The outer and inner circles of Echor blend into one mass of insignificance under the turquoise light of the dragon. Upper-class, lower-class and rebels alike are overcome with a unanimous awe and fear as their eyes adjust and they realize what looms above. A resident of Fabula’s wilderness, a monster whose appearance proclaims status far above any human. Diamond eyes scrutinize the city with a sharpness that puts the Wakudya to shame. It’s looking for something, the instinct of R.U.N.N.’s members is to believe it seeks prey yet it does not strike. Then, its gaze locks on to the arena of earth and ice that was crafted by Cyrilla.
As the dragon descends, it dawns on Cyrilla that she recognizes the complexion of its skin. It has a body of crystal which uncannily resembles the shell of the egg which hatched Adrium. The scaled flesh is a reflection of Adrium’s own, it isn’t difficult for Cyrilla to put the pieces together. This is Adrium’s birth mother, and she recognizes her daughter in an instant.
“That is the form you have reflected? So small and vulnerable?” the dragon scoffs. She takes another summarizing glance around the still battlefield. “And you concern yourself with the conflicts of this lesser race? You are truly a child playing with toys.”
For the first time in her life, Adrium truly understands what those Burrow Hounds felt back when she was training to control herself. That wariness, that respect; the thing she had failed to empathize with all this time.
“And the culprit.” The dragon turns her gaze towards Cyrilla. “You should have realized that I would be able to find you the moment you saw her face. Or, perhaps you knew and were smart enough to realize the futility of running?”
Cyrilla is utterly captivated and as she realizes that she’s being addressed her voice clamors to release a single syllable; “I-”
“You need not speak. Your feelings convey more than words ever could.” The dragon lands upon the arena’s edge and brings its head closer to the runner. “You’re an interesting one. You lack the fear possessed by the other humans here. Instead there is an excitement, one you are failing to push back with objective feelings of duty. I wonder, would that change…” She points a talon which resembles a finely carved gemstone to Cyrilla’s chest. “If I were to tell you that your dream ends here?”
Upon hearing these words, Adrium moves with impossible speed to come between her two mothers. She grabs the dragon’s talon and begins to slowly push it away from Cyrilla’s direction. “You will not threaten my mother that way. She is the one who gave me individuality, who allowed me to be Adrium instead of some monstrous amalgamate of my surroundings. You do not have the right to look down upon her.”
The dragon, though hardly struggling, recedes her threatening claw. “My daughter, do you truly believe that I would call you by a name first spoken by human tongue? You might believe that she has given you ‘individuality’, but has she not just molded you into what she wants? You have her face, you fight for her goals. Tell me, what part of you is unique?”
Adrium attempts to read the emotions coming from the dragon but all she feels is her own mix of admiration and frustration. “First of all, only my mother may call me ‘daughter’. Second, you are foolish hypocrite for condemning the human tongue while mimicking it. Third, your prior statement of ending mother’s dream suggest that you know what it is. If you have that knowledge then you would know that is where we differ.”
“I must admit, your self-control is rather impressive. I had assumed that you’d break down easily with a little coaxing. Yes, I can feel that human’s dream, though only because of how it defines her-”
“To create a book of all the myths and wonders of this continent, full of wonderful beings like my beautiful daughter,” Cyrilla interrupts.
“I said that there was no need for you to speak.”
“I’m not just going to stay silent while you try and manipulate Adrium. That book may be my dream but I would give up it and everything else for her. I’m sorry that I took her from you but she saved me when I felt my most worthless.”
“Such words will evoke no forgiving empathy from me.”
“And I don’t expect them to. I knew all this time that I had taken Adrium from her birth mother, it was always at the back of my mind for the past eight years, but it didn’t make me feel scared or guilty. In fact, it made me value her more. I didn’t know her optimal environment or anything like that but I did everything to raise Adrium the best I could.”
“Raising her for war.”
“She didn’t have to fight if she didn’t want to. There’s a lot of reasons why we fight this war and, for me, one of them is to give Adrium a better home to live in.”
“Were she not tied to you the entire continent would be her domain. My daughter would have a form as grand as my own and command the respect of all living creatures.”
“I command respect even without such an exaggerated figure. Why would I prefer to rule over trees and swampland rather than enjoying the more advanced society built by humans?” Adrium inquires.
“You claim humans to be more advanced than me?”
“That depends. Do you eat all of your meals raw?”
A beat passes. “Then I shall have to prove my superiority by erasing this society you hold in such high regard,” the dragon growls.
“Look who’s the child now. It’s clear that your concern doesn’t lie with the humans. You’re here to take me back, but why now? Why not eight years ago?”
“Because you are about to reach maturity. Once you do, you will become less susceptible to the feelings around you and your current physical form will become permanent. I was willing to wait this long to see what you might develop into but I am frankly unimpressed. I doubt your stubborn mind can be fully recovered but your body can still be returned to that of a dragon, as it should be.” The dragon’s wings flare up. “And unless you believe you can defeat me here and now, I will hear no defiance.”
Adrium sizes up the situation. Lissa is still utterly frozen yet the Hakon appear to have made an exit at some point during the exchange. “You will not allow me to finish this battle?”
“You have played long enough. I would have not a moment more of my time wasted.”
Adrium hesitates. Her role in the battle was to defeat the Hakon and she can’t predict what will happen with that left undone. The head of the looming dragon hovers closer as her patience wears thin. If she wants to choose a fight then this is the best opportunity, her mother can probably react to the dragon’s attack but Lissa will likely be killed and the collateral damage may lead to R.U.N.N. losing the war anyway. Her rushing mind is only stopped when she feels a familiar hand on her shoulder.
“If you want to fight, I’ll fight alongside you. If not, you’ve done more than enough here. You’ve shown me the head family’s trump card against a faster opponent, thanks to that I won’t be caught off-guard. Besides, our side will handle this monster appearance way better than the upper-class. The advantage is ours, if you choose to go then you’ll be welcomed into a new Echor when you come back. You’ll always be my daughter, I would never reject you no matter what you end up looking like,” Cyrilla affirms.
Adrium nods and turns back to her birth mother. “I’ll go, but know this. You’re right that my mind won’t be changed. Adrium is who I am and I’ll return to this life no matter what you do to me.”
The unamused dragon responds “A disappointing mentality. You could be so much more than whatever arbitrary meaning that name carries. No matter, you will understand your significance soon enough.” The dragon raises her wings as if to take off but then pauses. “You cannot fly, can you?”
“… No. We never had the resources for me to learn any levitation spells.”
“Then I hope the strength of that form at least allows you to hang on.” The dragon lowers her crystalline tail so as to give Adrium a way onto her back.
Adrium climbs onto her birth mother and the two lift off. Adrium looks back to Cyrilla one last time to see her adoptive mother’s token look of resolve. She’s already begun trying to wake Lissa from her daze, as if the dragon is already gone. That look, that feeling, which has given Adrium so much comfort over the years, incites some hope for the outcome of this uprising. Adrium remembers the tusk that Cyrilla gave her. She pulls it out and grasps it tightly, wishing for it to give her some further reprieve from these uncertain thoughts. She finds herself unable to properly measure her strength and the tusk snaps in her hand.