“Where else?” said Phil. “We should get out of here before we both faint. Staying too long isn’t good for you.”
“Oh….” I was a bit taken aback by Phil’s concern about my health, though I didn’t understand why he was carrying me. “Um….I can make my way out by myself…” My voice was getting soft, unsure if I should jump out of his arms or let him carry me for a while longer. I had never been a princess before.
“Don’t worry. You’re not too heavy.”
Phil walked around the edge of the hot spring, away from the deeper parts. Every step he took as he got closer to the exit, my mind went a bit….dirty. My tail swished back and forth at my thoughts. I had to reel it in a few times so I wouldn’t be caught as some kind of pervert. A couple of times, I giggled to myself, then stopped as Phil looked at me worriedly.
Eventually, Phil came to the hot spring edge, where they were stone stairs leading out of the pool. As he took his first step up, I flinched, realizing that he was going to be completely naked.
My mind whirled into chaos, making my face turn completely red.
“Wait!” I shouted, squirming in his hand. “You’re going to step out naked?!”
Phil stopped, looked down at me, and grinned. “Do you think I’m naked?”
“I….” Was he naked? I wasn’t sure anymore, but I thought people usually go into hot springs nude. “I don’t know…”
“Don’t worry. Even if I am naked, you wouldn’t be able to see.” Phil chuckled, making me blush even redder. He started to move again.
“B-b-but!” We were both halfway up the stairs with my body completely out, hitting the hot air. I struggled some more embarrassed at the thought of him possibly being naked.
“Quit struggling. I might drop you on the stairs. If I do that, you might hit your back and break your spine.”
I froze at what he just said; the thought of being paralyzed wasn’t something I wanted to be. Instead, I tucked my wings even tighter to the point where I was a cocoon. Phil was softly chuckling at me at how I was acting.
Finally, out of the water, He walked to the door, where a group of maids were present with a towel. A couple of them squealed with delight while they tried to keep themselves from gossiping.
Gently, Phil put me down on the ground foot first, allowing me to stand up independently. One of the maids quickly came over and handed Phil a towel, which he placed around his head. Another came over towards me with a large towel. I quickly opened up a small opening in my wings and snatched the towel out of her hand.
Accidently, while wiping myself as best as I could without opening too much of my wings, I caught a glimpse of Phil. He was in swimming trunks, making me feel a bit stupid that I thought he was naked this whole time. When he caught my gaze, a glint of mischief danced in his eyes, making me realize that he was pulling my leg the entire time.
“You’re wearing swimming trunks?” I unconsciously spoke my thoughts, realizing too late that I couldn’t take it back.
“Of course. Don’t people usually wear something when they go into a hot spring?” Phil asked as if it was the most obvious answer in the world.
My mouth gaped open and closed, unable to retort back. Then I turned towards the maids, hoping that they would have an answer.
“Young mistress.” One of the maids stepped forward and gracefully bowed. “This is your home, you may do anything you want.”
Still, her answer didn’t answer my question, while the other maids pulled her back, shaking her head at her. They realized that I was lost, confused, and still a bit embarrassed that my thoughts were read so easily. Instantly, they knew that I needed space without speaking it.
I wrapped the towel around me and waddled my way out back towards the changing room. My mind was still thinking about what Phil said. I didn’t even realize that I had changed into my clothes, while the maids rushed over to help.
When I passed the mirror, I checked myself. I was wearing simple black pants with sandals shoes. A simple popular attire that was going on around in my city that the maids had brought for me. It wasn’t the extravagant clothes that Coco favored and brought over all S rank clothes. The maids helped out with my long hair that was dragging behind me and braiding it. My wings were tucked behind me, so it wouldn’t bother me when I walked.
I didn’t see where Cathy had gone but assumed that she left before me.
I went out the door and noticed that Phil was standing there by himself, waiting on me. He was leaning on the wall with his eyes. Phil was wearing black pants with boots with a rope tied around it, holding it up. He wore some kind of blazer on top that you would see officers would wear, but more toned down. His long hair wasn’t braided like mine but kept it lightly tied together behind him as his elvish ears peeked out.
“Phil?” I called out, wondering why he was out here, waiting. “What are you doing out here?”
