Black Dragon: Chapter Three |

Black Dragon: Chapter Three

By Genevieve Ann Atwater Maxwell

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Erica had never seen such eyes in any face but her own. But Hitomi didn’t appear even remotely surprised to find the unusual trait in her guest. She pushed the door open and nodded to Asami, who said goodbye and darted away. Erica blinked, trying to force herself back to her senses.

“I-- err-- I--” she tried.

“Yes, I know,” Hitomi said. “Do come in. I’m sure you’d like to rest. I’ve just spoken with Chief Kokoro; it seems you’ve come a long way. And you’ve grown so lovely, I can hardly believe it’s you.”

Without waiting for a reply, she strode inside, leaving Erica to scramble after her. “M-ma’am,” she called, passing through a small entry room.

“Take off your shoes in there, dear,” her hostess called over her shoulder disappearing through a doorway. Erica paused, noticing the black flats sitting on a mat by the side of the door. It was rather barbaric to go about barefooted, but after a moment’s hesitation she scrambled to unlace her own shoes and set them beside Hitomi’s. Finally, she followed the woman through the doorway, her stockings squishing uncomfortably against the wooden floor. The room she entered was large, but not excessively so. There was a table to one side, with three chairs set up to it, and shelves around the room. Some of the shelves held dishes, but most of them were shelved with books and strange trinkets. There were two doorways leading into other rooms, but Erica couldn’t tell immediately what those rooms contained.

Hitomi was sitting at the table, calmly drinking from a round cup with no handle, holding a book in her other hand. She didn’t look up as Erica slowly walked up to her and took a seat.

“Supper will be ready in a moment,” Hitomi said, taking a sip from her cup. “Your room is through that door there.” Without lifting her eyes, she nodded to the door to the left. “Two down, to the right. I hope you’ll like it there.”

“Err, thank you,” Erica said, still a little stunned. The woman acted as though this were all perfectly ordinary, and Erica found herself torn between being polite to her hostess and demanding answers. “Ma’am? May I… ask you a question?”

“Certainly. But I may not answer it.” Hitomi smiled. “Don’t mind me, really, I’m just an old hag. But I do have my secrets.” Her eyes gleamed. “Everyone does, after all. Whether they know it or not.”

Erica stared at her, mind frustratingly blank as she tried to find her questions, which had been so prominent for weeks. “You- you acted like you know me,” she finally said. Hitomi raised an eyebrow, but remained silent. “Ma’am?” Erica asked.

“I heard no question, Dear.” Something dinged, and Hitomi stood up. “I’ll be back in a moment,” she said, strolling to the door opposite to the one she’s pointed out earlier, slipping inside. Erica watched the door as she waited for the woman to return, trying to organize her thoughts. After a few minutes, Hitomi strode back in and set two plates on the table, both filled with food Erica didn't recognize.

“Ma’am,” Erica said, “Do you know me?”

“Of course. We met not ten minutes ago, dear. Eat up.”

“But I mean… you said you could hardly believe it was me,” Erica pressed. “What did that mean?”

Hitomi took a bite of her food, her expression as calm as ever. “Nothing dear; you needn’t worry. I’m just a silly old woman. I say things sometimes.”


“Eat, Erica.” She glanced up at last, her golden eyes flashing. Erica drew back and snatched her fork. Something about the woman felt too firm to argue with, though she couldn’t say exactly what it was. They finished their meal in silence, and Hitomi stood up before Erica could find the words to speak again. “I’m sure you’re tired. Go and rest: I’ll see to the dishes.”

“Oh. I… all right.” She could try to get more information in the morning, after all. And she was tired. Erica curtsied and left her hostess alone, slipping through the door and into a short hallway. She counted to the second door and stepped into her new room. It was small, but not unbearable, with a sort of woven pallet for a bed and a small closet for her clothes, along with a little shelf to one side. Her things weren’t there yet, but her dress wasn’t uncomfortable, so Erica pulled her stockings off and lay down on the mat. There was a blanket tucked beneath it, and she curled up in the warmth. The day’s events swirled through her mind, despite her attempts to banish them, and she squeezed her eyes closed in frustration. She just needed to sleep.

Maybe this was all a dream.

* * * * * * *

Erica woke slowly, moaning and rolling over in her half sleep as she groggily tried to remember what about her previous day had been real and what had been a part of her dreams. The strange purple haired girl named Asami was real, right? What about the silver eyed ‘dragons’? They had to be a dream, didn’t they? After all, flying ships and soul eating children couldn’t exist in real life.

