“Alright, here’s where we enter, then, Dragonheart,” Tino said and made a sharp roll to the side.
“Wh-What are you doing?!” you screamed. You couldn’t hold on any longer. In your shock, you completely lost your footing and slipped off the dragon’s back.
“Not to worry, ____________,” Tino said and changed into his human form. Then, he pulled in his arms and legs inside his body like a diving falcon and reached out to grab your hand.
Once you grabbed on, he pulled you close to his body and began to look for any signs of Mathias.
“Look for the color red!” you shouted above the plummeting winds.
“I see him,” Tino said. His vision proved to be sharper than yours because you weren’t able to see Mathias until a few seconds later.
“Alright, _________, this is how we make our landing,” the dragon said and stuck out his free hand.
You furrowed your eyebrows. “What are you…?”
Before you could finish, a strange blue-green light shot out of the dragon’s hand and spiraled like an angled slope down to where Mathias was floating on the unfrozen river—but the river didn’t stay unfrozen for long. When the light faded away, in place was a large sheet of ice fashioned like a steep mountain. From your calculations, you were going to use this to break your fall and glide towards Mathias unharmed. This was real magic.
“_____________! Tino!” Mathias shouted from below, waving his hands back and forth.
We see you, Mathias!
“Landing’s always been the hardest part so take care to watch your bottom, Dragonheart,” Tino quickly said and shifted you into a different position.
Tino wasn’t kidding when he said landing was going to be hard. Your bottom landed on the highly curved slope as he had predicted, but hitting it felt like dropping on a layer of needles. It was freezing cold, and with your speed, you were doing the best you could to hold in your pained screams. All the while as you were approaching the ground, you could hear the sheeted ice making scraping noises along the frozen slope created out of thin air. The further you dropped, the faster you went until you were near the surface of the river. As you got closer to the bottom, Tino refroze the river with his magic trapping Mathias’ boat in the process.
“Hang on tight, ___________,” Tino said and picked you up from the ice onto his lap.
The next thing you knew, you were sliding full speed on the flat surface of the frozen river with the wind whipping through your hair and stinging your eyes. The little snowflakes entered your eyes making them water until you couldn’t keep your eyelids open any longer. Soon, Mathias’ bright red makeshift boat was right in sight as the two of you slid straight for him with your full momentum in tow.
“Mathias, get ready to catch!” Tino shouted as he picked you up in his arms. Like Lukas, he was stronger than he looked.
“Wait, wait, wait!” you quickly babbled. “What are you doing?!”
“No time to explain, Dragonheart,” Tino smiled and tossed you straight up into the air.
“Gotcha, ____________!” Mathias grunted when you felt a pair of hands grab you from underneath. Just then, you felt a sharp tug on the boat as Tino grabbed onto one of the ledges to stop his motion completely. In a swift motion, he picked himself and landed right onto the wooden platform beside you and Mathias.
“Looks like we’ve caught up with you, Mathias,” the Eye of the Topaz Blizzard said.
“Your magic hasn’t gotten rusty,” Mathias smiled.
“Ohhh…” you groaned. “M-Mathias…? Do you think you could put me down?”
“Oh, right! Sorry, ____________!” the dragon quickly said and placed you on your feet. You would have leaned over to the side and thrown up, but there was still nothing in your stomach to throw up. You were starving.
“When the heck was the last time I ate anything?” you mumbled to yourself. Going through your mental clock, you estimated it was nearly two days without eating anything. Perhaps the last thing that had entered your stomach was the soup back with the caravan, and even that had been thrown up after taking a peek into Lukas’ thoughts.
“You hungry, __________?” Mathias asked.
“Yes,” you answered without the shame of admitting it.
“Hmm, I wonder if there are any animals around here to eat,” Tino spoke up. “Maybe…”
Your head shot up. All nausea and hunger pains were going to have to wait.
