~ Chapter 39: On our way to Drakaria (Part 2) ~
With a smile on her lips, she approached the bar, and I followed right behind her.
“George, how are you doing?” she greeted him.
“Hm? Ah! Seryanna! Good to see ya, girl!” he replied with a bright smile.
To specify, this dwarf didn't have a big stuffy beard or incredibly thick limbs and fingers. He looked just like a shrunk human, but with a slightly bigger head. His muscles were thick and firm, and his forehead filled with wrinkles. A long ponytail tied his long gray hair on his back, and he wore simple linen clothes.
After he filled the tankard, he placed it on a tray alongside seven others.
“Table six, Lili!”
A cute dragoness waitress with chestnut twin tails and freckles came up to the counter and picked up the tray. She gave me a wink and then left.
“Ahem!” the redhead caught my attention with a cough.
Huh? Why is she looking at me like that? I wondered, but I wasn't on the same wavelength.
“So, why are you here, Seryanna?” asked George the dwarf.
“We are headed for the capital. Have you by any chance seen a black-scaled dragoness in black clothing with a silver-scaled companion?” she asked.
“Oh those two were with you?” he asked surprised.
“You know them... or rather, what did they do?” she squinted her eyes.
“They rented the last room here at the inn, a real luck if you ask me, then last night they were having a drink and a bunch of big brawny dragons started a fight with them.”
“A fight?” Seryanna raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, a fight. They were just a bunch of horny bastards who thought the silver-scaled was an easy pick. The girl told them she's taken already...”
This time, I was the one who asked “Taken already?”
“Yeah, and then they got a bit rough with her, which ended up in them getting beaten up like a bunch of beginner adventurers. I'd say, but that dragoness is one powerful woman!” he nodded to himself.
“Of course she is. So, where are they now?” Seryanna asked.
“I think they are still up in their room. Are they your companions?” he asked.
“Yes.” she nodded.
“Well, then I can tell you the room they are staying in. It's on the second floor at the very end of the corridor on the right. You can't miss it.” he smirked.
We left the bar and headed upstairs. Just as the dwarf instructed, we found the room with ease because on the opposite side was the bath. We knocked two times, and Kleo was the one to open the door.
“Sister!” the happy dragoness jumped in Seryanna's arms.
“Good to see you too, little sister.” she replied.
“Oh? You two are finally out! Well, with Alkelios there, I was certain you wouldn't stay sick for too long!” Kataryna said as she walked up to the door.
“Good to see the two of you. How was your stay here? And yes, it didn't take that long. It was just a simple cold.” I shrugged.
Hearing me, Kataryna began to laugh.
“As expected of you!” she said.
“We were fine, nothing to worry about! Shall we go now?” Kleo asked.
“Yes, although, how are the meals here?” Seryanna asked.
“Pretty good. Shall we go downstairs and order something?” Kataryna asked.
“I'm game with it!” I said with a smile.
“G-game with it?” Kleo looked at me a bit confused.
“It's an expression... it's the same as saying: I agree with your suggestion.” I explained.
“I see... weird.” she tilted her head and then unhooked her arms from around her sister's neck.
“Let's go, then!” Kataryna said and walked out, locking the door behind her.
Thus, we all headed downstairs to grabbed a bite to eat before heading off for the capital. The food was acceptable, but some extra spices wouldn't have hurt.
[Seryanna's point of view]
For me, it was a bit awkward to act like the night before never happened. I still felt at fault for what happened, but this raised another question: What would happen once I Awakened?
Most dragons changed their appearance completely when they went through their awakening process, so it was highly likely for me to end up with a pair of horns, a tail, maybe a pair of wings, and a lot more scales on my body. Such an appearance would have been seen as undesirable by a human.
If right now I wasn't attractive enough for him, then would he come to hate me in the future?
This made me wish for the first time in my life that I didn't awaken and remained as human as possible. I grew to love and cherish Alkelios that much, yet... it made me feel awful that I couldn't offer him everything he wanted... that I wasn't perfect for him.