Finally Erica yawned and forced herself off the mat and to her feet. Looking around, she realized someone had brought her luggage into her room during the night. It was a little creepy to think of someone coming in while she was sleeping, but she shook the feeling off, glad she at least had clean clothing to put on. She emerged from her room a few minutes later, wearing a pale blue dress and stockings without shoes, which she’d left at the front door the night before. Her hair was brushed out, and her hat on her head, but the lack of shoes still made her feel silly and underdressed as she made her way through the little hall to the room with the table. Hitomi wasn’t there, but a note rested by a plate at the table, reading: I’m afraid I had a previous engagement this morning, and may be gone a while. Please eat and enjoy yourself today; I’m sure you’d like to explore your new home. My room is off limits, but otherwise you may go where you please. Asami will be glad to show you around, I’m certain. --Hitomi L.

So, there would be no more answers today, Erica thought with a sigh, sitting down and considering the food. Once again it was unfamiliar, but didn’t taste bad. There was something a little like soft, white wheat, which stuck together terribly, and what she some kind of meat. It wasn’t fish, which she was used to and would have expected on an island.

It was a beautiful day out, and Erica had to tilt her hat down to shade her face from the bright, morning sunlight as she stepped outside. The garden practically shone, and as she walked to the gate and looked around beyond the little yard of Hitomi home, she could see the gorgeous pale greens, pinks, and whites of the trees and grasses that covered the mountains, rising up over the vibrant colors of the city homes. Taking a deep breath of the clear, cool air, Erica could imagine anyone wanting to come to such a beautiful place.

Maybe not forever though, and she couldn’t help shivering a little as she thought about that. Surely she would start to miss Aiamas soon, once the novelty here wore off.

“Morning Erica!” Asami swung around a corner, nearly slamming into Erica, who jerked away with a squeak. Asami didn’t seem to notice, wrapping her arms around her new neighbor in an excited hug. “Sleep well? What do you think of Hitomi? She’s weird, right? Almost as weird as you. Come on, he’s waiting for us!”

“Wait,” Erica protested as Asami tried to pull her down the street. “Who? Asami, slow down!”

The purple haired girl hopped to a halt and faced her, head cocked to one side. “Sorry. Ooh, those clothes look good on you!”

Erica blinked. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome! Come on, let’s go.” Once again Asami turned to go, hand still grasped firmly around Erica’s wrist.

“Wait, Asami, where are we going?” Erica protested.

“To hang out with Masato, of course,” Asami said, giggling. “He’s my best friend. He’ll want to meet you: he loves new and exciting stuff. And he’s probably freaking out about your monster ship, ‘cause it’s weird and new too, and it had a dragon flag, which is really weird.”

Erica played with her hat’s brim. “All right. I was just going to look around, but I suppose meeting your friend won’t hurt anything.”

“I know.” She grinned. “You’ll like Masato. He’s sooo smart. And he…” Asami suddenly trailed off, eyes widening.

“Huh?” Erica turned to see what her friend was looking at, but before she could get a good look, Asami shoved her back against the fence. “Ow! Asami!”

“Shh!” Asami stared dreamilly down the road. Confused, Erica followed her gaze. A little ways down the street, walking down the road, was the silver eyed boy-- White Dragon. So he wasn’t a dream then. Erica drew back, nerves squirming in her stomach. Was he angry that she hadn’t bowed before? Maybe he was coming to steal her soul in revenge.

That was ridiculous, she told herself. No one could steal anyone’s soul, vengeful or not. And the boy, despite his odd hair and startling eyes, didn’t look dangerous. His gaze fell on Asami and he paused. She was still staring at him as though he were the only thing that mattered in the universe, but she noticed him looking at her and colored, bowing at the waist with her hands still folded in front of her. The boy nodded to her, and his gaze drifted to Erica. Silver eyes met gold for a moment before she looked away.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning, White Dragon!” Asami said at once, quivering with excitement. Erica dropped a quick curtsy, not sure what else to do. White dragon blinked at her and she colored, fiddling with the brim of her hat.

“Um. Good morning,” she murmured nervously.

“Your name is Erica, isn’t it?” he asked, and she nodded. “I’m sorry to come get you so early.” He turned to glance at the sun, which was still painting the sky pink with its rise. “My sister woke me hours ago. I don’t think she slept at all.”

“I… I’m sorry,” Erica said. White Dragon blinked at her.

