Chapter 29: A New Direction
Nisha suddenly found herself in a strange space. There were no directions to rely on around her, no up or down, only a grey plane of existence. The [Spirit Sight] was failing to pick up on anything around her, not reacting to the ground – or was it the ceiling? – she was sitting on, nor to anything else.
Relying on her eyes, the dragon girl looked around her, pondering on her location.
This isn’t real, is it? I must be dreaming…
“Indeed, it is not. But not real, doesn’t mean not true.”
Following the word’s origin, Nisha turned around to see the figure of a familiar person materializing right behind her.
“Big sister Bael!”
The woman’s features had changed slightly since the last time the dragon had seen her, when the two divine sisters had possessed the injured maid’s bodies, yet Nisha was able to recognize her from her true appearance and from the poise the powerful goddess was carrying herself with.
“You gave me your word. You promised me.”
Nisha’s greeting to Bael did not contain any anger or annoyance, just a profound sadness. Losing Eldrin had not felt real for the little girl until she had seen him with her own two eyes, after several hours of grieving she had fallen asleep next to his body, devoid of any warmth or spirit. Looking at his coffin had allowed reality to sink in, turning a terrifying nightmare into a cruel reality.
To Nisha’s surprise, meeting with Bael did not aggravate her grief, but was helping her find closure.
He is truly gone. Despite Gabriel’s and Bael’s promise. Eldrin vanished from my life.
“I am so sorry, my little one. Despite my vow, I ended up lying to you. More than the restoration of your eyes, I know you would have prefered to be with your grandfather again. But death is absolute and even I can’t do anything at this point.
Please accept my condolences for losing a person precious to you.”
Walking up to the dragon girl to close her into a compassionate embrace, Bael hesitated at the sight of Nisha’s emotionless expression, she was simply standing where she was, without initiating any gesture.
“Why did you promise me if you knew he would pass away eventually. I was not even there when he … left. Why would you hurt me like this? Is the show enjoyable, are my sufferings enough to entertain you?”
The elf-like girl’s speech remained detached, she was simply impassively expressing her standpoint.
I trusted you Bael. You promised me he would not die, As long as he lived I worshipped you like a goddess, whatever others might have said. But now Grandpa is gone.
“Little Flame, from the bottom of my heart, I want to apologize to you. I should’ve been able to keep my promise, but everything did not come out the way I expected.
You’re probably angry, and rightfully so, but please let me say -”
She doesn’t understand.
“I am not angry. Not anymore. I wasn’t there when grandpa died, I’ll never see him again. Really, I’m just very sad, I guess only time will be able to heal that wound if it ever heals.”
Nisha was bewildered to realize that she was truly not mad at the two godly sisters. During her rampage in the forest, she had cursed them along with everyone else in the world countless times, swearing bitter revenge once she found them, tearing them apart limb by limb in her mind. However, currently she did not wish to make them suffer anymore, only mourning in misery.
Trying to move within the grey, silent space ended up being a very perplexing experience, the seemingly short distance between Nisha and the goddess turned out to be lengthier, walking in a straight line led her to define a curved path to her target, but by painstakingly submitting the area to her fierce will, Nisha managed to arrive in front of Bael, who was displaying an amazed expression on her face.
“It doesn’t matter anymore. I think you tried your best and that’s what counts. Of course I will forever miss my grandpa, but I can’t change what is. I wish I could, but I can’t.”
Gods know, there’d be nothing I wish for more.
“And you really aren’t angry? I thought you’d hate me for not keeping my oath…”
Bael’s reluctant tone and her troubled appearance suggested that she felt very uncomfortable about admitting her fault to a younger woman, but being hated by that very woman was even more dreadful for her.
“I’d rather consider that you didn’t break our agreement and take him away from me, I chose to see the time I spent together with Eldrin as a gift from you, and in that aspect I can’t be mad at you.
Now, if you don’t mind, please let me rest like this a bit longer, I feel so tired …“
Leaning onto the body of the beautiful goddess, Nisha closed her eyes in her embrace, doing her best to stop thinking about the death of her grandfather, the uncommon new visitor of the cottage and her rampage in the forest, finally relaxing.
“Of course you can, this is your dream after all. But before you doze off again, I have one more present for you, to make up for my shortcomings. No peeking, just put it in your space and you will come to know about it in time.”
Placing an object against her back, Bael carefully cradled Nisha in her lap, caressing her hair, to help her fall asleep.
“Sure, I’ll do that. And greet Gabriel from me, I miss her.”
The dragon girl offered one more of her smiles before falling asleep, letting the relieved woman watch over her as she was exiting the colorless realm.
