~ Chapter 24: Catching up with Seryanna ~
Six days after I left Tomeron, I found myself sitting at a table at Turos’s Inn in Dertan. It was a town located to the far East in the Elmendyar Plains, right after crossing the Sparyx river.
Up until yesterday, the weather was on my side, but then it started to rain. It was a real downpour, and I even heard some people saying they barely managed to cross the river. Traveling through this sort of weather was possible, but it would take too long, but most importantly, I would be forced to camp outside. Unfortunately, on the road from here to the village Pertiko wasn’t even a traveler’s inn or cave where I could take shelter from the rain. I could run non-stop. I had the potions, but I wasn’t in the mood to exert myself like this.
The past few days, I felt strange, maybe I was just a bit depressed? My mind went back and forth between what awaited me at the capital and what I left behind in Tomeron. Alkelios was part of the reason, but I was a knight, and this was something I couldn’t give up on no matter what. I had a duty, a job, a mission… I couldn’t tell if he was worth the risk… the consequences of my betrayal.
I could literally lose everything… I often thought whenever these questions popped in my mind.
Of course, a knight in my position, someone who made an oath to protect her country and master shouldn’t even think about something as preposterous as falling in love with a human man. For others, it was an aberration, but I wasn’t a god, I was a dragon… I was allowed to make mistakes, to think, to hope and dream, to be happy… Although, thinking about it and doing something about it were two very different things, and I feared the latter.
At this inn in Dertan, I found myself sitting alone and staring at the half-filled tankard of honey wine, also known as mead.
Normally, I wasn’t a drinker, but after leaving Tomeron, the alcohol was the only thing able to keep my head clear of questions and depressing answers. By the time I reached the capital, I would need to forget about Alkelios and restrain myself from thinking about useless things.
Idiot… I thought and then let out a sigh.
While everyone was chatting and pouring mead down their throats, the door at the entrance was opened wide, and the fury of the storm outside rushed in. I guessed it was probably some local or unlucky adventurer, so I didn’t even bother to take my eyes off my drink, but then I heard him… the one person I was trying to forget… the idiot who made me feel this way…
“It’s raining cats and dogs out there! ACHOOO!” complained Alkelios.
“How could it rain nekatars?” asked Kataryna.
I gulped and squeezed the tankard in my hand. Beads of sweat were forming on my forehead.
It can’t be him… Why are they here? How did they get here so fast? Just… how? I asked myself unable to believe my own two ears.
I couldn’t look up at him…
I didn’t have the courage to do so…
Someone pulled the chair in front of me and sat down, but my eyes were locked onto my tankard, and my whole body was stiff like a rock. My breath was trembling, but despite all of this, he didn’t say a single word. He just waited there.
After a very long moment, I gained the courage to slowly lift my eyes up from my drink and look at him.
Alkelios was sitting right in front of me, showing me a big smile like nothing was wrong.
It’s really him… I thought.
[Alkelios’ point of view]
After the long journey through Hell and back, we finally managed to arrive at this inn in this simple town. If I knew what sort of trouble we would end up getting ourselves into if we rode with that idiotic giant rooster, I might have suggested something a bit different, like having Kleo or Kataryna turn into a giant dragon and flying us all the way here. Less time, less effort, and at that altitude, there were certainly no bugs flying around aiming for my face.
When we entered the inn, I think it was called Turos’s Inn or something like that, I immediately looked around for my redhead dragoness. When I spotted her, I wanted to call out to her, but there was something wrong… she wasn’t looking up at us, and her fingers were clenched around the tankard in front of her.
What’s wrong? Is she mad? I wondered and walked over to her.
Kataryna saw her and waited patiently at the bar, keeping the black-scaled one from causing a scene. A level 1296 was a lot more powerful than a level 214. As for me, I was only at level 156. I grew quite fast, especially when I got us lost in one of those mines near Permundar town…
Looking at her from afar, I realized I was feeling a little awkward towards approaching the redhead dragoness. It was as if I was trying to pick up a girl for the first time in my life, except I wasn’t babbling, my hands were shaking, and I wasn’t sweating. Still, my heart was beating quite fast in my chest, and the more I looked at her, the more I realized how beautiful she was, but maybe that was only because as an unawakened, she was still quite similar to a human.
While some of the other people at the inn were wondering who we were, I ignored all of them. For me, only Seryanna was in that room, everyone else was background noise. Thus, I approached her table and calmly took a seat in front of her.
With my hands on the table, a bunch of leafs in my head, and dripping wet, I had my gaze locked onto the dragoness who refused to look up at me.
Now, why are you acting like this, Seryanna? I wondered.
I had no idea, but I planned on waiting until she made the first move.
