Chapter Thirty-One – So Like You
“I need to talk to Milo,” Kai said.
“I’m coming with you.” Tani pushed herself off the bed.
“Not this time,” Kai said.
His own voice, the determination in it, was new. Tani must have heard it, too, because she didn’t insist.
“Find Galien and tell him that dinner better be ready, ‘cause I’m starving,” he added in a more playful tone.
Tani smiled at him. His sister understood. She was young, but she was clever, sharp even, just like their mom. In their family, their father had been the dreamer, the one with the head in the clouds, and their mother always the one grounded. Both took after him, especially with their belief in fantastic worlds and whatnot, but Tani was more like their mom. She understood much more than she let on, and this time, Kai was grateful for having such a smart sister.
“Will do,” Tani said. “Kai,” she added after a short pause, “will Milo be okay? He seemed really in shock.”
“He’ll be, once I tell him everything.”
His sister nodded as if she knew that she was leaving the matter in trustworthy hands. As soon as she was out the door, Kai set on exploring the area and finding Milo’s room.
It took him little to discover his friend. A maid walking the hallways with her arms filled with clean sheets quickly pointed him at the right door. Galien’s personnel was incredibly competent; they didn’t blink at what must have looked like a bizarre choice of clothes in their eyes. Or Galien was so much an eccentric that they were used to the weirdest things.
Kai shrugged and let himself in after knocking shortly on Milo’s door. After all, he and Tani were just the same when it came to their manners. But they always cared about the person on the other side of the door, so that was that.
“Hey, man,” he said and rubbed the back of his head as he took in his best friend.
Milo must have gotten the royal treatment by the number of pillows stacked behind his back and the luxurious coverlet. He looked a bit better, and the tea tray left on the bedside table indicated that he had been treated to the best of the abilities of this world, which Kai suspected to surpass whatever counted as natural remedies in the real world.
Real world. Not like this one felt any less real.
“Hey,” Milo called meekly. He held his arms over the coverlet, his fingers intertwined.
“Are you all right? Jeez, I never thought I’d see you like this.” Kai sat on the bed and looked at his friend.
Milo snorted. “So like you to get us dragged into a freaking isekai anime.”
Kai snickered. “Well, glad to see that you’re coming to it. But I don’t think it’s an anime. I mean, everything looks very 3D, right?”
Milo looked around. “Some really good 3D. I mean, it’s really realistic.”
They both began laughing at the same time.
“So,” Milo pinched the bridge of his nose, “all that dragon riding, it was real?”
Kai leaned back and placed his hands behind his head. “Totally.”
“Freakish,” Milo commented. “That fancy looking dude kept telling me everything would be all right. I must have freaked him out really bad.”
“Well, you can’t really blame Galien. You were really freaked,” Kai pointed out.
“Yeah,” Milo admitted and snickered again. “So, all this time,” he began hesitantly, “like for two weeks or so, I’ve actually been with—I mean, you were--”
Kai nodded. “Yeah, I was here, in Sebastian’s body, and he was inside my body, as Tani told me. Hey, did you guys…” he started to ask but swallowed his words quickly.
Milo threw him a very but a very guilty look.
“Are you for real?” Kai shouted. “Did you bone… I mean… oh, shoot!”
Milo looked away just as fast as he did.
“Dude,” Kai whispered.
“Dude,” Milo whispered back.
They fell silent for a while.
“Screw me sideways, this is complicated,” Milo was the first to talk. “So, actually, I… did it with that scary guy with long hair?”
“Uh-uh,” Kai replied and shifted in his place. Was he supposed to feel something different? Clearly, Milo had been on top. There was no doubt about it since Sebastian was such an incorrigible bottom. But his butt didn’t hurt or anything. Right, let’s leave things as they are for now, he decided. He didn’t need any details on how his best friend had boned his ass.
“Damn.” Milo covered his face. “He tried to tell me, you know? He kept on and on how he was a prince and all that.”
“And what did you think?” Kai asked, curious of how that must have gone down.
“Just that you were getting into some kind of method training while cosplaying all the time. Really, I was getting a bit annoyed, but on the other hand, you… I mean this dude… I mean…”
Kai put one hand up. “You don’t have to tell me. You have no idea how much I had to fight off Conrad who was after my ass all the time.”
Milo laughed, much to his annoyance. Yeah, he could laugh. Not like his ass had gotten boned or anything. “But what about that cute dude? Pepin?”
Kai sighed. “Pepin, well, that’s complicated. I mean, I got him pregnant or something, although I have no idea how. This world is really weird. Until today, I had no idea such a thing was possible.”
“Galien told me that Pepin is in love with you. Did he mean you, you, or you cosplaying as Sebastian?”
