While you refilled your once empty stomach with some roasted birds Mathias had caught (“Just call me a hunting expert!” he had said), the dragons took the liberty of catching up with what had happened in the time they had been separated.
“I was right about you bringing bad luck wherever you go,” Lukas snorted, giving you an icy glare. By now, you had gotten so used to it (or perhaps you were just too hungry to care) that it didn’t even bother you.
“Finding a lockpick was easier than expected,” Berwald said.
“Wouldn’t finding a lockpick mean you’d have to know where humans would be keeping one?” Mathias asked. He, too, was eating a thoroughly cooked bird alongside you. Lukas was sitting on your other side with Tino and Berwald sitting across from you in their human forms.
Berwald’s human form was rather intimidating when you first saw it. At the time when you first met up with him and Lukas, you had been in such a daze that you didn’t even bother to react to seeing it. Now, however, whenever you stole a quick glance in his direction, he always seemed to be staring down at you with an intimidating glare that pierced into your very soul. It was rather unnerving, to say the least.
Mathias had managed to laugh despite the tense mood poking fun at how much of a stiff he was even as a human: his towering height made you feel insignificantly small, and it didn’t help that the blonde’s eyes were an icy blue that rivaled even Tino’s irises. You had yet to see him smile, but something told you that if he did, it wouldn’t be very pleasant to look at.
The one thing you were truly grateful for, however, was the fact that he, like Tino, was clothed. He sported a dark outfit with a jet-black cloak. The most interesting feature of his human outfit was the pair of spectacles on his head. You would have thought that dragons would have perfect eyesight from the experiences you had in the past, but perhaps Berwald’s human form had an exception.
“We did happen to find some humans,” Lukas said. “There was a group of men just outside the perimeter of the force field who happened to be going off to eat or something trivial like that. We took the opportunity to rummage through their bags and came across a small piece of metal the Golden Sentinel claimed to be a lockpick.”
“It was a lockpick,” Berwald confirmed.
“Just like that?” Mathias gaped.
The Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “I can’t say if it’s a coincidence or not, but my luck seemed to have improved when I wasn’t around you, hu—_____________,” he said.
You frowned and silently swallowed a mouthful of meat.
“I’m sure it wasn’t completely bad,” Tino forced a smile looking to find some optimism to contradict Lukas’ remark.
Lukas only raised his eyebrows. “Is that so, Eye of the Topaz Blizzard? Then what would you call getting your wing broken not once, but twice, nearly getting eaten by a netiss, getting covered with the same dead netiss’ fat, having your brother getting kidnapped, hitting a force field at full flying speed, being captured by dragon-hunting merchants, nearly drowning in a freezing river, and almost getting eaten by a sea serpent—which, by the way, wasn’t even supposed to have existed anymore?”
“Ah…with luck like that, I guess you have a point,” Tino nervously laughed.
“Indeed, I do,” the haughty dragon snorted.
“Stupid Lukas…” you mumbled.
After finishing up the catch, Tino took some time to examine Mathias’ injured arm.
“I thought I told you not to overwork yourself,” he frowned looking upon the Blade of the Ruby Sea’s bruised arm. Underneath the layers of bandages and stained cloth, there was still some matted dragon’s blood clinging to his clothes.
Mathias winced when Tino began to rub a cold, wet cloth over his skin.
“I couldn't help it,” he chuckled. “Sometimes you’ve gotta do what you gotta do.”
Lukas made a face. “If you mean getting yourself into more trouble than you’re worth, then I’d expect no less of you.”
“You two are the same as ever,” you groaned. “Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to get some air.”
“Where’re you going, ____________?” Mathias asked as you walked away from the dragons.
“Just to have some alone time,” you replied not bothering to look back. “I’ve been around men for too long.”
Tino spoke up. “Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames, do you think you could—”
“No need to tell me,” Lukas interrupted. “I’ll make sure nothing happens.” You then started to hear footsteps trudging after you through the snow.
