At first, all you could do was stand there with your mouth wide open.
“What…? Wait—What?! How could—Ow! Why’d you hit me?”
Lukas didn’t even look sorry. “I had hoped you would have made the connection between the flame bearers and my title, but I guess once you’re a stupid human, you’re always a stupid human.”
“H-Hey, that doesn’t mean you had to hit me! What if you broke my head?”
“It’s already broken!”
“Manners are the last thing on my mind!”
“Well, if you’re the one carrying the flames, why don’t you just try giving them to me since you hate me so much?!”
“Because we still haven’t found my brother, and because—” Lukas cursed and spat like an angry cat. The entire time he was throwing his fit, he had refused to look at you.
“Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames, do not make me look in your head for the answers!”
“I’m getting to it!” Lukas barked. He was fuming. You waited for him to take a few breaths before he finally down enough to talk.
“You’re misunderstanding me,” he said. “It’s not that I hate you, ___________...”
“Don’t!” Lukas snapped jabbing a warning finger at you. “Don’t make me take that back!”
You pouted and clamped your mouth together.
The dragon let out a heavy sigh. “If I were to give you the flames, I wouldn’t be able to turn into a dragon anymore. I would be without flight. I would be practically helpless—ageless, but helpless. That aside, if your heart did happen to be impure, then not only would you burn into a crisp and my brother would die of heartbreak, but Eliatha would fail to exist as we’d know it. The Golden Sentinel and Mathias are past the state for inheriting the flames, and the Eye of the Topaz Blizzard is nearly the same age as me so he wouldn’t be able to take the flames, either. Once I die, that will be the end.”
“So what then?” you asked.
Lukas pursed his lips. “You said you heard voices, did you not?”
“The voices of other dragons.”
“Ah, yes, I did.”
“Then, there might be a chance to save them,” Lukas said. “One of them has to be able to take the flames in my place. It’s our only other option if you don’t happen to be up to taking them. You have to understand that I’ve been thinking about this ever since our journey started.”
“Then why would you keep something so important from me all of this time?!” you burst out shouting. “Did the others know about this?!”
“They did,” Lukas simply replied in a gruff voice.
“What, even Mathias couldn’t tell me? Mathias, the dragon who can’t even keep his mouth shut about being able to jump over a fallen tree better than I can?”
“Of course not!” Lukas snapped. “What in Eliatha did you think we were talking about when you and my brother went down to the foot of the mountain?”
You tossed your hands up in the air. “How was I supposed to know? You never told me!”
“And for a good reason! Just like everyone else, he knows very well what might happen if the flames were to die! It was his own way of making sure he didn’t get close to me in the case something did happen.”
“I-I don’t get it…”
“As expected of someone with such a closed mind,” the dragon spat. “I’m not dense, but neither is he. He knows that he has no role to play, and so he chose to look past that.” Lukas’ eyes appeared to glaze over. “He chose to treat me as a normal friend, not as someone who has a high probability of dying.”
You couldn’t say anything to that. Even after all of the hurtful words Lukas had thrown at Mathias, the carefree-looking dragon had managed to look past all of that and treat Lukas as anyone would treat a friend. Oblivious or not, that was something Lukas had to at least be grateful for.
“Lukas, have you, in any way, considered Mathias to be a friend?” you asked. “I know you’ve denied it at times…”
The Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames sighed.
“I don’t want to admit it even if it is true,” he confessed. “If I said it aloud, then it would only confirm what’s already obvious.”
“But that would make Mathias happy.”
“It would make him happy, but it would just make things worse for both of us in the end,” the dragon frowned.
Before you could speak out, he continued to talk as if he had predicted a question to pop out of your mouth.
“From the moment I accepted the role as the next flame bearer, I knew that somewhere down the line, I might have to prepare myself for the worst possible scenario, and that scenario would be my untimely death.”
“Having a brother was bad enough. When I found out I had a brother, I wanted to forget everything all together. If something happened to me, then there wouldn’t be anyone left to look after him.” Lukas took a moment to collect his thoughts. While full of life in appearance, the tone in his voice sounded drained and tired of everything that had happened.
“I shouldn’t have been so protective of him. I knew there were few dragons left, but I didn’t realize how few. At the very least, I wanted to give him something to remember me by so I wouldn’t have to live with the guilt of never being a brother to him to begin with.”
“It’s selfish, I know. It was even more cruel of me to push Mathias away.” The dragon hopelessly shook his head.
“The real reason I wanted to remain cold to you as much as possible was so you wouldn't care about me.”
“The flames are eating away at my body as we speak, ____________,” Lukas said. “It’s only a matter of time before I perish. Even if the flames manage to get passed along, I do not know how long I will last after that. At the very least, I had hoped that by distancing myself from others would have caused you to do the same.”
