THE OWNER AND THE PET
Dust riled on in a wave, seemingly running away from something. Beneath the layers of frost and ice, in a crater the size of a small island, doused beneath the shower of fire, two figures sat opposite of one another. Both appeared listless, their breaths shallow and quickened. Lino sat leaned against the Vy’s claw, while the latter lay listless, his head plastered to the floor.
The two didn’t speak, or even utter any sound beyond those of their breathing. They remained plastered in stillness, like an ethereal painting, unmoving. It wasn’t until nearly two hours later, when Lino opened his eyes and suddenly shot up on his feet, quickly climbing onto Vy, up the latter’s long limbs and over the pronged neck onto his head and eventually bridge of the nose, sitting directly in front of the fiery eyes.
“HA HA HA HA HA!!!” Lino burst out into laughter, heaving his head back and pointing a finger at Vy. “HA HA HA HA HA!! You’ve become my pet, old bastard!! Ha ha ha ha ha, how does it feel, huh?! I imagine you must be the first Dragon ever to become a pet of a human! Ha ha ha ha-- wait, does that mean I’m the first human to ever have a Dragon as a pet?! Holy mother of god!! I’m fucking awesome!!”
“...” Vy wished to retort, but Lino was right -- in that last confrontation, that shook not just the Northern Fjords, but even the oceans surrounding it, he lost to the little bugger. In a direct, head-on clash of Wills and Laws, he lost -- justly and squarely. And, indeed, he’d become the Empyrean’s pet. And was indeed the first pet-Dragon ever, at least to his knowledge.
“Hey, lighten up man! At least you’re a pet of the greatest human to have ever graced this world!” Lino exclaimed with a beyond-prideful grin.
“... and I thought the Dragons were proud,” Vy mumbled. “But by the Ancient Ones, lad... not a single one of us can hold a torch to you.”
“Hey, dude, shove it with the comments; I just fought a Dragon and, not only did I survive, I actually won. I can literally say whatever I want right now and not a single soul in this world has a right to say anything back.”
“... maybe I should just ignore my promise, withhold my support of you, and just swallow you whole?”
“... hey, big guy, won’t you and I make great partners, eh? You like fighting, right? I like fighting too! I like it so much, actually, that I declared a war on the entire world for shit’s sake! That’s how much I love fighting!”
“Wow, proud and two-faced.” Vy said, his eyes widening slightly. “What a combination.”
“Two-faced? You mean non-confrontational and master negotiator?”
“Nope. I mean two-faced.”
“... tsk. You sore loser.”
“Humble in defeat and humble in victory; be that, little lad, and I won’t be a sore loser.”
“The only people who spew that shit are the ones who’ve never been victorious in their lives,” Lino scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest. “What do you mean humble in victory? If you’ve won, gloat. You beat someone at something. You’re better than them. Let them fucking know.”
“Holy shit... you’re so vile... even for a human...”
“... unless, you know, it was an honorable confrontation of differing ideals where both laid out their dreams on their bare chests and--khm, yeah, well fought, ol’ bastard. Well fought.”
“... well-fought, vile, two-faced, obnoxious Empyrean.” Vy replied, chuckling lowly. “You’ve surprised me greatly. Perhaps, one day not too long from now, you may stand upon the world’s throne.”
“Meh,” Lino shrugged, lying down on the bridge of the nose, looking up to the clearing sky. “I can’t say I care much for sitting on an empty throne, Vy.”
“... then why are you fighting?” Vy questioned curiously.
“For the same reasons I fought you,” Lino replied. “In part because it’s exciting, and in part because it’s necessary. I’ve too many people I can’t afford to lose. And, however certain I am they would be just fine even if I disappeared, I’m hardly a gambling man.”
“... eh, I didn’t think you were the noble sort.”
“Ha ha ha, hardly, really. Would the noble sort indiscriminately murder for the pure purpose of terrifying the world?” he glanced briefly at Vy as he replied.
“Noble doesn’t necessarily mean absolved from guilt and evil, little Empyrean,” Vy said. “No one, since the Dawn of Creation, however much they professed, was entirely saintly. Nor will anyone till the End of Creation be. All which is born and breathes and thinks is flawed. For to have thoughts is to have the capacity for evil. To be noble is to understand that, embody it, and still press onward. It is to immortalize yourself not in the words of histories, but in the hearts of men.”
“... are you noble, then?” Lino quizzed.
“Of course! Who hasn’t heard the great name of mine?!”
