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Nova whistled as he painted on a cliffside, using his tail as a brush. Wide swaths of green covered the cliff, painting a scene of flowing hills. He dipped his claws into a red paste inside of a bowl made of a tree trunk. After thoroughly coating the tips, he drummed his claws against the wall, red flowers blossoming to life on the hills. A few seconds later, he leaned back and tilted his head before nodding. Then he dipped his claws into a bucket of blue paste, just enough for the red paint to mix, turning the end product purple. He drummed his claws against the cliff while humming. As he was about to dip his claws into a third bucket of colorful paste, his body stiffened, his tail standing erect.

Nova’s neck creaked as he turned his head to face behind himself. A dot on the horizon was growing larger and larger, and the clouds were dispersing behind it, leaving a wake of white waves in the blue sky. Nova’s throat bobbed up and down as he swallowed, and cold sweat ran down his back. “Is that…? No…. It can’t be. Why would she…?”

A thunderous roar echoed over the valley, “Nova!”

“Oh.” Nova swallowed again. “I guess it is.”

Prika popped her head out of her cave and looked around. In her paw, there was a person-sized book, one of her claws keeping her page. “Hey-o, patriarch. What’s going on? Who’s shouting?”

“My mate,” Nova said and sighed, wiping his tail on the grass. He scratched his head, leaving purple paint stains behind. “We haven’t seen each other in a while. Maybe a thousand years or so.”

Prika tilted her head. “What? Didn’t you see Kondra like less than a year ago? How long has Vur and them been gone anyway?”

Nova’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head, and he turned around to make sure the dot in the sky was still far enough away to not hear anything. He grabbed Prika’s face, holding her snout shut before she could say anything else. A low growl rumbled out of Nova’s throat, “Kondra is not my mate. Don’t even mention her name in front of Sharda, got it?”

Prika blinked and raised her free front paw, giving Nova a thumbs-up. She let out a few muffled grunts and nodded before Nova finally let go. “So…,” she said, but her voice died down when Nova glared at her. “I think”—she gestured towards her cave with her thumb—“I’ll just go back in there, yeah? Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.”

Nova frowned. “Didn’t you seal yourself in for a hundred years?”

“Hey, hey,” Prika said. “Haven’t you heard of an exaggeration? Jeez. Well, actually, that was the plan, but I woke up from my nap because it was too hot. I should’ve left some way for the hot air to exit.” She nodded. “Anyways, it looks like your mate that totally isn’t Kondra”—Prika darted away into her cave—”is here!”

Nova blinked as Prika rolled a boulder in front of her cave and jammed it into place behind herself as she went in. He turned around and came face to face with a pair of golden slit eyes belonging to a sky-blue dragon’s face. A small smile appeared on both their faces, and the sky-blue dragon placed a claw on Nova’s cheek. She asked in a soft voice, “What was that bit about Kondra I heard just now?”

Nova cleared his throat. “Well, you see,” he said. “Ahem. Anyways, it’s been a long time since we’ve last met, hasn’t it, Sharda?”

Sharda blinked before widening her smile. “You haven’t changed,” she said. “I bet even if Kondra showed up while I was gone, you chased her away.”

“That’s—”

An excited but muffled voice came out of Prika’s cave, “They rested next to each other and talked while resting their heads on pillows!”

Sharda blinked and drew her head back, her claw sliding away from Nova’s face. “Excuse me? Who’s that?”

Nova sighed. “That’s—”

“I’m Nova’s mistress! But you can call me Prika.”

Sharda’s eyes narrowed. “Oh? Someone’s trying to steal my mate? Why don’t you come out here? We’ll have a friendly chat with our claws.”

“Uh…, wait a minute,” Prika said, her voice softening. “You’re supposed to get angry at Nova, not at me. What the heck?”

“Stealing my mate is challenging my authority,” Sharda said, lumbering over to the sealed off cave while Nova slinked back. “Why would I be angry at my possession for being stolen? Shouldn’t I blame the thief?”

“Um. Oh. You raise a very good point,” Prika said. “You see, Sera would get mad at Vernon if something like that happened. She wouldn’t get mad at the—other person! Gah!”

Sharda ripped the boulder out of the wall and tossed it to the side, revealing a cowering red dragon. “Shall we chat?”

Prika swallowed and inched backwards. “Aren’t grandmas supposed to be nice? You’re a grandma, you know? You have a grandson named Vur, and he loves me very, very much. If something happens to me, he’ll—ah! Nova! Help! Nova!”

Sharda grabbed Prika’s tail as she turned to run and dragged the struggling red dragon outside of the cave, leaving fissures on the cave walls and ground. Prika whirled around onto her back and curled her limbs over her belly. “W-wait! It’s Nova’s fault! Nova was the one who pursued me! I didn’t steal him from you, your property just can’t control himself!”

Sharda blinked and turned to look at Nova. Prika turned her head as well, her tail still in Sharda’s grasp. Nova rubbed his snout. “She’s not my mistress. She was just trying to rile you up because she gets enjoyment out of other’s suffering. You can ignore about eighty percent of the words that come out of her lying mouth.”

Prika bobbed her head up and down. “I might be a liar, but Vur really does love me. So, um, yeah, let go? Please? There’s no way I’d ever consider Nova as a mate because he’s, like, super old and boring and stuff. Promise.”

“Hmm.” Sharda grunted and released Prika’s tail. Sharda brought her face forward until her snout nearly touched Prika’s. “I’ll be keeping my eye on you.”

“Got it,” Prika said and nodded. “I won’t do any funny stuff while you’re looking, Ms. Matriarch ma’am.”

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Virlyce

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