With these feelings in my heart, I could barely enjoy my meal. The others were having fun, and Alkelios enjoyed it as well, but for me it felt like they were in a whole other world.
After we ate, we had something to drink and waited half an hour for the food to settle in before we went to the stables to rent three Khosinni. I rode with Alkelios, while Kataryna and Kleo had their own separate beast.
Several hours after we left the inn, we arrived at our first campsite. We cooked for ourselves a simple meal and then we trained together. I tried to put up a mask and show that there was noting wrong with me. Alkelios didn't seem to have noticed, but once he went wash himself, I pulled Kleo and Kataryna to the side.
With a heavy heart, I told them what happened during the time we were separated.
“This is... unexpected.” said Kleo.
After hearing me out, she wasn't in the mood to pull a joke on me.
“Yes... For something like that to happen.” Kataryna shook her head.
“I know... Since then, my chest keeps hurting and I keep wondering if maybe he simply doesn't see me as good enough for him...” I said as I looked down at the crackling fire.
“I don't think that's it.” Kataryna said shaking her head.
“But... even I know something like THAT wasn't supposed to happen!” I retorted and looked into her eyes.
“It depends. When I was still young, I had one or two males who ended up in a similar position, but unlike Alkelios, they all blamed me for not being pretty enough or some other nonsense like that.” she shrugged.
“I don't understand. What do you mean?”
“Ah! That reminds me, Iolaus one time also went limp. It was the day after he awakened, I think... Since then, we haven't done it.” Kleo said scratching the back of her head and then added “He has a lot of nights to catch up. Hehehe.”
“Kleo, wipe your drool off.” Kataryna said.
“Ah! Sorry!” my little sister then laughed.
[Somewhere far away from them. Iolaus' point of view]
I suddenly felt the glare of a hungry predator and quickly turned around.
There was nothing there... not even a rabbit.
“What was that?” I thought out loud.
It was like I suddenly stepped into a den of wild predators who were just waiting for the right moment to rip me to shreds. It was so scary, I unwillingly gulped. Afterwards, I continued to move carefully, keeping my eyes open for any danger and my ears out for any suspicious sounds.
[Back to Alkelios's group. Seryanna's point of view]
“So you are saying... stuff like this happens?” I asked them.
“Yes. It's not that... out of the ordinary.” Kataryna shrugged.
“He also didn't blame you for his little accident, like saying you aren't pretty enough or that you aren't a human like him.” Kleo pointed out.
It was true, he simply apologized and hugged me until I stopped crying. Maybe I overreacted?
“Now that I think about it, this whole thing could be due to stress?” Kataryna said as she scratched her head.
“Stress?” I asked with a frown.
“Yes. I mean, he's a human surrounded by dragons all the time. The last member of his species he found tried to kill him AND his friends. From what I came to understand was also the fact that up until now, he never had to worry about his own life or that of others. It's quite possible that he lived an extremely sheltered life, to the point where he didn't even get into a real fight until he met you, Seryanna.” Kataryna explained.
“Isn't that a bit absurd? Although... He did tell me that the place he came from didn't even have something like magic.” I said and looked down at the fire.
The frown never left my face because I kept thinking hard about this, trying to understand what was wrong with me or him.
“We also need to take into consideration his age. Compared to us, he's like a whelp who barely hatched out from his egg. No matter how you look at things, everything is going at an abnormal speed even for us... That being said, we dragons have a very long lifespan in comparison to the humans, who mostly die off before their fifth decade. I mean, I'm already 759 years old. You are not even two centuries old, and Kleo here has yet to reach her first.” Kataryna said.
“This year I turned 127 and Kleo 78...” I said.
“You are literally children when compared to me! Hahaha!” she laughed.
“No, you are just an expired fossil.” Kleo rebuked in a calm tone of voice.
“Watch it!” she flicked her forehead.
“Unu~!” Kleo groaned and rubbed the struck spot.
Their joke made me giggle, which was a first since we got back together.
“But yes, Seryanna... just relax. It was probably just due to stress. Give him some time, some space to breath. Don't pull him into any dangerous situation, otherwise, he might snap...” she recommended.