Only then it struck Kai. “Oh, damn. After seeing the real me, Pepin must be so disappointed. I mean, I have nothing on that hunk of a prince, and Pepin has been crushing on him since forever.”
“Hey, that’s not true,” Milo protested. “Sure you can compete against him.”
Kai threw his friend a suspicious look. “You’re not thinking of boning my ass, I hope. Think of boning Sebastian’s round ass instead.”
“Round ass?” Milo blinked a few times.
“Yeah. They sing songs about that thing in this world,” Kai said with importance.
Milo shook his head in disbelief. Then he looked away and rubbed the back of his neck. “So… all that happened… is not real? We were never together.”
“No,” Kai admitted. “Sorry about that.” He didn’t know what else to say.
Milo kept his eyes turned from him. “Well, that’s a huge bummer,” he commented.
Kai was an airhead most of the time, but that didn’t mean that he had no idea what crossed Milo’s mind right now. The situation was pretty freaking complicated. “You couldn’t know,” he offered. That sounded lame, but it was all he had.
“I suppose I should have listened to him more and believe him when he kept saying that he was someone else,” Milo said slowly, but it was evident that he didn’t believe his own words.
No, reality-grounded Milo had no reason to believe such a thing. So, he hadn’t, hence the whole mess.
“Pepin is with Sebastian now,” Kai said. “And, weird as it may sound, I kinda don’t like that.”
“So,” Milo scratched his head, “if you hadn’t been transported to another world, could we have been, you know, boyfriends?”
Kai stood from the bed abruptly. Well, he needed to start being honest. “Actually,” he began pacing the room, “you were just confessing, and,” he stopped for a moment, “well, I thought something like, ‘oh, no, this isn’t happening’ and then wished that I would be transported to an isekai anime world, and… well, this happened.”
Milo remained silent for a few moments. “That’s good to know, I suppose. I mean, you clearly preferred getting body swapped with a prince from some random fantasy anime than go on a date with me.”
No point in lying, Kai, no point in lying. “Yeah, that kinda sums it up. Ugh, sorry.”
Milo blinked a few times and then puffed out his cheeks. He let out the air with a loud noise. “This sucks. But was it because you don’t like me, or the idea of getting it on with a dude? I mean, the latter cannot be since the moment you get here, you make some guy become pregnant.”
Kai covered his face and groaned. “Milo, you’re my bro. And I didn’t just get here and start jumping Pepin’s bones. Actually, he kinda seduced me. Okay, so not like seduced me, but you know… I have no idea how it happened! But I’m in love with him, and you’re just my bro! I mean, best bro! Jeez, like I wasn’t having a bunch of problems already.” He plopped himself down on the plush carpet and crossed his legs in front of him.
To his surprise, Milo started laughing. The next moment, a pillow was sent straight to his head, hitting him so hard that he lost his balance and ended up sprawled on the floor. That didn’t last long. Releasing a war cry, he jumped to his feet, grabbed the pillow, and dashed to the bed to hit Milo in the face with it.
Their little battle was interrupted by a polite yet pretty loud cough. They both turned toward the door to see the butler standing there with a small smile on his face. Kai blew away some feathers that were gently flowing through the air. “Sorry about that,” he said, feeling chastised.
“Master Galien is waiting for you downstairs. Dinner is ready.” The butler stopped for a moment. “We like it when the place is so lively and filled with young people,” he added as he retreated.
Kai exchanged a look with Milo after the butler was gone. “People here are way too cool.”
“Yeah, totally,” Milo replied.
“Glad to see you’re no longer shell-shocked, though. That was pretty funny.” Kai snickered, earning a quick, murderous look from Milo. “What made you think it was all real, though? Before I came to your room, I mean. Or do you still think you’re dreaming?” He narrowed his eyes as he looked at his friend.
“Galien, you say the guy’s name is?” Kai nodded. Milo continued, “Dude holds my hand and talks to me like I’m lacking half a brain while his butler is plying me with the tastiest tea I’ve ever had, and so I thought to myself, ‘they must think I’m stupid’, so I calmed down and looked around… and thought, ‘well, it’s a pretty good simulation, but I doubt the government would use someone like me for experiments’. The tea must have helped a little. And the only option left was that I got trapped in the same isekai anime as you. There.”
Kai rolled his eyes. “So, how was it? With Sebastian?” He just couldn’t help it, as the curiosity about everything that had happened while he had been away was gnawing at him.
Milo gave him a suspicious look, and then he smirked. “I thought you wanted to know nothing about the boning thing.”
“No, no, totally no boning! But how did he manage… I mean, did he get kicked out of school or something? I heard from Tani that he kicked Chet’s ass. Everything had to be so new for him.”
“Actually, now our math and French teachers think you’re some kind of genius.”
“For real? Ah, damn.”
“Yeah, Sebastian must be pretty freaking smart.”
“As opposed to me,” Kai said quickly.
