If he were to re-write this story, he would do it his way.
Eventually, Tani had settled for walking between him and Milo after they got off the subway, so now she was chirping happily while swinging their arms around. Milo appeared to be quite fond of his sister. Could it be that he intended to marry her once she was of age?
The thought annoyed him. Tani was from a royal house, regardless of her manners that left plenty to be desired. He was still unsure of Milo’s position. He wasn’t a scholar and didn’t appear to have the sternness required by a knight’s education. Asking directly would be considered an affront, so it was another thing he had to figure out on his own.
That wasn’t all. Milo pledged loyalty to him. He belonged to him, Sebastian decided. And as someone who belonged to him, he should have known better than to try to use the attention lavished on him to get to the princess.
Tani’s hand was warm, clammy, and slightly unpleasant, but Sebastian held it tightly. He had never had siblings and not exactly a family either. At least, not one that resembled what everyone else had. He had been born into his role as the protector of the realm, and that left no room for unnecessary sentiments.
To begin with, sentiments were a bother. They fogged one’s mind and weakened the spirit. For that reason, he had to be careful around this family. They appeared to be prone to excessive emotions. Tani was too loud and joked about everything, and the mother worried too much about his wellbeing.
At least Milo appeared to be a lustful creature. Lust, he could understand. He saw its uses, and the sensation of elation that came with it succeeded where sentiments couldn’t. It cleared the mind. It strengthened the spirit.
“You’ll have to walk back home by yourself today,” Milo told Tani.
“Why? What are you two going to do?”
“Study,” Milo said in a deadpan voice.
“Study, right.” Tani snickered.
Sebastian couldn’t imagine what could be so funny about studying that his sister had to neigh like a horse at every mentioning of it.
“Yes, we will study,” he said sternly.
Tani disentangled her clammy hand from his and gave him a quick hug. “See you at home.” She dashed to a group of girls her age, dressed in the same fashion. The yard was full of young men and women between Tani’s age and his and Milo’s age. This system of education that involved so many youngsters flabbergasted Sebastian. He couldn’t imagine how someone could learn anything in that clamor.
Reminding himself that this strange world needed to have its rules obeyed, he followed Milo inside the building. They entered a class, and each one took a seat at an individual desk. Sebastian was all eyes and ears.
“Mr. Martin? Mr. Martin?” Someone shook him. He blinked and looked around.
“Dude, wake up,” Milo whispered.
Sebastian straightened up and stared around. Then he remembered that he was there to study. The lesson had been so unexciting, and the teacher’s voice so lulling that he had fallen asleep.
“Mr. Martin!” The teacher’s voice boomed.
She was an elderly woman dressed in clothes that looked fit as a home for moths.
Finally, he understood that she was calling for him. Her small owlish eyes were also set on him, which was another sign. “Yes?” he replied.
“Will you be so kind and come here?”
He stood up and walked to the blackboard on which symbols were written. Oh, yes, that was math, and he had learned new things last night. Apparently, they were a bit more advanced in the study of that topic in this world.
“Don’t just stand there. Solve the equation.” The teacher pointed at the symbols.
Sebastian turned and looked at them. Yes, he was starting to remember something. “X multiplied by --” he began.
“Here.” The teacher threw a piece of chalk at him.
Now, he recalled everything.
“For the record, Mr. Martin, if you fail to solve this, your grades are going to suffer quite a bit.”
“Suffer? Do you intend to torture them? How?” he asked, puzzled.
Soft snickers could be heard from the class.
“Ah, you think yourself smart, on top of everything.”
“I do not think myself smart. I am smart,” Sebastian replied, triggering another bout of laughter from the class.
The teacher’s owlish eyes grew wide. “Then prove it.” She tapped against the table with her knuckles.
He turned toward the blackboard. Yes, he remembered this quite well. His hand began to dance on the surface. Math had been one of the many topics he had been taught while growing up. And he enjoyed a challenge.
The entire class fell silent, and it appeared that everyone was scribbling on their papers. The teacher tapped her foot while watching him. She looked a bit like a witch. Maybe she was there to test him.
Very well. He would not falter. And it was good that finally, everyone was silent.
He finished and turned toward the teacher. She was staring at him in disbelief. “Where have you been all these years of high school, Mr. Martin?”
Oh, it was a question meant to catch him in a tangle of lies. Maybe she wanted him to deny his true nature. But he had always faced witches without running or hiding. “I’ve been fighting monsters and protecting the land,” he said proudly, squaring his shoulders.
This time, the class erupted. Sebastian couldn’t fathom why they reacted as if he were some jester brought there for their entertainment.
“Go back to your place!” The teacher yelled, now red in the face. “And stop being a smartass!”
A smartass? What did his behind have to do with his intellect?
“Dude,” Milo whispered at him from his right, “what was that all about?”
Maybe his decision to answer honestly had been wrong. “I just said it in jest,” he told Milo, also in a whisper.
“In what?” Milo leaned toward him more, unable to hear him over the commotion in the room.