“Snap?” I asked surprised.
“Yes. That boy probably isn't even aware of it himself, but he's clearly on the edge...” there was a sad look in her eyes as she said this “I can feel this every time I spar with him. He never puts ALL of his strength into the blow, and there were many times when he flinched or closed his eyes as I was about to strike. That's clearly a sign of him not being used with dangerous situations... or battles at all. These things take time...” she said and then let out a sigh.
“There's also the 'male pride' you have to consider.” Kleo told us with a smirk.
“Indeed. As I said before, most men, be them dragon or otherwise, hold on tightly to their male pride. They apparently can't afford to show a sign of weakness in front of women, especially those they fancy. I have seen many idiots fight in front of me just to prove their... worth. Bleah! Like that would ever catch my interest.” she rolled her eyes.
“I don't think I understand...” I said.
Most of the times, men just ignored me. Besides Alkelios, none truly showed to fancy me. As such, I never had the experience of having men flaunting over me or trying to impress me in any way or manner.
“You are just a bit dense, sister.” Kleo patted me on the head with a pitying look in her eyes.
I tossed her a glare, and she pulled back.
“So, Alkelios never acted like the typical dragon or human males?” I asked.
“Yup! That's why I can say that there's nothing wrong with you, and he himself doesn't think so either. Not being beautiful enough or whatnot is all just a foolish thought of yours. He might not be perfect, but keep in mind, Alkelios is neither a dragon nor a regular human. He barely learned how to fight and is still struggling to adapt. I wouldn't be surprised if he will make some stupid mistake sooner or later.” Kataryna said and let out a sigh.
“I see... but what if he makes a mistake?” I asked.
Looking into my eyes and using a serious tone of voice, she said “You will undoubtedly feel hurt. It's not going to be pretty either. He'll probably show you the worst side of himself.”
“Then... what should I do then?” I asked.
“You? Nothing.” she shook her head “You just need to bite hard and keep yourself together. No matter what he says, does, or how he looks at you, just remember that it's probably his lowest moment ever. It will also be a test for you as well... If you can still love him after that, then... I doubt even the king will be able to separate you.” she showed me a soft smile.
“So I just need to hold on, but what about him?” I asked her. “What if he doesn't change back to his usual self?”
“That's where we come in!” she showed me a smile.
“I don't understand.” I furrowed my brow.
“No matter what side of himself he'll show you, he'll probably have a hard time afterwards. When I see it as the right time, I'll make sure to straighten him up one way or another. After all, we are his friends, and he's lucky enough to have me who has achieved a Breakthrough and already witnessed plenty of similar situations throughout my long life. I'll be able to get through to him, don't worry! You just need to be strong during that moment of crisis!” she patted my shoulder.
“And what if... even after all that, he doesn't change or... worse... stops loving me?” I asked her, a bit fearfully.
“Then... I will kill him.” she replied coldly.
“What?” I blinked surprised.
“If he will become so broken that not even I can do anything about it, instead of letting him turn into a madman, I will do him a favor and kill him with my own hands. This way neither us, the kingdom, or anyone else will have to fear him or suffer because of his power going haywire.” she declared coldly.
I gulped as I looked into her eyes. There was no lie in her words. That was her plan and desired course of action. Since she achieved a Breakthrough, I couldn't even say that I could do anything to stop her. Then again, if Alkelios ever ended up like that, I didn't believe I would have wanted to either way.
“Still, it isn't like this is what I truly wish for... That's the worst-case scenario. Given his Luck, I do not think the gods will let him reach it, especially since neither of us wish for it.” she showed a weak smile.
“Yes... He did wish to have all the time he needs in order to reach the best decision of whether he should marry me or not. Maybe all of this drama is a direct result of that?” I asked as I remembered his words from back then.
“Could be. After all, he wishes to have not even one spec of doubt in his heart when he comes to this conclusion, right?” Kataryna asked, to which I nodded “Then, this whole thing is undoubtedly a test... A very crazy luck-based test of will and hope... of love.”
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