Dragon Raja and the Core Tokens: Grief

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Memories of Russia

The year was 1965. The morning arose from the eastern side of Zelenyi Bor, Hertzog was preparing meals for the few children that now lived in Black Swan Bay. Each cabin was made to withstand the cold temperatures, made out of solid wood and stone foundations. Each building housed at least five children in total, thus making three buildings for the children. There was another cabin on the edge, it was for Hertzog alone, and the big building by the large pine tree was Swan Hall, a communal place for the students to eat and hang out.

The few children that resided there were all Hybrids, each learning in their ways about their new powers, Hertzog had them train and learn their unique abilities. Hertzog went to each home, the Krylo, the Klyuv, and the Serdtse, each one named after a part of the swan.

Once he was done rounding up the children, he properly fed them, and cared for them, before going out to market for his studies, he flew with his airship since Black Swan Bay was located on the edge of Russia.

After a safe flight, he lands at a base by the city, making his course to collect medicine, food, and any other supplies that might be needed. Going market to market, purchasing everything needed, now with bags full of goods he embarks his way home towards the base where his plane is parked.

As he makes his way through the snow-filled streets, down an alleyway, crying could be heard. It was soft, frail, like mourning, like weeping, as his curiosity perked he stepped into the threshold of the alley. A small blonde-haired girl cried on her knees, clutching a small child in her arms. The little girl had frost blue eyes, both kids had little green tufts of hair located where bangs should be, it looked almost naturally grown. The little girl couldn’t have been older than five, and she was weeping, visibly trembling, and the snow covered her like dust.

The child smaller than her was a small boy, Brown hair and the same frost blue eyes, although he had strange irises, they were heart-shaped, as if he could see the good in just about anything. This boy was only three years old and curiously looking towards Hertzog’s direction.

Jung, without a second thought, dropped everything he was carrying and rushed towards the children,

“Hello, little one! Don’t be frightened, I’m here to help” he called out to her. The young child turned to Hertzog, gazing upon him; his hair was strained, slicked back, the blonde roots linked to gray strands, his suit was a Juniper green, they had little pricks of holes on the right side as if badges used to be worn there. He wore a thick, white winter coat, with a leather badge that wrote ‘Black Swan’ in Russian. His eyes were a dark amber color, like chocolate, or redwoods. The girl sniffled and wiped her face against her arm,

“Mommy hasn’t come back yet-” she croaked

“Please sir please help us find her-” she continued to beg, tugging on his coat to rush him. Hertzog got down on his knees to be closer to the girl and gently put a hand on her shoulder

“My poor dear, why don’t you come with me-” Before Hertzog could finish the girl cried back at him

“No! She just needs to find us! she just needs...” the child cried and shook his arm once again, begging for him to fix it.

Hertzog’s heart filled with such pain and guilt, he wanted to magically make it better. He simply rubbed her back in comfort, the girl wept and rushed to Ex-Soldier’s arms, sobbing with the younger child between them. Hertzog sympathetically wrapped his arms around them, providing the comfort nobody would. It felt like hours in those few moments, and for a second, the girl felt warm in that embrace.

He brushed the hair out of her face and offered a gentle smile,

“My dear I’ll make sure you’ll be alright, don’t worry, I’ve got you, come with me, and we’ll find your mother...” He promised, she hesitated before giving a soft nod

Hertzog gently raised her chin to look at him instead of the floor, “What’s your name young one?” he asked

“R-Renata, Renata Romanova.. this is Asen, my little brother” she gestured to the brunette child she was holding, adorned with freckles and a clueless smile.

“Well, it’s very nice to meet you both, let’s go to the military base and see what we can do, alright? Do you trust me?” He asked.

With a small nod, and knowing she had nowhere to go, she took Hertzog’s hand and walked out of the alley with him. Jung picked up his supplies and slung them over one arm, carrying Asen with one arm and holding Renata’s hand with the other. Renata gave one last look back to where she once sat, knowing deep down her mother wasn’t coming back for them.

The three then made their journey back to the military base, Once there, he sat Renata down and placed Asen in her lap, asking her to wait, once she agreed, he made his way towards the commander, explaining about the children that were in the alley, and how he found them, Once the commander saw them he asked Hertzog and the children to follow him to his office.

