“Funny…” Emil coughed. “It hurts more than I remembered…”
“No!” you wailed. “No, no, no, no no! Emil, don’t do this to me! What about all the things we were going to do when this was over?!”
“It—” Emil sputtered. A few specks of purple blood scattered onto your face. “It is over, _____________. The shadow is gone.”
You frantically shook your head back and forth. “No, it’s not. Emil, it’s not…We’ll take you home. We’ll get out of this alive together. We’ll…we’ll make it!”
A gentle hand reached out and touched your cheek. You took and it pressed it against your face with tears pouring down your cheeks in a flood. Emil was dying.
“____________, I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough for you,” Emil whispered in a hoarse voice. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you when you needed me.”
You bit your lips together hoping it would stop the shaky tremor in your voice but to no avail.
“D-D-Don’t s-say that, you stammered. “You’re going to be with us until the end. We’ll go home—the three of us.”
Emil’s breathing was getting harder and harder now. His chest looked like it was going to collapse in on itself with the sharp blade of glass protruding from his delicate pale skin like the arrow that had pierced his brother’s heart.
Yet, despite the obvious amount of pain he was in, your dragon managed to smile for you.
“I would have liked that, ____________,” he whispered. “Being with you would until the end would have made me very happy.”
“Then go with us!” you pleaded. “Emil, don’t leave me!” You began to desperately search for the right words, but your thoughts were in utter ruins.
“We can do what Lukas did! We’ll split up flames, and we’ll…we’ll…” You hopelessly shook your head. “Gods…I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. Just don’t go, Emil.”
Lukas. He was still inside your heart.
There was a pause.
“Stop pleading with my brother. Do not make him cheat death twice. He’s already suffering from struggling to remain in this world just to speak with you.”
Suddenly, you felt angry.
“How can you say that?!” you yelled. “Emil is your brother! He’s my dragon! W-Without him, what am I supposed to do? Where will I go?”
“Do not be so selfish!” Lukas barked. Your heart was hurting. Emil’s life was really slipping away. You knew that he wasn’t here anymore, yet you continued to believe so—you continued to hope for the impossible.
“My brother is doing the best he can as it is. The shadow still remains. It is being repressed by the very sheer will of his soul protecting you. As long as my brother’s soul remains tethered to this world, the shadow still lives. Do you understand?”
You stubbornly shook your head.
“No,” you sniffed. “No, I don’t understand. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. We were all going to come out of this together. What will Mathias and the others say when they find out that we didn’t bring Emil back?!”
“Dragonfall is over, _______________,” Lukas growled. Judging from the twisting feeling in your chest, you could tell he was upset, too. “The eternal winter is gone. The shadow is so close to being defeated. The flames of the world have found a new holder.”
“Emil was going to be the new holder…”
“No. My brother cannot. _______________, you have a heart pure enough to—”
“Shut up!” you shouted. “Shut up, Lukas! Don’t tell me that!”
“Stop running away from the truth!”
But you couldn’t hear him any longer. A different feeling was beginning to emerge in your heart. It wasn’t pain, nor sadness, nor joy or regret or anything in between. There were no words for the emotions that flooded your heart. On one side, of your emotions, you wanted to smile and laugh in relief for reasons unspoken of. On the other, you wanted to cry.
“_____________...” Emil groaned.
You fought back your tears and grasped onto your dragon’s cold hand. You had to be strong for him and for the sake of Eliatha.
“I’m listening, Emil.”
“D-Don’t…” Emil gasped. He was doing the best he could. “Don’t cry for me. Live on. It will be alright.”
Stupid. Telling you to not cry made you want to cry.
“Easier said than done,” you hiccupped.
“_____________, promise me. Please…”
“Oh, Emil…” you whimpered. “I…I…”
His eyes were closing. His strength was at its limits. He was right. You had to be strong for him, for Eliatha.
“I promise, Emil,” you said. “You can be sure I’ll keep the flames burning for everyone. You don’t have to worry.”
