Actions

Work Header

Water and Ashes

Chapter Text

Singing a happy tune to a nearby bird, Kiwi was having the time of his life.

Miriam gave him an amused look. "Kiwi, I get you're friends with the birds, but we gotta focus on what we were sent to do."

Kiwi gives a friendly chuckle. "Whoops! My bad, sorry Miriam!" He then bounds over in her direction, and settles with walking right by her side.

"Well, there were reported sightings of a 'monster.'" She made air quotes at this. "In this forest. Seems pretty dumb to me, but it’s not like we have anything better to do."

"A monster?" Kiwi pondered for a moment then broke into a singing voice. "Do you think we can tame them with a song?" And continuing his lilted tune, "Or perhaps with a dance?"

He danced in a circle before tripping on a rock and falling on his butt. Landing with an, "Oomph!" He chuckled and stood to his feet. "I guess I've gotta be more careful!"

Miriam shrugged. "Eh, might just be the locals mistaking a bear or something for some big scary monster. Even assuming it's not a bear, it probably won't be THAT bad."

He brushes the dust off himself, and admires the scenery. "I bet it's a momma bear then! They do get awfully protective of their cubs!" Continuing to walk beside Miriam with a skip in his step, he begins singing to lighten the mood.

"Yeah, probably," Miriam agreed with them as they walked further into the forest.

A while passes, and a few songs later, the forest around them looks burned. The trees are blackened and crumbling, the leaves are burnt to ashes and scattered on the path. Something is clearly wrong.

“Geez, this place sure is something.” The bard paused his tune, taking an opportunity to fully take in his surroundings. “I wonder what happened here?”

He shivers in the unnatural cold of the forest, and looks up to an inky sky. The sky was covered by dark smokey clouds, and only a sliver of the sun provided light.

Miriam tried not to show it, but she was actually VERY unsettled by the decimated forest. “Just what the heck happened to this place?”

"Maaaaybe the bear... was an arsonist?" Kiwi's voice has a tiny bit of confusion as well as fear, but he keeps his optimistic disposition steady.

“Or maybe the people tried to burn whatever it was out of this place.” Miriam said with an annoyed huff. “They should have known better than to cause this.”

He walks a little closer to Miriam for safety, and looks into the undergrowth for any signs of life. The birds and other friendly animals are long gone, with not even a trace of their presence.

A blackened bush rustled nearby, and Miriam jumped around to stare it head on, already instinctively charging a ball of magic in her fist.

"Eep!" Kiwi was startled by Miriam's reaction. He cleared his throat in case he needed to sing to alleviate any of the 'bear's' anger.

A small soot covered rabbit popped out of the bush. Miriam lowered her hands, the magic dissipating in her confusion

The reprieve was short, however, as a large claw came to crash down upon the rabbit.

A large reptilian beast lumbered out of the shadows. A dragon. Thick crimson scales covered its muscular body, and it was littered with scars both new and old; they were remnants of previous skirmishes with others of its kind.

Kiwi leapt back as it emerged from its scorched sylvan shelter. “Looks like the locals were right, it really IS a monster!” he yelped in fear.

“It's a dragon, Kiwi!” Miriam stammered with alarm as she took a step back, starting to charge a ball of magic in her palm.

Kiwi gulped, then began to sing a harmonious melody to the towering beast. Before he had the chance to form his first note, the dragon roared. It was a deafening sound, and if the pair hadn’t been used to facing large or dangerous ordeals, they’d have been cowering in fear before the gargantuan reptile.

Miriam grabbed Kiwi’s arm and ran right as the smokey maw full of razor sharp teeth clamped down where he used to be.

"We're running! No objections!" She managed to huff out as they ran quickly through the forest.

"Oh gosh!" Kiwi runs next to Miriam, glad she pulled him away from the dragon, saving him.

Miriam quickly got her broom out, hopped on it, and dragged Kiwi on it with her. All while maintaining their momentum.

They flew deeper into the forest at top speed for what seemed to be forever, but was more likely a few minutes at most. The dragon galloped in fast pursuit, huffing smoke as it chased them.

They were flying near a large lake, when she looked behind her and oh Eya did that thing just grow wings-

A large claw whipped itself at Kiwi and Miriam, snapping the broom in half as they were launched into the lake below.

Kiwi yelps as they're both flung into the lake.

The two of them land with a splash, and begin sinking below the murky depths.

Kiwi opens his eyes and sees Miriam struggling to make her way to the surface, so he musters up his remaining leg strength and pushes himself through the water towards her.

They've sunk deep, and Kiwi knows he doesn't have enough breath to swim to the top seeing as he had no warning before the sudden icy plunge.

He swims beneath Miriam, the two of them within arms distance of the lake's bottom. Kiwi grabs onto her feet and uses all his remaining strength to push her up towards the surface.

Miriam uses her extra momentum to reach the air. She manages to grab onto a broken piece of her broom, clinging on as she gasps for breath.

Then realization hits her.

"Wait- KIWI!"

Miriam takes a deep breath, and dives back in. She frantically swims towards the submerged and now unconscious Kiwi.

She manages to reach him, just barely having enough strength to pull them both back up to the surface and to the edge of the lake.

She gasps and sputters a few times, then looks at Kiwi’s limp form laid down next to her.

"Oh Eya- Kiwi!" She stumbles over to him, shaking his shoulders.

"Kiwi, c'mon, wake up..."

Shakily, she presses an ear to Kiwi's chest, thankful that there's a heartbeat, but it's weak.

She starts compressions on his chest, trying to get him to cough up any water he swallowed.

After a minute goes by, Kiwi groans. He rolls to his side, hacking up the water he had inhaled. "Eya almighty-" He began, before another bout of coughing wracked his body.

Miriam stared at her friend, who had just nearly drowned, unable to bring herself to do much, her heart still racing in her chest from fear of losing Kiwi.

"What happened?" He asked bleary eyed. "It tastes like I swallowed mud."

He coughs, more water leaving his body. "I think I just saw Eyala again-"

Miriam almost tackles Kiwi, wrapping her arms around him in a fierce hug. "Eya's sweet chords- I thought I lost you-"

She was shaking so much she was sure Kiwi could feel it.

Nearly shouting, she lectured him. “Don't you EVER try to pull some stunt like that again! You nearly got yourself killed!”

He returns her hug, thankful to have her initiate one for the first time. "Hey, I'm alright Miriam! Sorry to scare ya like that!"

Miriam pulled away from the hug. "'Sorry to scare me? Sorry to scare me?’ Kiwi, you almost DIED! I was TERRIFIED!"

Kiwi bashfully wrung out his hat. "I uh..." He was going to apologize again, but decided against it since he didn't want to upset Miriam any more than her current state. "At least I'm okay?"

His memories come back to him in a flash. "The dragon!" He exclaims and leaps to his feet.

