“Hey, I’ve been wondering this for some time, you two, but how does a dragon get his—or I guess her—title?” you asked while walking along the bank of the river.
You had been walking for a short time after you had begun to feel negative emotions heading downstream of the river. That was a good sign since that meant you wouldn’t have to worry about running into Yao or his family members any time soon.
“You really want to know something like that?” he unenthusiastically asked.
Being used to his normally cold demeanor, you timidly fumbled your hands around in a nervous tangle and looked down at the ground.
“I was hoping if I asked enough times—that is, if we travelled for this long—you would finally tell me sooner or later,” you bashfully admitted.
“I told you before, hu—” Lukas caught himself when Mathias raised his eyebrows. He groaned and tried again.
“I told you before, __________,” he said this time, “the reason isn’t important to you.”
“But you’re so cocky about it,” you pressed. “If you really want me to call you by your real name, then shouldn’t I at least know why you deserve to be called such a (long) title?”
Lukas stubbornly shut his mouth. Mathias rolled his eyes.
“Hey, I know,” the Blade of the Ruby Seas said patting your shoulder with his large hand. “How about I tell you how I got my name?”
“That sounds good,” you nodded. “I was just curious as to how a dragon got his or her name in general. Is it by birthright, naming rituals, or…?”
“It’s based on the judgment of our first one hundred years as a dragon,” Mathias explained. “We go nameless for a time, but by then, it’s usually time for us to find our first human vessels.”
“So you get your human names before your real ones?”
“Most of us do,” Mathias continued. “Anyway, I got my name from the glorious battles I contributed to when I had my first and only vessel.”
“The warrior type,” Lukas muttered as if he had been there when Mathias had joined with his first human vessel. “If I remember correctly, the only reason you ended up going with a warrior in the first place because you were careless and got too close to the soldiers.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Mathias laughed.
“What happened, now?” you asked furrowing your eyebrows.
“Mathias got his vessel early because he ventured too close to the humans, and as a result was killed,” Lukas answered in his friend’s place. “He had no choice but to pick one of the humans out then and there without even so much as observing them.” He scoffed. “He was reckless. Had he chosen the wrong vessel, his soul would have been completely corrupted. In fact, he chose the very warrior who delivered the final blow to that thick-boned skull of his.”
“Well, I thought that if he was strong enough to kill me, then he would be strong enough to make it to the top of Eldur Mountain,” Mathias chuckled with a slight hint of blush on his fair-skinned cheeks. It was surprising how this dragon could treat his death so casually.
Lukas, on the other hand, like with most matters, did not think it was something to smile about.
“You still haven’t learned,” he hissed. “That human could have been an even bigger idiot than you. Perhaps that’s why you’re even more clueless than when you got your second body.”
This made you grimace. “The human you chose could have had a smaller stick shoved up his—”
“Anyway,” Mathias continued, “after inheriting my human name, I felt something calling inside of me. It’s hard to describe to a human or any dragon who hasn’t gotten a name, but it was just like I suddenly knew who I was: a—”
“Fool,” Lukas answered with a turn of his nose.
“—warrior at heart!” Mathias spoke over his pompous friend’s voice insult without even hearing him, his chest proudly sticking outwards like a proud bird.
More like both, you jokingly thought in your head.
While the three of you were walking, Mathias made sharp motions with his left hand as his right hand was still damaged. His left hand, alone, made enough gestures to put on a decent show.
“There I was, striking fear into the enemy eyes!” he said with a gallant voice. “No warrior could stand in my way; I was the bravest of the brave.” He shot his arm to the sky with a swing much like he was swing an invisible sword up to the heavens.
“Wherever I went, I was always marveled for my powerful strength and the beautiful sea of blood I left behind glittering like a mine of the darkest red rubies!”
So that’s where that came from.
“And, then,” Mathias said, clutching his heart, “I knew. I knew what my destiny was: to live among those who needed fighting for—because that’s what I do!”
“You mean acting like an idiot and risking your life in your human form?” Lukas butted in.
“What happens to dragons who die as humans?” you asked since the topic was somewhat touched on.
“They die—permanently,” Lukas said as-a-matter-of-factly.
“From then on, I entrusted myself with the glamorous, noble title of the Blade of the Ruby Seas!” the dragon beamed, a genuine fire alight in his bright blue eyes. “A fitting title fit for my unsurpassed abilities as a sword-wielding dragon!”
“That’s…wonderful,” you complimented him unsure of what else to say.
“His story is terrible,” Lukas muttered. "There's more to it, but I fear he will tear it apart with that stupid mouth of his."
All the while, Mathias was chanting self-acclaimed praises of his own accomplishments. Since he was never quite the serious dragon, it was hard to tell whether or not the Blade of the Ruby Seas was exaggerating or not.
You raised an eyebrow. “So you’re saying you have a better one?”
The Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames rolled his eyes as if the answer was obvious.
