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Fantasy Broken Balance

Ashe watched Crystal heal her friend as she ate her sandwich. Part of her admired the kitsune’s form, the silvery white fur matched the humanoid’s complexion, the many tails, and the sharp facial features. She Quietly, the half-human finished half the sandwich thankful to have some food supplied. Then Crystal spoke concerning Ganjiro. Ashe replied, “I see, I am relieved the Akarma have no deeper allegiance with him then. Thus, the next question arises, what does he gain by dwelling in Diabmoure?”

Ashe moved when Jura rolled over. She continued to work on her sandwich then responded to Jura’s thanks with, “Think nothing of it.” She watched Crystal wipe off and redress the wounds, angered by the countless inflictions done to her friend. Solemn, she said to Jura, “I will revel in taking Diabmoure down for good. Once we reach the mountains south, I am going to send word to forward some plans.”

The conversation shifted to the dragonling. Ashe glanced at the other group and then back to Jura, worried about her companion’s rising temper. The halfling paused, sadness welled in her stomach and anger teeth gritted. Yet those emotions she channelled out when Crystal spoke. Choosing calmness instead of anger, and gratitude to Crystal replaced the sadness.

Switching topics once more, Crystal provided a vague answer on the company’s mode of transport and time estimation. The kitsune then finished her healing spells. The halfling took note of the current diagnosis for her friend, wondering if Jura would ignore her injuries under the circumstances. She already has ignored them. I do not know if Jura can even see her limits that’s how far she pushed herself.

When Crystal went to leave Ashe smiled and tapped her palm under her left shoulder, her arm across her chest, “Thank you Crystal for your aid. Truly it is greatly appreciated.” Then Jura summed up exactly how Ashe felt about the bubbly kitsune, “Indeed. She is a hard character to dislike.” Now alone, Ashe faced the blue dragoness beside her.

“Jura,” Ashe spoke tenderly yet assured and firm. Her heart warmed for her friend desiring to edify her, “I will speak frankly. You are not alone in the suffering of loss. The dragon race has suffered the most, but that pain is shared by your companion, who stands before you now. Having your nation, and your people turn away from you, family, livelihood, and reputation ripped away is known to me. Do not doubt my loyalty or my experiences. I left my prestige, abandoned my people, my King and father who turned to evil for you. I swore to you in my departure, with my strength, mind, and hands I will serve good. I would see you, personally, your race and the people and nation restored.”

The halfling growing steadfast, silently prayed that her close friend be comforted in this period and continued to speak, “The world has turned towards death, blood and grief yet hope and goodness have never changed. Hope exists eternal. This is the very essence of the saying ‘the Castpoint never ceases, the Castpoint has arrived.’ That history is the very foundation we built the guild. When hope seemed lost, and death was imminent, one Herald led the way and created the turning point. The hero, cast all they had into that moment and then the war waged was won. The question now is, where hope lies in this moment? Here dragon, upon dragon have met and united. I do not take away from the gravity of despair and suffering of your race. But do not let that suffering and despair kill hope. For without it, only then is the dragon race doomed. Hear me, Jura, it is now that the lands cry out for a new Herald. In a dark time, such as this, will you meet their cries? Will you answer the call of the Heralds?”

Ashe turned her gaze over the group present, “Perhaps it is not a coincidence that we encountered the others. Despite how stifling Validar’s presence is. Perhaps this will open the opportunity to restore what was lost.”

The halfling ended her encouragement, letting it sink. A minute or so passed before, a new panicked atmosphere swept through. Jura confirmed her suspicions at the sudden change of events. Without hesitation, Ashe gobbled the last piece of her sandwich up and jumped on the dragonness’s back. Ignoring the scales digging into her legs, Ashe in seconds, had an arrow knocked in trained familiarity. She tapped twice on Jura’s back, a signal letting her friend know she was ready.

She glanced at the others’ noting their actions. One drake shouted warning of inbound hostiles. Thinking of Rega and the young one, she was glad to see Crystal protecting them. She muttered loudly, “Heralds, guide my arrow true.” One handheld the bow, the arrow lowered but facing forward the other touched the string to pull back. Her legs squeezed around Jura as much as possible, ready for any action her companion would make.
 
"Appreciations" Blade replied to Crystal when she complimented his necklace catch. Not a hard thing to do. He briefly dropped his sandwich to grab the piece of jewelry that floated in front of him. A sapphire of generous proportions linked to a silver chain. The gem also glows, which means Crystal's has indeed recharged it's mana reserves to it's maximum. He quickly unlinked the chain to put it around his neck, relinking it when he did. He feels happy to have it back. It's like being reunited with a lifelong friend. To have his reserves back feels like his soul returning to his body.
"I am certain you have assigned me that task with the sole objective of reminiscing your previous acts against me" He told his colleague to joke with her. "I shall also offer personal wards to the others. Specially to Rega, as she is one of the most vulnerable"

When he finished his sandwich, he clutched the gem with his right paw for a brief moment, absorbing a small amount to give himself an energy boost. Temporal, yet heaps better than trying to get job done with his current lack of sleep.

"She's been accompanying us ever since Valadir left in order to seek aid. Thus, she has been in our company all day. I have, regrettably, not tried to link with her yet. While I was explaining the linking process to Rega and performing my connection with her, Ashley was quick to start the journey before us. Thus, when I finished with Rega, Ashley was already too far to inform her of my intentions. While I have no reasons to doubt her allegiance to us, given she has had plenty of opportunities to turn against us without acting on them, I agree her immunity is a matter of investigation. I am, too, curious about it. Jura knows about the matter, as she's the one who has first mentioned it. Yet, I doubt questioning her will yield any results as she's still wary of our presence" He has informed his colleague when she asked about Ashley's strange immunity. All while the drake was performing healing on Rega.

After that was done and the dragoness went to check on their new companion, Blade started performing his assigned task. Siphoning the necessary energy from his necklace, he casted a series of wards around the group. One against physical projectiles, one for hostile spells and a wider counter scry.

After, he started his job as a ward salesman. He can already tell this whole scenario is going to cost a chunk of the mana in his necklace... yet this is a life or death scenario. To not do something to protect his companions in this situation would mean breaking the oath he has taken during his student days.

He decided to start his ward casting endeavor with Rega since she's the one with the least amount of physical protection. Walking to her and the group.

"Given the constant danger in our current circumstances, I come to offer wards to you, if you desire it" He told the group. "It's a spell, designed to provide additional protection to your person. It shall be maintained by the energy in my necklace. Yet, you must understand wards do not last forever. As, without an energy source, these wards shall cease to be. Each strike they absorb also bring them closer to their end"

"I could use one of those" Rega answered, finding that to be really useful given her absence of scales.

"Very well. Allow me your paw"

Rega was, at first, taken aback by what she was just told. It did sound like he was asking her to marry him. She quickly realized her confusion made no sense given her current circumstances and outstretched one of her paws. Blade grabbed her paw and used his grasp to cast two wards into her. One for spells and one for conventional attacks.

"Done" The mage said as he dropped the dragoness' paw. "Be it magic, sword or arrow, you shall be covered"

"I appretiate your care" The dragoness replied with gratitude in her tone. She's starting to believe she'll actually be able to live through this journey.

"And yourself?" He then asked Valadir. "Is acquiring a ward amongst your desires?"

"Not if that means mom's going to last less" He says, standing a bit more upright.

"You shan't worry about that, for the reserves in my necklace are more than sufficient to maintain all wards and to supply me with ample energies to defend myself"

"Alright" The back dragon eventually said, knowing better than to argue in a subject he knows nothing about against an expert. "Guess I could have the same ones you gave her. There any for more energy or something? Wouldn't want to get tired mid fight"

"It is certainly within the realm of existence. I shall remind you. The protective wards shall extinguish after receiving a high number of attacks. The ward providing you with more energies shall cease to be after a certain amount of time"

"How much time?"

"A couple hours. Provide me with your paw so I shall cast your requested wards upon you"

Valadir obliged, stretching his right paw towards the mage. The procedure was the same as before.

"It has been done. You should start feeling energized in less than a minute" Blade said as he dropped the black dragon's paw.

"Thanks..." Valadir then looked at the necklace for a couple seconds. "That necklace really suits you, you know? It goes along pretty well with your eyes and scales. Whered you get it?"

"It is a graduation gift. It has been with me for a lifetime"

"Well, wish I sold it to whoever gave it to you. By its size alone, I can tell it's worth tons. Bet that selling it to the right person or the right noble would have kept me fed for a month or two..."

"You seem to be very knowledgeable of that area. Was selling jewelry your craft?"

"Sorta. I used to be a trader. It's my job to know where, when and to whom to sell what. Or was, anyways..."

Blade nodded in acknowledgement. Makes sense. He did carry those words with a lot of confidence.

The white dragon eventually noted how his colleague had finished her work with Jura.

"I shall continue distributing my wards"

"Right..." Valadir watched Blade go towards Jura and Ashley. To look at them reminded him of the hurtful things he was told before and of the apology he feels he deserves yet he hasn't gotten.

"Can I interest the ladies in acquiring a ward?" Blade told Jura and Ashley when he stood in front of them. He then gave them the same explanation he gave to Valadir and his parent.

After his presence with the girls was no longer required, he went to check on his colleague, who seemed to be faring well with the small dragon that had joined them a couple minutes ago.

"You are failing to provide entertainment to the young'un" He said mostly as a joke. In Cass' field of view, he then raised his right paw, palm facing the sky. A very small yet colorful firework show began to take place a few centimeters above his paw. The sounds, muffled as to not give away their position. Her glee is evident.

The dragon then walked back, as to have everyone in his line of sight in case something happened. Eventually, a commotion. Everyone on a defensive position. Enemy be inbound. He thinks it was pretty convenient he casted all wards in time.

He stood with his right paw lifted in order to quicken the aiming on his first spell.

---

Valadir stayed quiet, staring at the waves for a little when Sabato told him how he shared his anger.

"She's just a kid... She looks more dead than alive. How many kids did they kill? How did the infesters convince everyone to be fine with killing kids?" The mere thought of it gives him the chills. "It does look like she would have fallen dead within this week if we hadn't found her. Do not peek into my memories of her. It'll make you feel like crap"

He remained immersed in those thoughts for a bit.

"Random thought... You think she has a kill count? I hope not... having a ten year old kid kill people just to survive is just too much. I don't want to think about it, but the eyes she had when she first looked at me make me consider it a possibility. Her bags too... Maybe that's why she's staying quiet"

Shortly after Blade came around to distribute the wards, Crystal showed up to see Cass. The dragon does share Sabato's opinion.

"You sure that's a good idea?" He asked her.

Cass finished the first sandwich she was given in record time. She meant to reach for the hot canteen to help the sandwich along when Crystal showed up. Why are there so many of those small fox people all of a sudden? She wishes for them to stay away. She very carefully and slowly came near when she casted a heat source. The looks of the ball creeps her out, but she does feel pretty cold with all the snow.

The fox lady then went and offered a cookie. Valadir raised an eyebrow when she offered. He thinks it isn't possible for her to have predicted this was going to happen.
"This why you brought the cookie in the first place? Or was it for something else?"

Cass neared carefully and grabbed the cookie in one swift move. She's forgotten how cookies taste. It's sweet. Tastes mostly like honey. Cookie fox lady can stay for now. She devoured the cookie, and as she rose her head to drink from the hot tea from the canteen, Rega scratched her chin. It made the little dragon chuckle and choke a bit with the tea.

"Well, consider me wrong" Val said eventually when Crystal eventually managed to pet Cass without her trying to get away. The small dragon thinks its good to have company again. After she drank from the canteen, she moved to her second sandwich. If not because of the current situation, Val would tell her to slow down.

The black dragon looked around, see if there's anything coming or notable around. His nervous feelings started coming back when he saw that red dragon again, but now further down the beach. Again, doesn't like that guy to be around. It gives him the feeling that guy is spying on them. Maybe to report to the enemy that's chasing them down.

"Look to where i'm looking at. Now" He told Crystal.

---

Later, the drakes jumped to protect the group. Valadir and the other dragons that were with him quickly stood up, startled. Enemy be on the way. Cass quickly put the second half of her current sandwich inside her muzzle. Her expression tells she's starting to get scared.

"Grab Cass and stay back" He told his mother as he unshouldered his backpack, as to not get bothered with having something on his back swinging around. He then patted Cass on her back. "She's my mom. What she says, goes"

He faced towards where everyone else was facing. Looking back for a brief second, he can see mom has taken Cass with her further back. Blade and the rest do seem ready. Yet nothing is coming. That red guy showing up and this happening can't be a coincidence. At least, in his opinion.

"Bet they are testing our reaction"
 
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Ganjiro crashed onto the ground with the dead drake under his nycon wolf’s paws. He caught the scouting drake in midair. Completely unaware of his presence, Ganjiro immediately took the opportunity to kill the beast. It was dead within a second.

“It’s always satisfying killing one of them. They’re not as tough as they appear.”

The black-furred kitsune jumped off Kagerou and smiled. “One down.”

He looked in the direction of his prey. Just over a kilometre, the rest of the group of the group stopped on the beach. Ganjiro couldn’t help but laugh.
“A black night. Next to the crashing ocean and what could be the last few dragons alive. It’s been a while since I’ve had this much fun.”

He stood still, taking the moment in.

”The other two drakes are retreating to the main group. They are aware of us now.”
Keras, one of the kitsune Ganjiro summoned, reported to him. She is still in the air on her wyvern all with the other identical two kitsune with their mounts.

”Good, let the anticipation set in. Make them nervous.”
Ganjiro unsheathed his katana, a weapon unique to the kitsune. Unlike the others, however, his blade is enchanted to bypass magical defences. The effects of the enchantment turned the blade black.

He stuck his weapon in the ground and put two hands on it.