Phil glanced up, he gently smiled. “You took quite a long time to come out.”
“It’s fine. Come on.” Phil walked over, he grabbed my hand and pulled me.
“W-w-what?” I cried out, startled by his sudden pull. “Where are we going?”
“Just follow,” Phil replied, following behind him wasn’t easy, especially because he had a longer stride than me. Even in my dragon human hybrid form, he was still a bit taller than me.
We quickly passed through the hallways and went straight towards the landing spot where I usually take off from the castle, eventually leading outside into the dark night. The only thing that was lighting up around me was the lamplight hanging off the castle behind me, but the light wasn’t bright enough to light up everything.
The castle was a bit further away from the city lights, making it look like speckled dots here and there around the forest.
“Phil?!” I cried out, pulling at my hands. Being pulled around wasn’t something that I liked, especially as if we were rushing to something, and I didn’t know what it was.
Phil finally let go, he clapped his hands a couple of times, causing the lights to dim further. Even the lights around the city started to dim down as if he personally caused it to go, but I heard a couple of shouts and knew that it wasn’t so. At first, I couldn’t see it. It was almost pitch black until my eyes adjusted in the dark. The moon that was hidden behind the clouds peeked out, allowing the moonlight to shine through.
“Shh,” Phil whispered, he stepped up beside me. Then he pointed up into the sky.
I looked upwards, wondering what Phil was looking at. When I turned towards the sky, I gasped. An aurora light started to trail down from the east side of the castle and spread outwards overhead.
It reminded me of the northern lights, and I was shocked to see something like that here.
“What?” I asked, turning towards him for an answer. “How?”
“It started on the night you blessed everyone,” Phil spoke. My eyes became wide, completely dumbfounded by what he said.
“How is that possible?”
“This whole forest is thickly laced with your magic now after what you’ve done. The magic that rested in the forest itself reacts with your magic that has been left over. Every time there is a full moon, the magic harmonizes together, creating this effect.” Phil was watching the aurora with a peaceful expression, a small smile escaped his usual cold expression. “It’s become quite a popular night viewing. That is why you see the city lights dimming down at this time.”
“Ah, I see.” I realized now why the whole city was simultaneously becoming dark. It was for this moment, and to hear that it would come out every full moon made me realize how much magic I must’ve spent to cause this supernatural event.
“Do you think it would eventually go away?”
Phil thought it over for a moment, thinking over what I said. He shifted his stance, tilting his head. I waited patiently, but he didn’t answer.
Wondering why he wasn’t answering, I walked over towards the ledge’s edge and sat down. Dangling my feet off the edge, I moved it back and forth, letting the cool air that I miss brush against my skin. The weather wasn’t as crazy as the desert, making me happy that I was here and not out there. Experience in the desert was something that I wanted to completely forget.
I leaned backward on my hands as I watched the aurora dance overhead. There were even quite a few meteor showers that passed by in the night as the stars twinkled in-between. It was truly a wonderful night that I couldn’t help but close my eyes as I breathed in the clean air. No more was the harsh dry air that made me feel my throat and nose were always burning.
With a sigh, I opened my eyes back again.
“I believe it would last for a while,” Phil stated in a soft tone. He came over and sat next to me as he too got comfortable. “As long as you are alive, Berry. I believe the gift that you have given to the people will last a lifetime.”
“As long as I’m alive?” I was caught in his gaze that seemed to pierce through me. It was as if he could read my very soul, making me feel very uncomfortable.
“Yes,” Phil stated something about his words that seemed heavy. “There are lots of magical things around the Forgotten Forest, this city, and this castle has something connected to you.”
“Well, I know the castle is connected to me, but the city and the Forgotten Forest? “ I asked, wondering if he got his information correct. Forgotten Forest was a beast in its own self, making it a lot more difficult to control, especially because it had a mind of its own. If I didn’t know better, the Forgotten Forest seemed to allow us to stay on its lands than me controlling it. Many times, quite a few of the citizens were lost or eaten by the monsters that roamed the forest.
Everyone needed to know how to get around the Forgotten Forest. Without a map for the trouble areas, they would get killed. People who survived would tell horror stories about the traps that they almost fell in or the monsters they have met. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought they were making it up, but if it wasn’t the mishaps I had here and there, I wouldn’t have believed them.
