~ Chapter 20: Friends (Part 1) ~

[Kataryna’s point of view]

“The moment you go past the skies, you will find the world to be little and insignificant… while you are eternal like the gods above. Kataryna, please, never try to pass the skies…”

I remember well these words… They were offered to me when I was little and still unaware of what eternity meant. Like all the other dragons, I dreamed about making an Awakened Breakthrough and the temple stones to show I had a power over 1000. It was a dream that one day became a reality, but the price… maybe it was too much to bear.

Those words, maybe I should have listened to them…

Such a long time has passed since I gained this power. So many things I have seen, both good and bad. Like a proud mountain standing tall and firm, I didn’t let either winds or sea shatter me, yet at the same time, they molded me.

Whenever I closed my eyes, I could recount the moment when my life changed, and I stepped into the realm of immortals. This happened on an old battlefield at the end of a battle which the former Dragon Kingdom Zerudan lost almost 500 years ago.

Surrounded by countless dead dragons, both from my own side and the enemy’s, I kept fighting. The cold tried to bring me down, the arrows to push me back, and their swords to make me kneel, but I didn’t dare. I bared my teeth at them and fought. One after another, until my armor was in tatters and my blade ready to break, all of those who dared challenge me were killed by me, pilling up into a mountain of dead, broken, and bloodied bodies.

I was in a trance, a dance of death and blood, yet untouched by the pain of my own body.

When I came through, my breath was in tatters, my body was heavy, and my eyesight blurry. Before me stood a dying dragon solider, the last one. To compensate for my broken sword, I used any I could pull out of the dying grasps of my enemies. Thus, the sword going through this dead dragon’s chest was none other than on of his own. Yet, I didn’t care… I pushed through, turned the blade inside of him and then pulled it out.

He died with a curse on his lips and then I roared to the skies as hard and loud as I could. My blades were broken, my armor shattered, but I did it, I won a battle thought to be impossible. I survived…

There was no one there to hear me. I was left alone and soaked in blood on top of a pile of broken bodies.

No soldier could defeat me afterwards… They all fell like flies cut down by my swords or crushed under my claws. I felt free, powerful, and for the first time ever, I realized how useless our war was. The enemy was sure to win, after all, they fought to protect, and we to conquer.

As I laid there, looking up at the darkened sky, I felt different, like something had changed. In that moment, I wasn’t yet aware of what happened to me, but I was looking at the world with a different pair of eyes. For the first time ever, details and colors I didn’t see before were now popping up in front of my eyes. It was amazing, and for a while, I felt blessed.

The rage I had piled up after fighting and killing so many had dissipated in the blink of an eye. Taking a deep breath, I knew that even my own body had changed somehow, I didn’t feel so weak anymore.

Then I heard them… Another wave was coming. Looking head, I saw the countless armor running towards me, all sparkly clean and untouched by the mud and blood on the battlefield. They were the reinforcements of the enemy. Looking back, I saw my allies rushing towards me as well, but it was strange. My desire to fight, my need to kill those I saw as enemies was gone.

They all felt weak when compared to me, both ally and enemy.

Taking a deep breath, I thought about this moment, these feelings of mine. Lifting my gaze up to the sky, I couldn’t see the need or reason to participate in this battle again. Fame and glory were nothing but empty excuses because neither of them could benefit my current self in a way I desired.

I had no family, no friend, no lovers… It was just me on either side of this battlefield. Thus, without anything to protect, without a desire to grow rich and famous, I stepped away from the battlefield and let the mortal play their mortal games. Maybe in time, I would return, but when I would, I promised myself that I would do it for a more… satisfying reason.

After a quick bath in a nearby pond, I rushed towards the first temple I could find. I didn’t even bother to check in which kingdom it was. There, I was officially told that I made an Awakened Breakthrough. The stones showed I had a power of 1016. It was amazing, but at the same time… it didn’t feel that great.

This state of mind, the feeling of being above all, the sensation that nothing could defeat you, the fears of others when they saw you… the loneliness of being immortal, all of these were the curses that came with this power. At first, invisible like a devil, but then as real as my own two hands.

Yet, after so many years, there was one who managed to rile me up and make me wish for a hunt… Surprisingly, that one was a human.

