Pre Mission 12: The Dragon City


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Fort Miller

It was a saturday like any other at Fort Miller, on the outskirts of the capital city of Ayenee. The crew of the Kaiyo was free to their own devices, and as such things were very quiet around the fort that morning, many of the occupants deciding to head into the city.

All except Gravity, it seemed. The young Neko stood alone just beyond the perimeter of the base, in an endless ocean of swaying grasses that rose to one's knees. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary, except that the pilot seemed to be swaying side to side. It was intentional, judging by the careful rhythm of it. Back... forth... back... forth. As she did this, she looked into the sky and slowly drew her arms up- like a pair of wings- and brought them back down to her sides.

The girl was dressed as if she were going somewhere. Sturdy boots, jeans, a slim-fitting tee, her hat, sunglasses, and trademark leather jacket. On her back she carried a small pack. Gravity continued to sway, still starring up into the sky expectantly.

Sacre arrived, dressed for whatever it was that Gravity had planned. She prefered clothes that would help her retain heat. So her ensemble was reletively dark. "I'm a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar." She said sarcastically as she arrived.

Gravity, however, didn't cease in her swaying, didn't even shift her uncharacteristically calm visage.

"Shhh... Don't be like that! I want you to meet my new friend!" she whispered. Which was also uncharacteristic of the Neko. Quiet and calm were not her strongsuits in the slightest.

Sacre curled up beside one of the few people she considered a true friend to sun herself briefly. She noticed Gravity's calm, "You're too calm, with you that only means the calm before the storm. I'd rather not get struck by lightning in one of your schemes that has lost all attachment to reality." Sacre's words sounded harsh, but there was a gentle joshing peevishness to them. Those that truely knew Sacre saw through her words. If you didn't really matter to her, then she would just ignore you. That she was out here at all meant that she liked Gravity and would stick with her regardless of what actually happened.

Gravity's lips ticked up at the edges.

"Love you too." she sighed, though her concentration was currently on the silent coversation going on in her head. "You and Apollo are going to be fast friends! The both of you are regularly concerned for my safety, you're both much larger than me, you're both green and scaly..."

A pause, before she continued.

"Agh! He's running late! Says he has to tuck the kids in real fast. Oh, by the way, are you by any chance scared of flying or using portals?" she asked casually.

"Not before you started flying the ship..." Sacre said in the completely serious deadpan that she conveyed almost all of her humor in. Gravity gave her a bemused look before turning to face the Separa'shan fully and spreading her arms. Suddenly, she began beaming with excitement as the sky behind her began to "boil", for lack of better term.

"That's too bad," she said, just as a tear in the fabric of reality itself opened behind her, large enough to fly a Plumeria-class gunship through. "Because we're doing both!"

As she finished her sentence, a monsterous shape raced from the portal that seemed to take up the entire sky. Hurricane-force winds swept the two women's hair about and flattened the grasses. The shadow quickly rushed over them, continuing on over the fort and higher into the sky. At this distance, one could clearly see that it was a dragon, as long as a football field from nose to tail, with a wingspan nearly equal to that. It's four legs were like redwood trees, its claws like swords, and its green scaled hide shimmering like an ocean of jade in the sunlight.

Then, it swept around and came back, using more beats of its outrageously powerful wings to stop itself a short distance away, its landing causing a minor earthquake. The beast let out a low groaning noise and lowered its head down to just a few feet away from Sacre and Gravity.

"Sacre," Gravity announced with a small bow. "I'd like to introduce you to Apollo!"

Sacre was impressed by the huge Dragon. It was truely a fearsome and awesome creature. Although she was certain that it could kill her in an instant if it wanted to, she was not afraid. At least, not enough to cow her. Her fears were closer and more personal then being ripped apart by some enemy. "Why can't you ever bring me to something good?" Sacre complained, but the tone was such that it implied that Apollo was indeed one of the baddest things in the sky.

If a dragon could raise an eyebrow, that is surely what Apollo would have done. He looked over to Gravity, who moved over and wrapped her arms as far as she could around his massive head, kissing him on the side of his snout.

Dragons, and those who bonded with them, communicated through an odd, non-verbal medium that relied on the projection of emotions, concepts, and feelings. It was a rather easy language to pick up, since it was magical in nature, but one had to first go through the ritual to acquire it. What's more, jade dragons like Apollo did not like verbal communication, instead preferring the silent calm of their homelands.

"He says that he's shocked and that normally people nearly die of a heart attack when he does that." Gravity half-whispered to her friend out of respect to the dragon's sensitivity to noise. She had considered trying to get Sacre to go through with the ritual so they could all understand one another, but since dragon-speak required full emotional transparency, and Sacre wasn't the most forthcoming with her feelings, Gravity had decided against it.

Sacre glanced around, making sure that no one had actually had a heart attack at the appearance of the Dragon. The small gesture made it clear that she took the Dragon seriously. That he really could give people heart attacks with his mere presence. "Not here please? I'd have to take care of them, and I said I'd spend the afternoon with you and your pet lizard."

Apollo let out what ammounted to a noise of indignation at Sacre's last remark, but Gravity only laughed and patted the dragon's nose. Apollo then lowered himself further, allowing Gravity to climb up and straddle the base of his long neck. She beckoned for sacre to follow suit and whispered:

"You're going to love this! Apollo told me about this beautiful little village in a mountain range on the other side of the planet! That's where we're going!" the Neko whispered again, her excitement so potent even someone without the gift of the dragon tongue could feel it.

Sacre pulled herself up and onto the back of the Dragon. She was unsure for a moment of how she was going to situate herself on the back of the magnificent beast. Finally oping to sit close to Gravity and wrap her long tail loosely around Apollo's neck. Then she wrapped her arms around Gravity's waist to hold on.