"Where did it go? It was here just a moment ago! Wh-" His words are cut short with a deep and raspy cough.

Miriam winced. "Well, you don't look okay to me. As for that horrid thing, I'm not sure where it went."

"I'm sure I'm fine, really!" He goes to sing a few notes before the stress on his breathing causes him to cough.

She sighed, rubbing her temple. "I think you inhaled too much water or something. We should probably head home."

She looks around.

"Uh."

The forest looked identical from every direction. Each tree was equally singed to a charred frame. Miriam had no idea where they had entered from.

"I probably just inhaled a little water, I'll be fine in a few minutes!" He adds a strained tune to his words to ensure to Miriam that he was okay.

"Is something wrong?"

Miriam quietly swore under her breath and rubbed her temples with agitation.

"We're lost."

"Oh Eya save us now." He looked down at the ground and contemplated what they'd do to get out of the nightmarish forest.

"Well," She huffed. "We may as well find shelter or something so we don't die of the cold." Miriam's eyes landed on a cave a little ways around the side of the lake. She pointed to it. "That looks like a pretty good spot."

Kiwi looked to where she pointed. "That sounds like a great idea!" He exclaims, causing a raspy wheeze to escape his throat.

Miriam gave him a sympathetic look, then began walking towards the cave, gathering some sticks and a few dead leaves on the way.

"I know you're worried, but we'll both be perfectly fine!" He followed after her with a light skip in his step. It was something he could do without causing another bout of hacking.

By the time they got to the cave, somehow it managed to be even darker outside, as if it wasn't even night before.

Miriam dropped the sticks she'd collected into a pile about halfway into the cave. She sets the broken pieces of broom she salvaged next to the entrance.

Kiwi decides to walk into the cave to make sure it’s safe. It was dark inside and fairly small at the entrance, but it opened up wider towards the back, leading into the earth. Kiwi saw nothing along the wall's edges except moss and stone.

"It seems alright in here! We can stay here for the night before we g-" His breath was once again cut short.

He finds a comfortable spot on the floor of the cave, as comfortable as stone could be anyways, and sits.

Miriam takes the gathered sticks and arranges them into a small campfire. She then charges a small ball of magic in her hand, and fires it at the sticks. It creates a small flame.

She sits down next to Kiwi, the fire in front of them both.

Kiwi's coughing fits subside after a while, and his eyes grow droopier as they get deeper into the night.

With a yawn, he says, “Miriam? Why do you think the dragon burnt the forest down?”

“Hm. I’m not really sure. Dragons are a rare sight, and no one really gets close to them, ya know? Not as if they'd want to, considering those big stinking lizards are nothing but trouble.” She shrugs, a scowl on her face as she remembers their earlier plight.

He nodded, and looked outside. The ashen sky just seemed to grow darker and darker with each passing minute. The sun had long since dropped below the horizon, and left a red smear where it used to be. "Should we go to sleep now?" He asked tiredly. He didn't think the dragon would come back for them that night, or at least he hoped not.

Miriam stretched for a moment. "Probably."

"Goodnight!" Kiwi said with a tired yet cheerful tone. He lay down facing their small yet effective fire, letting its heat warm him.

"G'night." She laid down as well.

They laid there for quite some time, but Kiwi eventually grew uncomfortable. The fire heated his face and caused him to sweat slightly.

He rolls over to give his face a break, and sees Miriam laying awake. She was staring at the ceiling with her arms beneath her head. He scooted a little closer to her. Wanting to rest his head on something other than the stone floor of the cave, he placed his head on her stomach.

Miriam noticed him, and slowly slid her arm around his back.

Kiwi's ear was pressed to her lower torso. In the silence of the cave he could hear it gurgling.

With a soft musical chuckle, he whispered. "I can hear your tummy making noises."

She huffed. “You know there are better places on the body to listen to right? Like your heart or something.”

Miriam sneered and sighed internally. Kiwi’s cheesiness was rubbing off on her...

"Hm?" Kiwi gave her a bemused look. "Oh! Alrighty then!" Kiwi took her words literally and rested his head over her heart, nuzzling into her so he could hear it better. Her rhythmic heartbeat was quick, but very pleasant to listen to. Kiwi snuggled closer to her and closed his eyes so he was surrounded by her soothing rhythm.

Miriam felt her cheeks heat up, then sighed. She was already getting attached to the pressure Kiwi was applying to her chest. She closed her eyes, arm still wrapped around Kiwi.

Kiwi brought his left arm and leg over top of her, and hooked his leg with hers. He nuzzled closer to Miriam, enjoying their close proximity.

Thoroughly loving the moment, he hums a low tune, in sync with her heartbeat.

"Your heart sounds really nice, Miriam." Kiwi mumbles lightly. "It must be because it's so big."

Kiwi’s words touched her, and her chest swelled with emotion, causing her heart rate to quicken.

He listens for a moment more. "Miriam?"

Miriam makes a quiet noise of acknowledgment, giving a small, soft smile as she looks at the ceiling, still holding Kiwi close. Right now, she's just happy to be here with him.

"I think you're my best friend." He smiles softly and continues. "I know I have a lot of friends, and meet new ones everywhere I go... but you matter the most to me." He lets his words fill the cave's silence, the only other noise is Miriam's heart in his ear.

Miriam holds Kiwi tighter. "I think you're my best friend, too."

When hearing her say this, Kiwi's eyes fill with tears of joy, and he bites his quivering bottom lip to keep himself from blubbering in front of her. "Thank you, Miriam!" He excitedly whispers as he nuzzles yet closer to her.

The two of them drift off to sleep, and stay like that the whole night, holding each other in a sweet embrace.

Chapter Text

Kiwi wakes up first, and notices a small amount of light creeping into the cave from a medium grey sky overhead. He doesn't raise his head, because he's afraid he'll wake Miriam. He closes his eyes again, just happy to be wrapped in her arms.

Kiwi notices that as they slept, both of Miriam's arms had found themselves around him, and his head had shifted to rest on her sternum.

The fire had gone out during the middle of the night, so Kiwi was glad Miriam's embrace was warm. He subconsciously nuzzled into her, craving a closeness he didn't get anywhere else.

Miriam's eyes softly fluttered open, feeling something snuggling into her. Her eyes landed on Kiwi, eyes still closed, presumably asleep.

Miriam let a small smile worm its way onto her lips, then she sighed.

Kiwi hears her sigh, but thinking it's in her sleep, doesn't open his eyes to check. Rather, he continues laying there comfortably.

"Okay," Miriam starts to say to herself, unaware Kiwi is awake. "This has been. Actually really nice." She huffed. "Past me would never have thought that I, of all people, would enjoy... cuddles." She muttered the last bit.

