Nothing. Absolutely nothing. You tried again and again hoping there would be a chance to reach out to the Wings of the Opal Skies, but your mind was as jumbled as you had left it a mere few minutes ago.
Could Lukas hear you, you wondered? If he could, then his mind was most likely on the brink of shattering at this very moment. You would have gone outside to check on the dragon—if your ankles weren't shackled to the edge of the caravan walls, that is.
“_____________, is everything alright?” you heard a voice suddenly speak up making you jump in surprise.
“Holy—!” you gasped and held yourself back when you realized who it was. “M-Mei, it’s only you…!”
The only female member of the travelling caravan had a look of genuine worry on her gentle face.
“We heard you screaming something from outside so I came over to see if there was something wrong,” she explained looking around to see if there was something unusual inside the caravan. “D-Did something happen?”
“No, nothing,” you lied. “I just…I just had a bad dream.”
“A bad dream?” Mei questionably repeated. “You fell asleep that fast?”
“It’s been a long day for me,” you quickly replied. You weren’t lying about that part. It certainly had been a long day after watching Lukas getting captured and finding out that Emil might have been killed a second time since you had gotten to know him.
Mei didn’t look convinced, but she let it slide—this time.
“If something’s troubling you again, you don’t have to be afraid to talk to any of us,” she said. “We may be taking your friend with us, but we’re still open to talk to you.”
“Th-Thanks, Mei,” you reluctantly said. “I’ll be sure to let you know if there’s something wrong.”
With that, you were left alone again in the caravan with nothing but a few tucked away supplies in shelves and cubbies of narrow sleeping spaces with blankets. The lights overhead were slowly shaking from the rattling of the wind blowing outside of the secluded walls, and the soft murmurs of voices from the caravan merchants could be heard from outside.
I’ve got to do something, you thought looking around. If I don’t find a way to free Lukas before we get to the gate, then he might end up just like his brother—whatever it is that happened to him.
Upon thinking of Emil, your hand automatically went to your heavy chest. Your dragon’s soul may have left your body long ago, but that didn’t mean your chest felt any lighter after knowing what sort of things might have happened to the dragon. Your ability to communicate with Emil may have been gone, but the bond that you had grown to develop with him had become close to inseparable.
Dragon, human, soul, or not, Emil had become something of a friend, a friend that you wanted to help more than anyone. Sure he and his brother might have forced you to tag along on their ridiculous voyage, but compared to the empty life you would have led back at the castle—not that you would have had a life since you probably would have been executed for letting the Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames escape—you wouldn't have asked for a more interesting adventure however filled with horrible remarks and exposure to naked men it did.
Okay, the same thing couldn’t exactly be said about Lukas, but you were sure he meant more than you did to Emil regardless of being a Dragonheart. That, and he truly was perhaps one of the only dragons left in the entire world. Letting him die at your expense was the type of guilt you couldn’t be sure you could live with.
All sentimentality aside, something new had come into mind: if Emil really was dead—permanently or not was out of the question—would that still make you a Dragonheart? Since your role had barely been touched upon, you were beginning to wonder if you would even be able to understand Lukas if he turned back into a dragon. What then? Would you even mean anything to him or the rest of the dragons back at the mountain if you had let Emil die?
No. You weren’t going to think about these things now, not when Lukas’ life hung in the thin balance of your hands. It was settled: you were going to have to find a way to get Lukas free before reaching the gate. Once that happened, you would have to work from there. Neither of you knew where the gate was, nor was there any time to look for it yourself, so you would have to time everything just right. Perhaps there was something of use inside the caravan you could use. Didn’t Yao warn you about using fire inside the caravan? He had said the same thing about Mathias’—what was it called again? “Firework?”
