-Long Sheng Jie, Realm of Dragons-
But to them, we are creatures that only exist in fairy tales.
And she slashed her spiked tail across the blue-inked sky, shutting out the familiar whisper from distracting her mind.
Higher than the birds could be, wrapped within complicated webs of fluffy clouds, here sat a majestic castle rooted onto a colossal floating cobblestone. A magical realm merged within mystical blooms emanating divine air laced with silver. Along the verge, baby plant elves chuckled among themselves as they flew above tiny yellow filaments of Tian Wu Lei. Teal seeds of Ye Chen Xin glistered in a rhythmic flow, showing off their thousand years of rich nourishment. Into the tranquil ambience, Wu Yin Jue exhaled another puff of fresh swirl from the ends of their fronds, steadily increasing the fine networks of silver fogs drifting in the air.
This was where she lived. A place she once thought everything was ethereal as it seemed to be, but only to be exposed to the reality soon after.
She was just a whelp when she first learned the existence of Hong Chen Ji—a floating transcendent wheel enclosing an electrified azure energy ball above the luminous golden hemisphere. Her species feared it. They feared to witness it turning to the metal bar centered at the core of the half-circle. Feared to be summoned as the next dragon for the recurring mission.
The mission that took her childhood companion away in the last cycle.
With another strong thunderous scratch across the plane, the white dragon flamed fire balls size of boulders at her silver knuckles and shot them to the leafy greens. One blazing smash after the other. More. She needed to let it out more. The pain for failing to protect her friend.
“Xue Er?” Felynx’s voice from an approaching cloud tumbled her into the mess of the booms.
“Xue Er! You alright?” The wool under his feet dispersed. Shades of concern flashed across his face.
Retracting her claws, the scales melted away for her redeveloped skin to take over. The thousand-year of cultivation finally proved itself as she flawlessly transformed into a slender, fine lady figure. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
She stood and licked the new cut on her elbow, glancing at the half Magnolia jade hanging at her pink sash. Her chest ached, remembering who had owned the other half.
As though Felynx could sense the overflowing guilt from the little dragon, he put his hand on the side of her shrunken shoulder. “Don’t carry the blame, Xue Er.” He took a step closer. “It was never your fault.”
She stared directly into her Master’s amethysts, showering him with layers of unspoken pain. “How could it not be my fault? It was supposed to be me to go there.”
“Because you weren’t ready.” He ended on a cold note.
“Xun wasn’t ready either!”
Felynx tilted his head, half pony falling to his waist with hints of grey peeking through. He tucked his hands into his wide, long sleeves and exhaled a tired sigh. “Things happened for a reason, Xue Er. You can’t stop a rainstorm just because you have an umbrella. You can’t change the history just because you have a time machine. You can’t save Xiao Xun from dying...” he muttered, “just because you wanted him to be.”
“Just because I wanted him to be...” she repeated. Swaying on her feet, she felt the rush of tears streaming down her pale cheeks as the words slapped hard on her face.
“We, dragons, are meant to protect the mortals, Xue Er,” he hesitated, “though they no longer believe in us like centuries ago.”
Before her Master could finish speaking, Xue Er trudged away.
“Let it be me this time, Master.” She turned around a little too fast the trailing Felynx had to rest a hand on her for a stop. Xue Er took a step behind. “I think I’m ready.”
Felynx twisted the long ends of his greyish brow, giving Xue Er a puzzled look. The dragon-shaped hair stick keeping his ponytail in place glistened. “You’ve never liked mortals.”
“You said it was our job to...” Locking her clenched fists behind her back, she hissed to push the word out of her mouth, “protect.”
“Protect?” He lowered his head, searching her inner soul through her heterochromia eyes—blue and red. “Or will you squeeze them to death like you’re doing with your fists right now?” There was a thin sense of anger in his calm, soothing voice.
Immediately, the force in Xue Er vanished, and her freed grips were back to her sides. She looked away.
“Hatred kills, my dragon.” Felynx pulled her in for a warm embrace. “Don’t dive into it.”
“Mortals… are injudicious, Master. We might be myths to them, but we’re real, right here, under their nose,” she sobbed. “Because of their arrogance to acknowledge our presence, too many of us have died. We can’t afford to lose anymore…”
She heard her Master sighed. “No matter what it is, the oath has been set. We have to protect them. This is our fate.”
Felynx’s top layer of his white tunic was tinged with Xue Er’s salty liquids. “Then let it be me this time, Master.” She repeated her request, gasping for a stable breath in between her choky sobs. “I don’t want to witness another death of our species, Master. Please, let it be me.” Xue Er broke the cuddle and pointed three fingers at her heart. “I promise I’ll keep the mortals at bay. I’ll take care of them just like how—”
Xiao Xun did.
Still sticking her hand to her chest, her voice trailed off, couldn’t get her best friend’s name out of her throat.
The wind brushed past her teary cheeks as though it was trying to offer a tad of comfort. Pieces of pleated fabric hung at her sash were swayed by the breeze.
And she was waiting for the yes from her Master.
Felynx parted his lips and then paused. Fine metallic chains attached to his silver circlet clinked softly as they swiped against one another.
“Hmm? Master?” She pulled his narrow cuff. “You know I’m strong.”
“Xue Er, I... I—”
“Hong Chen Ji clicked a while ago, Master. The 18th year misery is about to start in their world.” She induced the spike. “There’s nobody else who is as ready as me to go there.”
“Protecting mortals from Mynheex and fallen angels. It’s dangerous, Xue Er. You know exactly what they’re hunting for.”
“Because it’s going to be dangerous, that’s why it has to be me! I don’t know why you’ve been prohibiting me to take up the mission. All I know is that white dragons are powerful, and I’m one of them.”
