[Siegfried x Karna] It’s Not Impossible If the Grail Is Involved (7)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: T

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, fluff, humor, genderbent

Characters: Siegfried, Karna, Arjuna, Jing Ke, original characters

Summary:

“Key words: ‘you think’, Archer. Nausea isn’t equivalence of morning sickness.”

Sequel to Sharing Warmth, A Drunken Mishap and All the Valentine’s Chocolate Combined. Sort of.

Part 7

Perhaps it was the unique way the Chaldean summoning system worked, perhaps it was the leylines on which Chaldea was built, no one really knew but the longer the membership of a Servant at Chaldea extended, the more sensitive to the presences of other Chaldean inhabitants they became. Karna had been summoned for more than a year, and so, his senses had been honed to the point he could accurately tell if the coming individual was a fellow Servant, a staff member, an ally Master or his own. If he had to put it into words, he’d say each individual emitted a distinct ‘aura’ that was invisible to the naked eyes but vivid to the third eye – the spiritual ‘eye’, and Servants, brought to this world and given physical form by magical energy, was keen on that by nature.

For example, the aura manifesting behind his back was an aquamarine flame that was warm and comforting rather than scorching. Like the fire burning low in the fireplace to keep the place from the wintry chill.

A gauntleted hand caressed his cheek and despite the hard and cold exterior, Karna found himself leaning in the touch.

“It has completely dried, hasn’t it?” Siegfried said.

“Ah,” Karna agreed, “in this kind of weather, water vaporizes quickly.”

Even though it was only for a short while, Karna relished in the feeling of being in his true skin again. Being turned into a female might not hamper his battling capability or restraint his movement in any way, but that didn’t mean he was comfortable in that form, and he didn’t think any individual in his shoe could be. It was just unnatural, and he had learned from a young age that going against the natural way of things tended to not have a pleasant outcome. Still, there was nothing he could do to fix this problem aside from waiting patiently for the dawn to come and they could set off on their journey to find a fixed solution. The hot water was merely temporary and he couldn’t, even if he wanted to, have a kettle of water by his side 24/7 ready to empty over his head.

“It’s amusing to think that I’ve gotten wet thrice in the day, one by accident, one by purpose and one by self-inflict.”

Siegfried sniggered. “None of us has seen it coming. The little lady sure has astonishing stealth, perhaps rivals Assassin’s Presence Concealment.”

“What a peculiar situation we’ve found ourselves in.”

“Indeed.”

Siegfried had sat down beside Karna on the wooden steps leading to the small porch. Though the possibility of getting attacked by monsters was relatively low, they still thought it’d be better to keep watch. Naturally, the two Servants, who needed not sleep, had taken on the guarding task.

“Has Master gone to sleep?” asked Karna.

“Yes, he should be sound asleep by now. He was pretty tired though he said nothing of it.”

“Ah.”

With a silent nudge, Siegfried urged Karna to lean on his shoulder. The Indian Heroic Spirit received the message and wordlessly obliged, resting his head on Siegfried’s shoulder, where the armor had been dispersed in order to provide comfort. The winds, which supplied temporary respite from the heat, blew Karna’s spiky yet soft hair. The moon looked as sharp as a well-whetted sickle on the velvety sky. The atmosphere was engulfed in comfortable silence save occasional cries of cicadas. Siegfried smiles contently, stroking a turf of Karna’s hair that was rebelling against the rest. When they were together it was mostly like this: few words were exchanged, just a serene quietness to compensate for a long, arduous day of traveling through time and space battling monsters and whatnots to save an incinerated world that was somehow save-able.

When Siegfried started to think his partner had fallen asleep – Karna had a fondness for sleep, the Lancer suddenly broke the silence. “I was pondering,” Karna said, “what if whatever lies at the mountain top we find tomorrow still cannot revert my condition back to normal.”

During dinner, Mr. Shou had told the group of Master and Servants about the mountain in the far north, where he had been suspected to be the origin of those slimy monsters. However, he had lack the necessary manpower to face whatever made their home in the mountain to investigate. That was where Rhys’s group came in. With the powers of two legendary heroes (though Mr. Shou knew not of this), brawling should not be a matter.

Siegfried opened his mouth, words of reassurance ready to pass from his lips and yet, he swallowed them back, thinking about how shallow they would sound to both of their ears. Despite them being his words, he had not the confidence to imbue them with, thus making them superficial, and Karna was never one to favor substanceless words; he’d see right through them, and be upset by them. Still, Siegfried just knew not what should be said if not words of reassurance. He stayed silent, feeling his skin crawling with anxiety.

Thankfully, Karna, perhaps seeing through his inner turmoil, said, “If it is inevitable, I guess I have no other choice but to accept it. It would take a while, but I think eventually I would learn to live with it, and everyone else would accept it. Eventually.”

When he said “everyone”, his cool eyes focused entirely on Siegfried’s, and the Dragon Slayer suddenly felt the intense heat of the sun beneath the skin of his cheeks.

He didn’t need to think because who needed to think when they spoke the truth, and what he was about to say was nothing sort of the truth, which had always lied in his heart since the very instance he became aware of his affection towards a certain Heroic Spirit.

“I’ve already said it before but I want to say it again,” Siegfried began, intentively studying Karna’s expression as he did. “The first time we crossed weapons, I already knew you were a most worthy opponent. Then, as we’ve been fighting alongside each other, I know you are a loyal ally to whom I can always entrust my back. I’ve come to love you, not as an ally, not as a friend nor mere lovers. I’ve come to love you as much as a soul could love and bond with another…”

Karna’s eyes were as cool as ever, yet in them shone a brilliant light rivaling the northern star. Siegfried could hear the pounding of his heart in his ribcages and the rushing of blood in his veins. This flesh of his was constructed with magic and yet its imitations of a real, living body were impeccable. It was in moments like these that he felt he was living instead of just existing.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, my feelings will not change.”

Unable to stand the intensity of Karna’s gaze any longer, Siegfried acted swiftly, not allowing Karna a chance to properly react. Putting a hand behind Karna’s neck, he leaned in and captured his lips in the only way he knew to prevent Karna from talking, because any words from those soft, pale lips could be the last straw from bursting the dam holding his raging emotions. It felt different from kissing a male Karna and it was only natural, but as the same time it was indescribably familiar. They kissed every night, light, tickling kisses to convey each other’s feelings and wish each other a sound, nightmare-free sleep; but to kiss like to pour their souls into it was quite rare. Siegfried’s mind went back in time to the moment Karna confessed to him as he was trapped between the Lancer’s body and the concrete wall, and the searing kiss they shared afterwards.

Under the moonlight, Karna’s eyes had lost its cool edge and became iridescent while his cheeks flushed and his lips, glistening and plump, parted for short pants. The sharp cleavage below his crimson jewel, made all the more visible due to the rapid rising and falling of his chest, caught Siegfried’s gaze as well as causing the blood to rush to his face. He could imagine all the flowery words spewing from Davinci’s lips if she was able to see Karna now, and was thankful she wasn’t. His chest swelt with a sense of privilege to be the only one to feast his eyes upon such a sight.

Karna peppered the corner of his mouth with butterfly kisses, and Siegfried felt his smiles. This was another privilege he enjoyed, to be able to see Karna smile so frequently and even be the cause in some occasions. To the Heroic Spirit who had spent most of his life granting people’s wishes and making them happy, he was most content to put a smile to face of the person he loved.

“I wonder what chaos is reigning back in Chaldea at the moment,” Siegfried said.

“Probably nothing,” Karna replied, resuming his position of resting his head on Siegfried’s shoulder.

“But it seems Foxy Lady has learnt of the news and once she knows something, so does everyone in Chaldea.”

Karna chuckled. “Not Arjuna. Was he your earlier concern?” he asked.

“Well, your brother does have a penchant for being a tad too dramatic.”

When it comes to his brother, Siegfried mentally added.

“That’s true. However, Tamamo is quite cautious when Arjuna is involved. That I can assure.”

For some reason, the term ‘brother’ complex, which he had learned from Kiyohime a few months ago, sprang to Siegfried’s mind even though he didn’t quite grasp its meaning.

Together with Kiyohime, Karna was one of the two Servants who were rather close with the Caster, so it was reasonable that he understood her while she was a paradox to many others, Siegfried included.

“Even if he knows,” Karna said, “it’ll be just another day at Chaldea.”

“Right, just another day at Chaldea,” Siegfried echoed, smiling down at the Lancer.

To be continued

[Pics] Siegfried x Karna / Part 2

Do số hình ở post cũ bắt đầu quá nhiều nên bạn chuyển bớt sang post mới.


Lưu ý 1: Hình KHÔNG phải của bạn Joel (NOT my pictures!) mà là download chủ yếu từ pixiv.net twitter.net. Bạn Joel ý thức được rằng mình đang up “chui” và biết rằng điều ấy không hay nhưng biết làm sao được khi trình độ tiếng Nhật của bạn đã chạm ngưỡng A (tức Abysmal) và không thể xin per. Do đó, nếu bạn thích  những tấm hình, bạn cứ lấy nhưng đừng “méc” tác giả kẻo một ngày nào đó bạn Joel lên wordpress và phát hiện blog đã duy trì gần chục năm bị report và đóng cửa…

Lưu ý 2: Có một số hình 18+ (ai chưa đủ tuổi thỉnh quay đầu)

Lưu ý 3: Có một số hình nhân thú (tức động vật x người cho gần gũi, dễ hiểu); tuy nhiên, cần đính chính là cả Siegfried lẫn Karna đều không phải động vật (mặc dù Siegfried có chút “thú tính” – vấn đề này ai chơi game Fate/Grand Order sẽ hiểu)

Lưu ý 4: Có một số hình genderbend

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[Siegfried x Karna] It’s Not Impossible If the Grail Is Involved (6)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: T

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, fluff, humor, genderbent

Characters: Siegfried, Karna, Arjuna, Jing Ke, original characters

Summary:

“Key words: ‘you think’, Archer. Nausea isn’t equivalence of morning sickness.”

Sequel to Sharing Warmth, A Drunken Mishap and All the Valentine’s Chocolate Combined. Sort of.

Part 6

Rhys squinted his eyes and studied the mess of red and blue lines he had exposed and tried to modify so that the communication device was compatible with his charger. At the moment he was doing the opposite of what he had done a few hours earlier: he was putting the lines back where they belonged, hoping with anxiety bubbling in his chest that he hadn’t screwed up anything and broken the device for good. It was the only thing that connected him and Chaldea; he desperately needed it if the three of them still wanted to return home safe and sound.

Once everything was back in place, Rhys plugged the device in with trembling fingers. He considered it the ultimate blessing that Mr. Shou’s little dwelling had an outlet. Why and how a cottage alone in a bamboo forest had electricity supply was of little importance to him as long as he could charge his communication device. Maybe that was what the windmill-like contraptions in the yard were used for.

The LCD screen flared up together with a beep had Rhys’s heart nearly leap out of his chest. He screamed internally, not wanting to disturb Mr. Shou and Iori’s sleep when they had done him an enormous favor. They each had retired to their room at the back, leaving the full use of the living room to their new and strange guests. They needed the energy for tomorrow’s journey and Rhys would have followed their example if he hadn’t had to do something important first: charging his device and consulting with either Gilgamesh or Davinci, depending on his luck.

Never before had he found the grainy hologram of a certain Davinci-chan so lovely, so endearing. It brightened the small, dimly lit room.

“Never thought I’d say this,” Rhys began, “but so glad to see you, Davinci, instead of Gilgamesh.” A pause. “He’s not there, isn’t he?”

“No, he got into a quarrel with his younger selves and now Enkidu is trying to have them reconcile with each other, or at least not try to kill each other and reduce Chaldea into rubbles in the process.”

“Who had the brilliant idea of putting them in the same breathing space?” Rhys muttered.

“It’s beyond me,” Davinci replied. “Maybe they ran into each other. Good thing we still have Enkidu to get them in line. How are things on your side? I heard from Gilgamesh but I need to see with my own eyes to assess the situation.”

Rhys summoned Karna, who was outside the cottage, guarding it, via their mental connection. Karna’s slender frame instantly materialized beside Rhys, casting a shadow on the young mage’s face. Behind him was Siegfried. “You called, Master?” Karna asked.

“Yes, please come closer so Davinci can have a look.”

Karna wordlessly did as he was told.

Davinci’s hologram put on a monocle. “Hmm, it’s certainly bizarre but also extremely interesting. I’ve never seen anything like this before and I’d love to study it. If only I could Rayshift there myself. Also, what gorgeous figure! I’d love to draw it.”

Rhys scowled. Only a man who had traded his original body for a female one could say this was interesting. “Please keep your perverted side in check, Davinci.”

“You know I can’t help myself when I see beauty.”

Something crossed Rhys’s mind. “Wait, If Gilgamesh had told you then everyone in Chaldea might have already learned of this.”

A chill ran along Rhys’s spine, making him shiver despite the sweltering weather. He dreaded thinking about what if a certain first-rate Archer knew. He had a penchant for overreacting, that one, which was a major understatement.

Davinci pouted. “What did you take the King of Heroes for? A chatterbox? He only told me because it’s my duty to supervise the missions. Now, please tell me if you have checked the other pools and made any discoveries.”

“That sounds a lot like Gilgamesh’s advice. Those are dangerous so no, we didn’t check. Fortunately someone did and we were able to learn the results.”

“Ooh, tell me.” Her voice didn’t contain her skin-crawling gleefulness. It was probably a scientist’s terminal disease: to be curious about everything and eager to explore them despite how perilous they might be.

“Each pool turns the creature that falls in into something else, dogs, cats, pandas, etc., you name it. And provided you managed to find the proper pool, you can turn them back.”

“Hmm, define ‘proper’, please.”

“For example you threw a mouse in some pool and it turns into a cat. If you could find a mouse pool then problem solved.”

