SS) Searching for Aiden
“Hast anyone seen the Dragon’s venerable brother?”
Everyone in the restaurant stops eating at the sudden question. It wasn’t loud, but was spoken with a force that compels their attention.
Kairi, knowing she has everyone’s attention, continues, “The Dragon’s venerable brother vanished last night. Hast any of thou seen him?” Her words sound like nonsense, but no one is able to dismiss her.
Even Kalani and Liam watch the scene develop in dumfounded shock. Only after someone says, “Can you be more specific?” do they remember themselves.
Kairi flicks her arm to the side, creating the impression of a cape billowing behind her as she says, “Hear the Dragon’s words and listen well. The Dragon’s venerable brother is the world’s greatest magician. Such more than suffi—”
Kalani looks towards the kitchen while saying, “Dad, I’m taking my break!” She then rushes up to Kairi, takes her hand, and pulls her to the back. From there, she takes her upstairs to her room for privacy. Once the door is shut, she says, “Aiden’s missing?”
“Insolence. Wast thou not listening to the Dragon’s words? The Dragon refuses to repeat herself for a third time!”
Kalani fights the urge to copy Aiden and flick Kairi’s forehead. Instead of telling her off, she says, “No, I got that. Explain what happened.”
Kairi narrows her eyes and says, “There is nothing more for the Dragon to say. Her venerable brother went out and hast not returned.”
“Oh my… you are just like Aidan…”
“Of course! The Dragon’s venerable brother is her aspiration!”
“That was not a compliment! You only said two things and expect me to figure out everything from that. Explain properly. What was Aiden doing? You said he went out, why? What were you doing? Why didn’t he take you along? Quit expecting us to know that sort of stuff and be clear from the get go!”
Kairi is taken aback by the outburst. She glances to the side and after some fidgeting, says, “Tho- those resentments… my venerable brother… not me.”
Tears begin to well up within her eyes. More than being bothered by the rebuke, the outburst rattled her sense of control. The fact that Aiden vanished and she has no idea how to find him hits her in full force. The idea that she might never find him scares her to no end. She throws herself into Kalani and bursts with tears. “I just want to find my brother!”
Kalani hugs Kairi and waits until she finishes crying. She then leads her to having a seat on the bed. Kalani continues to hold Kairi close as she speaks in a soothing and gentle voice. “It’s okay, it’s okay, we’ll find him.”
Kairi takes a heavy breath and says, “…You’re going to help me?”
“Of course I am. So is Liam. Aiden’s our friend, you know. You can depend on us.”
“Now, I need to know what happen. I’m going to ask you a few questions. I need you to answer them as best as you can, okay?”
“You said Aiden went out last night. What was he up to?”
“To work out a new spell he just came up with.”
Kalani’s train of thought breaks at the revelation. Her tone flattens as she says, “He ditched you to go practice magic?”
Kairi breaks away from Kalani’s hold and shakes her head. Her words are quick as she says, “The Dragon’s venerable brother is not so callous as to abandon his own blood. The Dragon…” Kairi takes a breath. Her tone weakens as she adds, “The Dragon chose to remain behind and go to sleep…”
Kalani holds Kairi once more and says, “It’s not your fault. From how you said it, this is normal?”
“Yes, whenever the Dragon’s venerable brother has a moment of insight, he’ll drop everything to work on it… He said he wouldn’t be more than a few hours… That I’d see him in the morning…”
“It’s okay, it’s okay. That right there was a major clue. If Aiden went to practice magic, then the next place to look is his field.”
“The Dragon’s venerable brother has a field?”
Kairi gaps at the Aiden’s field. She leaps onto the boulder in the center of it and surveys the devastated land. Scorched dirt, a few craters, hardened magma, pits created by explosions, charred trees, and more riddle the area. She looks back to Kalani and Liam and shakes her head. “The Dragon’s venerable brother wast not here. Nothing here doth match that which was meant to be conceived.”
Liam frowns. “You can tell just by looking?”
Kalani elbows him and says, “Maybe you could be more specific. You said he came out here to develop a new spell. Depending on what he was working on, he might have gone someplace else.”
Kairi leaps off the boulder and rejoins with the two. With a grandeur wave of her arm, she gestures to the field behind her. “Look around and behold well. The magics here follow a very common theme. They art the very energy which gives grants all life, flame.”
Liam fights off the urge to flick Kairi in the forehead. While grumbling under his breath, he says, “Get on with it already.”
