Chapter 1: Special
Why… why did it have to come to this… these thoughts streamed through my hazy mind as I ran as fast as I could, tears rolling down my face. Was it because I didn't train enough? Because I am too weak? None of this would have ever happened if I had just did what I was supposed to… I'm sorry father, for I am not special as you say I am…I ran as fast as I could through the smoking castle halls, remains of the battle that took place here recently.
I am known as Archnir, the wind dragon. I was supposed to be one of Bakal's guardians, but I am sure I'm not anymore. All my troubles started a week ago, when everything seemed so fine and perfect. But I guess it is when things seem the most perfect, that they fall apart.
Last week I sat on a balcony overlooking the splendor of Empyrean. Bakal had come here and took over the entire country, banning magic. I wasn't too sure about his plan, but who was I to question him; he was king of the dragons after all. My brothers and I were the chosen ones, the ones who would personally guard our father. Actually, he was not really our father, we merely called him that. We were familiars called upon to serve him and serve him we did. As one might have guessed, the Empyreans did not take Bakal's tyranny with welcoming arms and rose up against him a few times. It was my job as well as my brothers to stop them. Bakal stated that we were special, the ones chosen to protect him. I knew Bakal hated those who did not think they were special as he believed that anyone could change the world if they tried and those who never considered themselves special were weak, and could never change anything. I continued to sit there, gazing over the magnificent landscape of Empyrean as a figure walked up behind me. I turned around, facing my eldest brother, Numak.
"Beautiful sight, is it not? Who knew humans could build such marvelous structures." Numak said as he joined me in overlooking the scenery.
Numak was always the calmest of us brothers. He was the most respected dragonoid here next to Bakal due to his kindness and compassionate demeanor. His long golden hair swayed gently in the soft breeze, making him seem almost majestic. "It sure is beautiful. I think it's such a waste to rule over these people." I responded.
"Perhaps, but who are we to judge our father's actions? When was he ever wrong? Surely he has a reason for enslaving these humans." Numak said as he then turned his attention to the sky.
Buildings could be faintly seen poking out from the clouds, as if the sky itself was being skewered. "Bakal came from Pandemonium, didn't he? I have only heard stories of the place; I wonder why he left…" I stated curiously as I joined Numak's gaze into the sky.
"I heard that place is filled with powerful beings, some beings even more powerful than Bakal himself. Hard to believe, right?" Numak responded with a faint smile. As he spoke, a loud crash could be heard and the castle shook slightly. "Oh dear, it seems like Ashcore lost in his training match with Itrenog. Guess it's my job to break them up." Numak moved away from the balcony and retreated back towards the castle. "You should do some training too. We are Bakal's loyal guardians and we cannot afford to be weak."
"Yeah, I know." I stated as I waved Numak off without glancing back. I never really liked training that much; I would much rather take it easy and relax. What could the Empyreans do to us? We had Bakal with us and nobody here was stronger than he was, so what was the point in becoming stronger?
Another loud crash was heard and the castle shook slightly once more. It seems as if Ashcore was really upset this time. Ashcore, the flame dragon, was a loose cannon. He loved flaunting his strength around and trained like crazy, as if it was a drug. He was proud of his strength and was absolutely ruthless in battle. He was the exact opposite of Numak. Itrenog, the green dragon, was another one who loved to flaunt his strength, but unlike Ashcore, he did not spend every waking hour training or picking fights. He took it easy, which is what I wish I could do all the time, but Itrenog is always on my case about training more. No doubt Neiser, the dark dragon, was down there too. He was quiet and spent most of his time alone. He was an outcast compared to the rest of us dragonoids and spent all his time reading. These dragonoids were my older siblings and we all took care of each other, as long as we were not in a sour mood.
After a few loud crashes, Itrenog ran out onto the balcony and grabbed my arm without warning. I soon found myself being dragged along the floor, trying to catch my footing as Itrenog forced me down the halls and stairs of the castle. "What's the big deal with grabbing me like that, I was relaxing!" I complained as I did my best to keep up with Itrenog.
"Just shut up and come with me, Ashcore wants to see you now!" Itrenog stated as he soared down the halls with me in tow.
I gulped as Itrenog spoke. Whenever Ashcore wanted someone, it was never a good sign, especially since he was angry. I prayed that I could somehow find a way to weasel out of this.
Itrenog appeared in the training room and tossed me into the center. I landed on the ground with a loud thud as I got up to my feet and brushed myself off. Numak was here in the room as well as Neiser, standing alone in the corner as usual. Ashcore stood across from me, clearly angry at something. "Archnir! Help me calm down, will you?" Ashcore snarled.
Sweat poured down my face as Ashcore spoke. Me help him calm down? The situation was already looking extremely grim. "B-by doing what exactly..?" I asked, a bit nervous of the oppressive atmosphere Ashcore was setting.
Without answering, Ashcore was on me and attacked. I tried to defend myself, but everything just went black too quickly. The next thing I knew, I was lying flat on my back. I slowly got up, aching all over. I looked up to find my brothers except Ashcore looking down at me.
