So…where were we last chapter when I decided to be a butt and make an uber-cliffy?
Oh yeah. The whole "omg who iz dat I reelly hope itz not mai brother cuz tat would suk" thing.
I don't read too much lolcatz. Whatever would give you that idea? XD.
Hikaru: Don't mind her. She's just stupid.
Alu: 'KARU-KUN!!! *UBER GLOMPAGE*
Hikaru: ugh. 'Lu-chan's vaguely sane side wants me to tell you that she loves you, people who reviewed, and also to enjoy your fic. Fully insane side of 'Lu-chan needs to get OFF of me. Now.
Warning:I'm not doing warnings on this fic anymore. Just thought I'd warn you people about that. XD.
Disclaimer: Alu totally owns Hikaru…wait, no. Damn you, copyright laws that stop me from keeping Hikaru under my bed!
As soon as he woke up, he was mad at himself for underestimating what he'd feel like in the morning.
Hikaru felt as though the tiniest movement would make him scream. The bruises he'd accumulated each felt as though he'd been hit with an iron fist, and last night's aching muscles pulsed with pain.
Hikaru, said Kokao. I am sorry to wake you, but there is trouble. There are things approaching; one human and several…others. Kazeryu sensed them a moment ago.
They are searching for us?
I don't see why else they would be here.
Hikaru cursed and forced himself to stand, then regretted it. It took most of his self-control to keep himself quiet; he wanted to yell. Pain rushed through his body, but he wouldn't let himself relax again, not with danger so close. It went against the grain to be useless at times like this, especially for someone like him.
He moved outside silently, avoiding the eyes of the girl as he limped slightly on the ankle he'd twisted last night.
Saaya watched him, concern evident in her face. He looked bad, honestly; not ill, but clearly in pain. Whatever he was doing was taking a heavy toll on his body; he walked as though every movement hurt.
He silenced her with a motion.
Let our dragons speak for us in silence, Kokao said, acting as Hikaru's voice inside Saaya's mind. Though Hikaru himself either could not or would not speak to her that way, his dragon could.
Kazeryu, let us do so. It will let us speak without being heard by others.
It is a good plan, Saaya. Himuro is very innovative to think of it. Now what shall I say?
Tell him we have chosen to use his plan.
The silver dragon did so.
Good, Himuro responded. Kokao's mind-voice echoed slightly in Saaya's own mind, somewhat disorienting her. Do you know them? Saaya hesitated before answering.
We do not think so, but it is possible.
How? How would you know those in this place who we have not met? Hikaru asked, Kokao transmitting the hint of suspicion entering his cool tone.
I'm not sure, Saaya replied quickly, backpedaling to avoid being found out before she felt fit to do so. It may be someone from our world, or perhaps someone whose mind just feels like theirs.
Himuro didn't seem completely satisfied with her answer, but he didn't mention it for now. However, Saaya knew she would have to answer his questions later, and if the human that was approaching was her brother, he would reveal what Saaya had been sent to do, and she would almost certainly lose whatever amount of Himuro's trust she had accumulated.
Hikaru looked at the girl, who seemed to be frustrated or confused. She made an odd face, like she was trying to decide on something, and then the color abruptly drained from her features just as Kokao sent him a picture of the party that had been tracking them.
Through Kazeryu, to whom he was still vaguely linked, Hikaru felt Saaya's shock and dismay as well as seeing the emotions flicker across her face. Her breath caught in her throat and she seemed paralyzed, her eyes riveted on the man at the head of the group.
He was of average height and build, and looked to be in his mid-twenties; his hair was short and dark. His face was set in a scowl that deepened when he beheld Saaya and Hikaru. Though Hikaru was sure he'd never seen the man before, there was something familiar about his face, twisted though it was.
However, were it not for the fear his appearance had sparked in Saaya, Himuro would barely have given him a second glance, for the creatures behind him were much more remarkable.
The Drakes had arrived.
Kokao and Kazeryu tensed instantly as the dragon-like creatures advanced. Though Hikaru could not tell because of how alien their features were, he guessed that these were young or low-ranked, due to the fact that they seemed to be taking orders from the human at their head and did not ride dragons. The man motioned for them to stop.
"So, Saaya," he said, his voice pleasant, but failing to hide the anger that was his true emotion.
