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"Work Hard, Live Well"

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The World We Live In

Some 400 years ago....

Sunlight flooded across a chain of mountains as the sun rang in noon. A flock of birds whipped across the sky, soaring over a sea of trees, hills, rivers, and creeks. The fowl were jet black with dark eyes, Crows, not the birds of bedtime tales. They trailed toward a clearing ahead where a wavy pillar of black smoke rose and the stench of brimstone hovered.

The earth was washed in ash and burnt black with craters scattered about. Trees, vegetation, and grass had been wiped away. Shimmers of glittering red decorated the ravaged ground. Smalls fires still burned as countless trees had been turned to blackened stalks. Carving its' way across the forest floor were small streams of bubbling lava, turning the earth into a further, volcanic ruin.

A sole figure loomed in the midst of destruction, his eyes downcast at a human corpse that had started the mess. He kicked the battered and burned body once more to check for any signs of life, no response came of it. His black eyes did not leave the body, the man had been far more trouble than expected. But, nothing exceptional, no, just troublesome.

Reggie had seen far worse. The young man ran a dirty hand through his flowing, white hair. He would need her to tend to a few minor wounds, but it was nothing serious, nothing to get scolded about. The sounds of crows and bubbling lava rang into his ears. It was time to get moving.


He turned to see a brown sack coming his way and quickly caught the bag. Slinging it over his shoulder, a pair of cold eyes caught his own. Her golden hair struck an alluring contrast to her tanned, bronze skin. Something of a bonus for some men as her body and face on her worse day could already tempt any man.

"He's gone," Reggie said slowly, "I apologize for things...dragging out unnecessarily. He had been more rabid than expected."

"Unfortunately I half-expected this to occur, especially with the way things have been transgressing around some of the different places" She replied to him before grabbing one of her vials to toss over to the person in front of her, "Add some of those to your wounds, they should heal within a few hours" She said closing up her sack before putting it on her back.

Reggie popped the cork on the vial and began to dab its' contents on some of his wounds across his torso, a few winces here and there. He would need a new shirt, but that was the whole of it. Their target had been one with the earth as he fought—making for a messy and bloody affair. The burnt corpse once more caught his eye as he continued to smooth the silky liquid on his wounds.

"During the war, you know," he said slowly, not taking his eyes off the body, "He never showed that level of ferocity. You should have seen it for yourself. This Ulnar was out of his right mind. The man wasn't even a human anymore by that point, just a beast."

"I can understand, I've seen many good people inflicted by the situation, it's a miracle humans are still alive to this point" She said looking towards Reggie and looking back down to Ulnar, "If you wish, we could give him a proper burial, let him rest in peace with some dignity" Dorthy said looking over to Reggie as he kept his attention on Ulnar, wondering what his answer would be.

He shook his head, "He lost his dignity long ago, let him rot." There was small town near their position, about 15 minutes on foot. There they could rest and get some decent food.

The duo found themselves entering a local pub as they found it to be a relaxing spot for them to fill their bellies and rest from their long travels. As the Duo sat down at a table, the waitress came, asking them what their order would be.

"I will have the fish and shot of emerald whisky" Dorothy said as she turned to Reggie.

"Any meat will do. Some meat and potatoes, surprise me," Reggie said, turning to look out the dirty window into the street.

Shirotsume couldn't exactly be called a town, it was more of a village. A few rows of wooden buildings that didn't look to be holding well from afar, that and some cheap shacks some of the natives called home. But, the people were kind and to anyone without asking many questions. Sounds of laughs and conversation filled the air, tales of travels, news, and all other happenings a man could share over a meal.

"I heard the king is setting plans to build some ports in the southeast."

"Indeed, it's a pretty barren place. Just some local fisherman, would be a shame not to make use of such precious coastline."

"There was one town around there that wasn't too bad, a place called Magnolia."

Reggie fiddled his thumbs as continued to eavesdrop at his leisure. His companion was not as accepting of this as him, shooting him a look that could kill.

"Are you a man or a house-wife now? Baka..." Dorothy said with her glare focused on him as if she wanted him to suddenly spontaneously combust.

Dorothy herself wasn't one to enjoy taking part in such negative activities, due to her history with what it can often lead to, and felt a bit of irritation towards him for engaging in such an act. "You keep this up, we may have to find you a dress to go along with your gossiping" she said as the waitress came back with their food, placing both in front of the pair along with their drinks as Dorothy took a quick swig of her's, looking to see Reggie already digging into his food, oblivious to her stare.

