Epilogue
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Epilogue

Kai helped his mom climb the steep stairway that led to the Shimmering Cavern by offering his arm like a gentleman. They were there for Seb’s and Milo’s wedding, but they had arrived earlier, at Reya’s insistence. That in itself was enough of a shock to last him a lifetime, and first, he had had to ensure that the ice goddess wasn’t just looking to get her hands on Pepin and destroy the shard after all.

It appeared that everything was water under the bridge now, so, all in all, life was good. He couldn’t tell exactly what made him think that he should take his mom there, among the many beautiful places in Ifigia, but he knew, deep down, that it mattered. There was one nagging thought that hadn’t left him alone for a while now, and now he had the feeling that the magical cavern must have the key and answer to his questions.

“It looks like I did my cardio for the week,” his mom joked when they finally reached the cave’s entrance. “I still cannot believe that we are in another world. Your dad used to imagine the most fantastic things about worlds different than others, and I always laughed at him for having too much of a vivid imagination. And now, here we are. If only he were here with us today,” she added, and her voice dropped low, barely a murmur.

Kai was dying to tell her mom about how he had dreamed of his dad while in Ifigia and how it all led there, to this cave, but he was waiting for something. The magical place needed to give them a sign, right?

He took his mom’s hand, and together, they walked inside.

“So beautiful,” his mom said breathlessly, and not only because she had climbed that stairway and gotten her cardio for the week. “I don’t think I’ve ever visited a more beautiful place. Your dad liked to explore caves like this one. Well, not quite like this one, since you’re telling me this place has magic.”

Kai released her hand to let her walk around and wonder aloud at the crystals sprouting from the walls and the light that illuminated the entire room without any visible source. “Mom,” he started, “you know how everybody wonders why I, of all people, managed to reach this world?”

“Do not mind them too much, Kai,” his mom said. “They’re envious they haven’t been the one.”

“The truth is I’ve wondered about it, too, lately. You know, why I got isekai’d.”

His mom hid a playful snicker behind her hand. “To think that you really did get isekai’d. I would have never thought that I’d come to use this word so seriously. But you want to tell me something, right?”

Kai walked closer to her and looked at the walls, smooth in places. They looked like mirrors. Sebastian told him something about how Luna believed Reya made this place from love. It was hard to imagine, with Reya being Reya and all, but Kai honestly thought it was the real deal.

“Yeah. I saw dad,” he said.

“What? What do you mean?”

“While I was here, like in a dream, and then, he also brought me here while I was looking for Pepin through the forest.”

His mom looked at him, her eyes wavering between hope and uncertainty. “Are you sure that it wasn’t just a dream? I know how much you loved your father.”

“Just think of it this way, mom,” Kai said quickly and began rubbing the wall in front of him. Where was that sign when you needed one? “Dad talked often of fantastic things, right?”

“Yes, but it was mostly so he would entertain you kids. I don’t think he really believed those things to be real.”

“But what if he caught a glimpse of such worlds? What if he really did believe?” he insisted.

His mom pondered for a second. “Seeing how the truth is right in front of my eyes, and I’m certain that I’m neither dreaming, nor going insane, I cannot contradict you. What did your dad say? How did he look like?” she asked, and it seemed that hope had won the battle in her eyes.

“He encouraged me, told me things about I shouldn’t worry so much that I’m going to become a dad and stuff. And he looked well, you know, like himself.”

“I wish he’d come to me sometimes, too,” his mom said in a regretful voice. “What are you doing, rubbing the wall like that?”

“I really thought that this magical cave would show dad to us both,” Kai said and groaned in frustration. “Maybe I should have asked Reya about it. No, not Reya, because she’s so scary. But Luna, at least. I wanted to bring you here, since it’s a magical place and all. But it looks like my knowledge of magic and all needs to level up.”

His mom caught his arm and rubbed it in sympathy. “Don’t worry, Kai. It’s a beautiful place, and I’m happy that you told me about your dad. Let’s go back now. Pepin promised to show me the palace and said there is no other more qualified than him to do so. He knows the place like the back of his hand.”

“All right,” Kai admitted. He was disappointed, but he didn’t want to let it show too much.