“Interesting,” Davinci hummed, stroking her chin. Probably a past habit when she still had a beard. “By that premise, if we find a male pool, Karna will return to normal?”

“Theoretically speaking. One tiny problem: there is no such pool in that area.”

There was a prolonged silence on the other line, which Rhys felt impatient to fill in as not to waste time. He needed rest as much as any normal human and now his eyes began to weigh down.

“There’s a solution to that, albeit temporary,” he said, standing up, not waiting for Davinci’s response. He left for a few seconds and came back with a kettle in hand. “Karna, do you mind?”

Karna shook his head and took the kettle. The palms of his hand glowed red and soon after, there was steam rising from its mouth. With his usual stoicism, he poured the water over himself. For the third time in the day, he got really wet.

OK, that sounds so wrong.

A soft gasping sound passed Davinci’s lips.

The steam cleared and the original Karna appeared. Almost at the same time, Davinci exclaimed, “Meravigliosa! Subarashii! Marvelous! This is definitely one of the rare miracles I’ve the chance to witness. Simply marvelous.”

Karna’s face was expressionless while Siegfried’s had soured. “He can only keep this form for a short while,” he said, and Rhys noted the annoyance in his tone. But he couldn’t blame Davinci though; from a scientist’s perspective, this unfortunate incident was a golden chance to study the unknown, and this, this was nothing sort of a miracle.

“When he’s dry, he’s back to being a woman.”

Davinci cleared her throat. “Well, it’s troublesome. Let’s see… “ Rhys heard the sound of keyboard. “It appears in the second Karna turned from woman to man, the magical reading pivoted, meaning a large amount of magical energy was involved. As far as I know, there’s one thing that has that much energy…”

“The Grail!” Both Rhys and Davinci said in unison.

“We speculated as much,” Rhys said. “It seems we came pretty close to it.”

“Any clue on where it is or whose hand it is in so far?”

“Yes, the man we met here provided us a clue, which we will set off to check tomorrow.”

“Now that’s the silver lining,” Davinci chuckled. “Anyway, we will be keeping contact tomorrow. Can your communication device hold up?”

“Probable. I’ll make sure to fully charge it.”

“The best of luck to your team.”

“Thank you.”

“Ah, Rhys, there’s something I need to say before goodbye.”

“Huh?”

Davinci’s voice lowered, as if to confide a secret. “Gilgamesh only told me but I might have discussed with Foxy over lunch, you know, to figure out the cause…”

Rhys’s heart dropped. Foxy. Tamamo no Mae. Chaldea’s unofficial news hub. He was surprised a certain demigod Archer had not barged into the control room with his thunderous temper and his Agni Gandiva activated.

To be continued

[Siegfried x Karna] It’s Not Impossible If the Grail Is Involved (5)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: T

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, fluff, humor, genderbent

Characters: Siegfried, Karna, Arjuna, Jing Ke, original characters

Summary:

“Key words: ‘you think’, Archer. Nausea isn’t equivalence of morning sickness.”

Sequel to Sharing Warmth, A Drunken Mishap and All the Valentine’s Chocolate Combined. Sort of.

Part 5

“So,” Rhys drawled, stroking his smooth chin as if he had a beard with one hand while pointing a finger to a pool, “that one turns humans into pandas.” Must have been the one responsible for the panda, no, Mr. Show’s current form. His finger moved to its neighbor. “That one turns humans into what, little piggies?” He winced at the thought. Probably the nasties one of them all. His finger pointed at another pool. “And that one is a dog pool?”

“A chihuahua pool,” Mr. Shou corrected.

OK, worse, Rhys thought, making a mental mark on the location of that pool. If he were ever get a canine form, he’d rather turn into a German shepherd or a husky, not a tiny fur ball with unbearably annoying bark.

“That’s not the worst one,” said Mr. Shou, pointing his paw at a pool in the far east, “that one turns you into a combination of a woman, a boar and a panda.”

Arms crossed in front of his chest, Rhys sent Siegfried a smug look.

Aren’t you glad I didn’t let you test the waters?

Sumanai, Master.

Siegfried cast his eyes down, his shoulders hunched. Karna lightly patted his forearm in consolation.

“And you tested them all?” Karna asked.

“You could say so,” Mr. Shou replied, his tone implying a mild surprise when Karna suddenly spoke to him. “Took me a while, though.”

“How did you test them?” Rhys asked. “You did not dive into each of them, did you?”

He refused to believe someone was crazy or desperate enough to try Gilgamesh’s suggestion.

“I used mice. These pools actually turn every living creature into a certain form but they make no alteration to the mind.”

“So if a mouse is thrown into the woman pool…”

Mr. Shou’s shrug indicated the answer was obvious.

Rhys imagined a woman walking around with a mouse’s mind and shivered at the horror. He couldn’t help an audible groan. Glancing at his Servants, he noticed that Siegfried had paled while Karna’s expression had lost its usual calmness.

“Fortunately there’s also a mouse pool so I could change them back and learned how these pools work.”

The Master and Servants exchanged a quick look of relief.

“That all happened before those slimy monsters made this area their nest and breeding ground. Since I didn’t want to become panda meat, I stopped coming here altogether.”

Those slimy monsters that had been wiped out by Balmung.

“But you came here today?” Rhys said.

“I saw a strange pillar of light in this direction so I thought I should go have a look.”

That must have been when Siegfried unleashed his Noble Phantasm, Rhys thought.

“Then I ran into this big guy in strange costume in the forest.”

“After a little misunderstanding, he decided to go with me, learning that we had cleared the monsters,” Siegfried said. “As I said before, Mr. Shou, your condition and our companion’s may have something in common. He fell into the pool that turned him into female.”

Mr. Shou’s ebony eyes reflected Karna’s image as he studied him with attentiveness. Were he in his human form, he might appear to be contemplating; however, since he looked the way he was now, it was an odd, if somewhat funny, sight to see a panda sitting motionless as though he was debating with himself whether to pick this bamboo or that to consume. Rhys shook the thought away, mentally chastising himself for getting distracted from the issue at hand.

“I see,” Mr. Shou spoke slowly, “so, the woman pool.”

Something sparked in Rhys’s mind. “Mr. Shou, you said when you threw the mice into the mouse pool, they turned back to their original form? If that’s the case then—”

“Do you think I loved being a panda so much I had decided to stay like this if there had been pool to fix it?”

Rhys’s heart dropped. Literally dropped. He could even hear a thud in his ears.

Actually the thudding sound was Siegfried’s heavy Balmung hitting the hard ground.

Rhys didn’t dare to look at his Servants. Once again the great hero of the Mahabharata had been the butt of Fate’s devious joke. “But there has to be a way, right? Neither you nor my friend here can stay like this forever,” he said.

Mr. Shou shook his head and crossed his arms, a very human gesture. His shirt strained against his form. “I’ve been in this form for six months and during that time, I’ve inspected every pool present. All fruitless. But there’s something…”

A light cut through thick darkness. Rhys’s heart was elevated. “Something what?” he asked with haste.

Mr. Shou’s black eyes reflected this strange trio as he studied each of them. “There’s hope,” he corrected, “which wasn’t available to me before but now, with you, it might be possible. Can I ask if you are the ones who defeated those monsters?”

Rhys blinked at the question, certainly not expecting it. “Yes,” he replied. It was basically their job.

Perhaps it was a trick of light but there was a gleam in Mr. Shou’s eyes. His mouth moved, spreading on both sides in what Rhys interpreted as an attempt of a smile. “It’s about to get dark,” he said, “and if you don’t mind, you can come and stay the night at my home. There’re things to discuss, and having a roof above your heads is better than camping outside, isn’t it?”

Mr. Shou’s home was a nice cottage nestled amongst the tall bamboo trees. At the first look of Mr. Shou’s cottage and surroundings, Rhys couldn’t help a random thought he had chosen this area to build a home solely because of the abundant food supply. Come to think of it, what did Mr. Shou eat? Had the pool’s magic altered not only his form but also his metabolism so that he mainly digested bamboos now? It was a serious matter of science that demanded an answer.

Rhys’s theory of Mr. Shou’s diet was proven wrong came dinner, when the meal consisted of dumplings, pickles and chicken broth, all home-grown ingredients from his little garden. The man was kind enough to share his food with Rhys’s group even though Rhys was the only one who actually needed to eat; Karna and Siegfried just sat at the bamboo table sipping a minimum portion of broth – quite tasty, mostly to keep up appearance. They had communicated with each other via mental connection between Master and Servants that neither Mr. Shou nor his daughter needed to know they had two Heroic Spirits with the powers to smooth out the entire bamboo forest plus the mountains at their table.

It turned out Mr. Shou was living with a teenage daughter. Around fifteen, Iori, his daughter, was a comely tomboy girl wearing a plaid shirt and jeans coveralls with her chestnut hair cut in a short bob. She was a surprisingly good cook, as the meal they were having was all prepared by her.

She had also displayed a level of composure beyond her age when her father came home with a costume-wearing, weapon-bearing trio, though not without a cool look of suspicion, which vanished after Mr. Shou’s introduction. Having a panda for her daddy probably had prepared her for many sorts of surprises.

“I have a temporary solution for that,” Iori said after hearing the story about how Karna had turned female. She stood up, brushing aside her chair and, and went into the kitchen’s direction. Rhys’s eyes followed her figure, curiosity bubbling in his chest. Was that why Mr. Shou had invited the thee of them to his home? Still, if this girl had a solution, shouldn’t she have helped her father first?

Iori returned shortly after with a kettle in her hand, her footsteps light as a cat’s. She stood behind Karna and all of sudden, poured the content of the kettle on Karna’s head. Having never suspected the teenage girl’s sneaky blow, the great of hero of the Mahabharata received a full kettle of steaming water and was thus soaked the second time in the day.

“What are you doing?” Siegfried barked, his temper showing vividly in his tone. There were few occasions where the calm and mild-tempered Dragon Slayer raised his voice, and this was one of those.

Iori’s expression was free of guilt as she casually replied, “The temporary solution. Just look at him.”

Rhys and Siegfried both turned to Karna, who was quietly wiping the water from his bang and eyes; to remain calm even when he had just had a kettle poured over his head, he must have reached the highest level of Zen.

Two gasps came out simultaneously.

“Ah!”

In front of their eyes was the Heroic Spirit of the lance in his original form. It was as if all his feminine traits had been inexplicably and magically washed away by the water.

“Ah…”

A soft, surprised sound passed Karna’s lips as he saw the drastic changes. To think his condition could be fixed with a method as simple as a kettle of hot water…

It took all Rhys’s will to not jump at Karna and squeeze his lean form in the delight. He was pretty sure the same thought was running in Siegfried’s head. “That’s really good, Karna,” Rhys said, grinning from ear to ear.

“I hate to spoil your mood but don’t get overjoyed too soon. It won’t last long.”

The trio turned to the source of the voice – Mr. Shou but instead of a panda, they found a stout middle-aged man with a shining bald head. His clothes were the same as the panda’s but they were soaked and dripping water to the floor. Beside him stood Iori with the kettle in her right hand.

To be continued

A panda dad and a teenage daughter, do they remind you of anyone?

[Siegfried x Karna] Not a Damsel in Distress (2)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: T

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, fluff, humor

Characters: Siegfried, Karna, Arjuna

Summary:

Arjuna has a person he needs to rescue from the evil dragon’s claw. You may think it’s a beautiful princess because that’s how a normal fairytale goes. In some way, it is, as Arjuna is a young, valiant and handsome prince. Still, even if he manages to defeat the dragon, he’s guaranteed not to have his happily-ever-after ending where they ride off into the sunset. Why? Because the person he’s going to save is not a damsel in distress.

Part 2

Arjuna couldn’t help marveling at the inside of the giant cave Karna led him in even though his eyes were blurred with rage and confusion from what had happened. It was only a few minutes ago and yet, somehow it felt like a whole lifetime to Arjuna. Rage clouded judgment and brought forth confusion while confusion birthed more rage, but after all they were just human reactions in response to the situation, which was nothing but extraordinary.

On the other hand, Karna’s reaction to seeing his long-lost brother after a decade was nothing like Arjuna’s expectation. After a brief expression of surprise at first, Karna regained his composure entirely too quick. Turning to the dragon, he spoke in a language foreign to Arjuna’s ears, something he had never heard from his brother back in the days at the palace. Although he did grasp some vocabulary as it seemed to be comprised of lexis from the spell-casting language, which Arjuna was unfortunately not well-versed, he failed to decode the meaning of the sentences. When and who had taught Karna this language he was so fluent was beyond Arjuna.

From the look of it, the dragon comprehended what he was saying the way Arjuna could not. It shook its head and blew smoke from its nostrils in what Arjuna could vaguely interpret as disapproval, and Karna, gentle and patient as though placating a pertinacious kid, kept speaking to it while patting and caressing its snout, his pale hand contrasting with its sleek scales. He looked so small and fragile compared to the beast that it could swallow him whole without him putting up any struggle. And yet it didn’t, and instead listened to his reasoning with the same amount of patience he’d been giving it. Much as he detested it, Arjuna couldn’t suppress the feeling of awe invading him as he witnessed the man-to-beast communication.

At last, the dragon yielded to the human. The giant mass of scales shook and the unnerving noises of bones breaking filled the silence for a while before the half-dragon man stood beside Karna in the beast’s place as if there had never been one in the first place. He focused his attention entirely on Karna, who regarded with a firm look and a reassuring smile. A few more foreign words were exchanged before his attention abruptly turned to Arjuna. Under the stare containing the heat equal to molten lava, young prince’s muscles tensed in alert, instantly ready for a strike. Clutching his bow, he held his head high and kept his ground while countering with a frigid look. His innate pride as a prince and dignity of a warrior would not let him be intimidated no matter whom he faced, man or beast. Fire clashed with ice, and the air between them sizzled. The barren land could turn into a battlefield any moment.

