Regardless of how preposterous it sounded, you had a feeling that you weren’t the only one who was thoroughly confused. All you could do was give a blank stare to Emil as he waited for you to say something. A question was a good start. A projection of your thoughts was good, too.
“I don’t understand,” you said.
Emil sighed and closed his eyes. It would have appeared that he had expected you to have a lack of knowledge—especially given that you tended to be slow during the course of your journey.
“I thought you would say something along those lines, ___________,” he said. He ran his hand through his soft white silvery hair. “I don’t know what my brother was thinking about before he died. That would mean that the flames are somewhere else.”
“B-But…!” you broke in. “If I don’t have the flames, then where did the light come from? How did I get so strong, and how was I able to heal my ankle so quickly?”
“Er…” Emil grimaced and fixed his lavender eyes to the ground. “It’s hard to explain but you have part of the flame, just not the true flames of the world.”
Bewildered, you raised an eyebrow. “How is it possible to have part of a flame?”
“It’s like how the knights lit the torches back at the castle,” Emil explained. “Once you light a flame, you can take another torch and borrow a flame from that. In a way, your heart acted as a second torch for the flames—ah, that’s right. You call it the Sapphire Flames, correct?”
The dragon continued. “The flames residing in your heart are the ones that harness the abilities of most dragons. As we are born with fire, each dragon contain a small portion of the flame. You have inherited it as such, but from the direction source. That’s how you are able to keep the powers of a dragon’s soul in your body.”
“So it would be similar to how I might gain superhuman feats if I was carrying Lukas’ soul inside my heart?” you guessed.
“Precisely,” Emil confirmed.
You made a face. “I’d rather have Lukas’ soul inside my heart right now, not the Sapphire Flames.” You bit your lips. “So he’s really gone...”
To this, Emil didn’t have anything to say. The two of you were quiet for a few seconds. Your dragon broke the silence not too long after.
“__________,” he said placing a hand on your shoulder. “There might be a way to save my brother.”
Your heart made a jolt. You craned your neck towards Lukas’ brother with a small light of hope in your eyes.
“How?” you asked, no in-betweens, no extra words.
“Considering Eliatha is still in tact, and you are able to carry part of the flames without being consumed—that is to say, assuming your heart actually wasn’t pure—then that might mean somewhere else, my brother is still holding the crucial part of the flames: the one that keeps the world alive.”
“Then…” you breathed. “We have to go find him. Where is he?”
“Ah, that…” Emil lowered his eyebrows. “I looked through your memories at one point when I was…not myself. My brother’s heart and eyes are missing, are they not?”
Just thinking about the thought made your stomach tie itself into knots. It was still unthinkable to know that someone would do something so evil as to remove such a beautiful dragon’s—or even a human’s—heart and eyes straight out of his body.
“Yes,” you answered in a quiet voice. “I remember it clearly.”
Emil blinked. “That leads me to assume that the rest of the Sapphire Flames and his soul are still in his heart.”
“But…that doesn’t make sense,” you brought up. “Lukas told me that once a dragon dies as a human, he or she would die permanently.”
“But most dragons do not have the powers of the flames of the world,” Emil reminded you. “In any case, his soul and the flames are still tethered inside his body since they never left completely.” He pointed to your heart. “I have every reason to believe that the very fact that you are also carrying the other half of the flames prevents his soul from combusting. Just like how I would die if you would die, the fate of my brother’s soul now rests in your life.”
“What a bother…” you groaned.
“On that plus side, if we manage to find my brother’s heart, we will be able to restore his body. You can simply take his soul up into your heart, and once he is renewed back at Eldur Mountain, he can pass the flames over to me.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” you quickly said. “Why in Eliatha would Lukas only give me half of the flames? Why wouldn’t he have given me all of them if it was going to be like this?”
Emil paused to search for the answers. Then, to your embarrassment, his lips curved into a soft, bittersweet smile.
“My guess is that in the case you wouldn’t have been fit to take the entire flame, the very least he could do was make sure you would survive along with Eliatha.”
Then, Emil reached out his hand towards you to take. You gingerly took his hand and began to follow him. Being able to walk alongside him hand in hand was significantly different than having to trail after Lukas’ footsteps.
“Emil, where are we going?” you asked. “I can’t reach Lukas. It’s not possible.”
“I didn’t think it would be,” Emil mumbled. “The first place we should look is back at the place where I was taken to: the dragon hunters’ fortress.”
“A fortress?” you repeated in a soft voice.
The dragon shuddered. “If possible, I would like to avoid it, but it would seem that my brother’s lost remnants are most likely there.”
You looked unconvinced. “Speaking of avoiding, how in Eliatha did you escape so easily? Aside being stuck in your human form, you look fine to me—unless you account for that strange voice I was hearing a few minutes ago. Emil, are you alright?”