“Hey, I didn’t say that.” Milo stood and offered him a hand. “We should go eat, right? And I guess Sebastian is just some kind of a nerd.” That was probably to soothe the low blow from earlier. “I mean, he even set himself to learn karate or Kung Fu or something. And he got you some pretty good grades in the meantime.”
“Why did the swap have to happen now? It would have been nice to return to my finals passed with flying colors.” Yeah, that was a bummer. This body swap thing offered him no advantages whatsoever.
Except falling in love with a beautiful dude like Pepin and having a kid with him, somehow. Kai was still completely confused by that idea. But, whatever, many things were possible in this world, and it wasn’t his place to doubt them. The certainty was that he would become a dad, and he hadn’t even finished high school.
“Milo, what are you going to do about Sebastian?” Kai was really curious because he had no idea how he would get to Pepin and if they were trapped here forever, or if he would go back, along with his sister and best friend. And leave Pepin here? That didn’t feel like an option.
“Are you really interested in my answer, or you’re again too caught up in your own head?” Milo asked, interrupting his thoughts.
“Sorry, I just realized that if we go back, I won’t be able to see Pepin ever again.”
Milo placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “That’s tough, man.”
“So, Sebastian,” Kai said quickly. If this world had so much magic, there had to be a way to smuggle Pepin on the other side, right? It was the only thing that would make it right. Tani would help him introduce Pepin to their mom, and they would find a way to make things work.
“I don’t really know Sebastian,” Milo said. “I mean, I thought myself in love with you all this time.”
“Ew, dude, no, just no,” Kai said and pushed Milo playfully as they walked down the stairs. “You’re my bro, and I’m not into incest.”
Milo chuckled, so he had to be in a much better mood. Seeing how real he was all the time and kept things, he was probably thinking of a reasonable solution as they spoke.
“I don’t really know what to do,” Milo said, taking him by surprise. “I mean, it’s a shock, right? And he looks so scary and impressive. Do you think he’ll want his revenge?”
“Revenge? What for?”
“You know, I kind of teased him and stuff,” Milo replied. “But the sex was great.”
Kai covered his ears instantly. “I don’t want to hear about that, la-la-la…”
To his relief, the butler was waiting for them at the foot of the stairs, ready to guide them to the dining room.
Sebastian could feel a headache coming as he looked over the registry of weddings. His head never hurt, never, but just seeing what kind of unions Kai had made while he had been away was enough to make such a thing happen. Apparently, the servants no longer felt the need to stop their chattering and laughing when he passed by them, and even the knights were overly familiar.
Everywhere he went, his kingdom seemed different. Not necessarily in a bad way, he had to admit it, but not like he remembered it. Kai had appeared to have had a good time ruling in his stead, and his most astonishing feat had been defeating the House of Uxilan, which Sebastian had believed to be obliterated.
Still, Conrad had told him that Kai wasn’t convinced that all of that house of dark magic wielders was gone. The thought came with its fair share of unease. Sebastian had never felt fear in his life, but the year before, when he had gone against them, he had been dumbfounded by the mere idea that they could take away his magic so quickly.
He had been at death’s door, and he hadn’t feared it. The most he had experienced at the time had been a sense of disappointment and regret. But Reya could always make another protector for Ifigia. If it were so easy for her to create life from ice, why not find a replacement for him once he was gone?
His disappointment and regret had been related to the trials and tribulations that expected the kingdom and its people once he was gone. Surely, not even Reya could conjure a ruler that could offer protection to the realm in a matter of hours or mere days.
At the time, he had been foolish to believe that he could take on the House of Uxilan without help. Pepin had told him about the feat of bravery conducted by Kai in his stead, and Sebastian had been surprised to hear that that awkward, lanky teenager who seemed to be at best a good for nothing in his world had had the guts to face the forces of Uxilan alone.
In that respect, indeed, they were alike. Tani hadn’t been off the mark completely when telling him that she saw them as similar.
Sebastian touched the mark left on his skin by the latest confrontation with Uxilan. Kai had been stabbed, and he would have fallen to his death hadn’t it been for Pepin and his desire to nurture and raise an heir to the kingdom.
Regardless of the things Kai Martin had done to his kingdom in his absence, Sebastian couldn’t hate him. He didn’t even despise him, which was something that came so easy to him whenever he came in contact with pretty much anyone.
Ifigia would have an heir. Reya would have her satisfaction. Pepin would be busy with taking care of the said heir. Sebastian and Conrad both were sworn to secrecy, even without the words to seal the pact.
But, the problem remained. Galien harbored strangers to the realm in his home, and while Sebastian knew that they were the safest there, it didn’t mean that they could remain there forever. So it was just a matter of time until Reya discovered that some travelers from a different world were in Ifigia, and only she knew how she would react to that.
