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Dragon Guardians

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A poisonous plant… deadly lightning… a blasting wind… and flames of destruction…

All sealed by one mage in hope to never appear again.  

Years passed, people’s memories of the great war were erased, so it could not be repeated.

Only the chosen ones remembered in order to guard the world that was split into four after it had been reborn.

The fate of the world was in the hands of a man guarding what could only be described as a ticking time disaster.

But the man was determined to protect the split world and turn the chaos he carried into people’s hope.

 

 

 

 

The day was coming to an end as two figures walked through the thick forest. The taller figure walked at steady pace while the shorter one went down the path a bit more energetically, observing the never before seen location. Despite the heavy looking backpacks they were carrying plus the fact that they had been travelling for the whole day, the duo wasn’t that tired yet. Their destination wasn’t that much further, though they didn’t dare to relax just yet.

 

The forest was notorious for people ending up robbed once entering it and considering the valuable cargo they were carrying, the duo surely couldn’t afford losing it. They only had to come out of the forest and then they could lower their guard.

 

True to the word it didn’t take long before the danger appeared literally out of nowhere. In a matter of seconds they were surrounded by numerous dark cloaked figures whose faces were hidden behind masks. Their outstretched hands could only mean that they were there to take and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Their masks began to glow in creepy yellow lights as their hands were gathering all the energy they could to attack the travelling duo.

 

“My my, I really hoped we wouldn’t need to face the Rare Hunters.” mumbled the voice belonging to the taller figure fixing his hat, revealing himself to be a man in his early thirties.

“I can take them down.” the shorter figure said, staying hidden under its red cloak.

“I’m sure you can, but that’s not the only reason why we’re here.” the man started gathering magic in his hands.

“Teacher please, I’m strong enough.” other person wouldn’t give up.

“Very well then if you insist.” the man sighed as he clenched the straps of the backpack tighter “But don’t overdue yourself, you still need your strength.”

 

The shorter figure nodded as it chanted something in an unknown language while rolling pages of an old book in its hands, previously taken out of the smaller bag attached to its waist. The cloaked people stared at it as they were approaching their prey when the paper pages began to produce a yellow glow which soon transferred to shorter figure’s unoccupied hand, creating a powerful spell.

 

In the next moment three members of the cloaked group, known as the Rare Hunters, were hit by sets of lightning-like strikes while all the others near them proceeded to either counterattack or block any future attacks from the mysterious young person. The man lifted what appeared to be a walking stick, though four different colored jewels told otherwise, summoning a barrier around himself, reflecting all the damage back to the enemies. He then summoned several circle shaped objects, throwing them at any Rare Hunter that dared to grab a hold of his backpack in order to keep them away as he started running towards the end of the forest path.

 

The younger of the duo noticed him and followed suit while continuously casting more spells to buy time. The Rare Hunters seemed to realize what exactly they were dealing with as they all suddenly changed their strategy, surrounding the person with the spell book magic. Still calm, the younger person flipped the pages until the right spell was found, immediately chanting the quick, but powerful blast before the man who was its teacher could prevent it.

 

Those few Rare Hunters who were too close were all passed out on the ground while the majority of them reacted in time to get away, avoiding the damage that the blast had caused. On the other hand the caster of the spell was barely standing, blast blew away the hood of the cloak revealing he was merely a boy with silver hair, not looking more than ten years old.

 

As the enemies began to approach him with another set of prepared magical attacks, the boy kept himself on his feet, proceeding to look for another spell in order to defend himself. He flipped page after page, trying to find something powerful that would not take too much of his energy at the same time.  But before he could do anything, the boy’s knees gave out, submitting to the spell he had cast previously. On the ground without the ability to move he could only watch as the enemies were coming closer, their hands greedily reaching for his backpack.

 

“I’ve told you before that your body isn’t fit for a Contract with the Hellgate yet.” the man sighed as he appeared next to the boy while fighting off the Rare Hunters with the same circle magic as before “Although I’m impressed you’ve actually pulled it off, it doesn’t really do our situation better.”

“I’m sorry teacher…” the boy muttered as he was being picked up by the man around his waist.

“We all think we can do anything if we try hard enough, though right now isn’t the time to put that in practice.” despite the danger the man smiled and rather than fight off the enemies decided to run “We’re quite close, although if we don’t hurry these bogeymen will catch up.”

 

As if they reacted to the insulting nickname, several Rare Hunters charged at the duo, the man was ready to defend all the valuables he was carrying, in the form of a young apprentice and whatever was in the sealed part of his backpack. The hands of the enemies began to glow red, the trees withered as their energy was taken, transforming into dark spells ready to be cast. The man quickly chanted the first few lines of a protection magic since he couldn’t fight that well while also protecting all that was important to him.

 

The magical attacks from the closest enemies were about to hit him, the shield was only capable of deflecting a portion of what was sent towards him since a more solid shield would have cost him the energy he needed to move. Both he and the boy were ready for a dose of pain headed their way.

 

“Trap magic! Big Haul!” two unknown voices shouted in unison, turning the Rare Hunters’ attention off the duo that had seemingly disappeared before the spells could hit them.

 

In a split second all the enemies were trapped in red nets, hanging from the trees like just-caught prey, confused by how they had gotten there. A person whose face was hidden by a red scarf and long red hair tied in a ponytail watched them struggle before making quick gestures with his hands while chanting in ancient language, making all of them disappear. Satisfied with the fact that they were now much further, disguised person clapped his hands together as he disappeared as well.

 

Instead to the location where the enemies were sent, the person appeared at what seemed to be the same forest, but with much livelier greenery and sets of ancient looking houses all over. A lookalike of his, except for the scarf hiding the other’s face and the hair being blue instead of red, was tending to the duo they had protected.

 

“We apologize for arriving so late. We didn’t expect you for at least one more day, sir.” the blue haired person bowed politely.

“It’s alright Tsukikage. What matters is that we’ve both arrived safely.” the man looked at the barely awake boy in his arms, concerned by how weak he looked “Let me just get inside so I can give Reiji a proper check-up.”

“As you wish.” the red haired person bowed as well, leading them towards the main house “Should I notify the Master of your arrival?”

“Please do, Hikage. I have much to say to him.” the man replied, following the two ninjas to the building functioning as the center of the hidden village.

 

Reiji, who was in and out of consciousness, managed to sort out the houses that were much different from any buildings he had seen so far along with the statues of men wielding various weapons. There weren’t any people wandering around the village, probably due to the nighttime, except for a few curious stares coming from the crevices of the houses. The man carrying him didn’t pay them any mind, just kept walking towards the entrance of the main building right behind the duo of ninjas.

 

Despite the huge size, the building was fairly empty with wooden floors bearing nothing but a fireplace, a few low tables and cushions, though the emptiness was more or less filled with stunning wall paintings of ninja battles and blooming trees. Ahead was a sliding door that lead to another similar room, though that one looked a bit cozier, looking more like living quarters. Noticing an already set bed, the man put Reiji on it, discarding the backpack off himself and then proceeding to do the same for the boy. Tsukikage assisted while Hikage left the room in order to report to his Master.

 

The man murmured some light-hearted chanting, observing his apprentice’s wellbeing and hoping that the difficult spell hadn’t damaged him too much. True, Reiji was extraordinarily skilled in all possible fields of magic, but no matter how hard he had tried to master them, his body was still the one of a ten year old and could only take so much. The observing spell pointed out a few bruisers and a lowered life energy, other than that, the boy was alright, just exhausted. His teacher was relieved it was nothing serious like he feared, so having the apprentice properly tucked in and asleep, the man headed for another room inthe other part of the building. Tsukikage stayed with Reiji in case boy would need anything once he would wake up while Hikage patiently waited in front of his Master’s room.

 

“The Master is ready to speak with you. I’ll be by the doors if my services will be needed.” the red haired ninja bowed, opening the sliding doors

“Thank you Hikage, please do not bother us until we’re done.” the man said as he entered the most private part of the building.

“You could’ve left your luggage in the sleeping quarters. If I may, I can carry it…” the ninja asked looking at the backpack in the man’s hand.

“There’s no need, your Master will probably wish to observe something in it.” he politely declined the offer at which Hikage nodded and shut the doors.

 

The room was much smaller than expected had even more stunning painted walls and decorations, though instead of the warriors and battles, the theme was far from any ninja clan related ones. Each of the four walls carried a huge painting of a dragon, spread across the wall and surrounded by various elements. At the wall by the entrance was a dragon in dark purple and black color, its wings touching both upper corners as purple and red lighting filled the rest of the wall. On the right wall was quite the opposite of the first dragon, being of lighter colors instead. In a way it looked more like a serpent than a dragon, though its wings were far more majestic and bigger in a brilliant light blue color, which were probably the cause of the gushing winds painted around it. On the left was what seemed to be the combination of both with a similar looking serpent body and dark colors, though unlike them it looked like a giant deadly plant. The body was dark green just like the stem of a rose as  light purple, nearly pink colored parts covered it, with two huge ones on its back looking like petals about to bloom, serving as wings. Strangely all around it were paintings of flowers, all of them enhancing both the dragon’s danger and its beauty. Last but not least was a painting on the wall right in front of him where an older person was sitting on the cushion behind a low table. The man took the offered seat, facing the person with long beard wearing a kimono.

 

Only once he was properly sitting down he could see the whole painting of the final dragon. Unlike any of the other dragons, that one didn’t have wings, just two extensions that looked more like two additional giant horns on its back besides the ones it already had on its head. It was bright red all over and in a way its body looked a bit like the dark purple colored dragon due to its body shape. Its two eyes were differently colored, one with brighter shade of red while the other one was green. As a surrounding element it had terrifyingly looking painted flames all over, looking as the most dangerous one of them all.

 

“It’s been a while since you visited our village of the Fuma Clan, Yusho Sakaki.” the old man observed his guest “Good to see you’re still doing well.”

“Thank you, Master Hoshi; it has been indeed a long time since I’ve stopped by your village.” Yusho removed his hat, bowing politely to the man he has known for years and shared the knowledge only selected few had.

“Are they still safe?” Master Hoshi pointed his eyes at the backpack next to the other man.

“They are, even after all the years since they had been sealed.” Yusho began to undo the clips keeping the backpack closed “Do you wish to see them?”

 

The old man nodded as the sorcerer reached for something hanging around his neck. It turned out to be a small light blue crystal, swaying like a pendulum as he held it above the backpack, making all the undone clips glow in the same shade of blue. Master Hoshi watched with interest how a hidden pocket right on the bottom of the backpack was revealed, slowly opening the additional pocket that hid the most valuable beings in all the land.

 

Yusho carefully picked up each of the four objects, placing them on the unoccupied cushion next to the old man with the utmost care. All of them were oval shaped, big enough to be held with both hands and surrounded by crystal structures nearly identical to the paintings on the walls. There was a red colored one covered by crystal flames, a black one with dark purple lightings, a white one with clear blue structures looking like wings and a dark green one with pinkish crystal petals.

 

Those were the dragon eggs of the very dragons painted on the walls.

 

Master Hoshi examined them in detail, gently caressing the hard crystal shells that slightly glowed wherever he touched them. There was no doubt that behind the egg-like structure was a growing life.

 

“Still encased with the elements my clan has worshipped for decades, without any darkness that created that monstrosity I see. You’ve protected them well.” the old man broke his look off the eggs “Which brings me to a question – Why did you request a meeting so suddenly after years of hardly contacting me?”

“Two reasons, Master.” Yusho fixed his hat as his look turned serious.

“And what may they be?” the other man gave him a surprised look.

“I suspect that they may hatch sooner than I thought they would and for that I would require help in form of protection. They’ll be much more difficult to keep safe once they leave the safety of their crystal states.” the sorcerer replied not moving his eyes off the eggs.

“Very well, I will assign Tsukikage and Hikage to help you since they’ve already worked for you in the past.” the old man approved of the request “Though I’m curious, how can you tell they will hatch? Does it have anything to do with the kid you’ve brought along?”

“Indeed it has.” Yusho reached for the red flamed dragon egg “Odd-Eyes’ egg reacted the moment I found Reiji and considering how talented the young boy is he will make a great guardian for Yuya.”

“Yuya?” Master Hoshi gave him a puzzled look.

“It’s how Zarc calls him.” he reached for the crystal around his neck “He has named all of them in order to keep them as human as possible, since the usage of their dragon names might trigger the forming of darkness in their hearts.”

“So you’ve already found the first guardian? That’s a nice progress.” the old man was satisfied with the progress the other man was making “And the second reason why you wish for the help of the Fuma Clan?”

“Zarc suspects that there’s someone who managed to recover the forbidden memories of the Dragon War and plans to steal the dragons in order to bring back the unified world. If any of the dragons get in that person’s hands there’s no telling how disastrous it will be for every living being.” Yusho tried not to think about the horrors that had happened in the past.

“The Fuma Clan has been serving the elemental dragons since the early ages, so we won’t let that happen either. Tsukikage and Hikage are my best ninjas and they have every right to receive those memories from me. Due to the straight honor and code of our village, I can ensure you they will never betray you.” the old man was the one to bow now.

“Thank you, Master Hoshi.” Yusho responded; relieved a bit from the burden he’s been carrying for years.

 

The Dragon War has long had ended, but should they not be careful enough, another much more terrifying may start.

 

 

 

 

 

Hunter13Hawkie: So assistant Noname, did you enjoy or were you bored by the first sentence?

Noname: I must admit I did find this very interesting, although I didn’t understand what this had to do with Yu-Gi-Oh! until the first two pages. I mean, since when there are ninjas as major characters in this fandom???

Hunter13Hawkie:*quietly laughs in evil tone and whispers* Yes, I will sink another innocent soul into the Shadow Realm of this fandom! *talks normally* Sorry, I was talking to myself.

Noname: I’ve heard you, you little bird and you’re far too nice to be evil. You will probably just give the readers a nice bubbly story with a happy ending.

Hunter13Hawkie: *grins evilly* They will never know what I have in store for them. *talks normally* Indeed I will, I mean just look at the cute start – baby dragons!!!

Noname: I can’t wait for the dragons! I hope they will burn some people!

Hunter13Hawkie: Eh…?

Noname: I mean things! *whispers* and people… and the kingdoms… heck I WANNA SEE THE WORLD BURN!

Hunter13Hawkie: Eh okay then assistant-senpai, I’ll try to satisfy everyone with Yu-dragons.

Noname: What dragons?

Hunter13Hawkie: You’ll find out next Sunday/Monday when I’ll treat you to that bubble tea ;)

Noname: Fineee and you readers, leave the comments/kudos/critics/questions and whatever else so I won’t be the only one doing all the work.

Hunter13Hawkie: Naww you’re too sweet! I’ll try to respond to the comments the best I can… if there will be any… :D Seeya next week!

 

***also another note Master Hoshi is OC since not much was revealed about Fuma Clan in anime, I picked the name Hoshi since it means star and it goes well with Tsukikage and Hikage (moon shadow - sun shadow).

Chapter Text

There was another abandoned house on the path and another time to repeat the same routine. Check if an enemy is insight, search for the necessary items, leave as soon as possible and hope to survive the next day. That’s how it went on for as long as he remembered. Just surviving and travelling in hopes to find a better place.

 

Nothing else really mattered as long as he still had some life energy left along with a knowledge of those few spells he had managed to learn by watching others. Everywhere he went he only saw darkness claiming those who weren’t strong enough. Whenever he saw the shadows approaching, he ran as fast as he could since he knew well he didn’t possess enough strength to fight them alone.

 

It was only a matter of time until the shadows would eventually catch up to him, turning him into the very beings he feared. The time came much sooner than he expected and that’s when he reached the breaking point. He finally lost that bit of his will that kept his body going after a long time of exhausting it to the limit. He could feel the shadows sensing his barely existent life energy, crawling closer to his collapsed body, hungry for his soul. With a blurry sight, since his vision had been already bad as long as he remembered, he awaited his fate with almost no fight.

 

Well almost….

 

“What are you doing so close to the Shadow Realm kiddo?” a voice that was more like an echo asked him, but he was far too weak to reply. He was sure the voice was merely a welcome to the cursed life he would be forced to live as a mere shell of himself. But when he felt a pleasant feeling of his body being filled up with energy, after he had thought it would never be restored to its full limit, and a strong hand lifting him on his feet, he was proven dead wrong.

 

He wasn’t alone.

 

 

Reiji slowly woke up when he felt the tingly sun rays on his face. A blurry vision made him reach for the glasses, an amazing object that Yusho had provided him with soon after becoming his apprentice. Once finding them and changing from the confusing sight of barely recognizable shapes to actual picture, he was surprised to see a room he had never been in along with a person he wasn’t sure he knew.

 

“You’re awake, young apprentice of Master Yusho. Is there anything you need?” asked a blue haired man, sitting next to his bed.

“Who are you?” Reiji asked while trying to sit up, only to feel a straining pain in his side and probably falling off the bed if the man hadn’t caught him.

“My name is Tsukikage, ninja of the Fuma Clan. I’ll be serving your teacher, Master Yusho Sakaki from now on.” the ninja stated while carefully tucking the kid under the blanket “You’ve suffered some damage when casting quite a difficult spell for that young body of yours, so try not to make any sudden movements. I suggest you to rest for a few more hours since the loss of life energy by your own hand cannot be treated by healing spells.”

“Where’s the teacher?” the silver haired boy asked once Tsukikage was done fixing the blanket.

“He’s in a room next to yours and he instructed me to watch over you until he’s done talking with someone. That may take some time, so are you hungry or thirsty?” the ninja said while already reaching for a cloth-covered plate on the low table. Reiji nodded since he really felt drained and nourishment was more than welcome on his road of recovery from the lowered life energy. As he ate, in a sitting position leaning against the pillow that Tsukikage had set, the young apprentice wondered with whom his teacher was talking.

 

Yusho had told him they were going to visit a hidden village where more magic users would join them and then travel towards the Pendulum kingdom that had the capital Maiami near the coastline. He wasn’t sure if that was exactly where they would be going since he assumed that the ninja Tsukikage was one of those magic users to come along and Maiami was famous for being a really crowded city, meaning the more people joined, the more difficult it would be to find a proper place to live for a longer time. Ever since Yusho had found him at the very edge of the plains surrounding the Pendulum kingdom where only smaller villages and pure nature were, with almost one foot in the Shadow Realm, they had been travelling through the areas with little to no population.

 

Visiting places with hardly any people came in/ was handy since Reiji had gotten a chance to upgrade his magic skills and with nothing posing a danger to him or others in case the spells would go wrong, the boy could test his abilities to the limit. At times they would spend some time at the rare villages they would encounter, but more or less to get supplies and Yusho would work in order to earn the money they needed for the travels. Other than that they would mostly camp up in the forests and used magic for providing basic living necessities. Being a rather quiet child, Reiji had enjoyed the peaceful lands they’d travelled through, although he had also loved the visits to the libraries. As soon as he had learnt to read, he had grown to love the written words, so much that Yusho had decided to teach him so called “Contract Magic”, the type of magic where the user would need a specific magic book, full of spells which would act similarly to Yusho’s staff. The majority of spells hadn’t been that difficult to learn, though the spells involving self-damage were still too dangerous to use as his life energy rate was short due to being young. That had also been a reason why he was lying in the bed at the moment.

 

After Reiji was done with the meal, Tsukikage left the room to inform Yusho that his apprentice was awake, leaving Reiji alone in the room. As he gazed through the window, at the birds and butterflies flying around in the light of the clear morning, he wondered what awaited him. He hoped deeply that they would move somewhere closer to a city area where there would be more libraries with spell books to read and yet still somewhere where there wouldn’t be too many people. Reiji had never really questioned why Yusho saved him when he had nearly died being drawn into the Shadow Realm or why he had bothered to become his teacher. Whenever he did ask him, Yusho would only ruffle his hair or pat his shoulder, saying he cared about him and continued with whatever they were doing before the question had been asked.

 

Yusho was quite mysterious as a person, using “Performing Magic” which basically looked like as he was just fooling around with the spells, but at the same time it was as effective as any other magic others used, and not really telling everything about himself. When introducing himself to others, he would simply state he was a travelling performer discovering the world and practicing his unique magic to put smiles on people’s faces. It had sounded ridiculous at first, but once people had experienced his performance, they felt warmer in their hearts and more willing to do their everyday tasks. Every time Reiji had watched him perform with awe in his eyes, he was more determined to improve his own magic which Yusho gladly supported and praised Reiji for his spirit.

That’s how it had been so far, the two of them travelling together for about four years now. During this time, Reiji had made a powerful bond with Yusho as a loyal apprentice would make with a good teacher, though the silver haired boy would see him more and more as the closest thing he ever had to a parent. He knew nothing about his origins, even after his new teacher asked and dug around for any information concerning where he was from or how he got in the Shadow Realm, people would only shake their heads, not one of them recognizing him. After months of looking for a suitable place, good enough for an amnesiac six year old child who feared anyone who approached him except for his savior, Yusho had concluded to look after him himself. That’s at least what Reiji had been told as an answer to his numerous questions about his life before they met.

 

Thinking about the past, made him slowly close his eyes as there were far too many memories to comprehend when looking for more answers. Reiji had just drifted back into the deeper thoughts of his memories when the doors opened. Tsukikage was back with a steaming mug full of something assumed to be tea, about to tell him that Yusho was still not done with the conversation he had been having since he had left Master’s Hoshi room, but seeing the young apprentice sleep peacefully, he just put the warm drink on the table and took a seat back on the cushion next to the bed, looking after him.

 

Tsukikage, along with his brother Hikage had never expected they would become part of the chosen ones to receive the forbidden memories that only a selected few had and those people valued the information contained in those memories more than their own lives. The Fuma Clan was one of the rare groups, along with the Millennium Order and Legendary Knights that were aware of the Dragon War that took place more than a decade ago, but only certain people got to know the whole truth about the events that took place in it.

 

The moment the two ninjas got the forbidden memories from their Master Hoshi, they were immediately engulfed with the same pain, despair and misery everyone had felt when the enormous dragon with even more humongous wings had sowed destruction wherever it appeared. There had been numerous other magical beings from all over the world trying to stop it with no avail, with the dragon absorbing their powers and becoming stronger with every creature it had defeated. Tsukikage and Hikage could only be amazed by the fact that Yusho Sakaki and his two apprentices had found a way to seal an immortal beast and had restored the world as best as they could. Hearing they would be accompanying the man they had previously thought of just as unique magic user associated with the Fuma Clan, now proven to be a war hero chosen to guard the sealed monster, the ninja duo couldn’t have been more honored to be chosen for the task that awaited them. The Fuma Clan put honor, pride and loyalty on their highest value list after all.

 

Bowing and being thankful for the honorable task, Tsukikage asked about Yusho’s whereabouts in order to discuss future plans at which Master Hoshi answered it was best to not bother him until he was done talking with someone else in another room and rather look after Reiji while waiting for him. So the blue haired ninja had gone back to look after the boy, who had been watched over by another ninja while they had been with Master Hoshi, as the red haired ninja waited in front of Yusho’s room.

 

 

Soon after he had discussed the preparations concerning the future protection of the dragon eggs, Yusho thanked Master Hoshi for his hospitality and then headed towards the room especially prepared for him. From the looks of it, it seemed identical to the one where he had left Reiji to recover except it had several additions he would need for a specific ritual he was about to carry out. A painting of birds hid countless amounts of tiny crystals attached to the walls as well as the ornamental plants that grew specific flowers, ready to act as a converter. Accompanied with a slight breeze coming from the barred window along with the shimmering light of the nearly full moon, the room had been the perfect place for the ceremony he had been in middle of preparing.

 

Reaching for the pendant with a single bright blue crystal around his neck, Yusho sat down on the floor right in the middle of the room, whispering the spell he had used only when he was alone or when he had surrounded himself with a powerful invincible shield. It was the spell that reached the person he had missed dearly and as for the past decade it had been his only way of communication.

 

“Swing, Pendulum of the Soul.

Draw an arc of light across the ether.

Sway, Pendulum of the Connection.

Come forth. Master of Dragons.”