"And yet, here I am." Miriam quietly chuckled, one of her hands absentmindedly starting to pet Kiwi's head.

Kiwi feels a warmth spread through him, and before he can stop himself, he gives a pleasured smile. He feels as if he's melting into a puddle of joy on the spot. Listening closely, he waits with bated breath to see if Miriam speaks again.

"Mmh. I should probably wake Kiwi up." Miriam muttered.

"But... I don't really wanna move," She stated at last.

He continues smiling serenely, eyes still closed, and pressures his head into Miriam's palm. Kiwi lets out a contented sigh of his own, in the hopes that it'll convince Miriam to let them stay the way they are for just a little longer.

Miriam smiles softly down at Kiwi. She can't be bothered to move quite yet, so she lets herself melt back into the embrace.

"Yeah." He murmurs slightly. "I don't want to move either..."

He forgets that he was pretending to be asleep, but his eyes were still closed.

Miriam pauses. After a moment, she looks at Kiwi. "Were you really awake this whole time?"

Kiwi's eyes shoot open. "Uhh...." He thinks for a moment. "What would you do if I said yes?"

"Mmmm." Miriam strikes a thinking pose for a moment. "I’d think that you're a big, dorky sap and I honestly don't mind."

"Well uhm... Yeah, I woke up before you." He looks up at her, head still resting on her chest, and smiles goofily.

Kiwi gives a softer smile as he makes eye contact with her.

Miriam gives him a small smile back.

"Mmm. As nice as this is, we should probably find a way out of here."

"I guess you're right about that." He says sheepishly. "At least it's light outside now!" Removing himself from her, he feels the chill of the air on the warm spots where their bodies were connected and shivers. "It's definitely chilly, but much better than yesterday!"

Miriam shivered a bit as well, having been used to the warmth emitting from Kiwi's body.

Standing up, he offers her his hand. "Should we get going then?"

Miriam takes his hand. "Yeah."

As they stand and finally take a look at their surroundings, they notice the windy chill is coming from the back of the cave. They can't see into it, as it turns to the right and downwards into darkness, the sunlight not reaching its depths.

“I wonder what's over there!” Kiwi says as he approaches the section of the cave they hadn't seen in the dark of last night. “Should we check it out?”

Miriam sighs. "Alright, we can check it out."

Kiwi walks up to the wide stone cavern, and ignoring its ominous darkness, he walks inside.

Miriam followed in after Kiwi, the drafty tunnel putting her on edge.

Slightly unsettled once they get inside, but singing to alleviate their nerves, he lets out a harmonious tune.

Miriam found herself humming quietly along to the music. She would have argued it was to help calm her nerves, but... it was just nice.

He notices her humming along to his tune, and casts a gleeful glance her way. Continuing his song, they descend deeper into the cavern.

As they lose sight of the entrance, Kiwi's song dies sharply in his throat. The ground beneath them turns sharply downwards, and a slippery film of condensation coats the floor. The group loses their footing, and fall, sliding, down into the depths of the cavern below.

Kiwi lands with a thud on the stone floor below. He looks around blindly, but he sees nothing in the darkness.

Miriam follows shortly after, landing on top of Kiwi.

"Uuf!" He wheezes as she lands on top of him. "Aw gee, Miriam, are you alright?" He says with concern.

Miriam laid there for a moment, stunned, before realizing she landed on Kiwi. She rolled off him, feeling for his hand in the dark.

Kiwi groans. Feeling her hand in his, he grabs it and allows her to help him to his feet.

Raising the hand she isn't holding Kiwi's with, Miriam lights a small ball of magic in her palm to illuminate the area around them.

A horrific scene stands before them. Dark red stains smear the walls and floor with distinct feathering features, indicating that something bloody was dragged through. The wall on the far side of the room was crumbled and a thick layer of rubble lay around it.

Backing away from a particularly large stain, Kiwi's back bumps into something soft and fleshy. He jumps with a yelp. "Eep!" Turning around swiftly, he looks at what he ran into. A large motionless form lay before him. He whimpers, and runs back to Miriam's side, hugging her arm.

Miriam turns to it. In the vague lighting, they can see the silhouette of a dragon laying on its side

Despite regretting it later, she slowly raises the small ball of magic into the air. She points it to the limp creature to see it better and- "OH EYA'S SWEET CHORDS!"

Kiwi shudders as they leap back, stricken by what they've seen. He shuts his eyes tight and buries his face in Miriam's shoulder

"Oh Eya almighty... this... this isn't right..." Kiwi was too afraid to continue looking at the visceral horror before them.

The dragon’s skin was bubbled and burned. Its once cerulean scales littered the floor along with clumps of melted flesh. A deep gouge, indication of a massive claw swipe, scored deep on the head. Shattered skull bits hung together with remnants of scorched muscle tissue and fat.

If that wasn't bad enough, the dragon’s stomach was a gaping hole. The contents had been spilled onto the floor, and were now dry and forming crust. It appeared as if something equally as massive had been eating it.

Miriam peers closer at what used to be the magnificent head of a great water dragon. "Oh Eya- is that an EYE?!"

His curiosity getting the better of him, Kiwi decides to peer at the scene before him, instantly regretting it. His hand raises to his mouth, and he thinks he's going to be sick.

The deceased dragon smelled very strongly of rotten flesh, a disgusting smell that sickened them both to their core.

Kiwi tugs on Miriam's sleeve. "We... we probably shouldn't be here...Lets get going?"

Miriam grabbed Kiwi's arm, and brought him back the way they came.

His eyes watering slightly, he follows suit.

The two of them swiftly turn to leave the horrors behind them, instead looking back the way they came. The pathway up to where they were before was too steep to climb, and since Miriam’s broom was broken they had no way back to the surface.

"Mirriiaaaaaaam!" Kiwi's voice takes on a high note and quivers with fear. "What do we do?"

"I..." Miriam stammers. "I don't know."

"Do you think we can climb up?" Kiwi tests out his idea, but slips on the smooth wall slick with water. It's rough landing causes him to cough.

"Doesn't look like it." Miriam says, looking at Kiwi.

Kiwi groans as he stands, rubbing his back. He had fallen into a shallow puddle so his back and capelet were now wet. A faint gust of wind blows through the cave from behind and causes him to shiver. "Aw gee, it's cold in here.”

Miriam wraps her arms around Kiwi in an attempt to warm him. "Yeah, there is a breeze in here… Wait. There's a breeze. It must open up somewhere else then."

Kiwi appreciates her hug, then a wide smile breaks out onto his face as he realizes what she said. "You're right!" He hugs her back with glee.

The two of them release their hug slowly and look around the cave, keeping an aversion to the dragon corpse on the other side of the room. Miriam raises her hand into the air and it crackles with magic energy, casting a light on the room. What they thought was a closed off cavern turned out to be much more. A cave on the room's distant side breathed a faint breeze into the small cavern, staving off some of the rotting stench.