In another place, far away, a black-robed man was leading someone wearing a richly ornate ceremonial suit through a long series of tunnels carved directly into the crude stone. The guide never looked back to confirm that his follower was still behind him, relying on his master’s reputation to prevent the visitor from going astray, silently showing the way to the large chamber at the end of the last passage.
Arriving in a huge open space, the gray-haired man donning Leandar’s traditional red and green colours beheld the impressive sight of a lavish throne room, gold and jade hanging everywhere, every open space decorated with an ornament or a trophy. On a pure ivory throne was sitting a humanoid figure in a crimson and white robe that looked particularly short inside the magnificent scenery, childishly playing with a small golden scale.
The visitor bowed until his forehead touched the ground and addressed the lone man.
“This lowly one greets his majesty the King Raezar. I am called Asmund Loewe and I am standing in front of your greatness to express my humble gratitude to be allowed to have a meeting with such a mighty being as yourself, I would go as far as to to thank You for the grace you have shown towards my kingdom.”
Remaining in a subservient posture, Asmund waited for a reply as the dragon on his throne was resuming his game, not even deigning to throw a conceited glance at the bowing figure.
“Amete, what is he talking about?”
The amiable expression on the visitor’s face instantly froze, and the guide stepped forward.
“Sir, I believe there has been an emissary sent to the Leandar kingdom recently … with a golden scale, promising a royal favor in return for the permission for the envoy to stay and tend to your interest.”
Holding the golden scale in the air at his eyes’ level, Raezar seemed to ponder on these information for a while, trying to recall why he would have commissioned a messenger there.
“I see … Amete, this will be all, you are dismissed. Please convey the contents of this meeting to my … master of ceremonies, I think you understand.”
Nodding in acknowledgement, the attendant left the hall through a side exit, only hearing one last piece of their conversation.
“Indeed, I think that might have been something I did. Do you already have a favor in mind? Shouldn’t be too troublesome anyway, you mortals always make a fuss of little matters … I’ll just tell a servant to take care of it.”
“Oh no, your highness, this lowly one merely wished to come personally to thank you for the blessing you have bestowed on our kingdom through your ambassador, and assure you that we will do our utmost to protect your interests to show our gratitude.”
Leaving the throne room behind, Amete followed a small unadorned corridor to a deeper part of the caves below the city called Dragon’s Maw, leading down to the Dragon’s God Shrine.
Laying off his haughty attitude, the servant entered the inner circle of the sanctuary, infusing a large mural above an anonymous altar with his aura and mana.
With a low rumble, a part of the wall disappeared like an illusion, revealing yet another hidden passageway, directed to the resting place of the Dragon God himself.
As one of the many servants of this holy sanctuary, Amete’s cultivation was only slightly beneath that of the Dragon King, who always treated his God’s attendants with indifference and paltry contempt.
Faced with his God, Amete felt the need to throw himself to the ground and worship his existence, but the enormous dragon would probably not even detect his presence. Moreover he had exempted all of his assistants from the formal conventions of society, allowing each and everyone of them to speak plainly with him and voice their opinions, although most of the retainers had chosen to address the overpowering creature with proper courtesy.
“Sir, there has been a visitor for Lord Raezar. He is from Leandar and wanted to thank the king for … his friendly gesture of sending them an envoy, the goal has been reached.”
Stirring up from his meditation, the colossal dragon’s tree-sized eye shifted towards Amete’s incomparably small frame, tensing him up.
“I see … that is indeed good news, Niruth seems to have accomplished his mission. And who is visiting the king?”
The response lacked enthusiasm and wasn’t particularly dignified, yet the elegance Rasenth was casually emitting coupled with the reverence his imposing voice would evoke in anyone was enough to make someone feel grateful for being granted the opportunity to listen to him swear.
“It is one of the ancestors of the Loewe bloodline, he is called Asmund Loewe but he is merely at the mystic realm, no one for your holiness to concern yourself about, he should have been unable to break through for a long time now. If you desire it, I will personally aid him in his cultivation so that he would reach the next realm soon, a small favor for the sake of the relationship between his nation and our dynasty.”
The monumental god only shot a glance at his servant before looking away, announcing in this fashion the end of the conversation, yet Amete knew he was blessed for having spoken with his object of prayers; he silently went back to his post besides the pillars, waiting for another call.
Stirring from her sleep, Nisha awoke in a bed together with Annabelle and Lydia, the sisters must have carried her upstairs when she drifted into a deep slumber next to Eldrin the previous day. Trying to remember the remnants of a dream she had had and deemed as important, the small girl enjoyed the warmth of her family for a while longer, warding of sorrows a little.