Sebastian didn’t care to learn about it firsthand. What he needed was to discover a path between the worlds and send the strangers back to where they came from. That meant, of course, that Milo would be lost to him forever, but if Reya discovered him and his significance, he would be lost anyway and in a much more painful way.
Absentmindedly, he touched the place where the dagger that should have ended him, or Kai, while in his body, must have stabbed him. A phantom sensation lingered, and it bothered him marginally, like an annoying fly buzzing around. Pepin had done well to take Kai to the Shimmering Cavern, or else, he would have surely perished.
But would it have been Kai the one to die, or he, Sebastian? It was hard to tell. This strange curse had no reason in it, and it continued to irk him that he had no lead on that whatsoever.
A way to find out more existed, but he disliked it. Before, he had despised it because it meant to spend time in the company of that woman who kept his mother’s counsel. But, in this case, he needed her help, so it was only natural that he would seek her advice.
Sooner was better than later, he decided and pulled the tunic over his body. Except for explanations on what had happened during his absence, Pepin’s services hadn’t been required. While his servant had appeared affected by his decision, Sebastian could tell that Pepin wasn’t as chagrined as he used to be when his offerings were rejected. Believably or not, Pepin had to be in love with that high school student on the point of flunking his exams.
Kai had ruled in his stead. It was a fact, no matter how astonishing. Which meant, of course, that Kai Martin was more than met the eye. Sebastian couldn’t be entirely mad for the body swap for the simple reason that it had offered him the opportunity to get to know Milo and fall in love with him. Yes, if it were a silver lining to the events of last week, it was that he had gotten to experience that elusive incredible feeling of wanting to delve completely into another person’s soul and be united with him forever.
Of course, such dreams were difficult to entertain, if not impossible. Sebastian threw a cursory look around his room. It definitely looked a lot less tidy than when Pepin took care of everything, but Sebastian now valued his space to the point that he wanted to put a sign on his door that said ‘Be Aware Of Trolls’ just to keep everyone away. He smiled as he imagined the shock on everyone’s faces at the sight of such a sign placed on the doors to the royal quarters.
He frowned right away. There was absolutely no time to engage in such wide-eyed fantasies. Clearly, traveling to other worlds and getting to experience the trials and tribulations of a teenager’s life was bound to make him think in such a silly manner. There were important things at stake, and he needed to throw some light where there was nothing but shadow now.
Her door was slightly ajar, and he had expected it. Sebastian pushed it open and set foot into Luna Celeste’s quarters. There was no turning back, and if she were here, it could only mean that she had something to tell him. And he had to ask about the incredible possibility of traveling between worlds, all the while keeping what he knew of strangers from a different land being here, in their midst.
She emerged from the shadows of her library as always and eyed him carefully. “I see that you are back, Your Majesty,” she said flatly.
“Yes,” Sebastian replied politely and then frowned. What could she mean? She couldn’t know about him and Kai going through the astonishing switching of their bodies. She had to mean that he was back from the war against Uxilan, which Kai had solved in a swift manner with no equal in all history of Ifigia.
“May I offer you something to sweeten your sour mood?”
It was truly unnerving how easily she could read him.
“I’m not here for your confectionery.” If it were proof of Luna Celeste’s magical abilities, her sweet confections had to be it. Sebastian, who didn’t usually care much for such things, could do little to resist their appeal.
“Nonetheless. While you’re telling me why you are here, indulge for a bit.”
Sebastian pursed his lips but added nothing as Luna Celeste hovered her hand over a small plate and then handed it to him over the table. He looked at the heart-shaped chocolate cake with a disapproving look. “Is everything a joke with you?” he asked sourly.
“You are in love, Sebastian,” she said with affection. “I thought it to be appropriate.”
“I did what my mother wanted. And you. My union with Pepin is now complete, and Ifigia has its heir.”
“Hmm,” Luna Celeste murmured under her breath, and her eyes turned to narrow slits as she observed him. “Eat,” she ordered.
He wasn’t here to get into another argument with this impossible woman, so he took the teaspoon and dug into the cake. The cream inside flowed, making his mouth water even before he had a chance to take a bite.
Yes, it had to be magic because he felt like smiling once he finished the chocolate heart.
“Where is Milo?” Luna Celeste suddenly asked him.
Sebastian froze and stared at her. Over her hands gracefully held under her chin, Luna was looking back at him with an all-knowing look.
“What are you talking about?” he asked, hoping his voice was calm and measured.
“About your chosen,” Luna said promptly. “He must be still here if you’re looking for my counsel.”
He could lie. Yes, he could insist that he had no idea what she meant. But how did she know about Milo? His mind was struggling in the confines of his skull frantically, like a trapped animal.
“Don’t even think about lying,” Luna said sternly as she held him under her steely gaze.