Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 39/39: Repeat

Kunal opened his eyes and looked at the world with marvel. Everything was new, everything alive. He checked his whole body and smiled at its composition. He touched his smiling lips and giggled at the moving facial muscles. He stood up and fell down, stood up again and slowly learned to walk, and walked towards the table in front of him. The table was not huge but it looked good enough for some writing and it had a pen and a paper on it as well. Kunal sat down on the chair and picked the pen.

The pen was blue on the outside and had blue ink as well. Kunal scratched and scribbled with the pen a few lines and realized that he didn’t know anything further. He looked around and saw a couple of books on the right side of the desk. He picked the one closest to him and opened it. There were several scribbles on the pages of the book along with the shapes that those scribbles denoted. Overjoyed, Kunal started turning the pages of that book, learning what each of the scribbles meant and sounded. He kept moving from one book to another as his vocabulary increased. He learned that each of these scribbles can be combined to form words which can be spoken through sounds.

Kunal opened his mouth to make the sound that was expected according to the book. He looked around to find a way to verify and saw an instrument which he promptly switched on. Sounds started to flow from the instrument which consisted of the words that he had learned just now. He started practicing them and within a few hours, he was speaking the language.

“Beautiful,” Kunal said hearing a particular melody and sang along. He picked up the pen again and copied the scribbles from the books. Initially, he failed but soon, he was able to copy them exactly as the book suggested. With joy, he started scribbling down one word after the other. His wild imagination creating characters and beings that he had never heard about or seen but he could feel them in himself and he tried to put each and every one of them on the paper.

One word followed by another word, Kunal continued writing with hand and then looked at his creation. Unimpressed, he tore the paper down and went back to listen to the music and words to learn more about them. He focused on the meaning of the words and then went deeper on what more can they denote. Hours went by and he continued to read, listen, talk, and write. After many torn papers, he looked at a single piece of paper and nodded.

“Perfect. Finally, something that I will enjoy reading tomorrow. Maybe, I will continue the story and see where these characters go.”

Kunal kept the paper gingerly on the table and put his pen on it.

“Act as a paperweight and don’t let this story go anywhere. I’ll meet you tomorrow my little tale,” Kunal said fondly to the piece of paper and went back to bed. He closed his eyes and went deep into slumber.

“He’s asleep,” a voice whispered through a mic and a few people started gathering around the room. A sleeping gas was passed in the room and the door of the room was opened.

A couple, now in their fifties walked slowly towards their son and sat by the bed. The doctor came and sat next to them and started measuring the medicine.

“Is there no way?” the mother asked the doctor, for the hundredth time.

“I wish there was mam. This is the only medicine that keeps him alive.”

“But can it not be given to him every alternate day? Or at least, can we not meet him when he’s awake.”

“You can meet him but he won’t recognize or even understand you, sir. You know that.”

They knew. They tried that initially but the blank eyes that stared at them were more painful than looking at their son from afar. A nurse used another syringe to pass nutrients to Kunal’s body. The food in the room was also replaced with fresh food. Some days, he would recognize that his body needs food, while other times, he would forget about food completely.

“How long? It has been two years doctor.” Kunal’s father asked.

“He’s showing signs of improvement. He is learning the skills faster. But unless his disease goes away completely, we can’t take the risk of stopping.”

Kunal’s parents nodded. Two years ago, their son fainted and didn’t wake up for six months. His brain fluids, which were supposed to relieve him and create long-term memories had started acting in a weird cleaning mode and started eating his brain. On further checkup, it was identified that if this continued for a few more days, he would collapse completely and die.

The only way was an experimental medicine that was to be injected every night when Kunal went to sleep. The fluid would stop eating the brain and feed on the fluids injected. Unfortunately, as a side-effect, his brain would wipe off itself from all the memories. The doctors guessed it was due to a reaction between the medicine and the cranium fluid.

Every morning, he would wake up as a newborn. No pain, no experience, no memories. It was not difficult for him to learn anything as his muscle memory was still there and his brain was still the brain of an adult. According to the doctors, it was also possible that the memory wipe was only superficial and Kunal might recall everything in a few days if his brain wasn’t doing the everyday cleaning.