"I must admit though, for a small town with little around it, it has quite a calm and homey feeling, reminds me of my village in a way " Dorothy said with a small tone of sadness, cutting a piece of her fish to eat, half expecting Reggie to simply grunt to her response.

"It's only going to get harder from here on out, Dorothy," Reggie said, "These people can't be shown any mercy, they've become too dangerous to kept alive." Both were decent trackers and putting their heads together could only prove to bring results. If they failed to do so, tales of violence would reach their ears in the coming months from all over the kingdom.

His eyes followed a pair of men as they passed by their table and out the double doors to the street. "From here, we should head towards the capital," he fiddled with his fork on his plate. Reggie narrowed his eyes at her, "Any objections?"

Dorothy scoffed as she continued eating, "I might as well, someone needs to keep you from endangering innocent people" She said in an undermining tone as she got another drink and swallowed it down quickly, finishing her meal as she waved to the waitress for their bill. "What exactly is the closest route to the capital?"

From out of his bag, Reggie pulled out and unrolled an old, tattered map and placed it on some free space around their plates. "Southwest from here and through the mountains at Crocus' back," he traced his finger along the paper, "It's actually not too far from here for us. We'll just get a pair horses to take us to the feet of the mountains and from there on foot."

There had be some chatter of bands of thieves terrifying travelers that passed through the mountains since the end of the war. The army simply lacked the resources to combat such a threat if the rumors were true. But, they were still just rumors, and the most colorful of them all was the story of a king of thieves that could command one of the mountains to do his bending, laying waste to travelers and enemies that did pay any respect to him. And by respect, that meant the man wanted the riches of his victims.

No doubt the talk of a mountain doing a man's bidding was just magic. A common milk maid wouldn't know any better though. Dorothy had paid little mind to the stories herself, she had little time for such things. "We can get a pair of horses at the edge of the village and pick up some warmer clothes at one of the mountain villages. Unless you want to go around the mountain range entirely? I know you like to take the safest route in what you do."

Normally, Dorothy knew what the best course of action was: to evade the mountain range entirely, it would be too much of a hassle and waste of time to trek through the mountains, especially in the clothing that she worse. However, hearing about the bandits causing mischief and trouble for others made her feel sad for the people living up there, having to worry about whether or not someone might kill them the next day. In someway, even if there wasn't any initial dragon threat, she knew she had to help them, "Well I hope you're dressed for the cold, we're going into the mountains" She said looking at Reggie who was very surprised by her decision.

King of Thieves

The bustling capital of Crocus, the capital of the kingdom and the greatest of the land's cities, was backed by a large mountain range known as the Fioritura Mountains—a group of colossal mountains that acted as a natural defense mechanism for the capital against foreign invaders pushing from east in the past. These mountains tore into the sky and had long been a source of mystery and wonder for the kingdom's citizens.

There were settlements scattered across the feet of these mountains, many of villagers would act as guides for travelers and help secure dangerous trade routes. The village in the sights of Reggie and Dorothy was at the feet of the one of the most inward mountains of the Fioritura mountain range, Monte Village. Their horses carried them swiftly across the vast, open fields as they neared the famous forests that surrounded parts of the mountains around them. The thundering of their hooves rang in Reggie's ear. An old, beaten roadway led to the village's wooden gates.

The pair brought their horses to a halt as a trio of guards, clad in furs and leather, with spears in hand, stood before the open gate. The bearded man in the middle walked closer towards the two with a curious look. His eyes were tired, something obvious even from atop their horses. None of the three looked healthy or strong enough to man the gates of village in such dangerous region. Reggie narrowed his eyes at the man as he inspecting him and his companion in silence. The young man could not sense a lick of magical power around them, Dorothy and himself were the lone mages in the area for now.

"What brings you to these parts, surely you know these mountains are safe for no man."

"More than usual, anyway," Reggie said.

"Aye," the guard nodded,"Still, you haven't answered question. What brings you here, you and your, eh, wife?"

Dorothy smiled, "He wishes. I am not his wife, just a close friend--"

"We're trying to get to the capital, and fast," Reggie said, cutting in. "That and we have heard some tall tales of a thieving king that is one with the earth. My friend has little taste for thieves and bandits. So, you could say we're killing two birds with one stone."