Hikaru turned to look at the girl, a mixture of shocked and suspicious. How did this man know her?
"I see you've fulfilled half of your assignment," the man continued. Saaya didn't speak or move, seeming paralyzed. "I'm disappointed, seeing as you're such a talented pilot, that you have to resort to such tricks as you use now."
What is this, girl? Hikaru demanded, his dragon's voice echoing with anger and confusion. She didn't answer.
"You see, Himuro, I'm rather surprised to find you looking so well. My sister's mission was to eliminate you."
Hikaru backed up a step, in shock. She had been sent to what?
The champion refused to show his anxiety any further; he stopped his legs from trembling, tried to hide the nervousness in his golden eyes.
Saaya looked at Himuro, terrified. His eyes had become those of a hawk, hard and unyielding, but after being with him as she had these past days, she thought she sensed a flicker of fear in them. He did not know what was happening; he had never been in a situation like this before in his life. Threatened in a game, yes, where he was the champion who had never fallen, but he had never been in a situation where he was physically hurt and people and monsters he had never seen sought to take his life.
"Why?" he finally asked, and his cold voice did not waver, though Saaya knew it was an effort to keep it so.
"You are dangerous, Himuro; more so than you realize. And you have refused to join us. The Drakes warned you that if you did not join us, you would be counted as an enemy. And no one, not even you, can stand against our might," Saaya's brother declared. "And because my sister is not a girl from your world. She was raised here, in this one, and war is in her blood. Did you not notice the wildness in her eyes, the anger that burst from her when you questioned her, she who was raised around dragons in their true forms, caring for them, training with that silver serpent for five years? He is her partner more surely than that white creature is yours, he who you knew only through a game until these past few days since we trapped you here."
Saaya trembled at her brother's words, knowing there would be no forgiveness toward her, no mercy toward Himuro.
"No…" she whispered. "No…I don't want to…I can't…"
"Sister, there is one way to redeem yourself. You know what it is."
"No, brother…don't make me do this…you can't make me do this…"
"You are correct, Sister, I cannot force you. It saddens me to do it, but you cannot be spared after defying your superiors. You will be taken just as he will, then." At a snap of his fingers, the Drakes moved forward, surrounding the two humans.
The girl saw Himuro's breathing quicken, his eyes widen in the first outer display of fear she'd ever seen in him.
Kokao and Kazeryu leapt into the circle, prepared to defend the humans they were bonded to. The Drakes grinned, curling scaly lips to reveal razor-sharp teeth stained with dried blood. One slashed at Kazeryu's hide, opening a deep rent in his side. The smaller dragon roared in pain and lashed out at his attacker, tearing deep into its stomach. The creature shrieked, a horrible sound, as its rudimentary scale armor tore beneath the silver dragon's ripping claws and teeth. It retreated, whimpering after the initial scream.
But that was not enough to deter the remaining Drakes. They struck out again and again, until both dragons were tired and torn in a dozen places. Thrice, they had slipped past both serpents and wounded the humans. Himuro sported gashes in his side and a bite wound in his shoulder, and Saaya's leg bled profusely from the claws of a Drake. Finally, another broke through the ring of protection and knocked both unconscious. Kokao roared in fury and rent the creature from shoulder to hip, killing it, but he could not stop defending and leave Hikaru and the girl helpless, and he could not fly, for his wings were injured. Kazeryu was similarly crippled, though he had managed to maim three of the Drakes and kill one. All the two dragons thought was that they were grateful the Drakes had not brought their mounts.
Suddenly, a terrible roar seemed to rend the sky, and a magnificent blue serpent seemed to simply appear before them, a burst of energy from his maw obliterating four of the Drakes. The remaining creatures seemed to realize they were no match for this demon of a dragon, and fled, the human among them. Another energy burst killed two more of the retreating dragon-creatures, but Callops did not give further chase, knowing he had to help the two dragons and humans.
He landed beside Kokao.
What has happened here?
The girl is an assassin, sent here after Hikaru. The human was her brother, come to see if she had succeeded. She refuses now to hurt Hikaru, but the brother has decided apparently that now both are to be…taken. They are hurt, and I do not know how to help them.
Bring them to my home. I believe I can help them; their injuries are serious, but should not become critical if they are treated soon.
Kazeryu did not know this dragon, but knowing that he had aided them was enough.