“I do believe it’s time to make a formal entrance.”

Ganjiro stood quiet. Only the waves crashed beside him. The occasional gust of wind shifted the sand.

“Here me…”

A tall black figure appeared in front of the kitsune. It seemed to be more of a shadow than a creature. It hovered above the ground, as did its cold aura around it. A deep hood covered its face, and a long robe covered its body. The shadow hovered in front of Ganjiro briefly before diving into the Kitsune.

Ganjiro didn’t move, the shadow creature aimed at his chest and absorbed itself into the kitsune. Ganjiro spat black blood out before chuckling. With the shadow spirit’s power and his own, he drove his sword deeper into the ground, and power flowed from him into the sand.

“Let the dead haunt us again!”

---

“The only thing I can think of is that it’s a safe place to stay. At least for the moment. With the infesters rampart, he’d also have difficulty staying in one place for too long.” Crystal responded to Ashe’s question concerning Ganjiro and the Akarma.

Jura snorted and puffed smoke from her nostrils, affirming Ashe’s statement.
“Good. The sooner we put an end to those tyrants, the better. There are many more who suffer there.”

Jura sat quietly through what felt like half a lecture. She did not doubt Ashe’s loyalty and compassion for her. She suspects that she truly knows her position. The difference between the two is that Jura was forced to leave. Ashe chose to.
Though her second part seems accurate, perhaps another wave of heroes must rise to conquer the giants they face. It being her, however, seemed like a long shot. What could she offer besides running away from every threat in a world she no longer understands, yet again? Heralds aren’t appointed, they’re made through their acts of courage and selflessness. Pushing past fear and doubts for a cause.

Jura responded. “I don’t doubt your faithfulness to me, Ashe. I think this is where we meet at a crossroads. I was forced to leave, and you chose to. Don’t think that I’m turning my head on you. I believe that you don’t truly understand my position. My race is on the verge of extinction. That is what’s hitting me the most, and I am but one dragon. And to be honest, I don’t think we will ever recover. Might as well say it now before I die. Ever since we left Solas, I’ve wanted to start a family. Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. I’m losing hope, Ashe and faith in myself”

Jura chuckled, laughing at her own worlds. “Sorry to bring down the mood. Thought I’d speak my mind. Isn’t that what you want me to do more often? Well there you go. Behind all my toughness are all my doubts. Don’t worry about it. I’ll get over it.”

Next, Blade came around and offered some magical protection. Jura would be stupid to say no.
“Sure, but only on me. You will be wasting your energy if you cast any on Ashe.”

---

”If I am to get back at you. I’d amuse myself at trying to wake you up.”
Crystal replied to Blade with another joke.
”Ah yes. Definitely Rega.”

”We’ll investigate further later. Now’s not the time to do it, but beware of her. We don’t know of her intentions.”
Crystal spoke further about Ashe with Blade, deeming the human with caution.

Without looking at Valadir, she said to him, “Watch me.” Regarding whether approaching Cassiopeia is a good idea.

Crystal smiled when Cassiopeia took the cookie, already knowing what Valadir was thinking. Without directly answering his question, she said, “I wasn’t planning to eat it. Cookies have more uses than consumption.” She left Valadir only to wonder what her true intentions were with the cookie.

She stopped patting Cassiopeia when Valadir abruptly spoke to her with his mind. She snapped out head in the same direction. Quickly puzzled, she asked. “What am I looking at? All I see is sand and water. Is it the red dragon again? I can feel you’re nervous.”

---

” Do not dwell on those thoughts. Focus on what is at hand. Be grateful she is alive, and let us keep it that way.”

A smile touched Sabato’s lips. Valadir's last sentence gave him some humour. If Valadir were to dwell in Sabato’s memories, he would lose faith in everyone.

”I believe it will be best to keep that thought to yourself. Do not ask her about her past. It will only make her feel worse. Just make sure she is comfortable and safe. Once she is reunited with her brother, then we can debrief her. She should be with us when we reach the mountains.”

Sabato believes it’s too dangerous for Cassiopeia to be in Drake's company. At least with the Guardians, it will feel more like home.

---

The red dragon smiled. Quicker than the blink of an eye, he vanished. No trace was left behind.

Minutes passed, and no one moved. Nothing happened. Only the calming sound from the ocean can be heard. The cold breeze in the air is the only thing that is felt.

Suddenly, the ground rumbled, and the sand twisted and turned. The drake defending Blade lost balance and landed on his side. Before he could recover, rotting grey hands appeared from the sand and started clawing at the drake, trying to drag him into the sand. With a mighty blow, the drake roared and drew flames from his maw and lit himself on fire, burning the hands and allowing himself to recover. A raging snarl across his face, he started stabbing the ground as more hands appeared.

A rotting hand from an unseen corpse grabbed Cassiopeia's hind leg. Crystal immediately flinched at the movement, threw her sword at the hand with precision, and cut it off the small dragon’s leg.

“Never.”

The look of dead hands and arms went to grab Rega and Valadir.

In front of Blade, a large hole appeared, and humans started crawling out of it. Their flesh was half gone, and rotting exposed their bones. No hair on their heads, and most had no clothing. They screeched as they climbed out and ran and crawled towards Blade and his defending drake.

Jura roared as she felt something grab her front leg. With all her strength, she lifted her leg up, and with it, she uncovered a rotting human from the sand, still holding onto her. She sneaked her head out and chomped the human into two parts, killing it instantly. Jura reared onto her hind legs to avoid other monsters’ hands grabbing her. Instead, they went for her back legs.

Shortly after, more holes appeared around the group, and more humans crawled out of them. They came in great numbers.
 
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In the time before the kistune left, Crystal had divulged more information on Ganjiro. Ashe replied, “It is a relief to hear his alliance with the Akarma is a shallow one. Additionally, I must inquire, you also believe in the existence of these infestors. In our future conversation I would discuss this further.”

After the kitsune left and Ashe had ended her encouragement, the halfling’s heart broke at Jura’s words. She comforted, by saying, “There is no need to apologise for expressing your thoughts, the expense of ‘the mood’. It blesses me you did so. I offered my friendship that I may also share your burdens.” She placed a hand on her friend’s front leg, continuing, “Until you can regain your faith and hope, borrow mine. Even the toughest go through harsh seasons too.”

On a lighter note, Ashe laughed, “You would make an excellent mother.” The halfling subtly gestured her head toward the wider group, “I can think of one or two bachelors hanging around. The white fox, is particularly a master catch, as the ladies say.” With all said Ashe climbed onto the dragoness’ back, readying herself. “Jura, I must confess, there is more to the circumstances behind our exodus,” the halfling was interrupted by Blade's approach. “Nevermind, we shall speak later.”

From on top, she listened to Jura decline the white dragon mage’s offer, adding her thanks, “It will be best to keep your energy for the fight ahead.” Then it was silence save for the sounds of armour clinking or the sand shifting when the other group members moved. Ashe’s eyes had adjusted well enough to the night’s darkness. It seems the night’s advantage has turned against us. Despite her battle experience, the anticipation still made the halfling nervous. She was scanning the area ahead whereas the sea covered their backs.

In front of Jura and Ashe, the ground groaned underneath a falling drake. Ashe pulled the string of her bow back, sighted, and waited. Fire breath from the drake’s mouth temporarily cast warm light onto the surroundings. The halfling relaxed the string and squinted. When the drake began stabbing at the sand, Ashe frowned.

A flurry of movements to their right caught her attention. The halfling snapped her head in that direction. There, flesh struck out of the earth. Humanoid monstrosities clawed their way out of the sand reaching for their companions.

A thrum sounded as Ashe released two arrows, one after the other. The first arrow aimed at a monster headed to Valadir, the second hitting one running after Blade. Already, Ashe had another arrow nocked. Yet before she could release the third arrow Jura had shifted and roared. Peering down, she noticed a zombie clung to Jura’s front leg. The halfling scrunched her nose when Jura tore the monster in two.

Ashe winced as Jura reared back, her scales tore the halfling's flesh. Ashe threw her hand from bowstring, attempting to clutch Jura’s short mane. Warmth seeped along Ashe’s thighs. The same sensation made it slippery to remain seated on Jura. Barely reaching the dragoness’ main, the halfling felt weightless. The wind whipped past her body as gravity pulled her down. Panic enveloped Ashe when her body met the hard sand.

The ground slammed her back, yet the height was not enough to knock the air from her lungs. Pairs of sickly hands clawed from the ground from all sides. Swiftly Ashe released the third arrow at the closest monster. Unable to escape the constant influx of zombies, Ashe pulled a knife from her leg holster. The halfling rolled backwards onto her feet. She stood behind Jura about a meter away. She shouted Jura’s name slashing with her knife or bludgeoning with her bow.
 
" Right" Blade said when Crystal mentioned how they are to be careful with Ashley. While he trusts her, there's something going on that's worth investigating.

"Allow me your paw, then, and I shall cast them upon you"

He walked back when he finished, aiming to have everyone in his line of sight.

"Jura has, once again, proven she knows more than she feigns. In the past, she has claimed she's unfamiliar with the Mythical World and magic, yet she is proficient in judging which spells work on Ashley and which do not. They definitely seek to hide something from us" The white dragon told his colleague. "I theorize, too, that we are being lied to, to a certain extent." Then, in a tone that indicates he seeks to test her, he asked
"What are your theories, based on this information?"

---

The black dragon gestured with his paws when the kitsune said to watch how she would manage to get close to Cass. Definitely not taking her seriously.

"Such as?" Valadir asked when Crystal started acting all mysterious regarding the cookie. "Why are you suddenly so pretentious? Did you forget we are in a life or death scenario? Knowing could be useful"

"I wasn't planning to..." He says on his conversation with Sabato, when he advised to not ask about Cass' past. "That'd be a stupid thing to do. And I agree on her not being with the drakes. They are a bad influence. Last thing I need is for her to have their shitty attitude..."

"Oh you must be joking..." The dragon said frustrated, maintaining his gaze on the red menace when Crystal seemed oblivious to its prescence. "HE'S RIGHT THERE!!
Next time he shows up, I'll go beat him up real nice... See if that teaches him to not show up ever again...
"

---

After the alert, there was nothing going on. Everyone's on high alert. Blade kept his stance. His scans gather nothing. He thinks it's either a false alarm, their pursuers having camouflage or them keeping their distance.

Valadir is constantly looking around to see where the enemy's coming from. The red dragon has dissapeared, which doesn't calm his nerves at all given the bad vibes he gets from him. By looking around, he has seen the drakes. He's not sure but he thinks he's noticing that there's one missing. He's ready to be dissapointed if that's the case. He's been told countless times these guys know how to handle a fight. How come they are dying already? Something due confirming later. He's also checked mom's and Cass' status. They are doing the same he's doing. Keeping watch and hoping for the best. Only they look more scared than he is. Specially Cass. She looks like she's seeking refuge in her parent.

Then the ground started shaking. The dead are rising from beneath.

Blade's companion fell to the ground, being attacked while trying to regain balance. The dragon surrounded the drake with a fire spell. Lack of oxygen aside he thinks that should buy his companion enough time to get back on his feet.

The enemy hordes come from ever increasing pits. In his opinion, it's only a matter of time before their number becomes too great for him and his comrades to handle. Thus, he's decided to start covering the holes. Give his comrades time and some breathing room. But first, the situation happening right in front of him. He stretched his right paw and snapped his middle claw and thumb together. A fan of fireballs sprouted, directed towards the enemy horde. Each fireball causing a small fiery explosion upon impact.

"I shall ask you to provide me with protection for a minute" He told the drake accompanying him once he was back on his feet.

Blade then opened his paw, palm facing towards the sky. A pawful of dark blue balls, each of the size of a strawberry appeared on his paw. He tossed one to the closest hole, aiming to the inner edge. On impact, the ball summoned a solid ice wall that covered the hole. He threw the rest to the other pits, aiming to cover as many as he could. Towards the closer ones, he tossed by hand while to the ones further away he did via a spell.

Valadir took a couple steps back when the ground started trembling. He suddenly felt several hands grabbing his right paw. He began pulling his body back to avoid getting dragged down. Quickly unearthing the cause. Lot of dead bodies coming back to get them. He finds it an unnerving sight. He dispatched them by basking them with his fire.

He then felt something flying close to his head. He instinctively lowered his head and first turned his head to see what the object was and where it was headed. An arrow that landed on one of these undead that was coming for him. Then he looked at the opposite direction. Turns out that girl did it. The dragon gestured with one of his wings to thank her. He still doesn't trust her, but as far as he's concerned they are stuck together for the forseeable future. He looked back towards mom. She looks fine. Plus Crys is there. Blade also seems to be doing well for himself. He's throwing some shit around. Seems he doesn't have to worry for the others for now.

The dragon kept on defending himself against the undead that kept coming for him. Their great numbers plus their looks intimidate him.

Cass yelled in panic when she got grabbed. She shook her paw wildly in order to free herself but to no use. Rega was about to intervene but Crystal beat her to it. The kid stared at the fox lady's eyes for a sec. That is, until Rega got grabbed. Cass took a couple steps away from her.

Rega did as the rest and pulled upwards to unearth the attackers, although she feels a bit weak thus taking her more effort than the others. Rotten corpses that are somehow coming for them. Not something she wants to see herself, nor something she wants Cass to see either. She stepped on a couple to keep them on the ground and one by one she crushed their heads against the sand. Not something she wants to do in front of a child, but it's either that or one of them getting hurt. Besides, having her kill something with her age doesn't feel right. Rather the opposite. It feels like a horrendous idea.
 
"Those bachelors seemed to be preoccupied with staying alive as well. But yes, some options are available. At least I'm not stuck with Starfall. That would have been a desperate move. Not that he's capable of courtship. I feel he's not for me." Jura told Ashe about possibly starting a family with the newfound dragons. In truth, it's doubtful with how things have been going.

