~ Chapter 103: The promise of a dragon ~
[Alkelios' point of view]
Being compared to some random dragon that kidnapped princesses to stash them away in his tower was a bit insulting and demeaning at the same time. After all, imagine if I did that back in Albeyater.
“Honey, I'm home!” I would merely say.
“Oh? What did you bring?” Seryanna would ask.
“A princess I kidnapped from one of the human kingdoms. So what's for lunch?”
Just imagining the piercing gaze Seryanna would give me sent chills down my spine. No matter where you went on the Dragon Continent, you would never hear ridiculous stories like this one. The only reason why I would fly off to kidnap someone of royal blood from another country would be either because they were the enemy and could be used as a bargaining chip during peace negotiations or... no, that was it, there was no other good reason I could think of to commit such a crime.
Then again, was it considered a crime when done with the purpose of ending a war? That was a good dilemma, one which I would have to ponder about another time.
With Princess Ildea here coming clean in front of us, I was in for quite the impressive story.
The others also listened to her with their breath taken away, not making even a single sound so as to not distract her. Ildea had a way with storytelling, especially when looking at all those emotions she poured into her words, her gesture, and even the gaze in her eyes.
If she was an actress, she was one worthy of the blockbusters at Hollywood.
“And that was when you all entered the room.” Ildea said when she finished her tale.
All of us smiled and clapped as though we were applauding a theatrical performance.
“T-Thank you.” she was taken aback by the applause, but with a soft smile on her lips she recovered and waited for our say in all of this.
The first to comment was Kalderan.
“Zarbast Asher, Annatella Verma, Dormachiov Killiry, and Misany Amitta... hm~ Why don't those names sound the least bit familiar to me?” he furrowed his brow, closed his eyes and crossed his arms at his chest.
“I heard rumors of the Democratic Union of Shiva, they say it was created through the union of the Shiva Kingdom and several Southern territories that belonged to the Akutan Empire before they declared their independence. The Fascist Kingdom of Nocturn is a mysterious place where adventurers go and never return from. As for the others two, the adventurers who traveled there said that those were countries without discrimination, where no one was above another.” Risha told us.
Unlike us, she was someone who traveled to various other settlements when she completed quests with her previous party. Kalderan was stuck in Soldra Town for the most part, and I... well, I was dropped in this country quite recently. I missed out on quite a lot, three years to be exact.
“So, we are stuck in another world and the first thing our fellow earthlings do is establish neo-nazi, neo-communist, and neo-fascist governments in order to take over the world.” I said and then let out a heavy sigh.
“Don't forget a democratic one too, it was established by that guy, Dormachiov Killiry.” Kalderan pointed out with a smirk.
I raised an eyebrow at him.
“That's a very friendly-sounding name.” I remarked.
“What do you mean?” Risha asked as she looked at me.
“Kill, in one of the many languages from Earth, means Rikna (Kill).” Kalderan explained.
“Language can be a tricky thing. In the end, all of our names have a certain meaning behind them.” I nodded.
“We're straying off from the subject here.” pointed out Kalderan.
“Right.” I nodded.
“Pardon me, but... aren't the four of you worried?” the princess asked us.
“Hm? What do you mean?” I asked tilting my head to the right.
“I'm being hunted down by assassins sent by my own father. This Kingdom's future is uncertain and there's a high chance you might be declared as criminals for the simple fact that you offered me a helping hand. As long as you didn't know who I was, I thought you would be safe, but now that I think about it, there's no telling where that man's madness might lead.” Ildea said as she held her shoulders and shivered.
It was clear that this young girl was frightened by everything that happened to her, and her future could be said as being nothing but uncertain. Death or imprisonment was what awaited her back at the capital. If worse came to worse, then she would be forced to marry her own father. It was a terrible fate, but since I happened to be part of it now, I couldn't just let it be.
“Why don't you come with us?” I asked her.
“What? But... what about the assassins? And where would we go? Who could be brave and foolish enough to go against the might of the Ten Swords Kingdom and maybe even that of the Akutan Empire.” she asked shaking her head.
“You are looking at them.” I smiled.
“Huh?” Risha blinked surprised and made a shocked expression, but we all ignored her.
“Nya~ Petty pet feel gweeed~!” Tamara melted in a big mass of fluffy fur when I started by reflex to scratch her behind the ears.
“You?” Ildea wasn't convinced.
“Let's see, would this explain things better then?” I asked as I closed my eyes and focused on my shape-shifting ability.
When I opened my eyes, I also spread my wings which had a mix of red, gold, black, and white scales, forming streak patterns that gave me an imposing aspect. From the top of my head, a pair of black horns with a black-red tip and a gold ring at the base formed while a tail sprouted from my lower back.
In that instant I took the shape of an Awakened dragon with a majestic aura overflowing from me. The authority of my gold scales acted as my proof and mark of someone who could very well be considered a member of one of the dragon royal families.
