Without Light
Part 2: Firebreathers
Length: 11k

I don't know why you guys didn't spam me with hate mail for neglecting you this long but here's the update you deserve!

I'll tell you where I've been. Got a new job and I've been writing V3.
V3 is 40chapters, approx 5pgs each but I feel like I need to study Kuro a little more closely. He's the most difficult to pin down and yet the MOST valuable character. If I don't write him right I have to start all over.

Just WHY is Kuro likeable? Why do you love him? I'd really like to know that one.

Anyway without further ado, here is your "Weapon."

Your horrifically late author,



"Ugh! How ugly."
Kuroshi remembered the disgust in Father's voice, and the way those eyes had narrowed, glaring down at his own newborn son. "You deal with it, Kuroshi."

How he could call Kintra an "it" was beyond Kuro. He stood before his little brother, who was currently hibernating, and carefully took in the sight of his 'ugly' true form. Kintra's soft little paws were folded under his chin, with the dragon claws showing a bizarre, golden color. He looked so peaceful. His body mimicked that of a dragon, with four legs and two wings, and he even had a similar snout.

The overall body structure was dragon, but the outer layer was not. Instead of scales Kintra's body was covered with smooth, gleaming feather-like structures so fine they almost resembled fur. He looked almost like an oversized, sleeping kitten, with a red fur coat and large, angelic wings folded gracefully on his back. Where long, deadly dragon fangs should have been, smaller, almost unnoticeable ones peaked out from his closed, softly snoring snout. And these had only just grown in, after weeks of being toothless. Kintra's usually vibrant purple eyes were closed, and his long, crimson tail had curled all the way around his body, so its feathered tip came to rest on his nose.

He was nothing short of lovely, resembling an oversized Flier chimera. But Father doesn't like it. So this body of Kintra's would have to be hidden.
With just one wave, and the will of Kuroshi's magic blood, Kintra's bizarre red feathers melted down into black dragon scales: hidden. Merenteren's magic would then be sufficient to erase his memories of his own true form.

It was morning. Glorious, sunshine-drenched morning, but the then adolescent prince of Firebreathers soon found himself distraught. He'd lain down, enjoying the soothing warmth of sunlight on his silken black hair, and set down his drawing pad. There he sketched a likeness of the flowers before him, while his older brother, appearing age seventeen then, stood nearby, practicing his magic in the field. Kintra was not interested in the works of fire, so he hadn't turned once to watch as Kuroshi effortlessly melted boulders and split the ground with lava. Instead, the younger prince kept to his drawing, watching the blank white page grow into a scene of beauty. It was near midday, if he remembered correctly, when this peaceful scene met its crashing halt, interrupted by of all things, a fallen strand of his own hair. Kintra paused, staring dumbfounded at the little sliver of dark crimson. It had fluttered down onto his drawing, like a butterfly alighting on the ground, peaceful and lovely, as if it actually belonged there. "What the-"

His words were suddenly, rudely interrupted by a sound like a cobra lashing out at a rabbit. There had been a little servant girl, just beside him, watching him draw, but now he looked up, and she was gone. In her place remained only a fresh drabble of blood, shining red against the emerald grass, but he could see Kuroshi, who'd lifted his hand to command the attack. Kintra stood, torn between two disturbing scenes of matching color. No less than five hunters had rushed in and viciously attacked the poor girl. He could only guess whatever remained of her lie beneath that pile of vicious, bloodthirsty chimeras. Meanwhile, his own hair, which he'd always thought matched his brother's and father's, now fell over his shoulder, just as blatantly red as the shameless setting sun.

His hands came up on instinct and grasped it in bunches, and even though he could feel it, cool and real on his palms, Kintra couldn't believe his eyes. "What is this?" His fingernails too began to change color. "What's happening to me?" Where once they were black, as a normal Firebreather's, they now melted into a metallic yellow, as if he'd dipped them into molten gold. Before he knew it he'd whipped around and his legs were carrying him, as fast as they could, to the nearest pond. Frightened koi flitted beneath the water's surface and the ornate stones felt cold and unfeeling beneath his sweating palms. His own stunned face was reflected, only with large purple eyes and bizarre red hair. Even his eyebrows had changed to match it.

"What was meant to be will be." The younger prince didn't even flinch as his brother walked up to stand beside him. He was too shocked to even move. But where had he heard that saying before? From Father. He continued the mantra from memory. "One day humans will take their place beneath us, and Sheriek will use their imperfect bodies to serve us-"
"And the glory of pure blood will make itself known." Kintra turned to his brother then, finally understanding everything at once. "This is why I can't breathe real fire? Why my skin is the wrong color? Why Father picked you for the throne?"

Kuro shook his head, almost absently reaching out to ghost his fingers across Kintra's natural, finally revealed red velvet hair. "No, little brother. This is why you mean everything to all of us." Beneath Kuroshi's palms, his magic made itself known. From his fingers was summoned the disguise Kintra had lived beneath all along. "I'll teach you," Kuroshi said, "to hide it yourself. But pure blood, as they say, will want to make itself known, now you're older."

"Yeah. At this age your magic will spike. If you don't keep watch of it, the true you will shine through. Disguises are no match for pure blood."
"The true me… is something to hide from the world? Something I should be ashamed of?"
"No, brother. It's something the world doesn't deserve to see."

I have found the Ruby Weapon.
It is disguised and living among the other dragons.

While awake it looks indistinguishable from them, but once a month, when it hibernates, its guard falls and its disguise disappears!

I believe I have found its origin as well. If I am right about its heritage, its breeding may make it extremely difficult to kill.

I must investigate this evil creature further.
Find its purpose.
And most importantly its weakness.
I could if only.
If only I could stop thinking of him.

Red. Deadly, enslaving red. His eyes were impossible to look away from. Through them magic flowed, both sinister and silent. Daring to gaze into them caused the blood to boil and the mind to reel. But oh, she wanted nothing more. He lay stretched out before her, with his glorious body fully exposed and his hands in his hair, claws taut. She knew he wanted them digging into her neck so much more. He wanted to be bathed in her blood and wrapped up in her warmth. "If you love someone," He'd once said. "You cause them pain without effort. Well I love you, and you love me, so one day we should kill one another. Wouldn't that be magnificent?" And then he rolled over, easily, and caught her by the throat. He weighed more, substantially, and it hurt terribly to be pinned beneath him, but escape was not an option. Her own masculine body did little to help and the pain only multiplied.

I know but can't help it.
They are twin demons.
How can one ever win against them?