Gravity beamed and looked down at Apollo, who himself craned his neck to face them. A few silent words were spoken before Apollo slowly lifted his great wings and slammed them downwards with such force that he shot into the sky like an arrow. Most would think that due to his massive bulk that he wasn't fast or agile. Most were fools. Apollo calmly levelled out before opening an new portal high above the ground and sailing through into a tunnel of cool, blue light.

"So, Sacre, I have a question that you may find stupid, but... would you possibly want to be able to speak the dragon language?" Gravity asked in the deafening silence- the only way to describe this strange, fluctuating void.

Sacre considered for a moment, she had seen how Gravity and Apollo had been speaking to each outher silently. She wished that she could listen into those conversations and understand what the Dragon was doing. "Yes, that would probably be helpful." She said thoughtfully. Gravity nodded, her smile growing.

"Great! We'll do the ritual when we land. It takes less than a minute, then boom! Fully fluent." she explained before another gaping hole in space rushed forth to meet them. In another instand, they were flying high above a lush, forested mountain range that seemed to go on forever in all directions. It was late spring in this part of the world, so wildflowers bloomed and icy streams supplied by fresh snowmelt raced through valleys, some of the tallest peaks still clung desperately to winter, however, unwilling to get rid of the white dust that covered their peaks.

It was quite a beautiful view, right before Apollo dove sharply towards a grassy valley below, folding in his wings like an arrow. Just when it seemed too late to save themselves, the beast levelled out and began pounding his wings to bring them to a gentle landing in the expansive mass of wildflowers.

Sacre felt a primordial thrill in her heart as they dived for the valley floor. She could definantly feel Gravity's style of flying reflected in how Apollo dived towards the ground and then only flared at the last instant possible to land in a field filled with flowers. Soon after they touched down, Gravity swung her legs over the side of Apollo's neck and hopped to the ground with a little noise of exertion, breathing in deep the fresh mountain air and sighing.

"Alright, come stand across from Apollo to start the ritual. The city's only a few miles away now and Apollo says you're probably going to need to speak the language before we get there." said the neko.

Sacre slid off of Apollo and slid several paces forward. She wasn't sure what the ritual entailed or why she would be prompted to speak before they got to the village. She stood infront of Apollo and looked at him in his beautiful eyes. Gravity came up beside her, leaving a few feet of space.

Then, just like in the field a few minutes before, the neko started gently swaying side to side in the same, gentle rhythm. Apollo stood still, watching Sacre for a moment, before joining in in perfect sync. Gravity looked sideways at Sacre and smiled assuringly, urging her to join in.

Sacre began to sway gently side to side. Her sinous body was made for the motion. She began completely out of sync with Gravity and Apollo. She did not do it delibrately, but as they swayed in the wind, Sacre slowly began to began to sway closer and closer to the motion of the Neko and Dragon. After a few moments, she was also perfectly in sync with them. An odd, slightly uncomfortable buzzing sensation flickered to life like a single ember in the dark. The longer Sacre swayed, the more it seemed to spread- filling her body right down to the tip of her tail. Then, it began to grow in intensity, into an almost mind-numbing euphoria that grew to a crescendo.

Beside the separa'shan, Gravity began to raise her arms like she had in the field. Across from them, Apollo's wings began to rise as if he were readying to take flight. Then, the duo slammed their respective appendages downward and stopped.

Sacre felt the buzzing sensation grow inside of her. As it grew in intensity, she raised her arms with Gravity and Apollo and followed their motions. As the buzzing creshendoed into not just her whole body, but her very being it's self. She brough her arms downward and stopped. As she did so, there was the sensation of a shift in reality. That even though nothing at all had changed, her perspective on it had. Then the feeling was gone as quickly as it came, and she felt normal. As she always had.

Then she spoke, as she was used to speaking vocally the words that she wanted to say were at the forefront of her mind. //So, I can do lizard speak now eh?// However, unwillingly pulled along with it were her emotions all of them. Sacre had built so many walls to keep people from seeing the real her. However, they were as as effective as the language of Dragons flew like a bird over those walls to survery everything.

There was the feeling of saying something sarcastic and witty. Behind it was her uncertainty about the situation and wanting to laugh to break the tension she felt inside. Then the language flew over the wall to reveal the emotions that were hidden behind the words. Her feelings of friendship and gratitude towards Gravity and Apollo for sharing their language with her. Her feelings of friendship toward Gravity and the fact that she cared very deeply for her friend. Her feelings of awe towards Apollo and his truely impressive physique.

The next thing that was felt through the language was Sacre's fear. The language had breached the barriers that she had errected. If it could do that for her feelings towards theese two, what other feelings could it reveal?

Sacre found out as the magic of the language pulled it out of her. There was her fear of revealing too much, of saying too much. Then the language bypassed her walls to reveal that she didn't want to be close to anyone. That there was a deep well of pain inside her from caring too much about others. There was also the truth that she cared very deeply about the crew of the Kaiyo despite how she acted towards them.

The revelations poured out of her like a magician revealing a never ending fount of colored ribbons tied end to end. Her fear also grew as more and more was revealed. Then there was a very loud emotional //No!// and she stopped speaking in Draconic. At the same instant, she shouted "No!" At the top of her lungs.

All was silent. Not even the breeze dared to whisper. Both Apollo and Gravity starred at the separa- Gravity with wide eyes and her mouth agape, and Apollo with his usual unexpressive reptilian visage.