Miriam walked further into the depths of the cave, grabbing Kiwi by the hand and taking him with her. The magic in her other hand only illuminated so much around her, so it was hard to see how big the cave really was.

They had not yet lost sight of the cave when they heard something large hit the ground behind them. Miriam's nerves were still on edge, as were Kiwi's. Frightened, she launched her ball of magic at the noise. Before it hit, it illuminated a massive crimson figure. It was the dragon that had broken her broom, launched them into the lake, and nearly got Kiwi drowned. The sudden attack startled it, and it yelped in both surprise and pain.

Kiwi gasped when its form was illuminated, and without hesitating, he broke into a run, making sure to bring Miriam with him. They ran deeper into the tunnel, Miriam lighting their way with a new ball of magic.

A small crevice came into sight, and the two quickly darted towards it. Miriam noticed the dragon was gaining on them, a bright light of fire charging in its maw, and pushed Kiwi into the crevice before she leapt in herself. However, she didn't escape unscathed.

Miriam cursed loudly as her foot got caught by the fiery breath of the dragon, burning it.

In response to Miriam’s yelling, the dragon shoots another burst of fire through the crevice. Prepared this time, Kiwi drags Miriam out of the flame’s way.

Miriam’s hand tightens in Kiwi’s, thanking him for helping her. She then continues her angry spiel, practically screaming at the dragon from a safe place behind a stalagmite structure inside the crevice. “YOU STUPID OVERGROWN LIZARD I SWEAR I’M GOING TO-“

In irritation of both losing its prey and the angry yelling witch, the dragon gives a deep earth-shaking roar.

Kiwi's body stiffens when he hears the dragon’s bellowing roar, and shuts his eyes. The dragon paces back and forth outside the crevice for nearly an hour, growling and snuffling in annoyance. With a final low huff, it stomps away.

Miriam anxiously peeks out the crevice in the wall and whispers, "I think it's gone."

Kiwi turns his head to face the crack, and the dragon’s lingering scent sickens him to his stomach. The breath of the dragon that chased them smelled similar to the corpse of the water dragon. He lowers his level, one hand to his stomach and the other to his mouth. His usual smile was long gone, now replaced with an expression of fear and disgust.

"We have to get out of here." He says after a while. "I just want to go home."

His bottom lip quivers and tears threaten to spill from his eyes.

Miriam wraps her arms around Kiwi. "Shhh. It's gonna be okay." She whispers.

"We'll get out of here. I promise."

Squinting his eyes closed, Kiwi leans on Miriam's shoulder, silently praying that the monster would not come back.

Not trusting himself to reply without blubbering, he merely nods his head.

Kiwi tried his best to calm his nerves. His arms were wrapped around himself, clutching his shoulders. His rapid breathing slowed after a while.

Finally able to speak, he whispers. "What do we do now?"

"I don't know, but... we'll just have to keep going." Miriam answers.

Kiwi sniffles before speaking again. "Alrighty then."

"Hey, uh... thanks for saving me from getting cooked alive, Kiwi." Miriam pat his head. "You really are a hero.”

Kiwi wipes his eyes before looking up at her and giving a watery smile. "Thank you, Miriam!" He gives her a tight hug, his cheek pressed against hers. "It really means a lot!"

Miriam let a smile creep onto her lips, hugging Kiwi back. They stayed there for a few minutes, just enjoying being near each other, before Miriam pulled away, embarrassed that she'd been so touchy-feely with Kiwi lately.

Miriam goes to stand up, putting pressure on her injured foot, then falls because of it.

Kiwi catches her as she falls. "Oh no! Miriam, are you alright? What's wrong?" He holds her steady, concerned that she might fall again.

Miriam winced. "It's my foot. That dumb dragon burned it. I can still stand on my own-" She then proceeds to eat her words when she pushes away from Kiwi, immediately falling over again.

Kiwi catches her again, and has her lean on his chest. "Oh, oh gosh!" He exclaims, worry crossing his brow. "Don't strain it too much! Here, let me uh... see if we can find something to help it?"

Miriam responds by taking a deep breath, then angrily shooting a cluster of stalagmites on the other side of the room with a blast of magic. She yells in frustration as they crumble.

Kiwi jumps, startled. "H-hey! Miriam! Everything is going to be okay!" Kiwi approaches her and places a hand on her shoulder. His voice stutters slightly and he gives her what he hopes is an encouraging smile. "We won't be here forever, we're going to get out!"

"I hope so." Miriam is on the verge of tears, just barely able to hold them back. "Eya, I hope so."

Something peeked out from the rubble of the stone Miriam had blasted.

His eyes opened wide, and he stepped in front of Miriam, shielding her with his body. "Eep! Miriam, don't move, I see something!"

Miriam looked very tempted to just blast it and be done with it.

The creature let out a surprised squeak, hiding beneath a piece of rubble before they were able to catch a decent glimpse of it.

"Wait, Miriam don't hurt it!" He pleaded.

Its head just barely peeked out from behind the rubble.

"Why not?" Miriam growled.

"Erm... maybe whatever it is... is friendly?" He sheepishly shrugged. "Let me try something." He cleared his throat, and softly sang a few harmonious notes in hope to tame the small and meek creature.

The small creature moved out of the rubble a bit more, curious. After a moment, they realize it's a miniature dragon.

Kiwi moves back cautiously, bumping into Miriam. His tune falters slightly but he keeps his soft melody in the air. His singing calms his nerves, and he hopes it calm’s Miriam’s too, lest she decide to shoot the small thing.

Miriam’s eyes widen at the dog sized dragon, heavily wary of it.

The dragon slowly leaves its shelter of rubble. It's easier to see its shape now. Somewhat long, with several plates of armor along its back and a fin on its tail. Most of the armor plates are cracked, some even broken entirely. One of its wings is pressed against the floor, making up for the lack of support from a missing leg. It has a long scratch across its left side, starting at its left eye which is squinted shut, scraping across its gills and stopping where its missing leg is.

"Man, there seems to be a lot of dragons here." Miriam commented wryly.

"Heheh, I guess so?" He responds. Then he kneels and opens his arms to receive the creature in a hug.

The baby dragon wagged its tail, then leapt into Kiwi's arms.

It nuzzled into Kiwi. Miriam leaned forward to investigate it, and it hissed at her, lashing its finned tail in fear, then scrambled out of Kiwi's arms.

Kiwi flinches, startled by the sudden hiss. "I uh... don't think it likes you, Miriam." He eyes the lizard-like being questioningly.

Miriam gives it a weird look. It just stares at both of them, tail slowly sliding back and forth across the floor.

"Should I sing again?" He asks her, looking for a response from Miriam. "They seemed to like it!"