“Mr. Bennett, stop talking to Mr. Martin! Quiet, everyone!”
She slammed her palm against her desk. Everyone fell silent.
So, Sebastian found himself saying out loud, “What a witch!”, rightfully impressed by her ability to steal everyone’s ability to speak.
“That’s it, Mr. Martin! I don’t care that you appear to have turned into a math genius overnight! You’re going straight to detention after classes!”
“Am I to be jailed?” he asked, utterly flabbergasted and forgetting that he was speaking in a too formal manner for a high school student. “What for?”
“For being a smartass!” the teacher yelled again.
Sebastian fell quiet. He didn’t have his magic, and this witch was sending him to jail. For the moment, he would accept his fate only so he could have a deeper understanding of what the curse wanted from him.
The ring of the bell announced the recess, and the witch left the room. Sebastian had a mind to go after her and provoke her, but he felt that he was too weak in this world to emerge victorious from such an encounter.
“Dude,” Milo started. “What the hell, man? You don’t just provoke Mrs. Marwin like that.”
If only he had realized that before ending up in jail. “Is she going to send guards after me?”
Any moment now, that would happen.
“No, man.” Milo snickered. “But it’s a bummer that you got detention. You won’t see me practice.”
“Or sweaty, and then naked, taking a shower,” Sebastian said matter-of-factly.
Milo blushed and punched him in the shoulder. “Dude, what the hell?” he mumbled.
Someone brushed his hair forcefully from the back to his face. Sebastian turned, in righteous outrage, only to be met by an ugly, pig-like face. The young man was large and smelled of grease. He pushed himself into Sebastian’s face. “Am I to be jailed?” he mocked in a high-pitched voice.
“I beg your pardon?” Sebastian ran his hands through his hair.
“Chet, cut it out, man,” Milo intervened.
“What?” the pig-faced young man asked. “I didn’t do anything. Stop protecting your girlfriend so much. What, he can’t defend himself or something?”
Sebastian noted the presence of two other boys, relatively as ugly as Chet, right behind him. He was about to open his mouth when Milo spoke again. “Chet, beat it. Or we’ll have a problem.”
“All right, man. Whatever.” Chet brushed by him on his way out, followed closely by the other two. “Fucking nerd,” he whispered.
What was that, a nerd? He had so many other questions to ask his phone. He took it out of his pocket, decided to learn the meaning of that word right away.
“Don’t mind them,” Milo said. “They’re just douchebags.”
“Who is your girlfriend?” Sebastian asked while typing quickly on his phone.
“Are you kidding me now? They’ve been teasing us since forever.”
“I’m not kidding,” Sebastian protested.
“You’re such a weirdo,” Milo said with affection, “but you’re my weirdo.” He took him by the shoulders. “Come, let’s stretch our legs a little.”
During the last period, Sebastian began to understand that he appeared to be doing a lot better in school than Kai Martin had used to. However, the curse seemed to involve graduating, and there was only one way to secure that, according to the teachers: study hard.
He was overly conscious of the curious eyes staring at him from all directions as the French words rolled off his tongue with ease. This teacher, unlike Mrs. Marwin, was much younger and had a pleasant demeanor. She appeared engrossed with him as they conversed, and for the entire duration of the class, she didn’t care about the other students. Maybe she was a good witch, and it would be advisable to have her on his side.
The dreaded time had come to be escorted to his cell. Milo had kindly informed him that he would only be in detention for two hours, so it wasn’t that hard a sentence. Of course, Sebastian had feared to ask him if any torture was involved, but he was bracing himself for the worse. As an enforcer of the law in his position as a prince, he understood that obeying the law was essential for his survival in this world.
He walked into a classroom not much different from the one he had just been in. Other boys and girls were there, apparently for the same reason. So far, this detention didn’t appear so bad.
He took place at a desk and waited patiently for the jailer to speak. The jailer was a man in his forties dressed quite unconventionally. From what Sebastian could gather, he looked like a Physical Education teacher.
“All right,” he said. “Everyone, surrender your phones.”
Sebastian stood there, in stunned silence, as the others shuffled around and placed their phones inside a crate. No, that couldn’t be. “That’s not fair,” he said out loud. “My life depends on it!”
“Martin, it’s not often that I see your face in here. But now, please, hurry up, before you make your situation worse.”
Worse? Sebastian didn’t want to know what that meant. What could be worse than having his phone taken away from him?
With wooden moves, he walked over to the teacher’s desk and gave up his phone. He dragged his feet back. What would he do without his phone? It was his only way of understanding this strange world!
He sank into his seat and covered his face with his hands. He would have to find another way.
What a cruel and unusual punishment!
Okay, so there aren't dragons... just yet! But there will be! I stand by it! (Although first Kai has to ride to the dragon's cave with Pepin). I hope that you enjoyed this chapter, and that you had fun in the company of this characters. Please let me know what you thought of Sebastian's first day in school, as well as everything else, in the comments below!
Until next time,
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