As expected, Lukas had woken up long before you did and caught breakfast. Today, breakfast consisted of yet another rabbit and a small bird whose species was beyond recognition thanks to having its feathers plucked and its skin already roasted.
"Lukas, you've always eaten in front of me as a dragon. Why are you having problems eating right now?" you asked.
The dragon rolled his sapphire eyes as though you had asked that question a thousand times over.
"I don't find it comfortable eating as a human," he confessed. "Besides, with the way I normally eat added with the things I eat, I would think you would find it unappealing to watch."
At least he has that consideration, you thought as you took your first bite of the bird.
While you were eating, Lukas looked over his shoulder.
"At this pace, we should be able to see the mountain in two days' time," he said. "From there, I don't think climbing the mountain will be possible so we'll have to fly." Then, he returned his attention back to you. "I really hope Emil chose the right vessel. There may be setbacks along the way that put us back a few days."
He sighed. "Neither of us had expected things to go so wary. If my wing wasn't torn, the journey would have been swift and short. You should know that your actions also affect your kind, too, human. The curse of Dragonfall has grown unusually stronger by the day, and it won't be long before this everlasting winter consumes all life forms."
You swallowed a piece of meat before speaking. "You and Emil have been around for a long time, I'd assume. Do you have an idea as to what or why Dragonfall occurred in the first place?"
Lukas shook his head. "That's why we hope to find answers over at Eldur Mountain. To fix a problem, we must first know the source, and I'm sure there will be another dragon who knows something."
"But if a dragon does know something, why hasn't anything been done about it?" you asked. "Emil said that you're positive that there are other dragons still left in the world, but if there are, why didn't they free you instead?"
"It's not common for dragons to cooperate and interact with one another," Lukas explained. "We are usually solitary creatures, and we have our own reasons for trying to avoid meddling with human affairs."
By now, you had finished your bird and proceeded to start on your rabbit. "Then what of your bond with Emil? Why do you choose to cling to him like this?"
"My brother and I share a bond that cannot be explained to the likes of you, human," Lukas merely said.
"Oh…" you murmured and ate in silence for a while. Feeling that there was no need to speak, Lukas turned around and stared at the empty frozen wasteland while you finished up with your breakfast. Until then, you decided to communicate with Emil.
Emil, how were you two captured?
Your chest began to pulsate with the same familiar glow.
"It's a good thing you chose to ask me that question instead of my brother," Emil chuckled. "This knowledge is probably lost on your time, but the main reason dragons are nearly gone is because dragon hunters used to hunt us for sport and for our body parts."
"It was," Emil agreed. "I blame my own carelessness, but I had proposed that we take shelter in a cave instead of retreating to the mountains since there wasn't food to be found at such high altitudes. Then, a team of dragon hunters ambushed us and dragged us to the castle town market to have our fresh parts sold off one by one."
"That's when the prince of that period had been visiting his people and found himself gazing at us. He thought we were too magnificent to be killed and paid a generous sum for our ownership. At first, his father, the king, had been furious that such dangerous creatures were brought to the castle, but the prince had been trusting, and thought that we could live as spectacles, as hope, for the people that someday, our very presence would be enough to drive Dragonfall away."
Emil laughed again.
"He was foolish. Even we do not know where Dragonfall came from so how were we to know how to stop it? In any case, I suppose being held captive for so long is where my brother's feelings towards humans stemmed from. I suppose my true self feels the same about them, but they have been softened by your heart's influence."
You remained silent unsure of what to think of that.
"I wonder if there are still dragon hunters left in the world," Emil then brought up. "If there are, I hope they haven't gotten the best of the others. Knowing that there are still others like us may be the only thing that's holding my brother back from complete hatred of humans."
You sighed. Do you think he'll kill me when you leave my heart?
"I would think not," Emil answered much to your relief. "My brother is far too noble for that, and so long as my soul hasn't been dirtied, there is nothing to worry about. You really are a good vessel, __________. I do not regret choosing you in the slightest."
Emil's words made you smile, something that had become rare since being pulled into this ludicrous journey.
Thank you, Emil, you thought. On that final thought, you finished up your last piece of rabbit and took a moment to stretch before telling Lukas you were ready to depart.