The half moon glowed overhead while two human pets slept peacefully beside one of those very same 'demons.' Christian had turned on his side, oblivious to the soft red feathers tickling his fingertips, and Estelle lay behind him, faced toward the opposite direction. Kintra himself had his paws beneath his snout again, resting on his stomach, but unlike his pets, Kintra was not truly asleep, since it was not yet time for hibernation. Still, though, he wanted to stay close to his precious pets, and so rested beside them, dreaming peacefully of tomorrow's adventures.

Heather, meanwhile, slept alone. Her master seemed less fond of remaining in the company of unconscious humans, and so had departed shortly after tucking her in. Kuroshi still stood out on the balcony, however, whether she realized it or not. He couldn't quite place why, but tonight his eyes were drawn to the moon and the heavens surrounding it. He wondered, sometimes, just what lay beyond. He remembered an old human text he'd read once, which claimed the creator of all things lived up there, and would one day return. But he wasn't sure if he believed that. Nothing seemed able to return to earth once it had left.

Though some say the phoenix goddess could.
What a shame that her race had nearly been wiped out, until only those less magically gifted remained free. If only he had been a phoenix… Funny how the mind lingered on hopeless 'if onlys' and pointless wonderings. Funny how… I'm even thinking of him, after so long. But he knew it wasn't funny, and it wasn't coincidence either, whether the prince wanted to tell claim that or not. It's because of her. He turned away from the night sky and leaned back against the balcony then, gazing off toward his bed. He couldn't see it past the curtains and window frame, but knew his pet lay within. She was fast asleep. He could tell without even being able to see or hear her. Kuroshi could smell it. The stable way her flower-scented breaths came and the absence of her slightly bitter tears meant her eyes were closed. He could detect her body heat too, lower than a conscious human's.

The night's breeze played through his hair, lifting the scent of his own dragon heritage, and he thought absently of how she lacked such cues. Not a single drop of Shiren blood… It meant she knew no magic. It meant she slept each night. And it meant that once those brown eyes closed, the last flutter of life stolen, they would never open again. It meant he really could have extinguished something beautiful, on the very first day they had met. It was strange now to imagine that he would never have witnessed her smile or laughing or witty remarks. Somehow though, Kuroshi found himself preferring her more sarcastic quips and sharp, venomous hissing. They reminded him of the females of his own kind. That pet seemed human enough, but acted just like a dragon herself. He'd rather that she were a dragon too. What does it feel like, he wondered, to know your life will only last a measly hundred or so harvests?

It wasn't even likely that she'd reach even that age. She'd more than likely fall ill or victim to one of the many more powerful creatures in this world. Did she realize that? Did she understand just why he kept the door locked and was starting to avoid his own kind? Probably not. Human youth were so foolish…

Kuroshi wandered back into his bedroom then, robes trailing behind him and footsteps carefully muffled. His sharp red eyes caught her small, sleeping form even with the comforters obscuring a direct line of vision and he made his way over, easily reaching her side in complete silence. He didn't make it a habit to watch his pet sleep, but now contemplated doing so. How many nights did she have left? How many days? How many laughs?

Kuroshi startled. His pet had just rolled over in its sleep, and he found himself face-to-face with it. Luckily; however, those soft almond eyes remained closed. Her long, delicate lashes still rested peacefully on her cream white cheeks, and she shifted only slightly, drawing her arms closer to her small frame. She was cold-natured, it seemed, since she always slept with the blankets drawn up. When she rolled out from under them, as she had just done, she had to curl herself up to conserve heat. He wondered vaguely if she mustn't feel uncomfortable, sleeping like that. He couldn't really tell, but her pretty pink lips were almost frowning. What a silly little creature. He could bet, without doubt, that her fellow pets were already sound asleep, snuggled up with their master tonight. Kintra seemed just the type to stay close and keep his pets warm. She could've just asked me to stay. He wondered how many nights she'd already spent like that, curled up beneath blankets but still uncomfortable. She was just so incurably stubborn: priceless.

He didn't sit on the bed, but knelt by her side silently even though he secretly wanted to wake her. She had these long, perfectly curled lashes, but those brown eyes were much more interesting. He always wondered just what secret emotions they held, since her eyes were the only thing he could not always read on his pet. One thing he could however, was scent. He absently took a whiff and caught the taste of something intriguing: apprehension. She's having a nightmare. He heard her whimper then, terrified of whatever haunted her dreams, and considered waking her up, but still hesitated. He could smell her fear. It was a very potent, bitter type of scent; the kind that caught his attention every time. In his opinion, fear was a good smell, since it meant something weaker and possibly edible was nearby.

But tonight it almost bothered him. He'd rather be doing anything else, after all, than kneeling beside her, unable to stop wondering what she might taste like. Biting her to find out, was unfortunately not an option, so he simply breathed in her scent, wondering why she could never sleep soundly, and thought vaguely of the one thing she most reminded him of: Marcus. Kuroshi remembered him clearly. Marcus had had this unnatural water lilly scent. In all of his life, Kuro had never met a human that didn't smell like human flesh, but this one male had. It was the scent of a flower, and not even a common flower, but a Japanese water lilly. He'd traveled just for the sake of finding one, and decided that Marcus did indeed smell just like them.

What he didn't understand though, was why this female pet smelled like one too. Was something wrong with his nose? If he remembered correctly, Marcus had mentioned having a wife, but this pet didn't seem old enough to be anyone's wife.
Perhaps this was his daughter? But if that's true… Kuroshi had to exercise even more caution this time, but he managed to reach out and brush just enough of her hair aside to catch sight of her neck. Nothing. She doesn't have the marks. Maybe his senses really were just playing a trick on him. Maybe he just wished that some little part of Marcus remained in his life. Or maybe he thought of her as similar because Marcus had also proven to be enjoyable company, a feat Kuroshi assumed no other human would ever manage to pull off. But maybe, just maybe, he'd been wrong about that.

She shifted again, giving a little shiver, and he absently reached over to pull the blankets back over her shoulders. It was then that a low, familiar sound distracted his attention. The guard dogs had begun growling, but the noise ceased almost immediately. Kuroshi stood, curious to see who'd silenced them, but he didn't even need to. A small black envelope slid in from beneath the double doors then, and he strolled over to get it. From Father? He slid one claw carefully across the top and extracted the single sheet of paper. The message had been written in fresh and now slightly smeared blood.

Come. Alone.
Leave Kintra out of it.

"Yes?" Kintra set down his hairbrush and allowed Estelle to sit alone as he stood to open his doors. There his hunters sat, side by side, with Kuroshi planted right in the center. He looked amazing tonight, draped in flawless, rich blacks, but his handsome face was downturned, as if he were lost in his thoughts and at the same time uncomfortable with looking at Kintra. "You alright, Aniki?" Kintra prompted, stepping aside and closing the doors neatly behind him. "Need to talk about something?"