“Tino, Mathias, we have a problem…”
The dragons looked at each other before giving their full attention to you with quizzical expressions.
“What’s wrong, ___________?” they asked.
“It think sea serpent might be—”
The entire slope that had once been standing high like a graceful tower of ice suddenly exploded in a thunderous noise of ice and roars. When the three of you turned around, you gaped at the furious sight of the sea serpent charging mercilessly for the red caravan boat.
“Holy Eliatha! It came back!” Mathias exclaimed.
Tino narrowed his eyes. “Then we’re going to have to make sure it doesn’t come back again.”
“Vile pests!” the sea serpent shouted in your head. “I’ll devour you all whole!”
“We have to get out of here!” you cried to the dragons.
“Damn! Tino, can you do something?” Mathias asked looking around for a way out. Thanks to Tino’s magic, however, the caravan was stuck once again, as well as the rest of the river.
“There’s really not much I can do…” Tino mumbled. “We need some sort of kick to make us move. It’s risky, but…”
“Risky or not, just do it!” you pushed the hesitant dragon. “It’s going to eat us!”
“Alright, alright, I’ll see what I can do,” Tino sighed and stuck his hand out to the front of the boat. Then, with yet another glow of turquoise blue light, the river became unfrozen again, but as he had predicted, the boat remained stationary.
“We’re just going to have to go with the chance that something will push the boat forward,” Tino said. “Mathias, ___________, I’m going to have to ask you to help me tilt the boat to the side when the time is right.”
“Whatever you say!” you responded.
“I’m all ears,” Mathias joined in.
“Okay, wait for my signal,” Tino said and grabbed onto the side of the unfashionable boat.
“Faster, stronger, destroy!” you heard.
You tightly gripped the edge of the caravan piece in your hand. Even though it was the sea serpent’s thoughts you were hearing, they seemed to be getting louder and louder as the splashing grew closer.
“Ready…” Tino said.
You shut your eyes and swallowed.
“No mercy!” the sea serpent shrieked. Then, there was a shower of icy water scattering in the air and all over your clothes as the sea serpent leapt into the air to devour the three of you whole.
Right after Tino’s command, all three of you pulled the boat as sharply as you could towards the side narrowly missing the sea serpent’s mouth. There was a deafening crunch as a piece of the boat was torn off from the attack. Fortunately, as Tino had predicted, the splash had gained enough momentum for the boat to start propelling forward again—but not at a preferable speed.
“Dammit, it’s not going fast enough!” Mathias spat.
“This should fix it,” Tino said and froze the river again just as the boat went flaying into the air. With the extra momentum and the frictionless ice carrying you forward, you were able to gain a decent amount of distance from the sear serpent.
“Trying to escape?!”
“It’s coming back!”
“This won’t do,” Tino sighed. “I think I might have to resort to drastic measures.”
Mathias frowned. “You really don’t mean you’re going to…?”
You furrowed your eyebrows and looked at the dragons. “You’re going to what?”
Without answering your question, Tino began to roll up his sleeves and rub his hands together. While doing that, he looked around at your surroundings as if making mental calculations.
What’s he planning to do? you wondered.
“In the case that you might accidentally relay this bit of information to the sea serpent, I believe telling you is out of the question, Dragonheart,” Tino merely said and began unfreezing the water behind the boat.
You didn’t understand what was going on.
“Mathias, what’s Tino planning on doing?” you asked.
The Blade of the Ruby Seas shrugged. “If he’s successful, you’ll find out soon enough.”
And find out soon enough you did. To catch up with you, the sea serpent began to dive back down into the water and furiously swam at a breakneck speed.
Tino, whatever you’re going to do, you’d better do it fast, you thought.
As soon as you projected those thoughts, the ice refroze again, but this time, it wasn’t in same flat shape used for trekking the ice. Rather, the ice had fashioned itself into a long, growing shape getting smaller and sharper the more it formed.
Your eyes grew wide.