The outsiders that either tried to raid into the Forest or attempt to cross into the Forgotten Forest to the city were 99% killed or misled somehow. It was common knowledge to hire guides nowadays.
Phil was silent for a moment, then he continued speaking. “In a way, yes.”
“Well, first off is this Forest. I noticed that the Forest doesn’t accept anyone to just allow it to waltz through its land without any consequences, but to build on it is a completely different story. These past few years, people who attempted to move outside the walls were driven into disasters. Monsters had ravaged the lands, and even the lands had been contaminated.”
“Wait, contaminated?” I didn’t hear anything about this, I knew that they were planning to move out of the city to chop down the Forest five years ago and create more farmlands, but now it seemed to be an entirely different problem.
Phil nodded, “it wasn’t just once or twice. They have done it on other parts of the land and got the same result. Only inside the walls of the city, the farmland seems to thrive. This means that the Forgotten Forest allows you to live on this land, while the others see itself as an invasive species and attempts to get rid of them.”
Invasive species was a strong word, but I kind of understood a bit of the Forgotten Forest. This was its home, and we were the foreigners; having someone start chopping off the trees and clearing its land without permission would make the being inside the Forgotten Forest angry.
“The land that you seem to contract with and the castle itself puts out two a different energy signatures from the Forgotten Forest, it’s almost overwhelming, causing the Forest to Submit.”
My cheeks twitched a little, staring at him in complete disbelief. I was awed at what he said, unsure if it was all true.
“The city is your territory, Berry. Now that your mother has given you this castle. Without her powers lingering around anymore, you will take full control over it. And the Forgotten Forest knows this very well. That is why the Forgotten Forest doesn’t lash out to you, knowing full well that your magic can completely eradicate it from its existence.”
The thought of the brief encounter with my mother was…a bit strange, almost unexpected. For a small amount of her power to be at the dragon statue was something I never expected, and for her to come out when I was fully grown was her way of showing love. Even if I didn’t talk with her for a long period, I could tell that she was worried about me long before I grew up. That small tingling feeling lingered in my heart, making me feel warm inside. Still, I wished that I could’ve met her and spoke with her long to experience the love that I was never given as a child, but it wasn’t so, and I quickly brushed away those thoughts as I was back to my old self.
“So, with that being said, as long as you are alive, this city will thrive inside the protection of the Forgotten Forest itself,” Phil concluded.
“What happens if I die?” I asked as morbid as it sounded, I was curious. If so many people counted on living inside the city, there were things that I hoped to continue for the future generation even if I died. There was no way I was just going to abandon them so quickly, especially after all that time and energy that I have spent with the people and the city itself. To see it crumble and decay was sacrilege, especially Don would be furious to see his skyscrapers toppling down and breaking.
“I believe that the city would be okay for a couple hundreds of years before the Forgotten Forest reclaims most of the land, though the castle, I’m not sure.”
“Oh…” I went silent. So many things were happening around me in a short period, making me realize that I felt I was falling behind in my time.
“But don’t worry, my guess is that you would live for a very long time, Berry.”
We sat in silence, enjoying the weather and the Aurora that danced in the night sky. It wasn’t often that something this magical and unique happened often. Yes, I get myself in difficult situations that would be considered out-of-the-ordinary, but these were the times when I appreciated the dull things in life with nothing happening.
There weren’t many times when we talked endlessly with one another, mostly in short exchange. I knew the beauty of the Forgotten Forest, but the Aurora made it that much more pleasant to watch the scenery before me. I had to wonder what the world would be in three hundred years. I knew that many things would change, so I enjoyed the moment as much as I could.
As I shifted around, my hand lightly nudged against his without realizing it. Then as if Phil was responding, he shifted his hand towards me and lightly landed on mine. I felt his warm skin touch mine, causing me to feel a hot warmth that tingles up my whole arm. It was a nice pleasant feeling that was no more than comfort. His fingers entwined with mine as we sat there staring into the sky as the cricket sang it’s nightly song.
Time went by, and I didn’t know how long we stayed out there and stared at the night sky. The Aurora seemed to dance for a while until, eventually, it disappeared. Without realizing it, I was nodding off, gently leaning on his shoulders as I dozed off into sleep. My mind felt overworked and tired that I barely felt Phil pick me up once again and take me back inside.
