~ Chapter 49: A good beating (Part 3) ~
Some time later, Kataryna landed on the shore of a river. I had no idea where exactly we were just that this place was far away from Drakaria, an hour or so of flight distance.
The moment she set me down, I felt my whole body aching again, and the dragoness tossed me a healing potion.
“I don't need it...” I stubbornly said.
“Drink it, or I'll make you drink it.” she showed me her fist and a smile.
I gulped it down like a soldier on command.
Once it was over, I let out a sigh of relief and felt my body starting to heal. It would take more than a potion to get me back on track, but it was a good start.
“I'm sorry I had to rough you up like that...” she said and sat down on the grass.
I took a seat next to her and sprawled down.
“Between the two us... I deserved it...” I said.
During this flight, I thought about a lot of things.
“I know...” she nodded.
“But thank you...” I said and closed my eyes.
A moment of silence followed as we only listened to the gentle sounds of running water. It was pleasant. From time to time, we heard a fish jumping out and then going back in with a splash. It was surprisingly soothing and relaxing, not the type of feeling I would expect to experience after getting my ass handed to me.
“You know, you're Luck isn't that flawless...” she told me.
“I noticed...” I replied.
“If you don't use it, it's the same as it is with everyone else.”
“Yes... And I forgot to use it back then in that battle with Draejan... Ah! Because you killed his soldiers, now nobody will go and tell him about my awesome declaration!” I laughed.
“You'll get another chance.” she giggled.
I heard rustling, and I opened my eyes. Kataryna sat down behind me and patted her thigh when I looked at her. The dragoness was offering me a lap pillow, and I didn't dare refuse.
After I settled in my new position, she started stroking my hair.
“You need to take a bath.” she commented.
“I know, but don't you dare toss me in the river. My ribs are still fusing themselves back together.” I told her.
“Tch.” she clicked her tongue.
Another moment passed by like this, just listening to the sound of the river. The first one to break the silence this time was me.
“Kataryna? Where did I go wrong?” I asked her.
“Depends...” she replied.
“I tried my best since I got here... I tried not to stand out or be a trouble to anyone. You know, a year ago I would have not thought possible that I would ever be able to kill someone and not even flinch, yet I found myself being able to do this with extreme ease... and it scares me. It really scares me...” I said.
“I thought about Seryanna as well... I thought long and hard after you left, but I could only see myself fail. She's a good woman, a good Knight, I don't deserve her was what I thought, but I don't want to give her to anyone else either!” I placed my hand over my face, trying to hide my tears, but she pulled it away.
“Cry if you have to... I want to see the real you.” she smiled.
“But I'm weak... I'm so weak, aren't I?” I asked.
“You killed those dragons in a split second. You didn't hesitate to protect me even when you knew I didn't need it... A weakling can't do that. A weakling wouldn't have claimed a Breakthrough Awakened like me to be theirs in front of so many dragons without fear of being killed by me.”
“I don't care about that... I knew you wanted me to say it. Ever since you said you wanted to have a child with me, I knew you were serious about it, but I was too afraid to accept it. I was too afraid of responsibility, the future, this world, everything... I mean, I'm just 18! Well, almost 19, but still a kid!” I cried.
“Then... grow up.” she said with a smile.
“Grow up?” I looked up at her through my tears.
“Do you know that when I said those words to you, I was expecting you to decline me, to feel disgusted of the idea of having to sleep with a dragoness like me, to make me give up, or basically do anything...” she said.
“I didn't see a reason to do so...” I said furrowing my brow.
Kataryna leaned down and kissed me on the forehead, when she pulled back she smiled.
“What was that for?” I asked.
“To see how you would react.” she smiled.
“Did I pass?”
“Yes.” she nodded.
“Good... Now, please, explain... Think of me as an idiot, a baby... Explain... Please.” I said and closed my eyes.
“Sure. What to start with then... Hm... Ah yes, do you know what a Breakthrough is?” she asked.
“Reaching level 1000?” I replied.
“That's a Forced Breakthrough.”
“There are variants of it?”
“Yes, but not many know this... You see, back in Zerudan I was seen as a very weak dragoness when I was young. Most dragons picked on me, and if not for some lucky breaks, I would have ended up raped or worse. Back then, dragons weren't as civilized as they are now, or maybe it was just that the whole Zerudan Kingdom was messed up to begin with.” she said and shrugged.
“How messed up?” I asked.
“The royal family never married outside their bloodline. The nobility, although consisting of just four big families were all blood related. Women had almost no role in their society besides that of giving birth to lots of eggs for their males. They practiced slavery, and to some extent the fourth and fifth child of a family regardless of bloodline would always end up as a slave. Half of the army was made out of them. And this was just the light stuff... If you lived in the shadows like I did, you would see things that were far worse... Dragon experiments and torture were among the top ten. You see, most nobles tried to figure out how it was best to Awaken someone. They realized there were some conditions behind it, but they never understood what they were. The one who did was my first friend, a dragon with blue scales, who was beautiful, smart, and brave...”