In the initial days, they would leave the place as it was the last night but Kunal wouldn’t identify anything and would simply tear away the papers before starting afresh. It was hard for him to value the stories until he learned to speak and write which usually happened by late afternoon.

His mom and dad started picking up these stories every night from his desk and kept them as souvenirs – proof that their son was not gone, even if he was far from them. They even published some of them and they had found success – both fame and money. Despite his illness, Kunal was still earning enough money to take care of both himself and his parents. Kunal didn’t understand that or even know that but his parents hoped that one day, this cycle will break and their son will find out that he is a beloved author.

Someday!

The room was cleaned and everyone got out. Kunal’s parents went to sleep at their house which was nearby. The next morning, they were back, looking at their son who was just waking up.

Kunal opened his eyes and looked at the world with marvel.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 38/39: Encore

Monica heard the screech ringing in her ears and turned to see the dragon just a flick away from her. The dragon swiped its tail and Monica was thrown away with Alara falling out of its reach. The dragon moved towards Monica, its pace increasing with each passing step. Alara was towards the dragon and if she ran towards it, she will definitely be devoured by the dragon but if she ran the other side, she may never be able to reach Alara. Monica had a split second and she made the decision. She ran towards Alara picked it up and pointed it towards the dragon which was one chomp away from eating her and shot.

The bang of the gun woke Monica up. She realized that she was sweating and she picked a tissue to wipe herself. She was also hungover from the drinking last night.

‘Not the same dream again,’ she jaded herself. It had been almost six months since that incident but she would get the same nightmare at least once a week.

“Not a dream, a memory,” Monica said to herself. She checked her mobile and it was almost morning. There was one message from Kane from last night.

‘Is the sober you a better decision maker?’

‘Not really. :P’ Monica replied

‘Do you remember the conversation we had last night?’

‘Yeah. I may have forgotten everything else but I’m surely going to remember that. Lol!’

‘Still no?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Cool. Lunch?’

‘Okay.’

Monica had met Kane a few weeks ago through a friend. Last night, he had asked her out and she had said no. She was not ready to date right now.

“Not in the right place,” she said to herself. Monica got up from the bed and went to her bathroom. She looked at the mirror and couldn’t help but smile. ‘Kane is crazy,’ she thought and picked her toothbrush, and put it under the automatic toothpaste dispenser. This small piece of technology had been marvelous to her and she loved it. She went to her kitchen and picked up some bread and juice for breakfast.

Monica was thinking about her dream when the doorbell woke her from it.

“Rachel! What are you doing here?”

“I woke up early and was missing you so came here. What’s up? You look dead.”

“Yeah. Last night had a bit too much to drink and woke up with a hangover.”

“And a bad dream, I suppose.”

Monica nodded. Rachel knew everything. She and Monica had been buddies for years and it was hard to lie to someone with whom you had shared a gun, let alone two.

‘Hey, Monica.’ Alara said after being neglected for some time.

“Hey, bud. How are you?”

‘I’m good. Thank you. We just slew a dragon.’

“Shhh… No work talk right now.”

“It’s fine Rachel. I gave the dragon hunter life willingly. I don’t miss it at all. Trust me,” Monica said raising her arm which was not holding the juice glass. It started from the shoulder joint but ended in a stub just before the elbow. She had been able to shoot the dragon but before dying, it was able to bite off her arm which was holding Alara. ‘Still better than dying,’ she had said to herself then and every day since then.

Rachel nodded.

“What about joining M.A.I.D. again?”

“I thought about it but I think I’m done with the whole gunslinging thing for a while. Just want some peace.”

“Peace?”

“No guns, no Godzillas, no guys.”

Rachel laughed and Monica joined her. Rachel and Monica had met one the first day at M.A.I.D. around four years ago. They joined together and worked on many missions together for two years before Monica was chosen by Alara to be its guardian. For two years, no bullet or knife could touch her, she wasn’t ever caught, and she finished almost all her assignments but dragon-hunting was a different level. For one and a half years, Monica diligently fought dragons of many shapes and sizes before meeting the one small and fast one six months ago. A meeting that left her without her one arm.