Reckoning the events of the past day, she suddenly recalled having asked Little Breeze to wait outside, but she had forgotten to go and see her sibling after entering the house, though she had heard Eldrin’s son shout about a dragon later on. Connecting the two events, she decided to get up and investigate the current situation.
Attempting to slip out of bed proved to be a futile exercise, as Lydia caught her right away when she tried to slither out of her embrace, albeit the lack of scales and her new smooth skin should have made it much easier to escape.
Unable to muster much resistance against the two older women, the dirty dragon girl was dragged to the bath, and given a very thorough scrubbing to get rid of the river mud. Spotless after soaking in the hot water, Nisha dried herself in a soft towel and took one of her dresses out of her [Soul Space]. Staring at the piece of clothing, she couldn’t help but recall that Eldrin had gifted it to her after her first transformation, he had taken a special care on accommodating her wings and tail in the fabric, resewing the dress two times.
It had been a simple act of kindness, but realizing that he would never do something like that for her again was sufficient to drain Nisha of all the happiness she had felt upon waking up between two of her sisters, the cold air sending shivers on the uncovered patches of skin on her back.
Walking down the stairs, Nisha came to recollect more of her previous night’s dream, the conversation she had had with Bael in the grey realm. Thinking back about it, the two goddesses had indeed gifted her more time together with the old elf, however something else came to her mind: if she hadn’t gotten injured by the noble’s party, there would have never been a need for her grandfather to get healed in the first place, and even if this outrageous event had been the first of many that led to them living together, a seething rage soon replaced the anguish.
When Nisha clenched her fist, the black and white runes resumed their waltz, dancing around her hands like a colourless blazing fire. The runes looked familiar, like the wings she had materialized while rushing towards the [Dragon’s Den], distracting her from the burning resentment smouldering inside her.
Like her flame, the runes were communicating with her, whispering their secrets in a sound too quiet to hear unless one was to completely concentrate on them, allowing everything else to fade.
Contemplating on her new ability that seemed to hold more mysteries than what she had initially expected encouraged Nisha to refrain from losing herself in anger again, and instead focus on the perpetrators that had injured her dear grandfather.
The smug grin of superiority and contempt on the two brother’s face remained fresh in her memory, as well as their appearance and clothing.
The walk from the room in which she woke up to downstairs and outside was rather short, but it was an eternity for the pondering girl. When she stepped outside, and saw Little Breeze curved in a ball, resting beneath a tree at the edge of the forest, she had already made a decision.
They won’t get away with it. I will find the place they came from and make them pay dearly for taking grandpa from me early. I might not be strong enough right now, but one day I will collect all the debts they owe me, with a whole lot of interest!
In reality it was not the injury that had killed the elf, but rather old age, however Nisha had never heard of the concept yet, a life in the Wilderness definitely not being one where beasts or monsters could reach the end of their life span.
Determined to get retribution on the aristocrats she blamed for the death of her grandfather, the destructive anger in her bones turned into an ice cold blade, waiting to be unleashed on any prey she had gotten her sight on.
For everything they did to grandpa and me, they will pay. I will never let go of that grudge.
“Little Flame, are you alright? What happened to you?”
Waking up at someone’s approach, the emerald dragon greeted its big sister with a concerned voice, uncoiling itself and looping around Nisha’s new elfish figure, admiring the dancing runes retreating under her skin to her core as her emotions were tempered.
Every time the her siblings were seeing her, she managed to startle them with a new appearance or a new power, this time not being any different.
Explaining the developments that had led to her rampage and after that, her plea to take her back from the den to the mansion took some time, Little Breeze attentively listening, not interrupting her.
The tale over, the beast offered some of his thoughts.
“I am so sorry Little Flame, I know how hard it must be for you. I will miss Eldrin too, he always treated us fairly. Truly a loss for everyone.”
I know Little Breeze means it, it helps a bit at least. Words are so powerful at times, able to cut through the thickest hides or heal the greatest wounds.
“Thank you. I wish he was still here with me, he taught me so much. Did you know …”
Talking about some of her fondest memories with Eldrin to her sibling relieved her grief somewhat, she could relive her experiences and share them with someone she loved.
As they were talking, the figure of a large half-elf approached, quietly observing the scene of a dragon and a elven girl conversing in a language consisting of growls and sneers, beyond his comprehension.
“So it was true … he met a dragon and it looks like an elf now. Father always lived the wildest fables.”
