In a way, you were secretly happy that you weren't flying anymore. It was bad enough that the winter season had grown progressively worse throughout the years making the ice bite at your ears, but the up-and-down motion that came when trying to hang on for dear life was too much to bear. Forget Lukas promising that he wouldn't drop you when flying; you had your own reasons for wanting to stay on the ground. Unfortunately, that meant having to put up with him for much longer, and that was something that had grown close to unbearable all too fast.
"We could have been there by now," Lukas growled in a low voice. "If it wasn't because of your cowardice, none of this would have happened."
"Well excuse me for being human," you pouted trying your best to keep up with the dragon. Even in his human form, his energy was seemingly limitless. While you had to take the time to trudge through the knee-deep snow with great effort all while trying to preserve your energy, Lukas would plow through thicket after thicket as if he was taking a stroll in the castle's courtyard. It would have been much easier for him to revert to his true form and make a path for you with his large tail or something, but both of you knew that it would definitely draw unwanted attention to yourselves. Even so, how often did someone see a plain girl travelling with a young man with a face that could have rivaled the gods?
After spending so much time with Lukas as a dragon, you had a hard time trying to process his appearance as a human. Simply put, he was beautiful; to call him handsome was almost an insult. While his dark sapphire-blue eyes had stayed the same, his hair and skin were unbelievably fair like the first blanket of snow. His voice was deep, but it was also soothingly velvety. If you didn't know any better, you would have expected him to have a loud, hoarse voice. One thing that could have improved his image, however, was actually having some visible muscles. You couldn't blame him, though; he had been chained up for so long that he never had the time to exercise any parts of his body save for his tongue.
"I despise your kind, human," Lukas spat. "I can understand why my brother chose you as his vessel, but the rest of you are no more than living, walking, breathing sacks of filth that pillage the land for their own gain."
You couldn't counter the dragon's harsh words since you had been far too exposed to the things he had described, but that didn't mean you were going to keep your mouth shut the entire time.
"I have a name you know," you retorted. "What's wrong with calling me by my real name, Lukas?"
At the sound of that name, Lukas stopped in his tracks and slowly turned around, his once placid aura now replaced by a burning frost of contempt.
"You, more than anyone else, know that 'Lukas' isn't my real name," he said in a low voice barely louder than a hushed whisper. "And you would do well to remember that."
You merely rolled your eyes. "Emil let me call him by his human name," you reminded the dragon of his younger brother's habits. "And besides, your dragon name is too long, Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames."
Lukas' eye twitched. "I swear, if my brother didn't choose you…"
"It's not something I asked for either," you reminded him. To this the dragon remained silent and continued to press onward not even looking back to see if you were having trouble or not. Regardless, you knew he wasn't going to let you die so easily. Just like every dragon who had its pride, every dragon had its honor. Lukas had sworn that so as long as the soul of his brother remained connected to your heart, no harm would come to you. If you died, his brother would die, too.
Only a few days ago, you had thought that there had only been two dragons left in the world: Lukas and Emil. The two had remained in captivity to be displayed like two animals in a freak show for the nobles looking to get some aristocratic thrills. Now that you thought about it, it only made sense that they would both break free one day. Dragons were harnessers of fire and wind. The reign of freedom was in their blood.
"Are you sure there will be others waiting at the peak?" you asked hearing the labored breaths in your voice as you struggled to keep up with your travelling companion.
"I'm sure," Lukas simply answered. He had always been the quieter of the two even though he and his brother had rarely spoken to you.
"And what if there aren't?" you asked. "What if everything they said about the dragons is actually true? What then?"
You waited for the dragon to say something, but he merely continued to walk through the trees without another word.
He really doesn't know… you thought. If there weren't any dragons left, then that would mean that the entire voyage would have been in vain. There wouldn't have been a need for Emil to be sacrificed so heartlessly.
Suddenly, Lukas froze in place. In his human form, he still had limitations, but that didn't mean his senses weren't far superior to those of humans.
"Get down," he ordered. You made a face and looked around. White. Nothing but white. The air was still. Not a sound was made. The world looked like death.
Then, out of nowhere, you felt something cold sting the side of your cheek. Your pulse exploded. By reflex, you slowly moved your hand to where your skin had been touched by something other than snow. Warm and wet. You were bleeding.
Lukas cursed and turned around. "Stupid wench!" he hissed. "I told you to stay do—"
"Lukas!" you screamed when you saw an arrow sink itself into the dragon's arm. Had he been in his true form, the arrow would have bounced off his faded blue scales. Unfortunately, humans were fragile creatures and so a hot deep purple liquid began to ooze out of his wound.
That finally did it. Lukas couldn't contain himself anymore. "____________, get down now!" he roared.
This time, you didn't hesitate to listen to him and threw yourself on the ground. Meanwhile, Lukas had become bathed in a blinding blue light that shot throughout the forest cutting through the limited visibility from the snowfall. Then, you heard a gut wrenching sound like the shouts of a thousand men going into battle mixed with the raw ferocity of the kings of the animal world. With his scales lining his body, Lukas was easily able to throw back the arrows that shot out of the trees like flimsy twigs. An intense heat shot out from behind you, the blue light now brighter than ever. Cracks and pops went flying as you heard Lukas release a powerful jet of blue flame from deep inside his throat scorching the earth in cold fire.
When you looked up, an entire row of trees had burnt to down to a crisp and whatever snow had been in the path had melted and evaporated into thin air. You couldn't even tell if Lukas hit his target or not because there was nothing but destruction in the path of his blue fire.
To kill or be killed—such was the law of nature. Neither of you could afford to let anyone hunting you down survive. The dragon must have annihilated the trackers. Even when he reverted back to his human form, his entire body was still steaming from the attack. He looked furious.
"The next time I tell you to get down, I mean get down, do you understand, human?" he growled jabbing his finger deep into your chest making you cough. He was stronger than he looked.
"I understand," you nodded and brought your eyes to his arm. "Doesn't that hurt?"
"It'll heal in time," Lukas snorted and continued on his way. Relieved, you couldn't help but crack a smile as you trailed after your companion. Somewhere deep inside your heart, you could feel Emil smiling, too.
"It's the first time."
The Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames—as if you would ever formally address him as such—turned on his heel and threw you an icy glare.
"What is it?" he snapped. "What do you find so amusing?"
You closed your eyes and chuckled. "Emil's right. It really is the first time."
Lukas blinked, his hard expression softening up into one of confusion. "What are you talking about?"
You brought your hand up to your chest. It felt warm and fuzzy from the soft laughter coming from the soul you held. You continued to smile, too.
"It's the first time you've said my name."