“Tino’s going to…”
Just before the sculpture was finished, the sea serpent had gotten close enough within leaping distance to clamp its jaw down on you—or rather, something else.
“Almost there…” Tino grimaced. By the now, the ice had nearly formed into a sharp peak strong enough to impale something that got too close at the given angle.
“You’re mine!” the sea serpent roared, and those were the last clear thoughts you could hear from it.
The moment it leaped into the air and came down, Tino finished forming the sharp end of the icicle. With the sea serpent completely opening its mouth, it swallowed the end of the sharp javelin-like ice tower whole, piercing its long body through its back due to the high speed it had leapt at.
Its roars were a death cry. The thoughts in your head were completely incomprehensible and unbearable. All you could hear was pain, agony, and suffering, a painful last wish to die quickly as a last resort. The sea serpent knew it had come to its end, and yet it continued to wildly thrash in the air as its body slowly sank further into the ice, the gaping hole in its backside growing wider and wider with a rich purple blood.
“Disgusting,” Mathias groaned and looked away. As well as Tino, he couldn’t bear to witness the death of such a powerful beast that shared similar traits to their own kind. The sea serpent’s death had not been a pleasant nor quick one. Its eyes were still open, watching in horror and fright as its own blood and entrails gushed and spilled out of its mouth. By now, what was left of the ice and the river was bathed with a deep murky purple color, melting the ice and evaporating into a sickening steam.
You couldn’t tear your eyes away from the gruesome sight. Even if you closed your eyes and turned away, the images of the sea serpent still drilled into your head as if you were the one dying on the spike. Your stomach was beginning to churn, and by reflex, your lower lip began to tremble as if something was about to come spewing out of your mouth at any given moment.
Even as the sea serpent had drained itself dry, you could hear the sloshing noises of its tail moving back and forth with its broken reflexes. Finally, in a last effort, the sea serpent gave one final gasp of cold air before completely collapsing onto the ice and ceased moving altogether.
“Such a rare creature…” Tino murmured unable to move from his spot.
Your mouth had gone dry. You didn’t dare swallow for it felt like your mouth was chock full of thick dragon’s blood and entrails. The sea serpent may have stopped moving, but there were still a few lingering thoughts going through your head. None of it meant anything, and you hoped to the gods that it wouldn’t. It was still projecting, still thinking, still thinking, still—
It was dead.
No one spoke for a long time. No one even bothered to do anything when the boat came to a halt on the bank of a river. To your apathetic surprise, Lukas and Berwald were waiting for you as if they knew exactly where you would meet up with them. Lukas even had his chains taken off.
The Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames was the one who broke the stiff silence.
“You three look awfully pale. Did something happen?”
After what seemed like an eternity, Mathias let out a heavy sigh and stepped off the boat. He collapsed on the solid ground, grateful that he could finally be on the snow without having to worry about the water or the ice.
“We killed the sea serpent,” he said with a monotonous voice contrasting his usual light-hearted tone.
Lukas blinked. “You’re lying, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” Mathias chuckled, his voice riddled with a burdensome weight. “Tino’s the one who killed it.”
“Sorry you had to be the one to do that,” Berwald said to Tino.
The Eye of the Topaz Blizzard shook his head.
“No, I feel that if I hadn’t done it, I’m certain it would have eaten us.”
Lukas blinked. “_____________? When it was dying, did you…?”
You slowly nodded. Tino was able to get off of the boat without any help, but your legs had frozen into stiff noodles. Lukas was the one to carry you out.
“Hey,” the sapphire-eyed dragon said snapping his fingers in front of your eyes when you were safely on the ground. “Eliatha to ____________. Are you there?”
“Lukas…?” you whispered.
There was a softened look in Lukas’ eyes like he was relived you were still with him.
“I…” Your lips trembled. “I don’t feel so good.”
And before anyone could say anything, even though you knew your stomach was empty, you threw up anyway.