 

As he continued to chant the same spell, the crystal on the pendant began to glow, gradually beginning to sway, brushing its tip on the floor. Then it begun to draw ellipses all over the floor, creating a majestic geometrical shape over the spot where Yusho had sat. The shape had started taking the form of a spiked circle, the lines glowing like stars and a brighter tone enhancing the whole circle, preparing it for the summoning. The dark haired sorcerer had taken a deep breath, focusing entirely on the light coming from the circle and continued to chant the words that led him to the place he hadn’t know about, but visited far too many times to reunite with someone he had lost so many years ago. Slowly, a figure resembling a person begun to materialize right in front of Yusho’s eyes.

 

“Teacher… it’s good to see you again.” a man in his mid-twenties said, greeting him.

“Same goes to you Zarc.” Yusho smiled at the sight of his apprentice.

“I see you’ve reached the Fuma Clan without much trouble.” Zarc fixed one of the silver-green locks off his eyes “And I can also feel Yuya responding more and more to Reiji’s magic. You were truly fated to meet the boy and prepare him for the great things he will do once he fully grows up.”

“I may have found Reiji, but the other three still don’t have a guardian. I’ve been looking all over the Pendulum and even XYZ with no luck of finding them.” the dark haired sorcerer sighed as he looked on the dragon eggs he had put near him before calling Zarc, so their source of origins could check on them.

“You will find them eventually, but for now it is best that you lay low for a while. Should any of the dragons come into the wrong hands then…” Yusho’s apprentice stopped for a second as his voice was caught in a sob “… then all that Ray did would be for nothing.”

“Zarc… we talked about this many times.” the dark haired sorcerer reached for the image of the other person, giving him the closest thing to a hug he could for the states they were in “It wasn’t your fault.”

“But it was!” Zarc exclaimed, his tone of voice changing completely “I’ve seen the signs, I felt their aura rising, I’ve talked with them, heck even Ray noticed something was about to happen! And yet I’ve only acted when it was far too late, making things even worse!”

 

Yusho stared at Zarc who had fallen on his knees, looking more like a broken child than a man he had once considered as the best user of Performing Magic. The dark haired sorcerer had tried hard to avoid this topic, but whatever he would do, they would always come to talk about the past. The first couple of years after the war had ended, Zarc kept himself locked in the pendant, sinking deeper in depression and leaving Yusho to care for the dragon eggs on his own. It had taken way too many calls from teacher to apprentice before the adolescent could slowly overcome his sadness and focus on raising his dragons which he had nearly forgotten how much he loved them.

 

Unlike any other sorcerer, Zarc had been the only one who connected with the four elemental dragons that had once protected the united world. At that time they had been considered as the ultimate guardians above all other mystical creatures, from worlds within the united world, which had also kept the balance. All four dragons loved Zarc and he loved them, he cared for them and spent all the time he could with them. He wouldn’t change his mind about them, even after becoming an apprentice of the well-known Performing Magic user and befriending another sorcerer chosen by the mystic creatures.

 

“Zarc listen… what happened, happened. You’ve tried to stop the elemental dragons from merging together after the darkness had engulfed them to the point where your life energy was dangerously low and even then you’ve kept fighting for them. If there is anyone that did everything they could in their power, that would be you Zarc, so quit living in the shadows of your past and be the mage of whom I’ve been always been proud of.” Yusho mentally patted his shoulder, the other man smiled slightly.

“I thought that if I could merge with them I could absorb the darkness in their hearts, so at least they would be free. I never thought I would only make them more powerful.” Zarc  clenched his fists when he lowered himself down to cradle the dragon eggs “I’ve caused them so much pain.”

“But they will be alright now. They will start from the beginning and grow to overcome any unbalance in their hearts and with each of them carrying a part of your soul along with the guardian who will love them as much as you did; they won’t ever become the demon they once were.”  Yusho got on the floor as well and watched how Zarc was holding Odd-Eyes’ egg close to his heart. Out of all four dragons, Odd-Eyes that he had renamed to Yuya, was the most innocent of them all and to watch him become a destructive demon again would be absolutely heartbreaking. For a while, the silver haired sorcerer just cradled each of the dragon eggs like a parent would, whispering soft words to the sleeping dragons. Only when what felt like hours later, did Zarc put the eggs back in Yusho’s backpack, mouthing a gentle goodbye.

 

“Did you find anything new about Ray’s whereabouts?” Zarc asked carefully as if he was afraid of the answer.

“I’m sad to say that I have not, but there’s still hope that she isn’t gone completely. Many magical spirits said they could feel her soul still somewhere on this world and being an elemental sorcerer such as yourself who had also restored the world, it wouldn’t have let her get erased from the living. She’s has always been though, almost as tough as you.” Yusho thought about a woman around the same age as Zarc, with long reddish brown hair tied in two ponytails, who like him would also care for the mystical elemental creatures of nature.

“I see…” he stood up, his form slowly fading from the shining shape drawn on the ground by the pendulum crystal “What’s left then is only to move to the next hidden location and take care of my dragons. I’ll be looking forward to our next meeting, hopefully with the awakened dragons too.”

“It’s what I’ve planned with my apprentice and I’ll ensure you I will carry out your legacy. I will be looking forward to our next meeting.” Yusho had bowed to a barely visible image of Zarc.

“If the dragons hatch before that you certainly will. Each of them will have my face after all.” was the last sentence before the symbol on the ground disappeared, leaving only the man with his backpack containing the dragon eggs.

 

“May your soul be relaxed; I won’t let anything happen to your dragons.” Yusho had whispered before leaving the room in order to meet up with the two new companions and the boy who had become his new apprentice. He had lost two apprentices already and he wouldn’t lose anyone else.

 

All the kingdoms depended on it.

 

 

 

 

Thousands of miles away, a group of armored sorcerers bowed before the throne on which a man who could only be considered a king sat with several advisors surrounding him.

 

“Your majesty, everything is ready. The Rare Hunters are in their positions, the mystic spirits are gathered and the sorcerers are fully prepared to start with the ritual.” a boy in mid-teens announced, seemingly the leader of the group “Just say the word and we will begin.” 

 

A man completely covered with a purple cape stood up, raising his hands as if he was holding the world with them. The advisors carefully took a step away since they feared their king as much as they respected him, along with the fighting sorcerers who were visibly shaking when he spoke.

 

“You may begin.” his voice as cold as ice echoed through the dark castle walls, the young sorcerers saluted him at once and left the throne room.

 

The man walked towards the balcony, looking at the stars and the glowing moon with what could only be described as strong wish or even lust for something. With an outstretched arm, he gazed upon what lay beyond the ocean, fingers shaking from the excitement.

 

“Soon… elemental dragons… soon you will all be mine. I’ll be your true guardian and you will bring back the united world… you will be unstoppable. You will be mine.” the man let out a menacing laughter that was heard all over the island, sending shivers to every sorcerer preparing the ritual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The morning of the next day came as fast as the previous day had ended, with a travelling group of magic-users fully prepared for the road. Reiji would wake up again sometime around midday as well as Yusho who took a short nap after he had spent nearly the whole night talking with Zarc. It wasn’t really clear what the two ninjas were doing during that time, but it didn’t matter since they were as equally prepared as the teacher and apprentice. Having a warm meal together, the dark haired sorcerer used this moment of his group being together to discuss which path they would take to another location that was similarly hidden like the Fuma Clan village and what they would need to bring along. The rest of the day they spent packing all the necessary things along with the duo of ninjas practicing some additional spells and traps that they had received from their Master and Reiji going through some of the ninja scrolls in the library of the Fuma Clan. Even though the spells were much different from what he was used to, he’d read them anyway since it was hard for him to stop once he got his hands on the things he was curious about. Yusho would only recheck for a dozen of times if everything was in place and ready for the journey as well as if the dragon eggs were protected enough in the sealed pocket of his backpack. Despite the journey starting the next day, he was already feeling a bit tense due to the unknown dangers that might await them at every corner of the path.

 

“Master Yusho?” Tsukikage entered the room, carrying a handful of paper scrolls.

“Is something the matter?” Yusho looked away from the backpack.

“I was going to ask you about your apprentice if I may.” the dark haired sorcerer nodded for him to continue “For a child his age he possesses quite a lot of magical talent considering how he only studied a spell for an hour and he was already able to successfully use it on my brother less than an hour. I know you’re training him him to become one of the Dragon Guardians… but why haven’t you given him the memories of the Dragon War yet? It wouldn’t be fair for your apprentice not to know what he is preparing for.”

“Because I’m not the one who will give them to him, that’s his dragon’s job. I don’t know if you have noticed, but Reiji knows fairly well that something is coming and he’ll accept every challenge that comes his way. Even though he’s merely 10, his little head is analyzing everything he sees, placing the information together like a puzzle he sees as guidance on his way of becoming the guardian. Trust me, this kid is prepared for the storm that’s coming.” the man thought of all times when his apprentice would master difficult spells. 

“If you say so Master Yusho.” Tsukikage bowed when leaving the room “All the things you’ve requested are waiting for you at the entrance of the hallway.”

 

Yusho thanked the blue haired ninja as he headed to Master Hoshi’s room for a last discussion before leaving. The Fuma Clan has been on his side for as long as he could remember and departing after such a short visit felt rushed considering it’s been years since the last visit, but the safety of Zarc’s dragons came first so Master Hoshi didn’t have any hard feelings when bidding farewell to an old friend.

The group departed as soon as the sun had risen the next day, heading towards what seemed like the Maimami town though still near the countryside. Most of the time it seemed like there were only Reiji and Yusho walking along the path when in fact Tsukikage and Hikage were covering the front and back of their path unnoticeably in case anyone would attack them, either some random bandits or possibly Rare Hunters too considering it was fairly cloudy. The beings of the Shadow Realm also known as Rare Hunters hated the light and therefore wore dark colored capes to shield them from the painful sun rays, appearing only when the sky was dark when and were at their full strength. Hungry for the magical energy residing in magic users, they would hunt down any of them that would come across their path. Yusho was glad to move more towards the Maimami since Rare Hunters were hardly ever spotted there, unlike the Domino that was much more south and much closer to the Shadow Realm.

 

It took the group the majority of the day walking with few short stops to rest before they reached their destination. Using similar magic as the ninjas did when entering their village, Yusho partly opened the barrier surrounding the hideout for them to come in it. If anyone, magic- user or not would pass by, they would only see the ruins of a burnt down house due to the spell shielding it. In reality there was a fully furnished old house, far away from the nearest village and partly hidden by the forest as well as the rocks from the edge of the mountain area that started there.

 

As soon as they arrived, Tsukikage and Hikage proceeded placing traps around the barrier in case it would be broken while Yusho took Reiji inside in order to unpack. As the young apprentice tidied up the room he would share with his teacher, Yusho headed towards the end of the hallway where an old rug was laying. Tattered and dusty, but still serving its purpose to hide a specific spot, the dark haired sorcerer mumbled a spell that made the rug uncover a flap leading underground. Climbing down a ladder, covered by piles of dust, Yusho entered a dark room surrounded by stone walls and a single chest in the middle of it. Opening the chest that seemed to be made out of a crystal-like structure, awfully similar to the ones forming around the eggs in elemental shapes, the man carefully placed the dragon eggs inside it. Locking it with the spell that only he knew instead of a key, he exited the sealed underground room where the sleeping dragons should be safe.

 

Reiji was sooner or later done with tidying up the room and curiously watched the ninjas setting the traps around the area consisting of the house along with a part of the forest. While spells were his ace when it came to magic, traps were still something he had yet to improve. Approaching Tsukikage who was just about to finish with setting the trap, Reiji quietly called for his attention.

 

“Is there anything you need young apprentice of Master Yusho?” the blue haired ninja turned towards the boy.

“Could you teach me how to set a few traps? I still have trouble with some of them.” Reiji hugged his spell book closer to his chest.

“Are you sure? Those are quite difficult ones, not to mention the day is about to end.” Tsukikage replied, observing Reiji’s determined eyes.

“Yes I am, I want to get stronger so I won’t only rely on the spells all the time.” the boy fixed his glasses.

“Fairy well if that’s what you wish. Mirror Force trap should come handy to you.” Tsukikage gestured to his brother to finish up with the rest of the traps while he would go teach the young apprentice some new skills.

 

The ninja and the boy went to the most distant part of the hideout protected by the barrier away from the house to avoid any unnecessary damage. Tsukikage briefly explained the purpose of the mentioned trap, emphasizing the fact that it can only be used when you’re under attack. Reiji nodded at the instructions and for the next hour tried his best to use the newly taught magic. The “Mirror Force” trap had the ability to stop an encountering attacking spell, pointing it back to the person who casted it, so Tsukikage would attack him with minor spells that Reiji tried to use against the ninja.

 

“You’re focusing too much on the traps you’ve seen me use instead of the Mirror Force. Although those are powerful they’ll only protect you from the spells instead of reflecting them right back at the enemy.” the blue haired ninja shook his head when the boy yet again failed to use the trap correctly.

 

But no matter the harsh critics, Reiji’s expression wouldn’t change. He would only repeat the spell as soon as the previous try failed, his eyes never stopped thinking what the ninja’s next move would be. More time passed as he slowly got the barrier to reflect parts of the spells reaching him, not completely, but on the right way was developing. If Yusho’s words didn’t convince Tsukikage of Reiji’s potential, then the actions unfolding in front of his eyes did.

 

In the middle of nearly perfecting the trap, Tsukikage heard the crystal around his neck, functioning as a way of communication, quietly call for him with Yusho’s voice and therefore nudged Reiji to have a short break while he had a word with his teacher. The boy was a bit annoyed by the fact that they had to stop just when he was doing so well, though he knew that whatever reason Tsukikage had to leave for, was more important. Keeping himself busy with rereading the spells in his book until the ninja would be back, Reiji couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t alone. True Hikage was somewhere on guard and smaller forest animals would wander around, but the presence he felt belonged to neither of them. Pretending his mind was still in the book, the young apprentice carefully gathered his magic energy in secret, his red scarf concealing the slightly glowing hand underneath the spell book.

 

Next thing he knew, he saw something resembling a big bird flying directly at him with claws pricking and feathers glowing with a dark aura.

 

Not thinking at all, Reiji cast Mirror Force, the bird shattered against the invincible shield and pieces of it were reflected towards the thick branch of a tree. But whoever was there dodged its own spell, jumping to another tree. It moved incredibly fast and before the silver haired boy knew it, another bird-thing appeared, the caster grabbing its leg to get away. Reiji couldn’t see who the mysterious magic user was considering he couldn’t fully see anything other than that it was wearing a dark cape and it resembled a much shorter version of a Rare Hunter. By next moment, the magic user was gone without even a trace of which way it went.

 

Reiji quickly raced back to the house where Yusho was to inform him of the intruder at which the man reacted immediately, and called for the duo of ninjas while he got his apprentice inside despite him saying he can still fight. Yusho was clearly taking the information very seriously, pushing Reiji back into his room while he used his staff to analyze the area inside the barrier. The boy watched with amazement how the gems on the magical weapon produced tiny lights that soon formed a map of their hideout with four blinking spots, presumably their life energy.

 

“Where did you see the intruder?” Yusho asked after failing to find the fifth spot.

“It was right… there.” Reiji pointed at the corner near the mountain area “I swear, someone was there and used magic I haven’t seen before. It was like the spell came to life in a form of something with wings.”

“I believe you Reiji, but it doesn’t make sense that a magic-user could be capable of entering or leaving the barrier without at least being noticed. Hikage reported that he indeed felt another presence, however it was only for a split second shorty after you came to tell us about it.” the dark haired sorcerer didn’t break his gaze with the projection of the map “You should get some shuteye while we set the watch for tonight.”

“But I can help you too.” the boy’s stubbornness showed a little.

“Reiji look, you’re clearly tired from the journey and the training you’ve done with Tsukikage, so no matter how willing you are to lend us your hand, you still need to save up your strength otherwise it will only be the same as it was with the Rare Hunters before.” Yusho patted his apprentice’s head as he formed a smile from his previous serious expression “You’re a good student kiddo and your strength is something I’ll never doubt about, but for now we don’t clearly know what we’re dealing with. You must understand that a lot of things will be at the sake should we make a mistake, so the best way you can help us right now is if you regain your strength and be our backup power.”

 

The boy thought about the last fight with the evil forces, about how much energy he had put into a single spell that wasn’t even effective enough to defeat the enemy, resulting only in him becoming a burden for his teacher. No, he didn’t want to face the same failure all over again. Reiji nodded at Yusho’s words, obediently getting to bed where he removed his scarf and glasses. His teacher stroke his hair, which was his own way of saying good night, making Reiji smile slightly when watching Yusho leave the room. Only when he found himself underneath the blanket he realized just how exhausted he was, still feeling the cold surface of the Mirror Force on his hands from when he had casted it. Tsukikage sure gave him a challenge with not going easy on him…

 

… though so did the intruder with its unknown magic when appearing literally out of nowhere. Reiji tried hard not to think about of what that meant, but the more he thought, the heavier his eyelids felt until he finally drifted in the land of sleep.

 

 

“Reiji”

 

 

The young apprentice stirred unconsciously in his sleep, still in a dream he wasn’t sure of. The voice calling for him sounded childish and yet in a way mystical. The more he thought of it, more and more familiar it began to sound even though it was clearly unknown to whom it belonged. He could sort out a desert-like place with nothing but a few buildings in sight as the dark of the night covered the sky. The only tiny source of light came from the same direction the voice was coming from, close to one of the structures that looked similar to a temple he’d seen when visiting Domino. Whatever was calling out his name clearly wanted him to enter the temple.

 

 Dreams such as those were rare for him since his mind was the main source of his strength, needing to rest to the fullest without any interruptions so he could stay focused throughout the day.  But why would he dream about something as unclear as that? From what he knew dreams were supposed to play events he’d already experienced, not showing him the images of an unfamiliar location. Though Yusho would tell him stories of the magic-users with fortune telling abilities he’s met on travels before becoming his teacher.

 

“Reiji come on!”

 

This time the voice sounded more cheerful, the kind of one impatient child would use before playtime. Reiji carefully entered the temple, following the glowing figure that led him deeper and deeper into the building through the maze of various passages. Before he knew it, the boy found himself in front of a grand staircase leading towards a giant-looking throne adorned with bright red rubies.

 

On it sat the owner of the voice.

 

“I’ve been waiting for you for a long time Reiji.”

 

Reiji’s jaw nearly dropped down when he was face to face with the mystical being he didn’t expect to ever even gaze upon in his lifetime. He had read many legends about the creatures from the unreachable spirit worlds within the world he was living in, but up until now, that’s only what they were to him – legends. Considering he was dreaming, Reiji could’ve simply replay images of how he had pictured the mysterious beings from descriptions, however, what was in front of him wasn’t in any of the books he’d read. Its scales were gleaming more than the red gems decorating the throne as its discolored eyes gently shared its look with Reiji’s.

 

“What… are you?” was the only sentence he could’ve muttered in the moment.

“I’m your dragon.”

“But…” Reiji was surprised he got the answer right away.

“Yes it is true that the only dragons you know are sealed within the spirit worlds. But I’m different from them as I exist in your world instead of the spirit one and soon I will be reborn.”

“I don’t understand…” the boy made a careful step back since the dragon came closer to his side.

“You don’t need to, just accept the feeling in your heart and it will merge with mine. You’re my guardian after all.”

 

At that point the young apprentice was lost with words, only watching how the dragon’s huge head nuzzled against his chest as if it was a tiny kitten. Instinctively he put his hand on one of the horns, petting it like Yusho would and the dragon let out a noise that was probably an equivalent to a cat’s purring.

 

“You’re finally here, I’ve missed you, it’s been so long.”

 

With the dragon’s head comfortably clenching to his chest, Reiji wasn’t even sure if he was still dreaming. The touches, the images, the sounds and even the smells kept convincing him it was real, though he hardly believed the fact that one of the most mysterious creatures on the world just declared him as its guardian when he was only a young apprentice.

 

“I’ve chosen you long before you were even born, you were destined to connect with me and soon you will see as I will be once again brought to your world.”

“But who really are you? And what am I to you as guardian?” Reiji’s mind was overloaded with questions.

“I don’t have any more time to explain everything to you, but you will understand once you will meet me outside your mind. I will look different since I will be wearing the face of my previous guardian and it will take time before I will fully grow to the size I am now. But in any cases, it will still be me, connected to your heart.”

“Wait! I still don’t know your name.” the boy called when he saw the dragon gradually fading away.

“In the hidden legends I’m known as the Odd-Eyes of the Pendulum Kingdom, but to you, once you will meet my reborn form, I will be known as Yuya. The memories of what has transpired in the past up to the moment I depart from your mind will be sealed within me and once the time is right I’ll recover them. Until then I will grow alongside you with a piece of soul belonging to my previous guardian, gaining brand new memories.”

 

The Odd-Eyes dragon pressed its head against Reiji’s as a way of making a promise to be a good dragon to him. The silver haired boy looked at its discolored eyes one more time before the dragon disappeared with a spark of a flame alongside his entire surroundings.

 

“Farewell my guardian.”

 

 

Reiji woke up with a startle, gasping for air as the images of his dreams still haunted his head. Well not really haunted, but more as not wanting him to forget them. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, though considering it was dark outside it must’ve been as least a few hours. The house felt quiet, except for the quiet breathing coming from the bed across the room, confirming that Yusho had also decided to get some shuteye.

 

Failing to fall back asleep since he wanted to be well rested in order to train more the following day, Reiji grunted as the image of Odd-Eyes still wouldn’t leave his sight as well as the echoes of its voice. He just wanted to sleep, his destined responsibilities could wait until the next day once his mind would function properly. With no other idea of what to do, Reiji half-crawled out of his bed towards what was presumably the kitchen since it wasn’t tidied up yet, in order to have some water. Fortunately there were some canteens that the ninjas had filled with clear water from the nearby mountain stream which the boy took gratefully, slowly gulping down the rather cold refreshment.

 

It was then when his blurry vision without the help of glasses noticed something that wasn’t there before and probably shouldn’t have been there either. As his eyes picked up the glow in an identical ruby red color as the Odd-Eyes’ scales he nearly dropped the canteen.

 

Peeking from underneath his long-sleeved shirt was a symbol resembling a flame, engraved into his skin like some sort of tattoo. With each blink of the glow, it felt like the sting of an opened wound, sending a burning sensation all over his body.

 

He indeed actually became the guardian of an elemental dragon. Odd-Eyes made sure to literally burn the marker into him.

 

Then he heard a cracking noise from the outside akin to breaking glass.

 

 

 

….

 

 

 

“Your Majesty everything is set!” a man bowed while approaching the person on the balcony observing dozens of young sorcerers on the lower baily.

“Good, the Obelisk Force has the permission to get the ceremony going.” the other man gave a signal to the group of mages in their teens right in the middle of everything to begin.

“Excuse my rude question my King, but are you really sure a number of spirits we have gathered will be enough? We’ve barely gathered enough as it is and getting more of them is becoming more difficult by each day. They are nearly extinct in Fusion Kingdom.” the man acting as the king’s advisor asked.

“That’s why I ordered you to find him. The amount of power he holds is more than enough and once we have my dragons we can invade the XYZ Kingdom. From what my spies found out, the kingdom is practically blooming with spirits. Just imagine all the energy they will bring.” the king covered with a purple cape grew a sinister looking smile on his lips.

“But Your Majesty, wouldn’t it be wise to rather head for the Pendulum since it’s closer and it has more spirits…” the advisor suggested only to be shut up right away by the king.

“You fool! Don’t you know how well protected their spirit worlds are?! They have the Millennium Order, the Legendary Knights and many more that won’t only stop us, but destroy everything I’ve worked so hard on for years! What makes the XYZ Kingdom an excellent target is that both of their spirit worlds have been at war even after the Dragon War had ended and neither of them will see our attack coming!

“I’m sorry to have doubted you, king Leo Akaba!” he apologized immediately, hoping not to be punished for his ignorance.

 

Before the king could bring down more anger on his advisor, two more mages came to his side to report.