Kuro nodded slightly, and did chance looking up at that point, but only to glare at the two pets on the bed. They looked comfortable already, as if they belonged there, and the thought sent a shock of annoyance right into his gut. "I only just noticed," he muttered, "but you and I no longer have a place where we might meet in confidence."
"Oh!" Kintra seemed only to notice just then, but he seemed actually cheerful about it. "Just a moment. I'm sure Aya and Estelle won't mind stepping outside for a little bit while we talk." He swept right back over to Chris and Estelle, and the two stood on instinct, bowing as he requested their compliance. Estelle led the way, ever first to obey, and Chris followed. Kintra led them through the glass doors and out onto the balcony, where the night's breeze gently played in their hair as the moon bathed the two in its light. "You wait right here, alright?"

Estelle obediently sat down on the bench, accepting a kiss on one of those tiny, white hands, while Chris helped himself up, pretending not to be watching. He hated the look his Estelle always gave to their master, with those blue eyes so wide and so sweet, looking just like a puppy's. Just how deep had Estelle's humanity been buried? And how was Chris supposed to retrieve it? Even if he could, there was no guarantee that Estelle would want to choose him over the glorious Kintra. Like his elder brother, Kintra was more than good-looking. He could probably leave women breathless enough to suffocate with one glance of those smooth purple eyes. Chris wished he would just keep his hands to himself, but to Kintra kisses like that didn't seem to mean anything too serious.

"I will return just as soon as I'm able," Kintra promised, chuckling when Estelle clung to his hands and refused to release them until he'd planted two parting kisses on each. Their master took the time to ruffle his Aya's hair too, apparently missing the look of envious loathing on his face, and then left them alone. The balcony doors shut with a clack, and Chris immediately turned to Estelle, but his mouth had not even opened before Kuroshi's first words left him speechless.

"The wolf tribe is on their way here."

Chris immediately hopped down from the sidebench, sneaking up to the slightly still open glass doors. Estelle said something, most likely chastising him, but he ignored that and shamelessly spied on his master. Kintra had closed both the curtains, but Chris could still hear the louder voice of Kuroshi if he held his breath carefully. "Their idiot queen has sent Father a message, and he showed it to me just last night. It's the worst time for this shit. I'll be hibernating right at that time and only you'll be awake. That means if Father does want the job done-"
Kintra muttered something, cutting him off, but Chris couldn't hear it. Kintra's voice was so much more gentle, compared with his brother's, that it was impossible to hear from a distance. His troubled tone gave a good gist however, and Chris assumed he was terribly worried. What kind of job?

Christian startled at that point, instinctively backing away as his purebred companion seemed to just appear by his side. Estelle may as well have been trained in the art of the ninja. "Good pets shouldn't spy on their masters," the blonde chided, catching Chris by the arm. He dodged this, however, refusing the second time too. "Estelle, quit it!"

"But Aya-" The purebreed tried to convince him again but Chris struggled. He misjudged his own strength however, and this time Estelle hit the ground with a yelp. Those big, pretty blue eyes welled up with tears, but Chris had ducked down in an instant, apologizing immediately. He felt like a monster for pushing Estelle, almost as if he had just shoved a five-year old girl. "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry!" He whispered with worry, catching Estelle's hands in his own. "Are you hurt?" Estelle only pouted, and half of Christian's mind screamed for him to forget it and just get back to listening, but the other half still felt too awful to do so. What do I do? He should apologize-no-he should listen for clues about Ruby Weapon! Chris could feel himself sweating, even despite the cold air outside, and his panic-stricken brain had to work a mile a minute, but the answer mercifully crashed down in seconds. "Come here," he soothingly whispered, trying not to sound rushed as he held his arms open. At the same time, however, he scooted himself backward, until he was right up against the cold glass of the door, and only then did he let the small pet take a seat on his lap.

Estelle didn't cease whimpering until Chris had his hands in that hair, petting while whispering sweet, soothing nothings, but at the same time he tilted his head back, stealing valuable clues from the dragons behind him. "-kin' ridiculous," Kuroshi was scoffing. "And she's planned the whole thing out for him! Listen, I'll play you the whisper crystal." The room fell silent then, but soon the sound of a woman's voice issued. Chris listened intently while nuzzling his face into Estelle's vanilla-scented blonde hair.

"Brother Kuroi," a woman's voice greeted, relaying a pre-recorded message, "I humbly request an audience with you and your sons in your castle. It is my understanding that both of your sons will be coming of age very soon, and I am sure that you realize what a valuable opportunity this will afford. If one of your sons were to wed me, for instance, a powerful alliance would result. I dare say the elk kingdom would be terribly jealous, but two sons would allow them to join too, and on top of it all, my own heir will come of age this mating season, and she could wed the prince of snowdancer dragons! This would bring each of the most powerful nations together, and as you like to say, 'encourage utopia.' Please consider this well, as I breathlessly await your reply."

The message shut off after that, and Kintra immediately voiced a question that Chris couldn't hear. "No," Was Kuroshi's answer, however, and he made to explain. "Father would never consent. An alliance would mean interbreeding, and you know how he feels about that." Another question. From the sound of his voice, Chris could guess that his master must have been pacing back and forth, on the opposite side of the room. Luckily Kuroshi had not followed, so his answer rang clear. "Not a chance," he responded, shooting down two more of Kintra's offers with ease, "The mating moons only last a few nights, so it's too late. Father's not gonna want to wait longer. You know that. But what I want to know, Kintra, is what you're gonna do. If Father commands you to do it, will you or not? Because if you don't, I'm sure he'll just tell me to do it..."

Finally Christian heard Kintra, at least this one time. He'd raised his voice in surprise. "You'd do something like that?"
"It hardly matters to me," Kuro dodged. "Just it puts you in danger. No offense but I think I'm a little better prepared to kill gods."

Kintra fell silent at that, or maybe he'd made a gesture or given Kuroshi a look; Chris couldn't tell, but the elder prince made to end their conversation after that moment of silence. "Just think about it," he sighed, footsteps retreating back toward the front door. "Father will send his response on the next moon. I'll tell you what it is if you want." Another moment of silence. "I know. Don't do anything dumb, understand?"

Chris heard the heavy oak doors being opened and the restless barks of the hunters outside, and at that point he made to stand up, quickly coaxing Estelle to do so as well. The blonde seemed to have cheered up in the time it had taken for the two dragon brothers to talk, and Chris was relieved to see those eyes had gone right back to normal, with no threat of tears. He sat down on the bench, away from the glass doors, and Estelle snuggled up by his side. He should have snuggled back. He should have turned to Estelle and looked into those eyes and just blurted out everything he'd ever felt for the perfect, pretty little companion he wanted so badly to call only his own. But Chris couldn't. Inside his mind buzzed with new clues, the voice of the wolf queen clashing with the sneers of Kuroshi. Was he planning to kill her or Merenteren? How? And what part would Kintra play? And just why did Estelle have to be so freakin' cute?! Why was this pet pretty like a girl but then lean like a boy? And just what in the world was hiding under that skirt?