“Of course I do, huma—dammit—I meant _________,” he grumbled. Then, he made a small grunt and bent forward when Mathias leaned his entire upper body on his shoulder.
“Bah, he just doesn’t want to tell it because it has to do with that one la—Hhnnggckk!”
“That one what?” you wondered aloud.
“Nothing,” Lukas growled, tightening his arm around Mathias’ neck.
“L-Lukas, you’re going to kill him…” you said in a shaky voice.
“Good,” the sapphire-eyed dragon replied. “Maybe our journey can be quiet again.”
“You…don’t…mean that!” Mathias gagged and continued to tap on Lukas’ arm hoping he would give up like a friendly prank but to no avail.
“Gods, uh…Lukas…I—I-I’ll peer into your thoughts if you don’t let him go this instant!”
To your pleasant surprise, the dragon immediately obeyed, slinging his arm away from the wild-haired dragon and flat against his side.
“Blasted wretch,” Lukas hissed under his breath.
“Hah…Thanks, _________,” Mathias panted. “You know, if you waited a little longer, my ultimate secret combat skills would have activated in an amazing show and—”
“Oh, shut your trap,” Lukas snapped.
Mathias clamped his mouth shut. You sighed in relief.
“Erm, but really, Lukas, is the story behind your name something personal? Because if it is, then you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to…”
Lukas averted his dark blue eyes away from yours. “It’s not that it’s personal; it’s just not something that pertains to you.” He snorted. “Human curiosity can be such an irritable thing.”
“Hey, questions lead to answers,” you pointed out to him.
“So does finding out for yourself,” the dragon threw back.
“Oh, so would you rather I look inside your head?” you threatened. Of course, you hadn’t planned on doing it with full intentions, but your question got the arrogant overgrown blue lizard to stiffen up.
“I’d prefer you don’t go poking around in my thoughts—for the best of both of us,” Lukas merely suggested.
Heh. How about that? you thought to yourself. It looks like I finally have something to assert myself with around this guy.
“Ha ha ha!” Mathias laughed. “She’s got you roped around a leash, Divine Guy—Ack! Ggrrghh!”
“And I’ve got you wrapped around a chain,” Lukas countered, squeezing the chain tightly around his friend’s neck again.
“Lukas!” you growled with a menacing look. The dragon automatically withdrew his chain and cursed.
You couldn’t help but smile.
I think I’m starting to like being a Dragonheart, you thought.
“Whew!” Mathias panted, rubbing his neck. There were visible red sore marks, but from what Lukas had told you in the past, it would heal in time just like everything else about the dragon’s body.
“Mathias, are you alright?” you asked in a concerned voice.
“I’m fine, _________,” the dragon grinned. “It’s nothing a little metal can damage—though I have to admit that it kind of burned…”
You frowned. “Perhaps it’s because they’re fixed with a spell?” you guessed. “How does one go about casting spells like this, anyway?”
“The same way Dragonfall was cast—with magic,” Lukas answered.
Even though you knew Dragonfall was the result of a curse, you had never actually seen real magic performed from anyone other than the dragons and yourself—if one could call telepathic communication magic. But then, magic couldn’t have been a lost art. Emil, himself, had said that the chains back at the castle had a spell on them as well as the ropes that had captured him back at the foot of Eldur Mountain.
“Hey, speaking of magic, do you two know any spells?” you asked out of curiosity.
Mathias chuckled. “I was never able to do it since my dragon powers are stagnated, but I’ll bet Lukas still has a thing or two up his sleeve.”
“Really?” You perked up your ears. “Like what?”
“Pointless spells that won’t be able to help us for the moment,” Lukas answered without even bothering to elaborate with an explanation.
“Even if they’re pointless, I think it would be interesting to know what those spells are,” you said.
“They won’t help us in this situation,” the stubborn dragon coldly replied.
“Ah, well,” you muttered. “Oh, but do you think someone like me could learn magic?”
At your question, Lukas stopped walking and gave your body a good run-down.
You tilted your head to one side.
“Hmm,” was all Lukas said for a while, placing his hand over his mouth in thought. “Being able to do magic requires a lot of discipline and energy…
“Nah, you’re not cut out for it.”
“Wh-What? Just like that?”
“Magic isn’t for everyone,” Lukas said and urged the two of you to move along. “The art is so archaic and dangerous that it may not be recommended to bring back to human knowledge.”
You made a face. “Is that why no one knows how to stop Dragonfall?”
“It could be that Dragonfall isn’t unstoppable, rather no one wants to reverse the curse.”
“But if magic is lost, then where did those chains come from? And what about the force field?” you pointed out to the metal braces tightly enforced on Lukas’ wrists and ankles. Had he possessed any other face than that of an angel, he would have looked like an ordinary prisoner. You wouldn’t admit it aloud, but the chains rather suited his haughty image.
“The chains must be old,” Lukas simply said. “They must have been from the time when cheap charms were used when dragon hunting was popular. As for the force field, it may have been up for a long time without our knowledge of it.”