He cursed. “But that damn Mathias. That stubborn fool never gave in even after all the times I treated him like trash. I had hoped that if I failed to harbor the flames, then I would at least make sure no one got close to me. My brother can take care of himself. He’s known from the very beginning that the flames inside my body would eat away at me. He has prepared himself for the day that I might disappear.”
“You’re setting yourself up for a really depressing death, Lukas.”
To your surprise, Lukas burst out laughing. There was something genuinely eerie about hearing him laugh.
“I suppose I have to agree with you on that, ___________,” he smiled. “I’d blame my poor choice of a vessel, but perhaps it’s also a matter of being a stubborn and arrogant being.”
Well, at least you admitted you’re stubborn and arrogant, you thought.
“The point was, I didn’t want to be missed,” Lukas said after calming down. “I wanted to disappear without upsetting anyone. For the longest time, everything was fine. Of course, that was until my brother and I were captured and discovered that there were little to no dragons left in the world.
“Aside that, however, wouldn't you be surprised? Mathias comes walking back into my life after I had worked so hard to push him away. And then there was you, a most ungrateful little human girl who had to be appointed the dragonkeeper. If it weren’t for your heart, I wouldn’t have…”
Lukas’ voice trailed off.
“You wouldn’t have what, Lukas?” you softly asked.
“Nothing,” Lukas quickly replied. “It’s nothing, ___________.”
You puffed your cheeks up. “It couldn’t be just nothing, Lukas,” you fumed. “After everything we’ve been through and all of those names later, you can’t even tell me what else is wrong with me?”
The dragon grunted. “It’s not that, _____________. What I had meant to say to you wouldn’t change anything.”
“You never know,” you pushed. Of course, being the overly stubborn dragon that he was, Lukas refused to open his mouth. You wanted to look into his head, but something told you he wouldn’t forgive you for doing that.
“Fine!” you pouted. “You can keep your thoughts to yourself just like you have been with Mathias. I’ve seen the way you two talk to each other. I’m not as stupid as you think—okay, so maybe I’ve tripped up in my thoughts here and there, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize two friends when I see them.”
“_____________...” Lukas muttered.
“Even after you hit him and nearly chewed his arm off, he still smiles around you,” you continued.
“_____________,” Lukas said a little louder.
“And haven’t you heard him when he’s being saying you’re his friend? He still calls you that even when you deny it.”
“Why do you continue to deny it? Do you really think it’ll save other people the trouble of not having to grieve over you when the time comes? Do you really think we’re just going to let everything go and pretend we never cared about you?”
“_____________, would you—”
“Emil cares about you, too, you know. I’ve always felt it when he was inside my heart. When he talked about you, he never said awful things about you. He was never upset, sad, or angry. No matter how early you told him about your burden, I think he’d still miss you if the time came.”
“_____________, please just—”
“You know something, Lukas? I would miss you. I’d—there! I said it! I would miss you, too!”
“Call me masochistic, but I’d miss it when you wouldn’t call me names anymore or hit me. I’d miss it when you would walk too fast for me to catch up or throw me all of those death glares you shoot at me.”
“Death glares…?” Lukas mumbled. “___________, listen to me, I—”
“And, damn it all, I’d miss…!” Your lips trembled as you looked away. “I’d just miss having you around in general. I don’t know why…I—I just would!”
“That makes two of us,” Lukas sighed.
“What was that?”
“Oh, you saw right through me,” the dragon sarcastically replied.
“Lukas, stop it!” you growled.
“I said that makes two of us,” Lukas then told you without a second thought. “_____________, if you would just please—”
“That’s a first,” you snorted. “You, the Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames, a dragon would miss me! Is it because you wouldn’t have anyone left to make fun of and treat as trash?”
“No, that’s not why—”
Lukas looked like he was about to explode. He even had a deep flush of red visibly showing on his cheeks.
“I know I’m going to regret saying this or even thinking this…” he sighed. “I don’t think you deserve to know this, either.”
“Just spit it out!” you snapped. “You said it wouldn’t change anything!”
Lukas clicked his tongue and bit his lower lip. “______________, I said something earlier about…No, that’s not the right way to say it.” He took a deep breath. “I’ve been debating on whether or not it was real, but I’ve been meaning to say that—Damn!”
The once silent field of snow and trees suddenly burst into a holler of inhuman whooping and shouts. Before getting your face buried halfway in the snow, you felt Lukas grab onto your shoulders and pull you behind him.
Where’s Lukas now? you thought, your mind still in shambles from the sudden rush of movement and cold.
However, when you looked behind you, the fresh snow falling off your hair, your hand touched something warm and…wet.
The color of dragon’s blood.
Your eyes went to the wound where the richly colored blood was spewing out. There, like a sharp blade piercing into your very own body, was an arrow embedded deep within Lukas’ heart, the tip poignant and as true as the realization of the life-shattering sight that lay before you.