Approaching the two siblings exchanging stories about the deceased, Luthais cleared his throat to draw their attention on him.
Nisha looked up and saw a man with a straight back walking to them, clad in a dark uniform, a long weapon at his side.
His dark blonde hair bordered on the range of brown, and his features reminded the young girl of her grandfather, the similarity being unmistakable.
“That’s him, he tried to approach me yesterday with a weird smug on his face … until your friend finally came outside, then he kept some distance.”
Clearly hostile to the stranger closing in, Little Breeze glared at the half-elf while whispering to Nisha.
Marching at a brisk pace, Luthais quickly arrived in front of them and bowed slightly.
“Greetings. My name is Luthais Dharnas, son of Eldrin. I believe we have not been introduced yet.”
Straightening himself in a military stance, the solemn man offered her a handshake, his face betraying no feelings, only inquisitively gazing at the little girl, seemingly looking through her, unearthing all of her secrets.
“A good day to you too, sir. My name is Nisha … Dharnas. I am glad to meet you.”
Not yielding under the piercing gaze of the half-elf, the dragon remained proud and held her head up high, introducing herself with the full name Eldrin had gave her.
Luthais took another glance at her and let a sad sigh escape him, his shoulders slumping slightly.
“I have already heard some stories about you from my father, but it is nice to meet you in person. I had some doubts regarding the things he told me, but seeing you sitting here and talking with your … sibling clears most of those I had. Please rest assured, I won’t try to capture the dragon, it is almost family now, but its beauty was simply too great, I wanted to take a closer look…
Before you say anything, there has been a request from Eldrin in the letter he left me, and that request includes for me to acknowledge you as his adopted granddaughter and take you to the capital with me; if you intend to make a choice, please do so after reading what he wrote you.
Just know that I don’t intend to honor that wish as it is.”
Handing her a sealed envelope at this point, the half-elf raised a finger to prevent her from speaking.
“As I am seeing it, we should say that my grandfather has chosen to live a secluded life after the death of his wife, where he met another elf, which he later took as his wife. From this union a daughter was born, who in turn married an adventurer and entrusted her daughter to him, before going on another adventure where she perished along with her husband.
Now that my father has departed from this world, he has asked me to take care of his granddaughter; it would spare you the trouble of going through a complicated adoption process and become a true member of our family right away. Do you have any objections?”
Regaining some of his bearing, deceit seemed to conflict with Luthais’ ethics, yet he resolutely continued with his speech, looking at her with sincerity.
The unexpected offer confused the young dragon girl, Eldrin had always spoken of his son as a fair and dutiful man, unable to commit even the most trifling deception.
“I am honored by the proposition, but slightly reluctant to accept. Grandpa Eldrin always spoke of you as a man of great honour; I don’t mind being recognized as his adopted granddaughter if it means you will not have to lie.
Nonetheless, please let me read the letter first, then I will tell you my decision.”
Nisha was wondering what exactly Eldrin could have written if it was to require a choice from her; but she clutched the document, it was something received directly from her grandfather, an inheritance meant only for her.
Leaning onto the scaly body of her dragon sibling, she opened the envelope and pulled out the pages, reading her dead grandfather’s lines.
Going from reluctant to sad, to happy, tears streaming down her face, Nisha quickly went through all of the writing, the letters appearing both in her normal sight and her [Spirit Vision], the old elf having considered her needs even in his dying moments.
The content moved her to the core and soothed a lot of the sadness she had kept hidden from her family; Eldrin had anticipated her reaction and put down the words she craved for.
“Sir Luthais, I am honored by your suggestion. Under the pretense of adoption or relation by blood, I would very much like to move to the capital with you and attend the academy like grandpa wanted me to. Please take care of me.”
Bowing to him, Nisha placed the precious words in her [Soul Space], certain that she would treasure it forever, and turned towards Little Breeze.
“Please tell it to the others when you get back to the den, I will go on a journey for a while, but don’t be sad, I will visit you regularly. As much as I’d like to stay with you, Little Stream and Little Terra, I want to visit the capital and live there, grandpa Eldrin would wish for me to see the world and make more experiences now that I look like an elf. Please don’t be mad at me.”
The emerald dragon only smiled at her, albeit the expression looked rather scary to the marshal who was unable to understand it.
“It doesn’t matter, Little Flame. We all know that you try hard, and since you were able to stay here at the cottage, I don’t think it’s gonna be a problem for you to change location. Just make sure to visit us once in awhile, or we will have to chase after you in the capital.”
After a last small joke, the dragon took off into the air, leaving its sister with a confused half-elf.