~ Chapter 42: A friend's advice (Part 2) ~
Thus, after she calmed down a bit, I told her everything, about how I met with Alkelios, about how I encountered Kataryna, about how he healed Brekkar, about how he first kissed me, about that strange night when I felt all hot on the inside and then I told her about Draejan.
“That's... unexpected.” she said as she furrowed her brow.
Her tail wasn't swaying anymore.
“If he brought you the Draconitium and Dregaryum ores, then he's intent on taking everything to the end.” I said.
“True, but he's also a known human-hater. I don't think he will take it lightly when he hears that you have been purring around a human. More so if he finds out that he managed to embrace you like that, even if you two didn't do anything... Hm, why in the name of all of the gods didn't he jump on you already? From a human's point of view, you are one fine booty!” Dregarya let out an exasperated sigh and then looked into my eyes “You don't swing that way, do you?” she asked me.
“NO!” I retorted.
“Good... although if I wasn't already in a relationship, I wouldn't have minded spending the night with you.” she winked.
“Please keep those jokes to yourself, Dregarya.” I pouted.
“I will!” she showed me a bright smile.
I let out a sigh and then looked down at the floor.
“Honestly though, I don't know what to do... I don't want to marry Draejan, but if the King himself ordered it, I won't be able to do a thing. He's clearly taking the general role seriously and everyone will see it as normal for me to marry him because my grandfather was the one who made that army. Even the Crown Prince and Prime Minister agreed to this...” I let out another sigh.
“Don't worry about those last two, they just went with the political flow. I'm more worried about what Draejan will do to your human... I don't see this ending very well.” she shook her head.
“What do you think will happen?” I asked.
“First of all, from the looks of things, he doesn't sound too be too sure of himself in regard to his relationship with you. Putting him up on in front of the King as your way to change his mind about the marriage might end up backfiring. Also, you're not Awakened. Thus, you are still considered to think like a child by many of them. Then, we have Draejan, who will try to scheme something to turn your relationship into his favor.” she explained while using some vegetables at hand to explain better.
“How exactly would he do that?” I asked confused.
“Simple. Make him prove that he is not worthy of you by all draconian standards. Even if right now he's just dealing with a lot of stress and stuff like that, who do you think will take his side? Embarrassing him in front of you and causing him to lose face in front of Royalty will undoubtedly force Alkelios to step aside.”
“Why not just kill him? Why go through all of this?” I asked.
“To make you submit to him. To prove to you how wrong you were in picking him. To stroke his ego and make him feel like he is on top of everyone.” she explained and shook her head.
“Do you think he will... win?” I asked.
“Alkelios? No... He will be... devastated if he encounters Draejan or falls into his trap.” she said.
“Can I do anything to stop this?” I asked.
“You? No... You said it yourself, the King ordered it. Unless you can make that stubborn dragon change his mind, you will have to marry Draejan and act like a good and loyal wife to him.” she looked down and let out a sigh.
Neither of us liked the outcomes she foresaw, but she was right about one thing... The King held all the power in my current situation. Unless I changed his mind, I was bound to become Draejan's wife even if I had yet to Awaken.
“What about for Alkelios? Can I do anything for him?” I asked.
“Hm...” she closed her eyes and thought about it for a long moment. “Yes.” she said as she opened her eyes “If you see him fall to Draejan's trap... Maybe, you should think twice before deciding if the one before you was the real Alkelios or not.”
“The real one?” I asked confused.
“Dragons just like humans tend to hide behind intricate masks of lies, stress, and the idea of 'what is right to do'. Well, this is also something I learned recently after my last quarrel with 'that guy'.” she winked at me.
“You two argued? That's... not surprising...” I said.
“Yup! The one who started it wasn't me by the way. Well, long story short, he had a lot of things on his mind, and the stress from work had reached the boiling point. The last time I saw him wagging his tail was after I dragged him in bed... by force. So, we had a talk about it. One thing led to another, and I realized that the one I was speaking with was just the mask he was putting on in front of all those noble geezers. Do you know how I caught him?” she showed me a mischievous smirk.
I shook my head.
“I undressed in front of him. No clothes or anything to cover me! I dropped everything and then he said: 'I believe madam Dregarya Gorrashy should put her clothes back on, or she might catch a cold. During a conversation of this degree such behavior might be a seen as rude!'.” she gesticulated and used the usual tone of voice that man did whenever out in public.
I simply blinked surprised. Doing something like that was bold, and I definitely doubted I could do something like that with Alkelios. Actually... this implied already knowing the one who hid behind the mask.
“What do you think I did?” she asked.
“I don't know.” I shook my head.
“I walked up to him. He backed up and kept spouting all that nonsense. I didn't let him go and pushed him down on the bed. He kept talking like that, so I asked him where did he think we were and in front of whom did he think he was talking. When he realized the mask wasn't working, he laughed until he cried. The stress was really getting to him and changing his personality.” she sighed and shook her head.
“You think it's the same with everyone?” I asked.
“Both him and I went through something similar... When I was younger, it was you who pulled me out of that trance, remember? I was hammering all day and all night until my hand bled. You stopped me and dragged me out into the fields. You even fought with me until I couldn't fight back. If you weren't such a good friend to me, right now I might have already been dead from overworking.” she let out a sigh.
“I did only what I saw as normal... But Alkelios, I don't know what his real self is... or if I had fallen in love with this mask of his or the real one?” I said unsure of my own feelings right now as I clenched my hands into fists.