//She joins us.// Said Apollo. But there were no audible words in Sacre's mind. The emotions themselves entered her head, while her subconscious automatically translated them into understandable words. At least, that was the best explanation Gravity was able to come up with so far. And you know what? She was comfortable with that. It was akin to receiving a text message, but each individual's emotions had a certain "tone" to them which distinguished them from others. Apollo's emotions were still and deep, like a quiet mountain lake of unfathomable depth.

//...I-I.... How ya feelin'?...// Gravity asked next, her emotions wild and vibrant, like a dancing flame or a lightning storm. Beneath the question was an undercurrent of awkwardness, as if the neko was attempting to politely pretend she heard none of the initial stream of feeling.

Sacre opened her mouth and said "//I wasn't expecting that."// She said, but addtionally speaking the words in Draconic. There was gratitude there for Gravity pretending not to notice the flood of emotions that had poured out of her. Although you would never know it by looking at her, there was a roaring sea of emotions. However, she had better control of what she said in Draconic, so it was a much smaller glimpse into her. Almost like she was trying to say as little as possible for fear she would say too much. Gravity nodded, seeming only to see what Sacre projected, but Apollo? With this new perspective of reality, his eyes seemed to become all seeing daggers that peirced through whatever petty defense one put up to shield themselves.

//Yes. Many do not. Then again, few ever gain the privilege to converse with us.// Mused the dragon. He looked to Gravity, who looked away into the distance, cutting herself out of the conversation. //This one accidentally told of her fear of something called a "Machete-Handed Mishu". I have yet to discover what that is.//

The massive reptile didn't say anything further, but it was clear he knew. Every last insignificant detail. He was much more adept at speaking this way, more so than Gravity. However, if he were going to speak further, he'd lost his chance as three pairs of wings swept over a mountain peak in the distance, racing for them.

Sacre's eyes went towards the three Dragons approaching. "Thank you for the privlage." she said, this time she did not say words in Draconic. However, over the emotional channel there was a sense of being unnerved by Apollo's all seeing eyes. There was also genuine gratitude in her emotion as well.

//Who are they? Friends?// Gravity asked Apollo as she turned once more to face them. Apollo starred skywards with his keen, reptilian eyes.

//No. But they mean us no harm so long as we do not make ourselves a threat.// he assured. The dragons, as they approached, were about the same size as Apollo. The difference was that they seemed sleeker, less jagged in appearance, and were all of a unique color that marked them as individuals. In the center of the trio was a drake of such pitch blackness that its scales seemed to absorb all light, its only distinguishing color coming from its electric-blue eyes that seemed to pulse with an internal flame around its slitted pupils. To its left was a golden creature with eyes of a bloody crimson, while the third was a rich cream with similarly grey eyes. However, those weren't even the most unusual thing about them, as could be seen when they hovered in the air before the trio of foreigners...

...They all had massive saddles strapped to them.

The three new dragons landed silently before them and lowered themselves to the ground, revealing the riders at the bases of their necks. Two men and one woman- human in all respects but for their eyes, which seemed to mimic those of their mount. They wore thick, durable clothing that would be useful for fighting as well as withstanding the cold winds of high-altitude flight. Each had a rifle slung to their backs as well. Military of some sort.

//Beastmasters.// Apollo greeted curtly. Emotions of caution and the question of their presence in the valley flowed from the three humans as they swung their legs off their saddles and slid to the ground, but very little flowed from their dragons. Just basic emotion, no nuance, no words to translate. Very young, it seemed, compared to Apollo. To show even more difference between the two different breeds of reptiles, the multicolored ones began to shrink! Smaller and smaller they went, their obviously-magical saddles shrinking along with them, until they were just a tad bit smaller than a house cat. They leapt up to their riders' shoulders and proceeded to ride them like parrots from an old pirate movie.

//We know you, Apollo, but who are they?// asked the rider of the black dragon, his long hair swept backwards on his head and his eyes a peircing blue. He couldn't have been older than sixteen.

//I am Sacre// Sacre responded, she had meant to use her words, but the forcefullness of her feeling about the question meant that it was spoken in Draconic. There was not just her name, but who she was and what she stood for. There was an element of being someone who had at one point in their life been crushed repeated like grapes used for wine. That was intermingled with a sense of victory. Not victory completed or victory to come, but victory in progress. Tied into this victory was the element of her skill as a healer. Her obsession and the deep resovours of empathy that came with it. There was also an element of anger and bitterness that burned deep inside her. There was fear, but it was not a cowering fear, but a fighting one. This was deeply linked to the element of knives. Of how they were used for healing, defense, and offense against those who had hurt her and those she cared about. The four elements of victory over being crushed, of being a healer, of pain and bitterness, and of knives came together to form a single identity. That identity was what she meant when she said Sacre. The beastmasters not only understood fully, but showed visible awe and surprise at the separa'shan.

"You speak the language...?" the blue-eyed one asked in a voice that was almost a whisper. He spoke aloud this time, confirming by the pitch of his voice that indeed he couldn't have been older than sixteen. The beastmasters had clearly not expected the outsider to reply as she did.

"No, all of that was clearly conveyed by me just speaking my name aloud." Sacre said with sarcastic scorn.

"I thought so. At first I thought you truly spoke, but I guess it must have been the sensless drabbling of an infant." the boy replied with a bored expression.

//Addaiel.// the wall of a man to his right warned, his golden dragon drapped around his shoulders like a scarf.

"Bold words for someone who can't even speak their own name. I have to learn it from a helpful stranger." Sacre prodded. The game was on. Though Addaiel didn't show it, he was eager to get the last word in.

"Forgive me, I don't really deal with outsiders all that much." he sighed, the word "outsider" having quite a venomous bite to it. He looked Sacre directly in the eyes. "Allow me to introduce myself..."

