Chapter 14: A New Relationship
Floating in a black space, Eldrin was patiently looking at his life force fleeing from his body, bit by bit.
Having sent off Little Flame with a smile was the last thing he could remember.
He was content with his life.
Now he was prepared to travel through the sea of souls and meet again with Yulia, his wife who had been staying in the netherworld for many years.
Because of a twist of fate he had lost his home, and another one had given him the most beautiful companion one could imagine; her smiling face was still imprinted in his heart as if he had only lost her a day ago.
Waiting for his remaining aura and mana to leave his body, he suddenly felt a bright white light sear through the darkness, and the soothing gleam touched his body, and lingered around him, preventing the tiny amount of energy he had left from evaporating in the surroundings.
He knew he was supposed to be dying, but something felt off about this, the light disrupted the natural cycle of life, holding his soul in place.
At this thought, a feeling of panic flooded his mind, what if a third party had hidden itself behind the noble’s group, quietly waiting to defeat the victor of the battle and claim Little Flame? If a necromancer was one of those and had taken a hold of his soul, he would never get to see his wife again and both Little Flame and himself were deemed for a world of pain and misery.
Eldrin had been perfectly satisfied with succumbing here and passing the torch to a younger generation’s member, Little Flame, but now he strongly wished to protect her a little longer. The form change she had gone through was shocking, but it was still the Little Flame that loved to get patted on the head, and wanted to spend all its time lying in front of the fire while being told a story.
Unwilling to let things end like this, he struggled to live, yet nothing could be done about the ever-present darkness of death around him, the mana he was left with was not even enough to cast a rank 1 healing spell on himself.
Unsure on how long he had hovered in this twilight, Eldrin started to calm down somewhat. If the other party was including a necromancer or owned a formation to trap souls, he would have been captured by now, therefore the light shouldn’t be something bad.
As he was focusing on a way to get out of his current predicament, the luminous power around him intensified, slowly nurturing his soul and essence, driving away the gloomy dusk, filling the space surrounding him with a radiant splendor, while the feelings in his limbs were slowly returning.
To his surprise the burning pain from his severe injuries did not reappear, only the refreshing sensation of the gentle light that sprung up at his waist and inside of him.
Drawing in a deep breath, he ascertained his body’s condition before opening his eyes.
Propping himself up from the ground, Eldrin saw the aftermath of the battle he had fought, the remains of the hellhound not far from him. Little was left of the monster after Little Flame had ripped through its bones and flesh, separating the top half of its carcass from the hind legs, as a lot of the innards were sprawled around, shredded into a gory spectacle.
Behind this peculiar scene were the charred remains of the young human and his attendants, black broken bones and some parts of equipment strong enough to withstand Little Flame’s [Dragon Breath].
Thinking of the transformed dragon’s triggered a short burst of panic in his brain, he frantically looked around to grasp a trace of her now humanoid form. He didn’t have to search long.
A few steps behind him, two thrones had grown from the earth. One of them was built of white bones, forming a sinister chair. On top of it sat a female clad in black threads, creating a night-like gown of pure mana matching her dark purple hair, fitted close to her figure, revealing most of her cleavage. With a chilling expression on her face, she stared down on him.
Next to her floated the second throne, made of pristine white feathers, and on which another beautiful being was seated. In her lap, garbed in a gown of white light resembling a sheer mist, rested a sleeping Little Flame, covered partly by the bright green hair of her pillow. That woman’s expression was that of a tender sister, full of love and concern as she looked at the small creature on her legs, yet she didn’t seem to consider Eldrin at all, only watching over the napping girl in her embrace while lightly petting her head.
Although they were displaying their powers into such a grandiose parade, he couldn’t feel a single shred of mana or aura coming from them, which worried him.
Eldrin had met a legend rank elf before, and though he couldn’t grasp the extent of that man’s power, he was still able to perceive his massive amount of mana.
Yet these two didn’t give off a single drop of energy at all, but he had the feeling that they would be able to kill him without even lifting a finger.
Unsure on what these two graceful ladies could want from him, he decided to speak up first.
“Excuse me, did you save Little Flame and me?”
The gaze of the green haired woman turned cold as she lowered her head to look at him.
Flinching at the sound of that icy voice, he wondered if he had insulted her.
“A mere mortal dares to question me. Had I not saved his life, he would still have to bow down and express his gratitude first, before I would decide on his right to speak.”
The pressure emanating from these aloof words alone forced him to kneel and ruffle the remains of his robes to look more presentable. Standing up to her was not an option.
In the corners of his eyes, he saw that Little Flame didn’t even stir in her sleep.
The beginning of her answer contained an important clue for Eldrin to deduce her identity, she called him a mortal, implying that she herself wasn’t one.
Beings above the legendary realm were lofty and mighty figures, not the kind that would appear in a secluded area like this hunting ground.