Alkelios was his name, I think. He managed to make me feel the need to kill him or the desire to capture him and make him MINE! Yet, he slipped away from my grasp at the very last moment. He defeated me…

[Seryanna’s point of view]

“Let me go! He’s in there, somewhere!” I shouted as I broke free from Kleo’s grasp and jumped in the pile of rubble, trying to dig him out of there.

“Sister! There’s nothing you can do! Something like that… even you would have perished…” she said with tears in her eyes. “Even my shadows can’t find him…” she looked down and clenched her fists.

That can’t be… It’s not possible… I shook my head and refused to believe Alkelios was dead.

Yes, he was rude! He was annoying! He always joked about grabbing my chest or butt! He was a pest… but he was my pest, and I didn’t want him dead.

In front of me were the remains of the bandit cave. After Kleo woke me up, I only caught a glimpse of the Phoenix casting a powerful fireball covered in lightning. It hit the same spot where I crashed into, but compared to the little hole I made, the beast’s attack shattered the entire side of the mountain. Countless cracks spread on the surface, and the whole thing collapsed on itself. I watched in awe and for a moment, I believed we won without any casualties, but it turned out that it wasn’t so… Alkelios wasn’t here, he was in there.

Now, I was digging like a mad woman trying to find him or at least… his remains.

“Sister, it’s going to be alright… Alkelios will be remembered as a mighty dragon!” said Kleo with a soft smile.

“He wasn’t a dragon… he was a human.” I told her as I wiped my tears.

“Human?” she looked surprised, but it was her fault for not paying attention to these details in the first place.

“Alkelios, if my stupid luck is worth anything, I wish for you to be alright.” I said and looked over at the huge pile of boulders in front of me.

“He’s a human?” Kleo was still a bit dumbfounded by this.

[Alkelios’ point of view]

I fell… We both did…

We landed in a body of water, maybe an underground stream because I felt myself getting swept away. I tried to grab something to stop myself from spinning and swim to the surface, but there was nothing there in the darkness.

Crap! Crap! CRAP! I don’t want to die here! I thought as I started to panic.

A moment later, I hit a rock and went past it, unable to grab a hold of it. I hit another and another, going around like a ping-pong ball until I stopped. My lungs hurt, my body was bruised, but when I looked up, I saw light. The surface was just a few feet above me.

I can make it! I’ll survive! I thought.

From the corner of my eyes, I saw the silver-scaled dragoness as she sunk towards the cold, dark abyss of this place. She was knocked out, so she would certainly drown here. I could ignore her and swim up, she was the enemy after all.

Why? I thought and then turned back towards her. Even though it was painful and I knew this won’t end well, I still swum down after the enemy. You idiot! You fool! Moron! Stupid! Retard! Don’t do it! Don’t you dare do it! She’s the enemy! Don’t do it! Just swim back up! All of these thoughts came flowing into my mind, telling me to stay clear of her, to let her drown, to let her suffer, but…

I can’t… There’s something pulling me to her… There’s something telling me that she’s important… I can’t, but if I do this, I’ll die. She’ll kill me! I’m an idiot! I’m a freaking idiot! I screamed in my mind as I grabbed her hand.

Looking at her unconscious face, I clenched my jaw and desperately tried to swim back up, pushing the water around me with all of my strength. At the very least, Jophiel wasn’t sucking Magic Energy out of me anymore, she probably dismissed herself.

I’m so going to die after this! I cried in my mind when I reached the surface.

“Puha!” I took a deep breath and then coughed.

It was a bit painful, but I would survive.

Pulling Kataryna’s head above the water, I began to swim towards the shore, it was quite close to us. When I reached it, I pulled the dragoness out of the water and coughed a few times.

Is she breathing? I thought and immediately checked.

She wasn’t breathing. A chill ran down my spine, and without even the slightest delay, I began to apply CPR to her. Thanks to my strength, it was quite easy to do so, but I only hoped this method worked on dragons as well.

“Come on! One! Two! Three!” then I pulled her chin up, blocked her nosed and exhaled into her mouth. I repeated the process, pressing with both hands on her chest.

“Come on! Breath!” I was at my fourth try now.

It was then when she coughed and spat out the water in her lungs. I helped her turn to the side and patted between her wings to help her out. She was probably still confused and didn’t understand what happened to her. I was relieved for a moment, but when she saw me, she suddenly grabbed me by the neck and slammed me down with enough force to crack the ground around me.

Ouch! This is it… I’m going to die! I thought and closed my eyes.