Now, more than ever, you wished Berwald had let Mathias come along. If Lukas hadn’t gone all out like that and lunged at your throat, Mathias wouldn’t have gotten his arm damaged. From the way the Blade of the Ruby Seas and the Golden Sentinel were bickering with one another, you had a feel that they wouldn’t have been happier than if they were as far away from each other as possible. If Mathias hadn’t been in his condition, he might have been able to come with you. On top of that, the journey would have been filled with enjoyable noise, and you had a feeling Mathias might have been able to know what to do in a situation like this.
Mathias… you miserably thought. Why couldn't you be here right now?
You sat up and looked around. There was no doubt about it. That was Mathias’ voice.
Tch. Look at you, ___________. You’ve sunk so low, you’re even starting to think there are other dragons around.
There it was again. Mathias’ voice. You were sure you had gone insane by now. It was only a matter of time before your depression really cost your sanity to completely lose it.
Oh dear, dear, dear, you thought. I hope I can stay sane before we reach the gate.
“Stupid Berwald, telling me to shut up…”
Okay, now you were certain something else was going on. Mathias’ voice was starting to say weird things that didn’t even relate to your situation. Why couldn’t his voice provide something useful to say like a cheer-up line or a rally of support?
Some conscious this was turning out to be… you then thought making a face and burying your head into your bent knees.
“Ah ha!” someone cried out making you jump. Immediately, you threw your head into an upright position and looked around the caravan and the opening, but there was no one there. Just you.
You furrowed your eyebrows.
“___________, is that—?”
Wait a minute…
“Hey, ____________, can you hear me?!”
You had to clench your teeth to bear the sudden loud shout. What was worse that there was no way to make the volume any softer.
What in the world is going on? you wondered.
“___________! Hey, _____________!!” Mathias’ imaginary voice spoke even louder this time. By the gods, it was getting irritating. How in the world was this happening to you all of a sudden? Emil’s probable death was hitting your nerves harder than you had expected.
Shut up, shut up, shut up! you screamed in your head and covered your ears.
“But, __________, Berwald said you were the one who called me first!” your conscious in the sound of Mathias’ voice responded to your thoughts.
I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about! you shouted in your head. Get out of my thoughts!
“Not until you tell me if you and Lukas are alright!” the voice stubbornly responded.
I’d say we’re fine but Lukas is chained to the top of a caravan, and I have a twisted ankle and am strapped to the inside of the cart. Now can you get out of my head so I can think depressing and regrettable thoughts in peace?
“What?! You two are captured? H-Hang on, __________! I’ll be on my way as soon as I can!”
And just like that, your Mathias-impersonating conscious had cut off from your thoughts just like Emil’s last ones had.
Oh, Emil… you sniffed. Why couldn’t your conscious at least be in the voice of your lovely pearl-scaled dragon? In fact, why in the world was it in the voice of Mathias at all? Had it just been pure coincidence that you were thinking about the Blade of the Ruby Seas at the time and just happened to develop a conscious in the sound of his voice?
…Or was it something else?
What a minute… you thought to yourself. When I was able to communicate with Emil, didn’t I heard some other voices before that? So exactly who were those voices from? And Mathias’ voice…Could they all have been…?
“____________, we’re ready to head off again,” you heard Mei say from the entrance of the caravan as she climbed inside. Apparently you had been so caught up in your thoughts that you had failed to hear the merchants packing up their things and getting ready to depart for your destination.
“O-Oh…” you murmured and silently cursed yourself for wasting your time with your own head. In the time you had been spending thinking amongst yourself and a certain Mathias-sounding conscious, you could have been looking for a way to get out of your chains.
While the caravan continued to move, Mei shared some stories about the memories she had back at her home in the far east. There were different types of creatures that you hadn’t heard about, and dragons were once quite abundant and revered as mystical beasts. She also mentioned something about how the dragons were different than the ones that were found in these sections of the kingdoms.
While the dragons over here had grand wings and defined arms and legs, the ones in the far east were rumored to have long, snake-like bodies with long whiskers and multicolored furs as well as scales. However, they, like the dragons in this part of Eliatha, had been hunted to near extinction for their supposed abilities to bring rejuvenation to the human bodies.