Jura kept low while Ashe climbed back onto her shoulders. She continued to stay down to gain as much rest as possible. Her wings completely relaxed and tucked against the sides of her back while the edges drooped into the sand. Her head slumped against the sand as well. She was feeling much better after Crystal had healed her flesh wounds.

Ashe was about to explain something important until Blade came around to cut her short.
After receiving some of these wards Blade offered, Jura nodded, a gesture of thanks.
“Thank you. Any help now is appreciated.”

Before she inquired what her friend would say, the drakes warned them of intruders.

---

"Very interesting. A secret between the two. With the information you just told me. It sounds like Ashe has some immunity to arcane mana. Perhaps a very well-thought-out enchantment over the human. Spells don't work. I cannot sense her mind. It's like she is hidden. She isn't a spell weaver or had hidden it very well. I wish to gather more information from them later on." Crystal replied to Blade concerning the halfling human.

Crystal took her eyes off Cassiopeia for a second to speak to Valadir. "Because Val, I need some humour in this time of life and death. I believe I am old enough to deem that information not useful. If it helps you ease your soul, giving it to Cass is a much better alternative." Crystal spoke calmly. There is a hint of satisfaction in her voice. She found it humorous that Valadir was getting worked up on something so small. To give him credit, they are literally in a life-or-death scenario. She cannot blame the dragon for being on edge, especially with his mother here.

"I'm serious. I don't see anything, and I'm looking exactly where you are. Maybe someone is casting a projection of themselves. Why can't I see it? I don't have an answer. Keep telling me every time you see this red dragon. Maybe I can catch him out with something." There was a little more concern in Crystal's voice this time around.

A second time, Valadir sees this dragon figure. No one else seems to have any concerns about it. Crystal is starting to believe someone is watching Valadir.

---

Jura came crashing down to all four, squishing another two undead creatures crawling out of the sand under her. An enraged snarl across her face. Then she felt the lack of weight on her back, but the warmth was still there. She quickly touched the top of her shoulder and felt warm liquid. On inspection, her friend's blood. She immediately looked around to find Ashe, hoping against the worst. She heard her name behind her and whipped around to see her friend on the ground, her thighs bleeding.

Jura had a quick wave of regret through her. She swiped another creature out of the way before pouncing on top of Ashe, using her wings to gain extra height and stability; she landed with Ashe between her front legs, protecting her back and sides. A group of undead ran straight towards them from one of the pits in the sand. Jura inhaled and snaked her head out. She opened her maw to let out a stream of fire. Nothing. Only the air from her lungs. The few sandwiches she had eaten hadn't been digested yet, and she was without fuel for her fire. Not enough time for Ashe to mount her again, she stood her ground and waited for the hoard to crash into them. She will defend Ashe with her dying breath.

A jet of fire suddenly hit the undead, and then a drake came through, swinging his spear at the enemy with a roar. His movements are strong and practised. He rendered the group dead. Jura noticed the drake was the healing practitioner.
"You, drake! Heal my friend!" Jura demanded the drake.

Then she said to Ashe, "Don't you complain. I know you are in pain. Let him fix you up." Jura's voice is aggressive and assertive. Her mind turned clear and thoughtless from the battle.

He quickly looked between Ashe and Jura with his large yellow eyes in response. He saw the bleeding on the human's inner thighs. The drakes butted his spear against the ground, and the sand underneath Jura and Ashe turned solid into sandstone. The drake quickly approached them and got down to one knee. He laid his spear aside. Without the human's permission. He touched her thigh, wetting his finger with her blood and licked it. Without seeing the skin, he figured out how she was bleeding and wrapped his large hands around her legs. Power flowed from his hands into Ashe's legs, but her wounds did not seal. The drake quickly became frustrated and tried again. It failed. He stopped the spell before it devoured all his energy. He grabbed bandages from his satchel and quickly wrapped each leg, being careful not to tighten it to much, He is well aware his strength was more than hers. over-tighten.

With a deep voice, he said, "That will have to do now. Later, I will wrap it properly."

Jura kept a watchful eye over the drake, making sure he didn't hurt her friend. The dragoness swatted away an attacker to the right, keeping the other two clear.

The drake was about to get up before an undead jumped on his back and bit his wing. The drake roared and tried to grab the creature but couldn't. He turned around in an attempt to reach it.

---

Sabato danced around the hands that tried to grab his feet. Even on the sand, he is light and agile. He sliced through every undead body that came close to him with smooth motions. Not a single one could get a hold of him. They did not bleed; only chunks of flesh and bone fell from them. It didn't take long for the bodies to pile up around him. He sheathed his sword and jumped over the bodies to meet some more undead. The kitsune unseathed his sword once more, landed on one, and sliced its head off before jumping. He noticed the move the drake shaman made. Turned the ground into stone. The undead spawn didn't look like they could rise past it. From his tails, the sand quickly formed into sandstone around him, creating a small platform for himself. He felt a little weakened by the spell.
"Blade, Crystal. Turn the sand into stone. They cannot pass it."

Now that he created a gap where he can breathe briefly. He looked to his left and right, watching the others.

---

Crystal reached out, and her katana whistled through the air back into her hand. She met Cassiopeia's eyes. A deep care for the little dragon filled her eyes. Before any more of the undead could reach the little one, Crystal fired white balls of mana into the ground, killing the undead before they reached her. The scouting drake landed next to Cassiopeia in her defence, ready to kill the hoard of zombies approaching her.

Gathrea, the leading drake, stood in front of Valadir, cutting away the majority of the undead that charged at the group from the pits. Utilising a rare weapon among the drakes, thin blades etched into his four wings. With them, he cleaved the undead in half with excellent efficiency and speed.

Virve, the ice drake, stood at Rega's guard. Armed with an oracle staff, a long double-sided polearm with dual curved blades on either side, she slashed the ground as soon as a hand or a head unburied itself.

Between the three drakes around the largest group, they formed a triangle around the dragons, using themselves as a wall between the charging undead and the dragons.

Crystal received word from Sababto to harden the sand. Trusting his words, she summoned the energy from her jewellery and displaced it into the ground. The sand shrivelled up into stone underneath everyone's feet.
"That should stop them from coming underneath us!" She shouted to everyone.

---

As soon as the blademaster drake stood, he thanked Blade with an affirming growl.

"Yes, Radiant One." The drake Blademaster immediately complied with Blade's wish and stood by his side. Slashing the undead with his warblades as the undead came close. The last of the scouting drakes landed at Blade's defence, copying his comrade. They showed no sign of fear. Together, they kept the hoarding undead at bay as Blade worked his way around, freezing the holes in the ground. Ultimately, after the initial wave of the undead, the numbers dwindled but never completely stopped as some still appeared from the sand.

As a group, they pushed back the hoard of the undead, as seen from their fewer numbers.

A loud ring suddenly sounded in Crystal's pointed ears. She put a hand on her head. It's as if she had been struck. She looked around, trying to find the reason behind it. She stopped. Her eyes widened. Her tails dropped motionless, ears flattened. "No....."

---

Among the chaos, Ganjiro circled above the defending bunch of mixed races. They were too busy to notice his or his friend's presence. He thought it was cute with all of them fighting for their lives together like one last effort before they meet their ancestors.

When the fighting started to die down, Ganjiro made his descent. Slowly, his mount drifted down to the sand, then crouched down to let Ganjiro dismount. They landed twenty metres away from the group where he can be easily seen. His Nycon wolf then seated itself and stared at the commotion. Its midnight blue fur blended well with the night's light. Its only defining features are its bright green eyes and two red stripes that start from atop its head, follow down its back and end at its hind legs. Ganjiro leaned against its front leg, also watching. He unsheathed his black katana and fiddled with the blade. The kitsune had short black hair. His ears were covered in shiny black fur, as were his nine tails. He wore a midnight blue kimono, and his feet were bare. His tan skin colour and bright green catlike eyes are the only vibrant parts of him.
Behind the dark kitsune. The three wyverns silently landed. Their scaled skin absorbed any light that hit them. They looked more like shadowy figures. They are the same size as the dragons with skinnier bodies. Their front legs doubled as wings. The heads resembled dragons but with more contorted angles. upon the shoulders of the beasts are three kitsune. Each is identical to the last. They all dressed the same as Ganjiro. They all have the same green eyes. The only difference is their pale white skin.

Ganjiro politely waited for the fighting to stop.
 
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After crying out her companion’s name, Ashe crouched as Jura came to her rescue. She blinked, avoiding the sand from the dragoness’ impact. With the dragoness blocking the waves of the zombies she had time to re-sheath her blade and pulled out a bulky arrow whose head was covered in a slippery material. Some murky green liquid dripped from the arrow as she nocked it to the string. In seconds, she used her teeth to rip half the cover off, which grated against ripples of the metal causing a spark. The material ignited, burning part of her cheek and lip. When she drew the arrow back, simultaneously Jura had moved behind her to scorch the horde with her dragon fire, yet none came.

Upon sighting the zombies in front of them charging, she released the inferno arrow into the horde. A green-white flash erupted followed by a loud bang. An intense fiery explosion, a few metres square wide, blew apart the vanguard of the zombies. Ashe whistled. She shouted, “Theo, you have my gratitude.”

As Ashe reached for another arrow, counting down her quiver, Two inferno arrows left. As she pulled another out, a few of their enemies burnt alive. The result of a protecting drake, who emerged, movements precise and powerful. She heard Jura call for his service, ready to dismiss it. Although she resigned to Jura’s demand. When she shouted, “Suppose it is necessary,” the ground hardened and the drake landed.

The halfling tensed when the scaled creature inspected her thighs. She felt her body take a new unfamiliar energy and dissipate from within. Before the drake attempted to heal her once more, she yelled, “No magic. Just bandage it.” Ignoring the syphoning sensation, Ashe ripped open the next inferno arrow and it around the drake’s body. Satisfaction filled her at seeing another group of enemies’ bodies explode open. One more.

Ashe snapped her head down after the drake finished bandaging her legs. “Good,” she replied to the healer. When she flicked her eyes upward again, she noted an undead leapt unto the drake. Dodging the drake’s tail and wings as he spun, the halfling slung the bow on her shoulder. Whipping out her knife, she stepped-jumped off the Jura’s leg. Coming back down onto the zombie, the halfling stabbed downwards into its spine. Using her weight and momentum she gleaned the enemy off the drake’s body.

Pinning it down with her free hand, she tugged the out. When she raised to slash its neck, she paused. Confusion scrunched her eyebrows, noticing the lack of contention in the wrestle. Staring down the zombie, no longer did it wriggle from under her but lay limp.

She glanced at the next closest zombie, a thought crossing her mind. Nervous to turn her back from the flaccid zombie lying before them, she pressed her lip. In a split second, she notified Jura, “Got an idea.” Ignoring any of Jura’s dissuasion, Ashe raced out two paces from underneath Jura. Gripping the next zombie, and using the knife to hold it she dragged it back.

That zombie also went limp, it was then she sensed the mana being syphoned in. She double-checked the previous undead and smirked when it still lay motionless. Retreating to under Jura, she bellowed, “Jura, I can syphon them. It takes a couple of seconds for each.”
 
Celestina is currently sleeping on her right side, clutching her pack against her belly in order to not lose it and for extra comfort. She still has her necklace on. She's under a tree, for cover against the falling snow and covered by her pelt for the cold.

Starfall placed his paw on her shoulder and shook her gently to wake her up.

"Sun's rising. We have to get going" He then handed her a cheese sandwich with butter and mustard, already unwrapped. "As we discussed the other day, perishable food first"

Celestina looked at him while he talked. She rubbed her eyes and sat over her pelt. Then she grabbed the sandwich his brother offered her and started eating her breakfast.

Only when his sister took her first bite, Starfall unpacked a cheese sandwich for himself plus their coffee canteen. He offered the coffee first to his sister, to which she nodded to the sides in denial.

"You first. You been keeping watch all night" She said after swallowing a bite.

"Manners make the dragon" Starfall said regarding her answer.

"And honor makes the soldier. Like mom and dad used to say"

The male dragon nodded. "Least we can do is to carry on their legacy"

Starfall then took two glups from the coffee in order to make it last. It's cold and has milk and sugar. Temperature's not an issue for either of them. No point complaining about such petty things while on a mission. He placed it on the ground between them after putting the cap back and started eating his breakfast.

"How much coffee do we have?" Celestina asked after eating the first half of her sandwich.

"Without counting the beans... around two thirds of a canteen"

"Oh good. We'll have some leftover by the time we arrive to our destination. It does seem we'll arrive sometime tomorrow"

Starfall nodded and ate his sandwich.

After she finished eating, Celestina grabbed the canteen and took one sip.

"Could I have one of the nuts?"

Starfall didn't say a thing as his muzzle is currently full. He thought about telling her that she couldn't have any given they are a good energy source and non perishable. There are more important things to eat first... yet he doesn't have the heart to say no to his sis. Thus, he placed his sandwich on the ground over its wrap and reached for a paper bag in his backpack. He opened it and held it with the open end facing her. She took only one of them and ate it. Its roasted and caramelized, thus he theorizes she only wants it because of the flavor.

"Thanks"

"Don't mention it"

He quickly put the bag back to where it was moments ago and hurried up with his food. In the meanwhile, Celestina started packing up his pelt into her backpack. After Starfall finished, he placed the sandwich wraps in his backpack in order to leave no traces. He also placed the coffee back into his pack and shouldered it.

With both ready, they resumed their journey.

"You happy i haven't passed some man thoughts your way yet?" Starfall thought towards his sister in a teasing tone.