Saaya as well? I know she was sent here on a cruel mission, but she does not wish to hurt him any longer. Help her, please. She is my partner, the closest creature to my heart. Please, Callops.
Her as well. Hikaru wishes to protect her, or at least he did. As I cannot ask him now, I will act on what I have heard from him in the past.
The giant dragon lifted the two humans and guided the dragons over the cliffs to his eyrie, careful to take a route that they could traverse with their torn wings. The pair could glide briefly, but true flight was beyond them, so they had to climb high before gliding to the large, deep cave.
We can do little until they wake. I am sorry, but as you know, I am incapable of tasks that require precision. I am no healer, sadly.
Just then, Hikaru stirred, and a small groan of pain escaped him as he shifted onto his torn side. His eyelids flickered, but stilled. Kokao watched him with concern; there was a significant amount of blood, and being useless as his partner was in pain made the dragon miserable.
The girl woke first, her eyes hazy with pain, and the sight that greeted her shocked and frightened what part of her was rational.
The three dragons surrounded her and Himuro, who lay unconscious a few feet away. Saaya was confused to find both Himuro and herself covered in blood; her leg was still bleeding, and she could see his wounds as well. His jacket and the black shirt under it were shredded in two places, and Saaya could see the gashes in his side as well as the deep punctures a Drake's teeth had left in his shoulder. Noticing that Himuro's silver hair was matted with blood, and feeling the warm wetness on her own head, she realized they had both been knocked out and carried here.
Only then did she register the huge blue dragon that loomed over them both, larger than Kazeryu and Kokao together.
He must be the one, she thought. The dragon that Himuro's found to train with. Did he save us?
Girl, the dragon said, and his voice was deep and powerful, resonating with his great years and greater strength. You are both injured, though Hikaru is worse. The Drakes were much more determined to get to him than to you, as you are not a threat to their goal. The dragon's statement stung, though Saaya knew he was right. I can instruct you in how to aid you both, but you must do the work, as I am ill suited to the task at hand.
On Callops's instructions, she made poultices from the herbs outside the cave. She was glad that she had the dragon's guidance, because the plants were unfamiliar; this area grew different varieties, ones she didn't know, and she suspected that she might have made things worse alone.
When she returned to the cave, Hikaru had moved slightly—though still unconsciously—and Saaya was shocked at the amount of damage that had been done; the stone floor where he had been was dark with blood.
Girl! the blue dragon said sharply. Do not let your shock paralyze you. Do not simply look at his wounds; help him!
Saaya jumped, startled, and nodded jerkily. She moved to Hikaru's side quickly, limping on her injured leg. She removed the jacket, which was already hanging off his frame, and was somewhat relieved that it would be possible to treat him without uncovering him more; the black t-shirt was torn around the wounds to the extent that she could reach them easily.
It was strange being so close to him, and it scared her how his breathing shuddered. He seemed almost fragile, which was an odd quality to attribute to Himuro, but it fit now. Besides his injuries, there were other things about him that she'd been unable to notice before. He was very slim, his ribs not quite prominent, but easily visible beneath his skin, and his frame was elegant and light, and looked somewhat breakable. He looked like the kind of person who might have been often ill when a child, though Saaya knew from watching him how strong he was now when he was fit. Bruises mottled the portion of his skin that she could see; she wondered what kind of training Callops had been putting him through.
His skin was warm to the touch in the area surrounding his wounds. It was difficult to see the extent of the damage done because of the blood; Saaya cleaned it as best she could with a strip torn from her shirt. The gashes in his side were deep, and Saaya could tell at least two of his ribs were broken, maybe three. If they had been in his world—or if her family wasn't after both their blood—she would have taken him to a doctor, but in their current position, she couldn't risk it.
For a second, his face tightened in pain as Saaya cleaned out the wounds. She hesitated, but as Himuro seemed to relax, she continued. Finally, she applied the poultice, hoping it would be enough to ward off infection. She tried not to think about the filthy claws and teeth that had torn their skin as she treated his other wounds and started on her own.
Finally, after a while—Saaya wasn't sure; it could have been an hour or only a few minutes—Hikaru moved again and opened his eyes. Before Saaya could warn him, he attempted to push himself into a sitting position. His eyes widened, and a sharp gasp slipped through his reserve. Shudders wracked his body, and his breathing quickened. The girl moved to him as fast as she could on her hurt leg—feeling the torn muscle screaming in protest—and knelt down next to him. She didn't know what to do; he had seemed to resent her last time she had helped him, and now it was sure to be worse, considering what he had found out.