The decisive battle Arjuna prepared himself for didn’t come, for the dragon-man let out a frustrated grunt and turned away, spreading his menacing-looking wings to fly into a sky. The turn of event baffled Arjuna, who turned his eyes to Karna in a silent request for an explanation.

Karna, on the other hand, didn’t meet Arjuna’s questioning gaze as he was fixated on the dragon man until he became an unrecognizable dot. Only then did he turn to his little brother and said, “I asked him to go hunting so we could have a conversation alone. He disagreed at first but eventually complied with my request because I swore you would not harm me. Now, come with me inside.”

That explained the heated stare. Although they were different as chalk and cheese, Arjuna found that relatable – he would have acted the same way if he had been in his shoe. That might be the only common between them.

With that in mind, Arjuna followed Karna’s steps into the cave.

Deep into the rocky mountains’ bowel, the cave that served as a dragon’s den was huge, and it could easily house the entire garden in his palace. Even so, the size was not what impressed Arjuna; his surprise stemmed from his quick observation that it was more than just a cave for a dragon to hoard its treasure. Though only spartanly, it was furnitured to give the illusion of a human home with a low bed, a big chest, a table and some crude chairs. All of them looked like they had been either scavenged from a trash dumpster or made by awkward hands. There were several kinds of fur on the bed to keep its occupants warm during winter as the weather here was harsher than it was on the plain. It was just the beginning of autumn and Arjuna already felt the budding chill. Strangely, the temperature seemed to affect Arjuna only, whereas his brother looked comfortable wearing thinner garment. Scanning the space, Arjuna didn’t find a fireplace or anything similar to keep a fire. He couldn’t imagine the dragon breathing fire every second to warm the space.

Still, this was, after all, a dragon’s den and so there was treasures anywhere his eyes landed. Being a prince bathed in luxury since birth, the sight of gold and precious jewels was not unfamiliar with him; what shocked Arjuna was the careless manner in which they were treated – piled up in a corner or scattered around the cave, as if their value amounted to nothing more than pebbles. To think how many men would risk their lives and spilled others’ trying to obtain such wealth was absolutely insane. Arjuna bent and picked up what appeared to be a ruby next to his feet. Although it looked unrefined, it was unmistakably the purest kind of ruby since the magical energy emitting from it – all kinds of jewels did – was undiluted and it warmed up his palm the moment it made contact with his skin. With a muted sigh, he threw it atop the nearest pile. He might not be swayed by this temptation, for his reason to arrive here had not been finding treasures, but the same couldn’t be said about other mortal men. Arjuna wondered if Karna and the dragon had ever had to defense themselves against such men, and what fate had befallen those with greed-tainted hearts.

Arjuna looked up and saw that Karna had stopped in his track to look at him with confusion in his eyes. Then he realized in his train of thought, he himself had stopped and stayed rooted in his spot, prompting Karna to halt as well and wonder why Arjuna had ceased his steps. Just when his mouth was about to mutter an apology, he was struck with the sight of his brother, who was clothed in simple, unadorned garment and wearing no ornaments and somehow managed to outshine all the glittering gold and jewels around. He was standing there emitting a natural glow that was unique to him and all Arjuna saw was him and nothing else. This was the brother he remembered, the memory embedded in his mind that occasionally manifested in his dreams. The young, radiant and quiet prince who commanded others’ attention even when he himself did not wish to, that was Karna, and Arjuna was overjoyed that it had not been lost. Feelings swelled in him until he could stand it no more and cut the distance between them to pull Karna into his embrace, burying his face in his chest. In his selfish bout he didn’t care that he might cause discomfort to Karna, even pain; all he wanted was get as close as possible to his brother.

Karna was stiff as a block in Arjuna’s arms since he wasn’t prepared for such strong emotional outburst, yet he didn’t have an extreme reaction like pushing him away or protesting, and that was the salve to Arjuna’s wounded heart.

That it was awkward letting his arms hanging on the sides of his body while being held was probably Karna’s thought, so he brought them up to pat Arjuna’s back in an even more awkward manner. Yet such gesture stirred up the depth of Arjuna’s soul and brought the suppressed emotions to the surface. He hid his quiet sobs in his brother’s chest.

Eventually, his emotions subsided and Arjuna regained his composure and he let go off Karna but still kept a close distance with him.

“You’re indeed Arjuna,” Karna said. “Now I remember he sometimes hugged me like that. Back then he barely reached my chest, and now you’re almost taller than me.”

“I prayed every day and tried to grow fast so I could go search for you. I have so many questions to ask.”

“Why don’t we sit down? It’s uncomfortable to stand and have a conversation.”

“Is this where you’ve been living for the past ten years?” Arjuna asked once he had sat down opposite to Karna.

“Yes, this is where we’ve been living,” Karna stressed. “It can’t compare to the palace but as you can see, it has the bare necessities.”

The corner of Arjuna’s mouth quivered as he ground his teeth to push his swelling anger down. He couldn’t afford to raise his voice to his brother.

“I’ve known you to be the one who doesn’t indulge in riches and wealth, but the palace is your home and I’ve come to bring you back. While that dragon isn’t present, let us leave this desolate place behind.”

Standing up, Arjuna grasped his brother’s hand in order to pull him to his feet. It wasn’t his motto to turn tail from a powerful threat; still, getting Karna back home safe and sound ranked top in his list of priorities. For that, he didn’t mind being a coward for once.

Karna didn’t budge, to Arjuna’s shock. His expressions were serene but his mouth was set in a straight line, giving off an air of determination. He should have figured it out already, that Karna didn’t want to leave. If he could persuade the beast to go away like he had done, he could have escaped several times had he wanted to. The only matter was he hadn’t, and instead of finding the way back, he’d made this cave his home, just like instead of loathing the dragon, his capturer and tormentor, he’d chosen to stay by its side. Why? Because Karna had… The rational part of Arjuna had come up with a clear answer but the emotional part, the stronger part, had banned him from reaching it. In a way it was his defense mechanism to be in denial in order to shield his psyche from the impactful reality. So he was confused, he raged and he asked, “Why, Karna?”

“I appreciate, no, I’m grateful that you’ve come for me, Arjuna, but I cannot come back. In fact, I will not come back with you. I am sorry, truly sorry.”

Something in Arjuna just popped. “I don’t want your apology! So don’t give me that. Give me a reason why you want to stay with the beast that took you away from your family, from humanity? What spell has that beast put you under for you to turn your back on your brother? Has you been living with a beast for so long you’ve forgotten who you are?”

In front of Arjuna’s accusation, Karna didn’t flinch. Nor did he look affected. His features remained as tranquil as a lake on a windless day, and Arjuna’s stormy emotions were just a pebble that failed to create a ripple. Arjuna was unable to read what thought running beneath that surface.

“I cannot be saved, Arjuna,” Karna began after waiting patiently for Arjuna to vent, “because I was already saved years ago by a wandering knight name Siegfried.” A pause. “The very same man whom you call a beast.”

“Wh-What?” Arjuna stammered. “What do you mean?”

“I was indeed captured and held in captivity by a dragon for months. I tried to escape but to no avail. Then one day a wandering knight showed up at the dragon’s den. He battled the dragon for days until he was able to land a fatal blow. The dragon was slain, I was freed but there was no happy ending, for there was another twist.”

“What twist?”

“He was bathed in the dragon’s blood and as soon as the flame devoured the fallen dragon, he began to transform into one.”

Arjuna paled, finding what he heard unbelievable.

“I don’t know if it was the dragon’s blood or its death on his hands but a curse was placed and it was irreversible.”

“How come? Such a thing has never been in the records—”

Arjuna stopped himself. The reason why there was no record of men turning into dragons was because dragons were incredibly rare to begin with and those dragon slayers might have all turned into the very beast they had slain, waiting to be killed by the next generation of dragon slayers. Such vicious cycle might have been going on since the dawn of the world.

It might have been his own fate had he managed to extinguish the dragon’s fire. A chill crept down his spine and sweats gathered in his palms.

“Even so,” Arjuna hesitated, his tone weighed down by his guilt of the cruel things about to pass from his lips, “even so, you cannot stay here your whole life. Your place is the palace, on the throne as the rightful heir.”

Not inside a mountain cave with a man-turned-beast that couldn’t be saved.

“It is not,” Karna flat-out denied.

“Why? Is it because you feel indebted to him that you stay with him? We, we can repay him… somehow. We can find some mages to help him. There has to be a way to break the curse! Every magic spell has a loophole, I’ve been told.”

Even Arjuna found what he just said unbelievable. A cruel, blatant lie that disgusted the utterer and might not convince the listener. Arjuna despised liars and their deceptive words, and so lying was beyond him. Now he was one, and he lied wearing a straight face and a matching tone. If Karna looked into his mind, he would see through his dishonesty. Arjuna hoped he did. He hoped Karna, with his perceptiveness, would peel off the thin layer of lie and reach down to his earnest wish for his brother’s return. He hoped it would invoke Karna’s desire to be home and reunited with his family, buried deep by years of lacking any resemblance of social interaction.

Karna only sighed, his expressions unreadable. “He should have transformed completely into a dragon, losing his human mind, but by sheer will and a streak of luck, he has been able to retain his mind and achieve a hybrid form. His humanity hanging by a thread, so he has to be careful.”

“So that he won’t turn into a dragon and lose himself?”

“Precisely.”

“You’re afraid your leave will send him over the edge. Is that not another form of imprisonment?”

If that was the case, Arjuna was ready to fight. He’d face the full wrath of a dragon head-on if that meant Karna was freed.

“I assure you, it is not,” Karna said. “He urged me to come back to where I came and when I didn’t, he asked me many times if I had stayed with him out of fear or gratitude. I pondered the question and eventually I realized it was neither.”

“Then why?”

“Because he and I, no, we are two of a kind and we can only have each other.”

“What do you mean?” Arjuna was dumbfounded by Karna’s reason. Siegfried had turned into a dragon but his brother was human, how could they be ‘two of a kind’? Biologically, fundamentally, they were different. “Has the dragon curse affected you also?”

“No, it hasn’t,” Karna replied. “Siegfried shouldered the curse alone because he dealt the final blow. I wished I could have shared its weight but it was impossible.”

Karna paused briefly before continued, “Even though Siegfried has a humanoid form, he’s lost his human voice. Such is another aspect of the curse that his speech would be forever lost on a human ear.”

“But you can communicate with him. I don’t get it.”

Karna sighed, and a melancholy look shadowed his handsome features. Arjuna shook. There were a couple times when Arjuna had witnessed his brother all by himself in the furthermost corner of the garden, wearing that same expression. However, soon as Arjuna approached him with child-like concern, he always brushed it off by saying he had been daydreaming. “So that’s mean Mother hasn’t told you anything. I guess it makes sense that she wants to keep it a secret from everyone, even her children. I was, and never will be a source of pride for her.”

“But why? You’re her firstborn before any of us.”

Karna quietly undid the clasp that held his tunic, exposing his chest. Arjuna’s eyes widened. Though he had never seen Karna’s body before, he knew there was something that should not be on his chest, or any human chest for that that matter. His chest was pale as the rest of him, and in the center was a ruby-like jewel the size of a maiden’s palm. The skin around it was veiny and it looked like the damned thing was embedded into his flesh and had taken root in his heart. Should it be removed, so was Karna’s heart.

“What is this? How did you get such a thing?”

“Consider it the first and final gift from my father.”

“Your father? Didn’t he pass away when you were born?”

That was what their mother had told Arjuna and his younger siblings, whose father was a prince from the neighboring country. Karna had been fathered by a different man and so, much as Arjuna hated to admit, the differences between Karna and the rest of them were not only physical.

“He died, yes, that much was the truth, or half of it. What she never told a soul was who, or rather what he was. He was a dragon, Arjuna, the same as the beast that abducted me, and the same as Siegfried now. That makes me half-dragon.”

“Impossible!” Arjuna barked. “No, it can’t be true. I can’t believe it!”

He didn’t say Karna was making this up, for his brother never lied. The only thing that was a lie was this truth itself.

“It is true, Arjuna. Have you ever wondered why our country is much more prosperous and stronger than our neighbors even though we’re geographically challenged? Why our weapons are sharper and our chariots sturdier? It’s a secret of the queen alone. Our mother did the unthinkable: she made a pact with my father, a dragon terrorizing the east, so that he would give her all his treasure in exchange for her firstborn. Our mother was clever, and she found a unique loophole. That was how I was conceived.”

As Karna spoke, Arjuna stayed silent. When the initial shock had passed, he felt strangely calm. No more emotional outbursts, just a stillness that allowed the undeniable truth to slowly sink in.

“Arjuna,” Karna said, placing his hand on Arjuna’s, “you should now understand that I don’t belong in the palace, much less on the throne. What would the people think once they found out the truth about their king? There would be an uproar, no doubt, and the country would be in jeopardy.”

“That’s so unfair,” Arjuna muttered, almost to himself.

“Besides, I’m not fitted to be a ruler since I lack the charisma and the mindset to be one. You, on the other hand, have all of them. It’s only natural that you inherit the throne. Mother should wish it so.”

Then he smiled and patted Arjuna on the head, and the young prince suddenly felt like a young boy in front of his older brother whom he adored. “There, there. Be kind and be just. Be a good king to your people.”

Karna’s voice in his ears sounded so far away, almost an echo.

“What about our mother? What about our family, our siblings?”

What about me? He didn’t dare say.

Arjuna was on the verge of shedding his tears, because a little boy could be forgiven to cry. His vision got blurred, distorted. He brought a hand up to wipe his forming tears.

Karna looked pained and for a second, it seemed Arjuna’s question had touched the bottom of his heart and he was wavering. But a sharp glint appeared in his clear eyes, and he signed yet it was a sigh of resolution. “It would be better if you thought that I was dead.”