The old guard stifled a laugh. "Every now and then, we do get some gutsy types passing through these parts," he said signaling the his men to let the two pass. "It's cold up there though, so we have warm clothes to spare for the lot of you."

"Thank you so much, we really appreciate" Dorothy said bowing in respect, elbowing Reggie as she glared at him, silently telling him to do the same.

Turning to his companions, the old guard led the pair through the gate into the small village. The wooden buildings and homes were worn and children playing about in the small, dirt roads that lined the area. Reggie and Dorothy climbed off their horses and tied the two steeds to post designated for travelers, paying a couple of jewels to the village stable master to return them to Shirotsume village.

There were no welcoming calls or villagers rushing to meet them. The locals seem to keep themselves with a low look in their faces. Granted, the mountain villages were never amongst the wealthiest in kingdom even before the great war, he had always heard of the mountain people being very friendly and hospitable to travelers. The standard of that had surely changed in recent times.

"I don't mean to offend," Reggie said quietly as he walked in step with the guard, "But are things not going well in these parts?"

The old guard sighed, "Not going well may be understatement."

"Ever since the great war ended, the thieves of the mountain have gotten ever more dangerous and just north of here is that monster Drake's territory."

Reggie and Dorothy came to a stop as a bearded, middle-aged man walked up to them with a weak smile across his face. He was dressed similarly to the guards, though with a bit more color and vibrancy—a scarlet red sash crossing his torso.

"Drake?" Reggie asked with an arched brow.

"This is our village chieftain, Hemo," the old guard said quickly, giving a small bow of respect. "As for Drake, he showed up after the war. A violent man that could consume rocks and unleash the fury of the earth against us. He uses a powerful type of earth magic, nothing that we could even hope to handle. And now, no trade or travelers flow through here anymore."

"A dragon slayer, I was right after all," Reggie pondered to himself.

" Looks like it was the right call to come here after all " Dorothy thought in her head before looking over to the village chieftain, "This Drake, has he ever attempted to come into the village?" She said with a curious tone as the chief sighed, taking a long smoke of his pipe before blowing it upward and looking back at Dorothy.

"For as long as we can tell, the only interest is the traveling merchants that attempt to come into our village, but it has done worse for us than anything he could ever do physically" He said motioning outside as she turned around, seeing some of the villagers carrying small portions of food as well as some sickly looking due to lack of nutrition. "My people starve, grow sick, all while that barbarian continues to thrive on we need".

Dorothy's heart tore in two seeing all this sadness, to her, they were simply people trying to live their life without worry or fear of anyone trying to hurt them. She couldn't help but sympathize for the villagers before looking over to Reggie, giving him a look as if saying they needed to help those poor people.

Reggie nodded at his companion. "We'll be needing some warmer clothes," he said, "It's going to be a cold journey through the central mountains."

"You can't actually be thinking of assaulting Drake?" the old guard asked with a surprised look.

"It is not your burden, young one," Hemo said, moving in closer, "It is not your duty---"

"It is, old man," Reggie said, cutting him off, "More than you know. Dorothy, after we get some better garments, we're leaving."

"Sounds good to me" Dorothy said watching her companion go with one of the guards to grab warmer clothing before she turned over to the chieftain, "Trust us, we will have Drake pay for what he has done to your home" she said going after them to get ready.

"Are we sure about this? Can we trust them?" One of the guards said as the chieftain lit his pipe, inhaling before exhaling a steady stream of smoke.

"In this day and age, trust is a fragile thing to pass, but for some reason, those two have an air to them...." He said sighing before returning to his smoking.

The dirt trails that stretched over the mountain's side had been completely frozen over. Not a single sight of life was present as the frigid wind blew across the mountainous expanse. It had always been said that animals had a sixth sense for treacherous weather, whether they were of the tropical coast or some frozen tundra.

Reggie shielded his eyes as they trudged through the heavy snowfall, watching every step along the way. The old man hadn't been exaggerating when he said that up in the mountains, it gets cold as death. That had been his parting words to the young man after they had gotten more appropriate clothes.

He look over to Dorothy, "I don't sense a damn thing up here, how about you?"