“Oh, yeah, that reminds me,” you said transitioning to another topic, “Lukas when I was talking with Mei, she said there were other kinds of dragons in the far east. Have you seen them before?”
“I’ve heard of them, but we keep to our own areas,” Lukas said. “The same fact remains valid, however: dragons to humans are mere beasts used as resources like everything else they get their hands on.”
“The humans I’ve observed and used as vessels thought of us as burdens and nothing more. That or the ones who believed we contain the power of immortality hunted our kind to no end. It’s like an addiction.”
“Then what about me?” you asked. “What category do I fall under?”
Lukas hesitated. This gave Mathias an opportunity to speak up.
“You’re a Dragonheart so I don’t think you’re technically just a vessel. And I don’t think you’d hunt us if you had the chance—would you?”
“No, never,” you answered shaking your head.
“Then you’re special, ____________.”
This made you laugh. “From what I’ve heard from the stories Emil told me, I’m hardly anything compared to the other vessels.”
“I can agree with you on that,” Lukas replied making your spirits fall again.
What a killjoy… you thought.
Soon enough, the riverbank completely disappeared and sank into the frozen river. Lukas frowned and gave the ice a quick test tap before completely resting his full weight on the ice.
“How is it?” you asked as the dragon continued to press on different points along the ice.
“It’s good,” Lukas finally said and urged you to follow him onto the ice.
“Looks like from here on out, we’re going to have to walk on the ice,” Mathias observed looking past the riverbank downstream.
“If the blasted the force field wasn’t up, we would have gotten over this journey a long time ago,” Lukas growled and had to hold his arms out to maintain his balance.
“Yeah, but the travelling is part of the adventure,” you said. “And besides, I prefer your human form over your dragon one.”
“It’s typical for the same species to get attract to the other,” Lukas muttered.
“No, that’s because your human appearance is attractive,” you giggled.
“Ah, yes, you mentioned that to me once,” the Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames said in a far-off voice.
“Wh-What about me?” Mathias asked with a whiny voice.
“You’re okay, too,” you decided to say—and immediately regretted it once the words left your lips.
“But of course I am!” Mathias laughed. “Even in my human form, I am beyond gorgeous! I am irresistible! An eye-catcher!”
“Shut up,” Lukas growled. It didn’t appear that he was going to place his friend in a chokehold after the times you had already threatened to look into his thoughts.
“I can agree about the eye-catcher part,” you smiled. “His hair really makes him stand out.”
“That’s only because he’s too lazy to preen himself,” Lukas snorted.
You rolled your eyes. You hadn’t seen Lukas take care of his human appearances very often, but maybe that was because he was already attractive by human standards. Meanwhile, in the background, Mathias continued to spurt out his feats of physical attractiveness to no end. Lukas looked like he was about to explode from the small amounts of trembling he would do every so often.
“…And I can’t forget the time when I made a pair of ladies faint from the shear action of looking their way and giving them an irresistible smile and wave!” Mathias beamed.
You leaned towards Lukas’ ear.
“Are any of these things true?” you asked.
“I highly doubt it,” Lukas answered. He paused. “Care to find out a different way?”
You furrowed your eyebrows. “What other way are you talking abou—Oh! That way!”
“Can you do it while he’s shouting like this?”
“I can try…” you said. “Maybe I can practice.”
“I’ll be quiet, then,” Lukas shrugged and waited for your mind-reading abilities to work.
Mm, let’s see…I want to hear Mathias’ thoughts…
Oh! That was fast!
You chucked. You wondered how long it would take Mathias to figure out you were looking in his head. Then again, there wasn’t much going on in his head since he was speaking aloud.
Well, that was certainly strange. What was near? Curious, you looked around to see if there was something Mathias had spotted. Ice, ice, and more ice. You looked to the rushing water below to see if there was something of interest. Nope.
You looked over to Mathias. He was still shooting his mouth off. Either he was really good at thinking and talking at the same time or…
“Well, _____________?” Lukas piped up.
You furrowed your eyebrows. “Lukas…there’s…”
You froze in place. As if out of nowhere, a deathly chill ran through your entire body, and your heart began to pound with the same adrenaline you had felt when Mathias had been fighting with the merchants.
“Lukas! Mathias! Run!” you screamed at the top of your lungs.
Not a moment after you said that, the entire ice beneath your feet exploded in a shower of water and a deafening noise roaring out to the sky.
“___________!” you heard Mathias cry out beside you. Your head was strangely warm. When you placed your hand to your head, you felt something hot and wet. You moved it in front of your face. Blood.
Just like when the caravan had fallen into the river, the ice completely broke apart in a large hole, but instead of caving in, the ice broke out.
A dark shadow flew overhead and disappeared back into the ice like an ermine diving in the snow, but this was definitely no ermine; the shadow was far too large.
When the shadow rose up again, shards of ice fell over its long body as if they were mere drops of water. This creature…you were able to hear its thoughts, but it was different…How in the world could there be one of these right here?