Taking me into my room as he tucked me to sleep.
“Good night, Berry.” Phil pulled the covers gently over me. His hand brushed my hair as he said a couple more words as I fell into a deep sleep.
With a groan, I pulled my blanket over my head, trying to block out the glaring sun that entered into the room. Usually, Coco would have closed the curtains for me, allowing me to sleep in a bit longer. When I tugged on the blanket, I felt it stuck under something. With a defeated groan, I rolled over towards the side and opened up my crusted covered eyes.
What welcomed me with bright, enchanting eyes was Phil’s, who was staring softly at me with a smile.
“Good morning, sleepyhead.”
I stared for a moment, trying to figure out what was going on. The thought of seeing Phil’s face the first thing in the morning wasn’t something that usually happens, and the last time I remember seeing him in the same bed was…ah, I just realized. My head snapped towards where my hands were and noticed that it was entwined with his.
“Ehhhhh?!” I yelled, realizing I had done it again. Letting go, I pulled back my hands, but Phil snatched it before I could take it away.
“What’s the rush?” Phil coyly replied, “You wouldn’t let me go last night, and now you want to take it away? I was getting quite comfortable, you know.”
“I-I-I-I-I….” Stuttering hard, I didn’t know what to say. My cheeks flushed red; all I could think about was how stupid and bad my sleeping habits were.
“Are you okay?” Phil asked, wiggling his way closer, causing me to freeze. He then pulled me into his arms and patted my back as if I was a child. “It’s okay, I’ll keep you warm like you wanted.” He snickered, knowing full well that I wasn’t going to say anything for the moment. It just was too close that I could feel the warmth of his body, which coincided with mine, making me flush.
What was worse was that he had a nice smell to him that tickled my nose, which caused me to unconsciously sniff him. He reminded me of pine needles and the sweet scent of apple cider. Without realizing it, I took another inhale of breath that hit me harder on his scent, causing me to cough a couple of times.
“Calm down,” Phil grumbled. He snuggled his head into my neck and just laid there, breathing down my back. “Just a couple more minutes of sleep.” He started to doze off, leaving me stuck in his arms.
I stupidly lay still, unsure what to do. There was a time when I would’ve kicked Phil off in a split second or kicked him hard, but the warm cuddly feeling that I got from his hug was actually starting to make me lull back into sleep.
The thoughts in my head were warring with each other to either kick him off or just sleep in his arms that gave off the warm comfort of safety that I haven’t felt in a long time. My mind became sluggish, and without realizing it, I snuggled closer as my eyes started to droop back into sleep.
Time flew by as we slept together for a couple more hours until a loud banging knock could be heard from the door. I bolted awake, smashing my head into his chin, causing him to bolt awake startled.
“Ugh!” Phil threw back his head, fell on the ground, and groaned in pain as he rolled around on the ground.
On the other hand, I had a throbbing headache from the sudden headbutt that I thought I saw a bit of white spots. Flopping back onto the bed, I couldn’t move as I brought up my hand to rub the pain away.
“Young mistress?!” One of the maids squealed in surprise when she saw our spectacular headbutt. They rushed over but were stopped by Phil’s angry glare, which made them freeze in their tracks. They weren’t sure what to do but watched because they feared Phil. The deadly glare that he gave them could ice over a whole room, and the power that he let out specifically towards them was bone-chilling scary.
Phil pushed himself up, patted himself as he straightened his clothes, and frowned. Then he swept his gaze back towards me, rubbing my head and squirming around from the pain. When I eventually stopped, tears were running down my face.
“What is it?” I sniffled, frowning at the sudden wake-up call.
The maids didn’t reply, scared by Phil’s intimidating aura that set them on edge. They looked at me and gazed back towards Phil, still silent at the whole situation.
I annoyed them. “Why are you standing there? Is something the problem?”
Finally, one of the maids spoke.
“Young mistress!” The maid called out towards me in panic. “C-c-c-coco!”
I glanced up at them, unsure why they have just called out Coco’s name. “What about her?”