Dorothy looked around, sniffing anything around her in order to try and figure out if there was any kind of unusual scent, but all the snow around her blocked anything from being discovered. "Nothing, whoever this Drake is, he's very intelligent about choosing this location as his domain. It's nearly impossible to cover..." She said looking over to Reggie as he continued trying to locate him. A small tremor stopped the pair in their tracks.

"Dorothy, move!"

The two shot in opposite directions suddenly as a row of massive, rocky spikes pierces the frozen ground beneath them. Dorothy quickly gazed up to see a figure in mid-air descending towards her partner. The blizzard's onslaught made the figure's visage hazy, but she could see well enough—it whipped its' head back suddenly.

"Earth Dragon's Roar!"

Reggie barely bolted around the attack, feeling a sharp rock graze arm. The situation was not in their favor. Their opponent held the element of surprise and environmental familiarity, still, they were not an easily beaten pair. His eyes met those of their assailant, the latter's hot with rage and focused all the same. Both him and Dorothy stood on opposite sides of the wrathful man, keeping a safe distance to understand his abilities before attacking.

"I don't recognize this guy at all, but he's no doubt a Dragon Slayer," Reggie thought, looking back over to Dorothy. He balled his fists, the dragon slayer would let her make the first move.

The man smiled as he focused his magic energy throughout his body, creating a powerful rumbling throughout the area as the two could feel the intense energy that he was producing, something the two of them hadn't felt in a long time, "Earth Dragon's Spear!" He said focusing the rock around him to morph as it created two spear-like constructs, which he grabbed and throw in an attempt to pierce both Reggie and Dorothy.

"Ruby Dragon's Scales!"

Dorothy yelled out the spell name as she ran towards both spears, easily breaking off both of the constructs with two hard punches she did thanks to her new ruby armor, easily breaking through them before she looked forward at Drake, glaring before she took in a big breath, getting ready to release her spell, "Ruby Dragon's Roar!"

The released spell showed to be a storm of small sharp flying rubies that were centered right towards Drake, who simply cracked his neck as if it was no big shock, getting ready to unleash his counter attack towards Dorothy.

As the torrent of projectiles blasted towards him, Drake stomped his foot into the snowy ground, a thick wall of rock emerging like a bullet against the attack. However, he could not rest yet, as he shot his gaze up to see a figure diving towards him with a glowing and menacing fist aimed at him.

"Magma Dragon's Scorching Fist," Reggie whispered, smashing his fist towards his enemy. But, Drake darted back barely missing the popping lava as it bore into the very mountain beneath them. Reggie chased after him as he touched the ground. The two fell into a exchange of kicks and punches.

Dorothy shot around, watching for her chance. Suddenly, her companion ducked under a twirling kick and quickly swept Drake off his remaining foot. Reggie smiled as he unleashed another molten fist towards their enemy. In that moment, he suddenly jumped back as a blade swiped past his face.

"Earth Dragon's Sword," Drake said, taking to his feet and darting towards Reggie. The latter dodged slash after slash, watching for Dorothy in the corner of his eye. Suddenly, he felt his foot slip on the snow, sending the dragon slayer into a tumble with an armed Drake not letting up. "Shit," Reggie cursed to himself.

Right before the earth sword had it's chance to attempt another strike, a red-like object intercepted the sword as it was revealed to be a sword of her own as she pushed back Drake's as he glared at her. "Interesting, didn't think others knew how to make weapons" He said with an evil chuckle.

"You'd be surprised at what else I can do!" She said as the two charged back at each other, swinging away as the clash between both swords went by in a blur as Reggie did his best to try and keep up, seeing that Dorothy was holding her own against Drake.

Jumping to his feet, Reggie shot around to the left of the pair as they clashed blades in howling, frigid wind. Reggie could his lips nearly frosting over, or so it felt to the young dragon slayer. It was time to take the battle to a higher level.

"Dorothy, move!"

With a knowing look, she skipped back swiftly leaving Drake with a confused look on his face as he attempted to turn his attention to his other foe. The older man blinked as his foe leaped into the air towards him. "You had the element of surprise last time and that fist attack of yours didn't work. The fuck is next?"

"Magma Dragon's Roar!"

A gushing torrent of blazing lava descending upon a shaken Drake. The wave almost glowed in the frigid weather as it roared towards Reggie's attacker. Dorothy moved back to a safer distance, knowing the full ferocity of her partner's techniques, especially in an unforgiving terrain such as this.