Kataryna coughed a few times and then asked me “You! Why did you… save me?”

“Huh? Erm… Honestly, I don’t know…” I replied as I opened one eye and looked at her confused expression.

“I’m your enemy…” she squinted her eyes at me.

“Yes?” I foolishly smiled.

Letting out a sigh, she released me and then took a step back.

“To think there was a human who could defeat someone like me who made an Awakened Breakthrough.” she shook her head and sat down crossed legged.

“Awakened Breakthrough? What’s that?” I asked as I rubbed my neck.

She looked at me for a moment, probably wondering if she should tell me or not.

“Do you know how the Temples in the cities and towns measure the power of an individual?” she asked me.

“It makes them smash rocks?” I joked.

“No, that is the foolish human way of finding out, but strength can be a deceiving thing at times. One can have little strength but great power.” she shook her head.

“I have a feeling you aren’t talking about the ability to bust rocks here…” I told her.

“That’s just brute strength. An individual has strength, speed, dexterity, Magic Energy, and Magic Excellence, all of which rise with one’s power.” she explained and then using her claws drew a few symbols on the ground.

I don’t recognize any of those… I thought squinting my eyes at them.

“Strength is gained by lifting stuff up, doing hard work in general.” she pointed at the character to her far right, then at the next one “Speed is gained by pushing your body to the limits when you run and after recovering, doing it all over again.” she pointed at the next one. “Dexterity is the trickiest one of them all because you need to train in the way to properly move your entire body, for example, doing sword training or dagger training. One said that knitting and stretching can help too. Magic Energy is gained through meditation and focusing the energy into your core, while Excellence is gained by taking your time to cast each spell and focusing on it until you understand the feeling behind it. Well, there’s more to it than just this, but you get the idea right?” she asked me with a smirk.

“Yes, I get it… but I’m surprised you are telling me this and not killing me…” I told her.

Kataryna looked at me and then at the small cave around us.

She let out a sigh and then said “If you listen, you’ll understand…”

Listen? To what? Bats pooing? I thought while I blinked confused at her.

Looking back at me, she said “You don’t get it, do you?” she closed her eyes.

Sorry lady, but I’m not a psychic! I would like to be one, but I’m not! I replied in my mind, but I kept my mouth shut.

“For now, let’s just say that you being alive is a whim of mine.” she looked at me and tilted her head to the left a bit “You also saved my life, and to someone like me, that’s not something I can easily ignore. If I killed you, my old masters would twist in their graves and come out as Bone Dragons to haunt me! Hahaha!”

The dragoness had a cute laugh, but she spoke some rather confusing words. As long as I didn’t end up like a bug splattered on the side of the cave, I was cool with it. Besides, I actually didn’t feel like I was in any danger at all. On the contrary, I felt a bit safe with her around, which was the weird part seeing how a few moments ago we were trying to kill each other.

Am I turning into a masochist? She is the enemy right? She is the one who sent Seryanna flying into the wall, kidnapped Kleo and set fire to the mansion, right? I thought while trying to remember all the reasons why I should be fearing her.

“Well, as I was saying… Power is something else. Even I don’t know what it is exactly, but the Temples have a way of finding out. If you go to one and ask the priest there to show you, he will lead you to a private room. Inside, you will be left alone only with a black sphere on a pedestal. That’s the reading room. By placing your hand on the sphere and infusing it with Magic Energy, a small number will be displayed on top of it. That’s your current power.” she explained with a smile.

I blinked surprised, then asked her. “What’s your current number?”

“Last time I checked, it was 1290, I think.”

Holy Pancake on a Rainbow Unicorn! She’s talking about levels! That idiotic god lied to us! He told us that only we, the heroes, can see levels, but from what Kataryna just told me, everyone who goes to a temple can find out. The only difference is that they call them power. Well… technically it would be power level or level of power, but still… WOW! I thought as I blinked surprised.

“It’s 1294 actually…” I mumbled in my amazement.

“You can see the power of an individual?” she asked squinting her eyes at me.

I messed up.

“Maaaybe?” I smiled foolishly.

“Never mention this to a priest, they will think you are a blasphemer or some sort of devil.” she warned me and shook her head.

“Thank you?” I was getting more and more confused.

Why would they believe that? I wondered.

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!

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{takes a note} “Don’t talk to priests… Okay. Got it. Anything or anyone else I should take particular care to avoid?”