“She’s been kidnapped!” The worry in the maid’s voice was filled with concern that I instantly knew that it was serious. What I noticed about the maids was that they never worried about Coco. They knew that she was a mighty monster and compared to them, they were a rank or two lower than her.
Even Tart and Moca were also considered powerful, and all the servants inside the castle listened to them unconditionally. Not even once did they step out of line, and I knew they had quite a few fan clubs surrounding each one of them.
Moca had the older maids and butlers, who looked up to him with awe and respect. Then we got the serious mid to young maids that followed Coco perfectly without any flaws. I swear I thought they were doing some kind of military drill on how precise they were. While Tart had flocks of young females trailing behind him in an excited chatter. Especially in town, the number of fan clubs he had was terrified that I was almost trampled upon by them in my human form.
I had to think for a moment when she said that Coco is kidnapped. It just didn’t click in my head. For Coco to be kidnapped was seriously unheard of, and the only thing that made sense was only if she let them take her.
“Can you say that one more time?” I asked for clarification, hoping that I heard things.
“Coco has been kidnapped, young mistress!” The group of maids started to chatter in unison in fear and worry.
“It’s not like her to get easily kidnapped, but she’s been taken by that monster!” Another chortled at the word monster and shivered.
“We don’t know what to do…” They stared at me as if I had the answer.
I was so stunned that I didn’t have a single word to say. Coco kidnapped. Completely unheard of.
“How did you find this out?” I asked, hoping that this was all a lie.
One of the maids quickly rushed over towards the bed. I got up and slid my feet against the cold stone floor, shocking me awake. She handed me a slip of parchment paper, all wrinkled up with smear spots. Even the end of the paper had an ugly tinge of burnt black as if someone tried to burn it but stopped half way. I took it and examined it closer and noticed that they were dried up blood spots. Even my nose told me that this was Coco’s blood, and I knew her scent anywhere without a single doubt.
“Blood?” I asked, my eyes becoming wide. I turned a bit too slowly, making the maids flinch when they saw my heavy expression.
“Y-y-yes, young mistress.” The maid stuttered.
I opened up the paper and saw a scribble of Coco’s elegant handwriting. Even her penmanship was first class, making me wonder when she had the time to scribble the words down, especially if she was caught.
The words written down on the paper were only a few words: Caught by Titan. My hand dropped as the paper slid out of my hand.
Phil had caught it in midair and read the content of the letter.
“Caught by Titan?” Phil read it out loud, jolting me awake. “Are you sure this is her’s?” He had the paper in his hands still crinkled as he examined it, then glanced toward the maid.
“Yes.” The maid nodded hard to the point where I thought she was going to lose her head. “It arrived through one of our birds last night, though….” Her voice trailed off as she glanced away as if she couldn’t say anything else. She bit her lower lips and looked down.
“There’s more?” Phil gave a commanding tone of voice, making the other squeak out loud, while a couple of them shuffled backward in fright.
“Such as?” I asked. I got up fast, clenching my fist in worry. The thought of something worse happening to Coco wasn’t something that I wanted. She was family, and I was for sure, going to go out and save her.
A deep inhale of breath could be heard as the maid eventually stood up straight and looked dead in my eye. “Moca had left last night to go and free her.”
“What?!” I yelped; the thought of Moca going out by himself made me even more worried. This was a Titan that we were talking about, and Moca can’t kill him. The only thing I could think of was that he probably went to do a quick in and out.
“We-e-e have a couple more messages to give you as well.” The maid tried her best to calm her nerves. “Moca told us not to tell you because it’s not a serious issue and that he can extract her out without much problem, but that wasn’t the issue. We believe that Moca can sneak Coco out. It’s just…” She came over to hand me an envelope.
The first thing that hit me was the rancid smell. I instantly felt my stomach whirl. All the other maids took a step backward as they held their hands up to their nose. I thought the envelope that she gave me fell into the old milk that had gone bad mixed in with garbage.
My nose scrunched up, I held the envelope as if it was the most dangerous product in the world by its edge. The thought of opening it made me want to chuck it out the window, but I knew that I needed to read the content. Taking in a deep breath, I held it as I brought it towards me.