Monica decided to pass on the mantle to Rachel and for the past six months, she had been trying to heal and adapt to this new life.

“What’s the plan for lunch?”

“Meeting Kane for lunch.”

Rachel looked at her mischievously, a look she immediately shot down.

“Remember what I said – no guns, no Godzillas, no guys – for some time.”

“Then why lunch?”

“He asked me.”

“And?”

Monica realized that she didn’t give it any thought.

“Food is food,” she said to Rachel hoping she’ll believe it.

Rachel shrugged. “If you need to get out, ping me.”

“Perfect.”

Monica met Kane for lunch and before she knew, more than three hours had passed with both of them talking about random things on random topics. Monica liked that he didn’t gaze at her missing arm like other people did, including Rachel at times. She told him as much and got the weirdest reply she had ever heard.

“Of course. Too narcissistic to look at anyone else.” Kane said and continued the original conversation.

Finally, after hours, he dropped her at her home.

“A couple of more hours and we could’ve had dinner too,” Kane said as Monica got out of the car.

“Yeah. But I think you’ve had enough of me for the day,” Monica said.

“Not even close, but I know the sentiment is not reciprocated,” Kane said and stuck his tongue out at Monica. Monica laughed and stuck her tongue out in return.

She entered her home and started to change clothes. An activity that she never thought about six months ago. After a bit of jumping and wiggling, she managed to change into her comfortable clothes and ordered some food. She had started to order her dinners now. She had enough money from her M.A.I.D. days and she had started to appreciate the things that eased her life now.

She dozed off on the couch while watching a movie with the pizza on the table. The dream was back. Monica fought her hardest but like the reality, the dream also ended up with the dragon biting her arm and her waking up with a scream.

“Twice in a row. That sucks!” Monica said, wiping her face. “And my body is now aching from sleeping on the couch,” she groaned. She turned and twisted to improve her pain and checked her phone. It was dead.

“Urghh!” Monica went to her bedroom and put it on a wireless mat. Once she rebooted it up, a message blinked on it from Kane.

‘Reached home. Good night.’

Monica checked the time. It was around 1 am. She replied.

‘Sorry. Dozed off. Good night.’

The phone blinked again. Monica checked.

‘Still certain?’ The message said.

Monica smiled.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 37/39: Protégé

Amar was getting tired. This was the longest he had spent in this dimension and for once, he was afraid.

“It’s taking too much time,” he stuttered.

‘I know. This is one strong dragon.’ Alara responded.

“I don’t understand. We have killed dragons ten times as big as this one.”

‘I don’t know.’ Alara said.

In front of them was a dragon with a torso the size of an elephant. On first look, Amar had considered it a five minutes job. He had been a dragon hunter for almost three years now and he had become quite good at it. It wasn’t unusual for him to defeat more than one dragon at a time as well. This was the first time, in his mind, that he was truly struggling.

The dragon had black scales and had a smaller wingspan than other dragons of its size. However, the dragon was quite fast and was able to turn and get off the ground in almost a heartbeat. This had made Amar’s main hunting strategy redundant. Usually, the dragons needed some time and boost to get off the ground due to their bulky size. Amar would utilize this time to injure them and ensure that they were ground-bound. If they remained grounded, it wasn’t too hard to eventually get a shot in their weak areas.

The smaller dragons had to come close to Amar to attack them, even with their fire which made them vulnerable to his gun – Alara. Their skin was also not tough enough to handle Alara’s magic-laced firepower.

This black dragon was different. It got off the ground almost immediately and it could shoot fire from a large distance. To make matters worse, he was on occasion able to through a ball of plasma which was much hotter than the fire itself and much more accurate, and at least two times, it managed to attack Amar with lightning. The lightning wasn’t as strong as the original one but it was still enough to shock Amar to the core. Even Alara was shaken.

“How do we defeat it?”

‘We keep fighting until it gets tired and comes back to the ground.’ Alara suggested.

“Haven’t we been doing this for the past thirty minutes?”

‘The dragon has stamina.’ Alara said plainly.

