Inard looked at the woman leaning on him. He softly sighed, and then gazed at the moonlight overhead. Before he was captured, he never imagined living with a dragon. He thought he was doomed to die; he never thought he’d be holding the sleeping dragon in his arms.
The dragon didn’t need much, but she seemed very satisfied. It was evident she had never experienced it before, so he managed to get her to sleep with just a couple of tricks. She didn’t want to let him leave from the start. The desert was her territory; she could detect all of his movements, so he knew it was impossible for him to leave the desert. He assumed he had to live there forever.
Inard thought living with the dragon wouldn’t be so bad. The dragon wasn’t as violent as he imagined. In fact, she could be considered gentle and considerate. She found a place to take shelter from the winds in the centre of the desert. She travelled great distances to bring water back, to make him a small pond and even planted trees for him. She did everything she could to keep him despite having every means to lock him up. She also did her best to convince him to develop a fondness for the place so that he’d be happier living there. She wasn’t just after a commodity to relieve herself with.
“I guess she really does want me to become her family. She believes the reason I’m so miserable is because I’m lonely. If I had a family and a lover, I wouldn’t feel lonely. I’ve lived with her for some time; she’s no longer a wild beast to me. To the contrary, she’s just a lonely young girl. I feel an odd sense of redemption and obligation with her. I don’t know when, but I stopped plotting an escape. Instead, I was worried she’d be despaired if I did. I’ve stopped caring whether or not I die or whatever else. What I’m now worried about is if she’ll feel lonely. After all, lying on a boulder must be very lonely. It’s the only boulder around in the desert, and she’s the only dragon nearby to the elves. The struggle in this desert isn’t hunger but loneliness,” Inard thought to himself.
“Thou not sleep?” The Dragon in Inard’s arms opened her eyes.
He gave her gentle pats on her back to calm her down. Though she could ensure Inard couldn’t escape, she was still afraid. She wasn’t afraid of him running away, but that she couldn’t keep a single man in spite of all of her efforts. She wanted to keep somebody to keep her company. She didn’t want a slave but a family member, which was why she tried to please Inard. She didn’t want to let him leave. She was truly afraid; she didn’t know how to be nice to him. If she couldn’t keep him despite her best efforts, she would be overcome with despair. She genuinely felt she was bound to never have family members. If all of her efforts couldn’t win his heart, she was out of ideas.
Inard patted her back. She probably thinks I’ll run away at night if I don’t sleep, he thought. He caressed her skin and calmed the panicking young girl. He softly said, “It’s all right; I was just thinking to myself.”
“Stop!! I do not allow thou to think!! I do not allow thou to!! Thou must be thinking about how to escape! I forbid thou from thinking! I shall fulfil thy wish. Thou are not to think!!”
“She misunderstood me just as I thought,” Inard said to himself.
Inard hopelessly smiled. He leaned in to kiss her lips, and then tightened his arms around her. The young girl softly moaned, and then began to clumsily respond to his kiss. Nobody taught her how to kiss, but the dragon was very assertive and craved it. Therefore, her kiss didn’t feel good. She thought that putting her tongue in his mouth was enough and the deeper the better. That was why kissing with the dragon didn’t feel good. However, the Dragon really enjoyed the warmth of skin contact. Perhaps the warmth of another could reassure her. They eventually separated. Inard whispered, “I don’t want to run. I really didn’t think about running. I was just thinking about the future…”
Confused, the Dragon repeated what he said, “The future?”
The dragon was slightly baffled. For her, the concept of the future might be something very distant, but for Inard, it wasn’t very far away. An elf had a very long lifespan, but from the perspective of a dragon, it was a weak life that ended in the blink of an eye. Alas, the naïve dragon before him was unaware of that. Inard knew he’d never be able to leave if he didn’t escape, but he was already mentally prepared for that.