Examining the envelope, I noticed that it was haphazardly closed with an ugly seal that wasn’t perfectly sealed. I could even see the piece of paper peeking out from the edge, and with a simple flick of my nails, I broke off the seal and brought out the paper. The moment I did, the maids all shuffled backward even further away from me, looking terribly pale. They were quite a few of them stepping out the door and waited in the hallway.
Even Phil was standing away from me, holding his breath. I knew instantly that the smell of this letter was horrid. I quickly opened it up and read it so fast that I had to go over it one more time. Just as quickly as I read it, I stuffed it back into the envelope and ready to burn the unholy mail with fire, when everyone jumped up and screamed, NO! I was suddenly concerned with the influx of voices that seemed to tell me it was a bad idea. So, I motioned one of the maids to take it from my hand.
Almost all of them didn’t come forward from the wretched smell until I stomped my feet angrily and motioned them over so I could breathe. One of them eventually came scuttling over, I had to let out my breath to speak.
“Quickly, take it away and burn it!” I spoke those words so fast that I was out of breath.
The maid furiously nodded and scurried away with the envelope in her hand as if it was a live bomb. Finally, I was able to breathe, panting as I took large gulps of air.
“I swear that letter could’ve killed me by destroying my nose!” I was furious at the sender, knowing full well that it was sent for me specifically.
“What did it say?” Phil was able to breathe as he stepped forward right next to me. The handful of maids that were left were also curious about the content of the letter.
I took a couple of deep breaths, happy that the rancid smell was gone. Even though the scent lingered, it was enough for all of us to breathe.
“The Titan states that Coco’s at the borders of Dragon and the Titan Kingdom on the open plains of Kakatona. He wants me to come join him, or he’ll kill her.”
The maids gasped in horror; they suddenly blew up into a frenzy of chatter as they tried to outvote each other of their concern. It got to the point where my ears were starting to ring from their shouting match.
“Enough!” As his magical power around him, Phil shouted angrily, swirled around him, causing everyone to freeze in fear. “All of you guys shouting at one another will not get this situation solved. Instead, it’s giving me a worse headache!”
I knew what Phil meant. The constant loud chatter gave me an annoying headache, making me want to find a quiet place to be.
“B-b-but, what about Coco?” One of the maids voiced out their concerns, stepping forward to challenge Phil’s threatening demeanor. She was an elderly lady that I knew by the name Rasba, short for Raspberry. I don’t know why all the maids and butlers chose food names, but they did, following Coco, Tart, and Moca. Her hair was tightly put in a bun, her figure was quite plump, giving off a motherly feeling about her. If I remember correctly, she’s a Cerberus type dog monster, which doesn’t fit her whole image at all.
“Young mistress, please forgive me for speaking out of turn.” Raspa took a bow, stepping forward from the crowd as she gazed up towards me with a soft but stern expression. “She has been with us for many years and even served you diligently. Would you not go and save her? For us?”
I came over, clasped her hand, and stared into her eyes. “Raspa, I was going to do that from the start.” Reassuring her with a smile, there was no way that I was going to leave Coco with the stinky Titan. The thought of her possibly dying from that horrible smell made me want to puke all over again. “She’s family. All of you guys are.”
Raspa started to tremble, and tears started to form down her face. “Thank you.” She whispered, she reached over and gave me a hug. The feeling of her hug was warm and comforting, almost like a mother’s that I had long forgotten. Then she pulled apart, grinning at me from ear-to-ear. She then snapped forward towards the other maids and started to yell out orders.
“Get the food ready for the young mistress! We gotta get her traveling attires ready for the long trip!” Raspa clapped her hands a couple of times, ushering everyone to move. The maids all quickly, but gracefully, scattered away to do their chores. Even she went out of the room right behind them and gave me a final bow.
I wanted to stay in her arms a little longer, but I knew she was right. There was no time to be lounging around. I had to get ready to go as quickly as possible. Just when I was about to turn around and leave, I was stopped by Phil. His hand grabbed onto mine.
“Wait, Berry,” Phil called out towards me; I could see a flash of concern written all over his face, which made me a bit happy.
“Are you sure you want to go through with this? Fighting against a Titan isn’t your job.”
I reassured him, “that’s why we’re bringing Stryd along.”