 

“Your Majesty, the prisoner is ready at the circle along with the energy of the spirits.” the female mage announced, pointing at the spot in the middle of the lower baily where a trapdoor began to open. From the underground, a stake was being lifted with a help of the sorcerers’ spells. Tied with magically enhanced chains against it was a brunet, not looking more than fifteen years of age.

 

Even though his entire body was heavily bruised with parts of his skin covered with dried blood, at some places also dripping from various cuts and barely seeing what was going on, the boy still struggled to get out of his restrains. It was not only his own pain he felt when trying to break free, but also the pain of hundreds of spirits about to be sacrificed for whatever twisted ritual king Leo Akaba was preparing. His throat was already sore from all the screaming when Leo’s elite force tortured him for the information where any other spirits were hiding. Not wanting the evil ruler to hurt any more of them as he already did, the boy kept his mouth shut and wouldn’t say a word even when he was sent to be sacrificed alongside the creatures he had tried so hard to protect.

 

The brunet heard the sorcerers, not that much older than him, chant an unknown spell as the chains became tighter around his beat up limbs while the symbols on the ground began glowing. He could feel his insides burning as the magic was trying to pull something out of him, forcing him to scream with the remains of his voice.

 

“My my, I would never expect for the Supreme King to pick a whining kid like you.” the brunet looked up to see Leo at the edge of the magical circle “Such a shame you’d rather die than betray your puny little friends.”

“What… do you… want?” the boy managed to say before another wave of agony engulfed his body.

“The power of The Supreme King you carry of course.” Leo grabbed his chin, forcing him to meet his look “Show me those golden eyes.”

“Go to hell…” the imprisoned boy pulled away, his brown eyes gleaming with rage against the king.

“Oh, I won’t, but you will be once I’m done with you. Open the portal!” the man called, sorcerers in dark blue capes begun to form another glowing circle next to the one where the stake with the tied up boy was. The prisoner refused to let the spiritual being inside him take over, no matter how painful it was to handle the torturous ceremony where his life energy was being sucked out of him instead of the spirit residing in his body. The cries of countless spirits being converted into energy were heard, the boy hardly concentrating on keeping The Supreme King from the ritual, though his body barely functioned in the state it was.

 

He just couldn’t understand how sorcerers could use spirits like they were mere disposable objects. They were alive and were important to keep the balance of their world going steady as he along with several of his friends knew all too well, feeling what they felt. What Leo and his warriors were doing to them was unforgivable. Couldn’t they hear their agonizing screams as they were killed off like tools?

 

No… those people lost sympathy for the spirits as soon as they started using them as weapons, soon turning children with magical abilities into warriors that wielded them. With that thought, the boy who struggled for as long as he could against his captors, finally succumbed to the spells, breathing out apologizes for not being strong enough.

 

His eyes turned to a demonic shade of golden as the aura of the spirit within the boy filled the circle. The Supreme King was angry at the damage Leo has caused to his vessel as well as sharing boy’s sadness for the innocent spirit, though most of it was soon turned into rage as well. The being taking over the boy pulled at the chains, spreading its gleaming power all over the place, some of the sorcerers were trembling at its energy.

 

But that was exactly what Leo wanted. The moment The Supreme King took over, the portal began taking its energy since it was the most powerful one inside the circle.

 

The sorcerers then sent their spies through the portal, proceeding with the next stage of the plan.

 

 

 

….

 

 

It was Hikage who saw the approaching danger first. While patrolling around the barrier, he suddenly sensed multiple spots of dark energy. Thinking it could be from the dark spirits he headed towards the way where most of them were coming from, noticing his brother joining him.

 

“So many of them…” Tsukikage muttered, preparing to active the traps should they come too close.

“Yeah, that isn’t like them at all. What is going on?” Hikage gasped at the number of cloaked figures trying to break the barrier.

“It seems like something is controlling them, but for that the puppet masters would need to be near them. I can’t sense any other spirits or magic users other than us.” the blue haired ninja sent a couple of destructive spells towards the group of Rare Hunters that had already tried to destroy the barrier with weak level magic. True they were dangerous looking and terrifying at night, but if you were skilled enough with your magic you could defeat them. The ninjas started gathering the strength to let them know they weren’t welcome there when some of the Rare Hunters started acting rather odd.

 

Unlike their usual zombie-like behavior ten of them acted calm and chanted a spell Tsukikage didn’t see coming. The wind started blowing rather strongly, its power gathering around the group as it clashed against the barrier, breaking it to the pieces.

 

“Impossible! There’s no way a Rare Hunter could cast Heavy Storm!” Tsukikage was dazzled from the impact that hit both of them to the ground while all the traps and the barrier disintegrated into the thin air. Witnessing the weakest beings, capable of using magic, perform a spell that needed decades of harsh training and studying in order to perfect, was the last thing that the duo of the ninjas have expected that night.

“What is going on?” Yusho’s voice called from the communicating crystals.

“We’re under attack Master! Rare Hunters have broken the barrier!” Hikage responded while other ninja casted another protective spell.

“Swords of the Revealing Light will hold them off for a while, but I sense more of them coming and considering their unnatural behavior, they’re being controlled.” Tsukikage continued to search for magic-users around.

 

Yusho quickly reached for his staff and when looking around the room, he couldn’t find Reiji anywhere. Fortunately his apprentice wasn’t too far, right in the next room with his eyes widely staring at his arm that glowed like a torch.

 

“Teacher…” Reiji mumbled, but before he could ask anything, Yusho put his things into his hands, dragging him towards the flap.

“There’s no time to explain, get in there and protect the chest at all cause! I will try to clear up the number of intruders near the house, so stay underground!” his teacher said when sealing the doors to join the ninjas in the battle.

 

Reiji placed his glasses back on in order to see of just where he was. The light of the dragon mark provided him with a little bit of brightness in the dark room, though only enough for him to see the chest that Yusho had mentioned. It was made of a transparent, glass like structure, revealing four oval shaped objects inside he failed to recognize. Each of them was colored differently, shining like gems in the dark. The mark on his arm was drawing him closer to the one in ruby red color. The closer he got, the more the burning feeling calmed down, turning into almost gentle sensation the mark caused.

 

The silver haired boy soon realized what Odd-Eyes meant being reborn, he could actually feel its tiny sleeping form from underneath the shell. Next to it were three more, but for some reason he couldn’t sense them as well as he did the one belonging to Odd-Eyes. Reiji tried to reach for it when all of a sudden the part of the underground room was torn apart.

 

The boy instinctively placed himself before the chest and prepared to protect it with everything he had. Four Rare Hunters stood next to a spiritual creature resembling a mole that had a pointy thing on its head, presumably used to dig below the ground, though the creature had disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. In a way Reiji found them smart as they had thought of sneaking in past his teacher and the ninjas, but fascinated or not, he had to keep his promise both to the dragon and to Yusho.

 

Just like Tsukikage had taught him, Reiji stayed on the defense as his main purpose was to protect the dragon eggs, he performed Mirror Force the moment the Rare Hunters began to attack. He had to admit it; it was a useful trap despite of how simply it worked. The spells were reflected back at the enemies, but somehow they dodged them inhumanly fast. In a moment’s notice two of them were attacking him while the other two were just standing there in the corner like they were thinking about something. Reiji stayed focused on the Mirror Force, feeling his energy dropping the more times they attacked him. That wasn’t good since at that rate they planned to exhaust him until he would let his guard down, leaving the dragons unguarded.

 

But before that could happen, the Rare Hunters launched their own additional strategy. They sent their combined attacks to the ceiling, making pieces of the house fall right on top of him. Reiji quickly casted a normal shield to protect himself from the falling bricks, however at the same time, a Rare Hunter found an opening where he sent his attack. The young apprentice was hit instantly, crashing against the chest that fell off its stand.

 

The enemy chanted a spell that made the chest shatter, all four eggs rolled towards the wall as the crystal formed around them to protect their shells. Reiji somehow managed to teleport himself close to them, immediately grabbing the Odd-Eyes’ egg as well as another one closest. They were quite huge to hold, almost the size of his head, so getting the hold of the third egg was quite a task. Unfortunately one of the Rare Hunters overhauled him, taking the dark green one as the other Rare Hunter got the white one on his hands.

 

The remaining empty-handed enemies were about to pull the red and the black eggs out of Reiji’s hands when a bunch of magically enhanced shuriken flew right at them, defeating one enemy as the other one fled. Tsukikage and Hikage went after the first duo of Rare Hunters the moment saw the stolen eggs in their hands while Yusho hurried to Reiji’s side.

 

“I should’ve known the attack in the front was just a distraction!” the dark haired man cursed at himself when examining his apprentice and the dragon eggs for any injuries “Can you run?”

 

Reiji nodded, adjusting the hold of the eggs that he saved. Yusho nudged him to follow through the same tunnel that was used to break into the underground room. The boy could hear the battle occurring in the distance, probably the ninjas battling to get what was stolen back as he ran through the perfectly dug tunnel until he saw the stars of the night sky. His teacher signed to Reiji to get towards the mountain area where they would lay low until the danger is out of the way. In order to jog there faster, Yusho took the black dragon egg at which the young apprentice was grateful since his smaller arms were getting tired from holding the quite heavy objects. Together they quietly continued their way, doing their best to not get noticed. Eventually they reached the edge of the mountains, taking shelter behind one of the bigger rocks.

 

“Tsukikage, Hikage how are the things on your end?” Yusho tried hard to cover his growing worry for the other two dragons when using the crystal to connect with the ninjas.

“Master, the numbers of Rare Hunters are worrisome, but from what we can tell only around ten of them are being controlled.” Tsukikage replied in quick breaths as if he was running.

“Whoever controls them shouldn’t be too far since longer the distance, more energy is required to control them.” Hikage wasn’t far from his brother.

“That can’t be…” the voice of the blue haired ninja suddenly gasped.

“We’ll report to you soon.” Hikage finished as their voices became silent.

 

Yusho sighed, clenching the black egg close to his side, mumbling unrecognizable words that weren’t really spells, but a way to calm himself down. For more than ten years he had protected the dragons and they were stolen with ease. He had given his word to Zarc, only to break it so soon after. Reiji sensed his teacher’s growing uneasiness, reassuring him they still had Odd-Eyes and whatever the other dragon was called, by showing it along with his flame mark that still produced a crimson light.

 

The dark haired sorcerer was about to ask him when he met Odd-Eyes to be given such a mark when he suddenly pushed him away, the blast taking place where they were just seconds ago. Rare Hunters had found them even there, with two of them seemingly being controlled. Reiji picked himself up right away, but the same couldn’t be said for his teacher. When shielding his apprentice, Yusho reacted on instinct as he put Reiji first before himself and ended up being hit with the spell. He could barely move as the black egg slipped out his hands, rolling away from him. Reiji watched terrified of how close the enemies were getting and for the first time having no idea what to do.

 

He had to decide fast who to save, the other dragon or his teacher. Yusho seemed to have injured his leg, trying hard to get up as one Rare Hunter was about to strike him with the same spell they used before while the group of enemies were inches away from the black dragon egg. All that and the fact that he had his own dragon egg to protect as the dragon mark on his arm glowed like a wildfire, Reiji couldn’t find a solution to get out of this.

 

“Get them Rise Falcon!”

 

Looking up at the sky, he saw the very same bird creature that had attacked him earlier that day. Riding it was the very same kid he had mistook for a tiny Rare Hunter, though looking at him now, a kid his age was anything but that. His bluish green hair shaped like a wing peeked from underneath the hood his head was covered with as his hazel eyes wouldn’t break focus with the enemy he was approaching. His bird turned to overthrow the enemies directly where the egg was while he jumped off it, only to summon another bird that protected Yusho.

 

The Rare Hunters barely reacted at the incredible speed of the birds that self-destructed along with their targets, both disappearing at the same time. The boy’s eyes stayed focused even when he approached the black dragon egg, picking it up and carrying it to Reiji, assuming it was his, due to the similar looking one in his lap.

 

“Here, it’s yours isn’t it?” he attempted to put it into the silver haired boy’s hands “What is it anyway, for those freaks to want it so badly?”

“Who are you?” Reiji asked before answering the questions.

“Shun.” the boy replied as if not wanting to say other than his name “Are you going to take it or not?”

“You’re from XYZ kingdom aren’t you?” Yusho, who managed to get up, answered instead, surprising the boy.

“How did you know?” Shun was stunned, but still sounded as serious as before.

“Your materialization of magic is unique to mages from XYZ, but that aside, we really need to move on.” the man casted a healing spell on himself “You’re in danger just like we are now.”

“What about your…” the XYZ mage was about to ask, nudging at the dragon egg.

“Keep it to yourself for a while; after all it called for you didn’t it?” Yusho reached for the communicating crystal.

“Wasn’t it you?” Shun was getting more confused by every passing minute “I’ve clearly heard someone calling for help.”

 

Yusho wanted to explain everything, but he had to check on the other two eggs, hoping for the best.

 

 

 

The ninja duo has never seen a Rare Hunter moving with speed like that. They were using the mysterious speed spells that gave them a powerful boost while the ninjas were still gathering up their strengths for theirs. Not only the random Rare Hunters but also the spirits were trying to slow them down as they raced through the forest. The controlled Rare Hunters who carried the eggs were up ahead, slowly getting away as the numerous distraction kept slowing down Tsukikage and Hikage.

 

Just when they thought the enemies were running off blindly, they noticed a bright blue circle in the distance. The ninjas have seen that kind of circle only once before and knew well what it was. A long distance portal, the ritual magic used for travelling thousands of miles and was extremely rare to use since it needed enormous amounts of energy.

 

Whoever was controlling the Rare Hunters as puppets must’ve been on the other side of the portal, chanting to them to bring the stolen objects. Busy fighting off a spirit resembling a warrior, Tsukikage couldn’t reach the dark green colored egg before it was sent through the portal. At the same time Hikage went after the white dragon egg, using quick teleportation magic to get there faster since the area was freer of enemies, but just when he nearly snatched the egg back, a spell hit him from behind, causing him to drop it at the very edge of the portal. Tsukikage send a materialized form of his magic to try catch it. Unfortunately it was sucked into the portal.

 

The moment the two eggs were inside, the portal disappeared without a trace, only the faint tracks of the unique magic were left in the air. The ninjas didn’t let it slide so fast, so they raced to whichever traces were still left as Yusho called them through the crystal.

 

“Master, the enemy came from the Fusion kingdom, using a portal to control the Rare Hunters.” Hikage reported as they ran to where the traces of fusion magic were leading them.

“I’ve sent a little bit of my magic through the portal, hopefully we will be able to pick the exact location.” Tsukikage continued while focusing to find his materialized magic.

“I’m coming too.” Yusho’s voice was full of panic at that point, not sounding like his usual self at all.

“No Master it’s too risky. Take Odd-Eyes and Dark Rebellion to the second hideout while we bring Starve Venom and Clear Wing back. We never go down on our word.” Hikage determinedly said in order to snap Yusho out of his desperate state.

 

The dark haired sorcerer could only utter out a faint reply to the bad news as he went back to Reiji who attempted to explain Shun about the situation they were in. Without saying a word, Yusho only grabbed the boys under each of their arms when chanting a spell he had hoped he wouldn’t need to use. Thanks to the spell that his old friend from XYZ had taught him, he called for one of the spirits that opened a portal which already started to close as soon as it had opened, and he got into to it with the boys before it fully disappeared. The youngsters could only prepare for the strong pull of the energy that transferred them to a place only Yusho knew.

 

The next moment they were somewhere completely different from the edge of the mountain area, transported to a hilly looking place surrounded by statues. Yusho noticed that both boys were passed out on the ground due to not being used to that kind of magic, although they were still holding onto the eggs like their lives were depending on it. Gazing upon the house where he once spent quite a while, he was surprised that even after all those years it still looked pretty much the same like the time he left for Pendulum.

 

“For a person who hates boring things, you sure kept it all tidied up huh Kazuma?” Yusho laughed at the empty space, even though he knew that his friend from XYZ Kingdom wasn’t there.

 

Yusho went to pick up the boys, proceeding to get them a more comfortable place to rest when he saw Shun’s arm glowing in purple as a picture began to form. Gradually the mark started to resemble a lightning, the purplish glow making it look as if it was real while Shun stirred in his sleep as if he was having vivid dreams.

 

“I’m glad you’ve found your guardian too Yuto.” he whispered to the egg as he took Shun into his arms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leo was getting more impatient by each passing minute. The Obelisk Force that was controlling the Rare Hunters was gradually reduced one by one even though that each of them claimed they were close to obtaining the dragons the minute they lost control of the Rare Hunter. Eventually two of them managed to confirm they indeed got two of the eggs, but they had to hurry up as the portal was barely hanging on.

 

When it finally disappeared, the sorcerers of the Obelisk Force dropped down from the exhaustion as Leo eagerly approached what has gone through the portal. At last they were here, the mightiest creatures in the world, the only ones that materialized to the fullest outside of the spirit worlds and they were all his. Excitedly he looked down…

 

…only to find a single dragon egg before him.

 

“Only one?!” his rage sent shivers to whomever was near him “Did I wait all those years for a single dragon?! Where are the other ones!?”

 

Nobody from the Obelisk Force members dared to answer the king when only pure anger was pouring from him and even if they knew they wouldn’t reply. The sorcerers were sure that at least two dragon eggs were transferred from Pendulum to Fusion, but where the other one was right now was a mystery.

 

“Form one more portal!” Leo shouted, not caring for the panic-stricken mages around him.

“But your Majesty we don’t have enough energy to do it. Even if we use the rest of The Supreme King’s energy…” a male mage, acting as the leader of the Obelisk Force, said with a trembling voice.  

“Then do it! Sacrifice him, sacrifice the spirits and take whatever energy we have! Just bring me the dragons!” the tone of harshness increased instantly “I’ll perform the ritual myself!”

 

The body of the Supreme King barely looked alive. The injuries inflicted before he had been brought here looked far worse now with several cuts reopening and skin turning paler as more energy left his body. All struggles to get out of the chains stopped since the boy had more trouble keeping his body alive as very little of the Supreme King remained inside of him.

 

It was even more agonizing when he once again felt his energy being sucked out of him. Leo didn’t joke when he said he wanted the dragons at all cost, with his life on the line as payment. Soon he would be one with the spirits he had sworn to protect ever since he was a child, the violent torture being his last memory.

 

“Judai!” an unknown voice called from above the sky.

 

The sorcerers were taken by surprise when a mountain lion and a tiger looking creatures took them out, making way for a blue haired boy riding a pegasus. He didn’t care for any approaching spells or mages going after him, his eyes were only pointed at the gravely injured boy. Those few sorcerers who got near him were attacked by an eagle appearing out of nowhere.

 

“Come on buddy, it’s me!” the blue haired boy shook the brunet by the shoulders, praying that his voice would bring him back from being the Supreme King.

“Bi!” a cat looking creature appeared on boy’s shoulder, helping him call after his friend.

“Kuri!” a hairy creature with wings, appeared closer to the unconscious boy, nuzzling itself against his face.  

“Jo..han…” Judai breathed since his voice was completely used up.

“I’m glad you’re still you.” Johan proceeded to remove the chains with the help of Ruby and the Winged Kuriboh “I got you now, so you don’t need to worry.”

 

Judai smiled lightly as he let Johan carry him in his arms towards the pegusus while the rest of the crystal beasts were buying them time to get away. Leo who had finally gotten a hold of the tiger, could only watch how the only source of powerful energy was taken away. Even when Johan was far from the Academia with the unconscious Judai, he could’ve sworn he heard Leo’s yells of anger.

 

 

 

 

Tsukikage’s magic continually attempted to get the at least one of the eggs out of the portal. But as Starve-Venom’s egg was pushed further than Clear-Wing’s egg, his magic could only save the later one. Pushing it out of the portal halfway from Pendulum to Fusion, the egg, now completely covered with the protective bright blue crystals was caught in the powerful winds originating from somewhere much further from Pendulum, XYZ or even Fusion.

 

The sleeping dragon unconsciously shivered in fear, confused by where it was and what was going to happen to it. It was the middle of the night, only the dark sky and empty ocean were there to greet the egg, falling down rapidly

 

But just before it could land on the ocean surface, it was caught by a mysterious being that happened to fly by. Its transparent form made of living flames gently cradled the eggs in its claws, feeling the all too familiar magic coming from it.

 

“I never though that fate would bring you all the way here. Welcome home Yugo.”

 

With those thoughts, the crimson colored spirit tightened its grip as it flew towards its home, The Kingdom of Synchro.

 

Chapter Text

An endless grass field in the dark of the night sky, where dozens of lightings were spread across, was what Shun had seen as soon as he closed his eyes. He wasn’t sure of what has transpired the last night, it was like as invisible force lead him through all that had happened. For as long as he could remember he was on his own, relying on the materialized magic he had managed to learn from someone whose face he could no longer sort out. It was as if his earliest memories had been wiped out, leaving him with only the knowledge of how to survive.

 

But this time he knew he was dreaming, as he recalled the same location from the time when he and his friend Kaito who was also a skilled mage travelled to the place where the XYZ Kingdom connected with its spirit worlds, the Astral World and the Barian World. That time he had only walked Kaito to the entrance since unlike him, he didn’t have a connection to the spirit worlds. The blond haired mage had told him many times of his travels where he would assist other chosen mages in the battle that has been going on for too long. As much as he wanted to give him a hand, he couldn’t and instead do what he could to keep XYZ Kingdom safe.

 

So what was he doing here now? Was it a message from Kaito? Highly unlikely since he hadn’t mastered long rage communication yet. He was still in the Pendulum Kingdom right? A loud shriek from somewhere in the sky broke his thinking as he was met with a huge shadow, a pair of glowing yellow eyes pointed directly at him. Thinking it was going to attack him, Shun prepared to materialize his magic in order to fight back, only to find out he couldn’t.

 

Right, he was really was dreaming since his magic was powerless when he was asleep. He began to run from the shadow that took on a faster pace, hoping that he could at least escape it if he couldn’t fight it. Taking off in a random direction, Shun heard the thunder in the sky getting louder like it was responding to the creature in the shadow. Suddenly the teal haired boy tripped over a rock he had failed to notice, landing face down on the ground. Preparing himself for the strike from the creature since he was powerless, Shun found it surprising that the shadow merely landed on the ground and became clearer.

 

“We finally meet my guardian.” the deep yet young voice said from the shadows as the glowing eyes became less threatening as more features revealed “Thank you for saving me.”

“What?” Shun backed away as he still found whatever was in front of him anything but friendly.

“If it weren’t for you, I would’ve been taken away along with my other two brothers and our youngest brother would’ve been forced to grow up without a single sibling. Thanks to you, at least I will be there for him.” the creature’s body looked somehow familiar to the boy, but he couldn’t tell from where.

“You’re welcome… I guess.” XYZ mage responded, a bit puzzled why he talked so casually “Where am I?”

“Heh, you’re still not seeing it.” the voice had a hint of laughter in it “I thought that an acquaintance of someone chosen by the spirits would’ve had more of an idea. Oh well there’s no harm in explaining it to you.”

“Don’t tell me…” Shun gasped as he picked on the extended dark wings and massive purple colored body “You’re Galaxy Eyes?!”

“Not quite.” the shadows completely faded off its body, revealing it to be indeed a dragon “But you’re close.”

 

Shun rubbed his eyes, now realizing it truly wasn’t the same spirit as the one residing in Kaito’s body, that he would witness whenever his friend would head off to Barian or to the Astral world. Instead of blindingly bright wings, this dragon had much darker ones at some parts pointed like blades. Its body was also leaner along with a longer neck and tail.

 

“You were destined to be my guardian long before you were born and along with the other guardians you will take care of my reborn self. I can’t tell you  how happy I am to meet you before I am once again reborn in your world.” the dragon lowered its long neck to reach for Shun’s hand who carefully petted it.

“What do you mean reborn? And what kind of a dragon are you anyway? Kaito said there is only a small number of your kind left.” the XYZ mage kept observing the never before seen creature.