Amar groaned and continued dodging the dragon’s fire and plasma attacks while trying to shoot it with Alara. With the dragon’s flying speed, it was hard to get a good shot, and even the ones which had hit most had either hit the scales which wasn’t too bad for the dragon. Painful? Perhaps. But not lethal. The rest had grazed off without making any impact whatsoever.

“You think we will survive this dragon?”

Alara didn’t give any response which didn’t improve Amar’s confidence.

“How many dragon hunters have died before?”

Alara gave no response.

“What happens when a dragon hunter dies? Tell me Alara.”

‘If you die, we will go back to the Earth and I will start finding another human being as quickly as possible and then come back to attack the dragon again.’

“Oh Wow! That’s dedication.”

‘The dragons never rest. Neither can I.’

Amar dodged another fire attack and fired at the dragon. The dragon was hit but didn’t show any sign of weakening. However, it did slow down a bit in its flying which enabled Amar to get more hits on the target.

The dragon wailed and its screech filled the void. Amar closed his eyes for a brief second to handle the scream and when he opened them, the dragon had vanished.

“What happened?”

‘It went back! It’s rare but I think the dragon decided to go back to its realm. We can go back as well.’

Amar sighed with relief.

Amar and Alara came back to Earth at Amar’s house. It was empty as Amar moved to start living alone when he got Alara.

“Tell me Alara. What happens if you die? You can be destroyed, I presume.”

‘I don’t know. Perhaps there are other weapons as well and the next one will take my place. The work is never-ending.’

“Whosoever made you really gave it his all. So much dedication and so little ego.”

‘I suppose I have the advantage of knowing my purpose. I don’t have to think about what to do next as I’m driven by my goal and purpose.’

“Nice jab, Alara. Let’s assume that my purpose is to kill dragons, the same as yours.”

Amar picked his phone and called his friend Jonah.

“Hey, buddy. Can we meet today?”

“Sure. Lunch?”

“Cool. Meet you in an hour.”

“Cool.”

‘You think he knows something.’

“He’s a phoenix. If anyone knows about that dragon, it’s him.”

Amar and Jonah met at lunch and Amar immediately told him about his tryst with death.

“You’re joking!” Jonah said on hearing about the dragon, almost choking on his water.

“You’ve heard about it.”

“Yeah! It is called the Black Death and is the leader of the dragons. I’m impressed that you even survived the encounter.”

“Yeah, the three years of experience helped me survive.”

“Yeah. Maybe.”

“So, is there any way to kill it?”

“There must be. We haven’t found it though.” Jonah replied. “Black Death is a legend. In fact, I’ve also only heard about it. I think there are only perhaps a handful of living Phoenixes who have seen Black Death and only one alive who had actually fought and live to tell the tale.”

“Aren’t you immortal?”

“Yeah. We can live a long time and we can come back from planned death by being reborn with our memories. But we can be killed. It’s hard but it can be done. And Black Death has done it more than once.”

“Woah!”

“What do I do?” Amar asked.

“Frankly, I don’t know. Perhaps I can come with you but I’m not sure if that would be enough.”

“Do you know any other phoenixes who might be interested in helping?”

“Nope. I doubt anyone would risk facing the Black Death.”

Amar nodded. He understood. He had faced Black Death and even though he felt that his attacks were hurting the dragon, he was nowhere close to being at even footing with the dragon, let alone winning.

“Can I suggest something?” Jonah said.

“Yeah.”

“I think you should pass Alara on now.”

“Why?”

“If Black Death comes back, I don’t know what will happen. Let someone else deal with it.”

Amar smiled.

“We both know what will happen. But I can’t let anyone else take the burden. Not when they will need time to train. Not when there is an unkillable dragon around.”

“Can you start training someone right now?”

“That’s an interesting thought. Alara?”

‘It hasn’t happened before. Whenever a previous dragon hunter had trained the new one, it was only after passing me over.’

“But it can happen, right?”

‘I can be handled by only one person at a time. So, the new person can practice everything but he or she won’t be able to use me till either you die or you officially pass me on.’

“Gotcha!”

“Alara said it can happen with a lot of caveats.”

“Great! Let’s find you a protégé then.”

“Yeah. Hopefully, I will be able to pass this gun without dying.”