Phil wasn’t too happy with the thought of bringing Stryd. He didn’t seem confident enough to take on something that was considered legendary. Just because he had the legendary weapon didn’t mean anything, and we all knew this very well.
“I don’t think he’s ready.”
“I know,” I replied again, but at the same time, it had become Stryd’s fate to fight against the Titan. He was the hero, and there was no stopping that.
“It can kill him.” Phil was trying to reason with me.
“I’ll go ask him if he wants to come along. I won’t force him, you know.” I frowned at him, crossing my hand in front of me. “I’m not that evil, you know.”
“I’m just saying,” said Phil, throwing up his hand in front of him.
Turning away from him, I exited the room still in my yesterday’s clothes. I didn’t care and knew that finding Stryd was important. There just wasn’t enough time to dilly dally when time was of the essence.
It took a while for me to look for Stryd, running through the hallways, even opening every door. Phil and I broke apart, searching for him in different directions. I had to ask around to find Stryd, and in this big castle, finding him wasn’t easy. There was a time when I thought I opened the same door twice, but the doors all look the same but lead to so many different places that I could barely count the number of doors I had opened.
Finally, I found him in one of the smaller rooms tucked away near the library. It was considered one of the most peaceful rooms out of the whole castle because of its own little garden and a small waterfall that streamed down the walls’ side. What was even more pleasing about this room was the trickle of sunlight from the top down to the large flat boulder that sat in the middle of the room.
It was like a large sandbox with the sand drawn out in a Japanese Zen style. I have seen it many times on the internet back at home. They were even green grass decorated around the outskirts of the sandbox. It was a square with small but pretty plants decorating near the walls.
Stryd was sitting in the middle of the boulder underneath the sunlight reading as he moved his feet back and forth in a slow kicking motion. For an Orc hybrid, the image of a studious being looked strange, especially because Orcs aren’t known to be reading.
When I came bursting in, Styrd fumbled with his book, trying to hide but failed miserably. He fell off the side of the boulder and onto sand, gazing up at me, embarrassed as if he was caught doing something bad.
“Stryd?” I asked, confused, wondering why he was on the sandy floor. “You alright?”
“Yea.” Stryd got up bashfully, straightening himself up as he brushed away the sand away from clothes. “Were you looking for me?”
Realizing why I came here, I nodded furiously. “I need you to come with me.”
“Where?” He asked slowly.
I took a deep breath, knowing full well that he won’t like the thought of going out to fight the Titan if it was necessary. Honestly, I hoped that he wouldn’t run away and say yes. This was Coco we are talking about, my family.
“I want you to come with me to save Coco.” I watched Stryd’s reaction, gripping the hem of my shirt as the next sentence, I would say. “She’s captured by the Titan.”
Stryd flinched on the word Titan. He realized what I was asking for as he trembled. I could tell that he was fighting with himself, trying hard not to get too scared. This was a huge decision to make, especially because he was just dubbed a Hero a few days ago and barely has any experience in using the Legendary gauntlets Asphalt at all.
I don’t even remember if he ever saw him use the weapon at all since the last time I saw him.
“When a-a-are we leaving?”
My eyes became wide, surprised that he said yes at the same time happy that he would come along. “You’re going with us, right?”
Stryd slowly nodded to reaffirm my thoughts.
“Thank you!” I grabbed his hand and shook it hard, so happy that he was coming along with us. “I will pay you back one day! I don’t know how, but I swear I will!”
“You have already….paid…me back.” His words went off into a whisper.
“How?” I cocked my head, unsure what he meant.
“You saved my life.”
I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, especially because I don’t remember actually saving him from danger.
“You help me get out of my tribe. I knew I was being looked down on…..I just….didn’t have the courage to get out….and you let out your hands for….me…to grab.” Stryd was turning red, saying all those words.
I couldn’t help but give him a warm expression and replied back with my own heartfelt expression. “I would’ve done it again.”
Stryd gave me a genuine smile, and for an Orc, the smile was a vast improvement. Usually, when they smile hid a sense of dark omen, but Stryd didn’t have that expression when he smiled. I guess the human side of him comes out more than I thought.
“Well then,” he said with more confidence. “Let’s go and save coco.”
“Yea, let’s go.”
