Why Dragons Sleep
Perzika woke up alone the next morning.
"Huh?" He sat up, looking around. Grace was nowhere to be seen. "Grace?"
He hopped out of bed, adjusting his nightshirt as he made his way to the bathroom.
"Grace?" He poked his head in. The bathroom was empty. However, the nightshirt Grace had worn the night before was neatly folded and hanging on the edge of the laundry basket.
"I wonder where she went..." He picked up his hair brush, plucking a few silver hairs from the bristles before brushing out his own long blonde locks. He found a hair tie and made his way to the stairs. He heard a pair of voices, both female, coming from down in the dining room.
"...has always been somewhat shy." His mother's voice. Perzika paused on the last stair.
"I think it's cute." Grace's voice.
"Oh great, Momma found her..."
"Perzika, it's no use hiding out there!" Leila Galena-clan called from the dining room. "Come in and have some breakfast!"
He shuffled into the dining room. There was Grace, wearing her clothing from the night before, and looking like she'd been eating breakfast there for centuries.
"Good morning Momma, Grace," he said, sitting on his usual pillow on the floor.
"No cloak?" Grace noted curiously, before taking a sip of her juice.
"No wing concealment at the table," mother and son spoke in unison. Grace smiled.
"So you two were talking about me?"
"Only the good parts, Perzika," his mother said. "And then before that I was just getting to know your little lady friend here."
He looked at Grace. "How long have you been awake?"
"About an hour," she said. "You looked so cute sleeping, I couldn't bear to wake you up."
"Wish someone else would learn that trick," Perzika said, glancing at Leila.
"You're lucky I don't make you make breakfast anymore," the dragon said. Perzika's mother was in her adult form, a large purple dragon with a pair of golden wings. A scar held her right eye nearly shut.
Grace perked, looking at him as she poured herself more juice. "Oh, you can cook, Perzy?"
"No," he replied flatly. She paused, looking minutely embarrassed.
"That's funny. Neither can I." She took another sip of her juice. "My parents never let me do anything for myself..."
"Perzika, you never told me you had a lady friend," Leila said.
"Um... we just met recently."
He glanced across the table at Grace, but the young woman appeared to be engrossed in buttering her toast. "Recently..."
He swallowed, looking at his mother. "Y-yes?"
"How recent is 'recently'?"
"Um..." Perzika looked at the nearest clock, and then back to the dragon. "About nine hours?"
Perzika didn't get a chance to move before a set of claws grabbed him by the front of his nightshirt and hoisted him over the table.
"Awck!" He struggled a bit before managing to rest his feet on the tabletop.
"Wait until your sisters hear about this one!"
"But, Momma, I--"
"And get your feet off the table! Didn't I teach you any manners?"
"I'm sorry, Momma! But...but.... Itwasn'tmyfault! Iwasjustattheparklikeusualandshecameupandshewasbeingchasedbythisjerkand--" He was silenced with a shake.
"Don't give me any buts, young man. I though I raised you better!"
"You did, Mommaaaa-ooow!"
"Lady Galena-clan, please," Grace's voice came up from her spot at the table. Dragon and son glanced down to where Grace was watching. An embarrassed look crossed the dragon's face, and she set Perzika down on the floor. "Please don't be mad at Perzika, he didn't do anything wrong. He was a...complete gentleman."
Leila snorted lightly, swallowing a piece of toast whole before saying anything. "I will hold you to your word, young lady." Perzika heaved a sigh, straightening out the front of his nightshirt. "Perzika, go make some more coffee, please, this batch is cold."
"Yes, ma'am..." Perzika got up and went into the kitchen. He could hear his mother and Grace continuing their conversation, and turned on the little kitchen television in order to drown them out.
The news was on.
[Yes, and as you know, we're showing this footage again for those who missed the earlier broadcast... The gala celebration of Crowne Peridot's 3500th year on the throne was held yesterday morning, and it is reported that over 20,000 demons from all walks of life were in attendance as the Crowne spoke....]