The children were occupied with small toys from lost and found and the two men talked,

“Thank you Kombrig Hertzog for alerting us, these children were recently reported missing from the local orphanage.” The commander asked

“The local orphanage? The girl said her mother left her there to wait.”

“I see, I hate to inform you but these children were accidents from the war, the mother has no desire for them.”

The commander pressed his elbows on the desk, letting his fingers lace to provide a rest for his chin as he thought

“Sir, what about their father? I think we should alert him unless he is also against them-” Hertzog suggested

“Denis Romanova, their father, was killed in action in the war, these children, after losing the love for their mother, were sent to a facility.” The commander explained, giving a heavy sigh as he watched the two children,

Hertzog suddenly perked up and sat up straight

“Sir I run an Orphanage in Zelenyi Bor, called Black Swan Bay. It takes care of Dragon-Hybrid children since they’re the most likely to be on the streets once again, I can ensure they get the proper care they deserve.”

“A generous man- But Kombrig Hertzog these children are not Hybrids,” He stood up, folding his arms behind his back. This causes Hertzog to stand as well

“But they are children, and I run a place for children in need of care, I cannot rest easy knowing I turned away good kids because of some genetic they don’t have” He pleaded,

“Look I carry all my paperwork with me, proof that I am who I say I am, with Hydra’s support I can care for these children” he continued. The commander looked through the papers and back at Jung

“You- have the support of Hydra?” he questioned

“Certainly, Commander, tell me, where else do these children go, they can have a warm meal and roof over their head tonight if with me” he begged.

The commander gave a heavy sigh, looking towards the children, and then back to Jung, thinking about his options carefully,

“Alright, You may take them, please provide them with care Kombrig Hertzog, I will alert the orphanage to the transfer of care.” He caved,

Hertzog, now beaming nods vigorously “Yes sir, I will care for them immensely commander, thank you, sir”

He then signs the official paperwork and heads over towards the two children who were occupied and kneels to them,

“Hello, again Renata” he calls to her, grabbing her attention,

“Hi..” she replied, playing with an old teddy bear, it had a small tag on it, like a collar, named “Zorro”

“A new friend of yours?” He points to the bear with a small smile.

Renata nods, looking up to him ”He’s a hero who will protect me from monsters at night” She explained. Hertzog watched her before letting out a heavy sigh,

“Look, I know this is scary, a lot of change, but...Your mother cannot look after you anymore...this is a very grown-up decision that no child should have to make...but I’m afraid I can’t help it...But If you’re willing Little Renata, I’d love for you to come to live with me, with other kids, in a safe location where you and Asen can grow up together...What do you think about that hm?”

Renata looks over to the young professor, and his warm and welcoming smile, she looks down to the young Asen, who’s completely unaware of the situation, and parts her lips to speak

“Will...Asen and I stay together?” She asked hesitantly

“Of course! He’s your family! I wouldn’t want you to lose any more than you already have, I promise I will not separate you two.” Hertzog promised.

Renata hesitated for a minute, thinking carefully before bringing herself to stand, rushing up to Hertzog with open arms

“Take us, I don’t want to run!” she cried out. Hertzog sympathetically held her and patted her head

“My little Renata, I’ll never leave you alone, I promise” He swore,

And with that the three exited the base and walked towards his plane, off to Black Swan Bay, to start a new life, as a new family. And most importantly, they were together.

The year is now 1967. Two years have passed since Renata and Asen have moved to Black Swan Bay. The children there before moved on to bigger and better things, and new children were taken in, Anton Bugrov was a young boy skilled in the atmosphere around him. He was a Blonde, shaggy-haired Russian with blue eyes and thin glasses, he wore an auburn winter coat with a forest green sweater.

Khorkina Omela, the young lady known to alter self-mass. She came in with her sister, Kyndall, a young soul-dancer. Khorkina wore a mint-green winter cape and a white uniform dress. Kyndall wore a scarlet-red winter cape and also wore the same white dress. Both had Light reddish-pink hair, Khorkina’s hair was all parted into one side and long, whereas Kyndall’s was short that barely touched her shoulders. Both girls had green eyes.