It didn’t take long, and she eventually raised her head to look at me.
“Yo!” I said with a smile and raising a hand up.
“Al-Alkelios?” she asked with a trembling voice.
“That’s me.” I nodded.
“How?” she asked shaking her head in disbelief.
“You want the long or short version of the story?” I asked tilting my head to the left and raising an eyebrow.
She glared at me.
“Well, what do you want to know?” I asked with a shrug.
Seryanna remained quiet for a moment and then asked “When did you leave?”
“Three days ago right after Brekkar told us you were heading off to the capital without even so much as saying a good-bye.” I grinned.
“I didn’t want to say good-bye.” she squinted her eyes at me.
“Because I didn’t believe…” she stopped and looked down at her drink.
There was a feeling of insecurity around her.
“Yes?” I pushed.
“I didn’t believe you would let me go…” she said.
“Why would I do that? It’s not like we are married or anything.” I shrugged unknowingly of the blunder I let slip with a smile.
She furrowed her brow and clenched her fingers around the tankard.
“Yes… you are right… there’s nothing between us.” she said, but I didn’t catch on what she meant by those words.
“Seryanna, there’s no need to worry about me.” I said with a smile and gently touched her hand. “You saved me from the Seculiar Forest, we even went and defeated the local bandits. We saved your grandfather too, so there’s a bit of history there. If you’re having any troubles or anything, you can rely on me as well.” I said, but like a fool who didn’t know how to talk with a woman or understand what she was feeling at the moment, I said all the wrong things I could have possibly said.
I’m an idiot… I should have just confessed and said I came all the way over here because of you… I’m such a big idiot… I thought while unable to remove the kind smile from my lips.
Glaring back at me, Seryanna grabbed her tankard and splashed it on my face.
“Thank you, but I’m a knight, not some damsel in distress! I can handle myself!” she growled and then left the table.
I blinked two times confused.
“Huh? What? Why?” I asked while I stared blankly at the chair in front of me.
[Kataryna’s point of view]
When we entered the inn, I was soaking wet. My clothes were clinging to me, and I had a branch or two stuck in my hair. The little brat, Kleo, wasn’t doing any better either, but thanks to her wearing ONLY cloth, she ended up showing more of her forms than she wanted to, especially with the way they clung to her body.
Actually, scratch that! This little brat was a pervert who wouldn’t shut up about letting Alkelios ‘sleep’ with either her or me… Yes, I got to know just where her mind was going most of the times, and so far, I had yet to see it jump out of the gutter.
While Alkelios walked over to the dragoness, I made sure the brat wasn’t running there to ruin the mood, so I went to the bar and ordered some hot wine.
“Sure thing!” said the innkeeper.
“Thanks…” I said as I left two coppers on the table.
“So where are you from? Not many dare to brave this sort of weather.” he pointed at the door.
“We’re from Tomeron, and yes, you could say that.” I nodded.
To be frank, I was surprised when Alkelios pulled out of thin air a Royal Rooster. It was a big bird about four meters tall, with lustrous dark-red tail feathers, a red crest leaning backwards, powerful legs, and the attitude of someone working directly under the king. I thought I was dreaming. That bird was known not to listen to anyone unless they were of royal blood. Even Kleo asked him if he wasn’t a foreign prince or something. He claimed he wasn’t. Apparently, the bird was summoned there thanks to his spell.
The moment we got on its back, the bird started running ten times faster than a Khosinni, and it didn’t care what it was hitting. Alkelios tried to control it, but as expected, it was hard for him to do so. For the first two hours, we fought against trees or rather their slapping branches. We were cutting them faster than a royal gardener could. Afterwards, we stopped when we reached Andromeda. The breaks were so powerful and sudden that all of us were sent flying off the mount and into the wall. I was lucky I spread my wings in time and avoided the impact.
Thinking back at the moment, I realized just how lucky the human was. Instead of hitting the rock wall like a certain necromancer dragoness did, he smashed through a weak point and landed right into the full hot tub of the commander dragoness stationed there. While he survived the impact with relative ease, the slap he received from the naked dragoness was powerful enough to send him flying into the other side of the room.
We got scolded by the commander there for almost one hour and then we had to fix the wall by hand. I have no idea why I didn’t just make her eat the dust at her feet. How dare she make a dragon who achieved Awakened Breakthrough do something like that?!
Either way, we had a quick meal at the inn and then we continued our journey. As for the Royal Rooster, it was dismissed the moment the commander knocked out Alkelios with a slap, so nobody saw it. He had to summon it again outside of the city.