Both of us left the room in a hurry and went towards the jump spot. I saw Raspa standing in line with the maids and the butlers. She came up towards me and bowed.
“Young mistress, here is the storage ring to take with you.” She handed me a simple golden ring that I graciously took. The funny thing about it was that I didn’t have the urge to eat the ring on the spot; something about it gave me a weird feeling that I would be sick if I attempted such a feat.
“Thanks, Raspa.” I put it on, enjoying the simple twinkle of the gold on my fingers.
“You’re welcome, young mistress. I have stashed away some clothes, gold, and emergency food for you inside the ring. Please be careful.” Raspa started to quiver, looking at me with worry. She then gave me a big hug once again, lighting up a warm smile on my face.
As I pushed back, I saw Phil and Cathy walking over with a fresh set of clothes. Cathy stopped to stretch, yawning in the process.
“Young mistress!” Tart called out in a hurry as he came running over with heavy breath. “Wait for me!” He stopped in front of me.
“Tart?” I glanced at Tart’s surprise. “You’re going too?”
“Of course!” Tart stated seriously, he sternly looked into my eyes seriously in what he said. “Coco is my friend, and I won’t ever leave her behind, but I don’t like how she keeps hitting me.” He grumbled. “Maybe, I should leave her with the Titan for a moment before so she can suffer a bit more before I save her.”
Raspa raised up her hands and smacked in between TaTart’sead, causing him to lurch forward. I was shocked to see Raspa hit the taTartUsually; she would respectfully bow towards him and pat him on the head. Sometimes even giving him sweets as if he’s a child.
“Take such thoughts out of your head.” Raspa hissed, “Even though she’s a bit rough on you, she does it for a good reason.”
“You didn’t have to hit me, too.” Tart grumbled as he rubbed his head. “I already have enough of it with Coco and even Tart, but now you too?” He groaned a bit louder. “It’s like I’ll never get away from being hit!”
“Quit your whining. You’re an adult now.”
“Fine.”Tart folded his arm in front of him, displeased.
“Uh….well then,” I spoke out, catching everyone’s attention. “Is everyone ready to go?”
Glancing around, I looked towards each one for confirmation.
“I’m ready.” Tart started with a proud expression, but I could still see that he was still thinking about leaving Coco to suffer a little longer.
“I’m good to go,” Stryd replied, clasping his hand in front of him as he shifted on his feet anxiously.
“Wait, where exactly are we going?” Cathy asked. She came forward with her hand on her hips as she cocked it to the side. “I wasn’t exactly told what we are going to be doing.”
“We’re going to save Coco,” I replied, walking to a clear space to change. “It’s at the borders of the Dragon and Titan Kingdom on the open plains of Katona. Wherever that is.”
“She’s family.” A family that I would never wish to lose.
“Ah, I see. I understand.” Cathy shook her head, “I would’ve done the same, though Katona? How do you know this?”
I shifted form on the spot, allowing myself to grow larger. People moved back, giving me more space as I continually grew.
“I was invited by the Titan himself,” I replied, finally coming to an end of my growth.
“Wait, how does he know you?”
“I don’t know.” Finding out that the Titan knew me personally made me wonder where in the world I had met him. I was sure that I met no Titans in this world. Maybe just being a Dragon Maiden meant that all Legendary creatures knew of my existence, but the question came down to how did he know that Coco was my maid? That I didn’t quite get.
“Strange,” Cathy replied, taking a step closer to me.
“Yes, it is.”
Squatting down to allow the rest to climb on, I waited. The majority of them climbed on without much trouble. On the other hand, Cathy did have a bit of a hiccup by catching her foot on my scales and falling forward. Phil caught her without much trouble, allowing her to safely get on.
“Berry,” Phil called out from on my back as he rested in between my spine.
“Did you grow bigger?”
“I did?” I turned my head and looked over my shoulders. “I thought I was always the same size.”
“No. You grew quite a bit. I actually had to take more effort to climb up on your back this time.”
“I see.” Thinking over what he said, I wasn’t sure how to take it. The only thought was that this was probably my adult form, now that I think about it. “Well, here goes.” I started off into a trot and then burst into a run as I threw myself off the cliff. My wings snapped open as the wind blew across my body, lifting me up into the sky.