"Ugh... Shut it. I swear you are disgusting sometimes..." Her reply makes the male dragon smile even more. It's funny to engage in a sibling tease. "Did you see or hear anything while i was asleep?" She then asked. "I did sleep well"

"Only some wolves that came too close. Killed them and made it look like a bear got them"

"Nice. I see you haven't forgotten about your ranger days"

"Never"

After a while of flying, a new conversation took place.

"I had a dream today..." Celestina asked in a more sad tone.

"What about?" Starfall asked. He's always willing to lend her his ear in times like these.

"About that op we had with mom and dad. The one where we bossed them around"

Starfall nodded. Hard to not remember that one. "It was fun. I bet they also liked recieving orders from us"

"Yeah... Bossing mom around was truly something else. It was like she already knew what i was going to tell her half the time. She always smiled whenever she called me her Lt. I wish we could have that again..."

At this point of the conversation, Celestina is close to tears. Starfall wanted to hug his sister. If he could, that is.

"Seeing dad carrying out the discussed plan was exciting. Writing the after action report of the whole thing was a pain in the ass. Specially since i had to refer to yours..."

She quickly changed her expression. "What is it? Figured i can write them better than you?" She said teasingly, a bit of revenge to his earlier.

"Rather the opposite..."

"Suuureeeee... I remember you arriving late to the dinner after it"

"Well, it was a long report. And a really fancy restaurant"

"Agreed"

Another while of travelling passed.

"Speaking of our parents. Ever thought of starting your own family?" Starfall asked.

" Maybe" His sister answered. "Never gave it a thought. It makes sense given our kind's situation, but I guess it depends on whoever's available. If there's anyone I like. Then again, our kind is almost extinct. I don't really see that happening. You?" She asked to keep the conversation going, even though she already knows the answer. He's made the comment before.

"I'd love to have a lady and kids..." The brother asked. "Our kind being on the verge of total extinction makes me wish it more. Yet, as you've said, options are slim. We'd certainly have to come across more dragons first"

"Jura not enough of a lady to you?"

"She's our workmate. It'd be weird to try to court her
. Besides, I have the feeling she doesn't like me too much"

"What gives you that idea?"

"The way she expresses herself to me. There's always a chance it's only my imagination."
He paused for a couple of seconds.
"In the hypothetical scenario where any of us have kids, I bet our parents would love to see it happen. They would have loved to have grandchildren. We'd be carrying on the family legacy"

"I agree..." Celestina added. The conversation ends.

They kept flying onwards to their destination. It's nighttime already. The mountains have been on sight for most of the day. They stopped twice since breakfast. Once for lunch and another for dinner. Each lasting only a couple minutes.

"It's your turn to keep watch tonight..." Starfall reminded his sister.

"I know. One night each has always been the plan"

Shortly after, they flew over a particular situation below.

"You see that below us?" Celestina asked. A beach partially turned into stone. Several colorful beings. A fight taking place as well. She gets the feeling their kind is in danger.

"I see it too" Starfall answered. "Looks our kind fighting, doesn't it?"

"Yup. Sizeable group too"
She then started to unshoulder her backpack mid flight. "I'll toss you my backpack. Catch it. I'll go invisible and land nearby. See what we can do to help"

"No complaints here"
Starfall replied. "Helping the ones in need is the only choice. Specially if it's our kind in situations like these"

"Agreed. Catch"
She then tossed her backpack ahead of his brother, taking into account their movement.

"Stay safe, sis" He said after catching her things.

"I will" The runes in her body started to glow, and after an instant she dissapeared from view. The dragoness started her descent. Aiming for the trees, she folded her feathery wings in order to achieve a quick descent, and when close to the ground she opened them back for a soft landing.

She softly marched towards the action, watching her step to minimize the noise she makes. She feels excited to have the possibility of helping someone again. Specially since it's their kind who's in apparent danger.

Arriving at the scene, she remained at the outskirts of the battlefield in order to stay clear of any danger. She moved surrounding it to have a clear angle of everything.

"Fight is still going, yet I think it's close to its end. They are fighting some undead. Not many of them left"

"Good. Wish we could have arrived earlier to assist further. What else? How many of our kind are there?"


"Four. Two males. One of them has armor. One female with no scales nor wings. There's a girl with her too"

"Any of them related?"


Celestina took a bit to answer. "Maybe. The one with armor and the wingless one might. Colors match. They seem to have organized themselves to protect the girl and the wingless"

"Thought there were more. Lots of wings pairs around. You sure?" Starfall said, questioning her. Her usual reportings are usually spot on.

"Yes, that's because there are these... creatures fighting with them. They look like us but they are on two legs. They have armor and weapons. It's like... a mix of us and humans. It's odd to describe. They do seem to be trying to protect our kind. You think they are those drakes Katsumi told us about? He didn't give us a physical description..."

"It's certainly a possibility. I can't think of any other race that would be down with helping us out here. What else?"

"Speaking of him, there's more of... whatever his race is supposed to be"

"Kitsunes"

"Yes... you know what I mean..."
Celestina's thought has a tone of frustration. "Two of them with the dragons"

"Katsumi did say we had to look out for one of two specific ones. If those are them, then it's our lucky day"

"Agreed. There's four of them that are just... there. Watching. No one seems to notice they are there. They know what's happening yet they are not doing a thing to stop it!"
Her thoughts evolved into anger.

"Hold it sis..." Her brother told her. "Don't do anything rash. We don't know anything about them yet. Acting now against them might ruin our opportunity to interrogate the others about the targets we are seeking"

"Or they could be the responsible for this necromancy"

"True. Yet, it's better to act on more concrete intel. There's only the two of us. And I don't want to lose you"


Celestina's anger quickly went away when she was told those last words. She feels touched.

"Are you going soft on me? That was so mushy..."

Starfall blushed. "But it's true... ugh. Just focus... Anything else you see?"

"Oh yeah, I wanted to save this one for last. Jura and Ashley are here too"


Starfall took a bit to answer. "You're joking"

"No, I'm not! Don't you see that blue spot over here from up there??"

"I thought that was just another blue dragon. You know how common blue is amongst our ranks..."

"Point taken. Let's wait for now. See what else happens..."


---

"Remind me to answer that pretentiously next time I do something important. See how much you like being on this end of the matter. Reading my mind is cheating" Valadir told Crystal when she defended her words.

"I will. He's watching me. I swear" The dragon said tensely when his friend told him how he can't see what he's seeing. It worries him that she can't see anything given he thinks she's well versed in that sort of thing. Hopefully, telling her about any future apparitions might end up generating a pattern, and with that, answers.

Valadir occupied himself with fighting the opponents that came for him. He remained mobile in order to make it harder for them to snatch his paws. However, a group grabbed his tail from below. He pulled on the opposite direction, and as he unearthed his attackers, the sand suddenly turned into stone. His attackers all split in half. Seeing a pile of half rotten bodies that only existed from the stomach up wasn't a sight he wanted to see today. He looked back to see mom and Cass. They are fine. Drakesand Crys are protecting them.

Then a couple came from his left flank. They hit him yet he didn't feel any pain. Ward ate the hit. The dragon quickly dispatched them. Gathrea landed by him soon after that and charged onwards. He was about to ask him if he had a death wish, but given his plan was working, the dragon remained quiet and got around to killing any that slipped past their defense. With their numbers decreasing, he noticed the other bunch of kitsunes. Which rubbed him the wrong way.

"Please don't tell me we gotta fight those over there as well..." He said to the ones he was linked with.

---

"A smart course of action" Blade told Sabato mentally when he was instructed to turn the sand into stone. He feels a bit silly to not have thought about it earlier.

"Remain on your task!" He told his bodyguards. Then, he buried his front paws on the sand and quickly, rock started to expand and replace the sand on the beach. He observed the effects and it indeed worked. He pulled his paws from the ground, two holes with the shape of his paws remained on the rocky ground.

With the drakes around him taking care of his and everyone's safety, the wards in place and the ground transformed, the white dragon is covered for now. He inspected their surroundings attentively when he sensed there's something near them. A prescence that's near, yet one he can't locate. During his search, he noticed Ganjiro and the others watching them.

"Your worst nightmare has arrived" He told Crystal.

---

Rega decided to keep defending herself and Cass, even if she's terrible at fighting. As far as she's concerned, traumas can be fixed and cured while death can't. Luckily not many are coming her way. Given how the beach transformed, how the others are doing their jobs and the drake and the small fluffy ball are with, she feels she can catch a breath.

Cass feels scared. The noise, the sudden change of the beach and the tall sir that's by her intimate her.

Rega extended her paw towards her. "Come dear"

The girl went towards her and sat next to her resting her head on her arm, curling up her tail around herself as to occupy the least amount of space possible.
 
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As Ashe drew her arrow and aimed its burning tip, Jura braced herself for the light show. Closing her inner eyelids to pull half of the sudden light away from the fiery explosion. It stood out like a beacon in the night. The intense heat did not affect her, as for Ashe. She pulled one of her sceathered wings in front of her friend to protect her from the heat and light, then immediately back as soon as the fire diminished.

“Fancy.”

A quick remark from Jura.

When the drake turned around with the undead form on its back, she lifted a paw to peel the evil creature off. Ashe bet her to it. The halfling leapt off her other leg and driving the undead down to the ground. Again, Jura went to help, but the undead form went from wiggling to motionless. To mimic Ashe, confusion crept across her face, she didn’t expect for Ashe to kill the creature that quickly. Quickly after she felt a little proud about Ashe.

She continues to surprise me.

The thought didn’t last long. Another two undead crashed into her side. They slashed and clawed at her leg but, she felt nothing. No pressure, no pain. Mustnbe due to Blades wards. In return, Jura growled and kicked them away, effectively killing them with her strength. For a second, her newly injured leg gave out, and her vision blurred. She was almost crumbling under her weight. With her tail, wings against the hard surface, she gained balance quickly. Her eyes found their way out of the fog.

I can't keep this up. Any longer, and I might faint again.

Before Jura could respond to Ashe, her friend darted to the next undead. Within a couple of seconds, the undead fell limp again. Again, Jura’s confusion came about until Ashe explained what had happened.

Despite Ashe's capability, she said, "Be careful, don't stray far from me."

And despite her warning, the undead numbers dramatically decreased to the point where few were left. With that, Jura cleared away the ones that approached them. Keeping in mind not to hit Ashe.

"I know you can handle yourself well but, we are in a different battle now." Jura spoke to Ashe with respectful sincerity. Her breathing now is laboured. She's oblivious to the newcomers.

"By the way, when did you start getting fancy with your moves?"

The shaman stood beside Jura and defensively held his spear, glaring at the new threat.
---

Sabato killed the last few undead around him. Seeing as there are no new ones sprouting from the ground due to Blade’s spell he wiped and sheathed his weapon. He swiped his hand through his long brown hair, half expecting it to be covered in blood. There was none. The undead did not bleed. He looked around to see that all the sand had been turned to stone. To cast a spell of that magnitude, Blade must have a large reserve of mana.

Another look around to see if the others are doing well. No one has fallen. It was now that he noticed that one of the drakes was missing. Two of the three scouting drakes had not returned. He didn't see any on the floor.

His confusion answered itself upon seeing the true enemy behind the attack. Ganjiro. Very few things make Sabato nervous. The black kitsune is one of those few things. He was also accompanied by three others, identical to him but, on black wyverns. He's never seen them before. The new group didn't trigger Sabato's surveillance ward, which makes him believe they are well protected with spells.

Sabato deeply inhaled and exhaled, knowing what they're about to get into. He refrained from drawing his sword as a battle with steel against the infamous black kitsune is pointless. Calmly, he walked beside Blade and his two protecting drakes.

"Good to see you again, Blade. I see you also found the source of the attack."

Then he spoke to the white dragon with his mind.
"We cannot face him and expect everyone to live. If it comes down to it, I will hold him off. Can I rely on you to ensure everyone reaches the mountains safely? Also, keep this between us. Crystal's emotions may cloud her judgement. Watch out that she does not get herself killed."

Sabato also sensed another presence somewhere. He quickly scanned with his eyes but found no one. It's like they are well hidden. He can't pinpoint where this other mind is.
"I sense another nearby as well. How about you?"

---

Gathrea cleaved through another two undead with his wings. Torched another three with his fiery breath. After that, the undead numbers thinned. A few more came his way, which he quickly dispatched. When he received word from Valadir, he sought to find what he is mentioning. Down the beach, four black figures, identical to Crystal and Sabato. Along with three dragon-like creatures and a nycon wolf.

He stood straight and warned the other drakes. "We have more company. They smell like real trouble. Stay close together."

---

Crystal fired one last shot of white energy at the clawing undead. It fell limp on the ground, devoid of any life. Ready for the next, she held her sword in front. Her head is on the swivel, looking for the next target. Concluding that none were left, she immediately stepped back to check on Rega and Cassiopeia. It pained her to see Cassiopeia curled and scared to death. All Crystal wants to do is give her a big hug. Luckily, Rega is here to comfort her.

Crystal looked to her left to see a proud drake with an intense snarl. Baring his teeth, his wings flared. She can understand why humans, dwarves and elves consider them monsters; they're large and have a terrifying look. Especially angry.

When Crystal heard Blade's telepathic voice, she dreaded his words. Slowly, she turned her head. Heart racing. She grips her sword tightly, hoping that Blade is lying. There he was. Leaning against his mount.

She whispered to herself. "Why are you here?"

---

Just before the fighting ceased, Ganjiro raised a hand, and the rest of the undead dropped on his command. Rendering the environment still. He took a few steps towards the group, then stood still for a minute, taking in the scenery. It's like a battlefield with the last few heroes standing—the last hope. A smirk grew across his face, he opened his arms in a welcoming gesture.
"Finally. I get to meet you all together. It took you long enough, but at least you got there."

His voice is cool and surprisingly low for his size. It is almost soothing to listen to. It projected across the beach. Almost as if it was coming from all directions, surrounding the survivors.