Kairi “hmp”s at him and holds up her hands. Both palms face each other as though they are holding something. Her eyes turn golden as they narrow into thin slits and a ball of lightning sparks between then. “Coin.”
Liam is taken aback at the sudden request. “What? You want money?”
“No, the Dragon requires metal.“
“What, like into that?”
“Insolence. The Dragon’s hands are currently occupied. Therefore, thou’s assistance is necessary to complete the next step.”
Kalani shakes her head at the exchange. “Stop getting worked up over this. This really isn’t any different from talking to Aiden.” She then tosses a penny into the lightning sphere while adding, “Just less poli—”
A pair of explosions rock the area. The top half of a nearby tree jets into the sky before dropping somewhere inside the forest. The loud, thumping echo that follows is accompanied by shattering branches.
Kairi relishes the gaping expressions of Kalani and Liam. She speaks with her chest puffed out and her head held high. “Such is the magic being developed by the Dragon’s venerable brother.” She then grasps a fist before herself as she adds, “It commands not all consuming flames, but devastating lightning.” Her satisfaction dampens as she then adds, “Yet not a trace of this magic exists here…”
Kalani hugs Kairi to herself as she grows despondent. “Don’t worry. This island isn’t that big. We will find him.”
Liam grins and says, “Aiden is pretty famous. If we ask around, I’m positive someone is bound to have seen him.” He then takes the lead on returning to town. The anxiousness on Kairi’s expression leads him to soon say, “So, how did Aiden even come up with a spell like this?”
Kairi perks up at the question. Life returns to her eyes with each word she says. “The Dragon’s venerable brother takes inspiration from the world around him. Even in defeat, the Dragon’s venerable brother grows in might.”
Kalani says, “In other words, he really was bothered about losing to Eric.”
Kairi snorts as she says, “That fledgling was merely a catalyst to tie it all together. The Dragon believes her venerable brother was inspired by scientific railguns. There was one mere flaw preventing this spell’s development. Bits of metal vaporize too fast to be effective. What hast unfolded you before was already the limit.”
Liam glances back at Kairi. “Wait, then why’s he working on it now? What changed?”
Kairi laughs out and says, “Such is the sole reason the Dragon came here.”
Kalani says, “Which is…?”
“Anti-metal! The Dragon’s venerable brother asked for anti-metal and so the Dragon delivered. That previous bout against that dragon welp gave a much needed inkling. The Dragon’s venerable brother now merely needs to confirm whether his hypothesis will hold true, whether the hallowed metal can resist disintegrating from friction”
Liam says, “The heck is anti-metal.”
“Ignorance, do neither of you recall the zweihander of the Dragon’s venerable brother? Hast thy not wondered how its blade cleaves magic in two? That very blade is anti-metal.”
Liam says, “Wait, wait, wait, wait. You mean to say… You’re tell us… Aiden discovered how to recreate anti-magic metal?”
“Does thy truly expect anything less from the Dragon’s venerable brother. Nothing is beyond his grasp. There art only that which he has yet to start and that which he has no interest to start.”
Liam locks eyes with Kalani. After staring at each other in disbelief, he says, “And he has the nerve to call himself a failure of a magician!?”
Kairi snorts, “Such is the undeniable reality. True and proper magicians can replenish the mana within their bodies after a mere few hours of rest. The Dragon’s venerable brother needs over a month.”
Liam looks away at Kairi’s rebuke. She, however, continues. “The Dragon’s venerable brother is a failure, and that is a badge to be worn with pride. Look at all that hast been wrought with his own hands. Ascension, anti-metal, synthesis magic: must the Dragon list more? All this because he was a failure. The Dragon does not believe her venerable brother would be half the man he is today had he been born true and proper.”
Kalani says, “You really look up to Aiden.”
Kairi’s face turns bright red. She forces an expression of seriousness to hide her bashfulness and marches ahead. Regardless, glee and embarrassment seep into her tone as she says, “We waste time dallying here.”
Wulf marches across the reserved dining deck towards Eric. Behind him follow various members of his faction.
Eric turns his seat to receive him. He doesn’t stand but folds one leg over the other and rest his chin on a hand. Camillia, Harold, and all his other supporters stand and fan out around him instead. Meanwhile, the surrounding and unrelated students rise and give the two space for their confrontation. Eric waits until Wulf stands in front of him before making a languid wave with his free arm. “Wulf, this is such a surprise. What do you want?”
Wulf smirks as he says, “Nothing really. I just wanted to see you, get one last look, you know.” As Eric raises an eyebrow towards his remark, he adds, “To see the king before his fall, before I drag you through the mud.”