"Amazing!! Now this is a battle!!" Drake said with a exciting tone as he slammed his fist hard into the ground, grabbing a rock he found as he ate it, moving with his high speeds as he jumped upward to avoid the lava blast that was aimed at him as he took in a deep breath to draw air into his lungs to prepare for his own attack.

"Earth Dragon's Roar!"

The release of the burst showed to send a condensed blast as it showed to be a storm of rock shrapnels that were all centered and focused right on Reggie.

"Shit," Reggie cursed as he lifted his arms in an "x" formation before his face. The swirling burst of frozen rock crashed into the mage before Dorothy's eyes. Taking the brunt of the damage fully, Reggie fell back onto the ground, landing firmly on his feet. Scratches and light bruises criss-crossed his arms and tore up his coat's sleeves.

He gritted his teeth as he lowered his arms to exchange glares with their enemy. "It's gonna take a lot more than that for you to triumph here," the young man said sternly. Reggie shook his head, "You're nothing but a blood-lusting thug now."

Dorothy looked at Reggie before growling as she went running towards where Drake was, jumping towards him as she focused her energy into her hands, producing ruby scales that covered her fore-arms before they sharpened, turning into perfectly crafted claw gauntlets.

"Ruby Dragon's Armament: Arm's"

With the gauntlets on her forearms, she then proceeded to attempt to slash and hit Drake, who focused his magic into Earth Scales that he used to block each and every incoming attack, evading one move before countering with another as his moves landed each time.

Catching Reggie moving in the corner of his eye, Drake quickly sidestepped's right hook and shot away from the pair. He dashed down the mountain path they had came and they followed in suit as the blizzard continued to rage.

"Don't let him get away," Reggie huffed running alongside Dorothy.

She nodded, "I'm well aware. You're welcome, by the way. Stop fighting so recklessly."

Reggie paid to no mind to her comment as they were hot on Drake's trail, the older man still in their sights. He leaped off the cliffside suddenly, hopping across ledges to scale down the mountain's side.

The two came to a halt at the cliff side as they watched their target getting further away. Reggie spotted a large cliff down the mountain's side, assuming it to be Drake's goal. "We're going, don't slip."

"You're one to talk," she scoffed.

In unison, the pair flipped off the cliff side and dove down speedily towards Drake. It would be a waste of time to manage across the ledges and they could even be booby trapped by the dragon slayer. This was his territory, and that very reason meant caution was important. But some risks were important to eradicate this...sickness.

Drake looked up as he continued to move down the mountain. He kissed his teeth in annoyance as the two shot towards his position. The dragon slayer jumped off the ledge straight down to the large, snow-covered cliff. Hitting the ground firmly, Drake set his eyes on the small cave opening. A devious smile crossed his face, they were in his wheelhouse now.

Dorothy arched an eyebrow as she saw Drake moving towards the mountain side from afar. Was there a cave there? This could be problematic. As they neared the cliff, they flipped forward, focusing their magical power into their feet and landed firmly on the cliff with Drake nowhere to be found.

They turned to look at the small cave opening. The whirring of the frigid winds were clear in their ears and their skin was taking a cold beating, though nothing they couldn't handle—especially Reggie. Both were silent as they stared into the dark void.

"Into the belly of the beast then," Reggie said calmly, looking over to Dorothy.

She frowned, "If we need to use that, then don't feel any apprehension."

"Roger that," he replied.

"Let's go."

Man Hunter's Cave

The sounds of the outside snow crunching turn to gravel moving as the duo entered the cavern, only to be greeted by darkness that covered the entire area as they moved forward, unable to see the path in front of them. Dorothy looked around for any kind of wood that might have found itself into the cave, having no luck in the search.

"This is bad, thanks to his element, it's entirely difficult to track him when his scent is that of the earth itself" She said looking over to Reggie, wondering what he had to say about this.

With the quick flick of a finger, a bright flame lit up on Reggie's pointer finger. With the small light creating visibility, they noticed the rocky corridor led straight for as far as they could see, though that wasn't much. The pair's options were but one, head straight and keep their wits about them.

"Let's just move forward from here," Reggie said with a nod into the darkness. They walked carefully through the cave's opening corridor, Reggie's flame their only source of light.