The small dragon stands up, its head bobbing up and down and its tail wagging in excitement.

Miriam rolls her eyes before looking at the dragon again. "That's probably a yes."

Kiwi nods slowly, wondering if there's more to these creatures than what meets the eye. "Alright then, here goes!" He sits on the floor, and begins to sing again, a little louder than last time. His calming and melodic voice fills the room, exciting their new companion.

As he uses his breath more, he begins coughing again. A look of concern crosses his face when his song is cut short. "Oh gosh, sorry about that." He covers his mouth with an elbow and continues coughing. He had strained his lungs too far after nearly drowning.

Miriam looks at Kiwi with concern. The dragon looked at Kiwi, concerned as well. "You okay?" Miriam asked.

"Yeah, Im fine!" He gives a wide smile to assure her that everything was alright. "Really, I am!" He notices her look of concern.

Miriam gave him a disbelieving look, concern still etched on her face. The dragon rubbed against Kiwi's leg to comfort him.

Miriam grabbed his hand. "Kiwi, I KNOW you're not okay! You have pneumonia or something, you probably still have water in your lungs, and you need to take it easy." She presses her mouth into a thin worried line.

"I-" He begins to protest before deciding it was useless. Sighing, he gives a shrug before speaking again. "I guess you're right."

The dragon looked at Miriam's burned foot, and warbled with concern.

Kiwi looks as well "Hey Miriam, what do you think we should do about that? I don't think you should walk on it. He stops petting the dragon and examines her burn.

Miriam winced. "Yeah, it... hurts pretty bad." She admitted.

"Hmm..." Kiwi's glad to have moved the attention off him. "Well we probably need to keep going since the large dragon’s gone. Would it be alright if I carried you?" Giving her a comforting smile, he stands up, still holding her hand.

Miriam huffs, then softly mutters a "Yes."

"Alright! First things first." He looks out the way they came, making sure the massive crimson dragon really was gone. Seeing nothing, he continues. "Lets move you outside of the crevice."

He lifts Miriam, and slowly helps her out into the breezy cave. The dragon follows suit. "Alright Miriam, I'm going to need you to get on my back now!" Kiwi says with a warm smile.

He kneels down, back facing Miriam, and looks over his shoulder so he can help her onto his back.

Miriam reluctantly climbed on, embarrassed to be needing help. Her arms wrapped around him, and she held the light out in front.

Kiwi stands and keeps his arms under her legs so she doesn't slide down or drop. "Let's get going then!" He exclaims cheerfully, and follows the cool draft of air through the cave. The baby dragon follows a little ways behind them, not wanting to be left alone but not wanting to stay too close.

They walk for a while, and they feel the breeze getting stronger as they traverse the long winding tunnel.

"Hey, uh..." Miriam starts. "Thanks for helping me, Kiwi." She pauses for a moment. "And I don't just mean now. Thanks for helping me. In general. Like, when we were saving the world and stuff."

He looks over his shoulder and gives her a friendly smile. "Thanks for helping me too! I wouldn't have been able to get so far without you. You really are the most amazing person I know!" He squeezes her legs slightly; a subtle hug.

Miriam lightly blushes, holding onto Kiwi just a bit tighter. She smiles.

They walk without speaking for a little while more, the small dragon following them at a distance. To fill the silence, Kiwi softly hums a tune.

"Hey, didn't I tell you to take it easy?" Miriam chides him.

"But Miriaaaaaaam," He complains. "It's just a light tune, nothing stressful, I'm sure!"

"You PROMISE?" Miriam gave Kiwi a hard stare from behind his back.

"Mmmmmm... I dunno..." Not wanting to directly promise, he makes the same sound Miriam tends to do.

"MMMMmmmmmmmmmmm." Miriam continues to glare at him.

"It's just a light humming, Miriam! Nothing straining!" He looks over his shoulder to meet her eyes.

Miriam's gaze softens, and she lowers her head, wrapping her arms tighter around Kiwi.

He smiles, and his cheeks gain a slight pink tinge before he looks back ahead of them. He continues the soft humming, and switches to a slow calming tune so he wouldn't worry Miram too much.

Miriam absentmindedly thinks about how relaxing the tune is. She yawned quietly, snuggling into Kiwi and closing her eyes.

Before she really knew it, Miriam had fallen asleep.

Her hand dropped from its outward position, and the light faded. Kiwi pauses so he doesn't run into anything in the dark. After a moment he realizes that the cave still had some mild light. On the ceiling there was the faint glow of the occasional glowworm. Kiwi felt like he could continue just fine by the light of the small bugs.

He continues to hum as he walks slowly through the cave. The small dragon continues behind him, clearly enjoying his tune.

Kiwi notices Miriam resting her head on his shoulder. He wants to reach back and hug her but he knows he can't, so he settles for lightly squeezing her legs again. She murmurs something in her sleep that Kiwi can’t fully hear.

Chapter Text

They continue on for a few more hours, and Kiwi can feel himself growing tired. He finds another small cave off the main tunnel, and brings them both inside. The dragon enters behind them and lays in a distant corner, glad to finally rest its feet.

Setting Miriam down next to him, Kiwi leans against the wall. Finally glad to give his legs a time to relax, he stretches them out.

Miriam falls into Kiwi's lap, unconsciously snuggling into him.

He smiles to himself, and rests one hand on her side, and the other caresses her head. Humming softly as he closes his eyes to drift off into sleep, he hears Miriam murmur.

"Mmmmm. Eya's sweet chordsss I love youuu..." She mumbled.

Kiwi opens his eyes and looks at Miriam. Blushing profusely, he wonders if he’s imagining things.

"Miriam?" He asks softly, seeing if she'll respond.

"Mmmmmhhh... Kiwi..." She snuggles further into him.

His face grows hot. "Y-yes?" He didn't know if she could hear him in his sleep, but he responded anyways.

"Mmmmmmmlloveyou..." She dreamily states again.

"O-oh. Thank... uh.. thank you?" He didn't know what else to say, so he awkwardly mumbled as he continued to blush. A goofy smile crawls onto his face. "I love you too, Miriam."

Kiwi's back slides down the wall, bringing his level closer to Miriam's. Lifting her higher up on his body, she now lays on his chest.

Miriam shifts slightly as she wakes up from the movement. At first she didn't remember what she was dreaming about, but when it hit her, her cheeks flushed.

She looked up at Kiwi, giving him a questioning look.

He gazes back at her, smiling goofily in the faint light of the glowworms.

"What?" Miriam asked.

"I... um... I love you too," he says softly. His gaze softens and he lays his forehead against hers.

She blushes profusely. "Ohhh Eya's sweet chords what did I say-" She mumbles to herself.

"You uh... said you loved me?" He giggles awkwardly. "Its alright if you didn't mean it though I-"

"Nonononono it’s-" She paused. "I... may or may not have meant it." She blushed more.