Ivan Bychkov was a young trainer who can speak to canines. He looked similar to Asen, he was a bit older and taller, had brown eyes like chestnuts, and had a tan winter coat. He wore a big dopey grin at all times.

These children ranged from the ages five to eight, Renata being only seven now and Asen age five, one of the younger children in the group. Hertzog believed that the Romanova siblings were the only ones in the orphanage without Hybrid genetics and mostly would have them sit out most training sessions, having the two care for housework and chores.

The two lived in the Serdtse, right by Hertzog’s quarters, despite loving all the children he did treat Asen and Renata closer to family, due to their circumstances.

Renata was in the cabin cleaning as Asen played outside in the snow, laughing and tossing the balls of frozen water into the chilled air, watching them fall back into the ground. Renata pushed the door open and swept the dust and dirt from the floors onto the porch of the cabin.

“Asen! Help me inside.” she beckoned, Asen watched her and gave an exaggerated groan of disapproval

“I wanna stay out and play,” He whined, flopping into the snow

“Asen Professor asked us to keep the cabin tidy, keyword us!” she replied, placing her hands on her hips, her cheeks puffed out in a display of annoyance

“But it’s no fun! I wanna play in the snow!” He begged, watching his sister pout more. Eventually, he caved and trudged back into the home, snatching the broom from Renata. He began stubbornly sweeping the home with a frown on his face. Renata is practically beaming with pride, she did a small curtsey to thank him and then ruffled his hair.

The two clean throughout the home before they decide enough was done for the day, Asen then rushes outside to see the others had come back from training, Asen walks over to Anton and begins to ask about training and what it was like, the blonde-haired boy simply snarks back at Asen, rudely explaining how he didn’t wanna talk to ‘normies’ Asen is then to sulk back to Renata, feeling defeated. The girl sighs and pats Asen’s head

“C’mon, let’s go see the professor” She suggested, Asen meekly nods and takes her tiny hand, then the two walk together to Hertzog’s quarters. Asen knocks on the door looming up to the tall frame awaiting an answer.

“Come in” Hertzog called out from inside, Renata stands on the tips of her toes to grab the handle, once caught she opens the door and lets herself in, with Asen in tow

“Professor, we finished cleaning Serdtse!” She exclaimed proudly

Hertzog was in the kitchen, preparing a meal for the children for a hard day’s work, he is chopping carrots to add to his broth,

“Excellent work my little one! Did you do it by yourself?” He cocked an eyebrow towards Asen’s direction

“Nope! Asen swept the floors too! he helped” she explained, Asen nodding vigorously.

Hertzog chuckled to himself and placed the sliced carrots into the pot before grabbing a new one, ripping the stem off, and proceeding to chop it,

“Well that’s wonderful to hear, I’m glad you two worked together” He hummed, Asen watched him and walked towards the kitchen

“Why can’t we train like everyone else?” He asked

Hertzog gave a small sigh and kept his eyes on his knife work

“We’ve discussed this Asen, you two are not like the other children, these training sessions could get you hurt” He explained

“But I can’t get hurt! I’m strong!” He protested,

“Yes you can Asen, children get hurt all the time, it’s something natural, training will cause that and I don’t want to force pain on you two,” Hertzog said more firmly

“But I-” Asen protested once again, but Hertzog cuts him off

“I said No Asen, this isn’t for discussion” He reiterated

“But Oppai I wanna prove to you I can be big and strong!” Asen whined, This suddenly threw Hertzog off, causing him to chop at his finger on accident, he slit the end of his index finger and immediately pulled back, wincing in pain, this startled the two kids and lace their expressions with worry

“Professor are you alright-?” Renata stepped towards the kitchen

Asen, tearing up with guilt rushed to Hertzog’s leg

“I-I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to-- I can fix it!” he reached up to grab Hertzog’s hand but was too short to do so,

“Asen-- what did you call me??” Hertzog questioned, his expression seemed to be in shock like the cut wasn’t even bothering him more than Asen’s statement