Inard rationalised, “I fail as a father. I like my son, Troy, but I’m full of guilt toward him. I’ve turned my innocent infant son into a boy with berserk mana. He was originally healthy and cute, but he’s going to have to live a life of suffering, because of me. I’ve even started to hate my own power. My magic seems almighty. In reality, it only curses my family with pain and suffering. I’m not a King who is convincing in the opinion of the people, either. My sister far surpasses me. I have caused my own son to suffer, and I’ve lost my lover forever. I have lost everything of mine in the elven lands. I lost everything that I value as a man a long time ago…
If I disappeared a little sooner… If I could’ve disappeared a little sooner… what happened afterwards, wouldn’t have happened… My sister could’ve become a qualified ruler sooner, and Troy would be a normal child. All of this was my fault. I desperately wanted to prove myself, only to hurt my family. If I stay here, however, I can give the dragon my time to save her from loneliness. As opposed to saying that she uses me to save herself from loneliness, perhaps I should say that I found my purpose in life here with her.”
Inard answered the question with, “Uhm, I’m thinking about whether or not I can protect you in the future.”
“Protect… me?” asked the Dragon.
Inard tried to scratch his head to reduce the awkwardness. He just blurted his thoughts. He felt arrogant after saying that. He realised, “She’s a true dragon, not the foolish Earth Dragons. She’s a pure descendant of the esteemed dragons that have roamed this continent since ancient times. I’m a failure of an elf, and yet here I am blurting out that I’d protect her. I’m so arrogant that it’s laughable.”
The dragon didn’t mock him with laughter. She reached her hand out to hold his hand that was somewhat smaller than hers. She looked at Inard’s hand and, in a quiet voice, said, “Protect me… That is the first time I have heard that… There is almost nothing that I cannot destroy, but I cannot protect anything. Thou are the first to say that. I am very happy. Very happy.”
Though she said that, she didn’t reveal a smile. Perhaps it was because what he said made her feel a little anguished.
“So, let me protect you,” stated Inard.
Inard decided he might as well go through with it. He pressed his hand on her head. Puzzled, she raised her head to look at him. When she took on her dragon form, her entire body that was covered in scales was invulnerable to all magic. However, in her human form, her head was the one and only spot that wasn’t covered with scales. Inard took in a deep breath. He looked at her and cast his magic.
The spell that Inard was talented with was Time Reversal. His spell allowed him to return the state of something back to a certain point in time. There were many ways for him to use it. The spell was the one he was proficient with and a one and only skill that he had. He didn’t have the absurd mana purity Vyvyan had, but not even Vyvyan was capable of employing it with his level of proficiency.
“This is…” mumbled the dragon.
“This is all I can do for you,” replied Inard, with a soft laugh. He stroked her head and, with a smile, elaborated, “You know, I’m actually a failure of an elf. I failed to protect what I should’ve protected. I failed to protect my nation, my sister, my wife and my child, but I have you with me this time. This time, I want to protect you properly. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but you can rest assured. When you’re in danger, I’ll appear by your side to protect you no matter where I am or what I’ve done.”
Perplexed, the dragon touched her head. She felt Inard cast magic on her. It was a simple matter for her to undo the spell cast on her, since magic could be erased using blood with higher mana purity. The dragon didn’t remove it, though. Her instincts as an animal urged her to remove the spell of unknown origins, but she didn’t, for she was more willing to trust the elf in front of her than her instincts as a wild beast in the moment.
In her subconscious, the dragon thought, “I never knew what spell he casted, and I never bothered to concern myself with it. My life didn’t change, either. He later on died in front of me. This was the last thing he left with me. I was very careful to not erase the gift, besides his time, that he gave me.”
That was why the spell had always lasted until then, when his son came to search for him.
She, previously, didn’t understand what Inard said, but she finally did. She tried countless times to see him again. She thought he’d return when she was in danger, but she never succeeded in bringing him back. That day, however, I finally succeeded. Nevertheless, the one she saw wasn’t him.
Inard cast Time Reversal on the dragon. The activation condition was her death. She died, thereby triggering the spell. She travelled back to more than ten years ago, but he was no longer around…