Lukas was still at the spot where you had left him. There was no turning back after everything he had done for you even if you hadn't realized it until it was too late.
Now that you were able to see, you were able to get a grasp of what exactly this place was. In short, it was both a garbage heap and a graveyard for whatever the people above didn’t want to deal with. The clacking sounds you had heard earlier had been the bones of small animals, unfortunate humans, and even a few strange skeletal structures you did not fully recognize.
Thanks to the Sapphire Flames, as you so called them in tribute to Lukas’ formal title, the nightcrawlers and bloodsnares had steered clear of your path. You could occasionally hear them chattering in the darkness, but for the most part, they remained unseen.
With the flames of the world now residing safely in your heart, you had one final task to take care of: find Emil and if possible, rescue him.
You had tried reaching Emil a few times while you were walking around the cavernous garbage heap, but the only thing you were able to hear was the chorus of dark-loving creatures. Until you could find him, you decided to continue walking. It was a good thing you had that meal with the other dragons before coming here or you might have collapsed of starvation.
After much debate, you thought it was best not to have the other dragons get involved. It had been enough when Tino and Berwald had come searching for you, but Mathias was a dragon all on his own. He had come to your aid without you even telling him to. If he found out Lukas, his friend, was dead, then he most likely wouldn’t have hesitated to storm whatever this place was for revenge—assuming he was that noble or shallow-minded.
As for Emil, on the other hand, you thought it would be best to tell him and the others once you were sure they were all safe—if you even managed to reach him.
At this point in time, your mind was a complete blur of thoughts swirling in your brain like soup. You had absolutely no direction and no concept of time. There wasn’t any natural lighting coming through the ceiling after Lukas had been dropped, and you didn’t even know where you were.
How were you supposed to find your way out of this place if you didn’t even have defense against enemies or a way to escape? Even if you managed to find Emil, he wouldn’t be able to fly with the force field up. If the force field hadn’t been up, Lukas might have remained a dragon the entire time. You wouldn’t have had to go through all of those other bumps in the road before finally winding up in this place with Lukas dead.
He’s really dead… you thought.
It was hard to believe. You had to save your tears for later, but not crying made it feel worse. If you didn’t cry, you feared that you weren’t feeling enough guilt for the dragon’s death. Lukas would have scolded you and told you to pull yourself together if he was here.
The pest…Even when he claimed to try to distance himself away from you, it made you oddly attracted to him even more. You weren’t sure why you had felt that way, but whenever Lukas had tried to barricade himself from intimacy, you had found yourself trying to break down his defenses even harder. Maybe if the arrogant dragon had admitted to wanting friends, things would have turned out differently, but whether it would have been for the better or for the worst was something you wouldn’t be able to predict.
The time you had been looking for Mathias and Lukas downstream on the river had been the only real time you hadn’t been with any of the dragons—that and when Emil had been captured. Until now, you always had a sense of direction: follow Lukas or stay close to him and everything would be alright.
While arming himself with a sharp tongue and even sharper teeth, Lukas had always been the one thing that kept you moving. Even when he had left you behind during the earlier walking portions of your journey, he had made sure to prepare a resting spot ahead for you to come to. Even in the Bone Forest, he had made sure that your survival was the only thing that mattered—even if that meant only looking after his brother. And at the end of it all, he had taken a big gamble.
What if your heart hadn’t been pure? What would have happened? Would the world really have frozen over? Would your heart really have burn up and spontaneously combusted against your will?
The more you thought about it, you weren’t even sure if Lukas knew what he had been doing when he gave you the Sapphire Flames. Before dying, he had made a point of being unsure as to whether or not your heart was even pure. He had implied that the main reason he had wanted to keep the flames from you was to ensure that you wouldn’t throw Emil and yourself into oblivion.
Neither of you had expected Lukas to die so unnaturally, though. Lukas had hoped that if you managed to find other dragons, one of them would be able to take the flames in his stead. Either way, if Lukas had died with the flames in his heart, then the entire world would have been destroyed according to his story. Giving you the flames could very well have been a last-resort decision. There was a high chance that he didn’t even care about you, too.
But there was that lingering question that was making your heart flutter: was the kiss necessary? Surely when the other Dragonheart had taken the flames, his dragon hadn’t kissed him, had he? Well, Lukas never said anything about that, so it was still open to debate.
“Damn you, Lukas!” you screamed kicking a small animal skull away from your path.
Outrageous! Preposterous! Ridiculous! It was downright rude of him to do that! After teasing you and lying to you for so long and finally leaving your side with a parting act like that was completely unpredictable! It wasn’t like him! Had he meant to tease you to the very end and play with your emotions? Damn him!
“No! Hold it together, ____________!” you cried out, your voice rising above the soft murmurs of the bloodsnares. “Lukas, if you can hear me from wherever it is you’re watching me from—if that place even exists—then know that you haven’t gotten the best of me! No, you haven’t!”
“Right,” you sighed. “It was stupid of me to think that you would answer me. You’re…dead, after all…”
The last thing that was still keeping you from breaking down completely was trying to stay angry with Lukas. It had kept you sane when he had been alive so maybe it would be able to keep you sane while he was dead. It didn’t hurt anyone. He wouldn’t hit you or scold you if you cursed his names to his grave—not that he had one, of course.
“Confounded dragon!” you growled and matched onward. You could see your breath condensing as you exhaled in fuming huffs.
“Lukas, y-you were right! You did your job! I don’t miss you! I don’t! Nope! You were a high-class snotty, overgrown, shape-shifting lizard to the very end! Even your looks didn’t matter! I told you this already, but your attitude cancels everything about you that made you attractive! Beautiful on the outside, ugly on the inside and all the way to your core! No wonder the flames didn’t last long! I bet…” You took a moment to catch your breath. “I bet you were the real reason Dragonfall happened in the first place! It never was a curse, was it?!”