“You will learn soon, but our time is growing short. I’m known as the Dark Rebellion of the XYZ Kingdom, but once I’m reborn my name will be Yuto as I will be also capable of taking a human form.” the dragon raised its wings flying back into the stormy sky.

 

“Please, make sure you that neither I nor my brother is taken.” echoed Dark Rebellion’s voice when everything began to spin. Countless images flashed before his eyes, full of pain, war and sorrow. He felt paralyzed with shock by the overwhelming visions of a powerful dragon and the destruction it had caused.

 

 

 

Shun woke up gasping, immediately feeling the dizziness from waking up fast and then a prickling pain in his right arm. He needed a bit of time to clear his head in order to focus on his surroundings and the purple colored lightning engraved in his arm that he was certain wasn’t there before. He became aware of the wooden walls surrounding him along with another person seated cross-legged on a bed next to him.

 

“Good you’re awake.” the silver haired boy about his age closed the book he was reading.

“Where… am I? And who are you?” Shun found the place somehow familiar.

“I’m Reiji and you’re inside of the Duel Lodge at the edge of the XYZ Kingdom’s capital, Heartland. Do you feel alright?” Reiji fixed his glasses when explaining.

“I’ll survive…” the XYZ mage replied, slowly getting up “Though… weren’t we supposed to be in the Pendulum Kingdom?”

“My teacher brought us here in order to hide us from the Rare Hunters. They nearly got Yuto after all…” Reiji nudged at the two dragon eggs on the cushion, its shells heavily covered by crystals.

“Yuto? So the whole thing that just played in my head is… true?” Shun stared at both his mark and the black egg.

“Yeah… there was a Dragon War more than ten years ago, caused by the ultimate dragon when the four elemental dragons merged together. The only way to stop it was for their guardian to sacrifice himself in order to seal all four dragons back to their eggs and entrust four new guardians to raise them. We’re two of them.” the Pendulum mage said while taking the fire dragon’s egg in his arms.

“I see…the whole war wasn’t just a nightmare I had.” Shun stared at his mark “So if I have Yuto… then you have…”

“Yuya, also known as Odd-Eyes, the fire dragon.” Reiji rolled up his sleeve to show the flame mark on his arm “Unfortunately Yugo the Clear Wing wind dragon and Yuri the Starve Venom plant dragon, had been stolen by Rare Hunters. Two of the teacher’s sorcerers were sent after them, but… as for now they still haven’t been able to locate them and the teacher… took it really hard.”

 

Shun reached for the egg of the lightning dragon, fully knowing that he too has now become one of the people chosen by the spirits, just like Kaito. He couldn’t really decide what to think now that he realized what it meant to be one of the chosen ones. Knowing the forbidden memories of the time when all four kingdoms were joined together, when the four elemental dragons were the saviors that later became the greatest threat and when chosen mages lend their powers to the dragon guardian who sealed the dragons and to the guardian who revived the world, certainly was a big burden to carry along with protecting the growing dragon when he himself was a child.

 

In a way he wished he would have asked Kaito more about how he took care of Galaxy Eyes, though from what he remembered his friend’s situation was a bit different. The dragon that Kaito had was after all a spirit that lived inside of his body, materializing using magic when battling. Elemental dragons were on the other hand flesh and blood, the bridge between the human and the spirit worlds.

 

“When will they hatch?” Shun broke the silence while analyzing the black and purple crystals around Yuto’s egg.

“I’m not sure, but considering my mark has been burning pretty intensely for the last two days I think it will be soon.” Reiji sighed making Shun’s eyes go wide.

“I’ve been asleep for two days?” the teal haired boy gasped.

“I woke up yesterday… guess our minds had a lot to process. The teacher checked on us a couple of times, but other than that he has been cooped up in one of the rooms. I can’t blame him though.” the silver haired boy looked towards the doors from where Yusho had come from a few hours ago.

“Is the teacher that man that was with you? Who is he anyway?” Shun got curious.

“His name is Yusho Sakaki. He found me when I was six and taught me everything I know about magic.” Reiji thought of all the confusing times on their travels that now made sense since it turned out that he has been protecting the dragon eggs all along.

“You mean the Yusho Sakaki? The performing sorcerer?” the XYZ mage was surprised by the familiar name “My friend Kaito told me much about him when he was in Hearland. He wanted to learn his style of magic, but he never got a chance since the spirit worlds were in trouble.”

“You have a friend who was chosen by the spirits? Kind of explains why you are taking the whole ‘being the dragon guardian’ so lightly.” Reiji fixed his glasses at the amazement.

“Yeah, I’ve always wanted to help Kaito and his comrades in some way, but the entrance to the Astral or the Barian World have always been as far as I could go.” Shun cradled Yuto’s egg in his arms “I hope I will be a good guardian.”

 

Reiji smiled at the fellow dragon guardian’s determination and was glad he wasn’t alone in it. He could tell that Shun was honored for receiving such a task upon his shoulders, even though he was aware of just how difficult and risky it was.

 

“Then let their last guardian’s sacrifice not be in vain and make sure we raise the dragons well.” Reiji offered his hand to Shun who took it with ease.

“You don’t need to ask me twice.” Shun grinned, feeling tiny sparks from the sleeping lightning dragon.

 

The two dragon guardians made a promise with a handshake, sworn to never break it.

 

 

 

 

 

Yusho didn’t know the words nor did he know how to put them together, clenching Zarc’s pendant in his hand.

 

As soon as he got the boys to bed so they could recover from all the forbidden memories transferring in their heads and the marks connecting them to the dragons, he went to check the Duel Lodge, belonging to his old friend Kazuma from the XYZ Kingdom, to see if the spirits still kept the building and its surroundings as safe as possible. It had been built decades ago as a place where people could honor the spirits. The Duel Lodge acted as a temple, that wasn’t destroyed even when the Dragon War occurred. It was Kazuma Tsukumo that kept it safe all this time and even though he wasn’t one of the chosen ones, he worked hard to keep the relations between spirits and people friendly. Yusho would’ve been glad to meet him again, but the last time he’d seen him he found out that his son Yuma got involved with the Astral world and has been searching for him ever since. Yuma didn’t belong to the spirit world either and yet he somehow joined forces with a being from the Astral world, and was helping them in the current war.

 

The performer sorcerer reached a hall full of wooden statues, serving as relics for people to see how some of the most powerful spirits look like. There were piles of dust covering them, confirming that even if Kazuma kept the place tidy, he couldn’t keep it clean. Spider webs in the corner only added to the fact that it had been years since anyone was here. But less worried about cleaning the place where he will spend the next few years, Yusho had hard time thinking how he will pass the news to Zarc.

 

He could clearly remember the first time the silver haired kid became his apprentice, soon to be chosen as the guardian of the elemental dragons. The time when young Zarc would patiently wait for the dragons to hatch, the moments when he had taught them how to use their powers and how he transferred performer magic even on the dragons. The good old times when there were no wars, only harmony when his apprentice could spend time with his beloved dragons in peace.

 

How could he possibly tell him he broke the promise, not as a friend but as a teacher his apprentice always looked up to? After the last time he had seen him alive, when Zarc’s eyes were filled with tears as he was about to seal his beloved dragons and erase himself from the world of the living, how could he outright tell him that he failed him?

 

Knowing that moment would come sooner or later, Yusho chanted the spell of the pendulum to call upon the soul of his apprentice. The statues glowed slightly as energy once again drawn from the symbol on the floor summoned the floating figure of Zarc in front of him.

 

“Teacher?” Zarc’s expression pretty much outlined confusion “I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon. Are my dragons about to hatch already?”

 

Yusho remained silent, not daring to be met with the silver haired adolescent who floated closer with no idea of what awaited him.

 

“Teacher? Teacher!? Speak to me.” Zarc raised his voice a bit, no response came from the performer sorcerer “Why have you summoned me if you won’t talk to me? Is everything alright?”

“Zarc I… I have some bad news.” Yusho said quietly, almost as he was whispering.

 

That sentence alone was enough for Zarc’s spiritual form becoming more transparent. His soul was visibly shaking, his yellow eyes widening at hearing what his teacher was about to say. Yusho would always carry a neutral or smiling expression, so his saddened look meant nothing good.

 

“No…” Zarc covered his mouth in horror, tears gathering in his eyes “No…please no.”

“Yugo and Yuri have been taken.” the man finally stated.

 

Zarc broke down immediately; his spirit collapsing on his knees as everything came crushing down on him. He was outright terrified that would happen, that why he had used the remains of his powers to help his teacher hide them, but in the end it no longer mattered. Two of his young wards were stolen, separated from their brothers and taken somewhere where he could no longer reach their sleeping spirits. Zarc’s form was shaking as tears ran down, repeating the word no over and over again like he was trying to convince himself it wasn’t true.

 

“Tsukikage and Hikage are following the remains of the magic belonging to the kidnappers...” Yusho said, hoping it would calm down his apprentice just a little bit “It’s leading them towards the Fusion Kingdom.”

 

Zarc barely heard his teacher from all the sobbing, though he nodded slightly at the information. When the Unified Kingdom was split in four, all four kingdoms were separated as greatly as possible with Pendulum and XYZ divided by a massive mountain line and Synchro and Fusion lying in the middle of the wide ocean, hundreds of miles apart from each other. Though why would the dragon thief originated from the smallest kingdom? From what he knew the people of the Fusion Kingdom were no longer be able to use magic once they hit their twenties, making them the most non-magical nation of all four kingdoms. Who could possibly be after the dragons and why?

 

Too absorbed in his thinking while still engulfed in his sorrow, Zarc retreated back into the pendant, in the place where he was entirely alone; to process the events that had transpired. He was going to search through his memories to look for a possible suspect so he could help track down his dragons when he came across a memory he both cherished and missed with his whole heart.

 

With tears still dripping from his eyes, he took a deep breath as he relived the precious memory.

 

 

 

The sun shone brightly as Zarc, weighted down with a bag full of various things, passed the entrance to the part of the forest where he was the only mage that was welcome in it. Others could only get to the stone gate where they could leave their offerings and wishes to the four elemental dragons that protected the Unified kingdom. They also had a ginormous temple built right in the center of the capital, but both the dragons and Zarc chose to appear there only during important events and performances since the dragons preferred being closer to nature.

 

The forest where their home nest was, was more or less secluded from any signs of human civilization since Zarc was the only one who stayed there for a longer period of time, with the exception of his friend Ray and his teacher Yusho who would visit him from time to time when they would get a break from their travels. The dragons loved the peaceful serenity of a smaller lake in the clearing along with the waterfall hiding the caves leading underground and all the greenery surrounding it.

 

“I’m back!” Zarc called towards the seemingly empty forest clearing.

 

In a matter of seconds he was tackled to the ground by the red-scaled dragon with discolored eyes, the creature letting out noises that could be equivalent to the happy barking of a dog when it greets its owner. Not far behind landed the purple-scaled dragon, folding its wings, and actually having the decency to greet the silver haired man without sending him flying and merely nuzzled its head against Zarc’s who was still pinned down on the ground by the overjoyed Odd-Eyes. From the noises in the background he suspected that the other two dragons were aware of his arrival too, though they were still somewhere in the distance.

With Dark Rebellion pulling Odd-Eyes’ tail as if it was telling him to be careful around their guardian, red dragon let out a whine as it slowly lifted itself from Zarc who was only grinning at Odd-Eyes’ being its usual self, all sweet and caring.

 

“There, there, I missed you too.” Zarc petted both dragons “Where are your other two brothers?”

 

Before either of them could answer, a loud swish was heard across the sky. What seemed like a shooting star, even though it was in the middle of the day, made such quick movements that the being was hardly recognizable, doing several spins, turns and other acrobatics before getting closer and closer to the ground. It was about to do the final trick when it looked like something didn’t go as it was supposed to, causing the flying creature to do a clumsy somersault before landing in the water with a giant splash, resulting in both the dragons and their guardian to be soaked to the bone. Odd-Eyes squeaked from the pain since he, as a fire dragon, didn’t take to water too well. While Dark Rebellion went to comfort his brother, Zarc quickly went to the white-scaled dragon whose body was sprawled against the edge of the lake, its majestic blue wings flinching at the cold of the water.

 

“Gee, I know you like boosting your adrenaline, but you should be more careful when landing, Clear Wing.” Zarc somehow managed to drag the dragon closer to the shore, while Clear Wing was shaking all the water off its sensitive wings “But I must say that was spectacular.”

 

Clear Wing formed something that look like a grin as he too tackled his guardian to the ground. Zarc sighed at the white dragon’s behavior, nearly identical to the Odd-Eyes’, but couldn’t really help the fact that his dragons thought of him as their parent. Slowly, while constantly stroking Clear Wing’s head, he got out from underneath him, reaching for his bag, glad that it was waterproof.

 

“I have something for you.” Zarc smiled, opening the bag at which all three dragons’ nostrils widened “So here I have some fresh ocean fish for Clear Wing.”

 

The white dragon would’ve stuck its head in the bag if Zarc wasn’t used to him being a glutton, snatching the bag right from his snout and rather threw all the fish in the air so Clear Wing could continue practicing his extreme flying while enjoying his favorite food. With the wind dragon engulfing the taste of various sea fish, Dark Rebellion’s mouth watered at the next item in Zarc’s hands. Even though the lightning dragon preferred to hunt on his own, dried meat was one thing that could turn him from a vicious predator into a docile puppy. Zarc couldn’t count all the times he used the salty treat as a bribing material for Dark Rebellion. As the lightning dragon gnawed down on the dried meat, luckily without Zarc’s hand like it had happened once, Odd-Eyes excitedly wiggled with its tail since he already knew by the scent what his guardian had for him. For some reason the fire dragon liked everything that was human related, including the food, ever since he snatched some of Zarc’s lunch.

 

“Your teeth will root if I continue to spoil you.” the man caressed one of Odd-Eyes’ horns “But then again how can I say no to those mesmerizing eyes?”

 

Odd-Eyes’ impatiently nudged his head towards the bag until Zarc finally pulled a whole cherry pie out of it. The moment the fire dragon swallowed the still-warm pastry his eyes gleamed from happiness, enjoying the sweet taste of human-prepared food.

 

“Looks like Ray did a good job baking it.” Zarc smiled, Clear Wing and Dark Rebellion turned their heads at the sound of Ray’s name “I’m sorry, but she couldn’t come. Something came up.”

 

Zarc could sense a little bit of disappointment in the dragons since he was well aware that they also liked Ray’s company. The fellow mage his age was always surrounded by a pleasant aura, similar to his own, but much more gentle. He remembered the times when she would visit more regularly, playing with the dragons and filling their home with her magic of creation. Just like the dragons possessed four elemental powers, of fire, lightning, air and plants, so did she, possessing the powers of animal life, plants, wind and the moon known as En powers. She didn’t have any dragons like Zarc did, although she could connect with elemental creatures possessing En powers when taking care of the imbalances between the Unified Kingdom and the spirit worlds.

 

“Okay, Odd-Eyes just got his food, so did Dark Rebellion and Clear Wing.” Zarc was back in reality, checking if each dragon got their share of comfort meals “Now where is Starve Ve..Woah!”

 

Before he could even finish the sentence, something caught his foot and dragged him up in the air, leaving him hanging. He didn’t need to put two and two together to know it was the last of the quadruplets, the prankster of the dragon family. The head of the violet-scaled dragon peeked from the treetop, his teeth clenched in a grin as he continued to tease Zarc with a vine he was controlling.

 

“No berries for you if you don’t let me down this instant.” Zarc sighed, clearly tired of yet again being caught in one of Starve Venom’s pranks.

 

Dark Rebellion only rolled his eyes at the situation while Odd-Eyes and Clear Wing somehow found it hilarious enough to start shrieking in delight. The silver haired mage crossed his arms in annoyance though he kept his expression neutral until Starve Venom finally let him down.

 

Needing some time for all the blood rushing to his head from the upside down hanging to calm down, Zarc eventually reached in his bag for freshly picked berries , the kind of ones that didn’t grow anywhere near the dragon nest for Starve Venom who was nearly as excited as his brothers had been for their snacks before. Unfortunately the berries didn’t have the same effect on Starve Venom as dried meat for Dark Rebellion since the plant dragon would rather fly to his spot surrounded by flower bushes and not listen than to be bribed by the food. He was truly the most stubborn and prideful of them all.

 

But either way Zarc still cared for him as he did for his brothers, knowing well that each of them had different characteristics that made them who they were. His dragon family was truly one of a kind.

 

His thinking was broken by Odd-Eyes who pulled at his cape, like he usually did whenever he would ask for attention. Dark Rebellion also got closer as Clear Wing only wrapped himself in his wings and Starve Venom got back on the treetop like saying they won’t be part of whatever the fire dragon and the lightning dragon were up to.

Odd-Eyes leaned his head forward as every single one of his scales began to glow like rubies. In a similar manner, the purple scales of Dark Rebellion started glowing as well, looking like shiny pieces of amethysts. Zarc watched astounded how their forms were engulfed separately in their elemental powers, becoming smaller and smaller. Their dragon features like Odd-Eyes’ horns and Dark Rebellion’s wings gradually shrunk down into their bodies, looking less like dragons by each passing second. In the end Zarc no longer saw two dragons, but what seemed like two much younger versions of himself wearing capes in the same colors as their scales.

 

“Surprise!” the boy with hair that resembled Odd-Eyes’ discolored eyes exclaimed.

“It took us a while to master it… but here we are.” the other boy whose hair was in the same colors as Dark Rebellion’s body scratched his head in a slight embarrassment.

“How?” could Zarc only utter when the human version of Odd-Eyes gave him a big hug, this time not knocking him on the ground as he was now only a half of Zarc’s size.

“Ray taught us!” the green-red haired boy said, his head still pressed against his guardian’s stomach since he couldn’t reach any higher.

“The last time we went to the temple, Odd-Eyes was so upset for making some children cry because of how terrifying he looked to them that we asked Ray if she could teach us to change our appearance.” the other boy said “Starve Venom and Clear Wing still haven’t mastered it though.”

“You should’ve seen Clear Wing! He still had a tail and dragon head!” Odd-Eyes giggled which made the white-scaled dragon roar at him “What? But you looked so funny!”

“I don’t know what to say… I’m so amazed of what you’re capable of.” Zarc proudly petted their heads “Why did you turn into me though?”

“Well we didn’t have much choice since you’re the only human whose appearance is engraved in our heads for a reference.” Dark Rebellion smiled when crossing his arms.

“And we wouldn’t want to turn into anyone but you!” Odd-Eyes still wouldn’t let go of Zarc.

“Even Clear Wing and Starve Venom?” the man asked, looking at the other two dragons who seemed a bit embarrassed from not mastering the shapeshifting.

“Yeah! Clear Wing hasn’t managed to change his head yet, but he was aiming for your face too. Starve Venom on the other hand is nearly done with taking a human form, but for some reason flowers start growing all over him each time he shapeshifts.” this time Starve Venom was the one to roar at his blabbering brother.

“I’m glad you’re learning new skills each day. You will all grow up way too fast.” Zarc pulled both of his younger versions into his arms, nearly shedding tears from how emotional he had gotten. Since he has been taking care of them since when they were still just dragon eggs he has thought of them as his children, so now that they even choose to take their forms after him, it only confirmed how much they thought of him as their parent as well. The other two dragons had the urge to join the little family hug as well, but they decided to rather not due to their massive sizes.

 

That and the fact that someone was approaching.

 

Clear Wing immediately extended his wings, ready to strike any intruder with his windblast while Starve Venom mentally called for all the vines and thorns near him. Still in human form, Odd-Eyes and Dark Rebellion felt the unfamiliar presence too, but rather hid behind Zarc. The four of them might’ve been all huge in size, though mentally they were all just children.

As the unknown person came closer, Odd-Eyes began to tremble, not because he was scared but because he could feel other peoples’ auras and the one approaching was the right opposite of Ray’s or Zarc’s. Dark Rebellion tried to calm him down by placing his arms around his brother’s shoulders protectively, making him snap out of his still state when the person stepped right in front of Zarc, removing the hood off his head.

 

“Leo Akaba…” the silver haired mage muttered, protectively setting his arms in front of the boys “You are not allowed to enter the dragons nest.”

“Even if my daughter would happen to be here?” the man said, gazing upon the duo of children behind Zarc and the duo of dragons fully prepared to attack.

“You know well she has set on another travel a day ago.” Zarc clenched his teeth at the man’s cockiness “So give me a good reason for preventing Clear Wing from blowing you out of the forest or Starve Venom giving you the thorn crown you deserve as the king you are.”

“Watch your mouth young mage.” Leo’s eyes narrowed down at the insults “I only wish to talk with you.”

“Then talk, I’m listening.” Zarc still wouldn’t move from his spot, no matter how threatening Leo looked.

“I meant more of a private talk without your… beasts.” the moment the man said the last word, Odd-Eyes burst into tears, saddened by the fact that even when he was in human form people still thought of him as a monster. Burying his face into Zarc’s tunic, the dragon guardian could only stroke the child’s back while cooing ensuring words that he was in no way what Leo had called him. Dark Rebellion on the other hand had enough of seeing his always cheerful brother cry like that, turning back into a dragon and along with the rest of their family protectively formed around Zarc who held the upset Odd-Eyes.

 

“Was harassing my dragons your only purpose of intruding, or will you be actually discussing official issues concerning the Unified Kingdom? For the later I think I’ve made myself clear that they’re to be dealt with outside of the dragon nest.” the silver haired mage took the crying dragon boy in his arms since the child could barely stand from all that was happening “The dragons are my first priority and last time I checked you have more than enough people for whatever mess you’re dealing with.”

“Yes I’m aware of that, but the royal council has asked for your assistance personally. There’s only one dragon guardian after all and should you not participate in this… I can’t tell what could happen…” Leo brought out a scroll, his expression serious enough for Zarc to take it into consideration “Just read it somewhere where you’ll be able to think clearly. You will still have your precious monsters in sight.”

 

The dragons, with the exception of Odd-Eyes, all let out a loud growl at the rude remark, but Zarc raised his hand in front of them, gesturing them to calm down and patiently wait for him to finish whatever assignment he was tasked with. The dragon guardian gently placed the boy with red and green hair, who was still sobbing, on Clear Wing’s back since the white-scaled dragon was the most eager to charge at Leo, in order to keep him still. Being the oldest of the dragon family, Dark Rebellion understood what was to be done, flying back to his brothers whose focus was pointed towards the youngest brother, though they would still stare daggers at Leo in the corner of their eyes. Something in that man just bothered them to the tip of their claws,

 

Ray might’ve been his daughter, but she most certainly had none of her father’s characteristics. Being crowned as the ruler of the Unified Kingdom soon after she was born, Leo had been far too busy with his duties as a king in order to play the role of a parent, resulting in a very jumpy relationship between him and Ray. It only got worse when she was chosen by En elemental powers, downing the already non-functioning relation. Since Leo was secretly jealous of her gift as well as Zarc’s. She’d met the silver haired boy when she started to train her powers under the skilled sorcerer Yusho Sakaki. Ray tended not to bring her father into conversations, though even without her confirmation, Zarc knew just what kind of a man Leo was from the aura oozing out of him.

Leo as a king kept the Unified Kingdom going steady so far, but Zarc couldn’t shake the bad feeling he got from Leo’s constant research of the spirit worlds. It started out as a way to fix those few flaws that the kingdom had, but gradually the exploration turned into an obsession that even the royal council took on. That was also one of the reasons why the silver haired mage wouldn’t use Leo’s royal titles for him except when they were in public.

 

“You can’t be serious!” Zarc shouted from shock after reading the scroll.

“Elemental dragons and En powers are the link between our world and their worlds. If we only…” the man tried to convince the distraught mage otherwise.

“No! The Unified Kingdom has no need for what you’re planning! Why would you want to risk the balance of life for something you don’t truly understand yourself!?” the silver haired mage outright flung the scroll at Leo who reflexively caught it before it hit his face.

“There are some things you young people just don’t understand, the royal council wishes to…” the man rolled the scroll back up.