“I dare to dream.” He then turns to Camillia. She frowns and goes to demand he explain what he wants, but he raises his hand and snaps his fingers.
Many flinch at the action, thinking it’s the trigger to a new spell. With nothing happening, everyone relaxes. That’s when they notice Aiden standing beside Wulf.
Wulf wraps an arm around Aiden’s shoulders as he gives Camillia a knowing smile. “So, what do think? Is your little boyfriend right? Am I just being… delusional, Cami?”
Camillia’s voice gets caught in her throat. She tries to respond, but all she can manage are short gasps.
Eric frowns upon seeing Camillia’s expression twist with terror. With a scoff, he rises onto his feet and thrusts for Wulf collar. A loud snapping crunch echoes across the deck.
To everyone’s shock, Eric drops to his knees. His face twists in agony as he glares at Aiden. He gasps, but forces himself to say, “Yo- you…!”
Aiden is gripping Eric’s forearm. Without anyone noticing, he caught it while it was reaching for Wulf and crushed it. Aiden, his expression indifferent, looks down at Eric and says, “You are not to touch my lord.”
Eric braces himself to receive a follow up, but nothing happens. Aiden remains motionless. He merely stands in place, expressionless and still holding Eric’s arm.
Wulf laughs at the nonexistent exchange. He releases Aiden, slaps him across the back, and says, “Go on and say what you want to say. No need to hold back on my account.”
Aiden kicks Eric back, traces a flame circle, and from it pulls out a sword longer than himself with a 7 inch wide blade.
Eric clutches his mangled arm as he glares at Aiden. Through grit teeth, he says, “Ha-hands off… my…zwei”
Aiden twirls the massive sword over head with his hand and drops it down. The tip stops before Eric’s eyes. “Correction, my zweihander.”
Camillia snaps out of her stupor at seeing Aiden standing over Eric. Without though, she reaches for the sword’s handle while saying, “Get your filthy hands off Eric’s sword! He won that through fair combat!”
Aiden’s free hand slips past her arms and grabs her neck. As her eyes bulge in fear, he flings her at Eric. She flies like a rag doll and rams into him headfirst.
Wulf watches in amusement. No longer able to stand by and watch, he speaks up. “Well? Aren’t you going to say anything? We’re all dying for it over here.”
Aiden rests the zweihander against his shoulder as he glances towards Wulf. Respect laces his tone, the previous interaction voided from his mind. “Nothing more needs to be said. Or perhaps, you wish for more?”
“Yes, absolutely, I do. Hold nothing back.”
“As you wish.” Aiden turns back to Eric and adds, “You’re a failure of a magician. You are entirely dependent on the dragon heart you were given. All your magic, each and everyone one of your spells bases itself off of it. In fact…”
Aiden tosses his sword aside. As it falls to the floor, Eric cries out. Everyone looks back to see Aiden rip his heart straight out of his chest. Aiden looks the heart over before then holding it between both hands where flames wash over it. He then thrusts it back into Eric’s chest and claps his bloodied hands together. With a glow of azure light, Eric’s wounds heal. Both the hole in his chest and his crushed arm return to how they were.
Eric pokes and pats at his chest as Camillia supports him. His jaw drops open as horror washes over him. He breaks from Camillia’s arms and grabs at Aiden. “You! What did you—”
Aiden kicks him back. “I’ve always been curious. In your family line, are you first borns given dragon hearts or are your hearts just modified. I wouldn’t have been able to do much if it were the former, but the latter… Well, let’s just say I returned your body to its natural state.”
“Wait, what!?” Wulf grabs Aiden’s shoulder and forces him to turn around. “What exactly did you do?”
“My lord, I did just as I said. I cleansed the modifications to his heart.”
“Yeah, I saw that. How? Tell me what exactly you did!”
“My lord, the body knows when it’s been tampered with. While it may accept changes to it, it longs to return to how it was. I merely let his guide my magic to do so.” He then gestures to Eric’s arm. “As you can see, all his wounds were restored in the process.”
“What about you?”
“My body wasn’t modified. The ascension ritual changed it at a more fundamental level.”
“And how the heck did you learn all this?”
“I was curious about the difference in spell casting between men and women, so I developed a sex changing spell by utilizing fengsui not to long ago. Many of those principles were applicable here.”
“You developed a…” Wulf laughs. He slaps Aiden’s back and adds, “You, you are amazing! Show me, right now.”