Something in Arjuna shattered and the sound was ringing in his ears. He stood up and the sudden movement knocked down the chair. “How could you say something like that?” he shouted, seizing Karna’s collar and bringing their faces closer. His eyes were seeing red, literally. “My brother would never say such an irresponsible and heartless thing! Are you really him or are you an impostor walking in his skin?”

“I’m truly sorry, Arjuna,” Karna said. “But I cannot go back with you. My place is here, with them.”

He emphasized the last word.

“Them?” Arjuna echoes, taken aback. Was there another one he had not seen?

There was some noise at the entrance of the cave. The noise was getting louder, indicating its source was entering the cave.

“I told him that you would never harm me, but it seems he hasn’t flown too far away, being overworried as always,” Karna said.

As if on cue, soon as Karna finished, a tall figure showed up at the edge of Arjuna’s periphery. His wings were folded and his tail relaxes, trailing on the ground. But his entire form tensed when his gaze landed on Arjuna’s tight fist on Karna’s collar. His iridescent eyes blazed up as though they could set Arjuna aflame with just a look. Tension was so thick it was almost visible.

Thus, a second showdown between man and dragon commenced.

It might feel long to the both of them, but in reality only a few seconds had passed before a yawn crumpled the heavy atmosphere. Arjuna was caught off guard and bafflement was written all over his comely features. His attention was attracted to what the dragon man was holding in his arm with a tenderness one wouldn’t think he possessed.

Not what, who.

Arjuna stared at the child secured in Siegfried’s arm, his need to blink forgotten. It hurt, and he thought if he stared any harder, his eyes might fall out of his sockets.

The child, so tiny in the crook of the dragon man’s arm one might overlook him, had a pale complexion – so pale it stood out in the dim light of the cave, with matching pale hair almost reaching his bare shoulders. The age was difficult to pinpoint, given his fat cheeks and winter-blue eyes which made up half of his face, but if Arjuna had to give a number, he would say about three or four. Around his lower eyelids was red makeup that highlighted his huge eyes and snow-colored skin tone. On others it might look weird, but on this child, it was nothing but natural. One could say it suited him to an unnatural level.

What startled Arjuna was not the child’s peculiar look, nor the fact that he was carried by a dragon; what made his eyes bulge was the kid’s uncanny resemblance to Karna. Like a miniature version of him plus a pair of wings, horns that just showed their curves and a scaly tail coiling around Siegfried’s forearm. He was playing with Siegfried’s hair, his tiny wings flapping gleefully.

Arjuna’s head was reeling. What the hell was going on?

He blurted out his thought.

“Please, Arjuna,” Karna said, “he may not understand what you’re saying but please refrain from using such language in front of a child.”

The child stopped playing with Siegfried’s hair once he spotted Karna and extended his chubby arms, which put an indulgent smile on Karna’s usual stoic features as he obliged him and got him from Siegfried. The child giggled and got a newfound interest in Karna’s dangling golden earpiece, the size of which was even bigger than his hand.

Standing close, Siegfried was looking at them with gentleness in his eyes. The raging flame in his irises had tamed down to a warming fire in the fireplace. Together they looked the perfect definition of a happy family despite their oddities. It hurt Arjuna to be the odd one out.

“I’d prefer a better circumstance for introduction but since you’ve met him, this is my child and thus, your nephew.”

“Ne-nephew?!” Arjuna stammered. “You mean, you and him-you. It-it can’t be!!”

It can’t be true. It can’t be true. It can’t be true. His thoughts were reduced to just one simple sentence and it repeated in his head like a damnable mantra. It can’t be true. His brother was a man, and so was Siegfried. What wicked sorcery had been involved to produce that playful little thing Karna so adored? Probably even more than his family, his own brothers. No, that breathing, giggling taboo couldn’t be Arjuna’s nephew. Never. He refused to accept him into his bloodline. Absolutely refused.

So much to process and so little time, and the result was Arjuna’s mind being overloaded. His vision blackened…

Arjuna jolted out of his dream. Covered in sweats, he scanned the place, getting his vision acquainted with darkness. He was relieved to know he was in his makeshift tent at the foot of the mountains. Tomorrow he was going to climb the mountains in search of the rumored dragon den. It was just a hunch but something told him Karna was alive and well, and he was there, waiting for Arjuna’s arrival. His gut feeling had never been wrong, almost like a sixth sense, and he trusted it as much as he trusted his bow and arrows.

It was a weird dream he had had, one whose unpleasant details were vivid and had left such an impact it almost felt real. Could it be a bad omen for his journey ahead? No. Arjuna shook his head and allowed the cool night winds to clear his mind. And then he pushed that absurd dream to the farthest corner and banish any of its remnants. He had a clear, definite goal and he would not let a dream hinder his path.

It turned out the dream wasn’t so insignificant as he had deemed it be; the next day the events unfolded just like in the dream, and every time a small detail was replicated with utmost precision, it made him shiver. Prophetic dreams were rare phenomena, and they held a deeper meaning than what appeared on the surface. It was just Arjuna was no expert in deciphering the hidden messages of dreams.

To Arjuna’s dismay, everything in his dream (should he say nightmare?) turned up in the reality, including the crazy fact that Karna now had a three-year-old son that was half dragon, half human. His brother spared him the bits about how they could have had a child together and whether Karna was the father or the mother; for that he was mildly grateful. He didn’t think he could handle the truth; ignorance was indeed a bliss.

Thanks to his dream, Arjuna had been better mentally prepared for the shocking truth, and did not fainted like his dream counterpart had. That was not saying he didn’t spend several minutes completely stunned and losing touch with reality. He couldn’t be blamed, though; it was not every day he got a dragon hybrid for a nephew. He got better, however, the worse still awaited him: Karna would not come back with him, no matter how Arjuna raged or pled. His place was with his new ‘family’, he was determined, not at a cold palace where he could read people’s hostile thoughts directed at him because he was different. Sad at it was, a part of Arjuna agreed with him. Another part, nonetheless, was too far gone for reason.

And so he parted with his brother with much reluctance and a fair amount of tension cackling between himself and his ‘brother-in-law’. His nephew remained oblivious and to the adults’ matters, happily giggling as he waved his tiny hand to bid Arjuna goodbye. Suppressing his aversion, Arjuna gingerly waved back. Laughters bubbles in the child’s tiny chest.

Never would Arjuna think the next time he got to see his nephew, if he ever saw him at all, he would be all grown-up. A couple months later, when the young prince traveled over forests and mountains because he missed his older brother and wanted to see him, all Arjuna found was an empty cave, void of its former furniture and occupants, and a goodbye plus sorry note.

“KARNA!!!”

His angry shout reverberated throughout the stone cave.

End

Epilogue

“I think I’m hearing your brother’s shouts.”

“… Has to be your imagination,” Karna replied. “We are so far away from him.”

They rarely traveled far from their cave, except when food and water was scarce, because travel was troublesome and dragons happened to be creatures with exceptionally strong attachment to their dwelling. When they had to leave it, it was due to a grave reason.

Now they were flying across the starry sky, with Siegfried in his dragon form and Karna riding on his back. Nighttime was perfect time for travel, as the night provided cover for his massive dragon body, which was far more convenient in carrying Karna plus their belongings than his human body.

“He must be furious, your brother,” Siegfried ‘said’, or rather communicated via the special bond forged between himself and Karna.

Karna sighed softly. “He rightfully is. Since we were young I wasn’t exactly a good brother to him, yet he looked up to me. He even came to my rescue, thinking I was in captivity. Now he must feel that I cold-heartedly disregard his feelings and cast him aside because I don’t need him.”

“But you don’t. You care about him as much as he does you. That I am sure.”

“It doesn’t matter. Now he probably hates me to the core.”

Siegfried detected a faint sadness veiling his tone. “You’re regretting?”

“No, it’s a painful but necessary thing to do. Arjuna will never betray us but there are many around him with their heart tainted by greed, and a dragon’s treasure is simply too alluring. They may follow him and eventually find our cave. I cannot afford any danger to us.”

“You will miss him.”

“I will, definitely,” said Karna, stroking the soft white hair of his son, who was peacefully snoozing on his father’s back. “But I have him and I have you.”

A warmth emitting from his body substituted Siegfried’s reply. Temperature tended to drop drastically during the night but he would never let Karna and their son got a sliver of chill. Karna felt a gentle rumble beneath the rough scales as he pressed his cheek to Siegfried’s back and listened to his heartbeats.

“The south should be warmer, with plenty of food, or so I heard,” Karna slurred. The warmth made him kind of sluggish and sleepy. He had been up for hours and now was much tempted by a sleep.

“Rest now. When you’re up, we should be in a total new land.”

End

That’s the end of this short story for my beloved pairing, originally a oneshot until I decided to split it. Thank you for reading it and leaving comments.

I leave the matter of who the mother of the child is in your hand.

[Siegfried x Karna] Not a Damsel in Distress (1)

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Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: T

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, fluff, humor

Characters: Siegfried, Karna, Arjuna

Summary:

Arjuna has a person he needs to rescue from the evil dragon’s claw. You may think it’s a beautiful princess because that’s how a normal fairytale goes. In some way, it is, as Arjuna is a young, valiant and handsome prince. Still, even if he manages to defeat the dragon, he’s guaranteed not to have his happily-ever-after ending where they ride off into the sunset. Why? Because the person he’s going to save is not a damsel in distress.

Part 1

Here is how the story goes: A Young, Handsome Prince rode over mountains and rivers on the back of his trusted stallion. Many an obstacle had he over come until he arrived at the Evil Dragon’s lair. There the Prince valiantly fought the Evil Dragon in an epic battle that lasted for days and at last, slain it. Exhausted but elated, he marched to the Beautiful Princess and asked for her hand in marriage. And then they lived happily ever after…

Arjuna was the hero of that story. True, he was a prince, a young and handsome one, who would one day inherit the throne from his queen mother and rule over the kingdom. True, he had ridden over mountains and rivers, fought malaria and swamps of bloodthirsty mosquitoes and overcome unspeakable dangers to fight an evil dragon (no capitalization, please). True, he had a person to rescue from said evil dragon’s claw and bring back to his kingdom.

His story should have gone like that, except it didn’t, due to two major alterations. First, it wasn’t a beautiful princess whom he had to rescue, it was a beautiful prince. And before your shipping tendency runs amok with several (titillating) scenarios, that beautiful prince was his own brother, born to the same mother. Okay, maybe that was fetish-fuel for some of you out there but we just leave it at that. Eight years senior to Arjuna, his brother should have been the heir to the throne, and he had been reared as such before an unfortunate incident occurred.

The memory of that fateful day was still fresh on Arjuna’s mind even though he had been but a snotty seven-years-old back then. And it would likely persist until the end of his life.

It had happened too fast and too sudden that all the little prince could do was watch, eyes wide and mouth agape, his rational thinking scattered in the gentle breeze that was supposed to soothe the intense summer heat even just a little. He was strolling to the grand garden to find his elder brother to show him how immensely his skills with the bow had improved since last time – had always both envied and admired his brother’s archery – when a gigantic shadow glided over his head and blocked out the sun. Frozen in fear, the little prince was rooted on his spot, panicking with a thought that a huge chunk of the sky was falling to the earth. Then, out of the periphery of his eyes, the dark shadow descended and revealed itself to be a magnificent beast. Its body, covered in obsidian scales, glittered in the sun, its eyes were liquid flame and there was smoke rising from its nostrils as its long, thick tail the size of Arjuna’s body was beating the ground with leisure rhythm. There was no doubt the whole garden would be incinerated with a single breath of its. So horrified Arjuna was that his awareness of his surroundings seemed to shut off and he didn’t register that the beast had grabbed his brother in its claws – big enough to completely engulfed him – and flapped its enormous wings to fly away. Only when the cacophony of screams from the guards and servants flung the palace into chaos did he finally snap out of his paralyzed trance.

His queen mother had cried her eyes out for days, abandoning all hope that her firstborn could survive such malevolent fate, but Arjuna hadn’t shed a single tear from that day on. His sockets remained dry as his hope that Karna was somehow still alive flooded his small heart and his resolution solidified: there would come a day when he slayed that sinister dragon and rescue his brother, bringing him home. Such rock-solid resolution had fueled his endless effort to perfect his skills with the bow so that in a span of eight years, he had become unparalleled in the entire kingdom. By the time he entered adulthood, he couldn’t find a single opponent in the neighborhood kingdoms. And so he believed that he was ready.

No amount of tears or threats of disowning from his queen mother could have deterred the young prince from setting off on a perilous quest to find the lair of that cursed dragon.

As he laid under the dense canopy during the nights on his journey, Arjuna had all the time to conjure several scenarios in his sleepless, flaring mind. He imagined his battle with the dragon, lasting for days without coming to a definite conclusion, where he would many times be pushed to the edge of death. He imagined his hard-earned victory that was finally achieved with a streak of luck, and himself, worn out and battered, finding enough strength in his lethargic limbs to dash to his brother, who was emancipated and weak but by a miracle still alive after ten years in captivity. He imagined wrapping his arms around that bony frame, pressing his face into Karna’s rib-prominent chest and crying his ten years’ worth of suppressed tears. He imagined his defeat, an inevitable outcome that he had been aware but not anticipated due to his burning desire to save Karna and his mortal arrogance in his skills. He imagined himself being torched alive in the dragon’s flame, his lonely scream piercing the sky while his brother could only stand aside and watch his renewed hope die. He even imagined himself reaching the dragon’s lair after unspeakable hardship along the way only to discover that Karna was long gone from this world, and that his zealous training all these years for this moment was utterly meaningless. He imagined the despair afterwards sucking away all of him until he was left a dry husk of a human.