Sighing with a head full of answers to nothing, Christian stared off at the sky, absently realizing he must be officiallyway too distracted.

"This is good." Cereno turned to his leader, eyes wide, but of course Leon couldn't see that. "What do you mean? We've not even left the dragon king's stormlands."
"Yeah, we're still in the forest, old man," Lucas teased, "are you senile now too?"
"I am not," the wolf prince assured, "stop the carriage right here."
Cereno obeyed, even with the warning look Lucas shot him. The dashers nickered and stomped, annoyed with the pull on their reigns, but the carriage still slowed to a stop. Leon stood up to leave then, easily letting himself out and hopping down onto the forest path without any guidance. Lucas joined him, followed quickly by Cer, but both knew what he'd say. "No, you two. You'll stay here."

"What do you mean, we'll stay here?"
"No we won't, Leon. This next mission is dangerous."
"Yes," the wolf prince asserted, "and that is why you will stay here. Leopards would draw far too much attention in Elkenfeld. I will speak to my uncle alone."
"But your uncle is Caymen," Lucas drawled, "It's not smart to just waltz into stag territory."

"We do not have a choice," Leon snorted, "Emperor Caymen knows everything about King Kuroi's politics. If it is safe to ally with him… Only Caymen will know."
"Yeah, and what if it's not safe?"
"We can't protect you from afar," Cer insisted. "At least let me go with you. I'll adopt a disguise."

"No. I'll need you both to support Evelynne. Go to her-no more questions- go north and meet up with my mother, that's an order." Lucas had tried speaking up, but somehow Leon knew to interrupt, offering only one more command. "Oh and Lucas, take care of the carriage."
Lucas only growled, watching the fleeting backside of the white wolf who'd led them. Flowers sprang up in his wake, as per usual, but they looked so much less beautiful now.

Cereno stood just beside him, looking miserable with the downpour already drenching his fur. "What do we do?"

"I take care of this carriage," was all Lucas grumbled. He approached it, one arm lifted, and bit down on his wrist. He could hear Cereno gasp with surprise, and then rush to his side, but just waved him away, flicking his wrist nonchalantly. A smatter of blood splashed the doors of the now empty carriage, and then Lucas stood back, watching that blood spark to life. A powerful surge burst out of each tiny droplet and the wood splintered and cracked before being fried into charred, black remains. The dashers tore free, with only ruined bits of leather holding them down, but Lucas caught one before it could disappear with its brother, and hopped onto its back, guiding the beast over to Cer. "Here, get on."
"Where will we go?"

"Where else? To help Evee kill Ruby Weapon."

I know it's forbidden, but to write is the only way to preserve reality.
Every day I worry my memories will fade.
I wonder if I'll ever be able to share my knowledge with those who need it most. And above all I feel pain. Longing.
It is better I let these feelings out of my mind and into this book. Onto this paper.

Heather paused, turning again to dip her makeshift pen back into the only source of 'ink' in the Shiren world. The phoenix tail feather dug easily into the already sizeable cut in her left arm, allowing a thick coating of blood. It was better this way. It meant more if her daughter could one day know she meant this much. She was important enough, for memoirs written in blood.

I will tell of Kuroi: the dragon king.
He is handsome and powerful. His eyes could stop a rampaging rhinoceros in its tracks and seduce it too. One touch makes any sane being roll onto its back.

There is no choice but to submit.

His voice evokes terror and pleasure in one word.
One breath and you wish you could die.
If I die. When I die.
I want it to be in his arms.

The familiar sound of Hunters growling made her startle, so the last word wound up messy, but she managed to snap the diary closed, and moved swiftly to stuff it and all other paraphernalia into the closet. Her heart was pounding and her palms were sweaty. She knew it was only a matter of time before-

And then she woke up, tangled in Kuroshi's blankets, and a few choice curse words slipped from her grumbling lips. Her real body was covered in sweat, just like in the dreams, and she was so sick of this. They felt so real… Frustrated, Heather threw the blankets aside and rolled out of bed. Kuroshi was missing, the jackass, and without him the room would remain dark until sunrise. Heather felt her way over to the curtains, stubbing her toe along the way, but eventually found and drew them aside. Moonlight flooded the once dark room, and she turned to scope out some way of lighting the torches.

But her eyes didn't fall on anything fire-producing. Instead, she noticed something else. That same closet. And well, maybe these dreams might come in handy after all.

Chris found himself uncomfortable with his master's proximity. As it turned out, Ruby Weapon's red feathers… tickled. He woke before the sun rose, roused by the faintest swish of his master's tail.

"Sorry," came his whispered reply, "you were sleeping on my tail…" "You always wake me up."
"No I don't. Estelle does."
"What? Did I do something bad?"
"Now look what you did! Now you woke everyone up!"
"It's your fault."
"Why's it so dark?"
"Ouch! That was my hand!"
"Well that was my wing!"
"Well maybe if you didn't have so many extra body parts…"
"Maybe if you weren't so clingy. Seriously ten people could fit on this bed." "Fine. I'm rolling this way."
"Ouch Aya!"
"Sorry Estelle!"
"What happened?"
"Shutup Kintra."
"Wait, what're y- Aya!"
"Get off him Aya."
"I didn't do anything!"
"Yeah right-"
"I didn't!"

"Oh forget it, I'll just light the torches." Finally Kintra stood to do so, but judging by the sound, he tripped over something and wound up on the ground instead. For a moment everything was dark and silent, and then all three of them just burst out laughing.

"Can't catch me!"
"That's what you think!" Chris tore after his snickering master, who trampled half the garden in his wake. The sun was up and therefore it was time to play. Or at least, that's what Kintra's motto claimed. Today was the seventh time he'd brought his pets out to entertain the palace children, and as the day wore on it proved to be the best. Estelle was slowly learning to be a little more human than pet. Today the purebreed was really on the ball, having already caught three child servants in a game of hide and seek. Maybe those blue eyes could see through the bushes? "Gotcha!"
"Awe man!" Number four squealed and squirmed as her captor claimed victory and Kintra applauded from his seat by the pond.
"Nice one, Pet!"
"Just one to go," Estelle bragged, hurrying over to ask Chris if he'd seen it.
"I dunno," Christian muttered, trying again to capture the frog that kept ducking back into the pond. "Maybe by the rosebushes?"
"Aha…" Estelle made to leave, paused, and then shoved Chris into the pond, before dashing away.