Addaiel opened a channel just for Sacre and said:

//I am Addaiel.// and with it came a retaliatory volley of emotion. Fire, blood, screams, a sense of soul-crushing loss and inadequacy. The solace of flight and the freedom offered by the skies that pushed back against the near universal scorn of those around him who thought him a useless burden on society. A fear of reaching out that clashed horribly with a curiosity of the wider world around him and the instincts of an adventurer. Irrepressible guilt, but a small ember of hope that burned whenever he looked at the horizon far away that he might one day be able to escape. At the end of it all was a message that basically read:

Everyone's got problems, buddy. Doesn't give anyone justification to be a snarky little asshole.

Sacre turned to Gravity and spoke in Draconic to everyone present. //Sorry if you couldn't hear his name. He's a bit shy. This is Addaiel. He's got his problems, but he's a snarky little asshole// She said, forwarding what he had told her his name was to everyone. There was scorn in her emotions, but as she came to his name, Sacre did not nearly have the control to keep the deep ressonance she felt with his experiances and who he was out of her emotions. Addaiel's companions began to stare at him, and the boy's face went a deeper and deeper red with each passing second. Instead of laughing, the other two's anger seemed to grow. No one there knew, but they hadn't been riding behind Addaiel because the boy was their leader. They'd stayed behind to keep an eye on him and ensure he didn't try to flee their isolationist lands.

At that moment, Addaiel's hand looked as if it were about to go for the gun on his hip, but before he could, he was being yelled at by the brute of a man who followed him.

"Boy, I thought I made it clear that you were to give up your stupid fantasy!" the older man bellowed, reaching back with his massive, meaty hand as if he were about to strike the child. Addaiel thought so too, for he was already ducking back and raising his arms to shield his head, the red of his face, turning to sheet white.

//HI! I'M GRAVITY!// the blue neko "shouted" out of nowhere, zooming right up to the man and standing between him and Addaiel. Apollo was mentally grinning, in open disrespect of the beastmasters' practices, but he didn't seem to care. Seriously, who would challenge him? The man's fist stopped as Gravity introduced herself.

So very new to existence- created artificially less than one year ago. So curious, so happy-go-lucky and full of affection for all life had to offer. A burning love for her friends- whom she considered her "family". An arrogant confidence in her aviation prowess that tried its best to cover up a deep fear that one day she wouldn't be good enough- that one day she'd make a mistake and lose everyone she cared about. A small, hidden affection for one of her crewmembers that she tried to deny to the best of her ability, and a burning, hellish rage that warned against laying a finger on the child in a chillingly-sweet voice.

"...Hello, Gravity..." the man grumbled, confused more than anything. Behind Gravity, Addaiel began to scamper away with the new opportunity, his dragon growing to the size of a horse and allowing them to ride away through the trees that lined the edge of the forrest, eternal gratitude towards the neko bleeding out of every pore, and a mental middlefinger to Sacre.

//To the point! Why do you come?!// the grey-eyed woman asked Apollo in exasperation. She tried to conceal her emotions to no avail. She had a date with her lover very soon and she needed to get this done quickly.

//Remember the name Sacre, Addaiel// She sent privately to Addaiel. However, it was not her full name that she sent, but a part of it. It was a deep explanation of the element of victory over being crushed. It was the feeling of being crushed, then dealing with being crushed and victory over it. It was overlaid with his name. Of how her experiances mapped onto the experiances he had. However, it was also a road map of how her victory had progressed and therefore how he could have victory. It was a very complex and deep emotion that was transmitted.

//I have come to show Gravity and Sacre your village. Gravity is my bondmate, and a great lover of dragonkind. Sacre is a trusted friend. We will not visit the breeding ground, or tell others of the village's existence. I, Apollo, vouch for them and give my word that we shall keep our secrecy.//

The beastmasters seemed to accept Apollo's word as truth, for even though they could sense no inkling of fear that would denote plans of espionage, a dragon's word was sacred, apparently. They nodded, and began to turn and move towards a more open area where their dragons could grow once more and they could take flight.

//Sacre, Gravity, come. It is nigh impossible to reach the Dragon City on foot.// Apollo advised, lowering himself to allow the duo aboard.

Sacre boarded and once again wrapped her tail around Apollo's neck and held herself tightly to Gravity. During the trip through the portal, Gravity had been able to hide it, but now a tense, giddy feeling slipped out of her before she could put a cap on it. It was there only for an instant before being crushed under the burning desire to see a city that was puportedly filled with dragons. Apollo lifted off and took flight, following the beastmasters back over the ridge.

"...That was beautiful..." the azure neko muttered quietly to the separa'shan, referring to Sacre's astounding introduction, keeping her eyes glued to the vista below.

"It was accidental. I was just trying to say 'I'm Sacre' verbally but it came out in Draconic." Sacre explained a bit abashed. Gravity looked back and quickly forwards once more. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again. She wanted to tell Sacre that it was okay- that she could speak freely here. It was only her and Apollo, who had probably already learned Sacre's entire life story just as he had with Gravity.

"...I was glad I was able to listen, either way." said Gravity quietly.

Sacre nodded, not exactly sure what to say. "Thank you?" She guessed. Gravity smiled a bit before gasping in delight and pointing down.

"Look!" she cried as they soared over a new valley, this one filled with buildings made of wood and stone. and some modern tech. The whole area was alive with color, a sea of multicolored birds in the sky, on the ground, and everywhere in between.

Wait- not birds! Dragons! Hundreds of thousands of dragons ranging anywhere from the size of Apollo to a shoe box. Apollo came for a landing in a designated area for landings, but did not lower them to the ground just yet. The townsfolk began to gather around. A Jade dragon this far East?! What's more, there were people riding it! Outsiders! Jade dragons rarely ever bonded with their kind, let alone normal humans!

