Vur stared back at the two dragons. He tilted his head. “You can start now; don’t mind me.”
“I mind very much,” Kondra said with a snort.
“What? Why are you minding?” Nova asked. “In the first place, we’re not going to have a pillow talk!” He sat up and rolled onto his feet before tackling Kondra, scratching at her belly. “This is for trying to bite my jewels off!”
Kondra snarled as she retaliated. “I was trying to fix your issues,” she said while panting. “Clearly, you use the wrong head to think! You would’ve picked me if you were thinking straight.”
Vur frowned and pulled the pillows out of the path of a laser beam. “Are Mom and Dad home?”
“No,” Nova said while holding Kondra’s jaws open with his claws. She was trying to eat his face. “They’re”—he grunted and redirected her head towards the ground—“visiting your grandmother.”
“Grandmother?” Vur asked. “I have one of those? Mom never said anything.”
“Huh?” Nova’s lips pursed together as he was pushed onto his side by Kondra. “That’s”—a laser beam blasted his snout—“odd.” He shook his head before releasing a poisonous breath. “She lives across the ocean to the west. At least, she should be there. I haven’t been awake for the past few centuries, as you know.”
“Oh,” Vur said with a nod. “You two have fun. I’m going to find Tafel. We made a new friend, and we promised to go on adventures with her.”
“Leaving so soon?” Leila asked. “You just got back.”
“I only came back to help overthrow Prika,” Vur said. “And I did that already. See?” He pointed at the cave wall that Prika had sealed herself in. “I’ll take Tafel and Alice to go find Mom and Dad. Tafel loves exploring new places.”
“Ah, timeout,” Nova said, pushing himself away from Kondra. She snapped at his tail, causing him to yelp and glower at her. “I said timeout! Crazy lady.” He snorted and dug through the ground, pulling out a small pink, egg-shaped object along with two rings. “Here.” He passed the items to Vur. “Your, uh, toy was buzzing and bothering me a lot, so I buried it. And those are your wedding rings that you left behind.” He glared at Kondra. “Okay, we can start again.”
Vur nodded. “Thank—”
“Mine,” Stella said, appearing on Vur’s paw. She grabbed the pink egg and disappeared back into Vur’s body before he could say anything. “Right? It’s definitely mine from my past life.”
Vur scratched his head. “You can borrow it then, I guess.”
Alice and Mr. Skelly were sitting on a couch behind a table. Across from them, there were two people, one man and one woman, wearing fine clothes. Their skin was pallid, and they sat without fidgeting, their bodies rigid. The man leaned forward and picked up a cup of tea, his joints creaking in the process. The cup touched his lips, and his Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. He wet his lips with his tongue before sighing. “Tasteless,” he said and shook his head. “We really are dead?”
“Dead as a doornail,” Mr. Skelly said and grinned. “You get used to it. Luckily, your bodies were preserved by the eternal cold.” He sighed and glanced at his bony fingers. “I can’t even eat or drink anything without it falling straight to the ground.”
The woman clicked her tongue. Her hair was brown like Alice’s, but it was thin and brittle. She stared at Alice. “And this is your boyfriend.”
“That’s right, Mom,” Alice said with a nod. “His name’s Nathaniel.”
Alice’s mom turned her head towards her husband, her movements like a puppet on a string. “Where did we go wrong when raising her?”
Alice’s eye twitched. “Hey.”
“It was probably when you dropped her on her head when she was two,” Alice’s dad said, placing his hand on his wife’s shoulder. “It’s definitely your fault.”
“Hey! Did you really?”
“My fault?” Alice’s mom asked, raising both her eyebrows. “Why, I never. Are you sure it didn’t happen when you fed her poisonous mushrooms instead of her formula?”
Alice’s dad scoffed. “It only happened twice throughout her childhood,” he said and pointed at his wife’s nose. “You, on the other hand, dropped her into the lions’ enclosure at the zoo no less than four times.”
“Did she really?” Mr. Skelly asked.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Alice said, pursing her lips.