Of all the scenarios he had constructed in his mind and then demolished to mold a new one, what he saw after climbing to the peak of a rocky mountain range was not one of them. Time seemed to have swirled back to the day he had witnessed Karna’s capture, and the young, valiant prince was suddenly replaced by the shaken and powerless seven-year-old boy who could do nothing other than staring while his brother was being taken away. His jaws dropped to the ground, together with his heart. His courage and his will to fight all fled him in one huge swoop, rendering him an empty sack where all the rice had flooded out.

What was he seeing that produced such extreme reaction?

He was seeing his brother, Karna. Compared to his memory, Karna had grown older – that was to be expected, and bigger, with some refined muscles in display where his garment, looking somewhat tattered and faded, didn’t cover. His face had lost its baby fat and gained more defining features, his jawline had gotten sharper and his cheekbones more prominent. The Karna in Arjuna’s memory had been beautiful and his beauty had straddled the line separating genders, making him an object of both covet and envy. There were more than a couple times when Arjuna had overheard the officials whispered amongst themselves how Karna’s visage was lacking the imposing assets of a future sovereign, and that it would have been marvelous if he’d been born a princess instead. Made Arjuna want to put an arrow through their disrespectful skulls every time. Karna would have made a wonderful and just king, who would have seen through their lies and deceit as though they had been transparent. No one could have convinced Arjuna otherwise.

What came as the biggest surprise was that Karna was laughing. Not a polite, close-mouthed smile he had been known to show almost everyone in the palace, his little brother not being an exception; rather it was an uninhibited laugh that put his perfect, pearly white teeth in display. And the sound… Arjuna couldn’t recall any occasion where he had heard such melodic sound; the tall walls of the palace had forbidden it, and crushed it before it ever had a chance to be heard.

He would have been overjoyed to see his brother alive and well and all grown up; he would have rushed to his side and embraced him and told him how blissful that he’d finally found him and now he would bring him home and restore his birthright as a true heir to the throne – his miraculous survival would be sung by countless poets so that it would last for hundreds of years and beyond. He did none of those; instead Arjuna stood like a stone statute, with only his eyes alive and moving to watch his brother being embraced in the muscular arms of a man. Not a man. On closer inspection, Arjuna didn’t miss the pair of sharp-looking curved horns protruding out of his wild silver mane. Nor did he fail to notice the patches of dark, glittering scales littered on bare skin or a long, thick tail wrapping around Karna’s ankle in an almost possessive manner. ‘Almost’ because the tail wasn’t acting as a shackle to keep him from moving; it coiled and uncoiled, and moved up and down his calf, mimicking a hand to caress his skin and produce his laughter. That his reserved, somewhat distant and cold brother would allow such physical contacts shook him so terribly that it took a while for the strangeness to finally get into his brain. What was this… man (that was a stretch) who possessed physical traits of both man and beast? Arjuna had never seen anything like that before, and he had never thought the existence of something as peculiar as this possible. None of the documents about magic and mystical beasts he’d spent hours perusing every day without fail had mentioned it. At least the ‘white’ documents had not. There were a couple ‘black’ ones his wise and senile master had kept out of his reach both physically and metaphorically. There was always a dear price to pay for ones who dabbled into the dark arts, he had said with a forlorn expression hinting a personal experience. Now Arjuna somewhat regretted that he had not dared to defy his master’s words.

In his startlement Arjuna had let it slip his mind that he was stepping into a supposed dragon’s lair and thus he should be cautious with every move. He stepped back unconsciously and stepped on a branch that was just inconveniently positioned underneath his soles, and the result was a dry, cracking sound announcing his unwanted, invading presence. The beast-man was instantly alert when his eyes, red and gleaming like embers, focused on Arjuna, causing his heart to skip a beat. Letting go of Karna, he stood to reveal a tall, intimidating frame with a pair of black wings as big as himself wide-spread. A pattern that resembled some sort of magic rune began from his abdomen, stretched to cover most of his chest and reached his cheek. As the pattern glowed with menacing light, sickening noises of bones cracking entered the prince’s ears and he started transforming into Arjuna’s childhood nightmare of nostrils flaring, obsidian scales glittering and eyes like two orbs of molten lava reflecting the young prince’s fear and helplessness right back at him. The dragon that had abducted his brother while he watched in silence, his blood cloyed in the overwhelming terror that he would be the beast’s luncheon, his flesh and blood and bones all devoured, leaving nothing left. His sweat-soaked recurring nightmare. His relentless pistol that kept pushing and pushing him towards his goal of slaying it. But Arjuna was no longer a green boy playing with swords and bows; he was a prince and a warrior, armed with his well-honed skills and a lethal weapon blessed by gods. So he would fight and if the gods were kind, he would emerge victorious. He took an arrow from his quiver and notched it on his bow. Already its slender body was glowing with the blue light that was signature of his power. As he aimed – but actually didn’t need to since it was impossible to miss a target of that size, he could feel his magical energy swirling around the body of the arrow like a miniature tornado, buzzing at the iron tip, aching to be released.

“Stop!”

A voice was a cool bucket dumping on Arjuna’s boiling spirit. His brother, who from the moment the beast-man’s transformation had been covered entirely by the dragon’s massive body, walked out and stood between them. With a loud ‘whoosh’, his magical energy dispersed, reverting it to a normal arrow of wood and iron that wouldn’t pierce through the dragon’s armor-skin. The position Karna had chosen was just too perfect in shielding the dragon’s heart that if Arjuna wanted to let the arrow fly, it would go through Karna’s chest first and had its powered halved, thus unable to obliterate its intended target. And with an arrow imbued with magical energy to kill a phantasmal beast… he didn’t dare to imagine what would become of his brother if he got hit.

On the other hand, it could be Karna’s intention to stand between them; he had been rather… close with the dragon from Arjuna had seen and it should come as no surprise that he didn’t want any harm done to it, even if that meant putting himself in risk. The thought that his own brother, a prince and a noble man, would be in cahoots with a beast sparked a flame in Arjuna’s heart and the sight before his eyes quickly fanned it into a fire. His throat constricted and every swallow ached. His tongue tasted acid and copper.

On the other side, the dragon appeared to be no less impatient than Arjuna himself, as its huge clawed feet continuously carved long gashes into the soft earth. Its jaws were open, baring ragged teeth and smoke escaped from the depth of its throat like an active volcano. Nevertheless, no matter how it stood there fuming, the beast had not made a move, staying obediently still behind the small human as if in the dragon’s eyes, the human somehow had acquired the status of an unbreakable steel wall. Karna caressed its snout and spoke to it in low enough volume that Arjuna couldn’t hear. Whatever came out of his lips had a calming effect on the agitated dragon, and the beast closed its eyes and rubbed its oversized forehead against his palm. The sharp scales were sure to scratch his skin but Karna’s smile was nothing but indulgent.

If only his brother had ever graced him with that kind of smile…

“Why are you protecting that monster? Answer me, Karna!” Arjuna spat, his emotions a tidal wave rolling in his chest.

The dragon grunted and it looked like it was about to charge forward, triggered by Arjuna’s emotional tone, but a small, firm hand held it in place, both literally and metaphorically. Karna’s stoic expression broke by a dash of surprise. Then in a voice deeper than Arjuna’s memory he asked, “Who are you?”

Never had Arjuna known a three-word answer could have such heavy impact on a person. He felt tears pooling at the rims of his eyes like a seven-year-old who got picked on by his elder sibling, except he wasn’t a boy and Karna had never bullied his younger brother. Closed up and always just a little out of Arjuna’s reach but not abusive; such was beyond his kind nature. Arjuna clenched his hold on the bow so hard his palm was molded after the shape of its body to keep his tears from falling. He couldn’t afford to look childish in front of his Karna, whom he had come to rescue; he wanted him to see how he had grown and that he was dependable.

The thought that Karna might not remember his brother had not once crossed Arjuna’s mind during his sleepless nights. He didn’t know from where he had extracted such confidence that Karna would always recognize him no matter how long they had been separated and how much both of them had changed; he had only had a firm belief. Now his belief came to bite him hard.

“It’s me, Arjuna,” he tried, “your brother who always sneaked out and tagged along to every of your archery training.” As he spoke, Arjuna summoned the scenes of his childhood in his head, clinging onto a faint hope that ten years in captivity had not robbed Karna off his unique ability, and that he could pick up his thoughts like he had always been able to before Arjuna even said a word. “And you indulged me, never slipping a word to Mother. Sometimes you taught me a thing or two about the bow although the bow was too big for me. You even gave me a bow tailored made for my size and strength so that I could practice. But I didn’t have a chance to show you how I had improved…”

By the time he finished what was compressed in his heart, Arjuna was painting, and his hands hold the bow and arrow were quivering. He wasn’t sure if he still had the power to shoot anymore.

The surprised expression gradually faded into realization. Karna opened his mouth but only to exhale. His piercing eyes were fixed on Arjuna’s face, trying to compare this young man’s features with the memory of his previous life, inevitably subjected to the steady erosion of time.

Ten years was indeed a long time and it took more than a few vaguely familiar traits to retrieve what was mostly lost. Yet he did catch the stream of images Arjuna had wished he could. It ran in front of his mind’s eyes like the scenes on the stages, only they were mute and featuring only two actors. A little dark-haired, dark-skinned boy tailing his pale brother, who from his point of view looked so tall, so big. The boy hugged his customized bow close to his chest, grinning so hard the sides of his mouth hurt. The boy clutched the body of the bow in his tiny arms and shot arrow after arrow at his target on a tree, never minding that his shoulders were starting to numb from overexertion…

Karna knew that boy, knew when he had arrived at this world, when he had had his first walk, first teeth, knew his laugh and his cry.

Karna knew him and the young man before him was one.

His lips moved and a name was pronounced, “Arjuna.”

To be continued

I’ve never thought one day I’d write Arjuna’s POV since he isn’t on my favorite list (mostly because he killed and beheaded Karna, who is on my favorite list; he did regret it later but his remorse won’t change the fact). And yet here I am, writing Arjuna’s POV.

Karna has psychic abilities and it will be explained in the second part.

I apologize for not focusing on one fic and finishing it.

[Siegfried x Karna] It’s Not Impossible If the Grail Is Involved (3)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: T

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, fluff, humor, genderbent

Characters: Siegfried, Karna, Arjuna, Jing Ke, original characters

Summary:

“Key words: ‘you think’, Archer. Nausea isn’t equivalence of morning sickness.”

Sequel to Sharing Warmth, A Drunken Mishap and All the Valentine’s Chocolate Combined. Sort of.

Part 3

The small contact device, whose form resembled a popular Japanese toy from the previous century, bleated like a sheep choking on hair balls. Rhys frowned deeply and shook it a few times while muttering some soft-core profanity; he still had a face to keep in front of his Servants.

“Is it broken, Master?” Siegfried asked with genuine concern. They’d be in some serious trouble if it was.

“I hope not, Siegfried. The darn thing is probably just showing its humor is all. Since I was careless and broke my device on last mission, I had to do with this junk. Ah, there it goes.”

The device beeped and flashed before a monotonous hologram was conjured. The image was grainy and shaky like something produced by a senile camera, and the person who answered their contact was…

“Huh? Where’s Davinci?” the Master blurted, surprised and kind of disappointed not to see the familiar and reassuring visage of Chaldea’s head of problem-solving center.

The image flickered as though reflecting the Servant’s annoyance on the other end. “You dare question my capability to deal with your problems, mongrel?” Gilgamesh barked, crossing his arms in a haughty pose. His sharp red eyes peered into what assumed to be the screen in Davinci’s communication office.

“No, no, no, I dare not, Your Majesty. It’s just… I didn’t expect to witness your presence here,” the Master placated. “May I ask for your forgiveness?”

“Fine, you have my forgiveness since I’m in a fair mood, mongrel. Davinci’s on a coffee break so I’m temporarily taking over to while away the time. What’s taking so long to clear this Singularity? Time is treasure, did you not know?”

“Er… we encountered an unexpected problem while working to fix this Singularity.”

Gilgamesh’s hologram arched a fine eyebrow. “An unexpected problem? How serious?”

“Mildly serious, Your Majesty.” Before the Caster reprimanded him for being vague, he quickly elaborated, “It’s not a life-threatening matter per se, but it’s bizarre and perplexing and downright inexplicable. I don’t think something like that has ever occurred before in Chaldea records.”

“You’re wasting my time, mongrel. Get to the point.”

Who just said he wanted to while away the time? “I apologize, Your Majestic. It’s probably best if you see it with your own eyes.”

Rhys held up the device for Gilgamesh to have a view of Karna, whose modesty was intact thanks to Siegfried’s cloak. Unfortunately said cloak also served as a cover to the problem – that Karna had been transformed into a female. The poor visual quality of the device certainly didn’t help much other than obscuring Karna’s newly gained feminine features.

Mistaken his frown for deep, troubled thoughts concerning the complexity and severity of the issue, Rhys gingerly asked, “May I be allowed to inquire about the problem, my king?”

He certainly didn’t expect a question back.

“What’s the problem?”

Eh?

“Are you not seeing it, my King?”

Gilgamesh’s slit eyes narrowed in a dangerous glare. “You dare jest me, mongrel?”

A huge bead of sweats raced down Rhys’s forehead to his chin. “I—I dare not, my king,” he stammered, glancing at Karna and Siegfried. “Karna, would you mind taking it off so His Majesty can see?”

Siegfried was having a troubled expression on his face but he kept his lips tightly sealed as he watched Karna taking off the cloak with all the stoicism a Heroic Spirit could muster when having to reveal his body. Still, from the look of it, Siegfried seemed to be much more bothered by this act than Karna himself.

Gilgamesh squinted his eyes – probably due to the image quality – before his eyes widened to their utmost capability for the first time in centuries. “What on earth—?”