His mom took his arm, and they walked toward the exit when she suddenly stopped and looked back.

“What is it?” Kai asked.

“Did you hear that?” his mom asked.

“No, I didn’t hear anything.”

His mom let go of him and took a few steps back. “Kai, go ahead and wait for me outside,” she said.

“Why?” he asked.

She turned toward him, and her face looked young and radiant again. “Because your dad says so,” she explained with a small, secretive smile.

***

“Pepin, aren’t you tired already? And shouldn’t you get some rest given your condition and all? You’ve been on your feet all day,” he said. He was the tired one, but it was possible to lay it on Pepin, so why not take that? Plus, he wanted to be alone with him since they had been surrounded by people all through the day.

Tani held on to Pepin’s arm, clearly not yet wanting to let go. “But Kai,” she complained, “Pepin still hasn’t shown me the treasure room.”

“You’re not allowed to see the treasure room, dumbass,” Kai replied. “You need like super special clearance for that.”

“Kai, don’t call your sister a dumbass,” his mom said sternly.

Actually, not so sternly, as she had been happy beyond herself all through the day. Kai hadn’t dared to question her about seeing dad in the magical cave, and it looked like she was holding on to a secret of her own. Whatever it was, it made her glow with a new light, and he wasn’t the kind to question magical stuff, to begin with.

Tani stuck her tongue at him, triumphant that she had mom on her side.

“Tani, it’s late. Let Kai and Pepin go to sleep.”

Kai grinned at his sister and yawned. “Yeah, totally.”

“Pepin’s not tired,” Tani pointed out, in one last-ditch effort to delay the inevitable, which was going to sleep.

Mom took her by the shoulders and began dragging her away. “Tomorrow’s the wedding. Don’t you want to stay until late like the rest of us?”

“Yeah, I totally want that,” Tani replied, suddenly convinced that she needed her sleep. “Good night, brother-in-law,” she said and waved at Pepin. “Bye, brother-in-no,” she added and gestured at Kai like she wanted to make him disappear by performing a magic trick.

“Bye, dumbass,” he said under his breath.

“I heard that!” Tani threw at her as mom pushed her to walk toward their room, down the large hallway.

Kai moaned as soon as they were out of earshot. “Can you believe my sister? She’s like a leech. Once she grabs a hold of you, she doesn’t let go.”

“I don’t mind,” Pepin said and linked their arms together.

“Well, I do. I want you at least a bit to myself. She had you all day.”

Pepin laughed softly and bumped into Kai’s shoulder. “You know what your mother says?”

“I don’t unless you tell me.”

They walked through the door to the room they were sharing for the duration of their stay in Ifigia. Pepin had insisted on having his old room, even if it was a servant’s quarters. Kai was more than pleased with that. Pepin’s room was cozy, nothing as grand as Sebastian’s royal quarters, and Kai preferred it. Plus, everything there smelled like candy, just like Pepin.

And the bed was narrow enough to have them sleep plastered one against the other. Pepin had managed to send away the servants instructed to bring an extra bed to the room at the last moment. Kai had seen that, too.

“She says that we should have a ceremony, as well, once we’re back on Earth. Surely, nothing as opulent as this,” Pepin gestured and blushed.

“Are you asking me to marry you?” Kai demanded to know.

“If you want to, of course.” Pepin looked away.

“I totally do,” Kai replied like it was the most natural thing in the world. “I mean, we’re becoming parents, anyway, so it’s like the logical thing to do.”

“Logical?” Pepin turned a bewildered face toward him.

Kai scratched his head. “No, no, what I meant was, it’s our duty. Oh, shoot, that’s not right, either. Romantic?”

Pepin slapped his shoulder. “I can’t believe you!”

Kai gulped. “Shit, shit, shit. You can’t be mad at me, okay? I’ll get on one knee, okay?” He did exactly that and took Pepin’s hand. Pepin had his face covered by one palm. It took Kai a few good moments to realize that his soon-to-be spouse was laughing behind his hand. “You’re a dumbass just like Tani! Anyway, marry me and stop laughing!”

Pepin helped him to his feet and then kissed him to appease him. Like there was any need, Kai wanted to comment, but it felt good to have Pepin fuss over him a little. “I’ll marry you, sure. But now let’s rest. Tomorrow it’s a big ass day.”