As the ones in front of him could smash Eldrin and take his life without even the need for a single hand swipe, he didn’t dare to be arrogant and had hastily bowed down.
“At least he knows his limits.”
The voice of the purple haired female sent shivers down his spine, and an image of himself being impaled on a stake flashed through his inner eye, a thought promising him death if he didn’t behave. The old elf wasn’t worthy enough to know their names.
Fighting down his urge to flee, Eldrin waited for the next words of these supreme experts.
“I’ll indulge you by answering the question you asked.”
Taking care of the one-sided conversation, the green haired woman spoke up again.
“It was indeed my sister and me who healed you as well as this little one.
We have seen the scene of her change of shape and taken an interest in her.
As for the price of saving your life … I think I will take that dragon here as compensation, she will surely make a great pet.”
The thought of Little Flame getting sacrificed as repayment for his treatment shocked Eldrin.
“I know it is presumptuous from me, especially after I have already been healed, but I am an old man and I don’t want her to offer her life in place of mine.
We haven’t formed any type of contract, and she has siblings in this forest waiting for her.
You can take my life to even out the debt, so please let her go, she hasn’t done anything wrong and still has a life ahead of her.”
The lady with the bright green hair continued to glare distantly at him.
“Do you think we don’t know that she is a dragon? Dragons only lay one egg at a time, how can she have siblings?”
“This lowly one would need to precise that he had not expressed himself correctly, she has important family she doesn’t want to part with. I acknowledge your superior existence as such, I would never scheme that kind of thing in an attempt to trap you. I simply enjoyed her company as a beast, before her transformation, and the only thing I can do to repay her is to give you the remainder of my life, though I recognize that she is of more importance to you than I am.
So please take me instead of her.”
After this speech, Eldrin bowed down again to make sure not to worsen the impression they had of him, waiting for their decision.
He knew that he was acting unreasonably, but the elf still hoped that two individuals like these two immortals did not have a need for that particular dragon familiar.
When one of them stood up, Eldrin was ready to lie down his life for Little Flame, she was only a child after all, and his plan had been to die in this hunting grounds from the beginning, he would only go slightly faster, and it would be worth it, as it was to save someone.
He didn’t mind sacrificing himself here now.
Contrary to his expectations, no pain or suffering followed, but a hand landed on his shoulder.
“Get up Eldrin and look at me.”
The palm on his shoulder was infusing strength and warmth into his being, mending his exhausted muscles and bones.
Raising his eyes to her level, the elf stared into the emerald-grey eyes, awaiting their judgement.
“Very good, that determination of yours seems genuine.
Now listen to our verdict. The price for your life has already been paid by Little Flame. She gave up something important to bring you back into the realm of the living.
Your fate is to protect her for the rest of your life, and you can never leave her, as Little Flame didn’t leave you behind when she could.
You are not allowed to question her about what we told her, or ask for information related to us from her, unless she is willing to share them with you.
This judgement is thereby made by the goddess of life Gabriel, and her sister, the goddess of death Bael, and meant to put the life you owe the dragon known as ‘Little Flame’ to good use. Does the elf Eldrin have any complaints to voice?”
Kneeling hurriedly, a huge shock was plastered on Eldrin’s face.
“Of course I have no complaints, everything will be according to your wish. Your subject thanks you for such leniency, I truly have been preposterous before, as I am entirely inferior to you.
I will use the rest of my pitiful life to protect Little Flame.”
Facing an immortal was already more than anyone could hope for in its lifetime, yet the two powerful beings in front of him claimed to be gods, who likely wouldn’t even pay attention to any legend rank individual, and Eldrin was only a mortal. Cold sweat appeared on his back when he remembered how he had spoken up to them and acted way beyond his character from their view.
Treating him like an equal would be laughable, the cold attitude they were adopting towards him therefore didn’t bother him at all, and on the contrary he was extremely honored to have personally spoken with a god, how many people could claim to have done the same?
He didn’t understand why the two goddesses would test him in such a way, when Little Flame had already paid the price, yet he was truly glad that they didn’t decide to take her away.
If their only condition was that he couldn’t leave her side, then Eldrin would have no trouble implementing this judgment, and would gladly indulge into allowing the little girl to stay at the mansion for as long as she would want to.
Rather, the whole ordeal was way too favourable for him, they had taken his intentions into consideration even though they had saved him, but he couldn’t argue yet again in front of them or question their orders.
“If you understand, then take her from my arms and make sure she will feel cared for.”
The goddess called Gabriel rose from her throne and slowly strolled to the old elf, giving him Little Flame.
“When we will leave, the owners of these two bodies will return to consciousness. Whether you take them in too, or relinquish them to die doesn’t matter to us.
You may return to your residence now.”