‘Unless Black Death comes tomorrow.’ Alara said.

Amar laughed.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 35/39: Two’s a company

“Hey.”

Mick looked up. A girl in her 20s was looking at her with a faint smile.

“Hey,” he said with a return smile. It wasn’t often that a girl would come to a guy directly in a bar.

“Is this seat empty?” The girl asked.

“Yeah,” he said with an inner glee. Then he remembered and his heart sank. Even if she liked him, there wasn’t much he could do about it.

Mick had died a couple of weeks ago. His soul had decided to stay around the body and while he couldn’t enter the body and revive himself, he was able to hold it and use it to enact, almost like a zombie. The first two days after that had been great and he decided that he will continue to live on like this. Then, his body started to show signs of deterioration. He realized that his body’s functions that were protecting him from bacteria and other microorganisms had stopped functioning. His heart wasn’t pumping blood and he was definitely not going to last. He decided to complete some final tasks – taking care of his parents’ finances, ensuring that his brother was off his ground, finishing his will, etc. before he leaves his body. It had taken two weeks to get everything done and each passing day had been harder than the last. At this point, he was just a hollow shell with skin preserved through chemicals. Mick had decided that tonight was the last night and thus, he decided to come to a bar. Alcohol isn’t going to do any good to his already dead body and would destroy a multitude of cells that will never regenerate. But he wanted to drink once more before he died.

The girl sat down in front of him and gave him a smile. She had a glass filled with ice and plain vodka or tequila if he had to guess. He could never judge a drink and with transparent drinks, he was just lost.

“I haven’t seen you here before,” the girl said. She was wearing a tall skirt, almost like a gown.

“Yeah. I don’t come to bars and pubs often,” Mick said. In truth, he had not come to a bar in a couple of years. The alcohol was cheaper to buy in a market and he preferred organizing parties at his home.

“Oh. I love parties and pubs,” the girl said with a visible change in her mood. Mick scolded herself for blowing his chance and then scolded himself for forgetting that he had no chance.

‘Mick! you died because of alcohol poisoning you idiot. If anything, you should tell this girl to reduce her drinking.’ Mick thought in his mind, remembering how he checked the first day on how he died. The only logical conclusion was either bad alcohol poisoning or overdosing on alcohol, which basically meant alcohol poisoning. The night before, they had partied harder than anything he had ever seen. Of course, if his death was discovered, the next morning would have been a damp one but that didn’t happen and all his friends left the place happy. Hungover, but happy.

“Good for you,” Mick said and focused on his drink. It was a mix of every drink possible. It tasted horrible but he wanted to drink everything once more. He had taken a pint of beer on the side as well just so that he could wash this horrible concoction with ease. Thankfully, he could feel all the sensations in his body albeit he had to focus on them now. For example, he could lose a limb and not feel it if he didn’t focus but he could feel his body being eaten alive by flesh-eating bacteria on his right thigh, right now. He tried to kill them twice daily so that his body could remain in shape but by night, they often restarted within twelve or so hours.

The girl sat there quietly for a couple of minutes, probably waiting for Mick to say something but he didn’t bother so she started again.

“Please tell me you aren’t the quiet type.”

Mick smiled. He realized that death had definitely changed him. From the shutter box that he was called earlier, he was now deemed a quiet type.

“And why is that?” Mick asked. Her curiosity in him had piqued his curiosity in her.

“I think you would be a really interesting guy to talk with,” the girl said.

“Really! And why is that?” Mick asked.

The girl giggled for straight fifteen seconds before answering.

“Because in all my life, I have never seen a guy whose ear fell off and he didn’t notice,” she said and bent down to pick an ear. She held it to Mick who immediately recognized it as his own, a feeling confirmed by his hand which couldn’t find his right ear on his head.

He looked at her scandalized. ‘It doesn’t matter. I’m dead anyway. It doesn’t matter.’ He repeated in his mind but his soul was panicking at this point. He didn’t even know that souls could panic.

“Don’t worry. I’m not letting your secret out,” the girl said with a genuine smile.

“Thank you!” Mick said and hid the ear in his pocket.

“When did you die?” The girl asked.