“Is the winter as bad as it is over here?” you asked out of curiosity.
“Pretty much,” Mei answered. “It’s been colder for as long as I can remember, though we try to make the best out of our resources as possible.”
“Hmm,” you mumbled. You tried not to distract yourself too much with her stories too much. There was still the problem of looking for a way out of this situation and not knowing what was going to happen to you so you had to keep your wits sharp and alert.
“__________, what about you?” Mei asked making you snap back to the present time.
“How have your travels with Lukas been like?” she asked. “Considering how far you’ve walked and where Yao has encountered you, I’d say you have your own interesting adventure to tell.”
“Er…” Your eyes moved away from her gaze. It was hard to back down from such a sweet look even though her family had planned on selling Lukas.
“There’s not much to say,” you lied. “Aside walking on foot and the occasional horseback, we rarely talked. I think the most interesting case was when we were nearly eaten by the netiss. I won’t forget that moment for the rest of my life.”
Mei managed a smile. “I suppose that would be a memorable experience for anyone who has travelled,” she replied. Then, she stopped talking for a moment to look outside of the small glass window.
“We’re going to be resting soon,” she said. “It’s getting dark outside.”
You didn’t say anything. Tomorrow would be the day you were going to reach the gate and river where Emil was supposedly being held. There, Lukas’ fate would be uncertain. In this time between now and arriving there, you would have to do something—but what?
The silence inside the caravan was only interrupted by the slight wooden creaking of the caravan wheels as they turned in their axels and the whistling of the wind outside. If you listened closely, it sometimes sounded like the sorrowful screams of a woman in distress. With the way things were going for you, you felt like screaming a little, too.
Perhaps it was just because you were inside the caravan so the sound was muffled, but the whistling wind sounded something like the shouting of a man, not a woman.
“Does the wind always sound like this when you’re travelling inside the caravan?” you asked Mei all of a sudden.
Mei looked confused and tilted her head to one side. “I don’t understand your question.”
“The wind,” you said pointing to the window. “Does it sound this…strange?”
“Strange?” Mei echoed. “It always sounds like that, __________.”
“Maybe it’s just me,” you muttered under your breath and let out a sigh.
After a few more seconds, however, you noticed that the sound was getting louder like there was a real storm outside. Yet, even as the whistling got louder and louder, the caravan continued to move at the same pace. The wood composing the caravan didn’t rattle any softer or harder than it had before, and the snow didn’t blow any faster past the caravan.
Still, the sound continued to grow louder.
That’s when Mei spoke up.
“Actually, you know what?” she said with a concerned look on her face. “I think you’re on to something. Something doesn’t sound right.”
You looked around. “Do you think it’s coming from outside?” you suggested hoping she would go outside to give you some time to look for an item to help you get your wrists and ankles free.
“Maybe,” Mei said and got up to leave the caravan.
Your heart leaping at the small window of opportunity, you began to hastily search for something, anything, that could have helped you. A small knife, and sharp piece of glass, a sliver of metal…
You stopped. The sound was at a point where you couldn’t be sure if it was even the wind anymore. It even sounded like it could have been coming from a real man, but who could have been screaming? Yao and his family members didn’t look like they were stupid enough to go wasting their energy screaming into the night so it had to be someone else.
Well, you were about to find out. Not a moment after you asked yourself that question, there was a loud crrrgghck! sound causing the entire caravan to shake and wobble like a large rock had somehow gotten tossed right on the roof where Lukas was being held.
“Oh, gods!” you screamed and cowered down in surprise before realizing nothing had given in. The caravan was built stronger than it had appeared.
That’s when you heard the sound of Lukas’ voice cursing up a storm from the outside.
“Pathetic idiot! Why in the world are you here?!”
“_____________ told me you guys were captured so I came to rescue you!”
You gaped. That voice…It couldn’t be…