"Ha! He got back up! I'm surprised you fell so quickly, Archnir! Have you been slacking?" Itrenog observed with a large grin on his face.
"Of course he has. If he had trained and was strong like the rest of us, he would have easily evaded Ashcore. He's like a raging child when he charges." Neiser said in a cold voice, his eyes staring down at me, as if they were piercing through my very flesh.
"My, Archnir… I didn't think your skills were this out of shape. You should ditch that carefree attitude of yours and train more." Numak said with disappointment.
Ashamed, I got up silently and slumped out of the room, I had nothing to say to them. "Hey, Archnir." Ashcore stated as I began to leave. I stopped, not even bothering to glance back. "Thanks for being my punching bag. You helped me let off some steam." Ashcore laughed as my ears digested his words, making me feel weak to the stomach. Without anymore talking, I left the room and retreated to my own quarters.
I sat on my bed, ashamed of myself for being so weak. Did my brothers really look down on me so much? What about Bakal; he surely looked down on me, but then again, why would I still be here? I did not know, nor did I care at the moment, I was far too frustrated. I was only a weakling and a handicap to my brothers. I needed to grow stronger, but I did not really feel like training like Ashcore does every day. Perhaps now was the time to actually whip myself into shape and become stronger so I would not be looked down upon by my brothers. These thoughts floated around my head until I drifted off to sleep.
The next I day I got up and went to the training room. Surprisingly Ashcore was not training since I thought he lived down here. I looked around the place to see what I should try to work on first. The punching bag looked easy enough so I walked over to it. This poor punching bag had to be replaced almost every day as Ashcore always tore it apart on his first punch whenever something upset him; perhaps I should start trying to destroy it on my first punch too. I began smashing my fists into it, hitting it with all my might. The bag merely swayed back and forth and resonated as I hammered it, not the result I was expecting. I kept at it, trying to do my best.
Minutes passed and I was already tired of smashing it. I sat down with my arms aching a little bit. Numak was right, I really do need a lot of training. I could not believe I had let myself grow this weak. I guess I was just too lazy to care, but that will all change here and now. As I got up again, I heard a familiar laugh from the doorway. I froze and turned slowly. I was not surprised as I glanced at the doorway to find Ashcore standing there, smirking at me.
"Well isn't this a surprise! The lazy punching bag finally grew legs and decided to come in here!" Ashcore said as entered the room, smiling. "You and that punching bag there should get along quite nicely since neither of you do much when punches are thrown at you!" Ashcore laughed some more as he walked around the room.
I ignored him and continued smashing the punching bag. I imagined Ashcore's face on it and wailed on it with all my might. Ashcore headed into the basement area of the training room where all our weights were kept. I wanted to go down there too, but I figured I would wait until Ashcore left as he would only mock my weakness. I continued hitting the bag until Itrenog showed up, smiling as usual.
"Ho, if it isn't Archnir! Never expected you to be here!" Itrenog gleefully spoke as he walked over to me and wrapped his arm around my shoulder. "Finally wised up and decided to train, eh?"
I did not respond back as I focused solely on the punching bag. "Ah, I see how it is, too busy to even speak to me, I get it. Well, nice to see you finally training." Itrenog said as he too went to the downstairs training area. Shortly thereafter yells and disagreeing emerged from the downstairs as those two were at it again, fighting over every little thing. Ashcore was certainly such a sore loser.
I tried my best to train all day, venturing to the downstairs whenever Ashcore exited the room. I trained as hard as I could, trying to whip myself into shape. Numak congratulated me on finally taking action while Neiser gave me the same cold stare he gave everyone without uttering a single word. Ashcore poked fun at me whenever he got the chance, while Itrenog encouraged me to keep training and even sparred with me a little, with every time ending with me flat on my aching back. I felt good about training and kept returning each day.
After a couple of days, I felt happy and decided to reward myself with a relaxing day off. Little did I know that once I started relaxing again, I began slipping back into my old habits. Days passed and I did not once return to the training room. I sat on my favorite spot on the balcony, overlooking Empyrean like I always did, wondering why Bakal thought that I was special.
Days passed and that was when it happened, the Empyreans attacked us again, this time with much more force than ever before. It seems as if they had some sort of secret weapon named Gaebolg, which was an astonishingly huge and frightening looking tower of a machine. Not surprisingly Bakal managed to defeat it, while my brothers and I fought off the Empyreans. I was fighting several of them at once with their high-tech war machines and I could not hold them off on my own; I was being beaten to the ground.
I looked around and saw my brothers combating; they were doing so much better than I was, not one of them had a single scratch on them. "Archnir! Get off your lazy butt and fight! Don't let them beat you!" Ashcore called out.
I struggled to get up, but the machines were too strong and I found myself back on the ground again. "Archnir, get up! Stop slacking off and fight! Isn't this the reason why you were training? Stand up and fight back!" Itrenog called out across the battlefield as he easily fended off twice as many machines that had easily overwhelmed me.