"What happened to you?" Kintra snorted, ducking as his pet tossed the finally captured frog at his face. Aya climbed out of the pond, looking just like a drowned rat. "Don't worry," Kintra offered, "I'll give you a nice long puppy bath when we get back ins- gross!" This next frog hit its mark and Kintra spluttered, jumping away from the slimy thing. The children giggled and teased, watching their prince take off running with the frog-wielding pet right on his heels.

Meanwhile Estelle became sidetracked. "Hmm… What's this?" Curious, Estelle wandered deeper into the rosebushes, which they usually never played near. The thorns made it a terrible place for children, but not, it seemed, for parents. Those blue eyes spied an egg, larger than a basketball, soaking up sunlight as it lay there. Estelle couldn't touch it for fear of the thorns, but did stand still for many moments just to watch it. Then, by some miracle, the egg moved! "Wow!" Bright blue eyes watched as the shell cracked, and Estelle was tempted to call out and tell Aya, but remained too amazed to even move. This thing had to be a dragon. The slimy little creature wined and struggled, kicking the shell away as it tried to emerge, but it didn't seem able. The baby dragon was about the size of a fully grown cat, and its sticky little wings weren't even strong enough to unfurl. Awe, poor little thing… Finally Estelle reached down to help it, carefully peeling off the top portion of that thick, brick red shell. It only took that much of a hand for the newly hatched dragon to burst itself out, and the thing struggled to get up off its back. But something seemed to be wrong. This didn't look so much like a dragon after all. Instead of smooth dragon scales, it was covered in patches of tiny down feathers. A fuzzy dragon?
Strange... Yet it still seemed so cute. The little creature let out a small, gentle coo as it shook off the rest of its shell and finally those adoring blue eyes could meet with its oversized purple ones. But as soon as they did, Estelle's vision went black.
Upon waking, Estelle wound up staring up into much larger purple eyes, but Aya quickly shoved Kintra out of the way to get the first word in. "You okay?"
"Yes, I think…"
"Oh, thank goodness!"
"Hey Aya?"
"What happened to your hair?"
"I hate you."
Estelle jumped up and ran off, just barely dodging as Aya tore off, in hot pursuit, while Kintra stood back, shaking his head at the fleeting forms of his pets. "Teenagers…" Kintra made to leave then, but he paused, distracted by the crackling sound at his feet. He peered downward, cocking his head at the empty eggshell. "Hmm," he then muttered, amused, "the birthplace of a phoenix." He reached down, claimed one piece of that shell and walked off, wondering over what kind of art he could make with it. Little did he know that deep in those rosebushes, narrowed eyes watched his every move.

Heather Hikaru Mayhue had better things to do than wander the gardens and meet mythical creatures. Today she was wandering Kuroshi's bedroom instead, digging through his drawers and searching through the huge, walk-in closet. This's what good pets do, she thought sarcastically, tossing the nearest what's-it behind herself and ignoring the sound of it shattering. He's rich anyway. He can just buy another.

Besides, he should have known better than to leave her alone in here. What kind of idiot just leaves his pets home alone? I ought to scratch his furniture and piss on the carpet too! Okay, so maybe Heather wasn't really as interested in searching for that dream diary as she pretended to be. Maybe she was just pissed at Kuro. The previous night, he'd tucked her in, just as promised, but then left. Just left! And he hadn't returned since. One of his servants did come up to deliver her breakfast, but Heather was still annoyed. Kuro never even told her where he disappeared to at night. And she wouldn't have cared, really if she hadn't figured out how nice it felt to be beside him. Kuroshi just naturally radiated heat and Heather just happened to despise cold. She'd emerged from their bath, was led back to his bedroom, towel-dried, and even introduced to another of his magical abilities. Phoenix-flame, he'd explained, could warm or heat anything on contact without burning it. And as it turned out, this worked wonders on wet clothes and hair. It was something soothingly refreshing, like she'd never felt before. But he's still an ass!

That just seemed to naturally add up. So here she sat, tearing through his books, which she knew he valued above anything else in his room. Including me. Heather yanked yet another book from his closet, watching the others scatter on the ground. Damn it. It's all printed. Why aren't there any diaries? Oh. Wolf Breeding Patterns? Well this one looks interesting. She flipped through the first few pages, searching for traces of anything familiar. She caught a name or two, including Evelynne, which she'd since forgotten how to pronounce. Heather felt quite proud of herself though, since she could still recognize that name as belonging to the queen of wolves. What it meant to be a queen of wolves was beyond her, but she supposed it would make sense one day, so long as she stayed in this world long enough to do some proper exploring. Which I can't do, she bitterly noted, since someone I know won't let me out of this one stupid room!

Kuro hadn't expressly forbid her from leaving of course, but Heather got the feeling she wasn't meant to. The bloodthirsty dogs standing just outside the door served as a pretty strong hint. Kuroshi seemed the overly-controlling type. She couldn't remember ever being allowed to go somewhere without him, and often spent her time seated in his bedroom, simply waiting for him to return. Ugh. I really am turning into a Pet. Admittedly though, this had not bothered her as badly before as it did now. It wasn't that she was bored, but that she felt so terribly cold, even when it was warm and sunny outside.

But that was just a coincidence. She didn't miss him, of course. Heather was much too independent and capable to feel such things as loneliness or longing.
Sighing, Heather tossed that book aside and threw herself onto the bed, grumbling into the pillows and rich, velvet-red blankets, all the while hating everything she could possibly think of. Except perhaps one thing: Kuroshi himself. She only wondered when he'd return.

I've figured it out. Finally.

Ruby Weapon must be bound and submerged in water. This will not cause its true destruction but will eliminate its threat.
The trick is getting it into water deep enough. The moat would work if not for the loyal sea serpents guarding it. Everywhere I turn another chimera blocks my path.

The king has done his job well. Hunters guard its home and Sea Serpents eliminate all hopes of getting it into the water.

But there must be some way. I will find it.
Until then I must avoid the weapon at all costs. If my hunch is correct, that monster can read the mind of anything that looks into its eyes. I don't think it's caught sight of me yet…

"You okay?" Kuroshi nodded, skillfully shaking the exhaustion out of his facial expression. "Fine," was his only rushed answer. He hurried over to Kintra, who stood out in the garden, and caught his brother by the shoulders. "Look me in the eye, Kintra."
"What? You're sure?"
"Yes, just do it!" The younger brother did so, and Kuroshi skillfully refused the unbidden urges that rose up inside of him. Kintra's magic always felt like this, as if a roaring waterfall had suddenly crashed down and eroded every trace of self-restraint and common sense. He wasn't sure if his instincts now wanted him to kiss Kintra or rip out his throat, but Kuroshi made sure to resist both of those urges. Instead he simply released him and walked away, letting the aftereffects linger.