“You don’t understand! Mortals are living in their 21st century—”
“Most of our friends are gone, Master.” Xue Er reminded him the fact he feared. “It’s time to put a stop to Mynheex eating humans’ hearts, to fallen angels craving for our pearls, to the torment deaths of our species, to everything.”
“Our dragons died protecting, Master. You don’t expect me to just watch the cycle ends with another death of our species and do nothing. I cannot be selfish.”
Sighing, he flipped his silk robe and commanded another layer of cloud to descend, leading Xue Er back to their fort. “Follow me.”
The moment Felynx pressed onto a mobile marble rock at the vast gravel entrance, it vibrated, revealing a long corridor leading to a path of darkness. Their presence was instantly greeted by a flood of calm light making its way until the end, brightening up the entire walkway underneath a vault. Xue Er dragged her feet over to the side and stared at the iced cuboids behind every two ionic pillars. Tracing the outlines of those coffins holding her friends, she sliced her finger across the edge, drawing blood to sight.
A ritual to remind herself of the pain and suffering they had gone through.
Pausing her gaze at the sights of their missing pearls, she shoved her hand to the illuminating azurites hovering above the ice. Soft blue luster was shot into the stones, showering the cold bodies with constant healing properties as a new layer of mist was dropped to remove the old.
Preserving their dragon bodies was the only thing Long Sheng Jie could do.
“Come on, Xue Er.” Felynx’s echo floated.
Her flow of force was sucked back into her palm as she caught up to her Master who was waiting at the center of the vault, Ring of Deity.
The circle was branched into four, linking to the unrevealed passages behind large white stones attached at the end of the segregated paths. Felynx turned his head upon hearing steps approaching accompanied by a soft murmur of ‘Master’. To his dragon girl, he put on a smile and held out his hand for her to catch. He was curling up his lips. But it was only until she made the grip, she realized the shades of hesitations her Master was trying hard to hide.
“I’m going to be alright, Master,” she whispered, laying a soft touch to the speeding pulse surfacing under his skin. A glint of white shone through her palm. “Don’t worry.”
“Thanks, Xue Er.” He squeezed it back.
And to the last channel, off they set.
Behind the white stone, wispy clouds once again fell from the sky to their feet, taking them to the route holding the border to the mortal world. It glided open, swallowing them in its woolly embrace. The clouds dented in slightly as they walked on them. Buoyancies regained after every step. Xue Er turned to her Master as she felt the tightness of his grip increased on her. He was still hesitating to let her go. But this time, Xue Er folded in her lips and proceeded with the track, pretending like she didn’t know despite anxiety too was pricking through her veins.
As Felynx brushed away the floating fogs hindering their path, a lonely, wooden bridge came into view. A bridge connecting the worlds. Xue Er had yet to lay her feet on it when thousands of dragons struggling to get away from the border hallucinated. Among them was Xiao Xun. Bloody body, cracked blue scales, stolen pearl, hands extending for hope to be saved.
“Stay back,” Felynx instructed.
Xue Er dropped her hovered leg and her eyes immediately drifted to the end of the bridge. A hole was churning inside a rising cliff. Electricity sparked, increasing the tension in the atmosphere as the inner swirls exhaled an anonymous gust of air, inviting the next target to step through.
“We’re right on time,” Felynx said as he took out a glowing red potion from his white sash. “Here, drink this.”
Flashing Xue Er a warm smile, he cupped her hand and motioned her to drink. “You’ll find out if the time comes.”
As instructed, Xue Er gulped it down with no hesitations.
She knew her Master would never hurt her.
He was her friend, her family. Only in front of him, she could free the weakling living deep within.
The minute she slurped the last drop, something foreign was ignited in her. She felt it. Something was crawling under her skin, inside her blood, searching for a spot to place itself. Not painful, nor sweet. But rather a neutral feeling her body was overreacting to. It stayed for mere few seconds before moving completely away.
“Good one.” Felynx patted her head, tracing the smoothness of her hair lined with two fine silver chains tucked behind her ears.
Silver belonged to dragons, blue belonged to TinXi and gold belonged to the one and Almighty Long Shen. The more the chains, the higher the status.
His fingers made a pulling gesture in front of her face, sucking out a glow of white breath from her. Xue Er stumbled. Taking the mass in his hand, Felynx began chanting long phrases of words she couldn’t understand. He pushed the left lapel of her cross collar slightly, placing his palm below her collarbone.
Light flashed. Her body went numb.
It took a while for the dragon-shaped mark to fully emerge; the breath of her immortality.
“Kneel before me, Xue Er,” Felynx commanded.
“Yes.” She dropped her knees and made a full bow.
“Living under the name of Miracle Watson, you’ll disguise your identity by enrolling in Stellaerio High School and live with a group of TinXi. To the Mynheex, you’ll stop them from feeding on mortals’ hearts. To the fallen angels you will crash their hopes of owning the world of mortality. To the evils, you shall not take in any forms of deals but to keep mortals away from them. Do you hear me?”
“The mark turns dark each time you use your elements without external protections and thus, you must hide it from mortals at all costs. You can’t afford any unnecessary darkening to it with the evils still going strongly out there. Now, Miracle Watson, do you obey to these with no regrets?”
“Yes. I obey to them with no regrets.”
“Alright, you’re good to go.”
Stunned, Xue Er brushed the new white bulge on her skin with the tips of her two fingers as Felynx held her up to stand. “I’ll never let the mortals find out.”
She was only one stride away from laying her foot on the bridge when her Master suddenly pulled her in for a hug. This time, it was longer.
“Come back alive, my white dragon,” he whispered. “Come back before the mark turns fully black.”