“How did you know?”

“When?”

“Two weeks ago.”

“You are holding up quite well for a two weeks old dead body.”

“Not really! This is frankly the end of the road for me.”

The girl laughed.

“I was joking, you idiot. You are in terrible shape.”

“What?” Mick said looking at her confused.

“First thing. Stop drinking alcohol you idiot. That is bad for a dead body.”

“This is my last day. I’m planning on leaving tonight. I can drink whatever I want.”

The girl rolled her eyes.

“Were you this idiot when you were alive or has death decreased your IQ points?”

“Huh!”

“How did you die?”

Mick looked down, ashamed.

“How?”

“Alcohol poisoning.”

The girl’s eyes widened.

“Urghhh. If you weren’t the only dead guy around,” she said loudly, “and so frigging cute,” she whispered.

“Come with me.”

“Where?”

“To teach you a few things about life after death.”

“Like what? And who are you?”

“Like when you are out partying, drink water mixed with ice, which is also water. No one would know,” she said showing him her glass.

His eyes reflected the shock he was feeling.

“You… you… you…”

“Don’t act as if you have seen a ghost. Or at least the first ghost.”

“Since when?”

“Three months.”

“Woah!”

“Yeah. If you take proper care, you can have a normal life. At least for more than two weeks.”

“Okay,” Mick said hopefully.

“What’s your name? I’m …”

“Wait! Don’t tell me your real name. Let’s keep this interesting. Tell me a random name you can think of right now.”

“Uh. Okay. My name is Pongsathorn. And yours?”

“Selina.”

“So, Selina. Now what?” Mick asked as they came out of the bar.

“Now, I teach you how to live when you’re dead,” Selina said with a grin and a twinkle in her eye.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 33/39: A dragon-hunter, a phoenix, and a contract killer walk into a bar

“Nice gun.”

Patrick looked up and saw a guy in his mid-30s looking at him with a pleasant smile. Patrick nodded at him and looked away. Today, he was not in the mood to chat.

The guy brought two beers and sat in front of him.

“It looks like it was passed on to you by someone,” the man continued.

Patrick nodded again without touching the beer.

“Have you ever used it?”

A third nod followed by a fond memory that gave him a brief smile.

“Tell me about it.”

“You are persistent.”

“I’m happy today. On a six weeks break. And I want to share that happiness with you,” he said. “By the way, my name is Damien.”

“Patrick,” Patrick said and picked up the beer.

“So, when have you used it?”

“Let’s just say I killed a dragon with this gun,” Patrick said with a grin.

“Oooh,” Damien said waving his hands.

Patrick knew Damien didn’t believe him but he didn’t mind. It would be harder to explain to him that there is an alternate dimension where his gun Alara takes him where he fights dragons which are vicious and intelligent creatures who are trying to come to Earth.

“Should you keep such an important gun in the open like this?” Damien continued when Patrick didn’t say anything.

“The gun wanted some open space. Besides, I don’t think anyone would steal an old gun.”

In truth, Alara will return to him no matter where he goes. As long as he doesn’t willingly pass it on to someone or he dies, Alara is going to return to him automagically.

‘Not hard for a sentient gun,’ Alara had said when he had dropped it and ran away from it.

“What do you do?” Patrick asked Damien.

“Well. If you are killing dragons then I’m a contract killer who works for a private organization,” Damien said. He was telling the truth as he worked for an organization called M.A.I.D. and has killed people before but he didn’t see the need to lie as he knew Patrick wouldn’t believe it.

“Interesting. And how many people have you killed before?”

“Five. In fact, that’s why I got this break. To relax after finishing an assignment.”

“Congrats on your success.” Patrick said.

The two continued talking, bantering about who was a better killer – a dragon hunter or a contract killer, both giving details about how they would approach their targets. To each, the other person was lying while they were telling the truth. To each, their story was an interesting truth while the other person was just trying to match their truth with an exaggerated lie.

“Okay! So, you are telling me that you have killed a dragon the size of a whale.”

“Yeah. Not a blue whale. Just a huge animal.”

“And you are telling me that you did all that with this tiny gun.”

“Yup.”

This could have gone on for a long time but they were interrupted.