“Me!” Lino immediately exclaimed, rising his arm. “Me! Me teach! I’ve never heard of your fucking name!”
“Ugh, you little bastard! Humph, how can a backwater-village kid like you ever even dream of hearing my great name? I reigned billions of hearts long before your lineage even begun, you little twerp!”
“... is it pleasant? To have so many souls look to you to make every decision?” Lino suddenly asked in a serious tone, surprising Vy who took a second to reply.
“... no, of course not,” the Dragon said. “But, if you want to lead people... not many things you do will be pleasant, little one. Rather, chances are... pleasure will be entirely wiped from your life.”
“... haah,” Lino sighed deeply for a moment. “I’m too selfish to give up the pleasure for the greater good, though. Booze, food... woman... I love ‘em too much to give them up.”
“Woman? Just a single one?” Vy questioned, surprised. “If you need some help with libido, Dragon’s Flames are a great cure for that--”
“My libido is just fine, you damn bastard!!” Lino angrily interrupted, staring at Vy for a moment. “She’s worth more to me than the rest of ‘em combined.”
“A romantic? Ho ho, how adorable! Ha ha ha ha...”
“... yeah,” Lino replied with a faint, joyous smile, seemingly not taking Vy’s jab to heart. “I could survive everything else... the rest of ‘em dying or even betraying me... I could survive witnessing the end of the world... I could endure even losing this pointless war... everything... anything... but I couldn’t endure her not being by my side. She’s breathed life into me, Vy, when I believed myself dead. She’s given me purpose when I believed there was none. Tell me, then... what worth can any other woman in the world bring that would come a thousandth of a way to matching hers?”
“I don’t expect you to understand,” Lino continued. “I think even she would mock me dead if she heard me, actually.”
“Ha ha ha...”
“Ha ha ha, yeah,” Lino laughed as well, taking a deep breath afterwards. “But... to me... she’s everything. Right now, she’s standing outside, probably pissing herself over whether I’m too hurt... yet, when I come back, she’s gonna scold me ‘cause I took too long. And I’m gonna take a jab at her, and she’s gonna blush and call me an evil, mind-reading bastard. Yet, she might not do any of that.”
“She might just jump into my arms and hug me,” he continued. “Or she might just say ‘job-well-done’ and move on. That’s one of the parts I love the most about her. I can predict almost everyone else, their thoughts, actions, reactions... but damn me if I can predict hers. Sometimes she’ll be bashful and coy, sometimes angry and embarrassed, sometimes aggressive and assertive, sometimes kind and warm, sometimes distant and cold... and she’s more likely to be impressed if I remember the anniversary of when we first, I don’t fuckin’ know, ate a dinner together for the first time, than me defeating a goddamn Dragon Aspect. She’s a complete bundle of odd and wonderful, weird and beautiful, puzzling and breathtaking. And she looked like she enjoyed riding a Dragon quite a bit, so get ready to be ridden a lot, ye ol’ bastard, ha ha ha ha...”
“... ah, I get it,” Vy suddenly said, crackling a low chuckle. “You’re the primal sort.”
“Back-before,” Vy said. “When your Race first emerged from the tender loins of some other,” he continued. “Pardon my expression, but you were rather simple-minded. You banded together in small groups and traveled around. You had no culture, no common tongue, no history, no ethics, no etiquette... you had nothing but a desperate will to survive against all odds. I grew fond of you lot back then, and even went to quite a few wars to preserve you. Watching every one of the lads march into their deaths with fearless gaze so their counterparts and offspring may flee... it reminded me of what life was truly about. Simple acts of empathy,” Vy added after brief silence. “Of counter-understanding and capacity of forward momentum. Humans never used to look back and ponder; come heaven or hell, they braved onward. Somewhere along the line, however, all that was lost. Past became the defining point of your identity, a reference point for the future. It became quite depressing to watch you, so I gave up.”
“... eh, there’s some value in learning the past, old bastard,” Lino countered, sitting back up. “How else are we gonna know who we’re supposed to hate unquestionably?”
“Pu--ha ha ha ha ha ha...” both burst into free laughter after a brief respite, Lino falling on his back as Vy shook his body, nearly causing the crater to collapse unto them, and suffering one of Lino’s prized tongue-lashings right after, quickly learning there’s a fine line between intellectual, eloquent tongue and one that can slay as well as any sword ever made.
END OF VOLUME XIII - LAST BASTION OF MAGIC