“You don’t have to make sure I’m alright,” you said feeling his presence catch up to your side. “I just want some time to think for myself.”
The dragon scoffed. “Knowing how bad your luck is, I’ve learned to keep my guard up whenever I travel with you.”
You made a face and looked in the other direction. “It’s not like I can help it.”
“No, I can’t say it’s your fault,” he admitted.
“Since when did you get so friendly around me?” you asked feeling a smile creeping up on your lips.
“The way you talk,” you pointed out. “You used to always call me names and refused to call me by my real name.”
Now it was Lukas’ turn to look in the other direction. “Weren’t you the one who threatened to look into my head if I didn’t do that?”
You laughed. “I thought you’d say, ‘No human can tell a dragon what to do!’ or something like that.”
“I’d prefer to choose the latter and stick with you not searching through my head.”
“Why? Are you afraid I’ll find something embarrassing in there?”
“N-Not necessarily,” Lukas replied rather unconvincingly. He could be hard to read. You sighed.
“When I thought Emil might have been dead…” You squeezed your chest. “…I’m pretty sure that was false.”
“What makes you think that?”
You swallowed. “When I looked into the sea serpent’s thoughts while it was dying, there was so much going on inside its head…what was happening at that moment, what sort of things it had planned on doing, what it had seen in its lifetime…It was all so sad. I really felt, for a second, that I was going to die, too.”
Just then, a hand placed itself on your shoulder. When you looked over to your side, you saw Lukas extending his arm in an unusual act of comfort.
“Then let’s make sure you don’t feel like that again,” he said.
“Lukas…” you breathed. Suddenly, your image of a noble Lukas was shattered when you saw a sly smile creep across his face.
“After all, we don’t want anything happening to my brother, do we?”
“Th—! Lukas, you—!”
Much to your irritated surprise, the dragon amusingly rolled his eyes.
“You’re as predictable as ever,” he sighed. “I thought travelling with me might have changed something of you, too, as it has my brother and me.”
You furrowed your eyebrows. “I’m not sure I quite follow you. You look the same to me.”
“You’re such an ignorant wench,” the dragon mumbled, shaking his head.
“Excuse me for covering my hide all of the time!” you burst out.
“I wasn’t talking about our physical appearances, ____________,” Lukas said. “I was talking about our personalities, our very way of being.”
You were still having trouble understanding. After all, you hadn’t known what sort of person Emil had been like before entering your heart.
“Before my brother was tainted by your—let me start over,” Lukas quickly said, catching himself. “Before my brother took refuge in your heart, he was always very cold, no different than me. I believed that it didn’t matter so as long as he remained reliant on me. I felt that I was important because of him, that it was the only thing that mattered so as long as I had a purpose.”
“To be there for your brother?”
“I believe I’ve told you this on several occasions and you’ve heard it to no end, but I was shocked when my brother chose a girl. Aside being jealous, I thought that something inside him had grown soft. I still think this, but I believe his soul isn’t as hard as it was before meeting you.”
“Hey!” you butted in. “How is that—”
“Let me finish!” Lukas snapped. When he saw you flinch, however, he held himself back and crossed his fingers into his hands with a sigh.
“Sorry,” he apologized; it was still hard to tell whether or not he was.
“It’s…okay,” you bashfully replied.
Lukas cleared his throat. “Shall I continue?”
“My brother was always someone who wouldn’t admit it, but he’s always been reliant on others. He is naturally frail, and as his older brother, I’ve always been inclined to fulfill my role.
“Throughout our journey, when I saw the way you behaved, despite everything that had happened, I was beginning to wonder what sort of soul my brother would possess. Needless to say, I didn’t want to admit it, but I felt that with your spirit, he wouldn’t need me anymore.”
“Oh, Lukas, how could you think that?”