“Excuse me! Did I hear that you have killed dragons?” A girl who was sitting at the neighboring table said.

“Yes,” Patrick said.

“Were you serious or were you joking?”

Patrick didn’t know how to respond to that. He had never been asked this question before. People just assumed that he was joking and moved on, as Damien did. No one had ever followed up on that question.

‘You can tell her. She’s a phoenix.’ Patrick heard Alara’s voice in his head. Alara had told him about phoenix once who were the sentient beings on the planet where dragons lived. Patrick looked at her trying to see if there were any signs that differentiated her from the rest. He couldn’t find any.

“I was serious. I hope that’s not going to be a problem.”

“Absolutely not. It’s fascinating. Tell me more.”

“Okay.”

Patrick started telling her and Damien about how the previous owner of the gun gave it to him along with some instructions. He also told them about his first fight with a dragon.

“Wow! Impressive.” The girl said.

“Should I believe all this?” Damien said looking from one to another.

“It’s your choice. I’m fine with whatever you believe,” Patrick said.

“How can you believe this tale?” Damien asked the girl.

“I have seen dragons.”

“Huh!”

Patrick was about to tell him that he shouldn’t believe it if he doesn’t want but was interrupted by Alara. 

‘Incoming.’ 

“Do you want to see the dragons?” Patrick asked Damien and the girl. 

Both nodded. The girl eagerly and Damien reluctantly. 

Patrick pocketed Alara and grabbed Damien’s and the girl’s hand.

“By the way. What’s your name?” Patrick asked the girl. 

“Ishita.” 

The three of them were transported to the other dimension where two dragons, each the size of a blue whale looked at them. One was the color of a blue onyx and the other was marble white in color. 

“Welcome to the wonderland.” Patrick said and regretted bringing them along. ‘Did I just doom them to inevitable death just to prove my point?’ he thought.

‘When a phoenix is close, the dragons find it easier to travel.’ Alara said to Patrick.

‘Oh! So it’s not all my fault.’ Patrick said to Alara in his mind. 

‘You’re the one who brought them along.’ Alara added and Patrick grimaced. 

“Okay. I will attack them and try to distract them while you guys keep distance.”

“I’ll take care of the other one.” Ishita said. 

“Are you sure?” 

“He’s a bit bigger but I think I can handle it or at least keep it occupied long enough.”

“I’ll help you.” Damien said. He had initially gone in shock but his training had now kicked in and he was twirling a gun in his hand. 

“You weren’t joking then?” Patrick asked.

“Nope. And as I can see, neither were you. By the way Ishita, how are we gonna hurt that huge-ass dragon?” 

“My plan is to turn huge-ass myself.” Ishita said and turned into a phoenix. She was now larger than an elephant, dull red plumage with bright orange feathers here and there. While she was nowhere close to the size of the dragons, most of the dragon’s body was a long neck and a long tail and their core body sizes were closer to each other.  

“Woah!” Both Patrick and Damien said together. Neither had seen a phoenix before. Ishita picked Damien and flew towards the white dragon. 

Patrick attacked the blue one. 

The three of them returned to the same spot, almost at the same time so one felt their absence or even realized that they had vanished. 

“More beer?” Patrick asked.

“Yep.” Both Ishita and Damien replied. 

“I still can’t believe what happened.” Damien said.

“Yeah. I have felt that kind of thrill after a long time.” Ishita added.

Patrick smiled. He couldn’t believe that all of them came back fairly unscathed. It took time but he was able to kill the blue dragon with Alara. Ishita and Damien had been able to keep the white dragon distracted for the whole time without getting hurt. In fact, they had almost pinned the dragon down by the time he reached and all he had to do was shoot it to finish it off. All his battles had been solo and they were a challenge. This time, with an advantage of two to three, even with larger enemies, it felt easier. 

“It’s probably unprecedented but do you guys want to help me in the future as well?” Patrick asked them both. 

“Wow! Yes.” Ishita said almost instantly. 

“Of course,” Damien said and grinned. “What do they say? A dragon-hunter, a phoenix, and a contract killer walked into a bar.”

Patrick and Ishita laughed.