Already it was nearing midday, and he knew his pet would be pissed by the time he returned to her, but he still didn't fly. Instead Kuro took the long way back to his room, over the castle drawbridge and up the maze-like staircases, thinking all the while of the night he'd just spent with his father.

Everything's set. Father has changed all our plans for mating season. He seems to think you're interested in the wolf queen, and if you're not, he plans to make you that way. He told me most of the plan this last moon, but he never said how you should kill her. There must be a clue though. I'll try to remember everything, and I want you to try to decipher. I probably don't need to tell you though, that you shouldn't go along with anything he's mentioned, especially not the wedding. Remember who you are, Kintra. Who we are, and what we are meant to do.

Just as he'd said, Kuroshi recounted the previous night's conversations, knowing full well that Kintra could now hear and see every detail. The Hunters stood aside as he threw his bedroom doors open, and the female pet on his bed glowered up at him. She looked amazing today, in the glow of the sunlight. Her small, feminine body was seated in the perfect center of his bed, and he thought absently that the sight was not something he'd change, not even the glare in those pretty brown eyes. She looked like a wet, jilted little kitten, left alone in a sea of his blankets. A very pissed off kitten.

She had no less than three of his personal favorite novels open on her lap, with some of the pages ripped out, and seemed to have trashed the rest of his room too. Ignoring this, Kuroshi approached her, having already decided on the best way to handle her inevitable wrath. "Come. I know you must be hungry since you've missed lunch. I'll make it up to you. And no, Richelille will not be on the menu."
"What will be, then?" She sarcastically wondered, "Freshly clubbed baby seals?"
"No. I thought you'd like a selection of sirloin, cheese and wine."
"From grown up cows?"

She glared with suspicion for a moment, but her empty stomach wasn't particularly in the mood for argument, so she stood, dumping those books onto the ground, and agreed to accept his offer of reconciliation, all the while completely oblivious to the workings of the dragon king.

The hallways were unusually quiet today. Heather noticed Kuroshi looked uneasy, and that he'd chosen an outfit unlike what he usually wore. There were no jewels in his hair today, but he'd pulled back a small portion of it, to keep it out of his eyes. He'd donned a fine golden crown and rich, majestic purple robes. The sight reminded Heather of his title of prince, but she thought he seemed unhappy, even though he looked amazing.

He strode along in front of her, perfectly-timed footsteps echoing on the walls of the empty hallways, and she finally spoke up, wondering why he seemed rushed. "You have somewhere important to be?" "I always have somewhere important to be," He confessed, "Usually I can get things done quick enough that you don't even notice."
"Oh." That surprised Heather. He hadn't come off as busy to her. But then again, she rarely left his bedroom, which was probably his favorite place to relax. She got the feeling he only relaxed around her. "Well then, what do you have to do today?"
"Make an announcement. Then I have to answer questions and clear everything up afterwards. I would've just left you out of it but you'd be starving by the time all this bullshit is done."

"Oh, well thanks I guess."
"Don't thank me." He slowed down, opting to walk beside, rather than in front of her, and Heather almost swore she saw a hint of unease in his eyes. He masked it with a threatening tone though. "Don't you dare leave the dining hall, once you're in there, understand? Do not wander."
"If any of the males try to get close to you, be sure to remind them that I will find out."
"Again with the don't let boys touch you thing," Heather scoffed, "You sound like my mom."
"I didn't mean it like that."
"I have some self respect, you know."
"Of course I know that."
She paused without meaning to. The two stood just outside of what she assumed was the dining hall, and he'd reached out to open the double doors, but turned to question the incredulous look on her face. "What?"
"How would you know anything about me? You don't even talk to me, Kuro"
"I can tell by your smell."
"Well maybe guys just don't want to touch me."
Kuro rolled those red eyes. "Yeah right, Pet. Why'd you think I keep you locked in my room all the time?"
"Well…" Heather trailed off, not even knowing what to say. She couldn't believe Kuro had been so astute to give thought to her safety. "You're crazy, you know that? One moment you want me dead, the next you're trying to hide me so no one can hurt me…"
"I'm crazy?" Kuro snorted, almost laughing as he brought a hand up to his fangs. "You should meet my father."

Kuroshi turned back to her then, and before she knew what was happening, Heather had his wet palm on her neck, streaking blood down her front. She recoiled just a second too late, aghast at the fresh trail of dribbling blood. "Kuro, what the hell!" She instinctively made to swipe it off but he caught her with that same, still-bleeding hand. "Leave it."

"Why would you do that? You're hurt!" She backed up, wrenching her hands back to herself, but Kuroshi seemed unconcerned by his own bloodloss. He had those ruby eyes fixed downward, as if intrigued by the bloodspatter: speckled purplish drops on the pale floor, and then shook his hand absently, to clear it of most of that blood. "It's just a scratch. Keep that blood on you, understand? I'll be pissed if you go and mess everything up." Heather grimaced, looking down at the wet, burgundy mess streaked diagonally across her neck and chest, but Kuroshi didn't offer more explanation than that. Instead he turned and threw open the double doors, bowing as the packed ballroom burst into welcoming applause.

Oh my gosh!
Heather found herself stunned and completely distracted by the ballroom, which seemed something beyond beautiful. The place consisted of a simple, yet elegant arrangement: white marble or alabaster flooring, thin golden tribal designs decorating the walls, and dozens of elegant tables, all aglow in the light of the piece most spectacular. An enormous golden ball of flame burned from its place in the air. Mimicking a miniature sun, this brilliant orb revolved slowly, floating elegantly in the center of the ceiling. The entire room seemed energized by its powerful warmth. Heather stepped in behind Kuro, catching her first glance at the full congregation of firbreathers. Mingling beneath their own glorious sun, stood a collection of the most beautiful people Heather had ever seen. These shiren, as she guessed they must be, appeared as pale Asian humans, but without the familiar small eyes. Instead their eyes looked western, wide and were colored in various shades of orange: from dark sunset to soft auburn. Each had draped himself in ceremonial black robes, though none looked so majestic as Kuroshi's, and most, Heather noticed, were so intimidated by their almost identical prince, that they actually took a step back, causing the whole crowd to part in twin waves.