Hikaru tried to take a deep breath, but flinched and curled up again at the pain in his ribs. Through the haze, he noticed the girl, kneeling at his side; her hand looked as though she had half extended it to take his, and then thought better of it.
He latched on, desperate for a lifeline, for some sensation that wasn't blinding pain. He felt her stiffen at the contact before her hand curled around his. Finally, after a few minutes that lasted an eternity, the agony subsided somewhat and he spoke.
Saaya hesitated, biting her lip.
Hikaru's voice was stronger the next time.
"I remember…about your brother…what he wanted you to do…and the Drakes. Don't bother hiding them from me. What happened after that? There was a fight—then I don't remember anything. What happened to us?"
Somehow, knowing that Hikaru remembered about her brother made it easier for Saaya to continue.
"I don't remember any more than you do, I don't think. I think we were knocked out. We're both hurt, but you're a lot worse than I am. Callops brought us here. I've tried to help you as much as I can, but…I don't really know what else there is to do besides hide out here until you heal. You shouldn't try to move too much; you've got at least two broken ribs, and your other injuries are going to take some time to close."
Hikaru didn't respond for a while.
"Why did you help me? You were sent here to kill me, right? So why? You could have done it easily; you've had more than enough opportunities. The first night, when Kokao was away…it would have been simple."
The girl hesitated again.
"Hikaru…I don't even know why they sent me to do that. My only reason for accepting the mission was that I wanted to show my brother that I was strong, that I could do something useful. And then…I was getting to know you. I fell off Kazeryu because I was being an idiot, and you saved me. I was so confused—I hadn't been shown anything that portrayed you as a person. Just a fighter. When I saw how you fought, it was easy to see you as a threat, a danger to us—I wasn't sure how, because you were in a different world, but it wasn't hard to believe my brother and the elders. But when I watched you with Kokao…when you weren't in a battle…you were different. You were human, you were interesting…You weren't a killing machine like they'd told me; you were a person. And then, I was starting to realize…I couldn't hurt you. I didn't want to even try. And I still don't. No matter what my brother does to me for it." She chewed on her lip again, nervously, as though waiting for a verdict.
Hikaru closed his eyes. The girl had shown more of herself to him in these past few minutes than she had in the past few days. She seemed slightly wary, nervous of how he would react, but she was telling him everything without hiding, wanting him to trust her. And she had helped him; he was in pain, but could tell that it would be worse untreated.
Kokao, he said. The weakness in his voice surprised and frightened the white dragon.
Can we trust her?
The dragon hesitated. He didn't know. The girl was strange; he didn't know if it was because she was from a different world than the other humans he had encountered, but she was difficult for him to read. It might have been simply her own confusion that made him confused.
She does not seem threatening. I believe she is sincere when she says she does not wish to harm you. However, she is concerned and scared about her brother's reaction and those of the others of her home. She is unsure about what to do, but for now at least, she will fight to protect you. As I may have said, her pride will not let her abandon you.
Hikaru nodded and spoke again to Saaya.
"It's not like I even have much of another choice now anyway, but…I believe you," he said. His golden eyes bored into Saaya's, as though daring her to tell him why he shouldn't. She looked back at him without flinching, and he saw thanks and relief in her eyes.
"Thank you," she whispered. "It's a lot more than I deserve."
For a while, neither spoke. Hikaru found a boulder to lean against, expending as little energy as possible; though the pain barely subsided, he was grateful that he'd found a way to avoid lying flat on his back. Saaya took a seat on the stone cave floor a few feet from him, picking at a thread protruding from her makeshift bandage—a torn strip from her long pants.
"Who are you, Saaya?" Hikaru finally asked, quietly. "It seems you have studied me and my world, but I know little or nothing of yours. Tell me; if we're trapped here for any length of time, I should know."
"It's a long story."
"I have time," Hikaru stated, grimacing as moving his shoulder aggravated the injury there.
"You may not like what you hear."
"I like knowing the truth. I've had a significant shortage of it from you."