“Well, what do you think?” I asked when I saw that she wasn't saying anything and just looking at me with a frozen look on her face.
Princess Ildea didn't reply.
Actually, she wasn't reacting at all. Waving my hand in front of her eyes didn't work either.
With a bit of concern showing on my face, I turned towards Kalderan and said “I think she fainted.”
“While standing?” he raised an eyebrow at me.
I looked back at the princess and then gently pushed her. The previously elegant lady overflowing with the royal grace fell back like a log.
“Yeah, I'm pretty sure she fainted.”
“Alright, I'm going down to eat something. Let me know when she wakes up.” shrugging, the Russian left the room.
“I'm going too. Tamara wants to eat some of those fish snacks.” said Risha as she let out a sigh.
“Fish?! FISH!” the cat jumped up and followed her.
They left me behind with the princess who was now laying on the floor like a body at the morgue.
“Seriously?” I said with a wry smile.
Since the other three left me alone with her, I did what any sensible dragon would do, I picked her up and then tucked her in bed just as I would a young child. At least I wasn't forced to sing a lullaby for her.
After I returned to my human form, I thought about leaving the room, but having her wake up alone wasn't probably a good idea. With a sigh of resignation, I went over to the table and pulled out Heaven and Hell from my [Black Hole] to do some maintenance on them. It wasn't that they needed it, but I loved to tweak them around. They were like that awesome character you made in your favorite game and which you ended up tweaking the builds at every step of the way, trying out new weapons, different skill combos, different positioning, everything.
These two weapons of mine were certainly of Godlike Rank when it came to their abilities and complexity, but to be honest, I still had a lot to go and learn. I had my skills at max, but there was a difference between having the ability to use something and having the experience of using it for a long time.
I was basically a genius with unpolished skills. All I had to do now was practice, practice, and practice some more. Did I mention that I have to practice too? Yeah, that was about it.
The princess didn't wake up even after I finished my maintenance and Kalderan returned from downstairs. After he went to bed, I stayed up by the window and watched the two moons up in the clear night sky.
The big one was called Nocturnia, just like the goddess, and the small one was called Nocturnis, just like her brother. For a long time, I never bothered to find out the names of these two moons. I was quite oblivious to many things in my life, for example the fact that this world's gravity might not be the same as Earth's. In fact, I speculated that it was bit higher. The weather was also influenced by magic, depending on who cast what as well as where powerful boss monsters roamed the lands. Some of those beasts could increase the temperature around them or lower it drastically at the snap of a finger. Electric discharges also played a big role in the equation, but I definitely was no weatherman to know how everything affected everything.
At some point during the middle of the night, the royal lady woke up. She jumped up from the bed and looked around as though she was being chased around by wolves. When she locked eyes with me she stopped and gulped. With trembling hands, she picked up the cover and lifted it up while pushing herself back until she met the wall.
I tilted my head to the left, curious about what she was going to do and say next, but she remained like that for a good few minutes, just looking at me with those big frightened eyes.
“Are you alright, Ildea?” I cracked the ice in the end.
“Hiii!” she shrieked.
I blinked and looked over at Kalderan, but he was sleeping like a log.
Shaking my head, I got up and stretched my shoulders for a bit. I didn't say anything else and just gave her the time to calm down. In the end, it was she who spoke first.
“Y-You... A-Are you really a d-dragon?”
“A half-dragon actually.” I showed her a smile.
“T-Then... w-what I saw earlier... it wasn't a dream, was it?”
“Nope.” I shook my head.
“A-Are you going to eat me?” she asked while looking at me like a scared little rabbit.
When I heard her, I nearly stumbled on my own feet. THAT definitely took me by surprise!
Thankfully, I recovered fast.
“No. Where did you even get that idea?” I asked with a twitching cheek.
I could understand if she was a Human Hero who read only those bad stories with the dragon playing the role of the big stupid fire-breathing lizard, but the dragons in this world have their own kingdom. Why would they go around hunting for human meat?! They are not SHEEP! I complained in my mind.
“These old generals back at the palace... They often depicted your kind as that of merciless monsters out to get us humans. The Akutan Empire has gathered the armies of all the kingdoms time and time again to launch defensive attacks against the Dragon Continent.” she explained while pulling her knees at her chest.
“That's just political propaganda to get you to fight against us. It was far easier to put the label of 'evil' and 'monster' on us than to explain that they simply wanted more land or resources.” I explained with a shrug.
“What?” she blinked surprised.
“Yeah, besides those invasions you speak off more than often ended up as big failures for the human armies, right?” I asked.
She nodded in silence.
“Well, that was because the draconian species in general is far more powerful than the human one. The continent where they live on require absurd levels of strength if one wants to survive there. The weakest monsters are over 100 levels and the wolves of this continent are the favorite prey of the sheep over there.” I explained and then shuddered at the thought of the last one.