And that's just what that crowd of people were: beastmasters. Each with a small dragon- which could grow very large if need be- riding on their shoulder. It was easy to tell which dragon belonged to who. All one had to do was match the eyes. And not all of them were warriors like Sacre and Gravity had met minutes before. Some were merchants, musicians, scholars, schoolchildren, mothers, fathers... everything. A community of dragonriders, all starring up at the outsiders in wonder.

Sacre looked back, less impresed as she had expected a city, although not the dragons. She waited for Gravity to dismount before towering behind the Neko and following her lead. Gravity moved forward through the crowd, who parted for her and gave room for Apollo to follow. The city itself was reminiscent of 19th century Earth, with cobblestone streets and open-air markets. Only the streets were massive and few, allowing room for large dragons to walk through with ease. Most of the entrances were up above on the rooftops, and who needed roads when everyone had their own personal flying machine.

Gravity's eyes darted back and forth, her body essentially vibrating.

"Where first?!" she asked eagerly. "We could check out the market! Or-Or we could check out this cool rooftop cafe where they serve both you and your dragon!"

A small "herd" of the cat-sized dragons scampered off their owner's shoulders, curious to the new scents that the outsiders brought in. One leapt up on Gravity's shoulder and began sniffing her, while another hopped into the neko's arms.

//Hi there, cutiepies!// Gravity squealed with delight and cuddled the creature close. One dragon came up to Sacre, trotting like a small dog. It sat in front of Sacre and craned its neck up towards her, tilting its head curiously.

It was a dark creature, of such pitch black that it seemed to absorb all light, the only distinguishing feature beings its peircing blue eyes.

Addaiel's dragon, but the owner was nowhere to be seen.

Sacre didn't know if it was unusual for one of them to be without their Dragon. Gravity spent a lot of time away from Apollo. She glanced around, looking for the dragonrider. Then to the expectant Dragon. "What?" She asked.

//Name Lightning! You save friend. I thank.// replied the small creature, who affectionately bumped his head against the separa'shan's body. Behind Sacre, a blue dragon curiously pawed at the end of her tail. //We scared for long time, but now we not! We fly away in dark, but now we pack.//

Sacre took a moment to unpack the emotions that the Dragon sent her. They were not the deep strong emotions of Apollo, they were diffrent, younger perhaps. "Crying from getting his ass handed to him by a stranger. He'll probably be back soon." She said slightly harshly. However, over the emotional channel, a single word. //Good//

The dragon bumped his head against her again and scampered off into the crowds. Gravity looked over, the neko now covered in multi-colored dragons. Sacre, too, was getting some fans, as her interaction with Lightning had eased their nerves about strangers. The blue one still fooled with her tail, but now a shiny lilac reptile fluttered down and settled itself around Sacre's shoulders before proceeding to sniff her.

"Whatcha wanna do first?" Asked Gravity, still cuddling several mini-dragons in her arms and looking happy as a clam while doing so. "I saw some of the warriors and hunters wearing some pretty cool knives. Maybe try and find a place that sells them?"

Sacre batted gently at the one that was after her tail and gave a strange look to the ont that had landed on her shoulders. She didn't want to hurt the Dragons. She tried to take it off, but it seemed to think think was a game and scampered along her arms. "That sounds like fun," she glanced around. looking for a shop that looked like it would sell knives.

//I see such a place a few blocks away, up on a rooftop.// Apollo informed the duo, his head easily reaching over the rooftops and giving him an unbroken view of the city. Gravity began walking, an action accompanied by an explosion of color as the dragons around her fluttered off into the skies to return to their owners. The neko's heart swelled. Apollo was magnificent, but what she wouldn't give for a tiny little babe like the ones the beastmasters rode. Something that could curl up in your lap while you watched tv. As they moved down the street, Apollo followed, creating deep thuds that echoed off the buildings with each footfall. When they arrived at the correct building, Apollo lowered his head to allow the two to step on- their own personal elevator. The rooftop was barren on one half- made to receive landing dragons- and full of racks on the other, with a simple desk in front and an elderly, graying man tending the counter.

Sacre felt strange stepping onto Apollo's head and then riding it up to the rooftop. Sacre slid onto the rooftop and then began to peruse the merchandise. Ever since she had started making her own knives, her already keen eye for knives had improved greatly. There were knives of all kinds here, and Sacre began to systematically browse the store. Some she ignored, others she considered carefully. Going so far as to pick them up to get a feel for how they felt in the hand. Most of the knives, it seemed, were not meant for combat. They moreso resembled hunting knives, with clip-point blades and very little ornamentation. Pure utility. However, each one had the head of a dragon on its hilt, made of the same, darkened metal as the blade.

"Full tang, all of 'em," the old man said to Sacre from his desk. He spoke normally, but there was something off about the look in his eye, as if he were... hollow. Stranger still, he didn't have a dragon like everyone else in this town. "Forged in dragonfire and impervious against it. No more will a huntsman's mount accidentally melt his bondmate's favorite blade."

//Apollo, is something wrong with him?// Gravity asked privately to the dragon who's head rested on the edge of the building.

//Yes, very much so. His bondmate is dead, their soul-deep connection shattered. A long time ago, based on how well he interacts with others. If it were more recent, he would hardly be able to function.// Apollo observed.

Sacre nodded, there was a place for hunting knives. She prefered knives that were more combat oriented. Stilettos and throwing knives rather then hunting knives. Vera hung below Sacre's breast was a fighting knife, but in a pinch it could be used as a hunting knife. Sacre felt for the old man who had lost his dragon.

