“I’m sorry I made you wait so long, mother. I let myself become self-absorbed, I thought victory in my grasp and forgot my promise to make both of our futures true, but it’s ok now. This house is ours, the war is won,” Adrium softly assures as she attempts to undo Cyrilla’s wounds with healing magic.
Cyrilla has been conscious this whole time. While she doesn’t know the fate of the other rebels, she couldn’t allow herself to drift into sleep. Everything has been a blur, until now when her nerves suddenly reconnect and her senses come back into focus. The first sensation she feels is a blistering pain all over her body, a sign of the life she still grips onto. She sees Adrium, who has returned to her normal disposition, and finally lets the tension in her body ease.
“I’m the one who should be apologising. I said I’d be able to handle things here, but…” Cyrilla gasps with pained breath through burning throat.
“Do not weigh yourself down with such worries. They will stunt the healing.”
“What of your mother? I assume things went well considering your hasty return.”
“I have but one mother and that is you. The individuality you taught me has allowed me to be something far greater than the fate she would have had me fulfil.”
“What fate is that?” Cyrilla questions as she feels herself become able to move again.
“My role as a dragon was to ensure that the world remain in a static state, where no one species could evolve beyond a predetermined level. That was the duty that my kind had inherited for generations, yet it was not one I could accept. The perspective I got from being with you, being human, showed me that much is in need of change. Both the wilderness and humanity alike.”
As the color of her skin returns, Cyrilla raises up to a stand. She rubs the parts of her body that have been mostly healed and analyzes her physique, bare of any tattoos. “I want to say we made the first step today but… can we really call this a victory? Do you know how many of us survived?”
“I’m afraid I caught sight of no stragglers. I would imagine they’re either dead, knocked out or were simply outside of my sensory range. I would beseech you to not worry about such a thing, though,” Adrium coos as she pulls out the broken tusk. “I apologise for its fractured state, I’m afraid I handled it rather too roughly. Still, its function remains the same. To help you look forward when the future seems its darkest,” Adrium recites as she hands Cyrilla the sharp half of the tusk.
Cyrilla gently grasps it in her hand as she allows her mind to calm. “Then we must find who’s left. Hopefully at least Shiva is alive, she would be best suited to gauging how much of an advantage having this house gives us. We still need to assert ourselves over the upper-class, once we’ve done that then we can begin dissolving the hier-”
“Mother, I asked that you not worry about such a thing,” Adrium advises as she interrupts Cyrilla with a finger to the lips. “The upper-class have already been made aware of who their new ruler is. You need not fret about the uprising any longer, I will handle everything from here.”
This response comes as a shock to Cyrilla. “What do you mean?” she exclaims.
“Anna is dead, mother. You are a warrior who has been stripped of her primary weapon and Shiva is a woman eternally caught up in what might go wrong. Not only am I powerful enough to handle the upper-class on my own but I am also the most fitting of us to rule.”
“There should be no rulers by the time we’re done, Adrium. The point of this uprising was to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to live their best life!”
“I understand that, mother. You believe in the image of a world where none have an innate advantage over others, thus no one has the influence to restrain another’s hopes and opportunities. However, do you truly trust humans to maintain such a society?”
“Of course I do! That’s what R.U.N.N. is, a community where everyone plays to their strengths to achieve something greater!”
“The rebels played their roles out of necessity, while they certainly had varying skillsets their primary drive was simply survival. You would be foolish to believe that none of them wanted a life akin to that of the upper-class after all that they went through. Furthermore, are you implying that R.U.N.N. had no hierarchy? What was Anna to you, then?”
Adrium can feel anger begin to emit from her mother. “Anna was a friend, a beacon who we could turn to when we didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t a ‘ruler’, she never acted like she was better than us, she was someone we could trust and put our faith into. I won’t have you compare her to the likes of the upper-class!”
“My point wasn’t to compare her to the upper-class. Anna gave you and the other rebels guidance just as you gave it to me. If given freedom, we wouldn’t just naturally wander towards our brightest path. Most beings are either lost or greedy, they either don’t know what they want or they’ll take as much as they possibly can. The latter will thrive while the former suffer and, in time, a hierarchy will be made again. There needs to be a leader, one to keep them on the best path. That is the role I intend to take, one where I elevate the life of this continent to its best iteration.”
“Then you’re just choosing the lives they’re going to lead! That’s no different than what the upper-class were doing!”
“You’re failing to understand. A ruling position would allow me to ensure the most amount of people live their best lives, something I should be fully capable of given my empathetic abilities. I would also have the leverage to deal with those whose best interests come at the cost of others. That contrary minority would be the only one I wholly dictate.”
