Chapter 72: not is_morning_person(Alex)

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I looked down at Alex, who was still asleep. And looking more like a dragon than an angel.

So this is what he really looks like. Alex gave me a brief explanation last night. About phoenixes. How they can use magic to project a sort of false image into people’s minds, so that they seem like a regular dragon or angel if you don’t look too hard. Coupled with some rudimentary shapeshifting, it was enough to fool even me, despite all my training.

But all along, he was more of a dragon than an angel. His scales were a mottled mix of browns, blacks, and reds, not the lighter, human-like skin tone I was used to seeing on him–and every angel. His neck was longer. His face was pointed, aerodynamically-shaped, with no false lips covering his beak. None of the features angels evolved to resemble humans.

He was right to hide it. If anyone at the Academy had seen him like this… he wouldn’t have lasted long. I… I probably would have killed him the first time I saw him if I had seen him like this.

I reached down and stroked one of his wings, ignoring the part of my mind that wanted to grab the nearest knife and–

I shook my head.

Those days are over now. I’m an ex-dragon-slayer. I won’t go back home. Best to cut all ties to my old life. And… then what? Where could I go? And what would I do? Slaying dragons was the only job I’d ever thought about. My only skill. Maybe I could work as a security guard or something? Maybe–maybe for The Lab. They’d probably like to have me. If not to work, then to study. So they can find out more about gods.

I sighed. I was getting ahead of myself. First I had to get through the Academy in one piece. No. First, I had to wake Alex. And then grab some lunch together or something. Try to get over the awkwardness of last night’s revelations, try to get used to seeing him without his mental projection.

“Alex.” I nudged him gently. “Wake up.”

“Nnnnngh.” He turned away from me. “Just… just three more hours.”

“No, uh–Alex.” It felt weird to call him that when he looks so different. “It’s already past noon. I was thinking about making some lunch and–”

“Nnnnnngh. No want wake up. Want stay in bed. Bed is comfy.” He burrowed his head into his pillows.

I smiled. Still the same old Alex.

“Come on.” I tried to nudge his head out from under the pillows.

He growled and resisted a little, but I managed to turn his head to face me.

At which point, he bit down on my arm. Hard.

“Hey!” I cried. “Let go!”

He eased up, but only to let loose a jet of fire right at me.

Instinctively, I jumped back and reached for the place by my side where I usually kept my knife on hunts.

I caught myself, remembering that this was Alex. And realizing that my shirt was quickly burning up. I pulled it off and stamped out the flames.

Then stared at Alex in silence. He was turned away from me again, burrowed back into the pillows, with the covers pulled up over him.

“Okay.” I sighed. “Best to let sleeping dragons lie.”

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