Besides knives, there were plenty other pieces in stock. Gravity herself gravitated towards a selection of spears that seemed perfectly balanced for throwing. A long serpent was engraved into the shaft, spiraling up from the bottom and coming to a head at the top.

"Lookit, Sacre!" Gravity hissed, waving the separa'shan over.

Sacre turned curiously. Sacre admired the spear for a moment. "It is a beautiful piece." She said, taking it's sister to feel the ballence in her own hand. While she prefered knives for throwing, it meant she had a goos sense for how a missle would fly if she chucked it at someone. This one felt like it would go where she wanted it to, especially if she added a bit of a twist to it. //Good Spear// She said, trying to send how she felt about it to Gravity. "How did that come across?" She asked.

"Rather pleasant, actually." Gravity replied sweetly, stroking a finger down the engraving of the spear while examining the head. She noticed that the shopkeeper didn't even react to any of their "conversations". As if he didn't even hear them.

"It's silver!" said the pilot in awe, poking the tip.

"Aye, it was how we used ta hunt monsters before we invented boomsticks," the old man chimed in, gesturing to the large-bore lever-action rifle leaning against his counter. "Drake'd douse a chimera in fire ta distract it, then the rider would lob a silver-tipped spear from the air and try ta peirce its heart."

Sacre tried to imagine the manuver, "Seems difficult." She commented, looking at a knive with a finely forged hilt with suprisingly intricate detail.

"I wouldn't know. The last person in my family to use a spear was my great grandfather's father." the old man, whose name turned out to be Gabriel, sighed. He seemed genuinely happy at the moment, as if talking about the old days dulled the pain. He reached past Sacre and picked up the dagger she'd been looking at, then proceeded to flip it through his fingers with expert skill despite his age. There was no doubt that in times past, Gabriel had been a highly skilled fighter.

"These, right here, were our standard-issue fightin' knives. We had a saying: 'silver for monsters and steel for men, though tellin' tha difference is the hardest part'. Aye, sometimes ye'd get a contract, come back and the guy would try to stiff ya- pay ya less than agreed or not at all! So everyone would get a little angry and before ya knew it you were in a scrap." Gabriel rambled, finishing his flashy knife-flipping routine and deftly hurling it at a practice dummy. The blade sunk in halfway to the hilt in the dummy's forehead.

Sacre was impressed by the man's handling of the knife. She slid over to the target and took it out before returning to where Gabriel stood. She started to manuver it herself, going through several drills and then seemed to produce a second blade from nowhere and do two bladed drills. Then there was a flashy move with the second blade that drew attention to it. The first indication that Sacre had thrown the first knife was the solid thunk from the Dummy as the knife buried it's self once again in it's forehead.

Gabriel stared for a good, long moment, blinking a few times, before hooting with laughter and giving Sacre a small round of applause. Gravity herself did the same, but didn't join in on the laughter. Instead, she began to regret every single time she'd tried to antagonize the medic.

"Whoa boy! They don't do it like that no more, I tell you what! Wish my grandkids were here to see that, learn the value of a good blade! Ah, but kids these days- always relyin' on their fancy little guns and what-not!" cackled Gabriel. "So, little lady, will you be buyin' today? After that display I have half a mind to just give ya the damned thing!"

Sacre took a small bow. "That's probably because they think in terms of dangerous weapons, not being dangerous men. Drop someone naked in the wilderness with a gun and the best they can do is save the last bullet. Drop someone naked in the wilderness with a good knife and they can rule their world." Sacre paused for a moment. "I'm sorry, I don't want to deprive you of such a beautful and well made knife without compensation. I make my own and know how difficult it can be to get it just right."

"Fair enough." Gabriel shrugged non-chalantly. He moved back to his desk and sat, running his fingers over the flat of the blade in silence. Gravity slinked up next to Sacre with a shit-eating grin on her face.

//You have... very adept fingers.// the neko joked privately, the emotion making it clear that she was talking about much more than knife-handling.

//Ewww...// Sacre said, her disgust coming through. She had put her fingers into a great many disgusting things. Things that would make any sane person puke. However, while sober, she found herself more disgusting then that. She had too losen her inhibitions to ensure that her body didn't explode from being pent up too much.

Gravity's brow furrowed with worry.

//Too far?// she asked, knowing her friend was very squeamish about sexuality.

"No, I'm..." Sacre trailed off. "It's just not a happy place for me like it is for most people." She said aloud because she didn't want to inflict her own horrible memories on her friend.

Gravity nodded, and smiled, placing a hand on Sacres shoulder and gestured to the city expanding out in all directions and ringed by mountains.

"Where to next?" she asked. "The sky's the limit! Literally!"

"I'd like to see how they raise the dragons." Sacre said honestly, not sure what she wanted to do. She could get knives anywhere, she couldn't see Dragons just anywhere.

//The actual breeding grounds are highly guarded and have been since the attempted genocide fifteen years ago. None but the most senior beastmasters may enter, lest they become naught but piles of smoldering ash. Dragon mothers are highly protective of their children.// Apollo explained to Sacre, thinking back to his own mate on the other side of the world. //However, I sense a bonding is about to occur- meaning, a young dragon hatchling is about to find his destined human child. It is a rather beautiful sight to behold, as it marks the beginning of a life-long relationship.//

Meanwhile, Gravity picked up one of the spears and brought it to the counter. She dug in her pack for a bunch of strange, silver coins that Apollo had lying around in his den. The dragon really had no use for human money, so he'd gifted it to her.