"Sorry, I didn't introduce myself earlier. I got caught up watching the wonderful display you all showed. That was some impressive skill. Slicing up already dead people. How marvellous. For those who don't know. My name is Ganjiro, and I will be your host tonight. And these fine fellows behind me will be at your service. Now, shall we get started?"

He raised one hand above his head, and Alasthor's head appeared. Its lower jaw hung loose. The eyes were lifeless, and the scales drained of blood. Ganjiro gripped it by the horn.
"Oh, by the way, Unbroken. You forgot something."

With the assistance of mana, he tossed the head in front of Valadir.

"How's the prophecy going for you? Has Crystal convinced you to join her cult yet? She's always been good at twisting tails. You know you can always fly away. I won't blame you. I'm sure the past few months have worn you down. Another option is my sword if you can't be bothered anymore."
Ganjiro mocked Valadir. He exercised his knowledge of the dragon.

"Who else do we have here? Ah, Jura Sceather and her sidekick. I was sent here to fetch you and bring you back. Good thing I didn't. You lead me right to everyone so much for a noble knight. You just got everyone killed. All that hard work you've done. Only to be left in the dust. I don't know what's more pathetic, you or a dragon who can't fly. And Miss Rhinehart, that little stunt you pulled at Diabmoure. They know about Castrock now."

Next, Ganjiro looked at Blade.
"Nap time yet? Please be my guest. I'll enjoy catching you again, oh great dragon. By the way, I owe you a thank you for teaching my ex some manners. That vixen would have been a tough one to domesticate, I'm sure. Speaking of which."

Ganjiro turned his attention to Crystal. His smile grew when he saw her face—thrilled by her despair and anger.
"Oh, Crys. Have you decided to come back to me? We could have conquered the land by now. You and me, side by side. What a pity. How low you have fallen."

"Don't think I've forgotten about you, Sabato, my old friend. Still, on your lifelong quest to kill me? You might be waiting a little longer."

He then stayed quiet and let his words set in.

Two of the black kitsune atop the wyverns started scanning the area. Something didn't add up. There is an extra presence they cannot see.

Jura glared at Ganjiro. She doesn't know who he is, and he sums up her life entirety in a couple of sentences. She instantly hated everything about him. She hated that he exposed her in front of everyone. She hated that she probably could not do anything about it. It made her furious; her tail curled and twitched, struggling to keep the anger back. She knows that if she makes a wrong move, it can spell death for her and Ashe. Instead, she followed everyone else's lead and did nothing. The tension is extremely high. This kitsune seems to know everything about everyone. The way he's so confident. Like he controls the arena, Jura didn't like one bit of it. At least he didn't have much of a go at Ashe.

She bobbed her head down and quietly said to Ashe. "This is a good time to get back on. I don't like this at all. He knows your real name too."

Crystal glared at Ganjiro. Anger flourished through her. She took a few deep breaths, avoiding letting her emotions take control. She silently prayed to Ansel to give her strength. To keep her memories from emerging, she sheathed her sword. Then, she walked past Rega, placing a comforting hand on her side, before moving next to Valadir, doing likewise. She looked at his father's head with sorrow.
"Val, breathe. He's doing it to anger you. Do not give in to your emotions. That's exactly what he wants."

She took a few more steps forward and touched Alasthor's head. It disappeared in a flash. She stowed it away.

After that, she stepped towards Ganjiro. Standing between him and the others. She materialised her ribboned staff within her hands and stared into the soulless green eyes of the black kitsune.

"Leave them alone! Your fight is with me, Ganjiro. This time, I'll be sure to kill you."

"Kill me? But why? I built you. Without me, you would still be over your family's grave. Besides, this is so exciting. Don't you enjoy our little games? You being Valadir's little angel on his shoulder. It's my turn to be his little devil. Let him choose for himself. Stop keeping him from his potential. Let him spread his wings. Why are you hiding what is rightfully his? Are you scared he's going to go down the wrong path? There is no wrong path. He can save his race. He can crown himself. With the drakes behind him. Nothing can stop it."

"I said. That's enough!"
Crystal butted her staff against the ground. A Green dome surrounded herself and Ganjiro. It stopped anyone from entering or leaving. A barrier where mana cannot pass. She waved her staff, and a wave of white energy speared towards Ganjiro. He lifted a hand, and his ward ate the attack.

"Just remember. You started this."
He attacked her mind and jumped at her, slipping his sword out of its sheath and slashing it at Crystal.

Before anyone else could engage, the other three black kitsune jumped off their mounts and started walking to the others, drawing their weapons.

The wyverns screeched in unison. An ear-breaking tone from their throats. and they took flight and swirled above the group picking their target to swoop.

"Virve, Thresh. Get the dragons away from here. "Dahthka, Drekk, Merth. Keep two of those black monsters busy. I'll dance with the other. Sabato. Can you take three?"
Gathrea started barking orders to the drakes; he made sure Valadir and Sabato could hear him as well so they knew what was going on.

"I will hold them." Sabato replied.

Then he said to Blade. "Mind giving me a hand with those three?" He pointed to the three approaching kitsune.
 
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A smirk appeared on Ashe’s lips at Jura’s remark causing the burn on her cheeks to sting. After returning to under Jura’s company, the halfling fell into a familiar pattern of accommodating Jura’s fighting prowess. In their earlier years, Ashe had quickly learnt the art of dodging Jura’s action. She copped one too many hits when in training and actual battles.

Near the dragoness, Ashe’s attention by the sound of laboured breaths. The halfling peered over her shoulder seeing Jura fight through her injured state. Despite the blue dragon’s failing condition she still shouted concern to remain close.

Ashe listened to the blue dragoness’ warning, facing the zombie horde. “Your right, it is a different battle. Remind me to stick to my books and politics,” she half-joked. Yet even if there was a stark distance between their skills, the halfling could tell the fight was taking its toll on Jura. Hang on a little longer friend.

A zombie leapt at them; Ashe successfully sidestepped before proceeding to end its animation. The halfling only smirked at her companion’s flattery. As she punched another zombie, wincing and shaking her hand, she replied, “I have a great sparring partner.”

The zombies’ number appeared to be thinning out now. Stabbing another zombie, Ashe ceased her plight when the remaining horde crumbled to the ground. Cautious and frowning, she made her way to Jura’s left side.

Observing the carnage before them, all focus narrowed in on the four new figures. Deadly silence slithered its way over that beach. Sweat dripped down the half-human’s brow. She watched the familiar, black-furred humanoid step forth. At that moment, Ashe felt her breath catch in her throat. Perhaps it was her imagination, but it felt as if even the wind and waves stilled before this new threat. She released the air in her lungs, regaining her sense of composure.

Studying the figures ahead, Ashe placed the black humanoid’s face to a name and memory. “Ganjiro. The other three are foreign to me,” she muttered letting Jura know. Ashe swiftly checked on the status of the others. She informed Jura, again keeping her voice low, “Appears everyone is alive although I cannot account for all the drakes.”

Returning her eyes to Ganjiro, she witnessed such arrogance drip off of the kitsune. He paraded about; his greeting wrapped in mockery. One could be lulled into false security with that voice. Ashe knew too many soothsayers in her lifetime, she felt repulsed. So, this is the kitsune I faced in the Akarma.

She witnessed the vile kitsune toss something in Valadir’s direction. Even squinting Ashe could not tell what was thrown. Listening to his conversation with the other kitsune and Valadir she was unsettled by information that was new to her. First drakes, then kitsunes, now a title, Unbroken and a Prophecy. The more I hear, the more of a mystery Valadir becomes. What is more the kitsunes all know one another.

Ashely remained largely relaxed in this realm of exchanging words, yet she was becoming nervous about what the black kitsune meant as a “host” for tonight. Poker-faced she shifted her eyes to Ganjiro when he addressed them. She placed a firm hand on Jura’s side, away from any injuries. She felt her friend flare up and heard the thump of her tail. Ashe spoke quickly and quietly, “Be still, friend. He desires to illicit your wrath and show him instead the hark of a herald. You are more than your failures.”

She barely responded to the sound of her surname, providing only a straight face. Even when Castrock was mentioned she only slightly frowned. Wran or Celestina would have sent word if they had been discovered, or attacked. So then is the existence and name of Castrock alone, known?

Ashe whispered after Jura’s invitation to mount, “We need to make Ganjiro a priority kill, yet we may need to live to fight another day.” She deliberated getting up on Jura. Her friend hardly had the energy to fly away, and her extra weight would exhaust the dragoness faster. Finally deciding, Ashe lightly got on top of Jura.

The halfling was glad the enemy’s attention was no longer on them but shifted to Blade and his capture. Then it was onto Crystal and Sabato. His pauses were unnerving Ashe. He has command over the situation at the moment. We need to think of a way out.

Crystal began to move and responded, deflecting the attention from everyone else. Ganjiro’s preaching of his ideology was far from anything righteous. His speech had Crystal rush over to him. All Ashe saw next was a large dome appear around the two kitsunes. Then black and white figures attack the other.

The wyverns let out a screech that grated on Ashe’s ears. “The wyverns are upon us. Regroup with the others and hunt these bastards down,” she called out. She held her bow and arrows once more ready to shoot the oncoming enemies. She saw the drakes break into formation, and Sabato and Blade step up.

Ashe sighted and shot a normal arrow at one of the wyverns riders. The arrow went wide, missing by a meter or so. Ashe let out a grunt. The night sky was not helping at all. She took another shot at the same enemy, only for it to deflect off of the wyvern’s scales.
 
"Likewise" Blade told Sabato after his greet. "This source makes no effort at hiding itself"

"I shall, if it comes down to it" The white dragon replied when the kitsune then asked for a couple favors. "While what you say does possess a base in facts and is, thus, a possibility. I consider you will be able to perform all those tasks yourself, for light always shines through"

Then they discussed the presence of an unknown entity close to them, unable to be identified or located.

"I am also able to sense it. I have earlier. Yet, I also fail to locate it. I hope their intentions are good, for this already is a strong foe"

Then, when Ganjiro spoke of him, he did so mocking his sleeping habits. He was completely unphased by that mockery. In part because that used to be a common mocking. People called him that sort of thing so often that it quickly lost its effect. He's old enough to know better than to get annoyed by some simple puny words. Plus, the Mythical World offers worse than this.

So the black kitsune is the one responsible for his capture, or at least the one that tipped off his captors. Makes sense. He's known for knowing things he shouldn't.
"Recall how we discussed the matter of finding the individuals responsible for our capture. This one is behind mine. One less mistery to solve" He told Jura.

So Valadir has a prophecy going on him? That's something he'll want to inquire about later. If his endless time reading tells him anything, is that prophecies are guaranteed history turning points. If the prophetized individual follows it, that is. If he does, that means that a couple books about him are in order. He'll be excited to try to write it himself. Try his hand at being an author for the first time. Or, at the very least, to check the facts written in it are true if he doesn't get to write it.

He then saw how Val was handed the head of his father. That was uncalled for. Too cruel. It's a nice gesture from his colleague to go ease him. It's something he'd have done as well.

"Pay no mind to his words" He told Crystal when Ganjiro talked directly to her. Another matter he wishes to discuss with Valadir too.

Then they started to fight in private. He wishes her the best. Blade smirked a bit when the wyverns announced their attack.

"I shall give you my paw. It's safe to assume they have already casted a ward upon themselves. You sound like you have already conjured a plan" He told Sabato when he requested his help.

---

Valadir started disliking Ganjiro as soon as he started talking. The way he handles himself makes him remember his encounters with the elves. Too full of shit. Like the world spins around him.

He frowned when he mentioned his title. How does he know? He already has a bad feeling about what's going to happen next.

His eyes widened when he saw the head of his father on the kitsune's hand, unable to look away.
"Not again..."

To make things worse, he threw it like it was just a piece of trash and it landed right in front of him. His eyes fixated on it. Soon, he closed his eyes and lowered his head and wings. He tucked his head under one of his wings and started crying. He's, again, feeling the same sorrows he felt the last morning when he found his body. There's nothing that'll bring him back. No new memories to be had with him. He'll never ask him to deliver a new knife to another client. No fests and no more hatchdays to share with him and mom. Nothing.

Then Crystal came around to touch his side and try to comfort him.

"...can we go and stitch him back together later...?" He asked her, having a hard time mustering up those words.

His sorrow was gradually replaced by fury, going completely against what Crystal had just told him. He's pissed at how the kitsune has damaged his dad's remains and how he has insulted his entire family and situation. He feels the urge to go and kill him and his friends. Mom gets safer and he gets revenge. A win for everyone in his opinion.

"What??" He told the drake when he was told about the combat plan. "I'm not leaving! Not after this guy chopped my dad to bits and disrespected me and my family. I'm staying here until I die or until this bitch and his friends are dead on the snow. I want to play with their heads and hang them on my wall!"

---

Rega stayed put alongside Cass, holding her head as she dragonet rested her head on her arm. The wingless dragon is unsure about what to expect. She's nervous.

Rega's eyes widened when he saw Ganjiro raise the severed head of her husband. Her jaw dropped a bit. She quickly put her paw over Cass' eyes in order for her to avoid seeing such a thing.
"Don't watch..."

The tan dragon, however, couldn't look away. Sure, it was a bit away but she'd recognize that face anywhere. A couple seconds after his loved one's head landed on the ground, she lowered her head and started to sob. She eventually stopped holding Cass and covered her face with her paws, crying a bit louder. She's also rocking herself. His last living moments playing in her head again. He did everything he could for her and this is what he gets. He gets thrown around in bits like an animal. He isn't even getting an improvised burial.

