“It’s great that you’re comfortable with being a dragon and all,” Alice said, her face pale as she clung onto Vur’s scaly head, “but is it really a good idea to fly into a dragon roost unannounced? You said your parents were here, but unless you have nine parents, there’s an extra seven dragons down there that you don’t know.”

“Oh, it’ll be fine,” Mr. Skelly said, slapping Alice on the back. “You worry too much; what’s the worst thing that could happen? We’ll all die and come back to life thanks to the mistress. There’s no issue.”

“That’s a big issue!” Alice and Tafel said at the same time. They glared at Mr. Skelly before exchanging glances with each other.

Tafel sighed and placed one hand on Alice’s shoulder. “If you want to leave a will behind, I’ll be sure to bring it to your parents.”

Alice narrowed her eyes at Tafel. “If I’m dying, you’re dying too. Don’t think about teleporting away by yourself.”

“H-hey,” Tafel said as she took a step back. “I made vows with Vur to accompany him to death, not with you. You have Mr. Skelly for that.”

Alice placed her hands on her hips. The rushing wind caused her and Tafel’s hair to flutter. “Call him Nate.”

“But I’ve been calling him Mr. Skelly for years; it’d be awkward to change that now,” Tafel said and scratched her head. She smiled at the grinning skeleton. “Besides, he doesn’t mind, right?”

“No, of course not,” Mr. Skelly said, shaking his skull. “I’ve been addressed through so many names and titles that I’ll even respond to an incorrect name as long as it’s spoken in my direction.”

“Oh?” Vur asked, his eyes rolling up to look at the people standing on his head. “What kind of names and titles do you have? I want more names and titles too. How do you get them?” Vur’s wings paused mid-flap, causing him to plummet a few feet. “Wait, Alice has titles too like berserk librarian and griffin-cub lover.”

“When did I become a griffin-cub lover!?”

“Probably from the day you were born,” Tafel said and nodded at Alice before turning her attention onto the skeleton. “I’m curious too. What titles do you have?”

Mr. Skelly’s cheekbones flushed pink as he looked down and scratched the back of his skull. “It’s embarrassing to brag about myself like this,” he said, “like I’m tooting my own horn.” He straightened his back and puffed out his sternum, the blush disappearing from his bones. “But if you insist! I used to be called hero, the first explorer, the savior, the conqueror, the defender, the most handsome, the greatest, captain, commander, general, leader, devilish rogue, best in bed, sneakiest—”

Alice pushed Mr. Skelly off Vur’s head mid-speech, her face flushed. Tafel blinked and peered over the edge of Vur’s scales. Her horns glowed silver as she waved her hand and created a portal in midair, catching Mr. Skelly before he could shatter against the ground, and repositioned him next to Alice. “You know that’d count as attempted murder if he were still alive, right?” Tafel asked.

“He’s dead,” Alice said with a snort. “Your point is moot.”

“No, I was just saying, if he were alive—”

“But he’s not.”

Tafel’s forehead scrunched up as she sighed. “You know, sometimes, you’re more unreasonable than Vur.”

Alice shook her head. “Impossible.”

“Why am I unreasonable?” Vur asked. His eyes lit up as a flying figure approached him, and he flapped his wings harder, cutting through the air while wiggling his torso like a fish before Tafel could respond. “Ma!”

The approaching dragon halted in midair, her head tilting to the side. “…Vur? Is that you?”

“My scales and wings grew out!” Vur said as he tackled his mother and hugged her. “How do I look? Aren’t I handsome? Are you surprised? You said it’d take a long time for me to grow them out, but Stella helped me speed it up.”

Sera blinked twice at the dragon in her embrace. Vur was almost as large as her. Even a real dragon wouldn’t grow that fast! Her eyes flickered, her gaze settling onto Tafel. Though she didn’t open her mouth, Sera’s question was easily transmitted to the demon through some unknown bond that people around Vur seemed to share.

Tafel’s knees trembled a little, but she pinched her thigh to make them stop. “A fairy polymorphed him, and he learned how to polymorph himself into a dragon.”

Sera looked down to meet Vur’s eyes and patted his back with her paw. “You look great, very handsome. I raised a really good son, didn’t I?”

Tafel’s eye twitched. That’s not the conclusion you should draw!

“Even dragon mothers act like normal mothers, huh?” Alice muttered while rubbing her chin. “I thought Vur’s mother would be a crazy, irresponsible beast considering his personality.”

“And who’s this?” Sera asked as she lifted Alice into the air using the tips of two of her claws. “Another mate? Dragons are monogamous, Vur.”

“Eh? But Kondra likes Grandpa Nova, but she already has a mate,” Vur said. He tugged Alice out of Sera’s grasp. “This is Alice. She’s my party’s meat shield.”

“I’m a guardian.”

“Wait,” Sera said, ignoring Alice. “Kondra? The holy dragon matriarch from the eastern lands? What do you mean she likes your grandpa?”

Vur tilted his head to the side before rolling his eyes up to look at Tafel. He whispered, “Was that supposed to be a secret?”

“I mean, no one wants anyone to find out about their affairs, right?” Tafel asked in return. “So, yeah, it probably was supposed to be a secret.”

“Your grandmother’s going to be quite interested in hearing about this,” Sera said with a wry smile. “Let’s head down to meet her and your aunt, uncle, and cousins.”

“Your family’s really big,” Tafel said to Vur as the two dragons flew towards the mountain where eight other dragons were waiting. “Actually, my family was larger than yours before some crazy fairy kidnapped and killed most of them.”

“What? Which crazy fairy was that?” Stella asked as she appeared out of Vur’s back in the form of purple bubbles of light. The bubbles shone and took on different colors as they solidified into a fairy with silver hair and golden horns. “I’ll teach her a lesson for you, Tafel! No one bullies my friends.”

“Eh….” Tafel shook her head. “Forget it; I wasn’t that close with the royal family anyway.”

Stella pouted. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. I appreciate the sentiment.”

Stella shrugged. “Well, alright. I’ll let that sneaky fairy off for now. But she better watch her back!”


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