Leila spoke up from the other room. "Perzika, will you record that for me? I missed it this morning.."
"Yeah.." the blonde sighed, pressing the little "record" button on the corner of the screen, then turned to make the coffee.
[That's right, Aera, but I'm sure the people will hold an even bigger celebration when the royal family finally has its new heir..]
Perzika couldn't help but mutter to himself. "Buncha royal nonsense... stupid Synths..."
He turned off the television once the segment was finished.
"But then why did you return to the Northern District?" he heard Grace ask, and cringed. The television must have caused their topic of conversation to turn. To his surprise, his mother did not snap at the young woman.
"Because my family has always lived here," Leila said. "And so has the Galena-clan. I wasn't going to let fear stop me from being where I belonged. No one-short of the death god himself--has the right to tell me where I can and can't take my family."
"That's still a rather honorable course of action," Grace said softly. Leila harumphed lightly, taking the coffee from Perzika.
"Smoke angels and their warped possessive sense of honor..."
True to Grace's prediction, a bit before lunchtime two summons arrived at the Galena residence. One was from the Devantier clan (Grace's family), and the other from the Clarre clan (Mosite's family). How they had figured out who and where he happened to be was beyond the understanding of the summons' recipient, but Perzika surmised that "Perzika" wasn't as common a name now as it had been a few cycles before.
"...to report at 16 a'clock in order to receive his punishment for transgressions against the Devantier clan." Grace frowned at the summons in her hand. "It's been handwritten and signed by my father. He must really be pissed, for once."
"Transgressions?" Leila said wonderingly. "They make it sound like you kicked their prized lava monster."
Grace sighed, tossing the summons back at Perzika. "I hope someone fed Fluffy."
Perzika picked up the little card, seemingly afraid it might zap him. "Fluffy?"
"My little lava monster kitt," she said. "I...probably should go back before you do."
"Don't worry," Grace smiled down at Perzika. "I'm just going back for Fluffy. He probably hasn't been fed since yesterday, and is likely in the process of chewing his way through my room as we speak."
"I said don't worry," she repeated, a bit sterner than before. At Perzika's wince she sighed, shaking her head. "Perzy, please. Don't worry. I'll talk to my parents and see if things can't be straightened out."
"What are the odds that that's possible?"
She looked down at the summons. "No too good, but I should be able to at least convince them not to let Mosite maul you outright."
"So comforting," Perzika said softly. Grace leaned down and kissed his cheek.
"You're going to win, right?"
"I...." He blushed. "Y-yeah."
She smiled again. "Good. Then there's nothing to be worried about."
The hours came and went, and soon it was nearly 16 a'clock. The smallish arena at the Devantier-clan estate was bustling with smoke angels who had be invited to come and see a lesser demon get his tail-less behind handed to him.
"Well, this should be a short fight," Lady Devantier-clan sighed from her seat over the arena. Her husband, seated to her left, nodded in agreement.
"Indeed. This whole thing is silly," Lord Devantier-clan said. They peered down into the arena. "Honestly, Hiyaki, I don't see what's wrong with Grace."
"If we had better security this wouldn't have happened, Sere." Lady Devantier-clan stroked the large black lava monster sleeping at her right hand. "She wouldn't have made it off the grounds."
Lord Devantier-clan narrowed his bi-colored eyes at one of the arena's occupants. "I believe you're right."
Down in the arena, Mosite and Perzika were facing off. The arena was somewhat dimly lit, adjusted to fit the conditions that smoke angels were trained for fighting in. The destret (referee) stood between the men, announcing the rules for the audience that was gathered.
"This match will be one on one, no time limit. Magic is allowed, weapons are not. And as for the question posed during the briefing, yes, wings are allowed."
"Not that they'll do you any good," Mosite muttered.
"The match is over when one combatant has rendered his opponent unable to fight, or when he has removed the marker from his opponent's collar."