“Oppai?” Asen said again

Hertzog stayed quiet for a few moments looking towards Renata, she seemed a little bothered by it, Asen never knew his parents like Renata had, to give Hertzog a father nickname was natural, but not expected. Hertzog shook off his nerves and knelt to Asen’s level, his face laced with confusion and guilt

“A-Asen I’m flattered but I’m not- I mean I can’t take your fathers..” As Hertzog trailed on, Asen was more focused on the hand he was holding a rag to. Asen placed his hands on either side of Hertzog’s finger, cupping it together as a soft warm glow emitted through his palms and onto Hertzog’s wound, healing it completely. As Hertzog was talking, he found himself stopping mid-sentence, completely speechless. Asen smiled proudly at his work and looked back at Hertzog with pride

“All better!” He cooed

Hertzog removed the rag and pinched at his finger to see if blood would spill, but not even a drop was shed. Baffled Hertzog rushed to the knife, making a small incision in his thumb,

“Show me again- Asen Show me please--” He begged,

Asen, confused began to do so again, healing the wound the same as before, Hertzog studied his hand before exhaling sharply, then laughing

“Asen! Asen you’re Hybrid!” he exclaimed, scooping the brunette boy and hoisting him into the air before catching him again, Asen began giggling at the joy he caused, hugging Hertzog tightly as he held him, Renata, Puzzled began to fumble with her hands a bit

“Professor I can do something too- I thought you knew...” She beckoned, her hands began to pulse a cold blue as the knife was pulled from the counter and reformed into a mold of a heart, the metal completely solidifying once she finished. Hertzog stood in awe before picking up the heart-shaped metal, he began laughing in disbelief

“You’re both Hybrids! All this time! I thought- Who cares what I thought! This is Extraordinary, Renata you can manipulate steel! and Asen my boy you can heal wounds! This changes everything, I can start you both in training by the end of the week!” Hertzog exclaimed

“Really?!” Asen cheers

“Yes really, my children tonight we will feast!” He shouts, scooping Renata up as well, the three laughing and cheering on their discovery,

Asen beamed at Hertzog, cupping his face into his tiny palms

“Thank you Oppai!” He laughs

Hertzog calms and looks to Asen more sternly, despite the small child hands pressed against his face

“If you’re set on calling me that, It shall be Professor Oppai to you little one” He corrected,

Asen nods in compliance and the three are now together working on the soup for the children tonight, against a gentle winter.

In 1973 the two siblings were in their early teens, Asen was often training with his new friend Ivan, the canine-speaking boy. The two often had a lot of fun with one another as eleven to twelve-year-olds.

Renata never truly got along with the other children, not that she had any enemies or people she disliked, she just truly wasn’t social, she sat in the snow under the big pine tree right beside Hertzog’s quarters. It was often referred to as the Father Tree since it was close to the father of Black Swan Bay.

As she drew shapes absentmindedly with one of the branches, she admired the strange drawings she created while listening to the distant chatter. Zorro, her stuffed bear right beside her.

From the edge of the tree’s trunk was a small snake, it was an Elaphe schrenckii, also known to be a Russian rattlesnake. She was startled by the low hissing and quickly jumped to her feet. She backs up cautiously to see the snake not moving towards her, but rather staring right at her. When she tilted her head, the snake mimicked, when she knelt down, the snake laid flat in the snow. It was copying her. This was no normal snake, Hesitantly she calls out to it;

“A-Are you copying me..?” she asked

The snake nods

“You...You can understand me?”

Once again, the snake nods.

Confused, Renata takes a step towards the snake, feeling less threatened,

“Are you going to hurt me..?” She questioned

the reptile shook its head before coiling up and slithering towards the mountain

“Hey wait! Where are you going??” She asked, no response.

Curiosity ate her up inside, the young thirteen-year-old picked up Zorro and set foot towards the mountain, Abandoning the children and Hertzog that were at the training grounds.

As she made her way, following the black snake she found a cave on the side of the mountain and a sealed door. She went to pry the door, but it was closed, far too tight for her to pull open. The snake wasn’t interested in the door and continued to the side of the mountain through a narrow cliff.