"We're like flies caught in his web, all I can feel is the anticipation of when he will strike, and that in itself is the most terrifying moment, it shows how far gone he has become" Dorothy said looking over to her partner who was keeping himself alert for any signs of activities or movements that might occur.

The two walked in the darkness for a while, lead only by the light they had as they then reached what appeared to be a divide of the path, both ways leading into a single cave as they stopped to look.

"I don't like this, especially considering how much bloodthirst he has for us, this is especially foreboding since it doesn't seem like we may have much choice as to which path we take. Either one can be a death-trap for us" Reggie explained as Dorothy tried to smell anything off about the caves, but found the scent of rock and stone to be overwhelming.

"And he as cunning as he is violent," Dorothy remarked, gazing into the darkness. She squinted as a small figure caught her eye with what little light they had. "Reggie, what is that?"

Reggie walked past her with his finger up lighting the way. A she drew closer, he saw a torch pinned to the cave's wall. There were multiple other slots though empty next to it. "Now we really don't have a choice," he said as he unhooked the torch and set it ablaze. The corridor lit up as their shadows danced across the walls to the beck and call of the torch's flickering flames.

He handed the torch to his companion and nodded to the other path. "From here on, we're gonna have to split up. This is our duty, he's too dangerous to be left alive. You take the other route and I'll take this one," Reggie turned to look back down the shadowy tunnel before him. "If anything happens and you're pushed against a wall, don't hold back."

Dorothy looked over to the other pathway as she growled inward, hating the idea that she would have to use force against someone who could be saved. However, realizing that it wouldn't matter, she hesitantly grabbed the torch before walking towards the path, but stopping as she turned her head.

"Look, just... Be careful please, I don't wanna have to bring you out dead...." She said with her hair covering her face as Reggie couldn't see the blushing that Dorothy was doing. 

"Right," Reggie turned away and made his way into the dark void, his flaming finger lighting the way. A den of monsters is what this was, the thing of nightmares for little children. It all seemed eerily like the scary tales his master told him years ago.

He could feel his muscles tensing, this was not a situation he had any experience in. This hunt could be their end, but the young dragonslayer had faith in himself and his partner. No mercy would come to Drake today, such a thing did not belong in encounters with these kind of people. Reggie only hoped Dorothy's kindness would not impede her in this battle.

While walking down Dorothy's own path, an usual phenomenon occurred as the more she walked towards the path, the more the torches on the walls began to lit up. In her mind, she knew that Drake was eyeing her and Reggie, the two were on his territory, and he knew the perfect opportunities for when to strike and attack them.

Even though she was by herself, Dorothy couldn't help but wonder how Reggie was doing and if he was okay, even though she knew more than anyone that he is a powerful Dragon Slayer, and that it would take much more than a few rocks to try and stop him from reaching his target.

Listen to me, if Reggie ever found out I was actually worried for him, he'd never let me live it down She thought before suddenly feeling a tremor that shook the cavern as she prepared herself for anything that might try to attack her.

Moving through the darkness, Reggie eyed a glimpse of light down the rocky corridor. As he turned the corner, he found himself in a wider hallway lit by a long row of torches. The area was clearly unnatural with signs of human molding all around. Drake had surely made this mountain's caverns into an abode from himself.

He heard a creak under him suddenly, Reggie quickly looked down in shock as part of the floor sank with his very foot. "Shit," he cursed, eyeing the trap.

A barrage of knives whistled towards him head on. The dragon slayer gritted his teeth as he quickly evaded the attack sweeping to the right side and catching one of the blades in mid-air before it could plunge into his left shoulder. His fists went ablaze as he shot a fireball to the blade cannon embedded in the wall at the end of the wall.

That would be the last of that little trick. Regaining his composure, Reggie picked up the knife from the ground and began to examine it. It was well crafted, lithe and extremely sharp, likely not made by Drake himself—but Reggie couldn't rule it out completely. It was impressive that the man could fashion a trap like this, darts would have been easier. The knives handles with bare and metallic, lacking any sort of gripping. In amateurish hands, they would be more likely to slip away in combat than be of any real use.

He looked around to see no corner to turn or door to open. "Being a mage like him, he could likely just make a temporary entrance when needed, but generally leave things be," Reggie pondered, walking towards the wall at the end of the corridor. He grinned, "In that case, I'll just make my own entrance."