Saaya bit her tongue to cut off a sharp retort. Hikaru was right, after all, and she didn't want to waste energy arguing with him; besides the fact that she hated losing, she also didn't want to get Hikaru too agitated. It might even delay his recovery, she reasoned.
"Fine," she sighed. "I don't know why you care, but if you really want to know, I'll tell you.
"My family lives in a human settlement in this world; I'm not sure how far from here, but there were mountains nearby and my brother got here quickly, so it can't be too far away. Until I was sent to your world, I lived with both of my parents, and my brother. My family…has always been known as one of warriors. My father was a war hero in the third Dragon War; my mother was less celebrated, but he couldn't have done half the things he did without her. They were both badly wounded, near the start of the fourth War, and out of commission for the rest of it. My brother was twenty-one; I was ten, and had started training with Kazeryu two months before.
"Within a year, my brother was as decorated or more so than my father. I…idolized him, and trained endlessly, trying to make him notice me. He never did, of course…until two years ago.
"It was the first battle I was allowed to join—the last one of the War. The battle instincts born in me during my training were finally put to a test.
"I went insane. Both of us did. We were in an area of heavy fighting, and there was so much confusion…we lost ourselves; we threw ourselves into the battle with everything we had and more. The air was thick with the screams of other humans and dragons, and the scent of blood. And then…I finally realized what my parents and brother had meant when this told me about my family's love of battle, the war in our blood. Our dragons are our voices of reason, the opposite of most. Kaze's dragon clan has always allied with my family, provided us with partners—though they are our voices of reason, they too are in love with war.
"We fought like berserkers, minds inflamed by the blood and the atmosphere of a sky battle. I was intoxicated by it, high on the blood of my foes; enough so that I didn't realize that each of our countless fights brought us closer to the point of no return—for our bodies and our minds.
"My aunt and uncle noticed me fighting through their own frenzy. They told me later that I was terrible to see; destroying all in my path, eyes crazed and inhuman, covered in grisly injuries I seemed not to notice. They came in together for protection; their dragons are bigger than Kazeryu, but not as strong.
"They managed to restrain us, to drag us away from the fight. I fought them desperately for a while, before our injuries took their toll, and I passed out. I was out for six days. Kaze's body and mine were mostly destroyed. We had fought far beyond our limits in the battle-frenzy. Our muscles had broken down, tendons snapped, and we both had internal injuries; not to mention broken bones and terrible gashes. I was told we were lucky; we were young, and had a good chance of a full recovery with physical therapy.
"Strange abnormalities followed, both within us and in our environment. My brother visited often, even more so than my parents. He asked a lot of questions, like he was observing me. I thought at first that he was just asking after my health, but it soon became clear that he was monitoring my recovery, waiting for a time when I would be fit to fight again. I had proven my strength, but I would need to conditioning to refine and control it.
"It was six months before I flew with Kaze again; finally, his wings and my legs healed. My brother became our teacher; with no war going on, he had time to train us.
"Soon enough…the rages started. With not outlet for my battle-lust, it began to burst out of me when I became angry of upset; more then once, I had to be restrained. Eventually, Kaze was able to reach me in my frenzy and calm me, help me control them better, so I was able to be sent on missions, as a guard, or a hired warrior to settle some dispute. They were outlets, but the fights were never long enough to satisfy me. The rages became more frequent; sometimes Kaze had to pin me down while he drew me out of them.
"I was sent on more difficult missions, and that was better, but it wasn't enough, though I was finally able to control myself. They only happened at home anyway, and I could focus and ride them out there. It was a non-issue; most people thought they were gone when I left for your world.
"Finally, about six months ago, my brother started disappearing for weeks at a time; I realize now that he was negotiating with the Drakes. And then, two months ago…he gave me my mission, and the elders sent me to your world. They said they would be able to trace my signal and bring us both here once I entered the game system. They told me that the matching system would send Kazeryu to me, too; but I wasn't to call him or enter the game until I entered one with you.
"Nearly every day those two months, I went to the Dragon Drive center to wait, to see if you would show up. I was told you hadn't showed up in six months; you were due for an appearance, but I missed the day you fought Ozora and Sumishiba. And after that…you know what happened after that." Saaya looked down, shamefaced.
Hikaru looked at her, interested. He had never met a person like her. Admittedly, with his solitary nature, the list of people he had met was limited; but Saaya, the girl from another world, was alien to him, strange.