"What?" He tilts his head and looks curiously into her eyes, his lips slightly parted.

"MmmMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM"

Kiwi chuckles nervously. "Heh, it's alright if you didn't mean to say that... Uhm..." His words drift off to silence. The two laid there a moment in complete quiet.

"Uh, I said I MIGHT have-" She managed to blush even more.

Hope fills his chest, and speaking before he loses the courage, he asks, "May I?" and leans in closer.

"Uh. Uhhhhhhhhhh???? YyyyyyyyyyyYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees????" She was kind of turning into a mess now. Either way, she said yes.

His heart was pounding in his chest. He took a deep breath before softly pressing his lips to Miriam's forehead.

After bringing them away, he looks to the side to avoid making eye contact and gives a wobbly smile.

Miriam stared for a moment.

"I was expecting a bit more. Guess I'll have to fix that." Without hesitation, she grabs Kiwi's head and presses her lips against his for a kiss.

Finding that his soft lips against hers felt overwhelming pleasant, she allowed herself to continue the sudden surge of affection. Kiwi’s tense body slowly melted under her and embraced her back. They eventually parted because Miriam had forgotten breathing was a necessity.

She pulled away and was now a raggedly breathing mess. She felt as if she were burning. Her mind was racing a thousand miles a minute, mostly with oheya'ssweetchordsdidijustdothatoheya-

Miriam emits a high pitched squeaking noise for a moment, her expression a very wobbly smile.

Wonderstruck, Kiwi processed what they just did. He brings his hand up to lightly touch his parted lips, going over what they had done in his head. "Did that... did that really just happen?" he wonders aloud in sheepish amazement. Kiwi felt as if he were taking on the hue of a tomato.

"Uh." Miriam stared for a moment. "Sorry..." She mumbled, averting eye contact.

Kiwi squints his eyes shut with pure elation and lets out a happily musical squeal. "Don't be sorry! It was... It was really nice!" He wraps his arms around her for a tight hug.

Miriam smiled and hugged back. She was being a total dork, but... she honestly didn't care. She liked Kiwi. A lot. And... she's glad to just be with him. To know that he... loves her back.

They hug for a while without saying a word. Even though their current situation was not what they had planned, far from it in fact, they were glad it brought them closer together. It was an experience they'd remember, that's for certain.

Breaking the silence, Kiwi tells her, "Thanks for everything, it really means a lot.. just... having you here!"

"It... means a lot to me, too." Miriam agrees.

Kiwi looks up at the ceiling of the cave and admires the luminous scene above. "Hey Miriam," He sighed. "the glowworms almost look kinda like stars."

Miriam looked up as well. "...Yeah, they kinda do." She agreed.

"Yeah," he mimics breathily. He enjoys her presence in silence for a moment, before asking, "Oh, how's your foot?" He tilts his head to the side in concern as he tries to look at her burn wound.

She glances at it. "I think it's still pretty bad. Probably won't be able to walk on it for a few more days."

"Well that's alright then, I don't mind carrying you! I just hope you get better soon." He nods lightly.

"Mmm... me too." She agrees.

Fully at ease now, Kiwi hums softly. He wishes he could sing, but wouldn't want to stress his lungs any more, so humming was a good musical alternative.

Miriam pauses for a moment. "Wait, where's the dragon? The small one, I mean."

“Oh! I think it’s over in the corner somewhere! It followed me the whole way here, it didn't get too close though.”

“Pspspspspspsp!" Kiwi tried to call the dragon over. It woke up and looked at him curiously before resting its head again.

Miriam sighed. "I guess we're all in pretty rough shape, huh?" She huffed. "Hey, giant fire lizard, if you're out there, screw you!" She called out to the darkness. The small dragon in the corner seemed to agree with her.
"Y-yeah! Uh... Heck! Heck you!?" He called out as well, mildly confused. "Yeah, I guess we did get pretty roughed up!" He chuckles.

They continue to talk and joke for a while, raising their spirits. Eventually they grow tired, and drift off to sleep. The small dragon stands up and stretches once it notices that they've fallen quiet. It walks up to them, and curls up in the crook of Kiwi's arm.

Miriam groggily opened her eyes, yawning slightly. The glowworms illuminated the cave in a soft glow. She could feel Kiwi's chest rising and falling softly, since she was laying on top of him.

Kiwi's breath has a slight wheeze to it. Inhaling water can have repercussions for days. He shifts slightly, loosening his arm from around the baby dragon.

The small creature perks its head up, and smacks its finned tail against the cave floor in agitation of having been woken.

Miriam lets out a startled yelp, not having expected the dragon to move.

Kiwi raises his head. "Is everything alright?" He asks in bleary eyed confusion.

She cleared her throat. "Dragon just startled me, that's all."

"Ohh, alright!" Kiwi looked to the little dragon that was looking at them both with curiosity. "Should we name them something other than dragon?" Kiwi pet the dragon and cooed "Do you want a name, little fella?"

The small dragon wagged its tail, squeaking in excitement.

"How about we name you Scale," Kiwi gushes, lightly tapping the dragon's nose.

The dragon huffs. "Kiwi, please, it's obviously more of a..." Miriam paused to think for a moment. "Betta."

The dragon perked up at her suggestion.

"Kiwi chuckles, I guess that does seem like a 'Betta' name!" He chuckles to himself, proud to have made a functional pun. "Betta, I like that!"

Miriam gave him a deadpan look.

"Aww c'mon, you know you liked it," Kiwi teases lightly, "Everyone likes jokes!"

She gives an amused huff. "Fiiiiiiiiiiiine."

"I guess it's time for us to get back on track then?" He hoists himself up into a sitting position, causing Miriam to slide onto his lap. "I just know we'll be getting out of the cave today! And good thing too, I'm super hungry!" He stretches his arms out above him and yawns.

He looks down at Miriam and smiles, glad that they'd spent so much time together, though still wishing it was under slightly different circumstances. He hoped that once they finally left the cave that she'd still accept his awkward affections, because he really enjoyed being with her.

"Are you ready to get going soon?" Questioned Kiwi.

"Yeah." Miriam answered absentmindedly.

Patiently waiting for her to remove herself from his lap, Kiwi nods his head and goes over what their plans for the day are. "So I guess we just keep following the draft until we reach sunlight! Also please don't fall asleep again, it’s harder to maneuver using just the light of the glowworms."

Kiwi pauses. "You alright, Miriam? You seem a little quieter than normal?" He goes to not so subtly hold her hand.

"Uh-" Miriam blushed slightly. "S-sorry..."

"It's alright! I guess we're both a little uh... frazzled? Lately?"

He clears his throat. "What now?"

"Well," She started. "We should probably find a way out of here."