“It’s probably true,” Lukas said. “Imagine my surprise when I found out you were a Dragonheart. All the times I’ve spent with my brother would mean nothing when compared to the connection a Dragonheart and her dragon would share. I felt insignificant. I felt like I had lost my brother.”
He let out a dry laugh.
“In a way, I already have. As of now, my brother’s fate still remains unknown. Even if he isn’t dead, there’s no telling whether or not he can be saved.”
“Don’t say things like that,” you frowned. “It just makes things worse.”
“Ever the optimist like a certain fool I know,” Lukas muttered.
You decided it was best not to say anything on that topic.
“And what about you, Lukas? How have you changed?”
The dragon made a low grunting noise like he was reluctant to share.
“Come on, Lukas! After everything we’ve been through, you can’t even tell me?”
Lukas still remained silent. You responded by pointing a finger at him.
“Lukas, if you don’t tell me, I’ll find out for myself,” you warned.
“Loathsome Dragonheart,” Lukas grumbled. “Very well, I’ll tell you.”
Ha! you thought triumphantly.
“Do you remember what that businessman said when I was captured?”
You nodded. “He was saying how you dragons use humans for your gain, and you went on about saying how worthless most of us are.”
“I did say most of you,” Lukas emphasized that key word. “I do know that not all of you are worthless.”
“How about that?” you sarcastically laughed.
“_____________...” Lukas growled making you clamp your mouth shut. He then continued speaking.
“To be honest, you are one of those humans,” he said.
You picked your ears up.
“One of them? There were others?”
“Of course,” Lukas said. “Had you been the first, you wouldn’t have lasted this long so be grateful.”
“Well, I never…!” you exclaimed.
“But in all seriousness, ____________, after seeing how far you’ve come, I think I’ve become accustomed to you.”
You shrugged. “Hey, if being accustomed to me means making bad jokes and poking fun at me, then I’m sure you could do better.”
The dragon scrunched his face. “There’s more, but I don’t really know if I want to say it yet…”
“What’s wrong with telling me now?”
“It’s just not time,” Lukas simply answered.
“You’re not hiding anything, are you?”
“I’m not hiding it,” the dragon insisted. “I’m just waiting for the right time.”
“And how long will that be?”
Now it was the dragon’s turn to shrug. “I honestly don’t know,” he admitted. “Maybe never.”
“Then how will I ever know?!”
“You could be able to find out for yourself. It might be blatantly obvious right now, or it may completely fly over your head. It really depends on your intelligence, though after being with you for so long, I have a feeling you won’t understand.” On that note, he turned around and began walking back to the other dragons but not before grabbing your hand and dragging you with him.
“Hey! What the heck!” you growled.
“I think you’ve had enough time alone,” he said.
“Time alone?!” you repeated. “You were always with me!”
“You could have pretended I wasn’t there.”
“How could I do that? You were talking to me the entire time!”
“I could say the same to you, ____________,” Lukas huffed. “You could have chosen not to listen.”
“Ooh, why would that be? Do you find my human voice soothing to hear?”
Damn it all, he’s teasing me! you angrily thought.
“I—I do not!” you lied. His deep velvety voice really was nice on the ears. On top of that, his hands were rather soft and warm.
“You find it irritating? Very well. I will continue to talk if it annoys you so.”
“Why do you insist on making my life so miserable?”
“I’ve told you before: so you won’t want to do anything with my brother or me when we find him,” Lukas answered as-a-matter-of-factly. By now, the other dragons were within hearing distance. Mathias, of course, was the first to open his mouth.
“Ha ha ha!” he laughed. “_____________, don’t listen to him. The real reason why he teases you so much is because he doesn’t want you to—Gck! Ow, ow, ow! No, I’ll shut up!”
“Idiot…” Lukas hissed and released your hand after hitting Mathias. Your knuckles hurt after hitting Mathias on the head alongside Lukas' combined power. The dragons weren't kidding when they said he had a thick skull.