Mosite wore an amber-colored charm clipped to his collar. Perzika's was red.
"Gentlemen, to your places!"
Perzika rechecked the fastenings on his cloak as he started to his mark. He stopped, once in place, standing about seven meters from Mosite. The smoke angel's dark blue tail twitched as the destret moved to a safer position.
Perzika dodged to the left almost as soon as the bell rang. The air hissed as he moved, burning from a burst of gold-level magic energy that Mosite had sent his way.
"So how does it feel, knowing everyone in here wants to see you lose?" Mosite taunted as he powered up another attack.
"Not everyone does," Perzika said, spotting Grace from her seat near ground level.
"Grace doesn't count!" Mosite spat, releasing his energy again. "Ground!"
Perzika managed to jump away as the ground sparked under his feet.
"You may be fast, but you'll never win if you keep dodging!"
This continued for several minutes. Mosite was idly chasing Perzika around the arena, leaving a trail of scorched dirt behind them. Perzika could dodge, but he wasn't fast enough to get a counterattack in.
"Stupid dragon, why don't you just give up?" Mosite smirked. Perzika glowered.
"Don't call my Perzy stupid!" Grace shouted. Mosite glared in her direction.
"Dragon Wind!" Perzika took the opportunity to get a shot in, sending the dragon shaped wave of red energy at his opponent. Mosite deflected it just before the attack made contact.
"Sneaky, I see."
"Maybe I'm just taking lessons from you," Perzika sneered briefly, dodging another attack from Mosite. As the smoke angel charged up again, Perzika found himself trying to remember his magic combat lessons from school.
"Stellar dragons are among the shortest of demons in their mid-form, but they make up for it in battle with nimble footwork and clever strategy."
"That's not helping, is it," Perzika muttered to himself as he dodged again. Mosite had switched to an airborne attack, and the crackling golden energy singed the edge of Perzika's cloak.
"Smoke angels are better known for their straightforward attack style. Males are especially guilty of this. Smoke angels in general are powerful, but not as good at foreseeing their opponents moves as other weaker demon species as they have the longest recharge time of the upper demon species, and must focus more on this aspect of combat."
"Talking to yourself, dragon?" Mosite spat. "Angel Lance!" His next attack split itself into three arcing masses of energy, and Perzika realized that he'd been standing in place too long. The Angel Lance was the smoke angel's special attack, just as the Dragon Wind was for dragon demons. He dodged the first branch of the attack, but in the process moved directly into the path of the remaining arcs.
Perzika hit the ground hard, gasping for breath as every muscle in his body spasmed in union. Through the ringing in his ears, he heard Mosite's laugh sound from a few meters away. The audience was murmuring their approval. Grace was shouting something that he couldn't understand, before being cut off.
He realized, just in time, that it had been a warning. Perzika leapt up, Mosite's fresh ground attack barely missing its chance to take off the dragon's head. He shook his head, trying to make the ringing stop.
*This isn't getting me anywhere!* Perzika thought. He reached up, feeling the little red charm on his collar, and the fastening of his cloak just below...
Perzika blinked as the idea struck him. "That might work." He turned his attention back to Mosite, dodging two more airborne attacks before the smoke angel started to charge up his special attack again.
He feigned distraction, turning his head to look in the direction of where Grace was sitting.
Perzika reeled a step back as the first arc of the attack hit its target. The second and third screamed in a second later, and the relatively dark arena was lit with a golden explosion of light.
"Ha!" Mosite flexed his right arm as the light faded. He took a step forward. "That should do it-" He stopped, blinking as his eyes readjusted to the dim setting. A dark reddish smudge remained on the ground where Perzika had stood. Mosite ran closer to check.
He'd hit the dragon's cloak.
"What the fuck?!" Mosite looked from side to side quickly, his tail lashing. "Where are you, you coward?"
"Right here!" Perzika's voice sounded from not far above the blue-haired man's head. "Dragon Wind!"