“Royal council or you? I’m sorry, but I refuse this madness and if you don’t know better you soon will too.” Zarc was already heading back to the dragons “Stop meddling with spirit worlds already! You’re supposed to research and help our own world, the Unified Kingdom and the people you’re ruling, not the places only specific people were chosen for helping.”

 

Zarc didn’t see the raging expression on Leo’s face as he turned his back to him, making it clear that he was no servant of his and his loyalties lay with the spirit worlds only, even if he was a human. Once he was back with his dragons he glimpsed back to where Leo was, only to find him gone.

 

 

The former dragon guardian snapped out of his memory, suddenly connecting all the pieces together. That was it! How could he not see it before? The one man who was more than capable of both regaining the memories and finding a way to get what he wanted, it had been in front of his nose from the start.

Sending a message to Yusho to summon him again, he was back in the same room, his teacher seemingly still waiting for him to recover from his breakdown.

 

“I know who took Yuri and Yugo.” Zarc said, his expression boiling with rage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The early morning sun shone through the transparent form of the Crimson Dragon as it flew back to the kingdom of Synchro. Out of all four kingdoms it was the most secluded due to the events that took place after the Dragon War. The seemingly peaceful nation didn’t get to enjoy the peace for long before another in-nation war started, this time it originated in their two spirit worlds. The battle soon moved through the Synchro Kingdom and even after it was over, it had fatefully changed both the land and its society.

 

The Crimson Dragon and its servants did their best to fix it, but what was done was done. All they could do now was protect the kingdom while trying to tidy up if only a little of the mess in which Synchro was now. Its people grew used to it and life went on, though it was quite obvious that deep down they wanted a change.

 

More rays brightened the sparkling sea among which the shining creature was flying, its claws still holding Yugo’s egg. The sleeping form of a wind dragon had managed to sooth back in his sleep as the blue crystals of the egg began to glow, sending radiant waves of its aura into a specific direction.

 

“I see… if that’s where you want to go, I’ll take you there.”

 

By that time the Crimson Dragon had already reached the first set of smaller islands, belonging to the Common area. Its form was invisible to the majority of people who were already going on with their day, but Yugo’s egg on the other hand was more than obvious to spot. The Crimson Dragon hurried in the desired direction until it saw why Yugo wanted to go there. As his hatching would be occurring soon, the wind dragon was seeking out his guardian so he wouldn’t hatch alone. Years ago, before finding Reiji, Yusho did visit the Synchro Kingdom, but he failed to find a guardian for Yugo so he went back to Pendulum after searching across all the land. So why would the person suitable of being the guardian of Clear Wing be present there now?

 

The Crimson Dragon saw a small sailing ship, slowly going towards the currents where all the trash from the Tops area was gathering. Those few people on it were going through the garbage in hopes of finding something still useful. To one them Yugo seemed to be fairly drawn to, the crystals vibrating in bright blue light like never before.

 

“Very well I’ll leave you here then. May we meet again once you grow up.”

 

The egg was gently placed in the water, right next to the ship’s stern where one person in particular was standing, observing some of the picked objects as the mystic dragon headed back to its temple located somewhere in the Tops. Yugo subconsciously called for his guardian through the shell of his egg while the crystals gleamed, causing one more crystal that the person was wearing to glow in a similar, but green light.

 

The Common resident observed the strange light, stepping away from the pile of sorted out garbage in order to follow it until finding a strangely shaped crystal floating on the surface of the ocean, awestruck by the discovery. The person was pretty young, a child nonetheless, so it was pretty tricky to get the egg out with such short arms. But impossible or not, Yugo’s egg was finally in the arms of his guardian, already feeling the forming of a bond.

 

“What is this?” the child questioned, flinching a bit when touching the crystals on the shell. For some reason they were really cold, almost as cold as ice, so the new guardian pushed it into the bag meant for retrieved objects in order to not get a frostbite and, more importantly, to prevent others from seeing it.

“Rin? Did you find anything useful?” the man, bearing a bit of resemblance to the child, asked.

“Just the usual, dad.” Rin, a young girl with short green hair replied while clenching the bag close to herself “Not much, but not too little.”

“Good, now let’s go home before other vultures appear to get the early trash.” Rin’s father said as he headed to turn the ship back to their home.

 

Since the wind was good that day, they arrived home quite fast. The whole time Rin hoped no one would look into her bag or pay too much attention to the bracelet that was blinking in a green light like crazy. Fortunately her father and the other Commons were too busy discussing what they had found, so the little girl, no older than five grabbed the bag containing all her findings and sneaked to her room as soon as they reached their house.

 

She said a quick hello to her mother who was in the central room, serving as both the kitchen and dining room, already going through the objects she and her father had found the previous day. Rin entered her tiny room, big enough for only a mattress and a small closet where she stored any interesting objects that weren’t sellable, but still interesting to her. She carefully reached for the still-cold crystal-covered egg that didn’t glow as intensely anymore, unlike her bracelet that still wouldn’t stop blinking.

 

Even though she was only five, Rin knew what kind of objects would sell for a good price, thanks to their parents’ early teaching. But for some reason, despite knowing how well any kind of crystals would sell, she didn’t want it to be sold. As a Common, she and her family had experienced enough to know what it meant to be poor and without a warm meal for a while and yet she had a feeling that any money coming from the crystal just wouldn’t be right.

She couldn’t really explain it why she thought like that, neither would she be able to talk with her parents about it. For some reason she trusted the mysterious bracelet with the green crystal, that has always been around her wrist, more than her own parents.

 

A light knock on the doors brought her back to reality, she hadn’t realized that she had been staring at the weird crystal and thinking deeply for nearly an hour as her mother called her to lunch. Rin quickly wrapped all of the blankets she could find around the crystal and stuck it in the bottom of her closet, a place where you would look last. Taking the bag with the rest of the found objects, she went to the slightly swaying low table at which a steaming soup waited.

 

Rin’s father put away all the objects he had found off the table so he would have a place for a plate of soup. Rin also had to remove all the small packages of herbs that her mother carefully prepared in the morning, which was one more thing they were doing for living. Being Commons, Rin’s family had many ways how to get by financially. While she would pick any useful trash from the Tops with her father, her mother would be in the nearby woods gathering medical herbs. Besides that her parents would often leave for the bigger town, where they could get many opportunities to sell what they could.

Common grounds were after all practically impossible to use for growing crops, so hunting and gathering were the only options, especially for a tiny urban area where their house was. The only other way for a Common to succeed was if they happened to be one of the rare exceptions to possess magical powers and even then it would take years of hard work to be accepted by the Tops.

 

“There’s a good chance that more fish will gather at the coastline around the Satellite in the following days.” Rin’s father said once he was done with his meal.

“So you’re leaving again daddy?” the girl asked while still eating the soup.

“Yeah, but I’ll be back in a week or two, so help your mother while I’m gone alright?” the man stroked his daughter’s hair in a loving way.

“I will.” the green haired girl smiled, watching how her father put on his rain coat along with a matching hat.

“I’ll be meeting up with the others soon. We may depart today already.” he announced, his wife walking him to the doors where she said her goodbye.

“Be safe dear.” she said wished him before he headed towards the neighbors’ house.

 

Rin helped her mother wash those few dishes, thinking more and more about the bracelet which’s gem wouldn’t stop blinking. She had managed to cover it with the sleeve of her dress, though she knew it was trying to tell her something, most probably about the weird crystal in her closet. Excusing herself, Rin practically raced to her room where she immediately set the mattress so it blocked the doors, so no one could come in.

Gently she unwrapped the crystal out of all the layers of fabric until she once again stared into the brilliantly blue color, glowing a lot brighter than before. Slowly she caressed the crystals, still feeling the cold, though she got used to it by now. Capable of analyzing the objects for any useful function, she was surprised she couldn’t tell what exactly it was. Rin had seen crystals a few times, but they were not even close to the size of this one was. Nor their colors as pure as the one she held.

 

“Rin!”

 

The green haired girl flinched at the mysterious voice, not knowing where it was coming from. She was about to answer it back when all of a sudden her mind began to spin. The glow of the crystals and her bracelet didn’t help much as her vision began to blur, she falling off the bed while still clenching the dragon egg to her chest.

 

 

Falling.

 

Falling from the sky with an extremely high speed in the middle of the day. The clouds were all puffy as she fell past them with only the wide ocean below. Rin screamed at the top of her lungs as she hated the dreams where she would have no control of what was happening. The surface of the ocean was coming closer and closer with the little girl awaiting the painful landing.

 

Only to be falling in the opposite direction, up.

 

Not really falling, but she was definitely going up. Rin carefully opened her eyes to find herself on the back of a huge creature she failed to tell what it was. It looked like an enormous snake with white scales covering its entire body plus it had four gleaming wings that only emphasized its size along with many smaller wing-looking parts that were probably meant for regulating the flight.

 

But regular flight or not, the creature flew quite recklessly as it was flying for its own enjoyment. Rin barely held on with her arms around the creature’s neck as it started spinning and then again rapidly its head longed towards the ocean. Just when it was about to hit the water, its wings spread and force of the wind threw them back in the air.

 

“Sl…Slow down!” Rin shouted obviously not a big fan of heights.

“Why? It’s fun!” the creature responded with the same voice that called her name before entering this weird dream.

“You can talk?!” she nearly shrieked from surprise.

“Of course I can, but I can do so much more than just talk to you. Check this out!” it began to flap with its wings in different way and as they flew through the clouds, the wind formed a spiral that followed them. Rin hated to admit it, it was quite beautiful to watch the clouds spiraling behind them like a trail as well as watching the brilliant blue wings illuminating under the sun.

 

“So pretty.” Rin got starry eyes as the creature performed more tricks in the air, making her forget completely how scared she was before.

“Yeah, it’s my favorite game – I call it high fiving the sky!” the creature giggled, making a few quick turns just for the sake of it.    

“But who are you? Or… what are you?” the green haired girl again checked its features “My mom told me stories about the Crimson Dragon and its friends, but they can’t be real, right?”

“Well I’m not one of the Crimson Dragon’s servants, but I am a dragon. The Clear Wing dragon to be exact.” he replied “But to you, my name will be known as Yugo.”

“You – go? Where are you going?” Rin was puzzled at the weird name.

“It’s my name you silly guardian!” Yugo was on the verge of cursing but he controlled himself for the sake of the five year old on his back that got already terrified by his growl.

“Guardian?” she forgot the whole name thing when being address with an even more confusing one “What is that?”

“It’s what you are to me, my guardian!” the dragon cheered up a bit at the thought of no longer being alone “I will soon be reborn in your world and you will watch over me as I grow.”

“Like a pet dog or a cat? My mom said I’m not allowed to have one since we’re too poor.” Rin scratched her head in confusion “And you’re way too big to fit in our house.”

“A dog?!” Yugo really needed to hold himself back from making another unintentional insult, but somehow he calmed down enough to continue “I’ll be smaller so you don’t have to worry. You’ve already held me in your arms after all, right where your bracelet has guided me.”

“You are in the crystal?! But how, you’re so big!” the girl kept looking at the dragon’s huge body and imagining the small object in her hands.

“I’ve told you, I’ll be reborn as a hatchling with no memories from before and I will grow throughout the years to grow up just as you will. That bracelet of yours will soon awaken something inside you that will make you nearly as powerful as me.” Yugo began to fly a bit steadier “Unfortunately I’ll need to go soon, but we will meet again once I’m old enough. Until then I will simply be your dragon and you will be my guardian. Goodbye Rin-Rin.”

 

Rin blushed at the new nickname, but nodded understanding what awaited her in the future. There was a life in that crystal and she had to protect it. After all, she did want to fly with Yugo again and play his favorite game.

Together they went through the sky in the most amazing spiral wind for one last time before the entire place brightened up in a powerful blinding light.

 

 

Rin woke up at the annoying green light coming from her bracelet, realizing she had never let go of the crystal that was actually a dragon egg. The crystals had formed around it in order to keep Yugo safe the moment he was separated from his brothers.

 

“Are you really inside Yugo?” Rin didn’t care about the cold surface as she caressed the egg “Then I’ll protect you if you don’t have anyone else.”

 

The cold on Yugo’s egg faded bit by bit, until her touch warmed the egg up enough for the sleeping dragon to no longer feel threatened. The glow of the bracelet also became faint while something else didn’t. Rolling up the sleeve of the arm, opposite of the one that had the mysterious jewelry, Rin felt as it was freezing. To her surprise it came from a white glowing symbol of a wing engraved into the flesh of her arm.

 

“Do I have this because I’m your guardian?” she asked the egg, remembering the words of the dragon. The mark froze a bit like Yugo was responding to her question.

 

“I see…” Rin mumbled as she hugged Yugo’s egg, keeping it close to her chest “Good night.”

 

The sudden tiredness got her fast, unknown memories rushing through her head as she again began to dream about flying on the back of a dragon with the most beautiful wings she had ever seen. She hoped that this dream will one day be a reality as she reached out to the tiny Yugo inside the egg who was no longer afraid of being taken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across the ocean a terrible storm was going on, with winds blowing at unnatural speeds, waves rising in mere moments and drops of rain felt like needles. Despite all of this, a pegusus with sapphires in its wings was flying through, enduring the harsh conditions as he was carrying two boys on his back, with one being in rather bad condition. An eagle was flying beside them, blocking any danger that came too close as they were all breaking through the terrible weather.

 

Johan prayed that they would reach the hideout soon, as he would feel less and less life energy in his friend. Judai had been through some tough battles, but no one would ever force his inner spirit out of him to the point of death. The blue haired boy shook his head at the thought of losing the one person that had saved his life so many times, now lying in his arms, breathing very faintly.

 

“Hold on Johan, we’re nearly there. I can already see the house.” Sapphire Pegasus’ sharp eyes picked up on the small house hidden among the trees of a non-populated island. It didn’t take long before they landed right next to the doors, Johan immediately getting in with Judai in his arms.

 

The moment he set him on the first bed he had found, the blue haired boy started casting healing spells. Ruby and Winged Kuriboh appeared as well, lending their own life energy if it meant helping the barely responsive boy.

 

“Come on buddy, you can do this.” Johan continued to cast both healing spells and transferring his life energy until he felt Judai’s heart beating at a steady pace.

 

The brunet truly was a fighter, escaping death’s clutches yet again, though this time it was really close to losing the battle with it. Judai’s eyes slightly opened, luckily being in their natural brown color without any interference of the Supreme King that was almost entirely sucked out of him. Through the blurred vision he could see Johan treating his physical wounds as the two spirits assisted. He could also point out the silhouettes of Amethysts Cat and Topaz Tiger guarding the doors as the other crystal beasts were probably within Johan, lending him their energy.

 

“Jo…han.” Judai whispered since he lost most of his voice during the torture.

“Just rest for now.” the blue haired boy gently petted Judai’s head though the brunet could sense the anger building up in his friend “Those people did truly awful things to you.”

“They…” the brunet continued despite the advice “They were after… elemental dragons.”

The elemental dragons?!” Johan gasped, scaring Ruby and Kuriboh a bit “How would they know?”

“I don’t know…” Judai took a few deep breaths “They were… hunting the spirits… they needed energy… of Supreme King… for portal.”    

“Easy buddy.” the blue haired boy wiped the sweat off the other boy’s forehead “You’ve been through too much to talk about this now, not to mention you’re running a fever. We can continue with this tomorrow when you’ll be at least a bit better, alright?”

“Academia… is not the same… anymore…” was the last sentence that Judai muttered before tiredness got the best of him.

 

Johan covered his friend with a blanket and set a wet cloth on his forehead in order to reduce the fever. Ruby climbed on his shoulder, nuzzling against his cheek when whispering something only he understood.

 

“I know Ruby… I wish I knew what happened to that magic school that Judai loved so much too.” the blue haired boy stared through the window, at the storm still going on outside.

“Bii.” the little spirit agreed, observing Winged Kuriboh that watched over the unconscious boy.

“What changed?” Johan asked himself while thinking about the times when he just transferred to Academia and Judai who was already a student there welcomed him with open arms.

 

How could a school for young mages turn into a child- soldier training facility?

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was days after the storm when a ship full of children aged five was sailing towards the island where Academia was. The young mages carried various mixed emotions with them. Some were already homesick, some were excited to learn how to use magic and the majority was just looking forward to the new chapter in their lives.

 

In the Fusion Kingdom there were only children and teenagers who were capable of using magic, once they were older the magic disappeared. It was required that once mages turn five, the age when their magic gift would start developing, they are sent to Academia, a school made especially for them. Their parents and other non-magic users would remain home, supporting the school through taxes. Academia’s principal as well as some of the teachers were all from overseas, hence of why they were adults still capable of using magic.

 

The children would go through numerous lessons and trainings until they mastered all that they could learn. Once they graduated, they were to serve the principal, who was in a way also the ruler of the island on which Academia lied, until their magic faded. After their time as mages was over, they were to return back to the main islands and go on with their lives.

 

A young boy with curly red hair was probably the most excited of them all. Even before his use of magic developed, he’d loved to pretend to use it with quick hand movements and series of tricks. To finally learn the real thing was beyond his dreams.

 

The ship eventually arrived and while it was being anchored, a couple of teachers appeared to instruct them on what awaited them. There were twenty to thirty young mages on board, all of them nervous for the welcoming ceremony. Each was given an upper uniform, a simple red colored jacket and a badge in which their names were engraved. The teachers further explained that they were currently in the youngest class, known as the Osiris Red. There were also two more classes, the middle class Ra Yellow and Obelisk Blue with students of those classes wearing the jackets in their representative colors. The names came from the three mythical creatures said to protect the homeland from which the principal was from.

 

As the red haired boy put on the brand new jacket and pinned on the badge like his fellow classmate, he could already notice some of the older students practicing magic at the harbor. The teachers instructed them to take their belongings and follow them as they were giving them the tour of the Academia. From the outside it looked like a massive castle, consisting of many rooms. The young mages’ eyes brightened at the sight of the training grounds and classrooms where they would spend the following years. Some of the older students waved to them as a wish of good luck.

 

The tour lasted until the evening where all the young mages were already tired to the point of barely walking, so they were more than glad that the teachers took them to their dorms and allowed them to go to bed already, though the teachers made themselves clear that their waking hours are really early and latecomers won’t be tolerated.

The rooms were shared by multiple students at once, though at that time no one really cared as long as they would have their own beds. Everyone, including the red haired boy immediately fell to their bed, some not even bothering with a change of clothes. A brand new day awaited them and they all wanted to make sure to get enough rest. A female teacher only came to magically put out the torches that lighted the bedrooms and left after checking if all the new freshmen students were where they were supposed to be. Seeing that not a single young mage had any ideas of sneaking out in the night which was in all ways forbidden, she left, locking the doors of the Osiris Red dorms. It seemed as it was going to be a peaceful first night in there for them.

 

But for some reason, the orange haired boy couldn’t get a proper shut-eye. He was beyond tired and sleepy, especially from all that walking up and down the stairs, long hallways and outdoor areas around Academia. That really wasn’t like him at all since he was usually really energetic as he had even tried to practice with Ra Yellow a bit, only to be beaten right away and even then he was ready for more action. Though even if he was unusually exhausted, why couldn’t he fall asleep? Normally, he would just pass out when he would come to that point, but as of right now he could only toss and turn, only resulting in him being more awake.

 

It could be the fact that he wasn’t used to the new bedding, though compared to the rigid pillow and tattered blanket he had back at the orphanage, the new bed felt like heaven. The homesickness also couldn’t be the reason as he really had no one waiting for him there and the majority of the orphaned kids came along with him. Plus everyone else was sleeping soundly without a single snore as well as no noise was heard from the outside. So what was bothering him so much he couldn’t sleep?

 

The boy stubbornly pulled his pillow over his head, hoping it would somehow magically drive him to the dreamland which turned out to be useless as it only cause him to block the airway. He whined quietly when he peeked his head out of the blanket, jealously observing all the sleeping classmates. The young mage really wanted to make an impression on the first school day, but how could he if he didn’t get enough rest?

 

He tried counting Scapegoats, though the more he counted the more he was aware of a faint smell coming from somewhere in the room. The boy couldn’t tell what it was, but from what he picked up from it, it smelled like fresh flowers, like the ones growing on the nearby grass field back at the main island. Except those flowers smelled much sweeter as if they were watered by honey.

 

Gradually the smell made his eyelids slip down, the much awaited sleep finally arriving as he slowly faded to the land of dreams. Even when he was completely passed out, the flowery smell still wouldn’t leave his nostrils, enchanting him with its sweetness.

 

A garden, full of blooming flowers and bushes along with trees spread like its fence. The sweet smell was even more distinguishable here, mixed with the freshness of the environment.

 

For a moment the orange haired boy wasn’t certain if he was really dreaming since he could feel the soft grass underneath his feet and the gentle blossoms of a flower he had picked . The whole scenery felt all too real to be a dream since even his imagination wasn’t that… well imaginative. He would sometimes picture what laid beyond the orphanage’s gates and that wasn’t even remotely close to what this paradise looked like.

 

Curious about what the dream had in store for him, the boy stepped towards where the trees were most dense, careful to not to step on the beautiful flowers. Even the smaller forest of trees had its fair share of beauty, with many trees being covered by countless violet blossoms.

 

“Come closer.” a deep, yet playful voice echoed through the treetops “I would like to play.”

 

The boy couldn’t tell if the invitation for a play date was downright creepy or just jokingly polite. He looked around for the owner of the voice, only to find no one in sight. Come to think of it, the whole garden was empty of any life. No small mammals hiding in the bushes or birds chirping on the branches. Even the bugs were not presented, making this place deadly silent. Trembling a bit at the revelation, the boy proceeded to get back to where he started.

 

“Wrong way, turn around.” the voice called again, this time with slight annoyance “I don’t have the whole night.”

 

The orange haired boy flinched from surprise, but complied with the instructions, making a half turn towards the thicker part of the forest. He walked with a bit of a faster tempo as he was in a way both scared and excited to find out where he was going. The deeper he got, more of his adventurous spirit awakened, remembering all the times he would go out and explore. This was no different, with the mysterious paradise garden being a place to search.

 

“Just a little bit more.” the voice got louder, proving he was indeed close to wherever it was leading him.

 

Eventually he arrived in a forest clearing where the sunlight illuminated the entire field, revealing a series of colorful flowers planted in circles, one after another. The inner circles had more beautiful flowers all the way to the middle where there was the last circle of thick pink colored bushes surrounding a giant violet flower.

 

The boy slowly approached the flower, walking on the stone covered path specifically made in order to avoid trampling the plants. The very same sweet smell that soothed him into this dream was presented again, originating right from the middle of the circle, from that giant flower. At last he reached it, smelling the sweetness more than ever as he observed the weirdly shaped blossom. From up close, the flower was shaped pretty weirdly not to mention it was practically gleaming because of how bright the shade was.

 

The young mage was about to touch it when its stem seemingly moved. Thinking it was just the wind the boy brushed it off as he grabbed the tip of the petal. Its surface was smoother than any flower he had ever held, though he had to be careful with the edges as they were pretty sharp. When he ran his fingers over the plant he felt that it was… warm? And pulsing?

 

The stems moved more as the flower flinched like it was going to close. The young mage stepped back, squeaking with surprise when one of the stems literally tore itself off the ground, swinging towards him. Four other stems joined as well, until the sixth one appeared with two green orbs glowing on its tip. It took the boy a while before he pointed out that what was in front of him was alive.

 

“Tsk took you long enough, kid.” the glowing orbs turned out to be the eyes of a head belonging to an unknown creature “But at least you didn’t have too much trouble getting here.”

 

The orange haired boy was still puzzled at the being in front of him, watching in amazement how four petals divided and took different places on its back. What he thought were stems before turned out to be a lean, serpent like body, being a bit wider where the petals were and four limbs ending with sharp looking claws. Its tail swayed like a whip, dangerously close to where the boy was. Though being intimidating was all it did as it merely set its head in front of the young mage.

 

“What… are you?” was the first thing the boy uttered, too stunned to ask anything else.

“Ever heard of Starve Venom?” the creature asked at which he shook his head “Newsflash – I’m a dragon known as Starve Venom.”