“Thank you, _______________,” the Wings of the Opal Skies smiled, and with a last shuddering breath, he closed his eyes for the last time.
“He couldn’t even bother to call me Big Brother even after everything…”
Emil’s body along with the shadow had vanished when his soul departed. You didn’t feel the same after coming out of the fortress. The air was different, and your steps were beginning to cave in like there was a weight you hadn’t taken care of.
“The flames of the world are a great burden, ____________,” Lukas said in response to your thoughts. “But don’t worry. I have faith in your strength. You are a worthy Dragonheart, after all.”
You shook your head. “I’m not a Dragonheart, Lukas, don’t you remember? Emil is…he’s really gone. If I had powers from him, I sure don’t have them now.”
Lukas paused for a moment to let your words sink in.
“You do have a point,” he seemed to sigh. Even though his words sounded light, that didn’t prevent you from being able to look into his soul and feel the emotions he was trying to hide. He was hurting just as much as you were. Realizing that Emil had truly died was one thing, but having to witness it through your eyes was another. The two of you had both shared a special bond with Emil, and that fact would always remain true.
Then, as you opened the large door to the world outside, you noticed something different. The sky had stopped snowing. Small specks of blue were beginning to crack open from beyond the clouds letting in rays of glorious sunlight. It was the first time you had seen such a thing. The reflection of the light on the snow was nearly enough to damage your eyes if you looked at the wrong angle. The dragons were right: Dragonfall had ended.
“Hey, Lukas…?” you suddenly spoke up.
“…What is it, _____________?”
For some reason, a smile cracked on your lips. “Do you feel like crying?”
“Don’t say such foolish things. Why would I want to cry?”
A large tear rolled down your cheek. You didn’t bother to wipe it away.
You just laughed and cried in his place. Dragons were prideful creatures, after all.
The journey back to Eldur Mountain was long and arduous. Without Emil’s help, you had no chances of calling any of the dragons to give you a ride. As a result, you were stuck listening to nothing but Lukas’ complaints the entire way consisting of why you took so long, why you had allowed yourself to nearly go insane, and why you had so foolishly allowed his heart and eyes to be soiled.
You sure have a lot of pride in a useless sack of meat and bones, Lukas, you grumpily thought while scaling the mountain. With the flames of the world and the Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames’ powers residing in your heart, hoisting your body up the rocks took no time at all when compared to coming here with Emil.
Lukas snorted. “To think that there are humans out there who would do such things to dragons. Tell you what: when we go to the east, we’ll burn their villages to the ground.”
Stop thinking such morbid thoughts! you snapped. It’s bad enough you disliked me to begin with!
“Ha! ‘To begin with?’ I still don’t like you!”
What?! After all that we’ve done?!
“An eternity with an idiot is still an eternity with an idiot!”
You looked up. Mathias was waiting for you at the top. After travelling for such a long time, you figured he had plenty of time for his arm to heal. In fact, it looked just as it did when you first met him at the foot of the mountain many weeks ago.
“Mathias, you good-for-nothing buffoon!” you spat. “If you could see me, then why didn’t you tell one of the others to give me a lift?! Do you have any idea how heavy the flames of the world are?!”
“Er, no,” the Blade of the Ruby Seas grimaced, “but I thought it would be a good opportunity for you to test out your endurance and stuff, you know. You need more muscles on that scrawny body—Wait a minute…Where’s Lukas and Emil?”
You mentally cursed to yourself. Not now…
“Hang on,” you grunted. “Let me finish this before someone decides to take over my body and give you a good smacking.”
Mathias stupidly blinked. “Why would anyone want to do that?”
“As clueless as ever,” Lukas growled. “Had it been up to me, I would have swapped him with my brother’s place in a heartbeat.”
“It’s a long story, Mathias,” you sighed and began to slide down the inner walls of the dragon sanctuary. “I’ll get to it when I finish.”