The wyverns' screeching interrupted her crying. She looked up with reddish eyes to see what was going on. Immediately after, a couple of drakes came to her and Cass to take them away from the battle. The dragonet obeyed immedately and went with the couple o' misters. Rega took a bit to process what she had been told. She's still shaken. She's not a fan of leaving what remains of her family behind, but at the same time she's considers she's a burden to the rest. Both her and the kid. She got back on her four paws and went with her two escorts. As they headed away from the danger, both dragonesses' looked back at how things were going. Specially at Val.

---

Celestina stayed put and heard the whole thing. The kitsune's voice sounded like he was nearer than he actually was. Her position allowed her to see there was a dark colored head being thrown around. Two members of the group started to cry shortly after. The color combination between the head and the two sorrowful dragons leads her to believe they are all related. Or maybe she's overthinking it. But if they are, she really feels for them, for she knows their pain.

The mention of Castrock when he adressed her comrades did raise an alarm on her. How'd he know? The island is well covered on all fronts.

"So what else do you hear? You been quiet." Starfall asked her all of a sudden. She finds it lucky that he has asked after the group started rambling about what sounded like unresolved personal issues.

"I'm not completely sure, but... remember how I told you how I think a couple of them are related?" She began reporting.

"Yeah..."

"Well, it that's true, then I just saw one of Katsumi's race that's just talking to everyone. He threw a dragon's head towards someone and two of our race started crying. One of them is tan while the other is black and tan. The head is of a dark color, thus I think there's a fair chance the decreased is a relative of them."

"It's a shame. It's hard to not feel for them. We do share their pain. I wonder if they'll try to honor their dead. If they do, we should tag along. It'd be wrong to deny them of the chance we never had" Starfall answered.

"Agreed..." Celestina's tone of thought has some sadness to it.

"That's everything? That kitsune didn't say anything else?"

"Yeah, Castrock is in danger. He claims to know about it and that It's compromised"


Starfall raised an eyebrow. "Did he say how?"

"Not particularly..."

"I say he's bluffing. You know how tight our security and diplomatic relations are. Even then, when we reach the mountains, we should send Castrock a letter and tell them to be weary, just in case I'm wrong"

"And how'd you plan to do that? It's not like we are carrying any of our usual messengers with us"

"We round a small drake group, give them the letter and directions. They'll be on board with the war. So will we. Thus, we'll be allies. I'm sure they'll agree to the task. That all?"


His sister was about to mention she overheard Jura's state decaying when a dreadful screech filled the air. She smirked.

"What was that? I heard it from here. Are you alright?" Starfall asked her.

"Yeah! It's that those fluffy things that were watching our kind and their monsters are starting to attack our kind! Some are trying to pick our kind from above"

"Got you. I'll drop the bags in the forest and intercept from above. Keep the element of surprise. Good luck sis"

"Same"


Starfall then flew towards the forest, landed and hid both backpacks on some bushes. He smiled a bit when he did, glad he's back on the frontlines for a good cause. He quickly returned to the air, to his previous position, and aimed to one of the flying dark wyverns in order to hit him from above. A fireball first and a tackle immediately after. They look like a normal wyvern but more twisted. A dragon's weakspot tends to be above them, thus he assumes their foes are not an exception.

Celestina looked at the scene in order to better judge how to intervene. The scaleless dragon and the kid are getting escorted out of the premises. The two weakest are getting out. Yet, their escort is slim. The other group is bigger plus Starfall is helping them. Thus, are more able to defend themselves while the two dragonesses are not. If any of their guards fall then they'll be easy prey.

"The wingless dragoness and the kid are getting escorted out of the field. I'll be with them. They only got two guards" She told her brother.

"Good call" Was the answer she got.

The dragoness kept her invisibility going and stealthily trotted to the small group. She got out of the trees and placed herself in front of the group, keeping her distance as to not startle them too much. Then, she nullified her spell and made herself visible.

"Excuse me for showing up like this" She started saying to introduce herself. With a rather innocent facial expression, she continued. "I'm Celestina and i'm here to ensure you reach safety. I used to be a Ranger in the army, so you'll be in good hands. I have a brother who's also in my line of work and is helping the others"

Rega stopped on her tracks when and put a paw ahead of Cass to get her behind when Celestina showed up out of instinct. Sure, turns out she's with them but she couldn't help it. Good to hear that Val got extra help. She did introduce herself afterwards. Only her name, not her profession.

"A pleasure" Celestida told her back. She felt like ruffling the child's hair too but there's no time for that. It's better to keep moving. One thing she's noticing is that said kid is really staring at her. Her guess is because the runes on her sides and her horns are glowing. "Let's move" She then adressed their guards.
"Where's the destination? I can take point"
 
"Of course we can. Better yet, when we find him. We can bring him with us." Crystal softly replied to Valadir. However, it wasn't a promise.

---

Crystal caught Ganjiro’s sword with her staff. Its razor edge couldn’t slice through her enchanted weapon. They locked in place, staring into each other's eyes. Engaged in mental combat. Trying to break each one another’s barriers. Looking for any weakness. Ganjiro threw waves of attacks. Trying to pin her mind like an iron net. Crystal’s defence is equally as strong. Neither could gain the advantage.

The black kitsune sidestepped to swing his sword at her neck. With equal speed, the kitsune in white parried his attack and countered with the other end of her staff, hitting him in the stomach. Caught by the blow, Ganjiro took another step back, winded.

He snickered. “I see, you haven’t gotten slack. Good to know my little Vix can..."

Crystal ignored his comments and speared her staff towards him, taking advantage of reach. Ganjiro ducked and touched the ground. The earth beneath Crystal cracked open and swallowed her. Before she went down too far, she spun her staff to wedge it into the ground, stopping her from falling further. She looked down the sinkhole and found no end. Only an endless stream of darkness. Ganjiro was already on top of her, looking down in the sinkhole.

He smiled, enjoying the view. “This reminds me of when I first met you. At your family’s grave. You still regret what you did?”

“You talk too much.”

Crystal reached into the mana reserves in her staff. Bouncing off the air, her body unnaturally propelled itself upward from the ground and into the air. The ground immediately closed shut as if it just missed a meal. Crystal gripped her staff at the end with both hands and slammed it down on top of Ganjiro. He brought his sword up to meet her attack, and they slammed into each other. Ganjiro was overcome by the Crystals attack and was forced to his knee. He tilted his sword, and Crystal staff hit the ground. Without a second to spare, she swung around and aimed for Ganjiro’s gut. He brought his sword just in time before the staff hit him.

Crystal used two of her tails to wrap his legs and pulled him from his feet. With a grunt, he fell on his back. She dropped her staff, pulled her sword out and stabbed him in the heart. Ganjiro's eyes widened, and he gasped for air. His tails went frantic for a second before dropping still. He clenched the blade that stuck to him and saw Crystal’s eyes. Tears flooded his eyes.

“Crys- I was the only one… Whoever loved you…” His voice turned into a ghastly whisper.

She dropped to her knees and let go of the sword. Immediately regretting her decision. Tears started rolling down her cheeks. She touched his chest as she poured her emotions out for her first love.

“I… I can’t bear your scars anymore. I’m sorry.”

With his final breath, he lifted a hand and pointed to the side. Crystal looked and found Ganjiro leaning on his sword with a smirk. She looked back down to find his body had disappeared—only her sword on the ground.

“Awww. So you do still care about me. I was beginning to believe otherwise.” He mocked her bittersweet.
“Still. You surprise, Amongst your anguish. You killed me. I'm impressed."

Crystal wiped her face and stood up. Anger welled up inside. She pulled her sword up, disgusted with herself. She fell straight into his trick.

She controlled her breathing before speaking. "You must die Ganjiro. Not for my sake but for everyone. You are a sickness and a curse."

"Does that make you a cure and a blessing? I'm not the only arrogant one here. Get off your high chair. Stop playing Guardians. Get back into the real world Vix. Stop this nonsense. You're causing more harm than good. Poor Valadir has had enough. Why do you expect so much from him? Because of what you saw in a dream? Let him do what he wants, how he wants."

"You will not speak about Val. You only bring death!" Crystal shouted at the top of her lungs.

She kicked her staff into the air, hovering several metres above the ground. Her tails flickered with electric power, dashed at Ganjiro at a frightening speed, and thrusted her sword at him. They parried and danced with each other for multiple blows.

Slowly, Crystal gained the upper hand and forced him to the dome's edge. Sensing the disadvantage, Ganjiro balled up some mana into his fist and punched Crystal away, knocking her back a couple of metres. Her wards mostly protected her from the attack.

Ganjiro, attacked with his mind again. This time, he fired several waves of black energy at Crystal. In response, she called her staff into her hand. As it whistled through the air, the staff caught one of the waves and deflected the rest as she fought off his mental attacks.

Next, he threw his sword at her. Again, she used her staff to deflect his weapon. Next, he filled his lungs with air, and when he blew out, red fire escaped his lungs. Fuelled by his mana, the fireball grew in size and burnt hot. Crystal butted her staff into the ground and created a white energy shield around her. Fire filled the green dome, putting both combatants in the fiery blaze. Crystal couldn't see anything past it. The flames had nothing to consume, so they died quickly. Smoke then filled the dome, rendering the kitsune invisible to everyone.

Using the fire as a cover, Ganjiro called upon the shadow spirit's power. His eyes turned black, absorbing any light that hit them. He coughed and spurted black blood from his mouth. He traced his finger across the edge of his blade and enchanted his sword.

Just as the fire ceased, Crystal kept her shield up. Smoke rendered her vision useless. She couldn't see Ganjiro. A blade appeared from the haze and pierced her energy shield. Caught off guard, she held her staff to intercept the blade. It sliced right through her staff with a loud crack and a flash of white. All the mana she had stored in her staff escaped, creating an explosion. It tossed her back and caused her to land on her side, smacking her head against the ground. She fell unconscious for a second. Gathering herself quickly, she lifted herself to one knee and saw her staff before her. Broken in two. With her largest mana reserve gone, she suddenly started to feel fear. Tilting her head further up, Ganjiro charged at her and stabbed her in the gut. She clenched the sword and screamed in pain.

He whispered in her ear. "That staff of yours was getting a little annoying."

---

Jura took Ashe's words gratefully, counteracting Ganjiro's insults. She is right. His goal appears to only drag anyone around him down.
"Thank you, Ashe. I will wear your words well."

She tapped Ashe's back with her snout as a sign of appreciation.

Jura winced when the wyverns screeched. She then looked up to see them hovering above them. One-eyed her off. She knew it was going to dive on her.

"I think that's a good idea. Bigger the group, the better."
Responding to Ashe, she started her way to the larger group. Her steps started to become heavy, noticing Ashe's more and more. Hearing Ashe's bowstring, she picked up her pace, almost in a sprint. Doing her best to keep her motion smooth for Ashe.

Suddenly, her stomach churned, and her throat contorted. She stopped and heaved. She puked all the tea, food and bile. Her body convulsed as she did. She nearly blacked out after the effort. As soon as she could, she started to run again but tripped and fell in her vomit. She rolled her head to the side so Ashe could avoid being impaled by her horns.

Jura wailed when she fell. Disappointed in her ability to act.
"Come on. Get up, Jura..."

One of the wyverns screeched as an arrow hit it. Eyeing the source of the attack, it saw the dazed blue dragon and the halfling. Taking advantage of the opportunity, it dived, holding its razor claws out. Before it could skew its target, A fireball engulfed the wyvern, scorching its black scales—another screech from its maw. A new dragon slammed into its back. With a thunderous sound, crushed it against the ground next to Jura. The wyvern screeched. It attempted to bite into the dragon's leg and claw its way out under the immense wait.

Jura flinched at the sudden impact that shook the ground. Finally picking herself up, she looked for Ashe, unsure if she was on top or beside her. She saw one of the foul wyvern underneath a pair of cream paws. She looked up further and saw a familiar face.
"S-Star?"

Jura fell unconscious in her vomit.

Merth, the scout skydrake, saw Jura and leapt to her side. Paying no attention to her mess, carefully shuffled her body on its side and extended her wings out from under her in order for them not to be crushed. He checked her vital by placing an ear over her chest, looking for a heartbeat—next, her breathing.
He reported to Gathrea. "The dragoness is out cold. She appears to have developed a fever."

"Guard her side and the halfing, I suppose. And who's that helping hand beside you?" Gathrea responded quickly and ended with a question.
appeared
Merth looked at the towering dragon. Looking proud. His features appeared strong and mighty. The black and brown struck the Merth as someone very familiar.
"Fenris?" He asked

---

Gathrea heeded Valadir's words. He can feel the dragon's hatred and anger through their connection. It radiated off him. His family is in danger. At that point, he knew it was futile to convince Valadir otherwise. Coming to a decision quickly. He said to Valadir.
"The middle one in the sky. I'll draw its attention. Snare its wings from behind. Watch its head. They look flexible. See if you can keep up with me."

With unnatural speed, Gathrea lifted his four wings and took off into the sky, quickly gaining on the wyvern. With his fiery breath, he blew flames at the black creature, taking its attention. He slashed at it with his warblade but missed, underestimating its agility. Then it started after Gathrea in a chase.

Gathrea saw Drekk and Dahthka battling another wyvern in the air.

---

Sabato stretched his arms, ready for the fight.

"I do. You are going to distract them while I will find a weak spot to slip into." Sabato said, half sarcastic.

"Word of advice. kitsune specialty is misdirection. I recommend staying on the defence to avoid getting caught out. I may not have seen these three, but we are all the same."

Sabato silently cast a spell and disappeared from Blade's side, leaving him against the three kitsune.

Then he spoke through the mental connection to Bade.
"Attack when I tell you to."

The three kitsune approached Blade. One is armed with a sword, another with a staff and the last with a bow.

The one with the sword charged at Blade and attempted to slash at his legs, behind the charging kitsune. Two arrows flew towards Blade in quick succession.

The one with the staff formed many black spears above its head and shot them at Blade.