"Have fun with that," Gabriel grinned, still looking at the knife in his hand. He looked up at Sacre. "You there, I have a proposition! I'm an old man now- I got no need for this knife anymore. Likely to pull my hip if I get into a scrap like the old days. I tell you what: I'll give this blade to you, if you're willing to trade one of your own. An outsider knife'd fetch a price that'll easily dwarf whatever this old thing is worth."

Sacre took the knife again into her hands. The knife wasn't just any knife, it was a work of art in metal. The blade appeared to have lines running through it, damascus. The lines smoothly transisioned into the lines of the dragon in three dimensions. It was a hunting knife like few others. Sacre had a great many knives, from Vera, which rarely left it's posion under her breasts. Vera was a fighting knife like few others and worth thousands of KS. To cheap folding knives who's only job in life was to open boxes. This knife was a unique one of a kind masterpiece. She considered for a moment before nodding. "It will take me some time to make a knife the equal of this. However, you have my word I will bring it." She promised, she wanted to use the language of Dragons to express her promise but she sensed that it would hurt the old man to do so.

Gabriel shrugged and nodded, then said. "Hey, take your time! I ain't goin' nowhere."

//Let's go Sacre!// Gravity called as she climbed back onto Apollo's head. //I don't wanna miss this "bonding" thing!//

"Thank you." Sacre slid the sheath and knife onto her belt and climbed onto Apollo's head. The dragon began lumbering down the road, trying his best to remain steady, but none the less Gravity unconciously reached out to hold on to something steady- which happened to be Sacre. Minutes later, after passing homes, markets, and other strange sights, they came upon the main thuroughfare of the city, a busting square not unlike downtown Kyoto.

//This is where the bonding shall happen. Do you feel the anticipation in the air?// Apollo asked.

Sacre nodded. There was an electric ecitement that Sacre could feel from the crowd. She wonered who was going to get bonded. As they approached the location. She could get a general idea the closer they got. Dragon bondings were meant to be a surprise to the child, a happy memory full of magic to treasure forever, much like the human tradition of Santa and Christmas. The children were told from a young age that their dragon was always watching, judging their actions as part of a "test". If a child disrespected their parents or had bad behavior, their dragon wouldn't come. But thankfully, that all was a load of crap- a fun tradition kept alive through the generations to give the parents a fun game to play and the children something to strive for. There was a small amount of truth to it- for a dragon may not be as obedient if it does not respect its bondmate- but in the end every child got their dragon, and most were incapable of doing anything to permanently sour their dragon's view of them.

In keeping with the theme of surprise, the crowds in the square kept as iconspicuous as they could, going about their daily routine. However, every once in a while, they would glance towards a shopfront along the western side of the square, which had several custom-made musical instruments in the window. Upon closer inspection, it wasn't the shop they were looking at, but a young girl of about four or five who was dutifully sweeping the front steps. she wore a green dress which came to the knee and matched the color of her eyes, whose pupils were slitted like every beastmaster. Those eyes would be the same as her dragon's. Her shoes were of the same shade of emerald. Her skin was the color of coffee mixed with cream, her hair a messy tumble of ebony curls.

Behind her stood her father- tall, muscled, bald, with eyes of violet and the hands of a pianist. He watched his daughter with pride, and looked as if he were going to tear up at any moment. His dragon sat on his shoulder, starring into the sky, which was filled with dragons running errands for their bondmates.

"Look!" Gravity whispered, putting her arm around Sacre's shoulder and discreetly pointing upwards. It was difficult to see at first, but up there amongst the shifting swarm of wings, was a copper dragon with eyes of emerald green that matched the young girl's. Even amongst the small-sized dragons in the sky, this one stood out as being just a tad bit smaller. A baby, even amongst dragons. If its size weren't a good enough indicator, its flight was. It dipped and weaved like a drunken bumblebee. The little girl and her dragon would have several days of intense practice ahead of them.

The dragon hatchling scanned the crowds for her bondmate, whose soul she was drawn to like a moth to a flame. The creature spotted the little girl on the steps who was still blissfully unaware and began awkwardly winging down to her. People began to notice, and the noise of the square began to gently die.

It was strangly quiet as the little girl turned as the dragon winged down towards her, picking up speed as it approached, it tried to flare it's wing, but it was slightly too late, the two bumped into each outher and the girl went gently sprawling to her knees. However, she didn't seem to notice, the broom lay abandoned on the floor. She stared into the eyes that were identical to hers.

She wrapped her arms around the dragon, and the dragon wrapped it's wings around her. Sacre saw her mouth something, but couldn't quite catch the words. However, she could read the look of pure radiant joy on the child's face. Sacre caught herself smiling as well, and a part of her longed for someone who looked at her like that. Like how the Dragon looked at the child or how the Child looked at the dragon.

If Sacre would have looked to her right, she would have seen just that. Gravity gazed upon her weird friend/enemy/sort-of-crush with a smile that stretched ear to ear. She was proud of herself for finding something that would break through that stony exterior. She was grateful that she was here to witness it, and farther down, she couldn't help but think- as the first time seeing Sacre truly smiling- that it was a beautiful sight which she wanted to see more often.

The crowd remained silent below, however, because the ceremony was not complete. The little girl was so entraptured by her dragon, whom she'd probably been imagining in her head since she was naught but a babe, that her father had to kneel beside her and whisper instructions in her ear.

//My... My name is Maya.// her frantic, excited dragon-speak rippled quietly through the air, a formal introduction to her bondmate. Young and innocent, with a tendency to daydream that drove her school teachers crazy. Maya had a small bit of sadness in her, as her mother- a warrior- was killed a few years ago after a brutal battle with a giant. However, she had her father's love to help her cope. Like her father, she was an artist at heart, and dreamed of becoming a fashion designer.