“Dragon? But you look nothing like Osiris The Sky Dragon or The Winged Dragon of Ra.” the orange haired boy blabbered suddenly like it was nothing “They look much more majestic when you are… pretty?”

“Does this look pretty to you?” the violet dragon growled as the four petals turned into

carnivorous plants, complete with fangs and greenish slime prickling down their mouths.

“Wow, this is actually really cool!” the boy observed Starve Venom’s body, taking in every single part. “Is there anything else you can do?”

“As much as I would love to stay and showcase my strength to you, we really have to hurry up with this stuff.” the dragon set the carnivorous plants back into the petals “You’re talking to my spirit as I’m currently in my reborn form as a hatchling still in its egg. As my guardian you will have to take care of me once I hatch as a newborn dragon.”

“I’m a guardian?!” the young mage went pale from surprise “What do you mean?”

“Gee I forgot how you humans love to complicate things.” it grumbled waving its tail in annoyance “Look, my egg has been stolen and separated from my brothers. You have to take it and run away from Academia as fast as you can. If you’re lucky you will run into the members of the Resistance who will get you off the island.”

“I have to take what and go where?” the boy was still confused making the Starve Venom pushed its head on the ground, probably an equivalent to face-palming.

“Damm it’s like I’m explaining this to a five year old.” the dragon cursed, realization kicking it quite fast “Oh wait you are five! That’s just brilliant!”

“What do you want me to do? If you just explain this to me more slowly, maybe I can help.” the young mage pulled at the dragon’s petal.

“Not maybe, you ARE the only one who can help me!” Starve Venom slightly changed the tone of its voice “I don’t have much time left as a spirit, so listen to me well. Your job as a guardian is to you keep a close eye on me as I grow up. The moment I hatch I will no longer be who am I in front of you right now, but a brand new dragon. I’ll recover the rest of my memories once I fully grow up and until then I will rely on pure instinct which won’t be good if I stay that way for long. I will need you to keep me human.”

“Human?” the boy stared into Starve Venom’s eyes.

“I will be able to take a human form known by the name Yuri, but I will still be a dragon by heart. I’m telling you all this because I’m running out of the time to talk to you.” the dragon set its head in the boy’s hands, bowing as if it was asking for a favor “You will receive the forbidden memories of the Dragon War that will hopefully explain your destiny, but you won’t be able to complete it if I remain in someone else’s clutches. That’s why I’ll be relying on you… my guardian.”

 

At a loss of words, the orange haired boy could only nod while petting the dragon’s head like it was a puppy he was trying to calm down. Starve Venom, or just Yuri, might’ve looked scary and overly confident, but deep down the young mage knew it was just a regular person hating to ask for help.

 

“I’ll try.” the boy simply threw himself at the dragon, feeling its smooth scales.

“Help me stay human… and please… take me to my brothers… I don’t want to forget them…” Yuri’s body gradually began to disappear as well as the dream he was in.

 

The young mage watched how the dragon disappeared, all the flowers from the garden not far behind. He wasn’t entirely sure what just happened, but feeling his heart beat along with another one somewhere close by, he knew that something big will happen. Back in the orphanage he would often read a storybook full of legends about the spirit worlds. Some would say they were made up some would say they were real and yet all the stories sounded real, especially the ones about the many brave souls who joined the forces with the spirits and fought to keep the balance of the worlds. He read nothing about this Starve Venom or his brothers that he kept mentioning, but he was determined to keep his word and help his dragon out.

 

 

 

The orange haired boy gasped as he woke from the dream, feeling the cold stone below his bare feet and something oval-shaped in his arms. His head was still full; processing the memories that seemed pretty scary when a realization hit him pretty hard.

 

He was no longer in his dorm.

 

Heck he wasn’t even sure where he was. He had seen most of the castle during the tour, but those surroundings didn’t come even close to familiarity. The huge room was dark and cold, without windows so the only source of light were some oil lamps, all illuminating the crystal case. Strangely enough one of its walls was missing, pieces lying on the ground like something shattered it with a big impact.

 

Was he the one who broke it?

 

No, he couldn’t have. He only knew a few basic spells and that was it. He couldn’t just break something that would require difficult magic.

 

And yet he somehow held an oval shaped object that was probably previously in the crystal case.

 

Yuri’s egg!

 

Suddenly it all came to him. The dragon somehow led him here in his sleep, used him to open the case and now he had to escape with the egg. The boy quickly looked for the doors to escape with only one of them being an option. He raced towards it, determined to carry on with the dragon’s wish.

 

Only to be stopped by a group of teachers who caught him right off the bat. Two male and one female teacher trapped him with a spell, knocking him on the ground right away as the dark green egg rolled back into the room where he started. The orange haired boy was then picked by the two male teachers, each holding his arms as they pinned him against the wall while the female teacher retrieved the dragon egg.

 

 

“How did he get here?!” the first male teacher asked, staring at the broken crystal case “Each hallway is patrolled and the doors are all locked with high level spells.”

“Not to mention he’s in Osiris Red, a newbie!” the other male teacher grunted.

“I’ve seen him arrive with today’s freshmen group. His name is…” the female teacher looked at his badge still pinned on his shirt “Dennis Mackfield.”

“His Majesty won’t be happy with this…” one of the men said, trying to keep a hold on the struggling five year old.

“I won’t be happy with what?” asked a voice that gave chills to everyone, its owner slowly coming in the room “Who was chosen to protect this room and failed to do so?”

 

One of the teachers gulped at the sight of their superior, dressed in his usual purple royal attire accompanied by a red cape. The female teacher quickly put the egg back in the crystal case which was sealed right after by Leo. The king rested his hand on it for a while before he turned back to the two teachers who were struggling to keep Dennis still. The boy might’ve been only five, but he knew many ways of sneaking out. Unfortunately none of them came in handy now, not to mention he was held by two skilled mages.

 

“How was this room entered and how was the case destroyed.” Leo asked calmly, like he had just woken up and wasn’t in the mood for chatting.

“From what we suspect the spells were executed incorrectly and the kid happened to wonder here.” the male teacher half-told half-lied, hoping to avoid an outrage and rather focused at keeping Dennis’ fidgeting arm in one place.

“We’ve switched spells the previous week and it could be the cause.” the other man nodded.

“Luckily it was just a freshman student at the wrong place and wrong time, I see. Well, erase his memories and get him back to the dorms.” Leo grunted after checking if the crystal case was secured “Didn’t you hear me? Clear his head of this night’s memories and get him back to the others!”

“Your Majesty… he… he’s…” the male teacher stuttered once he took a better look at Dennis’ right arm while he’s been struggling to keep still for a while.

“He’s what?” the king grunted, barely glancing back to the staff holding the young mage.

“Starve Venom has marked him.” the other teacher holding Dennis said tremblingly.

 

Leo’s eyes widened at the information, immediately grabbing Dennis who winced when his arm was forcefully pulled up. The man practically tore the sleeve off the boy’s shirt in order to see the symbol of a flower glowing on his arm in a brilliant violet color. As he stared at the mark in pure anger, Leo unconsciously began squeezing Dennis’ wrist until the young mage let out a cry of pain, begging the man to let him go. Academia’s principal wouldn’t listen, he was too busy being engulfed in rage from seeing the mark on someone else rather than on his own arm. Only when the female teacher shouted that he was hurting the student, Leo finally stopped, dropping the child on the ground.

 

Dennis was in tears, cradling his arm that ached from both the lack of blood circulation and a mysterious prickling where the mark was. He failed. The dragon as prideful as it was asked him to be taken out of this place, only to be let down because of how weak Dennis was. The female teacher was cooing some words into his ear but he couldn’t really hear her over how loud Leo has had gotten, ordering his people.

 

“Take Mackfield to the same cell you were going to transfer Starve Venom to. From this day forth he gets the same treatment as the dragon.” the male teachers nodded at the order, grabbing Dennis’ arms firmly “And move the ceremony by this moon rise.”

“But your majesty that will be in four days! By that point the dragons will hatch prematurely!” the female teacher said in a worried tone, only to be silenced by her king.

“My dragons  will hatch when I say they will.” Leo headed out of the room while carrying the crystal case containing Yuri’s egg.

 

Dennis glanced one more time at the dark green egg getting farther and farther away from him as his eyes grew heavy. He collapsed to the ground after the forbidden memories once again replayed in his head. He was supposed to protect his dragon as his guardian and yet he couldn’t even get him to safety.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

This wasn’t what he wanted. What he had always seen as the place to learn magic turned out to hide many dark secrets connected directly to the Dragon War. He could hear the cries of the spirits used as tools nearby and something much more terrifying somewhere closer.

 

Academia wasn’t a school.

 

It was prison training child soldiers, all under the command of king Leo Akaba, the one whose aura was the darkest of all.

 

 

 

 

 

*doorbell rings*

Hunter13Hawkie: Coming! *opens the door with a smile* Thank you so much for coming in such short time!

????: No problem *smiles* I'm happy to help.

Hunter13Hawkie: You can take a seat at the table, let me just bring the pancakes! *rushes to the kitchen while the person takes a seat* Here you go!

?????: *takes a pancake* Thank you... though what's that on the end of the table? Looks scary.

Hunter13Hawkie: Oh, that's just my assistant surrounded by textbooks. Don't mind them.

Noname: I can still hear you, you silly bird! *notices the person* Who the hell is that?

????: Nice to meet you, my name is Yuya Sakaki! I'm Entertainment Duelist and my goal is to put smiles on peoples' faces! *sees gloomy and barely alive expression of sleep-deprived Noname* Which... may take a bit longer in your case.

Noname: Seriously? I don't have the energy or the time to deal with your sunny disposition. Hawkie, please keep that cheerful nonsense embodied in a hair dye job gone wrong away from me.

Yuya: Eh... what? *is trying to put together everything that Noname just said* *Hawkie quickly covers Yuya's ears before another flood of mean comments reaches him*

Hunter13Hawkie: Noname says hi back and wishes to be left alone for a while.

Yuya: Ah okay... *smiles as he faces Hawkie* So what exactly do I need to do? Duel you?

Hunter13Hawkie: Not just yet, I just needed someone for the end of the roleplay since Noname is too busy. We can just discuss this story about your show that I'm writing right now.

Yuya: *reads the changed summary* Wow, so I'm a dragon in this?! That's pretty cool!

Hunter13Hawkie: *flies around in utter happiness, whispering* Yes, I did it! Yuya likes it!

Yuya: Naww you're smiling! What made you so happy?

Hunter13Hawkie: Nothing... *still starry eyes* ...just the fact that all this writing actually pays off! *gets an idea* Uh uh, can you do something for me?

Yuya: Sure! What is it? *Hawkie whispers on Yuya's ear at which Yuya grins* Okay! *takes a deep breath, stands up and raises his hands* LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! Stay tooned for the next chapter - Dragons Reborn!

Hunter13Hawkie: That... was... perfect... *nearly faints from fangirling*

Noname: *observes Hawkie on the ground and Yuya confused of what just happened* So much about some peace and quiet...

Chapter Text

It wasn’t clear how much time had passed, but when Dennis came back to it felt like days. His head still felt groggy after replaying the images of a monstrously big dragon causing chaos as well as the pricking mark of a flower on his right arm. Though what pained him the most was an awful looking bruise around his wrist, right where Academia’s principal had grabbed him. He could still feel those fingers wrapped around his limb, squeezing it to the point where he had thought it would snap.

 

Dennis shivered at the thought of ever running into the scary man again, though little did he know that his days with the mad king had barely started. He couldn’t really make out what the principal had been ordering the teachers to do with him as he was too engulfed with the memories in his head, but whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. Starve Venom wanted to escape after all and with what he picked up from The Dragon War, another war would probably begin if one fourth of the power belonging to the creature that caused it was in the hands of a person whose dark aura was literally pouring from him.

 

Thinking about the dragon, the orange haired boy took a quick look around him as he felt Starve Venom somewhere near. Wherever he was, it was too dark to see with only some kind of light-enhanced crystals providing a dim dark blue light. The room was around the same size as the one where he was originally going to be though instead of ten beds, this one had only two. It was quite strange to see so much empty space with the exception of a few pieces of furniture, such as empty desk with a chair and closet besides the bedding. Getting used to the shadowy place, he could also sort out two doors next to each other with one having bars on it.

 

So he really was a prisoner now.

 

Along with the forbidden memories, Starve Venom had also gathered the thoughts and visions from the students here. Not only was the principal nothing what people described him as, but the whole school was a lie. It wasn’t there to teach young mages how to control their powers as a way for them to adapt to a non-magical environment or help their kingdom. No, that was just an excuse to use children as tools when serving their dictatorial king. Through his dragon he could hear the scared thoughts of students who weren’t good enough and were therefore punished and the thoughts of the excellent students whose minds were already corrupted by dark auras. Those students would eventually learn to use spirits as their weapons, enslaving them with magic until they were completely under their command. What terrified him was also the fact that he wasn’t the only one locked up in this hellish place. The eyes of the teachers saw many students attempting to escape, only to be locked up and their minds being cleared of any ill-mannered thoughts.

 

Dennis hugged himself to reduce his shaking that just wouldn’t stop, drenched in fear of what would happen to him. All alone with nothing but darkness surrounding him, the young mage thought of all the times when he would secretly watch other students get on that ship to become full wedged mages while counting the days until his time would come. But instead of learning spells and magical techniques, he had so far only learnt what true fear felt like. Being uncertain of what fate had in store for him while being completely helpless and powerless against an unimaginably powerful enemy, Dennis was lost, unsure of what he was supposed to do.

 

Suddenly the barred doors opened, the creepy shadow of a man he feared made him jump right off the bed. Locking the door with a spell, Leo completely ignored the young mage’s fidgeting behavior as he was too busy staring at the set of scrolls he held in his hands.

 

“Dennis Mackfield… parents unknown, found at an orphanage’s doorstep, showed signs of magical abilities earlier than usual young Fusion mages, average score on mage examination…” the king read out loud more to himself than to the orange haired boy “Nothing special… and yet Starve Venom chose you… pathetic.”

 

The orange haired boy remained silent, too scared to say anything since he didn’t want the principal to become angrier than he already was. Leo took a seat on the chair behind the desk, his eyes nowhere near the boy’s level while continuing to re-read the scrolls.

 

“You’re just a lucky brat carrying Starve Venom’s mark.” the man reached for Dennis’ arm, fortunately not where the bruise was, pulling it closer to see the violet flower glowing faintly.

“What… do you… want with me?” the boy asked carefully, making Leo look up, his grey eyes emotionlessly observing him.

“You’ve ruined my plans big time and if there was an alternative I would gladly make you disappear since no one would miss you.” Leo’s voice made Dennis gulp while running his fingers through the glowing lines “But Starve Venom chooses only one guardian. You better make up for the honor senior student that I would choose if it weren’t for your interference.”

“What… does that mean?” the young mage didn’t know what was worse, the harsh grip or the gentle touches of the Academia’s principal.

“It means that from now on you do exactly as you are told. You will be taught only certain spells under strict supervision, you’ll be allowed to enter only certain parts of Academia and you will not talk to anyone but me and whoever else I decide to put in charge of you.” the king said with much authority in his tone.

“Not even… Yuri?” Dennis asked, his voice trembling at the new life he was facing.

“Who?” Leo blinked at the unfamiliar name.

“I mean… Starve Venom.” the orange haired boy nearly regretted asking the question.

“The communication between the dragon and its guardian is necessary for its development, so that will be an exception. But I would prefer it, if you use its real name, not some wimpy name you’ve just made up.” Leo’s fingers slid off the dragon mark “Once the dragon hatches, you will be responsible for it and should you or it disobey my orders or attempt to escape, you will both face consequences.”

 

Academia’s principal fiddled with his fingers, a faint purple glow surrounding them. Dennis thought the man was performing some sort of a spell when he suddenly felt an excruciating pain all over his body. It was like thousand needles were pricking him at every inch of his skin. The young mage rolled over the bed as if trying to ease the pain until the light around the man’s fingers disappeared and so did the torturous spell.

 

“Consider this a warning. Should you not do as you’re told, you will be punished by the same spell if not worse, depending how much you misbehave.” Leo said while Dennis gasped for air, his body still shaking after the damage it took “No matter where you are, the spell will always activate due to the collar you’re wearing. You also can’t remove it since only the one who put it on you can, which happens to be me.”

 

Only then did Dennis notice that he had a thick leather collar with several crystals around his neck. It wasn’t that tight, but what it could do to him was much more terrifying. The boy touched it, fully knowing that it was conjured by magic and that he won’t be able to ever remove it by himself. Leo then stood up, ignoring the young mage still struggling with the aftereffects of torture spell.

 

“You are to remain here until Starve Venom hatches. After that you will be moved to the part of Academia which was designed specifically for the dragon and you will actively participate in taming it. Is that clear?” Leo’s pale gray eyes sent shivers into Dennis’ blue ones.

 “Yes…” the young mage uttered, watching how the principal unlocked the door using magic.

“Good, I will see you in three days.” the man said as he left, leaving Dennis all alone in the dark of his cell.

 

The orange haired boy nervously put his hand on the dragon’s mark, carefully caressing it as if trying to calm the pricking that started soon after the torture started. Yuri’s sleeping form might’ve felt his guardian was in danger and attempted to see if he was alright through their bond.

“I’m sorry…” Dennis muttered to the mark “Wherever you are, I hope they aren’t hurting you as much as they are hurting me…”

 

The flower mark became more violet as if it was replying back, but what it was trying to say Dennis couldn’t tell as he once again blacked out, this time from the torture spell.

 

 

 

….

 

 

 

“And then you just imagine the shape of a creature that you’re going to form. Like this.” Shun said as he used the just summoned lightning spell to unconsciously draw a winged creature in the air.

Reiji watched with an interest how a small creature resembling an owl appeared, sparks surrounding it every time it moved its wings. The being flapped with its wings a bit until it landed on Shun’s shoulder where it waited a bit until it disappeared in the same way as it appeared. It has been a couple of hours since the XYZ mage woke up and during this time he got caught up by Reiji about everything that has been going on besides the whole dragon guardian deal. The Pendulum mage was also interested in his use of magic as he was aware it existed, seeing Yusho use it only a couple of times, though he never got a chance to learn it.

 

“So you flew on this all the way to the Pendulum Kingdom?” Reiji tried to imagine flying with materialized magic.

“No, Force Strix is meant more for small attacks and observing. I use Rise Falcon for travelling and more difficult combat.” Shun said picking Yuto’s egg that had been held by Reiji while he improvised the XYZ magic.

“That was the big bird you used to fight the Rare Hunters, right?” the silver haired boy asked at which the other one nodded “Why birds though?”

“I’m not sure myself actually. Somehow I don’t remember anything from when I was under six years old and by that time I already had Raidraptors as my permanent style of XYZ magic.” the XYZ mage thought about his past, “Someone must’ve taught me, but whoever it was I can’t remember their face. I probably adapted bird style magic from them. Speaking of which… I was actually trying to locate that person since I got this feeling they were calling for me from the Pendulum Kingdom… though it turned out it was actually Yuto, not my teacher.”

“How did you manage to keep Rise Falcon together though? From what I know it takes quite a lot of energy to keep their materialized form for a long time.” Reiji fixed his glasses at the though.

“Well… I had a bit of help.” Shun said while stroking Yuto’s egg.

 

 

 

The grand mountain pass that separated the Pendulum Kingdom and the XYZ Kingdom seemed like one huge wall, blocking whoever tried to pass it. But not for the teal haired boy riding a dragon, its neo blue wings fluttering against the powerful air currents that gathered around the mountain tops.

 

“Are you certain the call is coming from Pendulum?” the dragon asked through a mental link with his rider.

“Yeah, I had a suspicion that it is coming from somewhere near the border, but now I’m certain it’s coming from beyond it.” Shun tightened the hold since the wind was getting stronger the higher they went.

“Hold on tight then, this area is tricky to fly in, even for me.” the dragon dodged the pointed mountain tops penetrating the air.

“Thank you again for flying me to Pendulum, it would be much more difficult for my Raidraptors alone.” the teal haired boy observed the panorama of the mountain pass shrouded in grey clouds.

“Don’t sweat it; the war in the spirit worlds is on hold right now, so my help wasn’t needed. Yuma and Astral are trying to clear up things in the Astral World while Shark is doing the same for the Barian World.” he muttered, thinking about his comrades back in the XYZ Kingdom “Hopefully it will be over someday, there has been enough destruction already.”

 

Shun was silent, feeling useless as he too wanted to keep both spirit worlds and his homeland safe, but since he lacked connection to the spirit worlds, it was clear he was of no help like this. So he rather decided to track down his teacher in order to become stronger to protect Heartland at least. The winds were getting stronger, though Galaxy Eyes flew against them seemingly with ease, heading for an open area where part of the Pendulum Kingdom was already on the horizon. The dragon was about to descent towards the opening when out of sudden a golden beam shot at him.

 

The blast sent Shun flying off the dragon, but he luckily reacted in time summoning his Rise Falcon to avoid the fall. Galaxy Eyes wasn’t that lucky as he crashed on the nearby mountain, reverting back into his human form.

 

“Kaito!” Shun shouted, landing close to his comrade who struggled to get back on his feet “Are you alright?”

“Damm it, he had to show up, didn’t he?” Kaito grunted towards the figure in the clouds that was getting closer.

“Galaxy Eyes tamer, I’ll get you now!” the voice from behind the clouds shouted, proving it belonged to another mage floating in the sky “I’ll certainly defeat you this time and prove who the real Galaxy Eyes master is!”

 

The mage with long blond hair started transforming, his body slowly taking the form of huge dragon with golden scales. Shun was ready to assist his friend in the fight at which Kaito only shook his head and nudged at the opening leading to the Pendulum Kingdom.

 

“Shun, this is my fight. The rivalry between me and Mizael can only be settled with a battle between the spirits of our dragons.” Kaito started transforming as well “Mizael might be a Barian, but the only person he seeks to defeat is me. He won’t think twice if you get in his way. Just get to the Pendulum Kingdom before he decides to take you down as well.”

“Kaito… thank you for getting me this far. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Shun nodded, getting back on his Rise Falcon.

“Hope you find whatever you’re looking for.” Kaito smiled as the spirit of Galaxy Eyes took over his body, transforming it into a dragon whose body glowed like a starry night.

 

Shun’s Rise Falcon caught an air current that gave them a boost as they flew towards the valley where Pendulum started. When having one last look back, he witnessed a clash of the golden scaled and neo-blue scaled dragons, the impact causing a nearby mountain top to scatter.

 

 

“You actually saw the battle of the Galaxy Eyes dragons?” Reiji was stunned by the story “I’ve read about them so many times. The two dragons so alike, caught in eternal rivalry.”

“Yeah, the other Galaxy Eyes tamer wouldn’t get off Kaito’s tail. Only the war in the Barian world prevented him from charging at Kaito at any given moment.” Shun thought about the battle between the dragons.

“Your friend sounds like a really strong mage.” the silver haired boy looked through the window, rain drops starting to fall “Hope I get to meet him someday.”

“I never witnessed Kaito lose and I have known him for years. The battle probably left him beaten and bruised, but that’s about it. He’s a tough guy.” Shun smiled, thinking about his friend.

 

The two dragon guardians were about to discuss a different topic when the door of their room opened, Yusho appearing with a plate of food. The man’s hair was disheveled and there were bags under his eyes, clearly stating he hasn’t had a decent sleep for the past two days. Reiji was a bit worried for his teacher, but once Yusho put on his usual smile, he relaxed, knowing that whatever his teacher was dealing with wasn’t that bad.

 

“It’s nice to see both of you are awake and well.” he put the food on the low table next to the beds where the boys were sitting “You must have lots of questions.”

“Actually we managed to get most of the answers on our own.” Reiji kept Yuya’s egg close to himself “We know that dragons have chosen us to be their guardians.”

“And what has happened in the past.” Shun added.

“Well that makes things easier.” Yusho sat down next to the boys “But what you don’t know where the other two dragons along with their guardians are or what that means for them.”

 

The room fell in silence as Yusho thought about the talk he had with Zarc not that long ago.