Hesitantly she follows, hugging the side of the mountain in attempts to follow the snake, the ground crumbling beneath her. She clings to the wall and inches through the ledge towards a cave that the snake slithered into.

Once she made it through she took a deep breath to calm her nerves and approached the uncharted territory. There were untouched rocks and icicles from above, it was rather dark. Renata stayed towards the entrance, too frightened to continue. The snake faded from view.

“M-Mister snake? Where did you go??” She called, no reply

She hesitated before taking a step inside, a frail bone snapped from under her foot, she jolted from the sound. Something rustled from the distance before a voice emerged

“Who are you?” It asked

Renata frightened stepped back, clutching her bear. “No Who are you??” She argued

“What are you doing here?” It asked, ignoring her question

“I-I’m looking for a friend” She answers, scanning the room in hopes to see the snake again

“Can I be that friend?” It asked

Renata confused finds herself speechless at the statement

“No I’m looking for my friend--the snake-” She clarified

Suddenly bright red eyes shine through the darkness, as a figure emerges its a young boy, looks to be the age fourteen, wearing dirty clothes with a patch labeled “000” His hair was dirty but as white as the snow, with two long strands in the front, by the sides of his face.

His skin was a porcelain color, it shimmered in the dim light. This young boy looked to be an albino child, abandoned for what seemed like years.

“You mean the black snake? My snake?” He asks, holding up the same snake from before, it coiled in his hand

“Y-Yes...That snake” She nods, sheepishly pointing to it.

“MingMing I said not to go outside! Look what you brought in” He scolded the animal, pointing towards Renata before giving a long sigh,

“She’s not supposed to go outside” He explains

“I...see?” Renata winces, trying to sympathize and not be weirded out by the situation

“How...long have you been here? Alone?” She then asked, her gaze traveling across the dim-lit cave

“A while, I had to leave, I got tired of Bonder-snart hurting me” He scoffed

“Bonder-who?” She tilted her head

“Bonder-snart, that’s not his name, just what I call him. He’s a bad man, very bad man, takes children who look like me and makes them do crazy things, makes us fight, and kill” He huffed out, playing with the snake as he plopped down on the icy ground, crossing his legs together.

“I see..” She hesitantly sits beside him, eyeing the boy curiously

“Do you...Have a name?” She asked

“Mhm” he nods, not taking his eyes off of the snake, he just points to the patch on his torn clothes

“That just has the number Zero-” She questioned, He simply nods

“That’s what they called me, my room was always room Zero, I was always called Test Zero” The Albino boy explained

“Well...You can’t have a number for a name...”

“Why not?” He questioned, looking back to her with a furrowed brow

“Numbers are not names...How about I give you a name?” She asked

Zero thought about her offer before leaning back

“Alright new friend, Name me,” He said with a smirk

“How about...” She pauses for a moment before speaking again

"Zed, like the letter? So It’s spelled like Z" She traces the letter Z into the ground with her index finger to show him

“Z is the first letter in Zero, So calling you Z would at least be better than a number” She explains

Z now thrilled about the idea nods enthusiastically “I like that! You’re pretty smart new friend” He grinned cheekily

“Renata, My name is Renata” She holds her hand out, Z looks at it rather puzzled

“You shake it, like this” She gently grabbed his hand and proceeded to demonstrate what a handshake is, she then spoke a Russian greeting. Z completely mimics her, shaking her hand and speaking a very choppy Russian greeting.

Renata laughed at the attempt and smiled happily “C’mon, you don’t need to stay here, We can go to the professor, He’ll take good care of you.

Z hesitated but with his new bound trust, took Renata’s hand, allowing her to lead him out of the cold, wet cave.

The two carefully make it back to Black Swan Bay, where she introduces Z to Hertzog, explaining how he had nowhere to go and nobody looking for him. Hertzog took pity and allowed him residency, tailoring him a midnight coat, to match his favorite color and giving him a glass box to keep MingMing in. Once properly settled Z stayed in the Klyuv, where he was often isolated. He didn’t take too kindly to socializing with others, he only really spoke to Renata and spent most nights waiting for the next day to see his new best friend again.

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