The sounds of rumbling vibrated throughout the area as Dorothy almost fell to the ground because of it, looking forward as she saw the walls slowly begin to sink down into the ground as she took an offensive stance. Out of nowhere, spikes emerged from the walls right next to her, going forward as she quickly did a front roll, avoiding the impaling of the spikes as she looked back to see them crash into each other.

"Damn it, I didn't think Drake would ever be able to pull these traps like that, it's not gonna be easy to find him" Dorothy said to herself before avoiding a few more walls that attempted to crush her as she eventually made it to the end of the hall, reaching what appeared to be a fork in the road.

In the distance, Dorothy heard a powerful explosion that caused her to fall on her butt as she looked back, smelling around as she detected the scent of molten rock and knew that Reggie was once again busting through the walls like a maniac.

I swear, that Idiot is going to kill both of us if he acts so reckless

She thought to herself before something caused the rock underneath to smooth out, resulting in her sliding down one of the paths that went downward into the caverns as she yelled out in surprise, causing it to echo throughout the caverns.

Magma bubbled about, melting some of the very rock beneath Reggie as he stepped into an open cave area. Bats fluttered away as rocks tumbling down into the dark abyss just a few steps from Reggie's position.

"That may have been a bit much," he told himself, looking around. Flickers of light caught his eye as he saw a few torches lighting the way another dark earthen corridor. Reggie narrowed his eyes, "He's really made a home out of this place."

The network of caves in this mountain was seemingly extensive or so Reggie surmised. This also left the chance that he would try to escape, but then again, why would Drake lure them there just to make a run for it? Even thieves weren't that cowardly....or stupid.

He continued on, watching his step, as he inched towards another cave tunnel. As he walked on, it began to come back to him. How they had first met, the world was spinning out of control then. And now, it is becoming almost unrecognizable.


Several years ago....

There used to be a village here.

It had been a small village and Ishnal-sensei said they were in the business of timber and logging. For Reggie, that just meant tree business, the specifics were lost on the teenager. His teacher had always made an effort to add layers onto his understanding of the places they went and people they met. That had been the usual before the great war began.

Now, the teenage boy had seen more in a year then most would in a lifetime. The dragons were at war and humans had been brought into the fold, this extended the number of humans that had already established working relationships with friendly dragons. Reggie was of that special few.

And with that war came the destruction of many villages including this one. Reggie gazed over the scorched earth and craters left from the battle. The entire forest that surrounded this very enclave was burnt to the ground in the midst of the fighting. Worst of all, the stench of it all had almost made it hard for him to breathe when he first arrived. The stench of ashes and death. He got used to it though, he had to.

"Look alive, kid, we've got a visitor."

Reggie turned to see his teacher walking towards him, he was flanked by a teenage girl. Her blonde hair flowed past her shoulders and she kept a timid look in her eye, averting her gaze from him at the slightest shared glance. The girl wasn't familiar to him though she looked to be about the same age.

Ishnal let out a puff of smoke as he and the young girl climbed the small hill towards Reggie. "Now I know you're very excited to meet our newest companion for the day," he said with a small grin on his face. He nodded towards the girl,"Aren't you, kid?"

Reggie shrugged, "It's not like I get a choice in these matters anyway, but sure."

"As you can you see, he's excited and I'm excited," Reggie turned to the girl and shot a finger to his prized student, "this grim looking young man is my student, Reggie. Vaynar and I took him into our training some time back before the war. He's not as bad as he looks."

"Grim?" Reggie moaned.

"And Reggie," Ishnal said looking back towards the young man," This is Dorothy Raven. She's a student of Dextra, she's a Ruby Dragon Slayer. Yes, that's a thing and it's very deadly."

"Is it just Reggie?" she asked suddenly, meeting Reggie's gaze.

"Hell if I know, lost my folks before I even hit puberty," Reggie answered. "Ishnal-sensei is a similar case."

"I see," she said, "I've met a number of children with stories like this. I hope all this fighting can end in some sort of mutual agreement, it doesn't have to be fought to the end."

Reggie narrowed his eyes at her, "That's a tad naive, our, and I mean humans, entrance into this conflict means a decisive end is coming. Diplomacy isn't worth a damn here."

"Fair point, but I prefer the less bloody path, it plays out better for all of us," Dorothy replied, "If you can't see the merit of compromise, that's your problem. There's more to this than just furthering bloodshed, you'd do well to remember that."