 

 

 

“It was Leo Akaba! I should’ve known that bastard wouldn’t give up that easily!” the spirit of Zarc yelled all over the room, his eyes narrowed down the more he thought about that terrible man.

“Zarc…” Yusho didn’t know how to stop his former apprentice from the blinding rage.

“He wanted to merge the Unified Kingdom with all the spirit worlds, using dragons and En powers as a source so he could create the perfect magical Utopia that he would rule! And in it he would use my poor dragons as his loyal dogs to prevent anyone from interfering, using En powers as leashes to control them!” the silver haired mage put his hands to his head as he was painfully reminded of the mistake he made.

“But he died during the Dragon War and if he was revived along with all the others who perished during that time, he shouldn’t have any recollection of what had occurred.” Yusho doubted.

“He must’ve faked his death or sealed his past memories deep inside of himself until he would gradually recover them in order to finish what he had started.” Zarc growled, clenching his fists to the point where his fingers would snap if he were still alive “I’m going to send that bastard straight into hell!”

“Zarc listen! You’re sounding just like him!” the performer sorcerer raised his voice.

“But he has Yuri and Yugo! If he dares to hurt them, I’ll…” the silver haired man wouldn’t calm down.

“ZARC!” Yusho shouted, finally bringing his former apprentice to listen.

 

Zarc stopped at the strict tone, the very same he would use when his dragons wouldn’t listen to him. He slowly took those few breaths and wiped off the tears of anger he didn’t know he had been shedding, meeting the determined look of his teacher.

 

“I equally care for your dragons, but shouting and threating in a way I’d never expect to hear from you, won’t solve anything. We must think this through otherwise even more unnecessary bloodshed will happen.” Yusho said, mentally putting his hand on Zarc’s shoulder.

“If Leo has them, he will try to hatch them as soon as possible using fake En powers.” he tried hard not to unleash more of his anger “But if he uses this moonrise it will be far too early! It will trigger all of them to hatch and I… I…”

 

Yusho didn’t say anything since he knew well that those were facts they couldn’t change. Even if they gathered all the possible energy from all the spirits, they would not reach the Fusion Kingdom in time. Since it was based around the type of magic that harmed spirits, Ray’s En powers made Fusion into the kingdom where magic users weren’t that common and magic would therefore gradually fade away entirely. Because of that it was quite difficult to reach both physically and with portals. Only high level spirits could enter its highly complex sphere surrounding the kingdom, but even those wouldn’t dare to enter it due to increased spirit hunts.

And even if they reached the Fusion Kingdom, it wasn’t clear where Leo kept the dragons and how heavily guarded it was. The moonrise was only less than two days away with Tsukikage and Hikage being too far to prevent Leo from performing the ceremony.

 

“I know you’re desperate to save your dragons, but you must believe in their present guardians. The ceremony Leo would use requires for all the guardians to be marked, meaning Yuri and Yugo aren’t alone. They must’ve found their destined protectors and since a fragment of your soul is in each one of your dragons, I’m sure they chose them wisely. Someone who they knew would take care of them with all of their heart.” Yusho said, glad that his words stopped Zarc from panicking.

“This still doesn’t solve what we are supposed to do…” the former apprentice muttered.

“We can only prepare for the worst. Let’s just hope that Reiji, Shun and the other two guardians will be able to take it.” the performer sorcerer said, as he looked through the window and saw the sun setting “I’ll talk with the boys once they wake up and try to prepare them for what is coming.”

 

Zarc nodded with his head down, trusting his teacher though his worry for the dragons only grew as he retreated back into the pendant.

 

 

 

 

“So Yuya and Yuto will hatch prematurely!?” both young guardians gasped at the information.

“From the looks of it… yes.” Yusho said quietly “Adding the fact your marks are reacting more due to Yuri and Yugo feeling endangered, it’s certain someone is attempting to trigger their rebirth.”

“But won’t it be dangerous?!” Reiji wouldn’t let go of Yuya’s egg “Premature birth, let alone rebirth can have terrible consequences.”

“And with fake En powers, the result can be catastrophic.” Shun agreed, feeling the pricking of his mark as if Yuto heard him.

“There’s nothing we can do in order to prevent the forced hatching.” Yusho said, the boys hardly believing what they heard as they clenched their dragon eggs close to themselves “But you can help them to ease their pain at least. It will require a great amount of your life energy and magic though…”

“Teach us!” young guardians shouted at once, their eyes full of determination.

“Then we have some tough training to do. Are you sure you can handle it?” the man asked, both boys standing up for the answer.

 

When he saw the fire and lightning in young guardians’ eyes, Yusho couldn’t help but seeing a young Zarc in them whenever there was a problem that needed solving. The dragons picked the right people to protect them and even if they were children for now, the man could tell they will grow up alongside the dragons into majestic and rightful guardians of the four kingdoms.

 

 

 

….

 

 

 

 

“Ah!” the green haired girl winced when picking several leaves off a medicinal bush.

“Sweetie? Are you alright?” her mother who was nearby called.

“Yeah… it’s just…” Rin thought of a possible excuse to cover up the icy prickling in her arm “…an insect bite.”

“Are you sure? It sounded painful for just a mere bug. Why don’t we go back inside and I’ll put some cooling medicine on?” the woman got closer, trying to look at Rin’s arm that the girl had managed to cover up with her cape before the glowing mark of a wing could be seen.

“Actually, I think I can do it myself!” Rin fake grinned, putting the marked arm behind her back “I’ll come back as soon as I’m done!”

“It’s in the cabinet above the sink. Are you sure you can reach it?” she raised her voice since her daughter was already running back to the house, a chubby seagull watching her go.

“Of course, I’m a big girl!” Rin called, forcing a smile so her mother would conclude it was nothing serious.

 

But the moment she closed the door, she was on her knees holding onto the marked arm since all the pain that spread throughout her body felt like it originated there. It had been four days since meeting the mysterious Clear Wing dragon also known as Yugo. She had hoped to see him again in her dreams so they could high five the sky again while flying together, though for now the only reminder that he was real was the white mark of a wing on her arm. Each day the cold feeling she felt from the mark grew worse until it started outright hurting her.

 

Rin couldn’t tell why the simple prickling turned into ache or what it meant. In a way she understood the mark was the bond between her and Yugo, but the reason behind the pain was unknown. At first she thought the dragon wanted to tell her something through the different feelings in her arm, though later it proved to be more about shared emotions. What could such intense pain mean? Was Yugo scared? Nervous? In any kind of situation that put him in distress?

 

Somehow Rin managed to crawl back to her room, immediately reaching for the closet where she kept Yugo’s crystalized egg. The crystals were shimmering the same way her mark did, she felt cold even though the weather was sunny and warm. She pulled the egg into her lap, cradling it as if was a living creature which in a way it was.

 

“It’s okay… I’m here.” as if Yugo had heard her, the pain reverted to slight pricking and the crystals stopped glowing “What are you so afraid of?”

 

There was no response from her mark, only the cold surface of the crystals shimmering less and less. Being used to its cool shell by now, Rin had no problem holding it against her chest; something that seemed to always calm down the sleeping dragon. Beneath the crystal shell, curled up in a tight ball, Yugo stopped shaking since he heard the beat of Rin’s heart which was like a relaxing lullaby to him.

 

Rin couldn’t tell the time passing until someone knocked on the door. The green haired girl quickly snapped out of the nap she didn’t know she had snoozed into, pushing Yugo’s egg under the pillow when her mother entered.

 

“Honey, are you sure you’re alright? For an insect bite it sure took you a long time to get back.” Rin’s mother muttered, gently stroking the girl’s ruffled hair.

“I… I was actually…” she set herself in front of the pillow, blocking the view of the bulge that was a dragon egg “… tired.”

“You don’t need to lie if you just want to take a break.” the woman smiled out of relief “I was afraid it was something more serious.”

 

That moment Rin really wanted to tell her, but just like when she became aware of the mysterious bracelet that has been, according to her parents, always around her wrist, she wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. Even though her mother knew some magic, which she mostly used for brewing medicinal potions and finding specific herbs, it probably wasn’t on the same level as the bracelet and the dragon egg and she wouldn’t get any answers like that, only more questions. As much as she hated keeping things from her parents, her being Yugo’s guardian just wasn’t something she could share with them.

 

“Rin?” her mother called, the girl snapping out of the dazed state “Do you need to rest some more?”

 

The girl nodded reluctantly as her mother planted a soft kiss on her forehead, just like she did every time before the girl went to sleep.

 

“Rest well sweetie, though are you really sure you’re just tired?” the woman stroked her hair worryingly “I’ll be heading to the nearby town to sell some medicine since some regular customers will be there and I’m afraid to leave you alone…”

“I’ll be fine mom! I’ve been home alone before, so it’s no big deal!” Rin said cheerfully, though not too much as she was supposed to be exhausted.

“If you say so, but I won’t be home until tomorrow due to the travel time.” she still wouldn’t leave.

“Mom, I’m not a baby anymore, I can look after myself.” Rin said in tomboyish tone, clenching her tiny fists as to show she was stronger than she looked.

“You take after your father way too much… I guess that’s really one fight I won’t win.” she stood up, smiling at the expression her daughter was making since it was nearly identical to someone she knew far too well.

 

With a farewell, Rin’s mother finally left her to rest. After making sure no one was anywhere near her room, Rin pulled Yugo’s egg from underneath the pillow, its crystals warmer than usual. Despite being nicely warm it didn’t seem Yugo was a fan of it as the mark began to prickle again. Being the wind dragon, he would always prefer a cold or even freezing environment rather than a warm one.

 

“Geez it’s not that terrible and besides the night will be here soon, so it will get colder.” Rin said, the prickling lessening until it stopped completely “Hope you will get out soon… I want to fly with you again.”

 

Rin eventually fell asleep. Yugo felt as though his time of rebirth was coming close. But not as if it was natural…

 

… but as someone was forcing him too.

 

 

 

 

Johan groaned as he stirred out of his less than comfortable sleep, silently cursing when seeing it was still dark outside. Since the house was pretty small it had only one bed, the blue haired boy had let his injured friend have it. Johan so took a spot on the floor that he had furnished with blankets, Amethyst Cat and Topaz Tiger acting as pillows to keep him a little comfortable at least. His other crystal beasts would either watch over Judai alongside Winged Kuriboh or guard the house in case someone would try to break in.

 

It has been days since he rescued Judai out of Leo’s clutches, still wondering what had been the Fusion mage doing there in the first place. The last time they saw each other had been just before the brunet boy headed out to “check something out”, never saying what it was. The next thing he knew was his crystal beasts feeling the awakening of the Supreme King inside Judai, Johan immediately knowing something was wrong and heading to the direction from which the spirit energy was coming from.

 

Speaking of Judai, the blue haired boy needed to check on him since his friend hasn’t really recovered yet. His fever had gone down in the couple of days and he was responsive enough to eat something, but he was still pretty weak as for now. Johan rubbed his eyes when slowly standing up, waking Amethyst Cat and Topaz Tiger. The pink mountain lion spirit followed him to the bed while tiger remained where it was, yawning at how late it was.

 

“Judai?” Johan nudged the covers, realizing no one was there “What the…?”

“He went outside about an hour ago. Don’t worry, Winged Kuriboh, Ruby and Cobalt Eagle are with him.” Amethyst Cat said.

“The kid wobbled a bit, but otherwise made it through the door fine.” Topaz Tiger added, stretching as he changed his sleeping position.

“Judai… always making me worry.” the crystal beast tamer sighed as he headed towards the doors.

 

The storm had calmed down, but it was still pretty cold and windy. If it weren’t for the light of the full moon, Johan would probably fail to see the Fusion mage and spirits by the ocean. Leaning against the rocky surface was Judai, his eyes staring at the reflection of the moon while whispering something to Ruby and Winged Kuriboh on his shoulders. The eagle spirit was picking his crystal-covered wings near the brunet boy when he noticed Johan coming.

 

“He said he needed some fresh air, I couldn’t really stop him.” Cobalt Eagle mumbled when Judai also noticed the blue haired boy’s presence.

“It’s alright.” Johan sat down next to his friend, Ruby instantly jumping back to his shoulder.

 

Judai became silent, his eyes not moving away from the ocean. The blue haired boy knew this expression far too well to not know what was going inside brunet boy’s mind. He only looked like that when something was bugging him and when he was thinking about the way how to fix it by himself. Johan sighed at the fact that Judai would always push everyone away in order to not drag them into danger, but would end up in some serious trouble on his own instead. The brunet boy valued others way more than he ever did himself after all.

 

“Judai… why didn’t you let me come with you?” Johan asked quietly, Judai nervously biting his lip “I could’ve help you with whatever you were dealing with.”

“That’s not it…” the Fusion mage muttered, cradling Winged Kuriboh in his hands.

“Then why did willingly go somewhere dangerous, all on your own? You even left Yubel with me, putting yourself in very vulnerable state. Just what were you doing?” Johan, despite his kind nature, was getting tired of nearly losing his friend all the time.   

“Academia is being run by Leo Akaba and he’s killing the spirits!” Judai shouted, startling the other mage a bit “I didn’t want him to take Yubel or your crystal beasts!”

 

The crystal beasts tamer was caught in a shock when seeing other boy’s eyes slightly changed color from brown to golden for a second before Judai got his emotions back in control. He seemed as he was about to shout out more, but Winged Kuriboh helped him calm down. Johan tried to connect with what he saw when he had come to his friend’s rescue, though things had happened there so fast that he hardly comprehended the scenery, to Judai’s feverish mumbling about Academia and what he told him now. He didn’t know much about Academia before the Dragon War times since there had been multiple schools. He had been enrolled in North Academy and only visited Judai’s school for a short time as transfer student. After the Dragon War had ended and kingdoms were split in four, the Academia as a building remained, but with the lack of adult magic users who could teach children, it was pretty impossible to keep the school running. Judai and his friends would visit the old building during first few years after the war, reliving the nice times while wondering through empty classrooms and dorms until they eventually decided for individual travels around the new world, completely forgetting about the place that was once like a second home to them.

 

“Manjome noticed multiple spirits going missing in the past few years. He passed the news to me, so I immediately flew back from Neo Domino and met up with him in one of the Fusion’s spirit worlds.” Judai broke Johan’s thinking “Only after we undid multiple shield spells to pass through it, we saw the completely transformed Academia that trained child soldiers to serve Leo Akaba.”

“The previous ruler of Unified Kingdom? The father of Ray Akaba, the mage chosen by En powers?” the blue haired boy blurted out from surprise.

“Yeah… somehow he didn’t let go of what he had started. We… we saw him order… children under ten years to go hunting… the spirits…” Judai hardly talked without trembling “It was horrible… the spirits were crying… and… and kids weren’t even aware what they were doing to them! Just who does this?!”

“Judai…” Johan comfortably placed his arms around his friend’s shoulders.

“Manjome and I knew something was going on, so we decided to investigate why they were capturing spirits. Eventually we found the way in, since the teachers and students go through some sort of ceremony that enables them to not be affected by shields. But once we would get in, getting out would be difficult and I didn’t want to put Yubel in danger.” the Fusion mage said, avoiding the eye contact with his fellow mage.

“So that’s why you wanted to meet up with me so suddenly after months of zero contacts? To keep Yubel safe, but leaving you in vulnerable state? Did neither of them disagree with you at all?” the crystal beasts tamer was getting slightly mad at his friend.

“Of course they did! But once we were so close to see what Leo’s plans were, I didn’t want to risk anything. I got so many of you into so much trouble already, you should’ve known that the most!” Judai uttered as it was something he had been holding down for a while.

“If it’s the Shadow Realm incident you’re still worried about, forget it. That time was a set of unfortunate events that couldn’t have been predicted and are over now.” Johan pulled the brunet boy close to himself, Judai leaning his head on the other boy’s shoulder, holding back the sobs full of apologizes.

“I screwed up big time…” the Fusion mage replayed the moments of that night in his head “We discovered Leo’s plans, but before we could get out of there I accidently blew our cover by using different style of magic since the Fusion style is the only one that students are taught there. I tried to hold them off so at least Manjome could get away and pass the news to his group, but there were too many of them…”

“What did they do to you?” Johan asked out-rightly, protectively getting a hold of his friend’s arm when painting an image of beaten and bloodied Judai from that night in his head.

“At first they wanted… to know the hideouts of the spirits. Of course I didn’t tell him, even after they beat the crap out of me… but then Leo showed up and remembered me from the pre-War times. Knowing that I have at least two powerful spirits within me he changed his plans and rather than hunting weaker spirits, he decided to pull the Supreme King out of me.” the brunet boy began to tremble again from the memory full of pain from that night.

“He wouldn’t… the Life Energy of Supreme King is dangerous! Why would he do that!?” the blue haired mage was losing his cool when listening of what was the man, that he had already considered dangerous, was capable of doing.

“To steal the eggs of elemental dragons… if I remember correctly, he would hatch them tonight already...” Judai leaned closer to his friend “I messed up so bad Johan… if I listened to you or Yubel… we could’ve prevented this from happening. If it weren’t for my Supreme King… they wouldn’t have enough energy to get the eggs for a while and we could…”

“Judai please just stop…” now the other Fusion mage was on verge of tears “You’re putting so many responsibilities on your shoulders that it started to affect your own self-worth. I’m here for you as well as everyone else, so you should really start to rely on others rather than just yourself.”

“But the elemental dragons…” Judai started at which Johan only shook his head.

“We will meet up with others and see what we can do, keeping your head in the shadows of Supreme King like you already did once is the worst you can do as for now.” the blue haired mage said, Ruby and Winged Kuriboh nodding at his statement.

 

The Fusion mage remained silent; observing the waves while Johan called for his crystal beasts to inform them what awaited them. Judai slowly stood up, his legs still having trouble supporting him, but luckily his friend was there to catch him.

 

“Before we start to plan our next move, I think you should apologize to someone.” Johan reached for the circle shaped pendant around his neck, handing it to Judai.

 

The brunet boy took it reluctantly, the jewelry shattering when his fingers touched it. Judai’s eyes had changed into mismatched colors or golden and turquoise before a form of a demon-looking person appeared in front of him. Yubel’s eyes were full of fury, wings shaking as she stared daggers on the Fusion mage. Knowing well that Yubel would set the world on fire if he was as much as scratched by “wretched humans”, Judai nervously searched for the right words to say when he felt her demonic arms around his shoulders, just like the time when he fused with her.

 

“Don’t you ever do this again to me!” Yubel said and even though Judai sobbed a little at betraying the loyal spirit, it was the demon spirit who wailed in tears “I will kill anyone who dares to harm my Judai!”   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dennis was walked down the hallway accompanied by four teachers while his wrists were restrained by magical handcuffs. He didn’t know why it was necessary since he had shown zero resistance in the last three days while being all alone in the cell. Not even once had he been let out, with guards only bringing him food and at times magical books to study. Then on the third day, the teachers had come to take him, he with no other choice following them through the dark hallways.

 

He didn’t recognize any of the places they passed, assuming it was part of the castle that was off-limits to the students. The more they walked, more guards he noticed along with the fact that they went deeper and deeper down the underground when walking down the stairs. The orange haired boy tried to ask where they were taking him when he remembered Leo’s words.

 

Tonight was the time when the dragons would hatch, exactly three days after Academia’s principal told him so.

 

At last they reached the doors that one of the teachers unlocked, revealing a huge underground chamber. Its walls were decorated with crystals along with paintings of En powers: En Winds, En Birds, En Flowers and lastly En Moon which was painted on the ceiling. In the middle of it was what appeared to be some sort of a passage connecting the chamber with the surface. As Dennis looked closer he could see the full moon shining through it, illuminating the drawn magical circle on the ground.

 

“Get the kid in position.” one of the teachers ordered a couple of senior students who seemed to be in their late teens.

 

Dennis was taken to another circle on the ground and before he could ask why, an invisible shield surrounded him, preventing him from stepping off it. There were other senior students present as well, all busy with preparing for the ceremony, quietly whispering spells and bringing all the necessary items. As more time passed, the young mage also saw three other particularly older students, each also standing on a circle. He thought they were also forced to participate like him until he saw something absolutely terrifying. 

 

Next to each student in the circle were spirits of three different attributes: wind, flowers and birds, all bound by magical chains that bound them to the ground. Their screeches of panic made Dennis’ ears ache while everyone else wasn’t one bit bothered by them. It was like they either didn’t heard them at all or completely ignored them.

 

The orange haired boy desperately tried to break out of the circle, to stop the spirits’ pain, to make their screaming stop, to do anything at all. But the handcuffs and shield blocked him from doing just that. He could only watch how a majority of the staff left, leaving only him, the three students in the circles, countless number of spirits and a few teachers in the background.

 

Then the doors opened, loud steps echoed through the chamber until a person in a purple cape stepped right in the middle of the circle, illuminated by the moonlight. Leo stared at it while cradling Yuri’s egg, its pink crystals blinking like crazy. Dennis felt Yuri’s fear now that he was closer to him, similar to the fear he’s been feeling the last three days when he was locked up, but nothing compared to what the sleeping dragon was feeling now. The king directed his look directly at the young mage and then at the egg before he put it on the floor, at the center of the drawn circle.

 

“Begin.” Leo stated out loud as soon as he stepped away from the circle, the senior students nodded at the command as they started gathering their magic.

 

A student with bird spirits around him was first, a purple clouded aura surrounded the spirits as their life energy began to fade, transforming into fake En Birds magic. Then Leo raised his hand, the moonlight was sucked into it until it took the form of En Moon. The students with flower and wind spirits did the same, forming En Flowers and En Winds. All four fake versions of the powerful magic were present now, all going towards Yuri’s egg.

 

The moment that the dragon egg had been hit by the magic, it started to glow intensely in a bright pink light. The crystals and the shell began cracking, small pieces of it already falling off. Leo watched with delight how the energy made the dragon hatch, it looked like a perfect rebirth.

 

But reality was nothing close to perfect.

 

Deep down, the sleeping dragon fought with the invasive force pulling him out of his cozy shelter. By instinct he knew he would have to leave it someday, but not that soon. His tiny form twisted and turned like he was having seizures, rolling him in the egg as if he was a dice to be tossed. Yuri was scared, so scared that it hurt. He desperately called for his guardian as he felt more and more pain as he was being pulled out of the egg.

 

Dennis was on his knees, feeling exactly what Yuri did, the force of being squeezed until he could barely breathe and beaten to the point he actually thought someone was pounding him with a metal rod. The dragon mark glowed wildly as he begged Leo to stop until his screams became weak and he could only whisper his pleas to stop torturing Yuri.

 

“Would you stop using that ridicules name?! It is called Starve Venom and nothing else!” was the only response from the mad king as he observed how more cracks appeared on the egg.

“Please… he’s hurting…” Dennis muttered as he barely kept himself conscious “Just… stop it…”

 

Leo ignored Dennis’ words, nudging to the students to increase the fake En magic. Unlike the young mage and the dragon they didn’t feel a thing, only continued to cast the magic on the egg. As the fake natural magic forced Yuri to hatch, the dragon known as Starve Venom wasn’t the only one who was being forced out of the egg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Shun who felt it first.

 

After swearing to do anything to protect Yuya and Yuto during their rebirth, the boys trained long hours to master the spells that might help their dragons. The whole time they trained, Yusho patiently watched over the eggs in case the hatching would start happening when their guardians wouldn’t be present. Although their marks tended to burn or prickle at times, it wasn’t bad enough to prevent them from practicing.

 

On the evening of the moon rise, while strengthening up his magic with Reiji, the teal haired boy collapsed on the ground, holding onto his marked arm that literally sizzled from pain. His mark of lightning was blinking intensely, as well as Reiji’s flame one but not to that point. Yusho, who was luckily with the boys at the time, reacted fast, quickly taking hold of Shun and instructing Reiji to get to the hall with spirit statues.

 

There, everything was prepared, two circles drawn and filled with energy provided by the spirits residing there. Yusho had managed to contact Kazuma, who was currently in the Astral World, to send some spirits to the Duel Lodge that more than gladly offered their help for the elemental dragons, especially because Yuto was the protector of the XYZ Kingdom. Shun was placed next to the circle where Yuto’s egg was already carefully placed, its purple crystals already starting to break.