“Hey, relax.” Dregarya said as she placed her hands over mine. I looked up and saw her smiling softly at me “Just don't think of the one you see right now as the real one. You might be a bit inexperienced in men, but you have some damn good instincts. Just follow those. They will tell you. As for what will happen from now one, there's a high chance this is also part of his trial. If he can't get over this dilemma and stand by your side in the end, then... you might as well give up on him because the dragons here will eat him alive with their politics.”
I nodded and looked down. Tears gathered in my eyes from the turmoil inside my heart. Feelings of anxiety, guilt, and insecurity were all turning and twisting inside. I couldn't let them out, and I couldn't calm them down either. They were pushing up, trying to break free.
After all, I couldn't accept or agree to the idea that I have fallen in love with a lie or that I had to give up on him just like that.
This whole inner turmoil could be seen on my wincing face as tears rolled down my cheeks, and I tried hard not to cry.
“Let it all out, Seryanna. It's just me here... I know it's difficult, but you'll get through this, I'm sure of it.” Dregarya said and hugged me.
When she did this, I wept and cried like a child struck by pain and sadness. I clung to my friend and trembled. My own mask as a knight was shattered in that moment, letting out the woman behind it who didn't want for things to be end up like this. Who didn't want to be treated like some sort of political pawn. Who didn't want to be married with a dragon for whom she felt absolutely nothing...
To be honest, I felt that if I really did marry Draejan... inside, I would die.
After I calmed down, we talked about the details of my new armor as well as a possible new sword. Dregarya had no intention to make Draejan a new armor from those materials unless the King ordered her to do so, but she did tell me that she planned on having a nice long chat with her lover once he returned from his campaign. The topic would be the contents of a certain letter and how to fix it.
As for me, I was going to have to bare the desire to lash out at Draejan and remain calm until a solution was offered. I was dealing here with political powers far above my influence or that of the Third Princess. However, it was clear that this dragon knew a few things that maybe not even the King himself was aware of.
I left Dregarya when the sky began to darken. At this hour, I was certain to find Alkelios back at the inn, and using this opportunity, I would extend him the invitation from the Third Princess. After this, I planned to return to the Palace and inform the guards of the official summon, as well as have someone let me know the moment he had arrived. If I didn't let them know, it would end up causing a lot of trouble.
However, just as I left the south wing of the Palace and entered the hallway leading to the exit, a dragon stepped in front of me. He had thin white wings on his back, smaller than Princess Elleyzabelle's. A long tail with folded spikes on the spine towards the tip. Large, clawed feet similar to those of a dragon's in beast form. A human-like head with slit black eyes and several scales running up the left and right sides of his chin. He wore a typical Royal Knight plate armor with the emblem of the Doesya Ducal House on his front.
As a dragon, he didn't look half bad, and his short cut black hair was typical among those working in the army, however, what caught my attention was the color of his scales. He had two types: white, which was the majority; and golden, which could be seen on the tip of is tail, his wings, and a single pair on his chin.
“Greetings, Sir Seryanna. It's a pleasure to finally meet you. My name is Draejan Andrakaryus Doesya.” he made a polite bow in front of me.
I froze and was unable to ever return the greeting. This dragon was none other than the one who riled me up into his political game, my future husband.
“Oh my, I guess it's natural to be surprised when one meets their fiance in such a way.” he smirked.
I snapped out of it when I heard the word 'fiance'.
“I do not know what games you are playing, but I have no intention on becoming your wife. I am not even Awakened, so our elemental compatibility is unknown.” I declared in a firm tone of voice.
“Such things are details. For an heir, I could always find a suitable woman with the right element. If you desire a child so badly, you could have one yourself, I don't mind... as long as that individual is a dragon.” he squinted his eyes at me.
“Declaring your infidelity before you even put a ring on my finger. How disappointing.” I retorted, acting as though I had not heard that last remark of his.
“A dragon or dragoness, especially those of noble rank are not forbidden by the King to have one or more lovers. When matters of heirs are at stake, this is quite a wonderful solution.” he smirked.
“I apologize, but I am not of such a belief.” I rebuked.
“It matters not what you believe, but what the truth of this world is. As such, I need not tell you that your future is already sealed, unless you wish to be declared a traitor.” he smirked.
My fingers tightened around the hilt of my sword.
“I will never go against his Majesty's order.” I glared at him.
“Good. Neither would I. As such, it was purely though his Majesty's will which took into consideration the greater good of our kingdom that he agreed to this marriage. With you by my side, the granddaughter of the esteemed Brekkar Draketerus, I will have full control over the Brekkar Army, just as his Majesty wants it to be.” he spoke in his solemn tone of voice as he approached me.
There was no way I could retort to his words. Doing so would only be seen as an act of disobedience towards his Majesty. As a Knight, this was beyond shameful and unthinkable. Thus, just like my friend suggested, I abstained and bared with it.
Seeing me like this, Draejan smirked and walked past me. With this our first meeting would end, but before he left, he did tell me one last thing.
“Oh, and don't bother going to visit your human pet tonight. Just a moment ago, I sent him and your other friends an official invitation to the Palace. Of course, I will allow you to bring them first before the Third Princess. After all, such a meeting would only serve better in showing to this human the real truth of this world... That humans are not welcomed here, and a relationship of any sort with them can only be seen as... disgraceful. And those who go against this rule will only end up... suffering.”
As Draejan walked away, I was left standing there, clenching the hilt of my sword and glaring at the floor. There was absolutely nothing I could do right now to stop this dragon. His power vastly surpassed mine.
What should I do... How can I protect them? I asked myself as I cursed my own lack of power.
If only I was Awakened. If only I was stronger. If only... I had already married Alkelios.
Such were the thought which plagued my mind as I made my way back to my own room.
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