Mosite was too close--he didn't have time to move. Looking up, he saw a flash of red that illuminated shimmering gold feathers and icy blue eyes. Then Perzika's attack hit. The dragon-shaped wave of energy knocked Mosite to the ground and sent him sliding nearly all the way back to where he'd previously stood. He shook his head, starting to push himself back up off the ground.
"Shit, that was a cheap--" Mosite was cut off as Perzika's fist connected with his jaw. He fell back, hitting his head against the ground. A yellow mass swam in the air in front of him. He'd forgotten about stellar dragons' nearly legendary upper body strength. "You bastard!"
"Not quite." Perzika's voice was soft and even. Mosite felt a sharp tug on his collar. The small amber charm rolled into Perzika's hand, and he stood. The audience was utterly silent as Perzika turned and strode toward the referee. He held out his hand, and Mosite's charm gleamed for everyone to see.
The destret's shocked voice cut through the silence. "Th-the challenger is the victor..."
"Perzika!" He couldn't quite see Grace in the dim light, but her voice sounded clearly in his ears.
"I see," said Lord Devantier-clan. "Well, young man....I suppose some congratulations are in order-"
"NO!" Mosite's scream echoed from behind them. He had gotten back to his feet. "How dare you! You worthless dragon garbage!"
Perzika closed his hand back around the charm in surprise, half turning to look in Mosite's direction. "But, I-"
"I hope you enjoy your victory!" Mosite screamed.
The red charm resting on Perzika's collar exploded, as did the one clenched in his hand. The destret gasped in surprise, stepping away.
"Perzika!" Grace's happier tone had turned to alarm.
Perzika coughed, his lungs seizing as he stared down at his hand. He could hear the sounds of a scuffle up in the audience, and Mosite's angry laughter behind him. Fresh pain shot through his chest, and he stumbled forward, stricken.
"But..." He sputtered. Perzika tried not to move, but the ground seemed to be lurching underneath him. His wings twitched, and the pain spread.
He took a faltering step in the direction of her voice, but nothing more. Perzika let out a strangled cry as the ground rushed up to catch him. His wings twitched again, bright feathers stirring the air and kicking up a little dirt.
Lord Devantier-clan looked down at the fallen form of the little stellar dragon. He sneered.
"That took longer than I expected."
His daughter was still screaming, and the guards were having a hard time restraining her. The Lady Devantier-clan had already retired from the arena. Sere sighed, waving a hand.
"Take Grace back to her quarters, please. That racket is bothersome."
"And see to it that someone goes down and makes sure Lord Mosite is alright."
He watched the guards run off. The destret approached from the arena, moving as close as he could without hopping up into the audience.
"M'lord, what of the boy?"
He pointed back at the crumpled gold and red form. "The boy, sir?"
"Oh, that." Lord Devantier-clan waved his hand again. "Have his mother summoned so that she may come and collect him."
"Sir, aye, sir."
When Perzika next awoke, he was back at home. His whole body ached, and he felt incredibly tired. He had trouble keeping his eyes open long enough to focus on the form of his mother sitting near the foot of the bed.
"Perzika! You're awake!"
"M-momma?" He tried to sit up, but didn't make it that far.
"Shh, just lay back," the dragon stood, making her way around the bed. "Just rest."
He forced his eyes open again. "Where's Grace?"
His mother looked away. "Not here."
"Where's Grace?!" His soft voice grew panicky. His mother sighed.
"When they summoned me to come get you, her family said that she no longer has any use for you, and that she doesn't want to see you anymore."
Perzika stared blankly. "What?"
"Mosite put a curse on you, Perzika."
He blinked slowly, turning his gaze away. "But I beat him..."
"And he was a sore loser."
His eyes watered. "Grace..." Perzika's chest clenched, and he gasped in pain.
"Shh, shh, just rest, Perzika," his mother's black claws brushed gently against his forehead. "That's all you can do now."
He sunk back into the bed, eyelids fluttering shut. "But Grace..."
[ Part Three ]
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