“Right, I should get to that.” Emil then took his hand away from yours to rub his forehead as though he was suffering from a mild headache. In the other hand, he was still clutching onto his blanket. You could only assume that he was still naked underneath just like when he had transformed at the hot spring.
“___________, I’m sorry if I sounded like I was giving you a hard time, but there’s—”
Just then, Emil clamped his hand over his mouth like he was about to throw up. In case he did, you slowly backed up to give him some room to breathe.
“It’s alright, __________,” Emil quickly said holding up his other hand to dismiss your uneasiness. “I—I can handle it—”
You couldn’t just stand there and watch. You had to do something. Whatever Emil was going through, you couldn’t let him take care of it on his own. The best decision, you decided, was to look into his thoughts.
“No! Don’t!” Emil shrieked and slapped your forehead with a powerful blow of his hand. It should have hurt—harder than when Lukas had slapped you way back when—but amazingly enough, it didn’t hurt at all; rather, it was like someone had given your head a hard shove. The Sapphire Flames were holding up better than you had thought.
Emil was panting when you regained your senses. By then, he had clamed down, though he was still clutching his head with shaky fingers.
“Hey, Emil…?” you piped up. “What happened?”
“I’m sorry I had to do that to you, ____________,” the dragon first said. “I can’t afford to let it look inside your head. If it did…”
He stopped to catch his breath.
“If it did, what then?” you asked.
Emil shook his head. “I don’t want to think about it, __________,” he answered ambiguously. “Just know that it’s best not to look in my head for the time being. At least not until we find my brother.”
Concerned, you furrowed your eyebrows. “Could you at least tell me what happened to you while we were looking for you?”
“Yes, I’ll get to that,” Emil said. With your help, he staggered to his feet and held onto your hand again. From the way he was laboring just by walking, you felt little more than a chaperone for the young dragon.
“Right after I threw you into the hot spring, the hunters took me to a large cage with wheels and stuffed me inside,” Emil told you. “It was dark. I didn’t like it. Before I knew what had happened, I had transformed into my human form. They didn’t even bother giving me any clothes.” He looked away and squeezed your hand in embarrassment. You responded by gently squeezing back as a gesture of reassurance.
“The humans brought me to an equally dark room. There was something wrong with the place that made the temperature cold—even for a dragon such as myself. I heard you talking a few times…”
“Yes, so that was definitely you,” you nodded.
“Mm-hmm,” Emil responded. “I’m sorry if I scared you when I was cut off from you. You were saying something about you and my brother heading over to the place I was held at. What was the bad news?”
“Oh, that…” You managed to somehow smile despite the grim atmosphere. It seemed like such a long time ago.
“You wouldn’t believe the things that happened, Emil. We were captured by dragon hunters, ourselves.”
Emil’s eyes widened. “You were?”
“Yes, but Mathias came to the rescue, and then we battled a sea serpent—”
“So it was a real sea serpent,” Emil thought aloud. “I truly believed that they didn’t exist anymore.”
You shrugged. “We all saw it, but perhaps there really aren’t any more left now.”
“Continue,” Emil urged.
“We were no match for something as strong and big as that,” you said. “I could even hear its thoughts. It didn’t help too much, though. The beast even threw Lukas and me up into the air.” You smiled in a far-off way. “I thought we were going to die, but wouldn’t you know it? Tino and Berwald came to the rescue just like that. Imagine my surprise when I heard their voices.”
“I’m surprised they would venture to somewhere so dangerous, too,” Emil mumbled. “If they caught you, then I’m assuming they were dragons?”
“Yep,” you answered. “The sea serpent threw us over the force field. But we had to go back for Mathias while Lukas was going to get some cursed chains off with Berwald. Long story short, we found Mathias, Tino killed the sea serpent, and we met up with Lukas and Berwald up the river.”
You scratched your head. “Lukas and I left from there. It wasn’t long after that when your brother told me about the flames and his title. And then he…he…”
“____________...?” you heard Emil quietly say. It was hard to read his expression through your blurry vision.
“Sorry,” you apologized. “I just thought it was so unnecessary and so sudden…” You hiccupped and pressed your hand over your mouth. Your head felt like it was going to burst from containing your feelings any longer.
“___________, if you want to cry, you should cry,” your dragon said. “I know how you’re feeling. If you’re hurt, then I’m hurt, too. Don’t hold it in. It’ll make things even worse.”
“No, no, I’m fine,” you lied and attempted to force a smile only to have it twist into an awkward frown. “This is just—Some snow got in my eyes.”
Emil wasn’t convinced in the slightest. Without uttering a word, he reached his hand out and brushed an escaping tear away from the edge of your eye.
“You’re lying,” he said in a soft voice.
“Yeah,” you chuckled. “I know.”
More tears began to flow out. They didn’t stop. There was no denying that you did miss Lukas. The real Emil had to have missed him, too, because alone in the quiet snowfield with the fine powdered snow dusting your heads, the two of you silently cried for him together.