As expected, Rhys thought to himself. “Please allow me to explain, Your Majesty,” he said. “Things can be a little… complicated.”

After a while

“And that’s basically what happened,” Rhys finished the sentence. He expected the King of Heroes to show some shock (maybe just a little) or disbelief. He even expected the king to chastise him for telling a distasteful joke (it did sound like one). Instead, what he got was a pensive look of a wise king and magic user possessing knowledge from the age of gods. Maybe this issue was much, much more serious than he had estimated, and it demanded ancient wisdom to properly deal with it.

Rhys was thinking powerful, elaborate rituals which might or might not involve pentagrams drawn in blood or human sacrifice when Gilgamesh’s voice breached the silence. “Karna fell into one of the pools there, didn’t he?”

Unsure if the King of Heroes was asking a genuine question or a rhetorical one, Rhys replied gingerly, “Yes, Your Majesty.”

“Have you checked other pools?”

Rhys glanced at Siegfried and Karna to check if his Servants understood Gilgamesh. Both shook their heads in perfect unison. Either it was something most couples could do without trying or they must have been practicing.

“I beg your pardon, my king, but I didn’t quite understand. We haven’t dared to touch the waters, any of them, should they prove to be perilous.”

Rhys heaved a mental sigh. It was always mentally challenging to speak to all three versions of the King of Uruk, which proved they were indeed the same soul at the core. The littlest Gilgamesh, although humble and sweet, was ever ready to pull a prank at his Master, which was fine unless it happened when Rhys just returned from a mission, bone-tired and neither physically nor mentally prepared for one. The middle Gilgamesh – the Masters liked to refer to him such amongst themselves – was so Gate-of-Babylon-happy that every Master, even his own, had to tiptoe around him lest them invoke his wrath and get pulverized. He had made it very clear when summoned that he wouldn’t mind having a change of Master if his current one turned out to be “unworthy” or “a disappointment”. Gulp. As strong as the King of Heroes was, Rhys considered himself lucky enough to not have gotten him. Why couldn’t every top-tier Heroic Spirit be as kind and easygoing as Siegfried and Karna? The elder Gilgamesh was the easiest one to deal with so far; so long as you showed him utmost respect and gave him treatment befitted a monarch, he would regard you a loyal subject and occasionally grant you some favors. Nevertheless, the amount of speech formality required was nerve-wrenching to someone who had never come in contact with the blue bloods before. Rhys should totally recommended it be added to the next Master 101 courses.

“A wise decision. Well thinking, mongrel,” Gilgamesh commented. “Coming in contact with the unknown may very well produce unpleasant results.”

Rhys felt a bud of pride blooming in his heart; to be complimented by the great King of Heroes was a quaint occasion, perhaps once in a lifetime, so the young Magus made sure he would—

“However, squash that caution away…”

How brutal. Rhys imagined he could hear the sound of his heart shattering.

Standing beside him, both Siegfried and Karna cast a sympathetic glance at their Master.

Either he didn’t realize or he wouldn’t be bothered with such trivial, Gilgamesh continued, “… because you need to examine those pools to determine what exactly each one could do, whether they all had the same effect. Understood?”

Frankly he didn’t. “But Your Majesty, how could we do that without endangering ourselves?”

It would be disastrous if either Siegfried or himself had suffered the same condition as Karna. Sorry buddy, it’s best you be alone in this.

The image flickered as though affected by Gilgamesh’s waving his hand in a dismissal gesture. “That you have to figure out yourself. Even though a mongrel, you are still a Master of Chaldea, who is holding a contract with several Heroic Spirits. Fail and you should know the punishment for disappointing the king.”

Such motivational words. Rhys swallowed up his coming sighs. “Yes, Your Majesty. Please allow me one more question before this contact device runs out battery.”

“Speak.”

“What should we do if our examination of the pools yields no result? If we retrieve the Grail, this Singularity will be erased and so will these pools, then what about Karna’s condition? Will he have to remain in this… form for—”

The device beeped and Gilgamesh’s projection vanished like a puff of smoke from Genie’s lamp. The three of them stared wide-eyed at the blank space where the device lied without a care in the world.

Shit.

To be continued

[Siegfried x Karna] Tale of a Dragon (2)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: T

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, fluff, humor, AU

Characters: Siegfried, Karna

Summary:

He was a dragon that wasn’t a dragon. A freak in the form of another species mixed with dragon traits. An abomination. A subject of shame and loathing. A total outcast. Naturally, there would come a day when his own mother would banish him from her den for eternity.

Entirely on his own, the young dragon hybrid met one of the humans who had been hunting his kind for gold and treasure since forever. However, this human seemed too small, too fragile that it probably posed no threat to him. It was a child.

An odd child.

Part 1

Two days had passed like a short dream since his mother left him on his own. At this moment, Siegfried was crouching in front of a cave he had found by chance. To call it a cave was being over-generous, for it was just a little bigger than a hole in the rock, too cramped and too damp for a dragon to occupy so Siegfried knew he would soon have to find another cave, wider, drier and having enough space for a growing dragon hybrid to stretch his limbs, provided that he could survive this environment. He hadn’t figured out the climate in this land but two things were pretty clear: one, the climate was vastly different from where he had lived, judging by the botanical life; and two, it was in winter, judging by the snow blanketing the landscape.

For dragons, snow was bad news; even the strongest of them wouldn’t fare so well in the dipping temperatures. Every seasoned dragon hunter should know they would never find a single dragon in regions where snow, together with the biting cold, accompanied winter. And that was exactly where his mother had dropped him – an area where winter was reigning and the sterile white of snow and ice was dominating the color palette. It pricked his heart to be reminded of his mother’s animosity toward his existence even when they had parted and would likely never see each other again.

Nonetheless, a metaphorical prick in the heart wouldn’t kill him right away, but hunger would. For two days he had only had a meal, and it had been meager at best – a skinny hare that had lost its way and died in the snow. The animals here were far too skilled in hiding from him than him at hunting them. At this time, with his stomach groaning audibly, Siegfried couldn’t help chiding himself for being such a failure of his kind, hailed as the emperors of all predators. His mother and kin had had every right to detest him and cast him aside.

As if self-deprecation could fill his belly than he would gladly do it on a daily basis. The thing was, it couldn’t, so Siegfried just mentally heaved a little sigh. Clenching his stomach so that it almost touched his spine, he took in as much air as his lungs allowed. Then he let out a breath of fire on the ice surface beneath his bare feet. Yesterday he had made a discovery that there was a pond in front of his little dwelling, only that it had been frozen. It had sparked some hope in him that there might be some fish he could catch, and the young dragon had been trying to melt the layer of ice.

Several cracks appearing on the mirror-smooth surface brought a wide grin to Siegfried’s face, so wide it actually hurt. Yet his joy was relatively short-lived. That he himself was standing on thin ice hadn’t crossed his mind until it was too late: the ice under him gave in to the heat of the flame and Siegfried’s weight, and with a loud yelp, the young dragon was dumped into the freezing water.

While the threat of drowning was non-existent as the water level only reached his waist, he could die of the chill before he counted to twenty. His luck truly was out of this world, thought Siegfried as he fished himself out of water, his small body shivering violently like a hushed leaf in the autumnal wind. He coughed dryly, the feeble flame immediately extinguished once it left his mouth. There was frost in his nostrils, making his breathing a laborious and hurtful task. His heart thumped arrhythmically against his rib cages.

He wanted to cry, tears hotly brimming the rims of his eyes. They didn’t roll down his cheeks however, as he bit his lips so hard to restrain them he tasted copper on his tongue. He no longer had a mother to cry to, not that he had ever had, and crying now only served to exhaust him quicker and push him one step closer to imminent death.

So deeply wallowing in his troubles that Siegfried hadn’t picked up the light footsteps approaching him.

“Hey, are you okay?”

A voice had severed his wrecked train of thought and caused all the scales on his body to rise. His first instinct was to scramble back but the muscles in his legs had become rigid, and so the sudden momentum resulted in him falling on his bottom. Great, now even his butt was numb.

“Are you okay?” the voice repeated with more concern.

The first thing came into Siegfried’s sight was a pair of feet clad in brown leather boots with some sort of fur lining their necks. The young dragon looked up in curiosity and examined the speaker. His guard dropped a little.

It was a human standing in front of him. Although Siegfried hadn’t truly encountered a human in his short life, he had seen enough to make a speculation on the age: this one wasn’t a mature specimen and by its height and look, Siegfried could speculate that it was around the same age as him in dragon years. The gender was harder to guess though, the round, soft face with huge eyes and pink lips constituting a sense of androgyny. Siegfried had heard that a human’s appearance didn’t always denote the gender, especially the young ones – children in their language. What terribly strange creatures they were.

A human child was unlikely to pose any threat to him and even if he did, Siegfried could at least manage an escape. Nonetheless, he wasn’t too naive to not consider the possibility that this child was not alone. The adults might be lurking around, waiting to launch a surprise attack. He eyed the human child warily, his wings flapping in slow motion to shake the frost off the skin and help the blood circulation. He prepared himself to take off any moment.

“You’re shivering,” the child asked. “You’re cold, aren’t you?”

To Siegfried’s bafflement, the child squatted down, his red, extra-fluffy cloak pooling around his feet and making a stark contrast with the snow-covered ground. The color was striking, and Siegfried was reminded of his mother’s mighty red flame.

Cautiously the young dragon dragged his foot a few inches back when it was almost touched by the glaring red cloak as if he was afraid it would singe his bare skin. It was absurd, even he was aware, but it seemed his subconsciousness was one step ahead of his rational thinking. “Isn’t it obvious?” Siegfried scowled, trying to sound intimating despite his teeth clattering. His effort apparently failed because the human child’s big pale eyes blinked at him, unfazed.

“Aren’t you afraid of me?” Siegfried’s voice had lost a great deal of the strength he pretended to have, leaving it a denouncement of his current miserable state: starving, freezing and absolutely vulnerable. Even the flimsy hope that the child would be scared away by his appearance had vaporized as fast as the breaths leaving his chapped lips.

The child blinked again – it seemed to be a habit more than anything, and extended his hand to touch Siegfried by his cheek. His first instinct was to squat the hand, but the warmth from the skin uncovered by any fabric – odd, he thought – was so tempting that instead of backing off, Siegfried leaned in, even nuzzling his cheek against the palm, giving no thought about the small patch of scales near his eyes scratching the child’s silky skin. It was funny how the child’s hand was so warm despite it had probably been out in the cold for a while, but again he couldn’t say he possess much knowledge about humankind. It could be attributed to humans being hot-blooded though.

Later Siegfried would be mortified to learn that his reaction was typical of an animal receiving a common affectionate gesture from its owner known as “petting”. Karna, the child – a male one, or boy in human language, was quick to assure him that it wasn’t petting but Siegfried was stubbornly unconvinced.

Karna tilted his head slightly as his hand moved from Siegfried’s cheek up until it touched the silver mane, small, nimble fingers tangled with unkempt locks. His face sported an inquisitive look as he stated matter-of-factly, “You have ears just like me, and your skin, for the most part, feels soft. But you also have horns and scales and wings, and your eyes are slit and glowing…”

Growing impatient with the child’s description of him, Siegfried growled and caught both his hands which were attempting to reach Siegfried’s horns. Horns were a dragon’s pride and he, despite being only a disappointment of a dragon, would be damned before he allowed a puny human to play with them.

Surprise dominated Karna’s features but for a few seconds before that was soon transformed into a precocious look unbefitting his age. “You don’t like your horns being touched, I get it. I won’t.”

“Shouldn’t you be afraid of me?”

It was as clear as daylight the human wasn’t.

“Why should I be?” Karna replied, blinking again. “You don’t look a threat to me.”

“I’m a dragon,” Siegfried snarled, trying to show his tiny fangs, which he never knew could be considered ‘cute’ by some humans. This child’s fearlessness was irking him. “I can crisp you or devour you or tear you apart. Or do all three at the same time.”

“You can breathe fire?” Karna asked with a gleeful tone, Siegfried’s threat likely censored to his hearing. “Show me, show me.”

What’s wrong with this one? This was nothing like what his kin had told him about the humans. Humans, in spite of being small and weak, were extremely cautious and cunning, and they would unlikely approach a dragon with such bizarre audacity this child had been displaying.

He wouldn’t admit he was motivated by the absurd need to prove himself to a puny human. As a dragon, he had a pride to keep, even if that meant he had to grant a childish request. He sucked in a cold breath and slowly breathed out, his mind summoning the flame from within his core as he felt the heat spreading through his chest, getting more intense by the second. That’s it. He opened his mouth wide to release a dragon’s fury. Nonetheless, instead of a flame, what he had was an embarrassingly feeble puff of smoke.

“That’s smoke, not fire.”

This child might have a habit of stating the obvious.

“I’m hungry, alright?” Siegfried petulantly rebuked, the smooth patches of skin on his cheeks reddening.

And freezing and exhausted and frustrated and alone. The list went on and on.

Karna wordlessly untied the bow under his chin and took off his fiery red cloak. He then draped the cloak around Siegfried’s shivering shoulders and meticulously tied the knot. Siegfried instantly felt the familiar warmth that had once nurtured him, protected him, lulled him into sleep before his egg hatched and he was flung to the cruel, cruel world. Moreover, the warmth didn’t come from the thick fabric alone but there were traces of magecraft intricately woven into each thread making up the garment. They were very faint but he could detect them nonetheless, being a species sensitive to all sorts of magic. This discovery made him see this human child in a total new light. Could it be that he came from a family of sorcerers? That seemed a possibility since he didn’t shy away from making contact with a dragon hybrid as a normal human kid should. Could it be that his family was nearby, hunting rare beasts?

The thought of fleeing rose again, but his legs were still numb and clumsy and the warmth was irresistible. He doubted he would make it very far in a chase.

“My name is Karna. What is yours?” the child asked.