When she described him, I sensed a certain changed in the tone of her voice. It was as if she was remembering a lover, not just a simple friend.
“He was like Seryanna, a Superior Draconian of a High element. Unlike her though, his was water and as you would expect, he strived to become a good healer and farmer. He had a dream of one day planting a field of fruit-baring trees with which he would feed the nearby orphanages.” she let out a soft sigh and then continued her story “Back then, I too thought myself as being too weak to protect him...”
Two drops of water fell on my forehead. I opened my eyes and saw Kataryna's contorted expression as she fought with the feeling of loss she held locked up inside. This incredibly powerful dragoness was crying in front of this weak... human.
“I thought I didn't have enough strength to be by his side. When those sheep jumped in and took a bite out of him, they pushed me away... They blamed me for things I didn't do.” she shook her head. “So, I ran... thinking that it would be better to first gain strength and then return to his side. I left without saying a word. I hid and grew... but...” she closed her eyes and let out a whimper. “I still keep thinking... What would have happened if I didn't leave. What would have happened if I asked for help? What would have happened if I simply looked him in the eyes and told him the truth?” she spoke in a trembling tone of voice as her tears kept flowing down her cheeks.
For me, the one whom I believed to be the weakest of them all, seeing this powerful dragoness cry like this simply shocked me. It made me wonder what the true meaning of strength could be. It made me ask myself what did I sought by being strong and what did that mean? When would I achieve it? The weak me asked these feeble questions, and the strong Kataryna replied through her tears.
“That dragon... without anyone by his side, he fought for his little dream. But there's only so much one could handle, and those sheep finally grabbed hold of him by the neck. When I returned... I witnessed his demise, but even then... with a smile on his face, with a forgiving smile... he told me... He told ME, the one who ran away and left him like that, that he loved me. He wished for me to be happy... Despite what was going to happen to him, his last wish... was for me to be happy.” she said and closed her eyes, but the tears didn't stop.
Lifting my hand up, I gently touched her cheek, and asked her “Is that why you wish for a child?” I asked.
Opening her eyes, she nodded “I like you Alkelios, but love is too much for me... not now at least. In time, maybe... but now, I simply can't love anyone else but him, and you certainly don't want to be seen as a replacement for him. However, a family was something I always believed would make me happy. To have a child of my own was something I longed for, but not while I was still weak... Funny how my 'weakness' might have been his salvation.” she laughed, but she was still shedding tears.
“Am I going to make the same mistake as you? That's why you're doing this for us?” I asked.
“What was I going to end up... doing?” I asked.
“You would have left like I did in order to become strong. In that time, Seryanna would have been alone... She would have felt alone, abandoned, and responsible for your departure. This would have eaten her on the inside, and in the end, she would have caved in. She would have made a mistake like that man once did because it's only natural. We are not gods to be flawless, Alkelios, we have hearts, emotions, and live with the idea that tomorrow and today as well will bring us a smile. And you would have returned when it was too late...” she wiped her tears.
“Are you certain of this?” I asked.
“Yes...” she nodded. “After you left like that... Seryanna's energy vanished.”
“What do you mean?” I furrowed my brow.
“The light in her eyes faded, and she felt like a walking husk. Nothing seemed to touch her, but she didn't have the strength to change either. She was just walking on an empty road towards that sign that said... 'Stop'.” she looked up at the sky.
I gulped and felt guilt gathering inside of me. I didn't know Seryanna was going through something like this, that my departure affected her like that. I thought I was the only one, but... I guess I was wrong.
“Everyone wants to become Awakened in order to 'grow up'. Then everyone wants to achieve a 'Breakthrough' in order to be 'strong'. But you know, to Awaken, just like the name implies, it means to become true to yourself and accept who you are. It means to awaken as an individual, not gain a change in your physical appearance as most tend to believe. Awakening for dragons is the moment of MENTAL maturity, but throughout ages, it ended up being confused with PHYSICAL maturity. Meanwhile, a Breakthrough means 'strength', but this was confused with the idea that you NEED to reach a power level of 1000 according to a temple's divination. Another misconception... True, reaching that power level does offer you a boost in strength, speed, and magic, but... nothing when compared to the TRUE Breakthrough, which you can achieve even at lower levels.” she looked down at me.
“I see...” I said.
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
A small advice: if you are skipping through scenes and lines, you might find yourself later on wondering why my characters act in certain 'illogical' ways. 🙂 Every line they say or think is important.
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