“Big ass day? What is Tani teaching you?”

“A lot of things,” Pepin chirped. “I just love the Internet! And all those drama shows!”

“Sure you do,” Kai said, a bit miffed that Tani was getting ahead and showing Pepin all the stuff he wanted to show to him. “Just make sure to stay away from spoilers.”

“Spoilers? What are those?”

Good. It looked like he still had some things to teach his boyfriend.

***

“You know what, Your Majesty?” Milo whispered under his breath while holding his golden cup close to his lips to hide his words from the rest.

“What, Your Majesty?” Sebastian asked smoothly and mimicked the same gesture. With all the people there wanting to talk to them every single moment, nothing was beneath him to keep them at bay, even pretending that he liked to indulge in alcohol.

Milo snickered. “I’m a majesty now, too. This is so weird.”

“You’re the prince’s consort. Proper honor should be paid--”

“I know, I know. Your mom made my head this big. It looks like I have so many responsibilities that I’ll have to juggle college and being your royal consort like really well.”

“Don’t worry about her. You can skirt your responsibilities here and see about your education without worries.”

“Well, about that. I was thinking. How about creating a school opened to both people of Ifigia and Earth? You know, so that they could learn about each other.”

“That could be your project,” Sebastian offered.

“For real? I bet it will cost some serious dough.”

Sebastian straightened up in his high chair. “I assure you that I have plenty of dough to afford it.”

Milo laughed behind his glass again. “O. M. G., I’m turning into a millionaire’s wife, handling charities and all that.”

“As long as it makes you happy,” Sebastian offered somewhat stiffly. He still had plenty of catch-up to do on what was considered a joke and whatnot in the eyes of Earthians. “Oh, no, it’s time for another toast, already?”

“Let me handle it,” Milo said and stood to his feet.

Sebastian didn’t even listen to what Milo said while raising his glass. He was turning a big deaf and daft when he was staring at his consort like that. Milo indeed had it in him to be a great ruler. Even his mother had to accept that his choice had been made well.

***

He noticed Kai Martin sitting by himself by one of the open windows. With all the drinking and thousands of candles getting burned to keep the wedding celebrations going, it was no wonder that some people needed a bit of air. Even he needed that.

“Hey, man.” Kai turned as soon as he noticed that he was no longer alone. “Call me a bit nostalgic or whatever, but I wanted to stare a little at this sky.” He pointed at the canvas peppered with stars out the window. “Things are not all that different, right?”

“Some aren’t, it’s true,” Sebastian admitted.

“Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you. Does Pepin need to be here to give birth and that?”

“Yes. Only at the Shimmering Cavern the ritual can be performed. And you don’t have to worry. Reya will not hurt your child,” Sebastian added. Kai had his reasons to worry, but they weren’t, fortunately, founded anymore.

“She’ll be the midwife, right?”

“Don’t call her that to her face. She might just freeze you for half a day, just for the lulz,” he said with a smile.

Kai laughed. “Funny how fast you got a hold of all the memes.”

“They are funny,” Sebastian pointed out. “I must thank you for that time,” he added after a short silence.

“What time?” Kai scrunched up his face as if trying to figure out what Sebastian meant by that.

“When you tried to take the curse upon himself.”

“Hey, no sweat. And I didn’t do anything, actually. You did. You practically sent me and Pepin tumbling down into my world.”

“It looks like I have certain abilities I’m not well aware of.”

“Did you know that my mom saw my dad at the Shimmering Cavern? He’s there, in some form. A spiritual one, I think.”

“Reya says that the cave collects unique souls when they become free of their bodies, so it doesn’t surprise me so much.”

“Yeah,” Kai admitted quietly. “So, we didn’t have proper time to talk, and I did mess some things while I was in your place, so I need to ask. Are we cool?”

Sebastian shrugged. “You did nothing wrong, actually. Yes, we are cool.”

Kai smiled a goofy smile. “Really? Then this is the best time of my life. Bro fist?”

Sebastian considered the offer. “Bro fist,” he repeated and then bumped his fist into Kai’s.

THE END

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