Without any delay, we did a repeat of the earlier battle against the slapping tree branches. The human managed to get a better control of the beast, but he was still rusty with it. Me and Kleo were sort of wondering to ourselves why wasn’t he asking us to change into our bigger forms and fly us out of there. I could literally fly without end for a couple of days at best. Catching up with Seryanna in three days or so would have been entirely possible, but I had to admit, the Royal Rooster was very fast. No wonder it was called the fastest mount alive.
“Any interesting tales you wish to share?” asked the innkeeper.
He was mostly looking for gossip he could tell to his various other customers. Basically, something with which he could start or slip into a conversation.
“Maybe?” I replied and took a healthy gulp from my mug of hot wine.
The hot drink felt so nice as I poured it down my dry throat. It was simply amazing!
As for those stories, I didn’t wish to tell him anything. There was a chance he could ask more questions than I wished to answer or knew how to answer. It still eluded me as to why Alkelios had such mysterious skills, but if there was one person at this inn who knew about his little secret, that could only be Seryanna, the reason why we ran all the way here at max speed.
Thanks to him being unable to steer the Royal Rooster properly, we ended up on the other side of the Permundar mountain, the one from which all the residents in the town wearing its name mined all sort of minerals and jewels. This time, I was ready for the sudden stop and held tight to the mount’s saddle. Alkelios was sent flying into a tree and Kleo into a rock. The impact wasn’t powerful enough to kill them, but they ended up a bit bruised. The black-scaled dragoness was immediately complaining.
That reminded me of an old children’s game going something like this: Greg! Greg! Greg of the jungle! Strong as he can be! Dragon Greg watch out for that… Oooh… TREE!
It was a fun a game in which we had to jump out of a tree and land safely on the ground. If one of us stumbled or landed last, they ended up being called Dragon Greg until the entire day.
Once Alkelios and Kleo recovered, I jumped off the Royal Rooster, which was shortly after dismissed. Only that mountain was left between us and Permundar town. We could have gone around it, but Alkelios refused and pointed at an abandoned mine. With his luck, he knew it was the way through.
The only problem with this option was the fact that he forgot to wish for anything before entering. We ended up getting lost in a maze filled with bats and giant spiders until we found a mine cart. We hopped in and using my strength, I gave us a decent boost.
The mine cart sent us straight towards a gaping chasm, where the line ended. I took off immediately and grabbed the two with me, leaving the cart to meet its fate as a crushed pancake at the bottom of the chasm. I flew us over and from there, we walked on foot. This time, Alkelios wished for us to quickly find a way out, and we did.
Once out, we camped outside and spent the night there. The human was very cuddly, but the black-scaled brat bit my tail in her sleep. I was this close to crushing her face into the ground out of reflex.
Morning came with a rude awakening from a bunch of wolves. For me, it was dinner time, but right after we killed them, a bunch of monsters appeared out of nowhere. We fought for an hour until all of them were gone. I gained a lot more power than I should have for those kills. It felt like we killed five times more. Either way, it was a good experience, so Alkelios summoned the rooster again and we left without collecting anything from the monsters. On our way, we encountered a bunch more, so we fought them off as best as we could.
Thanks to those attacks and the branches blocking our sight, we didn’t see the river coming, and the stupid bird walked us right off a cliff. We all landed in the water before I had a chance to extend my wings. To make it worse, the bird kept running until we were out of there. By the end, all of us were spitting out water, and I even had a fish who slipped between my breasts. That was a tad bit embarrassing, I have to admit.
After pulling that stupid fish out, I ate it without mercy.
From there, we traveled a bit more until we reached the second river. We stopped and made camp on the shore. For dinner, we had fish, and no monsters decided to bother us that night. The following day, we got up as soon as the sun was up in the sky. We didn’t even bother with cleaning ourselves up. I had leafs and dirt stuck in all the nooks and crannies of my armor.
In theory, we were supposed to follow the road, but thanks to Alkelios’ [Dragon Tamer] tracking ability and his inability to control the Royal Rooster, we ended up skipping Permundar and Ihtyar completely. In the end we reached Dertan all soaking wet, dirty, tired, bruised, and above all hungry.
As I finished recounting our journey here, I heard a splash and turned my head to see Seryanna stomping out of there furiously. The human was now covered in mead…
Did something happen? I wondered and then drank the rest of my wine.
“Go and speak with him, Kleo. I’ll go see what our knight has to say about that.” I untied my tail around the brat’s neck and left calmly after the dragoness.
“Why you! Why should I?” she glared back at me.
“Cause I can punch you all the way back to Tomeron.” I squinted my eyes at the brat.
“Good point!” she nodded and then went to sit at the same table as Alkelios.
One of the branches in my hair was getting annoying, so I pulled it out and left it on a nearby table. Finding Seryanna’s room was going to be easy, I just had to knock on all the doors until I found her. The oldest and best strategy in the book.
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