Such a strange name. But again, Siegfried had landed on a strange land.

“Why should I tell a human my name?”

A dragon’s name was a key to ride them, a condition for submission, and he would not give it up so easily.

The child blinked, his lower lip slightly sticking out in a pout. “But I tell you my name.”

“I didn’t ask for it.”

Siegfried was very pleased with himself for such a smart rebuttal, even more so by Karna’s tears swelling up in his winter-blue eyes.

He didn’t let them fall, however; instead, he put the punnet he’d been carrying since he met Siegfried on the snow-covered ground. He unwrapped the cloth on the top and steam rose, together with an enticing aroma that had Siegfried’s stomach growling like a beast on its own right and his mouth watering. The dragon hybrid had no idea what was inside the punnet; he just knew that it had to be food and right now food was what he needed the most.

“I’ll give you one if you tell me your name, maybe two,” Karna said, holding a soft-looking oval-shaped piece of dough that Siegfried wasn’t sure what it was exactly but it smelled good enough to make him drool. Then, Karna’s condition sank in and his insides got a jab. Humans were wicked and cunning creatures; they wouldn’t give you something without expecting something else in return. Even a child was no exception. See how quick he was to take advantage of Siegfried’s state and strike a bargain? But no, Siegfried wouldn’t fall for this trick, tempting as that might appear. Besides, what good was that steaming brown piece of dough anyway aside from the smell? If only Siegfried could catch some fish then he would be fine.

The young dragon firmly shook his head.

“A pity,” Karna sighed. “Then you won’t complain if I call you ‘Hornie’, right? Because of the horns.”

Siegfried huffed, earning himself a chuckle from the human. He certainly didn’t expect Karna to thrust that piece of dough into his hand. “I’ll give it to you even if you refuse to tell me your name. I can’t eat that much anyway.”

“What is this?”

Karna’s eyes widened. “Oh, you don’t know what it is? It’s a bun, freshly baked. Our baker Mikael puts in some hazelnuts for extra-crunchiness. It’s delicious. You should try it.”

“What is a baker?”

“You don’t know what a baker is? He’s the one to bake bread and other delicious cakes and pastries.”

Siegfried eyed the thing in his palm with suspicion. Should he consume it? It could be poisoned or laced with some tranquilizing potion to subdue and capture him – such tales were not unheard of. But he was so famished he would perish without having food anyway, probably even faster than being poisoned. In the end, his hunger triumphed over his paranoid thoughts and he took a large bite. The outer crust was slightly crunchy and filled his mouth with a nutty flavor, which Siegfried was surprised to find not all that bad. The flesh inside was warm and fluffy and left a lingering sweetness at the back of his tongue even when he had swallowed the bite. He couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten something warm and soft; his daily meals had always been cold and chewy since most of the fleshy parts had been consumed by his siblings, leaving only the bones with bits of sinews and charred meat clinging to them. On a lucky day, he could break the bones and suck the marrow but those days had been few and far between. With such a diet it was no wonder he had been undergrown. With tears blurring his vision, he swallowed the rest of the bun.

“I have more if you’re still hungry,” Karna said, offering yet another steaming bun. He must have noticed the wetness in Siegfried’s eyes.

Siegfried wordlessly wolfed down the bun and the next, and the next. By the time his stomach was relatively full and his hunger had been pushed back to a safe distance, he had consumed nearly everything in Karna’s punnet, leaving only two smaller buns, one small apple and a couple red berries.

“Wow, you’re such a big eater,” Karna exclaimed with genuine admiration. “You’re going to grow up very big and strong. That’s what my nanny often says.”

Siegfried huffed. He didn’t believe a word from this human child. He had always been the runt of the litter and his siblings, well fed and cared, had been growing much bigger than him. Moreover, given his hybrid nature, he would never surpass them in size and strength.

But, even so, he would grow up to be bigger than an average human being, that was no doubt. Take this Karna child for example. Judging by his look, he appeared to be given enough food to eat, and yet his height was inferior to Siegfried, malnourished and undergrown. As if to prove the theory going inside his head, the dragon stood up straight, towering over the squatting human child. The loose knot came undone and the cloak slipped from his shoulders to bundle at his bare feet. With the warm food nestling in his belly, Siegfried found a new energy flowing through his limbs, washing off two days’ fatigue; rapid recovery was a perk of being a dragon. His legs no longer felt so numb and his wings, creating small winds with their flapping, were ready to take flight.

He was ready to do just that when he suddenly felt his tail grabbed by a hand, causing him to shudder.

“Hey, don’t fly away yet.”

Siegfried turned around to a plump face whose notable features were eyes sparkling with moisture and lips forming a pout. Siegfried knew he shouldn’t feel that way, didn’t have to feel that way – after all he had begged for neither the cloak nor the food – but somehow despite his reasoning, he couldn’t help a feeling of guilt tugging his heart like that tiny soft hand tugging his tail.

Not letting go of Siegfried’s tail, Karna stood up and indeed, he was shorter than the dragon by a head.

“Don’t go away yet. It’s just… you’re the first kid who isn’t afraid of me and talk to me.”

Siegfried looked the child up and down. Again and again. He squinted his eyes and raked his dragon brain to find something remotely scary or freaky. He found none. What could possibly induce fear in this skinny little human? His androgynous face framed with white hair like a snow fox’s fur? His huge, trusting eyes showing no fear of a predator? His pale, unblemished skin? His small hands emitting only faint traces of magecraft? He looked entirely human, no mixed traits of another species. Siegfried didn’t get it.

“I’m not a kid,” Siegfried rebuked, choosing not to voice his other thoughts. “I’m not human so you don’t scare me.”

Karna’s eyes lit up as he beamed, squeezing Siegfried’s tail, eliciting a frustrated growl from the young dragon.

“Can we be friends?”

“No.”

Siegfried didn’t know what ‘friends’ meant but his instincts told him it was a human thing and if it was a human thing, the answer would be a crisp ‘no’.

“Please.”

“No.”

Once the second ‘no’ rolled off his tongue, Siegfried made another mistake (he seemed to have made one too many today): instead of just flying away like he had intended, he paused and waited for a response from the child. Why? He couldn’t fathom. What he got was a pair of watery eyes fixing on him as though he was the biggest, meanest bully in the world. There was no other times that he cursed his human part more than at the moment. Dragons were never seized by the grip of guilt; nor should any true dragons feel bad for bringing tears to a human child. Siegfried wished the same could be applied to him. Unfortunately, it was the opposite.

How those eyes reminded Siegfried of a dragon hybrid, weak and mistreated by his siblings and unable to seek protection from his mother. How many times had he himself looked at them with helpless tears in his eyes and earned not sympathetic but scornful glares?

“Don’t cry…” he said weakly, feeling the tears brimming at his eyes. The earlier determination had faded from his voice.

“I’m not crying.”

“There’s snot running from your nose.”

Karna sniffed. “I’m not,” he denied, stubbornly childish even when he was wiping his nose with a finger. “I’m going to have to travel deep into the woods to train with a mage there. But I’ll be back in a day. You will be here when I return, right?”

Siegfried really didn’t wish to argue with a human child, no more than he wished to see him weep. On the other hand, a dragon didn’t give their promises on a whim, for promises were a géis to their species. He told himself to keep his mouth shut with a thin hope that the child would be put off by his silence and give up. Humans were easily discouraged, or so he had heard.

Unfortunately, this peculiar child took his silence for agreement and squeezed his tail, making Siegfried jump with a surge of pain. Growling, Siegfried snatched his tail back with more force than necessary.

“I’m sorry,” Karna said sheepishly. “I’m going now. See you later.”

As he went up the trail ahead, Karna kept waving at Siegfried until he became a small dot and disappeared.

He didn’t make promise to not leave here and wait for Karna, Siegfried told himself, but it wasn’t like he had somewhere else to go, being a stranger to this vast land. The cave would shelter him and maybe the fish in the stream would fill his belly for a while. The thought of food made him unconsciously lick his lips, reminiscent of the warm, fluffy texture of the buns. Maybe if he stayed here, he could have another chance to eat them, and he would take his time to savor the taste.

And…

It seemed Karna had forgotten his cloak. Hadn’t he felt cold? Strange. Siegfried picked up the cloak and draped it over his shoulders, feeling the hum of energy dancing across his skin, fighting off the chill.

To be continued

[Siegfried x Karna] Tale of a Dragon (1)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: T

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, fluff, humor, AU

Characters: Siegfried, Karna

Summary:

He was a dragon that wasn’t a dragon. A freak in the form of another species mixed with dragon traits. An abomination. A subject of shame and loathing. A total outcast. Naturally, there would come a day when his own mother would banish him from her den for eternity.

Entirely on his own, the young dragon hybrid met one of the humans who had been hunting his kind for gold and treasure since forever. However, this human seemed too small, too fragile that it probably posed no threat to him. It was a child.

An odd child.

Part 1

Siegfried was, by his kin’s description, a total failure of a dragon.

From the moment he broke his eggshell to arrive in this world, Siegfried had been an oddball, pun somewhat intended, considering how he had looked a bit like a scaly ball. His mother had laid nine eggs at that time, and while the other eggs had turned out perfectly fine – beautiful baby dragons with colors varying from grey and dark green to crimson, Siegfried’s egg had been an exception. Not only had his egg hatched several days later than schedule, the infant dragon had come out in a form that wasn’t exactly draconic: while he’d had the standard traits of his kind – curved horns, wings and a long tail covered in scales – the rest had belonged to another species. How such a bizarre thing could have happened had been beyond everyone; still, to all of them it could have been nothing more than a bad omen. Siegfried’s skin had been pink and smooth, with only a couple scaly patches littering his shoulders, back and thighs. And while the majority of dragons were hairless, Siegfried had been born with a head of long silver mane. The moment the eggshell cracked and he emerged from within, his wide turquoise eyes eagerly drinking the scene around and his infant brain absorbing the overwhelming information like a sponge, his dragon kin gathering in anticipation to welcome their newest member had panicked and shrieked. His eyes had distinguished his own mother from the rest easily enough as it was every baby dragon’s instinct, and when his gaze landed on her, keen to imprint on her image, he had only found disappointment and wrath vivid on her features. It had scared him so badly all he had wanted was crawl back into his broken egg and never face the world – mostly his mother – again. Hell hath no fury like a dragon’s scorn, his young brain had understood that much. The fear that his own mother would devour him had been palpable.

In the end, his mother hadn’t chewed him up, much to Siegfried’s relief. Yet she had not paid him a morsel of her attention either. While she had always made sure his older siblings would go to sleep with a full belly, Siegfried had been left to pick up the scraps, hunger constantly gnawing the inside of his stomach. She had turned a blind eye to his siblings bullying him on a daily basis while Siegfried, thin and malnourished and only part-dragon, had had no way to defend himself. Growing up, he had gradually learned that the reason for his abnormal appearance had been the curse of some human sorcerer. Humans were a weak and nasty species and amongst them, sorcerers were the nastiest. The fool had traveled far and wide to his mother’s lair to slay her because apparently slaying a fearsome dragon was the quickest and surest way to gain fame and fortune. Before being barbecued and never spoken of again, the sorcerer had laid a curse on her, which his mother had not paid any mind to until the birth of a half-dragon, half-human hybrid from one of her eggs. Such a weak, obscure curse yet one so sinister; she had made a fatal mistake by underestimating the wicked nature of the human species.

However, Siegfried’s appearance had not been the only reason for his kin to look at him and snarl. Not only had he looked very human, he had been acting very much like one, his draconic characters suppressed to maximum. In the beginning, a couple of his relatives had pitied the youngling neglected by his own mother, and they had taken it upon themselves to teach him some basic skills, like how to magnify his flame and roast the enemies – and food – the quickest or how to build his own lair, how to sniff out the gold in the earth, accumulate his treasure and guard it against the prying humans. To their dismay, he had failed almost every aspect, with the only exception being his green flame, which barely passed the average standard – another shame as compared to his mother’s, surpassing even hell fire. Even worse, he had even failed to see how essential these skills were to his long life ahead, his line of thinking crooked and foreign to a dragon. For instance, he had failed to see the purpose to hoard up gold in his lair; unlike humans, dragons had no need for precious metals, and guarding a great treasure only guaranteed the attention of those greedy crawlers. Hadn’t his great-grandfather been decimated by a so-called hero, who had then bathed in his blood to steal his powers? Hadn’t his mother been close to death a dozen times trying to protect both the treasure and her children against humans? Why did they have to make life so hard for themselves, Siegfried had wondered, and made a grave mistake of voicing his thought. Unable to straighten his thinking after a while, his few sympathizers had given up on him, going back to giving him icy glares.

Dragons in general were cold-blooded creatures, which was a fascinating paradox considering they could breathe fire from their throats and slumber on a bed of lava. Familial love and such seemed transient and pale in comparison to strength and territory. Tales of dragons devouring their younglings or young dragons feeding on the flesh of their parents were not unheard of. During his first years, Siegfried had been living under constant fear that one day his mother would be fed up with an anomaly like him and get rid of the eyesore in one swift bite. He could only thank God when it finally happened, his mother had only cast him out of her lair instead of making a quick meal out of her son.

Siegfried had woken up one humid morning to a steel-grey sky, which was already bad omen to dragons in general. Looking up to shapeless patches of clouds, he felt a sense of dread filling his heart. Dragons were considered magical beasts, and one of their innate abilities was being very in tune with the flow of nature, one a hybrid like Siegfried was lucky to not have lost. It had been later confirmed when his mother just wordlessly grabbed him with her claws. In fear of invoking her wrath he had not dare to ask. He gritted his teeth, feeling his little heart jumping to his throat. To north she had flown, over vast forests and winding rivers and rocky mountain ranges, until she had reached a faraway alien land. She had dropped him in a woods with a few crisp words that he would be on his own from then on. It wasn’t until her gigantic figure had become a small dot in the sky had the bitter realization sunk in his brain: his mother had severed their slim blood tie and banished him from her lair, and should he ever step into her territory, he would undoubtedly face her flame.