“I’ve never seen anyone do what you did,” he observed. “Standing with my sister so near. I mean, no one outside of my family.”

“I’m sorry,” Erica fumbled. “I didn’t know we were supposed to--”

“No,” he said quickly, holding up a hand to stop her. “It’s all right. Really; we aren’t displeased.” He folded his hands behind his back. “My sister wants to meet you today. She asked me to come get you. And I need to speak with you. As well.”

Erica glanced nervously at Asami. She didn’t want to offend the girl, when she was the only one who seemed interested in doing more than staring at her, so far. “I was going to go meet Asami’s friend Masato…”

“Huh?” Asami jerked around to stare at Erica in horror. “No, you go with him!” She lowered her voice frantically. “You can’t say no to a dragon!”

“... I can go talk to Chief Kokoro first,” Whire Dragon suggested, but Asami shook her head, smiling and shoving Erica towards him.

“She’s fine! She can go with you. Bye Erica! See you later!”

“But,” Erica tried, but Asami shook her head emphatically and she closed her mouth. White Dragon looked uncomfortable, but took a deep breath and gestured down the road.

“This way.”

“Oh, I-- all right.” Erica swallowed and waved to Asami before starting to walk in the direction the dragon had instructed. It was supremely odd to walk with him, a man who was treated almost like some kind of god, as though he were just any young man. True, he looked strange with his white hair, but he wasn’t tall or noticeably strong looking. There was something about his movements that felt a little too graceful, but he was still obviously human. Erica could almost imagine she was back home, being courted by one of her father’s friends or their sons.

The almost was noticeable though. Not many people were out and about yet, but those who were bowed to White Dragons as he passed them, and their eyes strayed to Erica with various expressions of curiosity or worry.

“This way,” White Dragon said, turning down a different street, and Erica scrambled to correct her path.

“Sorry,” she murmured, pulling at her hat.

“For what?” he asked, giving her a curious look. The authoritative air was lacking now, and his silver eyes were almost nervous as he considered her. “I don’t believe you’ve done anything wrong.”

“Oh, I meant… I don’t know,” Erica fumbled. “I don’t want to be trouble for you. I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing, or…”

For a moment, he watched her face, and she felt heat rush into her cheeks. Then he turned away, letting out a sigh. “It’s not trouble to come get you,” he said. “Actually, it’s refreshing to come down on my own. It’s been a while. And Ilse is so excited, I would be glad to come even if it was troublesome. You have no idea how shocking it was, what you did.” He paused. “How did you do it? You didn’t seem afraid of her at all.”

Erica glanced back towards the beach, though of course she couldn’t see it past the colorful buildings. “Ilse?” she asked. “Is that… the little girl? Black Dragon?”

“Oh, yes,” White Dragon said, running a hand through his hair. “Forgive me, I should have used the title. But her real name is Ilse. Mine is Adam; you can call us that if you’d like.”

“Really?” Erica aske, startled. It was such a simple name to put to the man who Asami revered so much. Even if Erica didn’t believe he was a deity, she would have expected someone posing as one to be called something extravagant. And it must be an honor to use their real names, when even their Chief called him White Dragon.

“Well, we aren’t actually very particular about the titles,” Adam shrugged. “Honestly, the islanders made them up when we came down from the mountain. They called our parents Gold and Silver Dragon, so I suppose naming us after colors made sense. Still, using our hair seems a little uncreative.” He pulled at the white hair. “We don’t force anyone to use the titles, they generally do it on their own.”

Oh. So, not a particular honor then. “Asami seems to think you’re very powerful,” Erica noted, wondering what he might say to defend himself. But Adam only shrugged again.

“I am. Ilse’s actually more so, I think, but it’s hard to measure.”

“...I see.” So they encouraged the lie, whatever exactly it was. Still Adam did seem nice, and any place had its troubles. Politicians surely always used some lies to keep power; that didn’t necessarily mean they were all evil.

Adam glanced at her wary expression and frowned. “Is something wrong?”

“No. I was only thinking,” Erica said, looking away.

“About my powers?” He asked. “Do you know something about them?”

“Err, about them?” Erica asked, raising an eyebrow at him. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

He waved a hand, nodding to a bowing citizen as they walked by. “About our power. You didn’t react to Ilse at all. I assume you must know something about us. It can’t just be people where you come from, because your captain bowed as well, and you…” he hesitated. “Well, you look like us.”