You and Lukas both sighed.
As expected, the Eye of the Topaz Blizzard and the Golden Sentinel were waiting for you to return with Lukas and Emil in tow. Your heart nearly sank along with your knees when you saw the shocked looks on their faces.
“Oh, ____________...” Tino breathed. “Don’t tell me that…”
You sadly shook your head. “I’m sorry, everyone,” you apologized. “I wasn’t strong enough.”
There was a deathly silence in the crater. Even Mathias—a dragon who was normally never able to read the mood—looked sullen.
“But…” you continued. “I’m going to make sure something like this never happens again. I will guard the flames with my life.”
The dragons gasped.
“The flames of the world?!” Mathias cried. “But how?! That’s only for dragons to carry around!”
You made a face. You had mentioned to him that you were carrying them when you first saw him at the edge of the crater.
Berwald blinked his golden eyes. “There was one case where a Dragonheart took the flames at some point…”
“Then what brings you here, ______________?” Tino asked.
“Lukas is inside my heart,” you explained. “I’ll get to explaining it when he returns to his true form.”
You sighed and gave them all a sad smile.
“After he leaves my heart, I won’t be able to understand you as dragons anymore. My dragon powers are only here thanks to Lukas.”
Again, the dragons looked stunned.
“B-But…” Mathias stammered. “Then that would mean…”
You held up a hand to silence him. You didn’t want to hear it again. You didn’t want to have to go through the pain of mourning for your own dragon once more.
“I think Lukas will be able to explain it better than me,” you said as you walked to the pit of fire where you had once resurrected Emil. The dragons didn’t say anything when you arrived at the edge and bent down.
“Alright, Lukas,” you whispered, holding out your chest, “this is it.”
“I can’t say that was the most pleasant journey I’ve had, but it wasn’t the worst, either,” Lukas’ voice spoke as you felt your chest getting lighter.
A blinding blue light began to fill the crater. The flames began to bubble and cough, and a chorus of noises and roars began to grow into a crescendo. The light became too bright to a point where you couldn’t open your eyes any longer. As you shut your eyes, your body began to lighten up like a series of heavy stones strapped to your limbs had just been taken off. You felt that you could even fly if you wished for it hard enough.
And then, in a deafening loud explosion, the light faded leaving behind a vanishing darkness and the soft sound of lava bubbling in veins.
“____________, open your eyes!” Mathias’ voice excitedly told you. “Hurry! It’s amazing!”
When you opened your eyes, the first thing you noticed was the deep blue sky above you. The snow clouds had completely been swept away as if by magic—even though it technically was magic—and all traces of ice had vanished from the heavens. You wanted to see what it looked like from beyond the walls…but that would have to wait.
“So you are the Dragonheart he told us so much about,” an unfamiliar voice spoke.
“What? Who said tha—Holy gods of Eliatha!”
Instead of the familiar blue scales of the Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames standing in front of you, a large dragon with reddish-purple scales was towering over your small height. This was definitely not Lukas.
“The Wings of the Opal Skies did say she was a little jumpy,” a younger-sounding voice said from another end of the crater. This one was a small light blue dragon even smaller than Emil.
“Huh?” you gaped. “What’s going on?”
There were hundreds of dragons now flooding Eldur Mountain—so much so that some of them even had to lean on the edges of the crater to get a glimpse of you.
You rubbed your eyes to see if this was real or not. “I don’t…What is this? Where did all of these dragons come from?”
“You were carrying them all of this time, ______________,” a strikingly familiar voice said from behind a large group of dragons. You could hear footsteps—human footsteps.
You couldn’t believe it.
“The gods of Eliatha be damned…”
Before you could open your mouth, Mathias patted your back. You choked and began to cough.
“Ha ha ha! I knew you guys were going to be all right!”
Upon seeing them in full view, you cursed and hid your beet-red face underneath Mathias’ similarly colored red cape.
“For crying out loud! Put some clothes on, you two! You’re naked!”