"I've decided that we'll be able to travel a greater distance if I revert to my original form during the night," Lukas explained as you gathered yourself together and scampered after him. "During the night, there will be close to zero chance of human activity, and you can ride on my back."
I wish he thought of that before… you thought.
"That's fine with me," you said, but Lukas wasn't completely finished.
"It's only going to work for a few more days, however," he added. "Once we reach the Bone Forest, we'll have to find shelter before the darkness falls on us."
"And why is that?" you asked. Just the name, Bone Forest, made the hairs on your back stand on end.
"The night in those parts belong to the bloodsnares," Lukas explained. "They fear the sunlight, but at night, they become deadly predators floating through the trees and snagging unsuspecting prey with their large jaws. There are also nightcrawlers that prowl these parts, but we haven't had the misfortunate of running into one—yet."
You swallowed. "And yet we're going to travel by night anyway?"
Lukas nodded. "We won't have anything to fear so as long as you take shelter on my back."
"Alright, then," you sighed hoping you wouldn't fall off of his back while you slept.
For the next few hours, the two of you set off without exchanging any words. Emil also kept to himself allowing you to think about a jumbled assortment of random thoughts to pass the time.
One of these thoughts fell upon what you were going to do once you helped Lukas and Emil complete their journey. There would be no dragons left to take care of back at the castle, and if wasn't like you'd be welcome there. At this given moment, such a thought could be burdensome since you weren't entirely sure Lukas could guarantee your safety, but it didn't hurt to think about the future ahead. For now, your sole goal lay on reaching Eldur Mountain so Emil's soul could leave your heart.
Emil, what happens when your soul leaves my heart? you asked. How are you going to find another body exactly?
Emil didn't respond to your question for a while. He must have been thinking.
"…It's hard to explain the process in the right words, __________," Emil began. "It's something you have to see in order to understand. There's no way to truly describe it. Even we, as dragons, aren't sure how the process works, but I can guarantee one thing: it will be something you won't soon forget."
Well, then I look forward to it, you thought, along with not having someone weighing down my chest and reading my thoughts every second of the day.
Once you ended your telepathic conversation with Emil, you looked up to see how his brother was faring. As predicted, he had gained quite a bit of distance as the day before.
"Lukas, would it kill you to slow down just a little?"
"I could have sworn I heard what sounded like a little human's voice, but I must have been mistaken," you heard Lukas mumble to himself.
What in Eliatha is he playing at? you wondered.
"Lukas, did you hear me?" you called after him.
The dragon continued to walk unmoved. "Huh. It sounded louder this time, but whatever it was, it wasn't talking to me. It couldn't be."
You were fuming. "Lukas!"
"It's shouting," Lukas said in a singsong voice. You couldn't believe this: the dragon was teasing you.
"Oh, Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames, could you please slow down so I may catch up to you?"
The Denounced Cantankerous Dragon of Arrogant Ways turned around with an unreadable glimmer in his sapphire eyes.
"Did you just say something, human?" he asked.
You let out a steaming breath that condensed in the air.
"If you don't even call me by my name, why should I call you by yours?"
"Your name means nothing to me or of anyone else, I assume," Lukas responded much to your annoyance. "I, on the other hand, have a privilege granted to me. 'Lukas' is merely an inherited name given by my first vessel, and a vessel that I regret choosing unwisely so I do not need to be reminded of such times."
"Who would want to say your full name, Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames?" you asked. "Does that even mean anything? Are you really some keeper of sapphire-colored flames?"
"Not quite, but you're close," you heard Emil chime in.
"Emil says I'm close," you added aloud.
"You are," Lukas admitted, "but that doesn't mean you have a right to know the purpose behind my title." He pointed at your chest. "Brother, don't give her any hints."
"I wasn't planning to," you heard Emil grumble in your heart.
"If you don't tell me, then I'll just call you Lukas," you huffed. "It's easier to say, and it has a better ring to it."
"So impudent…" the dragon growled under his breath and turned to leave. Apparently that little episode didn't fare to your advantage since instead of slowing down, Lukas' pace seemed to increase twofold.