Erica flushed, pulling her hat down over her face, overshadowing her eyes. “Oh, that.”

There was a pause, and Adam touched her shoulder. “I do need to know,” he said. “You came with my parents’ flag, and you aren’t afraid of Ilse. I know you’re connected to us, somehow.”

Erica shook her head, mortified. “I’m not. I’m sorry, Adam, I really wish I could tell you,” she promised. “I don’t know anything about it. My father sent me here, and the captain had the flag. I didn’t know anyone with eyes like mine existed anywhere, and I don’t believe I have any connection to your people.” And yet, there had to be some reason she was here. She couldn’t be related to them, though; her father had never left Aiamas, even to travel through the rest of the country. What connection could possibly be drawn to this place?

Adam hesitated, a little of the authority glittering in his eyes again. “You don’t know anything about it? Then why did you come?”

“My father sent me.”

“Why did you obey?” he pressed. “Did he threaten you?”

“Goodness no!” Erica was aghast at the idea, and looked up sharply at him. “My father is a wonderful man. He would never hurt me!” She tugged at her hair. “I suppose I didn’t know what else to do. I’m not very good at saying no to demands, especially from him, and he was so insistent… and he seemed so saddened. He wouldn’t tell me why, but I could see that there was a reason.”

“And you trust him,” Adam said. Blinking, Erica nodded, and the so-called-dragon let out a sigh. “I can understand that,” he admitted, the authority gone again. He sounded tired. “Perhaps he knows the connection, if you don’t.”

“You mean you believe me?” Erica asked, a little startled, but relieved.

“I think you’re being honest. I know how it is to be expected to know what you don’t.” Adam looked up to the mountain. “If you’re lying, I suppose I’ll have time to find out, since your ship left, but I do believe you, for now.”

That was a little unnerving, but Erica swallowed her worry and looked away. At least he wanted to trust her. If he was as important as he seemed, it would be very bad to have him angry with her. “Thank you,” she said.

“Then you don’t know anything about us?” he asked quietly.

“Only what Asami told me last night.”

He shook his head. “When I saw the flag, I half hoped… but I suppose we should just be grateful your captain had it, however he came by it. I would hate to destroy the one person immune to Ilse. That is, there aren’t others like you, are there?”

“I-- I don’t know,” Erica said, frowning at him. “I don’t know why everyone felt whatever they did, either. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“My parents didn’t know about anyone like you,” he mused. “I’m sure they would have warned me. Or gone looking for you themselves.” He paused, then shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. We’re glad you’re here, one way or another.”

“Y-you are?” Erica asked, startled. “Why?”

“Because you didn’t bow,” he said, smiling. “You have no idea, Erica. It’s been so long… I didn’t think anyone would ever be able to do it.”

Suspicion rose in Erica’s chest. “Why doesn’t she just… stop? Whatever it is, if it’s a problem you could always turn it off, couldn’t you?”

“No,” Adam shuddered. “She was born with an aura of fear. I remember it; I was in the other room, and suddenly… I heard the cries when she came out, and I thought that was why I was so afraid, but I couldn’t do anything but sob. It wasn’t until my father came to get me that I realized there was nothing wrong with them. The baby was fine, my mother was fine, there was just fear. If anything, it’s gotten stronger since then.”

Erica pursed her lips, unconvinced, and the dragon studied her.

“You don’t believe me,” he realized, and stopped walking. Erica could see the city’ edge where they stood, leading up towards a path up the mountain. She almost kept walking towards it, but the dragon was staring at her with shock, and she felt herself stop with him, fidgeting under his gaze.

“Well it… it sounds ridiculous,” she murmured. “Fear auras, and powers, and… it’s all nonsense.”

His mouth opened, then closed. He didn’t look offended, only startled. But so startled. Had no one ever questioned their lie before? Even a little?

“You really don’t believe,” he finally said. “At all. There’s really no one at all like us out there, is there? My parents told me we were unique, but…” he shook his head. “All right. I’ll show you,” he offered. “Come on.” And he strolled towards the mountain again, leaving Erica to scramble after him. They passed a small building painted white, with the black dragon picture from the flag painted across its front, and started up a stone path surrounded by cherry trees, which were white and pink with blossoms.

Adam didn’t stay on the path long, taking Erica’s hand and leading her over the petal covered ground, into a forest of other trees, all thin and pale. He didn’t drag her like Asami, but his hold on her hand was strong, and she had to lift her skirts and hurry to keep up with him. Finally he stopped in a little clearing and let go of her hand. She leaned up against a tree to catch her breath, watching as Adam walked around the clearing. “Are-are you looking for something?” she asked around her attempts to breathe.