A normal flame would never harm a dragon. A dragon’s flame, however, was another story.

Looking at the strange nubiferous sky and then at the unfamiliar surroundings, Siegfried had had suppressed both tears and a sigh of relief.

To be continued

[Siegfried x Karna] If We Close Our Eyes

IMG_5999

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: K

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, AU

Characters: Karna, Siegfried

Preview:

“I was in some sort of pool, afloat though I don’t know how. But instead of water, it was some dark and viscous liquid much like mud. And it was boiling, although I wasn’t burnt. It was hard to describe; the heat was there and I felt it – terrifyingly real for a dream, as I recalled later. I wasn’t burnt in the sense that my skin wasn’t blistered and come off or anything; rather, I was melting, no, the right word should be dissolving.”

Sequel to Till I Break You

Karna stirred and opened his bleary eyes to the burning sunlight flowing through the open window. He squinted his eyes out of reflex and grimaced, until a figure blocked the sun and provided the much-needed shade.

“You were kinda drooling on the textbook, you know,” a familiar voice said, and a hand handed him some tissues.

Karna lifted his head and caught sight of Siegfried’s face. His lips were slightly curling at both ends and he was having a Slurpee in his other hand. His long hair was tied back in a high ponytail, his tie was loosened and the top button of his white shirt was undone.

Spring was receding rapidly to make place for summer and the weather was getting hotter by the day. Along with the heat came the conclusion of their semester and the long-awaited summer vacation.

Karna consciously touched the corner of his lips and found no traces of drool. He shot Siegfried a glare but snatched the tissues nonetheless. Just in case.

“Stayed up late last night?” Siegfried asked, sitting down on Karna’s table, which earned a reprimanding look from Karna. It wasn’t that Karna disapproved his act; Siegfried had done it countless times before, and Karna was fine with it. Mr. Steinfield, however, wasn’t, and he was more than happy to give Siegfried a detention should he catch him.

Siegfried shrugged and didn’t budge.

Karna nodded. “Got into a fight with Arjuna last night over moronic things.”

“How moronic?”

“Video games. Someone was being a sore loser.”

“So you had a hard time falling asleep? You often do when you two fight.”

“Not this time though,” Karna bleated, pillowing his head on his arm. What he would trade for a real pillow right here, right now. “I… was having a nightmare. When I woke up, it felt like I hadn’t slept a wink.”

He motioned his hand for Siegfried to share the Slurpee with him, which the other student did. Siegfried was even thoughtful enough to bring the straw to his lips. “What was it about?” he asked.

Karna lazily took a long drag of the refreshing cold drink. Wild cherry huh? Siegfried’s favorite while his was watermelon but wild cherry wasn’t too bad. The sweet coolness on his tongue dispersed somewhat the cloying mist in his head and soothed his rampaging headache. “It was weird,” Karna began. “I was in some sort of pool, afloat though I don’t know how. But instead of water, it was some dark and viscous liquid much like mud. And it was boiling, although I wasn’t burnt. It was hard to describe; the heat was there and I felt it – terrifyingly real for a dream, as I recalled later. I wasn’t burnt in the sense that my skin wasn’t blistered and come off or anything; rather, I was melting, no, the right word should be dissolving.”

“Dissolving?” Siegfried echoed, wincing. “As in acid sulphuric?”

“Uhm.”

“Sounds horrible. It had to be excruciating.”

“The thought was, yes, but I wasn’t in pain. In fact, I felt almost nothing. Weird, huh? Could feel the heat but not the pain. I thought that too, until I realized I had no lower body and no limbs. Only my head, neck and shoulders connected to a torso. And I knew, without having learned how, that soon what was left of me would dissolve—”

“Okay, okay, okay, stop right there before that image burns into my head.”

“That’s not the worst of it,” Karna said, half irritated because Siegfried cut him and half amused by his reaction. He was too sleepy and lethargic to decide which was dominant. “The same dream came back just a few minutes ago.”

“A recurring dream huh?” Siegfried wondered, stroking his smooth chin pensively. “Maybe your subconscious was trying to tell your something.”

“Looks who has just become Sigmund Freud,” Karna deadpanned.

“That’s Fox’s major, not mine, along with horoscopes. Wanna meet her after school and consult her?”

“I want to go straight home and sleep until tomorrow,” Karna replied, yawning dramatically audible. “Maybe the day after tomorrow.”

Furrowing his eyebrows, Siegfried looked down on Karna’s I’m-a-lazy-cat form. “Then I suppose our date is canceled?”

Karna’s half-lidded eyes shot open. “What? What day is today?”

“Friday.” A beat. “And my parents are out of town until next week and yours by the end of the month.” Another beat. “I got pizza and Netflix and PS4. Just enough to last us through the weekend.”

Karna’s eyes shone the brightest this entire morning and afternoon. “It’s not canceled,” he protested. “Just let me snatch some shut-eye and I’ll be good.”

Siegfried beamed triumphantly. “But didn’t you just say you wanted to go home?”

Seeing through his taunt, Karna pouted. “Between Arjuna’s spicy tantrums and his bland curry – same thing this whole week – and Netflix and pizza, I’ll go with Netflix and pizza.”

Siegfried arched an eyebrow. “You don’t mean Netflix and chill?”

Karna gave him a hard pinch, almost sending the other student off the table. Despite that, Siegfried was laughing so hard his eyes were brimming with mirthful tears. His laugh was contagious and Karna found himself laughing along.

“Anyway, just forget that weird dream and take a nap,” Siegfried said. “I’ll wake you up when break’s over.”

“Don’t get too bored doing so,” Karna replied, resting his head on his folding arms.

Mouthing “I won’t”, Siegfried looked around the class. Once he had made sure they were definitely alone, he bent down to place a light kiss atop Karna’s spiky head. His heartbeat quickened, excited by the prospect of spending the whole private weekend with Karna.

With his eyes shut tight, the corners of Karna’s lips curved into a smile as he tried to do as he’d been told, pushing that horrible nightmare to the far corner of his mind.

… along with a tidbit of truth he had withhold from Siegfried so as not to worry him: he wasn’t alone in that dream, because Siegfried was right next to him…

… dissolving.

Karna stirred and opened his bleary eyes to the purple sky that stretched far beyond his eyesight. The sun was present in the sky yet he felt none of the familiar assuring warmth from the sunlight, for the sun was not the blazing wheel of his father’s chariot but a gigantic black hole outlined with ominous light, from which dark mud continuously poured down the vast sea under. Hot and cold engaged in a continuous battle, each with its own ferocity.

Soaked in lethargy, Karna let out a feather-soft sigh and attempted to move his limbs, only to be sharply reminded that they were no longer attached to his body. Already dissolved in this sinister mud, their presences a lingering phantom in his fading memory. It would be a matter of time before the rest of his body and his consciousness succumbed to the same fate.

“You awake?”

The familiar voice was a gentle breeze that dispersed some of the soupy mist in his mind.

Coming into his sight was a face of doleful horror: where the skin had been smooth and adorned with the light pattern indicating the powerful dragon blood was now charred and falling off, partly revealing the teeth. The other half of the face, unmarred and still retaining its handsomeness, was masked by unspoken sorrow and agony.

Karna wished he still had a hand – just one hand was enough – so that he could press his palm against Siegfried’s cheek and hope to ease away the sadness and pain he had endured.

“I was dreaming,” Karna whispered, forcefully taking his eyes away from the horrific wound on Siegfried’s face while they were being magnetized towards it. It wasn’t its grotesqueness that shook him; rather it was the jarring truth of whose hand had inflicted such cruelty: his own. “It was a bizarre drea—”

His speech stopped short when his gaze landed on Siegfried’s shoulders. His usual armor had been stripped off, and in Karna’s sight was a blood-crusted stump. “Your arm…” His breath got stuck in his lungs, pressed down with incredible pressure.

“Ah,” Siegfried let out a sigh of resignation. It made a weird soft wheezing sound through his wound. “It’s only inevitable. My only regret is that now I’m unable to hold you with both arms.”

Jabbed by the sharp pain clouding Karna’s irises, he quickly added, “It didn’t hurt at all, only a minor discomfort, the nagging feeling of phantom limbs.”

He cut himself short, realizing Karna probably knew it all too well; after all he had been submerged in this dark mud long before Siegfried.

“Tell me about your dream. I want to hear it.”

“It was a… strange dream,” Karna began. “It wasn’t a nightmare, no, maybe it was but let’s say it wasn’t a nightmare in the conventional sense.”

“How strange?”

“It was… peaceful and normal and these two alone were the telltale signs of bizarreness.”

“Because peaceful and normal do not apply to us Servants?”

It was a question that came out of his mouth but his tone indicated a statement.

“We were humans in that dream. Not just you and I but Tamamo, Kiyohime and every other Servant we’ve acquainted. Humans living human lives, going to school, fooling around, having fun.”

“That sounds…… tempting,” Siegfried sighed.

It took him a while to find the word, and the courage to voice it.

“It was… beautiful. Sunlight pouring through the wide-open window, enveloping me in its pleasant warmth, like Father’s large hand softly patting my head, my shoulders. So beautiful that it was terrifying.”

“Can we Servants even dream?”

“If it wasn’t a dream then what was it?”

Silence, only the bubbling of the mud to fill the space.

“Another world, perhaps?” Siegfried said, at last.

“You mean a parallel world?”

“Yes. I prefer to think there is another world out there where we are humans. Maybe there are myriads versions of us.”

Karna temporarily shut his eyes, contemplating Siegfried’s theory. It fascinated him, excited him even, to imagine himself and Siegfried as humans as in his dream. Humans who weren’t heroes having to shoulder the weight of saving an incinerated world. Humans who led their lives as carefreely and ignorantly as humans could.

“Perhaps there is,” he replied, his tone hinting a sliver of joy. “It was blissful to be able to catch a glimpse of such a dazzlingly peaceful world.” A pause. Long enough for Siegfried to start pondering if he should interrupt his train of thought or wait. “Is it selfish to wish to be in that world even for just a few moments?”

“It’s a little odd hearing the selfless Hero of Charity claim to have a wish,” Siegfried teased. “Might take a while for me to get used to it.”

Karna managed a smile and even a gesture as small as that seemed like great exertion. His time was probably not long. The next time he closed his eyes, perhaps…

“I didn’t have a wish when I was summoned,” he said, “and then I met you. I wished to fight side-by-side with you for as long as our time in this world allowed. And now…”

“And now?”

“I only wish to be with you, even though it seems impossible now.”

“It’s not impossible. I’ll be with you till the very end.”

As if to assure Karna as well as himself, he kissed him on the lips, which had become even paler than normal and long lost its warmth, together with the rest of his body. What he was holding in his arms resembled a cadaver, with almost no life left in it.

“And I with you,” Karna said. He felt warmth and moisture on his cheek, and was unsure whose tears they were.

“If we were ever summoned again…”

“If we ever were summoned again…”

They said in unison and their sentences were cut short almost at the same time because Karna had closed his eyes. With that his body disintegrated into thousands light particles.

Karna stirred and opened his bleary eyes to the sounds of plastic bags being rustled. One glance at the window told him that dust had already settled in. The sky was dyed a purplish color and the sun was a half ball of dimming light disappearing behind the countless houses and buildings. The temperature had become a bit milder with the soft breezes scented with the faint smell of roses from the garden one story below. The honking of vehicles echoed from the distance. He straightened his back and sat up from his half-sitting, half-lying position on the couch. He had always loved this couch in Siegfried’s living room – so fluffy and comfy that once you sat down, you never wanted to stand up. In front of him Siegfried was busy laying the boxes of pizza, fries and drinks on the coffee table. It seemed a bit too much for the two of them; luckily they were both big eaters.

“Caught a nap?” Siegfried asked, opening the boxes of pizza to reveal a Seafood Deluxe and a Pepperoni Superb. Steam was raising and an enticing aroma fought off the scent of roses to fill the living room. Despite the uneasy feeling in his stomach, Karna felt his mouth water at the sight and scent. His appetite was catching up to him.

“Yeah,” Karna replied, ruffling his spiky hair. His hair was probably sticking in all directions but he couldn’t care less.

“I just went out to grab some drinks, just in time for the pizza delivery guy to arrive. Here.”

Siegfried opened a coke can and handed it over. Their fingers brushed and Karna received it with silent appreciation; his throat was often very parched after waking up. The cool liquid quickly washed away his thirst. “I was having a dream,” he said.

“Don’t tell me it was that dream again. If you keep having the same dream like that it’s really worrying.”

“I’m pretty certain this is the last time it visits me.”

“Why?”

“Well, the ‘me’ in that dream died. No, more like vanished or erased. I’m not so sure what that was supposed to be. His body became countless spots of lights and disappeared. Anyway, I knew that ‘me’ no longer existed.”

“That’s disturbing,” Siegfried commented.

“It was a just a dream, nothing more. And I want a slice with that juicy prawn.”

“Right,” Siegfried said, handing Karna what was seemingly the biggest slice. As for himself, he took a piece of pepperoni pizza. “After dinner, what’s the plan? Netflix or game?”

With his mouth half-full with pizza, Karna said. “We still have to decide who’s gonna clean up and take out the trash. That means game.”

“Oh? Is that a challenge? Alright. Game on.”

Karna shrugged and finished his slice, savory and chewy. Just the right kind of junk food to soothe his hunger. As he stretched his arm to get another, he tried to temporary push the last vestige of his dream to the back of his mind: the look on Siegfried’s scarred face while watching Karna turn into particles of light. He had a hunch that look was likely going to haunt him for some time before the memory worn off.

End