He had always liked mysteries. And while his wounds healed, he might as well try to unravel this one.
"Hikaru, I think we should probably bind your ribs, just so they won't move too much. It should minimize the pain, and your recovery time."
Hikaru nodded; the pain of his injuries, especially the broken ribs, was quickly becoming unbearable.
"Um…I'm not sure. We might be able to use…uh…"
"My jacket; it's ruined anyway, I don't care."
It was difficult; Hikaru's reserve was cracking, and it was hard for him to remain still. Saaya was as careful as she could be, but the sharp, stabbing pain was unavoidable.
Saaya was struck again by how thin he was, how shockingly breakable he looked, especially with the color drained from his pale skin and shudders racking his slight frame. But still, his eyes remained cold, determined. He was not going to let this beat him. He was strong.
Finally, it was over, and Hikaru breathed a sigh of relief, punctuated by a wince, but it was less painful than it had been.
"How long do you think before we're healed?" he asked, voice low.
"I'm not sure. Couple weeks maybe."
"And how long before they find us?"
"I don't know. Callops scared them off; I doubt they saw where we went, and I don't think they was to come face to face with him again. I'd take a guess at at least a month or two."
"Good, then we have some time. Saaya, I know you can fight, but from what I've heard, the Drakes are fighters beyond your abilities. I don't mean to insult you; I would just prefer that my only human ally weren't killed."
Saaya grimaced. She knew she needed help if she was going to fight in a battle with Drakes. The dragons' ancestors were legendary even in her world; their strength was unparalleled. Humans counted themselves lucky that Drakes were small in numbers and only lived deep in mountains; had there been land wars, humans would be relegated to tiny wasteland settlements.
"Yeah…you're right," she said. "What am I supposed to do?"
"Callops, can you train her?" Hikaru asked.
I can. If she is willing to learn. But her dragon's wings are pierced and his side torn, and she wounded. Kazeryu will heal in a few days, and her injury should heal long before yours, but it may take over a week for it to close sufficiently. I cannot train her until it does; it would exacerbate the injury.
Hikaru swore softly; they didn't have enough time. He himself would take weeks to heal; his own training with Callops halted, and the girl's delayed. He coughed, and pain flashed through him, throwing black spots into his vision—and reinforcing his point. Saaya looked at him, concerned. He looked bad; blood had begun to soak through the makeshift bandages on his side and shoulder, and she could only hope that his broken ribs hadn't and wouldn't cause internal injuries. She couldn't fix that any more than Callops could. Really, all they could do at this point was to keep him from moving too much until the broken bones knit and the wounds scarred over. It wasn't going to be easy.
"Hikaru…" she nearly whispered.
He looked at her; though he didn't speak, he seemed to ask a question.
"Please don't push yourself. I don't want you to get hurt any worse. I'm sorry I lied to you. I want to help now, but I can't do anything if you start coughing up blood. Please…don't try to train until you heal enough."
Hikaru sighed and nodded.
"Honestly, Saaya, I'm exhausted just trying to breathe without hurting right now. I couldn't even stand if I tried." Hikaru grimaced; it went against the grain to admit it.
Saaya bit her lip; it confused and worried her to hear Hikaru admit his weakness. In the short time she'd know about him, he'd come to represent strength, despite the injuries and illness that had plagued him since they'd met. Never before had he said anything, complained about his condition. To hear him do so scared Saaya more deeply than even his injuries themselves.
"You'll be okay," she heard herself tell him, hoping desperately that it was true, and would be before her brother an the Drakes returned.
"Sure, but when?" asked Hikaru grimly, echoing her thoughts.
"I don't know," she whispered.
Chapter 7 up! Speaking of, I need a soda. XD (bad pun boos).
OMG it's so weird, I've been voluntarily exercising lately! And I've lost weight! WOOT!
I'm not really fat, per se, but I'm cosplaying Ulquiorra Schiffer in 2010, and he's freakishly skinny and has abs. So I need to lose 20 pounds off my 120 and get some fucking abs. XD. So yeah, I've lost like 4 pounds. I'm in horrible shape, though. Only 16 more to go. Yayz.
I also need to asphyxiate myself with an Ace bandage, because I have boobs, and Ulquiorra, being a guy, does not. XD.