---

Virve and Thresh immediately pointed their weapons at Celestina. They would have nearly attacked her if they hadn't immediately recognised her as a dragon.

While she spoke, the drakes lowered their weapons. They had no intention of harming, so they bowed their heads in apology and greeting.

They looked at each other.

Virve spoke chillingly, "Head South along the shoreline."
 
Finding the rhythm of Jura’s gait, Ashe successfully reloaded another arrow. She felt her companion pick up her pace. Knowing it was important to act fast, the pair did not have the reserves to fight to their greatest abilities. Loosening another arrow at the wyvern, Ashe yelled down, “Jura, save your strength for…”

Midway through her sentence, a lurch from beneath her had her drop an arrow in favour of gripping Jura’s mane. The dragoness abruptly stopped having Ashe nearly face plant into Jura’s neck. “What’s…oh,” she started, before feeling Jura’s muscles convulse and regurgitate all that was in her stomach. Almost feel bad for giving her that sandwich. .

“Jura, we need to mov…” Before Ashe finished, she felt Jura commence a powerful stride. Yet confusion broke out when her seat went wayward. Ashe squeezed her legs together, flinching when she felt scales pierce her legs again. She clung to her companion, but it was a feeble attempt. Her foundations were unsecured when Jura’s form tottered forward.

Ashe watched the world turn around, instinctively curling her head in to protect herself when the ground caught her body. The impact sent the air out of her lungs. Eyes wide open, her diaphragm retracted instantly desiring oxygen again. Jura… Specs of sand followed the air back into Ashe’s lungs sending her into a coughing fit. …Jura Ashe rolled onto her side, one elbow propping her up. Bruises caressed her back and shoulders, and tickles of blood were escaping her bandaged legs.

“Jura…” Ashe hoarsely shouted. Fighting another coughing fit threatening her, she managed to get to her knees. Searching, her eyes frantically scanned the beach when they landed on a blue form sprawled upon the sand. “Jura!”

Only a few metres away the halfling stood and took a step forward. Swaying she fell to one knee. A wyvern’s screech sounded above the pair. Swivelling her head about their surroundings, Ashe saw the previous wyvern she hit descending for revenge.

Glancing at Jura, panic nearly made Ashe fumble nocking the next arrow. She reached back and upon feeling the cold touch of a steel staff and fletching pulled a large heavy arrow out. Forcing her breath to slow, she steadied her hands. Sighting, she shifted her position, back against Jura. Her shoulders protested when she pulled the cumbrous bowstring to full draw.

It was then a bright flame seared the wyvern’s flesh. Squinting the halfling watched a large green, brown, and cream form claw down the enemy. Ashe tilted her head away to shield her eyes when sand spayed from the thunderous impact. Relaxing her bowstring, the arrow still attached, Ashe recognised their rescuer. “Linemaster Starfall,” she dubbed him

Pinning the wyvern down, Starfall, stood between herself and Jura. The halfling saw Jura’s body go limp and swiftly a drake came to her aid. She noted him check her friend’s vitals, yet the fact of a stranger’s touch, rubbed Ashe the wrong way.


Bittered, Ashe clenched her jaw and strode to Jura's side. Trusting the Starfall to with the wyvern she instead scrutinised the drake’s work and noted the care and respect with which he had used. Whilst bending to one knee, she was wary of the drake’s presence. Digging out a smelling salt from her pockets, Ashe frowned at Starfall, after he made his kill and comment, “Captain, you have my gratitude, thank you. Am I correct in assuming your sister has followed?”

Whilst relief did fill Ashe with Starfall’s capable presence, it was that same faith that caused her anxiety. His presence here meant Castrock was without a powerful protector. And for a few seconds, only two things lay in her mind, the vulnerability of Jura and the Island. She muttered to herself, “Either way, what is done is done.”

Lowering herself, she stood by Jura’s snout, ignoring the grotesque vomit. Ashe commanded, “After this battle is ended, Starfall, I expect an explanation of why you’re here, but it is not unappreciated. Heralds help me, it better be a good answer.”

Finding the salt rock in one hand, she snapped it in front of Jura’s nostrils. Ashe frowned at the term, ‘Fenris?’ She turned to the drake, slightly annoyed by his interruption, “Answers will have to wait.”

The halfling took another scan over the action-packed beach, surmising the battle. Three kitsune against Sabato and Blade. Crystal against Ganjiro, and seemingly losing. She spotted Celestina with Rega and the child dragon. The drakes split into attacking two wyverns in the sky or defending the separate groups.

She more instructed than asked her peers, “Starfall and Sir drake, can you carry Jura to Celestina and Rega’s group for safety? After which sir Drake, protect Jura at all costs. Starfall rendezvous with Celestina for your next actions. I am going to cover Sabato and Blade.”

She wanted their confirmation before leaving. When she did she sprinted to the white dragon’s position, drawing another arrow and targeting one kistune. She quickly informed him, “I may be able to help. I can syphon their mana and kill them but it may take a couple of minutes for each. I just need you or Sabato to pin them down, and I will end their life.”
 
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"I-i'd love to..." Valadir told Crystal when she proposed taking her dad with them, his voice still broken and with difficulty. Tears still flowing.

The dragon was then instructed on how to proceed with the fight. He was close to telling the drake to watch his mouth. He feels insulted. He thinks the drake just told him how he thinks he's uncapable of keeping up with his movements. Yet he hasn't. He considers that mending his ego is not important at this time. There'll be time for that later. Now the important things is ensuring everyone lives.

"Watch me" He told Gathrea in a daring tone. He waited for the distraction to start. He watched the drake go and draw attention to himself. Credit where credit's due, he thinks his takeoff was pretty nice. Once the distraction started, Valadir took off and began the pursuit. He aims to get close to the wyvern from behind and reach one of his wings to start either biting one of them or claw its membrane away.

---

Starfall was holding the wyvern in front of him when they landed. It was more of a crash landing at full speed for the wyvern, as it landed right on the ground on it's back while the dragon landed on top of him. When on the ground, he remained on top of the wyvern. His back paws on the opponent's wing membranes to keep him from slipping away. His tail on the side so the wyvern's back legs wouldn't scratch him. He reared when his enemy tried to bite his front, his back claws getting dug into the membrane. He slapped the wyvern hard on its face with his right paw, it's head inertially going to the opposite direction. That's when Starfall bought his front body back down, falling with full force back on top of the wyvern. His left paw fell on the wyvern's muzzle and keeping it's head with a side on the ground.

The wyvern was squirming under his weight, trying to break free. The dragon thinks it's a good time to be a heavyweight. Better to finish it off quickly or it'll break free soon.

Stafall, taking advantage the wyvern's neck is exposed, dug his teeth deep into its side and pulled back until he tore a big chunk of flesh from it. The wyvern screeched deafingly as he did, but to no avail. The dark reptile started bleeding profusely from it's missing piece of neck. It's carotid being breached. It'd die in seconds.

Starfall remained on top of it, seeing how it squirmed less and less. It's enemy's blood dripping from his muzzle. As he saw the wyvern dying up close, its missing piece of flesh was still on his muzzle. He chewed on it a couple times. Both the flesh and the scales were pretty hard. After all, it was pure muscle. On it's last dying moments, Starfall spit the flesh piece back to the wyvern's face. A last insult to his enemy, as to remind it that it would have lived longer if not for its vile nature.

"I guess this is why i don't have a girlfriend. My love bites are pretty hard" He said out loud in a joking tone to the folks surrounding him after the wyvern expired.

He walked to where Jura is lying. She's out. It's disgusting how she's over her own vomit. He put a digit on the connection between her neck and jaw to check her pulse. She's still fine and breathing, although she's hot.

"Jura's out. She's hot and over a pool of her own puke. She's really thin and most likely sick" He told his sister.

"That's not good... is there anyone to look after her?"

"There's one of these creatures next to her. Maybe he's tasked with guarding her. If not then I'll try to convince him"

"That'd be best. We can't allow anyone to fall"

Starfall then began addressing the people in his viccinity. Ashley coming up first. He quickly thought about an answer that requires as few words as possible to save time.

"Katsumi is taking care of Castrock. Sis is also around. She's escorting a part of this group to a safe place. We do have a good reason to be here. There's no time to explain it now. You'll hear it when we are safe. Could i be tasked with taking the reigns of this situation? I got a couple ideas..."

"Later, you'll explain to me how you met my father. We do look similar" Then his tone grew more serious. "I've come to help. I have a sister who's helping the small group that's departing. We both been in the army all our lives. Mind helping me drag her onto the forest and stay with here there?. She is in no condition to fight. Remind her of it. She'll get herself killed otherwise"

Him and the drake carried Jura to the forest so she'd be concealed.

"I'm Starfall. If she doesn't listen to you, tell them i told you to say it to her"

Starfall then walked back to where Jura was originally lying. Ashley is no longer there. She's with a white dragon with purple wings, fighting a group of kitsunes. That dragon looks like a mage, given how he's summoning different objects with his bare paws. Mages are powerful, thus he trusts those two know what they are doing. He looked upwards. Dogfight between a dragon, these creatures and the wyverns. The dragon and the creatures seem to be going against the wyverns. Thus, he has settled the composition of both sides. His kind, these two legged creatures he assumes are the drakes and Ashley against the dark colored kitsunes and the wyverns. He plans to go up there to help. Switch between the two wyverns if needed.

"Do you need help sis? I'm about to engage over here"

"Don't need any. What about Jura?"

"She's still out, but under concealment and with a guard. I think she'll be fine. We'll have to explain ourselves to Ashley and Jura later
"

"I'm sure they'll listen to us and agree. I can't imagine them against our cause. To oppose would be to be against what the guild stands for"

"Agreed
"

Starfall then got airborne and headed to the dragon and drake duo, intending to join in.

"What's the plan?" He shouted to the black and tan dragon when he got by his right side. "I've come to help! I've been in the army all my life! I know how to handle myself!"

Valadir thinks he didn't need to hear this guy's life story. He was a bit startled when he saw him come around. For a moment he thought he was an enemy reinforcement.

"See that guy up front?" He began to shout back, pointing at the drake. "He's going to distract this thing while we snatch its wings!"

"Agreed! One wing each! You get the one on your side while i get the one on mine!"

---

"Very well. I only ask that you make haste, for your kind is proficient with the arcane arts" Blade replied to Sabato's plan. In the dragon's opinion, the kitsune seems to be convinced that his plan will work. Hopefully that'll be the case.

"I am aware. Crystal has been ample demonstration for many years" He replied to his comrade's advise on kitsunes in general.

When Sabato dissapeared from his side, Blade clutched his necklace for a brief moment to cast a couple wards on himself. One for magic and one for physicals. The dragon moved backwards to try and dodge the sword slashes, which he succesfully did, but he didn't dodge the arrows which were absorbed by his ward.

In order to set a barrier between the kitsunes and himself, Blade aimed his right palm at the ground. The snow rose and formed a barricade of the size of a large door and the thickness of a wall. A volley of projectiles getting stuck on it, with their tips visible from the dragon's end. With a couple extra seconds available, his palm turned to the sky and an array of ice darts were shot upwards, falling from above on the incoming kitsunes.

Soon, Ashley came around to offer her help. The white dragon finds her coming to be both beneficial and a liability. Having an extra pair of hands is nice, but at the same time that means he'd have to explain the plan to her which takes time, plus would also expose the arrangement with Sabato to their adversaries.

"My task is to deviate their attention!"

---

Celestina raised an eyebrow when the drakes bowed before her. Them raising their weapons was to be expected given her sudden apparition, yet the bowing was not. Specially since she isn't commanding them.

"Why do you bow? I'm not your queen..." She told them in her confusion.

"It comes with their turf" Rega told her.

Then she was told about her assignment, which turned out to be to, indeed, take point up front.

"Roger" She went to the direction she was pointed at, looking back to ensure the group was following. She kept a medium distance between herself and the group, so she could see further ahead and warn the group in case something happened, yet close enough so she could get back in case of an attack. Her attention is on the front and the forest, given those are the two most likely routes of attack.
 
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Jura's eyes snapped open, and erupted into a coughing fit. Her body trembled. Her nose filled with a pungent smell. Blood started slowly dripping out. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head. Vision blurred.
"Star... Ashe... I need to...." Her words are weak. Only able to muster fractured sentences.

Entering and exiting consciousness, Jura felt pressure on her body as if she is being dragged. She caught glimpses of green, black and cream. She gathered they were moving her. She's too stunned to decipher who they are. All she hoped for was for Ashe to be safe and she isn't being dragged away to her death.

She closed her eyes again and fell back into a sleepless dream.

---

The wyverns organs black blood and organs spewed from it's neck. Contorted noises spurted from the throat. It used all it's might to break free but not to avail under the supervision of Starfall. It's struggles became weaker until it fell limp.

Merth watched the new dragon crash onto the wyvern and brutally disembowel the wyvern, who had the green drake in awe. Merth lightly clapped his hands together at the performance.

Merth appeared a little shocked when he learnt the new dragon wasn't Fenris but rather his offspring. He hadn't heard of children.

The dragon asked for answers from the drake at a more appropriate time as if on cue to his internal thoughts.

Merth bowed his head. The dragon explained his case but not his name, which struck the drake odd. Isn't that typically what you share first? He's curious as to what army he served in. Not any of the Drake clans, that's for sure. Could he have served a West or Noth clan? Where all the soft-skinned creatures are? Also, he has a sister somewhere?

Merth mentally alerted every other drake of the new dragon's appearance and his stance.

"Yes, Great One. Let's take her off the beach."

Without question or hesitation, Merth helped the dragon into the forest, away from the sand and waves. Within the safety of the trees and bush, they laid Jura comfortably on her side. The trees kept the majority of the snow away.

Finally, Starfall stated his name just as Merth was about to ask.