"Definitely! I know today's the day we'll get out I think," He sings with a slight vibrato. "I have a good feeling about today." Kiwi looks at Miriam and meets her eyes. His smile widens when he looks at her.

Being unable to stand up until Miriam gets off him, but also not wanting to directly ask her, he gives a content sigh and closes his eyes again.

Finally Miriam remembers. "Oh! Right-" She slides off his lap.

Sensing her shift in movement, he opens his eyes and giggles. " I was wondering when you'd remember!" He stands up and stretches his legs.

After he regains circulation in his legs again, he kneels down and offers to help Miriam onto his back.

Miriam accepts his offer, climbing onto his back.

"Now go, my noble steed. Off into the sunset." She jokingly said.

Kiwi blushes and gives a lighthearted laugh. "Would my princess care to light the way?"

"Yessir." She raised a hand, the magic in her palm illuminating the area around them.

His heart fills with joy and he has to stop himself from skipping as they traverse the cave.

They walk for a few more hours, and Kiwi takes a few breaks for shortness of breath and leg aches, but eventually they see a shining light.

"Miriam, wait, I think I see another light! Turn yours off real quick!"

She complies with his request, lowering her hand.

The light is still shining, a soft golden color.

Quickening his pace, Kiwi heads towards the light and when they finally break away from the depths of the cave, they have to shield their eyes from the scintillating sunlight.

Finally realizing that they were out in the day, they rejoice. "Miriam! We're finally finally out! We did it!" Kiwi sets Miriam down on a large stone protruding from the ground, and then proceeds to hug a burnt bush and sob.

Miriam just watches, not able to do much else.

She silently thanked Eya, looking up to the sky. She let the sun warm her body.

He removed himself from the burnt bush after a while. Covered in ashes, Kiwi lightly dusts himself off, then goes to hug Miriam, arms extended wide.

Miriam notices him, and accepts his offer.

He buried his face in Miriam's shoulder and sniffled. Kiwi was so glad to have finally gotten out of the cave, and to see the sun again.

After getting a hold of himself, he sits down besides her and speaks. "I'm just so glad to finally be out of there."

"Yeah... me too." Miriam agreed.

They rejoice for a while more before going to search for a way out of the forest. Miriam on his back, and Kiwi allowing her to lead the way, they eventually stumble upon the very same lake that they were by days before.

"Oh, Miriam, It's the lake again! Should we get the broom pieces from the cave?" Kiwi walks towards the lake, standing on the shore and searching the horizon for anything familiar among the burnt forest.

Miriam narrows her eyes for a moment, then points to the distinct shape of the cave they were in days before. "I think I see it over there."

Walking towards the cave, Kiwi muses, "Huh, why do you think the cave's so close when it took so long to get out of it?"

"Well," Miriam starts. "The cave did have a lot of twists and turns. It's likely that we were lucky to even get an exit near the original entrance point."

"Ohhhh! Okay then!" He chuckles and looks back at Miriam. He sees her boredly playing with the feather on his hat. "You can wear my hat if you'd like!"

"Wh-" Miriam pulls her hand away. "N-no it’s-"

"You sure? I don’t mind at all!" He would have reached up to hand it to her, but his arms were occupied holding her legs. He settles with leaning his head back, motioning for her to take it.

Miriam shyly takes hold of the hat, choosing to just hold it close to her. "Sorry, I'm just... not really used to, well. Feelings?" She admitted.

"Feelings in general or uh..." Kiwi paused and a goofy grin wormed its way onto his lips. "Feelings feelings?"

"Uh." She blushed slightly. "Feelings feelings, I guess."

Kiwi giggles shyly. "I guess I'm not either. It’s... it’s really nice though"

"Mmm... yeah." She agreed quietly.

The walked the rest of the way in near silence, broken only by Kiwi humming as he walked. Thoughts swam through his head about the past few days with Miriam. He mentally admitted that seeing the dragon corpse was terrifying, but he was glad that he and Miriam were closer than ever before.

An hour has passed, and Kiwi has been listening to Miriam try to fix her broom. She was cursing, both magically and non magically. As she continued to growl with frustration, Kiwi decided to approach her. "Uhh... Miriam, how's the broom going?"

"Terribly." She growled out. "I can't freaking fix it."

Kiwi sat next to her and looked outside. "There's still a lot of daylight! We can go out and search through the forest!" Their small friend, Betta, slunk into the cave with them; they had just finished sunbathing on a stone outside. Kiwi absentmindedly strokes them as they suggest possibilities of what else they could do.

Miriam grumbles under her breath. "I guess searching the forest is all we really can do right now."

"We'll get out of this, and far off in the future this'll just be a distant memory. I know we'll get out, I know it!" Kiwi was comforting himself just as much as he was comforting her. Truth be told, he was afraid, but he didn't want Miriam to worry any more than she was.

He gives her a weak smile, and holds out his hand for her to take.

She takes it.

"So should we get going then?" He offers to help Miriam onto his back again.

Miriam silently nodded, climbing onto his back.

"Pspspspspspspspsp!" Kiwi calls the little dragon over as he begins to walk. "Which way?" He turns his head to face Miriam as he begins.

"Hm." Miriam thinks for a moment. "North, probably."

Betta squeaks, wrapping around Kiwi's legs.

"North? Which way is th-" Kiwi pauses and looks down. "Hey Betta, whatcha doin? I've gotta walk you know."

Betta lets out another squeak, almost fearful, giving Kiwi a pleading look.

"Hey, you alright there?" He kneels down carefully, placing a hand on the frightened dragon's back.

A large silhouette glides above them. Betta freezes.

Kiwi looks up, and a worried yell rises in his throat.

"aaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!"

The silhouette turns, landing in front of them.

"Oh Eya's sweet chords is that-" Miriam comments with worry, already charging magic in her hand to fire at the dragon.

Kiwi's alarmed tone turns into a single oscillating note.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA"

The dragon huffed in confusion, slowly sitting down. Miriam lowered her hand, the magic dissipating.

"AaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaa" Kiwi tries to keep the tone as long as he can once he notices the dragon sat down. "Heheh... you uh... liked that????" He sweats nervously, ready to sprint with Miriam on his back should he need to.

The dragon let out a low growl, signifying a yes.

"Eheh.. Okay then!" He cleared his throat and warmed up a little. "Ehem. Mi mi mi mi miiiiiii" Then he went to sing for real.

He sings with a strong vibrato, and almost surprises himself with his lack of coughing. He keeps eyeing up the dragon, constantly hoping that it wouldn't turn and kill them.

The dragon growls lightly, in sync with the music, it's head swaying slightly back and forth.

Kiwi sings for as long as his breath would allow. Once he sang many of the songs he knew, he improvised for a while afterwards. He allows the song to slowly stop and continues gazing at the dragon, waiting for its response with nervous anticipation.