I struggled to get back up, but Neiser quickly jumped in front of me and destroyed the machines. He cast a cold stare down at my disgraced form. "You call yourself my brother? No… you even dare call yourself a dragonoid? Get out of here weakling. With that strength, you're neither my brother nor a dragonoid; you're just a weakling who can't even stand on his own feet." Neiser shot at me in his cold voice. As much as I hated to admit it, Neiser was right, I had no right to be called his brother in my pitiful condition.
In due time, the battle ended and the Empyreans were pushed back. The settling dust revealed debris and smoldering pieces of scrap metal that were once machines of battle. I stood among the smoking chaos and sighed deeply. Bakal was nowhere in sight, but my brothers soon found me and approached me. Although I was not really expecting a warm greeting, I did not expect Ashcore to meet me by planting his fist firmly into my face, sending me plummeting towards the ground.
"You pathetic piece of trash! How dare you just stand around and get your sorry ass get kicked while we do all the work here! You're our brother aren't you? If so, then stop being so weak and pathetic!" Ashcore yelled at me furiously as he hoisted me up. He was ready to land another punch on me as Numak grabbed his arm, stopping him.
"Calm down Ashcore. No reason to kill him." Numak said calmly. Numak's voice reassured me. Was he going to stick up for me? He saw that I was trying my best and that was what truly mattered, right?
Those optimistic thoughts fled my mind as Numak glared at me with threatening eyes. "You're pathetic. Must we all stick our necks out for a weakling such as you? You're old enough to fight and win battles by yourself, so why didn't you win any today? We worked hard and won while you stood there, getting beaten by the machines we so easily conquered. If Bakal wouldn't be so irate about it, I wouldn't mind letting Ashcore off you." Numak said.
Numak's words shocked me. He was always so kind, so why was he so cruel now? "Why are you doing this…? I fought hard! I just wasn't strong enough, that's all! I learned from this fight that I just need to be stronger!" I cried out, feeling even more hurt by Numak's words.
"That's the problem, you're a slacker. You'll never get stronger by just resting as much as you do. Actually, it won't matter anyways. You were born weak and no amount of training will ever fix that." Itrenog retorted.
"But father… father said that I was special! Doesn't that mean anything?" I cried out, feeling more and more distraught as I swallowed every word thrown at me.
"So? We're special. I don't care what father says, he's wrong. You're not special. If you were, things would have ended up differently today." Neiser said in his usual cold voice. "You're not special, you're nothing."
I could not take it anymore, I ran away down the smoking corridors of the castle as my brothers drove their furious stares into my back like javelins. "Hmph, I should have saved us the trouble and offed that slacker here and now." Ashcore snorted. "He's going to turn into nothing but trouble one day."
"We shall see. Perhaps this will be the wake-up call he needs." Numak responded as calmness returned to his voice once more.
"Hmph, whatever." Ashcore retorted. He glanced over through a gaping hole in the wall at the exposed red sky. "Hm? Is that another one of their spies?" Ashcore immediately coughed up a fireball at a small object floating in the sky. It hit and the entity and it flew down towards the castle. "Hmph, those Empyreans are getting more and more obvious with those spies of theirs…"
I'm sorry father, I'm not like my brothers… I'm not special like they are. They're strong and reliable, while I'm just weak and pathetic. You were wrong about me, there's no way in hell I can be special!My thoughts consumed me and threw me into despair. The only thing I knew now was that I had to keep running, fleeing from this place where I had no purpose.
Just as I ran past a room, a large object crashed through the window of the room and landed with a loud thud. I quickly stopped for a quick second and glanced back at the room. I saw something moving in the settling dust, something small. It was probably another robot spy from the Empyreans. I should probably finish it off… the only thing I can do with my pitiful existence is to finish off things that can't fight back.I raised my claw, ready to strike at it, when the dust settled revealing a small girl with bunny ears, carrying a rather large gun.
"Damn it, who hit me? The machine is busted, so now what do I do?" The girl cried out. The girl huffed and glanced at me and screamed. "Ah! Enemy!" She aimed her gun at me, but I somehow was faster than her and grabbed the barrel.
"What the..? I've never seen anything like you before. What exactly are you?" I asked curiously as I looked her over.
"Ergh! Let go of my gun! I need it to kill you so you don't kill me!" The girl cried out.
I had never seen anything like this before, it was not an Empyrean spy that was for sure; it was far too noisy to be one. "I promise to not kill you. I just want to know what you are." I said, trying to hold back my tears from earlier.
"You promise?" The girl asked, calming down a bit. She looked me intently in the eye for a few minutes and sighed. "Alright, I won't shot you. You look like a decent individual, for a dragonoid anyways."
As agreed, I let go of her gun and she quickly sat down and sighed deeply. "So, what exactly are you? An Empyrean spy? I haven't seen anything like you before." I asked curiously.
"Of course you haven't seen anything like me! That's because I'm not from here! Well, not exactly… I'm from Empyrean, it's just that I'm not from this time period. I'm from 500 years in the future." The girl said.