After those emotions had faded away, her father had to push her a little further, because Maya had forgotten the final part- naming her dragon.

//...You are Ahlam.// Maya told the small reptile, who was now named after Maya's mother. Soon after, the reptile's "name" shot forth. Ahlam was a fighter, like her namesake. She was stubborn and short-tempered, would often wander away from the safety of her mother to explore, and would constantly battle with her sibblings. Such an aggressive soul was perfect for the shy, meek little artist who was hesitant to take risks and move out of her comfort zone. The two would better each other over the years.

As soon as Ahlam's name finished flowing through the square, all present went up in an exhuberant roar. Hats were tossed, the dragons in the sky went crazy. It was beautiful, heart-warming chaos as Maya continued to squeeze Ahlam in her tiny arms.

"Their cute together." Sacre said warmly. Then there was a distant sad look in her eyes. Then she shook her head. "I like kids at an arms reach." She looked at Gravity. "Is it weird to know she's several times your age?" She asked. Gravity pondered that question for a moment, then shrugged.

"I think about that all the time, actually. I'm barely one year old time-wise, which would make little Maya down there older than me. But... like... I don't feel one year old, you know? One day I just opened my eyes and I was Kara, with a mind filled with knowledge that felt like I'd gone through schooling like a normal kid. I could speak, write, and recite the Star Army creed from the get-go. It was like waking up from a nap with the opposite of amnesia. So, I guess... no, it doesn't feel weird. I'm certainly no child, so the concept of age doesn't really mean much to me." Gravity explained, looking into Sacre's eyes. She grinned playfully and added: "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you just called a child cute."

Sacre shook her head, "I wasn't exactly a good as a kid. Always wandering off where I wasn't supposed to be. Oppositional. Defiant. I thought I knew it all, but never had a knife with me. My parents probably would have told me that I'd never get my dragon. I remember them as tyrants, but now that I'm older, I wonder how true that was. I've never been back to find out. I don't know if they are still alive." Sacre mused.

Gravity really didn't know how to respond to that sudden revelation. Sacre had never really told her much about herself, but the neko was able to pick up some hints. So, instead of words, she just slowly reached over and gave the medic a hug.

"I'm sorry to hear that." she muttered sadly.

Sacre wasn't expecting the hug. There was a sharp stiffing. A fear in her eyes, anger too. Her tail wrapped around Gravity's leg and pulled the Neko off of her, then tossing the Neko violently into several bystanders. Sacre turned away from Gravity and started to make her away through the startled crowd. She disappeared into the crowd but Apollo with his bird's eye veiw could see that she slipped into a side alley.

Meanwhile, Gravity picked herself up, rubbing her head and quickly apologizing to the folks Sacre had used as human bowling pins. For a split second, her old temper flashed through her body, making her burn with a thousand suns and her vision going red. She'd just been trying to show that she cared! That bitch! That total bitch-!

//You must have forgotten that Sacre does not like physical contact.// Apollo sighed to her. His deep, calm voice broke through the blood-rage and dousing the fire in her eyes. Gravity closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths.

//Yeah, you're right. I was just so caught up in the moment...// she muttered guiltily.

//She cannot get back without riding with you again. Go apologize. She's in an alley not too far from here.// The dragon ordered. Gravity groaned and started walking, coming up upon the alley in question and cautiously poking her head around the corner, ready to jump back should Sacre decide the hurl a knife.

"S-Sacre? You okay? I'm sorry!" Gravity called into the alley, her face filled with worry.

Sacre was curled into a ball in a small hidden corner where no one was likely to come. She looked up at Gravity and opened her mouth to say something. However, it was Draconic that she spoke. //Don't touch me.// However, it was more then words. It was the emotions that were related to those words. The things that formed them. Struggle against being touched by men and woman. That struggle resulting in pain. There flashed a sharp bright pain and the image of eggs. Then Sacre didn't struggle anymore. They just touched and took until there was nothing left. Untill Sacre was physically alive, but dead where it really mattered. Sacre ducked her head back into the ball she had made.

//Sacre...?// Gravity asked, stepping into the alley on light feet, moving forward one gentle step at a time. Worry, guilt, sorrow for a friend and someone who was a little more than a friend. She was utterly horrified at the images revealed to her. It made her want to tear someone's throat open and vomit at the same time, then cry in a corner. Unsure of what to do in a situation like this, she did what she'd done the first time she'd met a dragon.

She stopped a good five feet from Sacre's little ball and calmly sat.

It took a little bit for the panic attack to pass. Eventually Sacre uncurled. Her face was still streaked with tears. She was conflicted, now that it had passed, she wanted to apologize. On the other hand, she felt anger that Gravity had touched her like that. Internally, she was conflicted. "I don't always get panic attacks when I'm touched. It was just really unexpected." Sacre explained, doing her best to hide her feelings.

"...I know. I forgot, and I'm sorry." Said Gravity calmly. "...I was just so caught up in the moment, and you looked like you needed a hug and... yeah, I have horrible impulse control."

Sacre nodded, understanding why. "It didn't help that I was thinking about children. I don't know if I ever want to have them. But it hurts to know that I can't." Sacre explained honestly.

"I dunno, I love children. I wouldn't mind..." Gravity mused, looking into the distance with dreamy eyes. She stood and held out a hand, allowing Sacre a chance to initiate the contact this time. "Feeling better? Ready to go?"

Sacre nodded, "I don't think I'm going to be good company the rest of today. Sorry for ruining our day out." She apologized.

"Sacre, you can do a lot of things, but you could never ruin this day." Gravity sighed with a grin, glancing up at the dragons crisscrossing the sky above.
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