With a wave of her hand and a slight frown, the bright green-haired woman sent him away, signalling that she had reached the end of the discussion, and of her patience too.
Eldrin wanted to express his gratitude for saving both Little Flame and himself, for healing the unconscious maids, however he didn’t dare to talk when a deity had told him to do otherwise.
Keeping his face straight, he carefully held the little girl within his arms and realized that her scales were rather soft compared to what they used to be, and also that from the state of her eyelid, her eye was completely restored.
The old elf marched back towards the cottage, never looking back once. When he passed the open door, he threw a last glance towards the direction where Little Flame had fought against an enemy that she had had no hope of defeating to save her friend’s life, but the two charming figures who had been there a while ago were already gone.
After climbing up the stairs, he carefully laid down the slumbering girl on one of the armchairs and checked the room to the left of his bedroom, where the maids had been sleeping for a long time.
The door was closed, as it had been left after Eldrin had supplied them with some stew and water earlier. He entered the room and carefully looked inside. In the beds lined up to the wall were resting two sleeping maids, seemingly unconscious. Eldrin was almost doubting the words of the ones who had claimed to be goddesses, when he noticed a black and white raven feather lying on the forehead of each maid.
Walking closer to them, the elf picked up both feathers and observed the two women. Unlike their previous magnificent appearance, they didn’t have an otherworldly feeling of beauty around them, although they could still be described as cute; and their hair had returned to their original blonde shade.
Trying to leave as quietly as possible for someone with old creaking bones, Eldrin returned to the living room.
The dreaming face of the small Little Flame drew his attention. Her new form would have reminded him of an elven girl – her slanted ears and tanned skin – if it weren’t for the scales lining various parts of her body.
Her chest, the sensitive parts of her anatomy, her hands and feet, the eyebrows and temples were all covered in patches of shiny scales, creating a provocative clothing of red and black hues.
Eldrin couldn’t help but wonder what price she had paid to save his life, since she didn’t have a single scratch on her skin, and her destroyed eye seemed to have recovered as well; the sleeping Little Flame seemed very serene.
Pondering about the day’s events, the old elf couldn’t quite bring himself to associate the affectious dragon with the young girl cuddling in a chair.
He had personally seen the transformation of the scaled beast into a frail little girl, but Eldrin couldn’t see these two distincts builds united in the same being.
Picking up the delicate body, he slowly walked to his room, his age taxing every step, and placed her under one of the blankets in the large bed.
He stared at his golden pocket watch for a while after performing maintenance on it, he had slacked off in the past week.
With a sigh he put the watch on the nightstand and decided to worry about tomorrow’s matters … tomorrow.
In another place surrounded by lush forest, Gabriel opened her eyes.
When she had felt an unique ripple of power, similar to her own, in the range of her spiritual perception that was constantly spanning the whole continent, she had quickly alerted the lazing Bael.
Even with their cultivation base, the two of them couldn’t cross the distance to their goal fast enough to have a chance to see the disturbance’s source, but luckily there had been two suitable bodies devoid of consciousness in the vicinity, so she had lent her sister her perception.
Bael in turn had transferred their minds after being able to get a grasp of the two empty vessels, she had always been more adept at curses and mind magic, while Gabriel was excelling at healing and searching spells.
With her soul back in her own body, she turned towards the other half of the bed that was in the single room of a simple wooden cottage, as they didn’t need any more.
“Bael, this was the lost child that Rasenth asked us to find, wasn’t it?
Why were you trying to hide them from the world and went as far as to strike this kind of obscure deal?”
It had been no lie that Bael and her were sisters, as were the maids whose bodies had been borrowed. Except for their hair colours, the goddesses looked completely alike, yet they were much more beautiful and ethereal compared to the weak reflection their souls projected onto their receptacles.
“How can you be so sure? That old goat estimated we would have to pay attention in around a few hundred years, when the dragon from the stolen egg would supposedly enter its adult form and create some trouble. It’s only been around ten years, so how could that have been the child in question?”
The cheeky attitude caused Gabriel to roll over and hug her sister while pinching her cheeks.
“Tell me already. There’s no way you would not recognize that kind of transformation. I just don’t understand why she’s already able to change form.
And don’t call Rasenth old goat, you know he doesn’t like it.”
Her sister escaped her arms and fled outside of their house, entering a majestic garden. All kinds of flowers and plants bloomed here regardless of the season they would usually grow, a feat accomplished by Gabriel’s magic.
“It’s going to be interesting, that’s my reason. Regardless of the outcome, I’m sure Little Flame will continue to surprise us.
And if it turns out that she’s really the lost child the old thing talked about, we’ll tell him where she is. But for now, let’s just spectate and make sure that nobody disturbs them.”
Unable to win against her mischievous sister, the emerald-haired goddess could only sigh and wait for the entertainment to come.