"Good to meet you, Starfall. I am Scout Merth from the clan of Might. Jura will be safe here and tended to."

Once Starfell left, Merth kept his eyes on Jura. He kneeled over her and monitored her vitals. She seems to be in a state of light sleep. Her temperature is increasing.

He called for Thresh. "Thresh. I need your assistance. Jura is developing a fever quickly."

"I will come. Switch places with me. Be mindful that there is another dragon here. Her name is Celestina, and she testifies to being helpful."
Thresh replied quickly.

After deligating with Gathrea, both Merth and Thresh switched positions. Merth is now with Virve, Rega, Cassiopeia and Celestina. Thresh is now in the forest with Jura, tending to her illness.

---

Gathrea allowed the wyvern to come close to catching his tail. Just by a small chase, he knew his aerobatics and speed capabilities were greater than the wyvern. He could have quickly gained an advantage and taken the wyvern out himself. However, working in a team is always the best action. Less risk of injury.

Gathrea danced around around the wyvern. Dashing up and down, avoiding its attack of tooth and claw. Quickly, the wyvern became frustrated and screeched. It broke its concentration off the drake and noticed two dragons rapidly approaching from behind. The wyvern whipped itself around just as the dragons got on top of it and took control of its wings. The wyvern wasted no time. It brought its legs up and clawed the belly of Valadir while finding a grip on the dragon's legs between its jaws. The sudden attack and weight rendered the wyvern unable to fly.

---

Armed with the sword, the kitsune stepped back as the ice wall emerged from the ground. A second later, ice darts formed from the sky and shot straight towards him. The kitsune braced itself against the wall. His fur and skin turned into liquid and observed itself into the wall. The kitsune's torso emerged from the other side next to Blade and Ashe. Its torso is attached to the ice wall, hoping the pair will be caught off guard by its maneuver.

He looked at the halfling. With his green beady eyes. "Boo."
He materialised his sword and slashed at Ashe with his katana. Aiming at her neck.

The other two kitsune that stayed back defended themselves against Blade's attack. The one with the staff held his weapon up and created a quick shield over the two. Effectively absorbing the ice attack.

The female kitsune looked to the sky and saw Valadir and Starfall taking hold of her mount. She cursed, put two arrows into her bow and, with deadly precision, shot the arrows at Starfall.

Sabato appeared from the air atop the staff-wielding kitsune. He brought his sword down onto the head of the evil kitsune. Taken by surprise, the black kitsune tried to dodge, but instead, his ward took the blow and deflected Sabato's sword to the ground.

The black kitsune didn't take advantage; he stepped back and shot a lightning bolt at Sabato. Simaltaniulsy, an arrow was shot his way. Sabato disappeared within the nick of time to dodge the attacks.

After that move, Sabato figured out their strategy.

He immediately contacted Blade.
"The one with the staff is the powerhouse. He is our primary target. The other two are defending him by keeping us distracted. Trap the one near you and aim your larger attacks at the one with the staff. I will come back to your defence. I also heard what the girl said. She can drain their energy if we can get her close to them."

---

Thresh and Virve looked at each other, confused. Both are unsure of what to do after Celestina's comment. Clearly, she is not accustomed to their ways. This may be the first time she has seen a drake.

Thresh spoke in his low booming voice, "It is appropriate to bow when greeting a dragon. I assume this is your first encounter."

After Celestina took the lead, Thresh and Merth switched positions. Merth landed as softly as he could to minimise the sand being lifted. Being the smaller drake with Virve, took his position next to Cassiopeia while Virve had Rega's side. Occasionally, they looked back at the battle, ensuring they were gaining distance. The occasional flame or light source can be seen, usually followed by a faint screech or roar.

Merth quickly took an interest in the little orange dragon. She looked like Brightscaled, whom he saw at the Sanitarium. She must be extremely young. He can see her trembling behaviour and can sniff out her fear.

He side-eyed Virve, who looked at him and then at the young dragon. She rolled her eyes and looked forward, unamused by Merth's thoughts.

Merth shrugged the ice drake's cold shoulder off and scratched his chin in thought. He thought about what he did when he was about Cassiopeia's age. He started his training when he was two years old. Cassiopeia definitely looks older than that, so surely she must be interested in weaponry. He brought it upon himself to entertain the little dragon.

Merth pulled a dagger shaped like a claw. Its blade is polished silver, and its handle is made of a darker metal, wrapped in silver wire to give it texture. One of its edges is serrated. He showed it to Cassiopeia.
"Little one. Look what I have here. This is a hunter's dagger. Have you used one of these before?"

Virve sighed and facepalmed herself, embarrassed at Merth.

---

To Celestina's side, within the cover of the forest, rusting can be heard within the trees. A faint whistle sounded.

---

Crystal continued to hold the black blade that impaled her gut. She leaned against Ganjiro for support. She struggled to breathe.

"Aww look at you. Not so fearsome now." Ganjiro taunted Crystal.

"I got to be honest. With all your time with Blade and Elijah, I thought you would have been... A little more challenging. You've spent so much time helping others you've never had time to work on yourself. It's dulled your capabilities. I'm disappointed. Didn't really mean to stab you. Thought you would have dodged it."

He went to pull his sword out, but Crystal held it tight. Confusion swept across his face. He tried to pull it again, but it didn't budge. He looked to meet her eyes and found her staring straight at him. Her eyes were no longer blue; they had become fiery gold. Anger and determination are the messages that are transmitted from them. Her tails transformed into a golden pattern. They look like a flowing golden river. Her long hair followed suit. It shined in the light.

Crystal placed a hand on Ganjiro's chest. A surge of energy built into his palm and tossed him away. He was thrown to the other edge of the green dome and landed on his back. His tails somewhat cushioned his fall.

He scrambled to his feet and looked at Crystal. He kept in a crouched position, ready to dodge any attacks. His heart started beating.

This time, he can get a good look at Crystal. Her newfound gold features emitted a glow. A new visible aura of strength surrounded her. Halos of golden energy orbited her, but her unwavering eyes made Ganjiro nervous. He's only seen that look on one other kitsune. Elijah.

"Impossible... You're two years away still."

Crystal stood up and pulled the blade from her gut. Her wound immediately healed. She dropped the sword at her feet. She started to hover above the sand and snow. She spread her tails. They drifted like liquid gold. Ganjiro counted ten tails.

Crystal held her hand up and three white spears formed and aimed at the black kitsune. They darted at him. He was caught off guard by the speed. The first one hit his leg. He quickly lifted a shield to block the remaining two. The second spear fizzled into the shield, and the third broke his protection and pinned one of his tails into the sand. Ganjiro yelled at the pain. The spears burnt like hot iron. He grabbed a dagger within the folds of his Kimono. The blade was black, and he struck the spears with it. They fizzled away when they met his weapon. The shadow spirit that is with his body stitched the wounds back together.

Crystal hovered metres into the air and put her hands before her. A gold orb started to form.

Knowing what is coming. Ganjiro pressed against the green dome and erected a black shield. Absorbing all light and making him invisible.

Crytsal smiled at Ganjiro.
"Sup bitch."

She shot a beam of gold energy at the black shield. The dome was filled with light. Eventually, it couldn't contain Crystal's power any longer, and the dome broke apart. Its hazy green walls disappeared, and light shone like a beacon in the night.
 
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Once again, his prowess never ceases to amaze. Ashe thought upon seeing the proud multicoloured dragon fell the wyvern. Having administered the smelling salt only to gain a minimal reaction from Jura, threw it away. Replacing the inferno arrow in her quiver, she tore a part of her tunic off and wiped any vomit on Jura’s snout. Then stood giving the healer drake more room to work.

She took into Starfall’s reason for his current presence, appreciating his spoken haste amidst the chaos. Katsumi, the gardener? Ashe questioned, keeping her thoughts quiet. Hearing Celestina was escorting a group, the halfling guessed it must be Rega’s and the child’s group. She gestured towards the dead wyvern’s carcass underneath his stance commenting, “Your experience certainly earns your operations on this field, after Jura is safe. I am going to support Blade and Sabato. Give them hell, Starfall.”

Ashe jogged towards the white dragon’s figure, trusting Starfall with the rest. She glanced over to note the direction they carried Jura before speaking with Blade. Ashe steadied herself after the ice wall erupted from the ground. She was about to reach for an arrow when a bulge from the ice emerged. Wide-eyed she watched the bulge take shape of the enemy kitsune. Instincts took over when the enemy’s sword materialised.

Ashe ducked when the kitsune took a swing at her, feeling the wind from the sword brush by. Next, she struck his neck with her bow and took a step forward. Then she gripped his neck and began to syphon. “Blade, pin this kitsune down, this might take a minute.” It was harder to seek out the passive mana in living creatures than it was in spells. She frowned when the cancelling process began, draining the energy.
 
Starfall smiled friendily when Ashley agreed with his plans.

"Always"

While carrying Jura with Merth, Starfall could hear how she coughed and spoke incoherently. He didn't say a thing since she quickly passed out again. She feels sorry for her given her state is delicate. Sick, weak and malnourished. She's been missing for months too. There's a lot to discuss when she reawakens and the area gets cleared. Good thing his backpack is packed with more rations than him and his sister need for the trip.

"Let's lay her on her side" The dragon told Merth when they found a nice place to leave her at. "That way she can't choke with her own puke nor her own blood"

Later, he was in the air with this black and tan dragon trying to inmovilize the black wyvern. Starfall tried to fly close enough to the wyvern's side to catch it's limb. In the process, he felt some light pressure on two precise points on his underside. He's been shot enough to recognize the gentle tapping of an arrow that can't penetrate his scales. He feels lucky they didn't hit his wings' membranes or eyes. That'd be a different story.

Valadir reached for the wyvern's wing on his side later than Starfall did. He could feel how the wyvern tried to claw at his belly, yet its paws only were tapping at his armor. He feels lucky to have decided to put it on before leaving the mountains. However, what the armor didn't cover were his paws. The wyvern successfully bit his left paw, between his wrist and his elbow. He only felt the pain for a brief instant. The bite was still going and he was starting to bleed, but his adrenaline was blocking the pain.

"Bite his wing!" Starfall shouted at him. "Do it while he's biting you! It's a distraction!" He then sank his teeth into the wyvern's right wing, doing it right after talking as if he was setting the example of how Valadir should do it. The black and tan dragon then followed suit. The wyvern was indeed immobilized. It started to fall, yet it kept biting on his paw. Starfall kept his maw clenched on the wyvern's wing. He's expecting a crash landing, thus he's bracing for impact. Valadir looked at him. This is a scenario he's not ready for. His air to air combat experience is null. Thus he doesn't know how to brace for the fall or how to imitate what Starfall is doing. Thus he only kept biting on the wyvern's wing to ensure it'd fall.

The trio soon met the ground. A crash landing. Valadir felt sore all over. He struggled to get up. As he did, he looked at the downed wyvern. Starfall is on top of it. He saw that brawny dragon breathe in deeply to the top of his lungs and then... he kissed the wyvern. Val finds that to be really disgusting with a facial expression to match. More so given he's got a front row seat of the whole thing.

Stafall closed his eyes as he kissed the wyvern, only to send a fiery breath into the wyvern's insides a second after their muzzles connected. Roasting it completely from within. It had been a painful death. The dragon stopped "kissing" the wyvern after he felt it's death, spitting some saliva right back at the wyvern's face.

"That was the most disgusting thing i've ever seen!" Valadir told him.

"Well, you can't deny i'm a great kisser!" Starfall said back in a joking tone. "Just look at him. My kiss was so hot i burnt all his insides..." He dropped his act after it. He walked up to the black and tan dragon and helped him to get him back on his paws.

"How are you feeling? Does your paw hurt?" He asked in a fully serious tone. "I have some bandages and alcohol in my backpack. When we are safe i'll treat you"

"Yeah, i'm fine... I'm just sore from the fall"

---

Blade walked back a couple steps when one of his opponents casually walked through his pillar like it wasn't there. Of course they can do that. Ashley also came around to offer her aid.
"How are you certain? We barely know her. We haven't deciphered her secrets yet" He asked Sabato on his words about Ashley. As for immobilizing his opponents and dealing with the mage, he thinks it a good idea.

Thus, for now its better to knock these two out first and then deal with the mage when alone. His guess is that the kitsunes are already warded. Thus, rendering them unable to move and have Ashley do her thing would be easier than chipping away at their defense. If she isn't bluffing, that is.

The white dragon then aimed to the ground below the kitsune Ashley is currently strangling, aiming to raise a thicc, hollow ice pillar with an open top to trap the kitsune in.

"Separate yourself from him!" He yelled as he casted the spell by pointing his palm to the desired direction. "A moment for my spell! Yoy shall perform your task from above!"

The white dragon also plans to encase the archer in a dense snow block, but only if Ashley's kitsune actually gets trapped by his ice pillar.

---

Celestina looked back to check on the group. One of the guards looks different. Seems one of them switched places. Makes sense to assume someone from the 'main' group and this one made the switch. Question is, why? She only hopes it's because this new guy is better for this task.

Her head perked to her left. She has heard movement coming from the forest. She briefly stared at the guards in their eyes and pointed to the forest, in an attempt to tell them to watch that direction. The dragoness then kept her full attention to the forest.

---

Rega and Cass watched the drake leave. For a moment they thought they'd be getting one less guard, but luckily that wasn't the case given he was just replaced for some reason.

Cass recoiled back when she was shown the dagger. Aiming to put Rega in the way, the dragonling switched her position and walked by Rega's other side.

Rega then slapped him in the nape. "She's just a kid! Cut it off!" She gets the idea this guy's brain isn't of the appropriate size. She already wishes she had the previous drake guarding her instead of this one.

Then Celestina did a couple gestures towards the forest. "I can't tell if she's telling us there's something there or if we should head to that direction"
 

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