“So what if I did?” Alice’s mom asked, raising her voice. “She inherited your lion imprint. They loved her!”
“As a snack, maybe. You don’t chew on the heads of the people you love,” Alice’s dad said, rolling his eyes.
Alice’s mom snorted and crossed her arms. “Well, don’t forget about that time you cracked her head open with a wooden sword while practicing! I swear I saw bits of her brain leaking onto the ground.”
“I called for a healer, didn’t I?”
“I called for one too! The white mages at the zoo have lots of experience with fixing limbs.”
“Sounds like you had a rough childhood,” Mr. Skelly said, patting Alice’s head. “How come you didn’t tell me about it?”
“I wanted to forget,” Alice said, her expression dark.
“I’m the responsible parent!” Alice’s dad said. “Remember that time I saved her from the gryphon’s nest?”
“That’s because you dressed her up as a baby gryphon and she was kidnapped by a real one!”
“That’s irrelevant,” Alice’s dad said. “What about that time I stopped the bookshelf from falling onto her?”
“The encyclopedias crushed her anyway; you get an A for effort, but effort doesn’t mean anything if the results don’t change.”
“I saved her from drowning once.”
“You threw her into the lake!”
“…I taught her how to swim.”
“After she almost drowned!”
“Surely, not all the blame can be placed on me,” Alice’s dad said, stroking his brittle mustache. He thumped the bottom of his right hand’s fist onto his left hand’s palm. “Let’s ask Alice what she thinks.”
“Excellent idea, dear,” Alice’s mom said and smiled. “Who was the better parent, Alice?”
“Right,” Alice’s dad said with a nod. “Who do you love more?”
Alice sighed and pinched her brow. “Does it always have to be a competition between you two?”
“Yes,” her parents said at the same time.
“Well, I like”—
“Alice! We’re back!”
—“more,” Alice said and furrowed her brow. She looked up just in time to see the roof of the building crack and fly off. A grinning, ocean-blue dragon’s face popped up, and a claw waved at her. “Did you have to destroy the house, Vur?”
“I didn’t, but I wanted to surprise you,” Vur said and reached into the building. He grabbed Alice without giving her a choice and placed her on his head next to Tafel. Susan hopped from Tafel’s shoulder over to Alice’s while Emile stayed in his original spot. “I promised you we’d be back. A dragon always keeps his promises.”
“Take me too,” Mr. Skelly said, waving at Vur. Vur picked him up as well, placing him beside Alice.
“I’m kind of in the middle of something,” Alice said, glancing at her parents. “Can we—”
“Let’s go!” Vur said and leapt into the air before Alice could finish her sentence.
Alice bit her lower lip while Mr. Skelly laughed. “Where are we going?” Mr. Skelly asked.
“To find Mom and Dad.”
“Oh? Aren’t they where they usually are?”
“Nope,” Vur said.
“…Do you know where they are?”
Vur nodded. “Somewhere to the west!”
“He has no clue,” Tafel said and sighed. She gave Alice a wry smile. “Sorry for interrupting your reunion.”
“That’s okay,” Alice said, shaking her head. “If I stayed with them any longer, I’d have buried them back in the frostlands.”
“They didn’t approve of Mr. Skelly?”
“That’s not it,” Alice said. She shrugged. “I … don’t want to talk about it.”
Tafel nodded. “I understand.”
“My parents were a bit”—Tafel tilted her head and raised an eyebrow—“evil?”
“Hey,” Alice said, peering over the edge Vur’s head. “We’re flying over the ocean.”
“…Were we supposed to?”
“Okay,” Alice said and sighed as she sat down. “I trust you two.”
Mr. Skelly laughed as he and Tafel sat on either side of Alice. He grinned. “Who wants to sing some songs to pass the time?”
Author’s Note: This is the end of Book 2. There will be an indefinite hiatus before Book 3 comes starts, but I definitely want to publish Book 2 on Amazon first. Thanks for reading!