“Just thinking,” he answered, shooting her a smile. “I’ve never had to actually prove my powers to anyone before.”

“Because they all know the stories?” Erica asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Because they all take it for granted,” he said. “A fair amount of them have seen it, but not because I’m showing off. So I’m not sure exactly how to begin.” He knelt and set his hand on the ground. After a moment, he lifted a nut from the ground, covered in the dirt as though he’d dug it up. “Here. I can use this.”

“A nut?” Erica asked. Not very dramatic, for showing off. Asami spoke of lightning and curses; she’d expected something darker and possibly frightening.

“Yes. This is my mother’s trick,” Adam said. “Watch for a moment, you’ll see.” He closed his eyes, gripping the nut in his hands. Something seemed to blur just slightly around his hands, and Erica blinked. The faint blur remained.

White Dragon took a breath and pressed the nut against the ground. It sank down, vanishing into the soil as easily as if the earth were water, and as Adam moved his hands, something green slid out of the ground like a tiny snake. Erica stepped closer, watching a tiny leaf bud and unfurl.

“Is… that…?” She began to ask, seriously doubting her eyesight. It couldn’t be a plant: no plant grew so quickly. She’d often watched vegetables in her garden, amazed to see them pop out of the ground overnight. Nothing could grow like this.

Adam leaned back, smiling as he watched it grow larger, sprouting tiny branches and fading into a pale brown as bark grew over its tender green. Leaves sprouted and grew, and buds became flowers. The plant kept growing until it was taller than Erica, and Adam finally pulled his hands away from the ground, pushing himself to his feet. He turned to look at Erica.

“Power,” he said. “Do you believe now?”

She stepped up to the tree, eyes wide. The blur was still there, just a little, but now she realized that wasn’t the right way to describe it. The tree wasn’t blurry, it was that she could see something faint on it. Or in it? Something not quite natural. She put her hand on the tree, half expecting to go straight through as though it weren’t there at all. But it just felt like a tree. She blinked, and suddenly the blur was gone. She must have imagined it.

“How did you do that?” She asked, turning to look at White Dragon. He was on his feet now, his hands behind his back and a smile on his face.

“Enchantment,” he said. Erica sighed.

“How did you really? You don’t have to tell me,” she admitted. “But I’d like to know. It was beautiful.”

“I really enchanted it,” he insisted. “It’s not that hard, especially on just one thing. Though it’s harder when they’re alive.” He nodded to the tree. “Their aura fights mine a little, even with a tree.” He paused, noticing Erica’s hesitation.

“Magic isn’t real,” she explained as he let out a sigh.

“Of course it is,” he said. “Maybe not outside the island… although it must, because we had to come from somewhere. Anyway,” He stepped up beside her, setting a hand on the tree’s bark. “It has to be real. Because I can use it.”

That argument wasn’t completely invalid, Erica supposed, looking at the tree again. As bizarre as it sounded, if he really could use magic, then magic was real. She wasn’t sure she was ready to accept that it really was magic though.

“Maybe you just can’t explain it,” she reasoned. “Like my eyes. You call it magic because you don’t know what it actually is.”

Adam ran a hand through his hair. “I call it magic because my parents called it magic. And I can explain it perfectly well: I have an aura around me, made of magic. I can control it, and it affects things around me. My parents had aura’s too, and so does Ilse. I can sense them there. Some of the islanders say they can too.” He hesitated. “I guess it doesn’t really matter if you believe it or not. It just feels wrong for you not to know. Especially… well, nevermind. Come on, Ilse’s waiting for us.”

Especially since he still thinks we’re connected, somehow, Erica thought, following him back towards the path. She wasn’t sure about what she just saw, but it told her one thing: she had absolutely nothing tying her to these “dragons”. It had been beautiful, but completely unnatural too. Erica might be a little odd, but she would never be called magical by anyone. She was just a girl.

The thought was actually relieving, and Erica felt considerably better as she climbed the stone path after White Dragon.

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About Genevieve Ann Atwater Maxwell

Genevieve is an aspiring author who has been dabbling in the arts of storytelling and writing for almost as long as she remembers. She writes mostly in the fantasy genre, and has received an Honorable Mention in the 'Writer's of the Future' contest for her short story 'A Faerie's Will'.

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