“Ungrateful beast…” you wheezed. “Even after I took good care of your brother, you never thanked me. Not once. Even when I thanked you, you didn’t think twice about blowing my gratitude away. I don’t miss you in the slightest! Okay, so I might have cried, but that’s what happens when I get a little shaken up and see a mangled corpse. It’s not very pleasant. It’s not.
“Gods, Lukas, if you could see yourself right now…” You caught yourself. “On second thought, maybe that’s not a good idea. You’d come back as an ethereal being or something and go around haunting this place, and that’s that last thing I want: you coming back to haunt me.”
At this point, you finally found a wall. It was about time. Your eyes wide open and alert, you continued to march onward.
“I don’t miss your cocky attitude, your stupid jokes, how you would always blame me for everything that went wrong…even though everything was pretty much my fault…But still! That didn’t mean you didn’t have to act like a gentleman! I thought your first vessel was a prince! Couldn’t you have picked up some noble qualities instead of his damn high-and-mighty attitude?”
The wall felt solid and cool along your fingertips as you moved alongside it. You continued to pass more supporting beams.
“I...” you sighed. “Oh, gods, Lukas, why did you have to be like that? Why did you have to be such a irritable fool? Why couldn’t you have been like Mathias? I’m not saying I want you to be exactly like Mathias, but it would have been nice to see you smile in a not-so-creepy kind of way. You were so creepy…”
You shuddered just thinking about the memories of Lukas’ dry, sarcastic laughter and his mischievous smirks. It was one thing to see him look like a stiff all of the time; it was another to see him genuinely amused. Whatever humor he had, it always had to do with things going his way. What a cheeky bastard he had been! How in Eliatha would you have missed such qualities from such an ungrateful dragon?
“And that part about being able to love!” you burst out of nowhere in particular. “You said you were able to love, but never have I seen a more conceited person or dragon such as you.”
“That’s not to say I’ve actually known too many dragons in my lifetime,” you added.
If anything, besides the concern he had expressed for his brother, Lukas hadn’t cared too much about anyone but himself. Even if he did have feelings for others or even for Mathias in particular, he never admitted it. What did it matter that it was the type of person that he was? He had been awful! The kiss must have been nothing more than an action to pass on the Sapphire Flames to you, after all!
“Scheming wretch!” you shouted into the garbage heap.
You must have been putting on quite the show for the bloodsnares and nightcrawlers. It was best not to look directly at them, however. The light may have frightened them, but you weren’t sure if it was because it was physically harming them or because they were unfamiliar with the color. If they decided to attack you, there was no possible way to defend yourself. The most you were able to get out of the Sapphire Flames’ power was making the room a bright blue color. That was it.
At least you cold see where you were going, and thank goodness you had gotten used to seeing twisted sights. There were some ungainly things lying about the floors. Interestingly enough, for a garbage heap, the place didn’t really seem to have a lot of real garbage, just several remnants of living things tossed somewhere in the brink of time’s journey.
Thinking about journeys, I wonder if I’m making any progression in my own, you thought.
Perhaps it was time to try communicating with Emil again.
Emil… you thought. Emil, can you hear me? Are you still alive? Wait, what are you thinking, ___________? If he was alive, then of course, he could hear me.
You wanted to stop and shut your eyes for maximum concentration, but the fear of leaving yourself exposed to the predators of the darkness made you continue walking along the wall.
Emil? you thought again. Emil…Emiiiilllll…………EMIL!!!
You sighed. It was worth a shot. What if the poor guy really isn’t alive? I’ve been talking to the dragons in their human forms, after all. Maybe he died somewhere along the way? No, but then how am I able to hold the Sapphire Flames in my heart? Magic? I wish Lukas would have taught me how to use magic. He never even told me what sort of magic he could do. He said it was useless magic. Pointless magic.
“Woo! Magic makes the world go ‘round!” you yelled in a singsong voice tossing your hands up in the air. Perhaps you had gone mad in solitude, after all. Getting mad at a deceased dragon didn’t save your sanity.
“Oh, and maybe I’ll wander here forever! There are no stairs, not ladders, no door of holy light guiding me to a sacred place above. It’s all darkness and bones, and soon, I will perish and join them in their bare bony states! And the world keeps turning!*”
“I, ____________, a Dragonheart, will die here! I could have the will of a thousand men fighting for their lives and still be stuck here! There is no escape from this deathly place! The darkness calls to me!”
“What’s that? You don’t think I’m going to make it? Oh, well you might be right! You might be absolutely right!”
And then you stopped walking.
“Oh, Lukas…Who am I fooling? Come back…Come back, I need you…You can scold me and hit me all you want. Just don’t kill me. But you won’t kill me because I’m connected to your brother with a magical bond so if I die, he dies—at least that’s what I remember Berwald telling me.”
You looked up to the black ceiling.
“Lukas, come back!” you wailed.
There was only silence. You thought to turn around and go back to where Lukas’ body was, but that would only have been a big waste of time. You weren’t even sure how far it was. Maybe if you really couldn’t find a way out of this place, you would try seeing if you could find his skeleton. Being the semi-mad freak you had become, you thought of even saving of piece of his remains to keep him in your memories.
…On second thought, Lukas wouldn’t have liked it. Had he been alive, he would have shouted at you for doing something so stupid as keeping a piece of his remains. Then again, maybe you would do it just to spite his vengeful spirit.
Ha! Take that, Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames! Oh, but since I have the Sapphire Flames, then I guess that makes me the Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames now! Ha ha!
“By all that is holy in Eliatha, would you please shut up?!”