Ishnal stepped in between the two, "Well, it's good to see young minds forming their own opi—"

"Words are cheap, don't be surprised when my words play out to be true," Reggie said, stepping around his teacher. The two locked glares.

"Unity of all dragons and all humans is the only way to change our world," Dorothy said through a frown. "Spare me the bloodthirstiness, it's unbecoming of someone under the wing of Vaynar-sama."

Reggie gritted his teeth, "Only time will tell, princess."

"Yes, only time," Dorothy said with a smirk.

Ishnal let out a long sigh, exhaling a puff of cigarette smoke.


/Flashback End/

Getting up from the fall she took down into the deeper caverns, Dorothy groaned as she stood up, patting her clothes so the dust would come out before looking back up. "Damn that Reggie, I swear it's punch first and ask questions never" She said under her breath while looking down the tunnel she was facing. Knowing she was straying further away from her partner, she went forward as she tried to relit the torch she had in her hand.

"It's probably the only time I ever needed that idiot, even to this day...."


Several years ago....

It had been three months since their introduction to each other as the two were tasked with aiding their fellow Dragon Slayers during the way, which lead them to being part of the group that gives supplies. While on a certain delivery to the outer posts where there was a heavy concentration of dragons, the duo found themselves lost on the path that lead straight through a dense forest.

"Ugh, this is what I get for letting a man take the lead, I swear you'd lose your head if it wasn't attached" Dorothy said as she was on her horse pulling the wagon full of supplies while Reggie was on his own leading the way forward.

"Just what I need, a squawking girl giving me orders, I told you before I know the route by memory. Why would I need a map to get there?" He said as Dorothy glared daggers at his head, sticking her tongue out as they continued forward. Seeing the open-path at the end of the road, Dorothy sighed in relief, but suddenly heard the sounds of crying echoing from the forest as she stopped, trying to find the source.

"Come on, whatever is making that noise will stop soon, we have to get these supplies to the outpost" Reggie said before stopping to see Dorothy get off the wagon.

"Listen you idiot, it's hurt, and for all we know it could be a person!" She said with a shocked-tone in her voice as she went running, making Reggie groan in irritation as he got off himself, tying the horse to a tree before chasing after her. The duo kept running deeper and deeper into the forest until they made their way to a clearing where they both spotted a young baby dragon, bleeding from it's wing as it was trying to fly but cried in pain each time it flapped.

Dorothy felt sad for the infant, making her visualize the young dragon she helped when she was younger, and instinctively started walking forward before being pushed back by Reggie, who was eyeing the beast calmly and seeing if there was any others with it.

"What the hell was that for? All I'm trying to do is help the poor thing...."

"Are you brain-dead as well as stupid?! Do you not remember we are in a war?! They are the enemies, we are their prey, and if we want to live, we have to make sure they don't get the advantage over us no matter what!" He said in a very serious tone as Dorothy felt a little bit of cold-ruthlessness from his words. She shook her head before pushing his hand away from her.

"Look, I know as well as anyone that some want to kill us or worse, eat us like we were cattle. The thought scares me more than anything, but I cannot stand-by when something innocent is hurt and in pain, maybe you could with no heart, but I have not lost myself in this war. I won't let fear take away my morals, especially not when it's someone who doesn't show to have any in the first place"

With that statement, Dorothy pushed Reggie, who was surprised by the tone in her voice, out of her way as she ran towards the young infant, shushing and calming it down before it allowed her to look at it's wing as she continued to comfort and calm it down to apply some healing ointment onto it's wing, and wrapping it up as the infant screeched in joy. Dorothy smiled as she gave the dragon a kiss before sending it on it's way, making Reggie surprised at how she was able to easily calm something like a infant dragon without any trouble or problem.

With the dragon leaving, she walked back to where Reggie was standing as they looked each other right in the eyes, "Well, we better hurry and get the supplies to the outpost" She said as Reggie chuckled a bit before walking back to where they had their horses, secretly seeing Dorothy in a different light than before.

/Flashback End/

"That idiot really has come through for me, even now..." She said chuckling and slightly blushing.

"Interesting, I didn't think slayers re capable of showing affection..." A voice echoed as Dorothy recognized it to be Drake as she quickly went on the offensive position, trying to pinpoint where he was as she kept walking into the cave.

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