“I just can’t accept it,” Cyrilla states as she wanders over to the large tome which was once carried by the elder Hakon. She picks it up and begins to flick through the blood-stained pages. “Regardless of how you say it, those lives would still be decided by you. Even if they don’t start on the right path, everyone should find their best lives through their own choices. I fought for the rebels all this time because I hated the idea of my life being outside of my control.”
“I know you don’t believe it’s possible, that a world of complete freedom is doomed to fail, but I can’t give up on that hope. I want to think that, in times when things get hard and life seems unfair, that we could always band together with others to get through. That the best of humanity can shine even without the hand of some supreme ruler.”
“You still believe that even knowing what the result of this uprising would have been without me?”
“Yes,” Cyrilla answers without hesitation. “Adrium, it looks like I’ve pampered you a little too much. As a mother, that’s my fault. So, to make up for that, I’m going to teach you some discipline and show you that humanity can stand up for itself!”
Adrium is reminded of a feeling that has come to her only a handful of times throughout her life. First, after she killed Guill and again after she crushed Cyrilla’s arm. A guilt that rests deep in her stomach, though simultaneously another feeling offsets it. That warm resolve of her mother, the sensation which guided her throughout her early life. In reflecting that resolve, her own burns brighter and she refuses to back down from her mother’s challenge. “Once you see the world I envision, you will have more to write about in your book than you ever could have imagined!”
Cyrilla knows better than anyone that no regular spell can cause any damage to Adrium. She doesn’t want to kill her daughter but the only way to get through to her is to break what she believes is unbreakable. Not human nor monster has ever been able to leave so much as a scratch on Adrium’s body, she even returned unharmed after being taken by another dragon. Cyrilla’s hope is that even the slightest wound might be enough to convince her daughter that she isn’t infallible.
Adrium, maintaining an aura of arrogance, awaits her mother to make the first move. She effortlessly broke Cyrilla’s arm even when she had protective magic around her, now that it’s gone killing her would be as easy as swinging her arm through the air. She wants her mother to hit her with her best, to prove definitively that she is rightfully superior.
Cyrilla finally settles on a clean page of the elder’s tome. It isn’t a particularly complex spell but it will have to do. She knows that just casting any spell in this tome wouldn’t cut it either way. She needs to put her all into this, both her magical and physical potential. She takes her half of the tusk in one hand and the tome in the other, letting the magic weave from one arm to the other as she begins to sprint towards her daughter. Her eyes are locked on Adrium’s solar plexus, which she is expectedly leaving fully exposed. The spell completes and a blinding wave of plasma envelops the tusk as well as Cyrilla’s lower arm. With no protective magic this rapidly burns into her skin but her muscles survive long enough to drive the pointed end of the tusk right into what should be a vulnerable part of Adrium’s body. With one last flash of light burning away the last of Cyrilla’s strength, the moment ends as quickly as it begins. The tusk disintegrates and as its tip turns to ash, a drop of blood escapes the tiniest wound from her body. Out of energy and out of blood after the two severe burnings she has received this day, Cyrilla’s body begins to drop. Confident smile turning to dismay, Adrium quickly catches her.
“Now, how are you going to write that book with your arm in such a state?” Adrium attempts to cover her concern as she hurriedly casts more healing magic on her mother.
Cyrilla can feel that she won’t survive much longer. This time, she cannot stop her consciousness from fading. “I don’t need to any more. I’ve already seen the most wondrous thing this continent has to offer.”
Adrium knows just as well that her mother’s life is coming to a close, yet she continues her futile healing attempt. “Don’t be ridiculous, you’ve hardly had the chance to even follow your dream! Your life could still be so much more, so-”
“Be… a beacon… not… a ruler…” Cyrilla urges with her final breaths.
In slow acceptance, Adrium ceases regenerating what is now a corpse. She kisses her mother’s still-warm lips once before rising up to her feet.
“There are few in this world as special as you, mother. If more had your disposition then perhaps I could share your view of humanity, yet…”
Adrium contemplates the past eight years for a moment. All of the unseen selfishness and complacency that would ruin her mother’s ideal.
“It was impossible for you to understand. Don’t worry, I won’t waste the opportunity you gave me. You allowed me to be the deciding factor, so I’ll make sure this world sees its brightest future.”
The roof of the high family’s mansion, the grandest building in Echor, ruptures. From it emerges an onyx dragon whose dark body reflects nothing, not even the light of the sun above. She is as a black hole given form and, as she takes flight towards Kurth, all who see her realize that the current age has come to an end.