"These are Father's Firebreathers," Kuro offered, gesturing to the hundreds of other males in the room. "Seven by seven, he breeds the most powerful Shiren, each and every spring. Next season, that will happen again, following the celebration of winter solstice, and the new dragons will hatch in the summer."
"This is a party?" She guessed, taking note of the tables of appetizers and servants bearing long trays of wine.
"Not quite a party," Kuro admitted, "More like an impromptu gathering to commemorate Father's newest random whim. I have an announcement I'm to make in his stead."
"So you talk for the king."
"Father doesn't like leaving his room. I can try to be quick if you want."
"What? Why would-Oh no." It was then, finally, that Heather realized what this meant. Kuroshi would be ascending the regal staircase up front and she would have to stay on the floor, surrounded by dragons.
"Don't look like that." He was smirking in response to her automatic worry. "They've already got plenty to eat."
"Very funny." Was her sarcastic retort. She followed him deeper into the crowd, cringing when almost every head turned their way. If she thought Kuroshi's bloody, unnerving eyes were intense, that was nothing to what she felt now, with hundreds of pairs all on her. Or him, she couldn't tell, but Heather still sped up to walk more closely to him. "There's no reason to worry," he insisted, "you don't smell very attractive right now."
"Rude." Was all she scoffed in reply, and he snickered.
"It's so cute how you take everything as an insult..."

Kuroshi paused then, so Heather did too. He kept having to stop to return bows and greet the dragons brave enough to offer him one. Heather noticed these males seemed to respect Kuro, but that didn't keep them from backing away when he stepped closer to them. It was almost as if they were afraid. Of their own older brother?

She paused one more time, stalled by Kuro, who'd held a hand out to indicate one of the tables nearest the staircase up front. "This one's yours." Heather tried to look grateful. Just as he'd promised, this table held what looked like cubed sirloin, an assortment of cheeses, and even three bottles of wine. The only thing it lacked was familiar company.
"Where's Chris?"
Kuro seemed confused. "Chris?"
"Your brother's Pet."
"Oh. Kintra isn't allowed in this room."
"What? Why?" He's a prince too!
He didn't explain, but insisted she sit, since the other dragons seemed to be getting more restless. They were still applauding, but in rhythm now, as if counting down the seconds until he'd finally take his place at the head of the crowd. "Just sit."
Heather obeyed, and Kuro chose the four nearest dragons, commanding them too. "Watch my pet. If anything happens to it, I will strangle each of you with your own entrails."
The dragons sat in a hurry, each bowing with the exact same response. "Yes, my lord."
"Stay in this area," Kuro commanded, again looking at Heather, "And do not touch that bloodseal, okay?"

Heather nodded, but then suddenly remembered what he'd done. Kuro swept off into the crowd, taking his eyes off of her, and Heather immediately decided she hated this bloodseal, or whatever it was. Kuro's blood didn't even look natural. Instead of being pure red, like her own, it seemed to include an almost purplish hue. Did all dragons bleed like this? Deciding to wipe it off after all, Heather turned her attention to the table, looking for a napkin of some sort. There was one, just beside her, but when she reached out to take it, the dragon beside her jumped up. His seat hit the ground with a loud clatter, but the dragon himself didn't care. He shuffled over to the other side of the table, joining the other two, and Heather suddenly found herself with three pairs of unblinking orange eyes, all on her. It seemed they had not been staring at Kuroshi after all... She raised an eyebrow, and the males around her recoiled, as if unnerved by eye contact. "What?" God, this is worse than the stupid Pet bazaar!

They didn't answer, but turned away to mind their own business, and so Heather did the same. She lifted the napkin to her neck, intending to get rid of the blood there, but instead of doing its job, the napkin burst into flame. Now it was Heather's turn to jump up. Her napkin all but disintegrated, in midair, and she stood there, frozen in shock with her chair knocked to the floor.
Something equally strange happened then. Even while trying to keep their distance from her, all four of the dragons around her stood up, ready to help. The first stood her chair right side up and positioned it behind her, the next cleaned up her spilled drink, another replaced it, and the last swept the charred remains of the napkin out of sight.

"Um… Thanks?" The dragon holding her chair nodded, and she reclained her seat. She had to speak quickly, since the group of them tried to back off again, but still managed to sneak in a question. "You guys are um… Kuro's brothers?" The males immediately shot back, hissing in affronted near-unison. "Prince Kuroshi!" "Lord Kuroshi!" "Master Kuroshi!" "Are you crazy?"
"Oh. Sorry." She held her hands up. "That's what I meant?"
They pulled back, whispering to one another in shock. "This human is suicidal." "I can't believe it's- real." "He actually bought one…" "Do you think he will kill it?"
"I can hear you, you know."
"You're not very smart," the first accused, even though he backed off as he said it. "We're anything but Lord Kuroshi's brothers."
"The prince is not one of us. He's a god," his companion insisted, "how can you live so near to him and not even know that?"
"Is something wrong with your nose?"
"Don't you smell it? His blood smells like a gods!"
"Well I can't smell blood so I guess not."
The dragons seemed mystified. "Can't smell blood?"
"Well then how've you survived for this long?"
"I'm from the um… other world?"
They gave her blank looks, apparently stunned. "They have pets there?"
"No. Well, not human ones anyway."
"What do they have then?"
"Well… I used to have a Pet cat."

For some reason, this caused the dragons to burst into laughter. One even snorted and accidentally set his drink ablaze. "Woops!" He ran off, balancing the still flaming glass, but the remaining three regained their seats with Heather. The ice now broken, these shiren leaned in, eager to learn more. "Tell us," The first enthused, "Don't the humans keep birds, too? Is the rumor true?"
"In cages?"

The group howled with laughter, dinner forgotten, and continued to drill Heather instead. To her surprise, she found these males to be quite talkative, though she recognized the same sneering superiority Kuroshi often spoke with. She learned from them that according to their king, cat and bird shiren alike had been shirked by the gods: disgraced, for their crime of betraying the god of destruction. As punishment, he had cursed them, saying their species would ever be doomed to serve humans, even in the other world. "Mistresses Nefiri and Kiteera betrayed their own brother, our king," They explained, "And for it they paid with their lives. The phoenix tribe has lost every royal heir and the leopards are next."
"Everyone says that the wolves will fall next," another dragon whispered, "should they also fail in the eyes of their god."
"Their god?"
"Well the great Lord Kuroi is everyone's god, really. He makes his judgments one by one."
"I thought Haku was like, the big god around here."
"Haku isn't around anywhere," one dragon snorted, "He's been dead for so long that the palace of Hikaru is now falling apart."
"Uh… there's a palace called Hikaru?"
"No, Hikaru's a place. It was once a holy land, where they say unicorns used to run free, granting wishes of those innocent enough, but nowadays it's closed off by some strange barrier, and no one can get in."
"It's gotta be a dump by now, anyway," another shrugged, "bet it's falling apart."
"Well I don't think so," another one ventured, "all the gods were born there, you know. I'm sure at least one of them bothered to keep the place clean."
"But who needs that place, anyway, when the great Lord Kuroi can make gods on his own?"
"Um…" Heather had to pause to correctly say Kuro's name, "why do you guys think Master Kuroshi is a god?"
"Because he is. The great Lord Kuroshi has been training to take his rightful place for a century."
Heather raised an eyebrow, not sure if she'd heard him right. "For a century? You mean years right? A hundred years?"
"Harvests, I think you mean," The first corrected, "Happens after twelve moon cycles? He should be reaching that age very soon."
"You mean to tell me, Kuro is already a hundred?"