To be honest, I had my fair share of encounters with the herds of sheep on in the Seculiar Forest. Those level 400+ monster gave chase after me when I was still weak and only through insane luck did I manage to defeat them or lose them. They were all persistent bastards who took pride in their natural defenses. Wolves trembled and yelped with their tails between their legs at the mere sight of such a ferocious sheep.
“What? How can that be?” she asked confused.
“I don't know. That's just how things are over there. To be honest, the dragons don't even want to attack this continent. Rather, they have the power to fly over here and easily take over this place in a matter of days. From what I saw, I alone am more than enough to completely destroy all settlements from Soldra Town to this place.” I declared proudly, but that only made the poor princess shriek in fear.
“Alkelios stop screaming like a little girl!” Kalderan complained in his sleep and then rolled on the other side.
I narrowed my eyes at him and wondered just where in the world did that comment come from.
After another long moment past, and Ildea calmed down again, I looked over at her and asked her “Am I really that frightening?” I showed her a small smile, but the gaze in my eyes was one that showed that her being afraid of me like that did in fact hurt me a little on the inside.
No one would want to have his own friends and acquaintances fear him unless they were an evil bastard, which I was not.
It took her a bit of time to think of the answer, but I waited patiently, calmly gazing either outside or at her. As far as I knew, with the exception of the common dragon misconceptions, there was nothing fearful about me.
In the end, she came to the same conclusion.
Ildea shook her head and then said “No, you're not frightening, it's just... that the stories I was told about dragons made me fear you for nothing.”
“Yeah, I can see how that will become a problem if one day dragonkind and mankind will join arms together.” I laughed.
“Join arms? As in ally themselves? That would mean...” she stopped and looked down.
I looked out towards the two moons and then said “The end of the war and the beginning of the process of healing the hate cultivated between the two for the past thousands of years. I bet neither side remembers how it all started anyway.” I scoffed.
“No, none of the books even mention how the war began, it just did...” she said.
“Maybe someone conspired to make us hate each other for nothing? To weaken us?” I joked.
“Maybe.” Ildea said with a serious look on her face as she began to ponder about something.
A few moments later, she asked me “About what you said earlier, about protecting me and coming with you... were you talking about...” she stopped, and I turned to look back into her eyes.
She was afraid, worried, and mostly uncertain for what her future had in store.
“Yes. I will protect you. After all, I've ended up hearing your story, and I have the power to accomplish this, so why not? Besides, if a dragon ends up saving the princess instead of kidnapping her, then maybe all those nasty rumors about us will be busted.” I winked at her.
And if this whole thing helped the Albeyater Kingdom and both species as a whole on the long run, then maybe it was worth every single drop of effort I would come to put in it.
“Still, even if what you say is true, how could you, a Human Hero get the Dragon Continent to protect us. If Akutan Empire demands your head, I'm sure they will offer it on a silver platter.” she declared, most likely trying to get me to back down out of her own kindness.
Just imagining the Akutan Empire's ambassador walking up to that old reptile Feryumstark and demand me to be given to the Akutan Empire just because they said so made me laugh. After all, right after that Ambassador would mention something as crazy and ridiculous as that, I'm sure his Majesty would sarcastically reply by saying something along the following lines: Sure, we'll give you the savior of my Queen, a Duke of my Kingdom and the nephew-in-law of general Brekkar Draketerus right away. So, do you want to go back to the Akutan Empire with or without your limbs attached to your body?
Yup, that just cracked me up!
“What's so funny?” Ildea asked furrowing her brow because I started laughing all of a sudden.
I couldn't blame her, it was a bit weird, but she couldn't see what my imagination just concocted.
“I'm sorry, it's just that, yeah... that was funny. Anyway, I am quite confident that I won't be turned over to Akutan Empire even if they come knocking with their armies at our door. I am, after all, someone who holds the title of Duke over there, and my wife wouldn't be too happy to see me handed off on a silver platter. Red-scaled dragonesses can be very protective of their spouses.” I giggled.
“She sounds like a powerful woman.” she told me.
“Yes she is, beautiful too.” I showed her a soft smile.
Closing her eyes, Ildea remained like that for a moment. When she opened them again, there was a calm and gentle air flowing around her.
“Very well, Alkelios, I'll believe in you. I'll come with you to see how the Dragon Continent really looks like, and maybe, one day, I will return to Ten Swords to free my people from my father's madness.”
“Princess Ildea, I promise that you will be safe together with me. Actually, I also fully wish for no harm to come to you for as long as I am by your side, and if by chance we can save your kingdom and mother, then so be it. May the gods choose the best outcome for you and your people.” I told her.
“Thank you...” she said and then soft tears formed in the corners of her eyes.
I walked up to her and embraced her, wanting to comfort the pain that had been stabbing at her heart all this time.
“There. There. Everything will be alright now.” I whispered to her as I would my own child.
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!
This is the first chapter after my break! 😀
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