The dragon raises itself into a tall stance, then bows before Kiwi.

Kiwi looks at his surroundings, and inherently knowing he'd find nothing but blackened forest, he turns back. "Hey uh... Mrs.. uh.. Mr? Dragon? Would you mind if we could get a ride back to the nearest town?" He didn't know if the dragon could understand him fully, but since Betta seemed to get the general grasp, he decided to give it a go. Kiwi knew this dragon was probably the one that had killed the water dragon in the cave, so he was mildly apprehensive in asking for help. It was either ask or wander for days with Miriam's burned foot.

A low growl emmenantes from its throat, before it lowers itself into a position where they can easily mount it.

"Oh Eya's sweet chords that actually worked..." Kiwi whispers, partially in disbelief. He picked up a trembling Betta, and helped Miriam onto the dragon's back.
He adjusts himself on the dragon's massive back and holds onto Miriam's hand with one arm and onto Betta with the other. Kiwi makes sure everyone is on safely before speaking again. "Alright then, I think we're ready to take off."

The dragon spreads it large, somewhat torn, leathery wings, flapping them as it ascends into the dark sky.

The air grows colder as they ascend into the sky. The wind from the dragon's wings buffeted through their hair, and they held on tight to each other. Betta was curled up tightly, and had shifted to fit in between him and Miriam.

In the silence of their flight, the dragon gives a low huff and turns to face Kiwi.
Slightly nervous, Kiwi asks, "Hm? Is everything alright?"

The dragon lets out a low noise that almost sounded like... music?

"Hugh... sick?" Kiwi ponders on this for a moment before it comes to him. "OH! Music?"

The dragon gives a growl that sounds like a yes.

Surprised by the dragons near human articulation, Kiwi clears his throat and sings. The majority of the songs he sings are those he'd heard along his and Miriam's journey.

Kiwi's voice stops suddenly when they spot a village below them. He hadn't noticed the green and unscarred foliage while he was looking at the clouds. Miriam had squeezed his hand in hers and pointed for him to look below them. "Oh! That's where we started off!"

"Could you land right around here?" Kiwi requests of the dragon. "That’s the town we were in a few days ago!"

The dragon gives a compliant growl, lowering itself to the ground.

"Well that was certainly an interesting ordeal?" Kiwi says as he turns to Miriam. "I can hardly believe these past few days!""Heh, yeah, me neither." Miriam agreed.

Kiwi helps Miriam and Betta to the ground. He props Miriam up by her shoulders. "Thank you for the Ride! I hope to see you again sometime I think? Thanks for not killing us!" He waves to the dragon, thankful that he and Miriam had survived, along with their new dragon friend.

The dragon huffs, lifting its wings and raising itself back into the sky, leaving them.

“To think the dragon truly did like my singing!” Kiwi smiles complacently, as he thinks of what they'd been though. "Hm... I do remember going to sing when we'd first seen them. If I had sung then do you think none of that would have happened?"

"Well," Miriam shifted slightly. "I'm kind of glad all this did happen." She said, averting eye contact.

Kiwi looks at her for a moment before he wraps both his arms around her in an embrace. "I guess these past few days really were an adventure, huh? We made a new friend..." Kiwi motions to Betta who is currently exploring the area around. "And the two of us got a little closer."

Miriam's breath caught in her throat for a moment, before she returned the hug and leaned into the embrace. "Yeah. We did." She agreed, resting her head on Kiwi's chest. She hummed quietly, finding the sound of his heartbeat pleasant.

Miriam's head over his heart was something he could get used to. Kiwi places a small kiss on the top of her head before resting his cheek there.

"So are we going to stay like this? I mean once we get back to the town and all?" Kiwi murmurs as he gently strokes Miriam's hair with one of his hands.

"Mmmhm." She muttered, not wanting to let go of the embrace.

"That's nice to hear." Kiwi smiles and joins in with her humming.

Betta stops investigating the greenery around them and paws at Kiwi's feet. "Hm?" Kiwi asks, before saying, "Ahh, I guess we should probably get back to the town now."

"Probably." Miriam agreed, despite not really wanting to let go of the embrace yet.

Kiwi momentarily tightens his hug before taking a step back to look at Miriam from a distance. "Once we get to town we can do something for your foot. Does that sound good?"

She nodded weakly. The strain of everything was finally catching up to her. She felt exhausted, and yet, couldn't be happier as she smiled up at Kiwi.

Kiwi kneels down to allow her onto his back to carry her. "Hop on," he encouraged.

Complying to his request, Miriam climbs onto his back, wrapping her arms around him in both an effort to stay on and to give him a sort of hug.

They walk to the nearby town, and when someone sees them walk out of the foliage they approach.

"Are you two okay? You look like you've been though he-OH EYA ALMIGHTY!" They jump in fright as Betta waddles out of a bush behind them.

Miriam stares at Betta. "You can thank Kiwi for that, since he literally turns everything he sees into one of his friends." At this, she pokes Kiwi playfully.

"Hehe, yeah," Kiwi chuckles, "we found this little guy after we had a run in with the bigger dragon... they're still out there though so uh... you might want to call in backup."

“You… didn't get rid of the dragon?” The townsfolk asked in shock.

Miriam shot back, “As you can clearly see,” we had some difficulties. She motions to her red and blistered foot and their numerous scratches. “Why didn't anyone tell us what we were up against? You only said a monster was tormenting the town.”

The townsfolk shifted anxiously. “We didn't want you to not take the job if you knew it was a dragon...”

Miriam glared at the person and huffed. “I’d have a few choice words to say to you if Kiwi here wasn't listening in, but those can be saved for later.”

“Aww gee, don't be too mad Miriam! They could have thought this out better, sure, but we’re safe and that's what matters!”

“Yeah, yeah, that's true.” She nodded. “Now where is this town’s medical center? You can probably tell that we need some care.”

The townsperson leads them through the town, waiting for them with their slowed pace, and brings them towards the building. They run off after Kiwi carries Miriam inside.

Kiwi sets Miriam down in a waiting room chair as he goes to the front to get them both a doctor.

A few hours later, their doctor visit was done. Kiwi had gotten a type of pneumonia from inhaling water when he nearly drowned, and Miriam’s foot had some first and second degree burns. They would thankfully heal within the next few weeks to a month, but for now they were exhausted and glad their adventure was over.

Not wanting to, or having the means to travel, they stayed in the town and had a letter sent to Miriam’s Grandma Saphy so she wouldn't worry about them too much. The town allowed them to stay in a house that was unoccupied at the time as an apology for sending them out unprepared. Kiwi and Miriam decided to keep Betta since they knew they couldn't return him to the wild.

They decided to stay in the town until they’d fully healed. Then they’d decide on whether to go back out and see what they could do about the dragon or leave if the town had gotten someone else to help out.