The dragon turned to his companion, now unsure. "Ki, how old were we when Lord Kuroshi was announced?"
"Sixty-three I think."
"What's that math go?"
"Um," he did it quickly, on his fingers, then returned with the answer. "Yeah, he should be a hundred already, provided he wasn't born after the harvesting season."
"It was winter I think."
"Oh, then he'll be a hundred soon."
"You mean to say you're one hundred and sixty two years old?"
"You bet. Hatched in the season of vigor!"
"Proudly hatched in the middle of summer!" The third chimed in, grinning, "All the strongest Shiren are. Bred well, born early as they say. Hottest time is the best time!"

Heather was speechless for a long moment. The man before her could not have been a day over twenty-three. He looked like he belonged in college! While she was staring incredulously, the first dragon spoke again. "These are my brothers," he explained, motioning to the other two, "we were born at the same time, understand? Brothers stick together in groups here."
"So you're all the same age?"
"You bet."
"Yes we are."
"Of course!"

Heather thought that was equally amazing, but for some reason, a red flag had just raised in her mind. "Wait a minute, you mean these two are your only brothers?"
"No, the last one was the one with the drink, remember? And technically all dragons are my brothers, but these two were the only ones hatched with me that harvest."
"But that doesn't add up."
He raised an eyebrow but let her continue. "Kuro said-"
"Lord Kuroshi!"
"Whatever!" She scoffed, "He said his dad made you guys all in groups of seven; lucky number seven, and now you're saying three!"
"Oh, well not all survive the right of passage," one of them easily answered, holding out his hand to show Heather his wrist. It seemed as if someone had purposely carved a scar into it, right in the center, but only now that she looked closely did she notice.
"Right of passage?"
"There are three. The first when we are young, is this one, next when we are old enough to mate, and then finally at 99 we may receive the privilege to marry."
"But only masters Kuroshi and Kintra ever received ceremonies like that." The dragon who'd said this shook his head, as if disappointed. "None of us were deemed worthy."
"No one ever is," his brother admitted, "not because we are unworthy, but because no worthy mates can be found. We thought once the leopards might be chosen, but their queen turned out to be a traitor."
"Oh, so you guys never, uh, make babies?" Each of them shook his head, and Heather knew she should at least pretend to be sympathetic, but inside she thought most of this sounded ridiculous. Why didn't the dragons just leave, rather than following their king's stringent rules?
"Oh, you can't cook your own food, can you?" One of the dragons changed the subject at that point, having noticed the still raw steak cutlets. "Here." He fetched one, slid it neatly onto a plate and just like Kuroshi had, pursed his lips to blow fire. A swift stream of red flame issued forth, and Heather vaguely pictured herself before a culinary master, lightly charring her food for her.
"Um…" He set it back down, grinning, and she accepted it, but with another question. "Not that I don't like it or anything but… why are you guys so nice to me?"
"That's just how life is done," They chorused, chanting a mothsong. "Let not a female suffer, but break bones if it should please her." "So the king says. So we do." "It's elementary."
"Okay… then how come you act all awkward and like, keep away from me?"
"We're not to touch you either."
"On whose skin one lays a finger, evermore the proof shall linger." "Just the trace of a scent would ruin everything."
"Any Shiren could smell it." "And Lord Kuroshi would kill us."
"Yeah, he'd smell it. Easy. You're easy to smell."
"Hmm…" She lifted a hand to her own nose, curious, but smelled nothing more than the remnants of grilled steak. "What do I smell like?"
"Him." "Him." "Your master."
"What? But I never even let Kuro-"
"Master Kuroshi." "Lord Kuroshi."
"Whatever!" Heather scoffed, annoyed with their constantly correcting, "I can't possibly smell like him 'cause he doesn't ever touch me." This admitted, Heather folded her arms, chin raised haughtily, but the dragons didn't seem to believe her.
"What a lie," They insisted. "You must sleep with him every night, yes?"
"I do not!"
"Well you smell like you do."

Heather made to snap at him, but caught on at that point. "Oh! It's this blood he put on me!" Of course! The scent of Kuroshi's blood seemed to mean something to them. Did it mark her as his own? And here I thought they were just guessing cause of these stupid clothes! She made to wipe the blood off again, succeeding only in setting another towel aflame, but luckily was spared the embarrassment this time since Kuroshi himself took the stage, evoking an explosion of applause.

I'm so stupid. I vowed never to talk to it. I vowed to call it Ruby Weapon and treat it like the monster it is.

But he is not a monster.

I met him today, quite by accident. I had gone out to meet Luna, who knew the ins and outs of the moat, only to find him standing by the side of the water.

I saw what he was doing. Staring down, like he wanted so badly to be under the surface.

It was then that I realized: the Ruby Weapon wants to be destroyed.
The chimeras exist not to protect the king's weapon from people like me, but to stop him killing himself in his misery.

I watched him. Just watched him. The wind carried his long black hair, just as it did mine. His eyes held a misery I thought no other could grasp. The misery of having destiny decided for you.

He was not himself but the weapon others wanted him to be.
I realized today.
The Ruby Weapon is me.

Kintra found himself almost unable to stand. He could almost smell change on the winds and the sun itself gave an eerie red glow. It's almost time. He leaned down, claws tensed on the fountain rim and watched as the koi flittered by, just as he had the very first day he'd realized just who he was. Or rather, what he was. He hated everything, everything reflected in the cool blue water beneath him. He hated the disguise and the vulnerable, soft violet shade of his eyes, the only part of him that wasn't a lie.

"Remember who you are, Kintra. Who we are, and what we are meant to do."

Well that was the easy part. One by one the pieces would fall into place, like dominoes Kuroi stacked to fall. Kuroshi must have known they were being set up, but he was just so much stronger. He had no one to love and therefore nothing to lose. But Kintra? Well he remembered her smile, her laugh, the vibrant joy in her eyes. But more than anything, he remembered the warmth of her blood, and the wet sticky mess it had left on his hands.

I've failed again. So miserably. I can't do this. I saw him smile. Heard him laugh.
He's not a weapon! If only Evee could hear!
If she could just see what I have!

Is the trained dog at fault for attacking its target?
Is the puppet to blame for its master's lewd jokes?
Or an alarm clock deserving of destruction for simply ringing?

He was born, trained and designed to kill.
Yet he wants anything but!

Is it right to destroy one who seeks only peace?

But I know what becomes of the gun that refuses its target.
It defies its own maker. Even if we don't destroy it.

He will.