Part 5, in which there is tonsil hockey and childhood memories.
Spoilers: None. All this "history" was made up by us.
A/N: Part 5 of Nameraka nagara Kami-Yasuri (it finally got a name!), which makes it the sequel to Kizuato. We decided to give Alfeegi a break. He's going to need it. . .
Lykouleon sometimes wondered if people really noticed when he was gone. Indeed, the only time others seemed to care if he left was if there was some crisis in his absence. Half the time, the only person who even noticed he was gone was Alfeegi. He loved his people, he truly did, but he was no good at the day-to-day running of the kingdom. He didn't understand why he had to compromise some things and just say no to others, why some trades must be protected and why some urgent problems had to be put on the back burner, or any of the thousand other little details of administrating an empire as large as his. His dragon officers were so much better at it than he was. Take Tetheus, for example. He was giving the same report on the state of the standing army he had given every quarter for as long as he had been in charge of it. Word for word and everything. Only the numbers ever changed because whatever came up, Tetheus promptly dealt with. They didn't really need him.
Maybe if he got a body double. . .
His train of thought was interrupted by a faint, unfamiliar sound from a room off the hall he was walking down with the black dragon officer. He only had time for a quick peek as he walked by, and only eons of politeness ingrained into him kept him from doing a double take. It shouldn't have been surprising. After all, it was nothing he hadn't done himself. But he was married. Ruwalk wasn't. So why was he playing tonsil hockey in his office?
More importantly, who was he playing it with? Blue ponytails were not normally seen. Especially on men. And, as far as Lykouleon knew, the number of men with blue ponytails currently in the castle that would be even categorically interested in his best friend was exactly zero. It could be someone from the city, but he highly doubted it, simply because he couldn't remember the last time Ruwalk was out of the castle. Then again, he reminded himself, just because I didn't see him go out doesn't mean anything. Lykouleon frowned slightly. It stung a little, not knowing if his friend was involved with someone else. It really wasn't any of his business, but that thought didn't make the sting go away.
Tetheus noticed that his lord wasn't paying any attention. Normally he wouldn't have minded, but it was pretty blatant and it was the third time today someone had ignored him. For the lord to make it so obvious, something must have deeply perturbed him. Probably Alfeegi and Ruwalk, he thought. He doubted that the Dragon Lord disapproved of the relationship but the lord didn't look to happy. He cut his report short and asked, "Is something wrong, sir?"
"Ah. . .no. Please continue."
Tetheus would have smiled if it wouldn't have been rude. "I finished it, sir."
"Oh, yes, so you did."
The black dragon officer rolled his eyes. The other man was definitely mentally somewhere else.
"Why didn't he tell me?" Lykouleon muttered under his breath a few seconds later, clearly thinking out loud.
It clicked then. Alfeegi and Ruwalk had plainly not told anybody. Dumb idea, that. It could only lead to trouble. So when they had seen the couple, the Dragon Lord hadn't been able to identify Alfeegi and was now feeling all depressed because Ruwalk hadn't told him anything.
"It was Alfeegi."
"It was Alfeegi. With Ruwalk. They were kissing."
"What?!" Lykouleon said, then mentally slapped his forehead. It made sense now. While there was nothing wrong with it, in his opinion, not everyone agreed. Of course Ruwalk wouldn't want to tell anyone, not after what happened before. . .
My favorite thing to do was to sneak out of the castle. I enjoyed the challenge and the freedom I earned by meeting it as only a royal personage could. The best part, though, was the privacy I got. In simple, worn clothing, nobody looked at me twice. Except for girls. Girls almost always looked at me, and I truly enjoyed flirting with them because I knew they were flirting with me and not my rank.
I was looking forward to having some fun that night as I slunk down a back alley. Not really watching where I was going, I bumped into someone accidentally. "So sorry. . .Ruwalk?! What the hell?"
"Hell" was a pretty accurate description of the other boy. So was "loser in a fight with a good-sized mountain."
"The old man kicked me out," he said dully.
"Well, that's obvious," I grabbed him by the arm and steered him towards the castle's kitchen door. Weren't you supposed to put meat on a black eye?
Ruwalk smiled. Or grimaced. It was hard to tell. "No, he really kicked me out. Told me to never come back and everything."
I stopped dead, at a total loss for words. I noticed that Ruwalk was shaking under my hand and I threw my arm around his friend's shoulders. "Come home with me," I suggested, "and I'm sure you can go back home in the morning. Day after at the worst." Knowing Ruwalk's father, it would be the day after Judgement day before he admitted he had done wrong and let Ruwalk come back home. "What'd you do, anyways? Did he find out about Kaeru?"
I tried to think of anything Ruwalk could possibly have done that was worse than their unauthorized, unsupervised and expressly forbidden trip to the other city. "Worse than Kaeru? Did you do something and not tell me?"
"Remember the girl your mother tried to set me up with?"
"Ruri, right? Nice girl. Pretty, too."
"Yeah, I thought she was nice. So nice I had to tell her why I couldn't marry her." Ruwalk said bitterly. "She told my mother."
"Oh, man," I didn't know what to say. "Jeez."
"Ma was in rare form," he continued, "Going on and on about decency and shame and how I was going to kill her. At least she gave me the benefit of the doubt first. Dad didn't even do that when she made him kick me out." Ruwalk stopped, but I noticed the catch in his voice anyway.
"I hate them."
There wasn't really anything to say after that, so we walked the rest of the way home in silence. He didn't say anything until I handed him the pilfered key to an out-of-the-way bedroom. "Thank you."
I hugged him then. I couldn't help it. He was my friend and he was in trouble and that was all I could do. He cried quietly into my shoulder for a few minutes while I mumbled some meaningless vague things.
His mother must have sent a note to my mother first thing in the morning because no-one questioned Ruwalk at the breakfast table. My mother did, however, ask him for a word afterwards. I found some excuse to hang around outside the door until he came out.
"Well?" I demanded. "What'd she say?"
He looked like someone had killed his puppy and I assumed the worse. "She said I might as well live here now, seeing as I was going to in a few years."
"That's good news," I said encouragingly.
"Not really." I blinked at him. "It means," he said sounding like he was trying to not strangle me, "that I can't go home. My father won't let me unless I get married. My mother has to be behind this."
For the first time in my life, I actually hated someone. What kind of people would kick their own child out of their house for being honest? It wasn't like he was really a demon or anything. They were just being intolerant and asinine, probably feeling betrayed because their little golden boy tried to live his own life.
"Hey," I said. "This is your home. You can always come back. No matter what, I promise."
"Oh, man," Lykouleon said, unconsciously reverting to the outdated slang of his youth, "his parents are gonna flip."