Aiden glances around the onlooking crowd, finds a girl that is to his liking, and approaches her. She tries to back away, but he’s too fast and takes hold of her arm. While she squirms and begs, “Do-don’t hurt me,” he scratches her arm with a fingernail. He puts the blood and skin into his mouth, releases the girl, and claps his hands together.
Azure flames envelop him. An instant later, a brunette with blue eyes stands in Aiden’s place. His clothes dangle off her body.
Wulf stares at her in blank amazement. “Aiden?”
She nods. Her voice rings despite the flatness of the tone as she says, “Yes, my lord.”
Wulf circles Aiden as he looks her over. As a joke, he says, “To be honest, girls look better with long hair.”
Aiden claps her hands, and with an orange flash of flame, grows shoulder length hair.
Wulf rubs a lock of her and says, “You really are a girl now, aren’t you…”
“Correct, this body is now a that of a woman’s.” Aiden’s pace picks up as she adds, “I supplemented the lacking areas of my DNA with foreign DNA and then used the principles fengsui as a guide for Oriental alchemy to transmute my body into its new proper form.”
“Why did you even bother to develop something like this?”
Wulf stares down into Aiden’s now lower eyes and sighs. “Parading you around is a waste. Once we finish here, you are to begin researching everything and anything you can think of. If there is anything you want or need, ask. Nothing is off limits. Am I clear?”
A smile plays across Aiden’s face. Pure bliss laces her words as she says, “My lord, nothing would make me happier.”
Wulf then slaps her butt. At the loud pop that rings out, he says, “I’m not sure I feel comfortable with you remaining like this…”
“Reversing the process is a simple matter of purifying the foreign DNA”
“Perfect, you can do that once we return.” Wulf then puts his arm against Aiden’s shoulder to lead her away, but he stops. He looks back at Eric and says, “I almost forgot. Isn’t there anything you want to say to your dear cherished, Cami?”
Aiden looks back at the girl and shakes her head. “No, watching is more than satisfying. The whispers have already started.”
Wulf shakes his head in mock horror. “You, my good ma— woman, are one terrifying sadist.”
“Failures will be failures regardless of how they’re dressed. Now then, my lord, shall we be going. There are many tomes in your collection I’m dying to open.”
Lightning flashes everything white and thunder shakes the deck. By the time everything returns to normal, Aiden is already by the railing with her zweihander. Wulf hurries to her side and says, “What’s going on.”
Aiden looks down at the crowd gathering around three particular individuals. She herself only focuses on the girl standing in the middle. Smoke rises from her body. “My sister has come looking for me.”
“Your sister is a student here?”
“No, she’s just visiting.”
Wulf nods. “I see. In that case, how about greeting her. No use letting her worry about where you’ve been, right?”
Aiden nods and hops on to the deck’s railing. From there, she leaps into the center of the crowd. “Kairi, what are you doing here?”
Kairi is taken aback by a girl dressed in a loose fitting boys clothing dropping down before her. While the tone of voice is familiar, the voice itself isn’t. For some reason, the girl also wields Aiden’s zweihander. Lightning sparks off of her as she growls and thrusts a finger at the girl. “Who are you? Why do you carry the noble blade of the Dragon’s venerable brother? Speak now while you—”
The girl flicks Kairi in the forehead. “I suppose you don’t recognize me in this form.”
Liam and Kalani breath in at the words, “this form.” At the same time, they say, “Aiden!?”
Aiden nods. She then says, “More importantly, I’ve come to give you my farewells.”
“The hell do you mean farewells! The Dragon demands you explain yourself, venerable bro— sister!”
“I have come to serve a new lord.” Aiden then turns to leave, but Kairi grabs her arm.
Kairi says, “What new lord!? Cease this nonsense at once, venera—” She then trails off upon peering into Aiden’s eyes. Gazing back at her isn’t the usual mischief and boundless curiosity she has come to respect, but emptiness.
Aiden pulls her hand free from Kairi’s grip and walks away, forcing herself through the crowd.
Kairi watches Aiden disappear with a blank stare. As she loses sight of her ‘brother,’ tears begin for trail down her face. “Aiden…”
Kalani grabs Kairi’s shoulders and says, “What’s wrong? What happened?”
“That… that wasn’t Aiden. They… they did something to him… Someone,” Kairi grits her teeth. Lightning crackles from her body, striking various stalls and starting fires. Over the booming roars of thunder, she says “Someone did something to the Dragon’s venerable brother! Who was it? The Dragon promises, she will find whoever you are and rip off your limbs! The Dragon will relish your pleas for mercy, the Dragon will delight at your anguish and regret, and the Dragon will obliterate you!”