 

“Yuto is the oldest, so he will be the first to hatch.” Yusho told Shun who nodded, focusing his thoughts and magic into the mark that connected him with his dragon “Yuya is the youngest, so he will start hatching after his brothers are out, but pay close attention to it anyway Reiji.”

 

The guardians observed the eggs, using their marks to calm their dragons down. Yusho had advised them to communicate with them as the hatchlings would probably be scared due to forced hatching and the emotions they shared with their imprisoned brothers. If Yuto and Yuya were to realize they were safe, their hatching would probably be less painful. Shun gently called after Yuto using their bond, hoping his inner voice would help him guide out of the egg without fear. Reiji was doing the same thing, though for now Yuya’s egg didn’t seem to be cracking yet.

 

Yuto’s egg on the other hand was already breaking the crystals surrounding it, majority of them already falling off. Shun remembered Yusho’s words about how ready he needed to be as it was unclear how Yuto would react when being reborn prematurely. The cracks on the egg’s shell turned into holes, pieces crumbling away until it was big enough for the first limb to come out.

 

Shun was nearly hit by a black wing that found its way out of the egg, closely followed by the other one that immediately extended after being cramped inside a tight space for more than a decade. A long, purple tail with shards was next, along with a lean body. The lightning dragon eventually dragged his entire body out, though his head was stuck due to a long shard on his jaw. Shun carefully guided Yuto’s head out, dragon’s eyes still closed.

 

Then slowly they opened.

 

XYZ mage was met with bright grey eyes that blinked a couple of times so they could get used to the light. Yuto stared at the teal haired boy, his tiny form swaying from one side to another since it wasn’t used to moving. His heavy wings weren’t much help as they only made him land on the floor before making a single step. The lightning dragon winced at the second attempt to get closer to his guardian, but Shun saw his struggle and picked him up.

 

Yuto, also known as Dark Rebellion was much smaller as a hatchling than the dragon Shun saw in his dream. He was slightly bigger than a small dog when his wings were folded and tail close to its body. But overall Shun was glad to see that he didn’t suffer any complications due to the premature rebirth. The young hatchling seemed to recognize his guardian right away as he nuzzled his little head against the lightning mark, making Shun’s heart warm up a bit.

 

Just in case, the teal haired boy casted some lightning magic on Yuto in hopes to restore his energy. Yuto’s wings started sparkling, absorbing the magic that brightened up its pale scales and made it easier for him to move. The hatchling tried to flap his wings, but they weren’t fully developed yet so he only got little more than an inch up before landing back into Shun’s lap.

 

“No need to push yourself already.” Shun grinned as he stroked Yuto’s scaly body, the dragon enjoyed the comforting touch “You will have plenty of time to learn how to fly.”

“I’m glad to see Yuto made it out without trouble.” Yusho crouched down next to Shun to check the hatchling “It must’ve been due to the spirits protecting him and due to being reborn in his homeland.”

“I hope the others will be just as lucky.” Reiji said, his hand covering the glowing flame mark.

“Only time will tell.” Yusho sighed, watching how Yuto pointed his eyes at Yuya’s egg while making quiet growling noises.

“Do you want to get closer to your brother?” the XYZ mage asked, already moving to Reiji’s side “Don’t worry, Yuya will hatch soon.”

 

Shun held the lightning dragon in a way that his small arms could brush against Yuya’s egg engulfed by red crystals. Yuto set his head against the shell as if he was trying to see if his little brother was alright, his claws gently scratching the surface.

 

The oldest was reborn, but the younger ones were yet to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

“Why is it taking it so long?” Leo shouted while still casting fake En Moon magic at the egg.

“Your Majesty, it started!” one of the students pointed at the shell cracking up faster and the crystals falling off in bigger numbers.

 

Dennis somehow managed to pick himself up, watching how the shell began to burst. Leo and the students stopped transferring the fake energy, stepping closer to the dark green egg that already shed all the crystals off itself. Academia’s principal snapped his fingers to make the shield surrounding Dennis disappear. The young mage gave the king a confused look as he tried to get to Yuri, but still sharing the dragon’s pain he hardly made few steps before he was on the floor again.

 

“Pathetic.” Leo muttered, looking at the barely conscious boy on the floor “Get him here so the brat can tame Starve Venom properly.”

 

The teacher responding to the command was already at the boy’s side, getting hold of his waist when all of sudden the boy cried out loud.

 

Since his marked arm felt as if it was being penetrated with a knife that went deeper by each passing second. The teacher tried to see what was wrong but was interrupted by the sudden noise coming from the center of the chamber.

 

Yuri’s egg literally exploded, pieces of its shell flew everywhere as it revealed the creature that was asleep for more than a decade. Its pink eyes glowed menacingly, its tail, ending with a thorn like shard, swaying dangerously from side to side as the four petals opened and closed uncontrollably. Yuri growled and hissed at everyone that was near, students were carefully backing off when Leo simply stared at newly reborn dragon.

 

“At last you are mine.” the king looked straight in Yuri’s eyes, but the hatchling didn’t even flinch at the threatening man and rather looked around the chamber as if he was searching for something.

 

 

#######

 

Then Dennis let out a cry when the teacher accidently grabbed onto his aching arm. The voice of the young mage was like an alarm to the dragon as his eyes glowed even more intensely and the petals transformed into man-eating plants. Yuri let out a roar as he charged at the person holding Dennis, using sharpened his tail to slice teacher’s ankles.

 

Despite his small size, Yuri’s attack was beyond effective since the teacher didn’t only let go of Dennis, but also stumbled to the ground since the dragon cut several tendons on his legs, blood spraying everywhere. The teacher cried out loud before he could cast anything at the dangerous creature as he fell on the ground, the plant dragon swinging his tail at him like trying to outright remove him from there, each slice bringing out more blood. Leo ordered for the beast to be restrained, the students obediently started casting spells and traps in order to catch it.

 

Yuri swiftly avoided the magically enhanced nets and cages thanks to his snake-like body. His petals transformed into wings which only gave him more speed to dodge the restrains. When coming close to a female student that continuously threw traps at him, he hissed and coiled his tail around her arm. The girl yelped from the shard cutting into her skin, unable to cast any spell,  since the dragon bit into the other arm while his long body around hers prevented her from moving, and could only watch how Yuri’s petals transformed into man-eating plants again. Their mouths opened hungry for blood as they at once charged at the student and other two that tried to stop the dragon. The female student was already facing the ground when the other students tried to stop him, Yuri not letting go of the spots he held with his plants. Even though they endured the pain from the plants, they had no chance when the hatchling pointed his tail into their abdomens, so fast that neither of them could utter out the first letter of the spell they were going to cast. They too joined their classmate on the floor, never to get up again, as a group of other students attempted the impossible of fighting him.

 

The fangs of the plants bit into the students’ bodies, all of them screaming for help as Starve Venom was more powerful they could’ve imagined, even as just a reborn hatchling. The teachers and guards reluctantly rushed to their help, but by the time they reached the dragon, students were already unresponsive, each lying in their own pool of blood. Their bodies were mangled like a pack of wild dogs mauled them to death, students’ eyes still wide opened from the fear since the dragon’s snout, the thorn tail or man-eating plants were the last thing they saw. Yuri’s plants were dyed red instead of pink, his hissing only adding to the horror in front of him. He shook off the blood blocking his sight as he charged at the teachers that were too close.

 

The whole time that Yuri was causing chaos, Dennis saw why he was doing that through their bond. The fake En Magic evoked his aggressive side, making him go berserk with a rush of adrenaline being forced into him. The hatchling wanted it to stop as it was only hurting him more and hoped his guardian could help him, but the teachers and students were in the way. Yuri had to remove them, get them away from Dennis. He started by cutting into the ankles of the teacher that was holding Dennis and smelling blood for the first time, which only worsened his behavior, making him demand more blood. The students charging at him were a great opportunity as his plants got not only to smell the red fluid but to taste it as well.

 

Dennis could feel Yuri’s desire for blood and killing, watching up close how his tail sliced through another person’s stomach and his plants gnawed at the other’s person leg. And the whole time Yuri enjoyed inflicting pain on others, just like they did on him.

 

########

 

“Yuri stop it!” the orange haired boy called once he got a hold of his aching mark “Yuri, please!”

 

Yuri’s tail and plants let go of the people who would become his new victims, searching for the familiar voice. Eventually he saw the young mage, his guardian and for a moment its berserk mode was no more. Even though he was covered in blood, Yuri managed to control the desire to kill as the voice of his guardian calling out his human name calmed his inner instinct down. Slowly the plant dragon approached the boy on the floor, his petals twitching, but not turning into the murderous plants. Fully trusting the small and yet deadly creature, Dennis extended his non-marked arm to pet Yuri’s head.

 

At first the dragon flinched at the quick movement, but once he saw it meant no harm he relaxed and dozed off to the first loving touch he has received as reborn dragon. Despite being surrounded by blood splattered around and unmoving bodies lying everywhere, Dennis continued to stroke his dragon in the loveliest way possible. Yuri closed his eyes and even relaxed his tail as he was sure everything was alright now that his guardian was there.

 

Too bad that wasn’t true.

 

Unaware and distracted by loving touches, the plant dragon didn’t see a spell coming right at him. It threw both him and Dennis against the wall, Yuri finally running out of the adrenaline that was forced onto him and kept him going so far. Leo approached, casting another paralyzing spell just to make sure the dragon was really out of it. Yuri let out a painful cry as he looked at his terrified guardian one more time, before losing consciousness.

 

“Great job distracting the beast, Macfield.” Leo said while strapping the same collar that Dennis wore around Yuri’s neck “Now you’re officially a soldier of Academia.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rin was woken up by a loud noise from somewhere in her room. It couldn’t be her mother since she left for the town hours ago, so what was causing all the noise? Then an icy pain broke through her arm, giving her a good idea about what was happening. She reached for the closet and pulled Yugo’s egg in her lap, wondering if it was time for her dragon to hatch yet.

 

She was used to the pain of her mark by now, but the pain going through her arm right now felt way worse. The blue crystals blinked wildly, already collapsing to the touch. Rin didn’t know if that was a good or a bad thing, but she could tell that something or more likely someone was moving in it. Moving wasn’t the right word, tossing and turning was more accurate. Even though she wanted to help it very much, the bracelet for now mentally screamed for her to get away.

 

And oh how right the piece of jewelry was.

 

The egg started rolling up and down the bed until it hit the wall with such an impact that it simply shattered. Rin carefully looked up once she was sure there were no more egg pieces flying around, gasping at the sight on her bed.

 

Not much bigger than a smaller dog was the white serpent-like dragon whose many wings glowed in a brilliant blue color, sprawled all over her pillow. Then she was met with Yugo’s eyes, twice as beautiful as his majestic wings that stared at her with a hint of curiously. Rin was going to approach it when all of sudden the dragon closed his eyes, collapsing on the bed. Thinking he was tired after just being reborn, the green haired girl stroked his head, though she quickly moved it away. 

 

Yugo was burning up.

 

Not to the point her mother would when she would catch a cold, but to the point her fingers were nearly burning from the heat. Being the wind dragon and burning up with fever certainly wasn’t something that went together, not to mention Yugo also seemed to have trouble breathing.

 

For a second she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do. Could she use their bond to heal him up in some way? Was that just something normal for hatchlings? Hell, how she was supposed to be Yugo’s guardian if she didn’t even know of how to take care of him when he was sick?

 

Sick… wait she knew how to take care of a sickly person. When she accompanied her mother to some of her trips to the town, she helped her tend to sick people by handing her the right medicine. Rin immediately rushed to the cabinet above the sink. She climbed to it using a chair, searching for the correct mixture that was supposed to lower body temperature. Hoping her mother left any, she eventually found the brown colored liquid, the medicine that should help Yugo.

 

When Rin came back to the room, Yugo was looking worse than he did before she had left, the brilliant color of his wings was fading to pale blue. Not wanting to lose another second, she poured the supposedly right amount of medicine into dragon’s mouth, Yugo coughed and gagged at the bitter taste until he eventually swallowed it. The girl’s hands were covered in burns from holding the dragon’s heated form, but she didn’t care. She was more worried about the dragon’s condition not changing much, even after a decent amount of time had passed.

 

“What should I do...” she muttered to herself as she held Yugo in tears “… I’m so sorry… I don’t know how to help you…”

 

Yugo whined, trying to move or in some other way communicate with Rin as she was desperate to help him, but had no idea of how to do so. The medicine didn’t work nor did she know any other way. She was no mage, no doctor… just a daughter of medical herbs gatherer.

 

Her tears began to fall, landing on Yugo’s burning form as she continued to apologize while the dragon only weakly tried to snuggle closer as even he wasn’t sure of what was going on.

 

Then Rin’s bracelet began to blink, its green crystal filling the room with radiant green light. Slowly the light began to spread over her too, she no longer felt her hands burning due to Yugo’s heated body. She exhaled, seeing her own breath as the house felt colder and yet she wasn’t bothered by the lowered temperature one bit. It was a perfect atmosphere for her, like during the winter times.

 

But cold or not, now she knew how to heal Yugo. Concentrating entirely on her two hands, she gave the wind dragon the biggest embrace possible. The icy powers travelled from her bracelet directly to the burning scales, cooling them down immediately.

 

Yugo’s heavy breathing finally calmed down, and so did his body temperature. The tiny dragon happily coiled around Rin, grateful for his guardian healing him up. The use of the new magic surely left number on Rin as she out of sudden felt incredibly sleepy, her eyelids were already slipping down. She fell back on the bed, just in time to witness Yugo’s tiny head nuzzling against her chest before the two of them dozed off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s starting!” Reiji called when the flame mark started to burn on his skin, already sensing Yuya waking up.

 

Yusho watched closely while Shun tried to get Yuto away from the egg since the hatching was something Yuya had to do himself. Like when the lightning dragon was beginning to break out of the egg, the crystals were the first to crack. Reiji used the bond to see if Yuya was indeed as fine as his big brother was, also telling the fire dragon that he wasn’t in danger and there were people who care for him awaiting his rebirth.

 

“Shh Yuto it’s alright.” Shun held Yuto tightly “I know you’re worried for Yuya, but that’s something Reiji and Yuya themselves have to handle.”

 

The purple scaled dragon whined as he couldn’t get any closer to his unborn brother, Shun cooing soothing words into his ear. Reiji kept his connection with the dragon, his eyes closed and purely focused on the egg and the mark. But suddenly his eyes opened wide, panic spread over his face.

 

“Yuya isn’t responding!” the Pendulum mage uttered, Yusho immediately ran to Reiji’s side.

 

While the crystals fell off, the shell was still intact with no signs of breaking anytime soon. Yuto tried to wriggle out of his guardian’s hands, Shun barely holding him, he badly wanting to help his little brother. Yusho used his own magic to look through the shell and after seeing Yuya’s unmoving form, he knew something had to be done.

 

“We have to break the shell.” Yusho said, already trying to think which spell would help the most “It’s because Yuya has an ability to connect with the other three dragons and also absorbing their pain. He must’ve tried to lessen Yuri’s and Yugo’s pain to get to this point.”

 

Reiji gasped at the information, his hands shaking as he didn’t want to lose Yuya just like that. His teacher instructed him how to focus his magic at the egg without injuring the dragon. Together they murmured a spell, the egg scattered as it revealed a tiny form resting inside.

 

Yuya’s scales were already so pale that they were closer to orange than than red, his body so still that it seemed as if he wasn’t even alive. Reiji didn’t lose a moment as he set his hands on Yuya’s cold body, chanting the same spell he had been mastering for the last two days just for a case such as this one. Flames burst from Reiji’s very Life Energy, sending them directly into the unresponsive dragon.

 

If dragons were weak, their guardians could send them the materialized magic of the element they possessed. In Yuya’s case it was fire and that was also why his body was so cold since his basic element that kept him going was missing.

 

Reiji didn’t let tiredness prevent him from healing up his dragon as he continued to send flames to the fire dragon. Yuto’s screeches of worry echoed through the hall, desperately calling for his brother to wake up. Yusho wished there was more he could do, but for now only Reiji was the only one who could help as his guardian. The spirits began to gather around the hall, curious about another dragon besides the XYZ Protector.

 

Sweat began to run down the Pendulum mage’s face, he ignoring it completely since Yuya was his only focus. He also began to breathe heavily since the magic started to take toll on his Life Energy. With Yusho’s and Shun’s encouraging words, Reiji refused to stop, thinking only about the endangered life in front of him.

 

Then Yuya’s discolored eyes finally opened.

 

His scales turned darker, not his original shade of red, but way better than a sickly orange.

 

His chest began to rise and fall at a normal pace.

 

His tail wiggled slightly.

 

Yuya was out of danger.

 

Reiji stopped with the flames, catching his breath as Yuya observed him carefully. For a second it seemed as he was still dazzled, but the moment he recognized Reiji’s face, he jumped into his arms. His head weakly nuzzled against his guardian’s chest, like he was searching for more warmth. At last his instincts calmed down and assured his beyond exhausted and weakened reborn body that all his brothers were safe and he could finally rest. Yuya let out a quiet moan as he let Reiji’s arms hold him, slowly drifting off while listening to the calming tone of his guardian’s heartbeat.

 

When Yusho saw the two guardians with their dragons, he couldn’t help but to think about the similar scenario that occurred so many years ago.

 

 

“Is it time yet?” young Zarc mumbled nervously as he observed four crystalized forms wrapped in blankets in the middle of the cave he was in.

“For the tenth time, no.” girl with maroon hair tied into two ponytails sighed “Give them time, when they will feel ready they will hatch.”

“I know Ray, but I’m just so nervous if they’ll really accept me as their guardian. There are so many tensions between spirit worlds and human world already and if I screw this up…” the silver haired boy fidgeted from one spot to another.

“You won’t, you were chosen for a reason.” she supportably put her hand on his shoulder “You’ll do great Zarc, just be yourself and dragons will surely love your caring spirit.”

“She’s right you know.” Yusho smiled at his apprentice, who was as equally nervous as the father whose wife was about to give birth “Your aura is truly one of the kind and if the En powers already recognized you as worthy enough, so will the dragons.”

 

It has been days since the eggs were brought to the forest meant specifically for the nest of the four elemental dragons. Each dragon egg was from the different spirit world, but carried a life merged by the essence of the En magic, Life Energy of the spirit world and the magic of the human world. Zarc spent every moment with them and would only rest if Ray or Yusho watched over them. At last Ray announced that she felt her En powers reacting with the dragons, Zarc impatiently waiting for the hatching to begin.

 

At first the crystals glowed and then the shells began to crack. Zarc carefully got closer to the purple colored egg that already got a bigger hole on, some of the dragon limbs already peeking out. Gradually, the XYZ dragon climbed out, yawning like he had just woke up from a long sleep.

 

“This one would be Dark Rebellion.” Yusho instructed as Zarc let the tiny dragon climb in his lap.

“He doesn’t look that rebellious to me.” the silver haired boy giggled when Dark Rebellion licked his cheek “Hey that tickles!”

“Look the Fusion one is hatching now too!” Ray pointed at the pink egg that already had multiple holes.

 

Zarc quickly wrapped the XYZ dragon in one of the blankets and placed him in the cushioned basket he had made especially for them with Ray as he reached the pink crystal just in time when it shattered. At first he wasn’t sure if it really was a dragon inside since all he saw were bunch of thorn vines and four pink petals. Then a head with two pink eyes peeked through it, Zarc amazed of how pretty yet deadly it looked.

 

“Is this one Starve Venom?” the young apprentice asked, slowly approaching the dragon “The strong pink color might look poisonous, but he doesn’t look starved.”

“You’re correct, though it really is just a name.” Yusho gestured to Zarc how to hold the dragon, whose nature was more aggressive compared to others.

“You better hurry up Zarc, both Synchro dragon and Pendulum dragon are about to come out too.” Ray warned, the other mage quickly setting Starve Venom next to his older brother who curiously studied him.

 

By the time Zarc was done, the blue and red crystals were nearly entirely out of place. He didn’t expect for the two of them to hatch at once, so he gave Ray a pleading look which she understood and got to the cracking egg of a Synchro dragon. She barely held onto the tiny form as the dragon already launched himself out, ready to fly. The Pendulum dragon on the other hand came out rather slowly and was nearly afraid to leave his crystal shelter. Zarc smiled at the little guy, setting his arms and coed that everything was alright when little hatchling finally plucked the courage to climb in the hands of unknown, but friendly looking boy.

 

“And lastly Clear Wing and Odd-Eyes.” Yusho grinned at the adorable sight of Zarc and Ray wrapping the remaining dragons in blankets and putting them next to their dragon brothers.

“Who came out with those names?” Ray mumbled while struggling to keep Clear Wing in one place.

“Someone who probably didn’t have much time to decide. They seriously sound like the first thing that comes to your mind when you look at them.” Zarc chuckled when looking at the dragon in his arms “You surely are the odd one.”

 

Odd-Eyes whined when he wasn’t in his guardian’s arms anymore, but was glad when he was placed next to his brothers who curled around him like they were greeting him. The hatchlings nuzzled against each other until they all began to yawn and together dozed off to the dreamland. Zarc fixed the blankets around the basket until he was finally satisfied that dragons were indeed as comfortable as possible on their first day as not spirits, but real dragons made out of flesh and blood.

 

“You got this Zarc, just look at them.” Yusho ruffled his apprentice’s hair “The dragons sleep only when they feel safe and they do with you.”

“My En powers are calm too, meaning that none of the dragons presents a threat to themselves or to our world. They are all well and healthy.” Ray smiled at the sight of sleeping dragons “Way to go Dragon Daddy!”

“Stop it.” Zarc scratched his head in embarrassment at the new nickname “I’ve just turned sixteen, way too young to be someone’s parent.”

 

Ray only giggled as she threw some other nicknames at him, each making him blush as red as tomato. The two apprentices went on discussing other things while the just born dragons slept soundly in their basket. Yusho smiled at the sight of the two apprentices that he was so glad he raised well into two protectors of the spirit worlds.

 

 

Now Yusho was looking at the other two guardians, each looking after their respective dragon. Since Yuto wouldn’t stop wriggling in order to reach his little brother who was now peacefully resting in Reiji’s warm arms, Shun gave up and let Yuto check on Yuya himself. Reiji wrapped Yuya in a warm wool blanket and gently put him on the makeshift nest made out of old pillows. Then Shun let his dragon crawl to Yuya, Yuto’s curious gray eyes connecting with mismatched ones. Their tails tangled around each other like they were holding hands as their bodies huddled together like two kittens ready for a nap. At last Yuto finally calmed down now that he really made sure Yuya was and will be alright. Together, the two dragon brothers fell asleep, their guardians letting out a breath of relief since the dragons were finally out of their eggshells.

 

The four elemental dragons might’ve been reborn, but their duties as dragon guardians have just begun.

Chapter Text

 

 

Reiji groaned as he shifted in his bed, sweat dripping off his face. It was in the middle of the summer, so hot nights were expected and even with the mountain air swirling around the Duel Lodge, the sleeping was difficult. But for the Pendulum mage it was even harder and by the time the sun was finally up, he gratefully got out of bed. Next to him, the sound of the bed covers moving was heard as a teal haired boy was waking up as well. Shun was in a similar situation, with his hair even spikier and with bags under his eyes like he hadn’t sleep at all. Almost at the same time, they both looked down to their laps, the reasons behind their states were still curled up and sleeping soundly without a care in the world.

 

It has been three weeks since the two elemental dragons had hatched.

 

Yuya needed nearly a week before he had recovered completely, Reiji did not dare to leave his side not even once, watching him rest in the makeshift nest surrounded by several Barian crystals that provided him with the necessary fire magic vital for his healing. For all of those days the silver haired mage was focused purely on looking after his dragon who unlike Yuto, who was already well enough to walk after he had hatched, was only capable of lifting his head a bit and wiggle his tail whenever Reiji or Yuto would approach him. At times Yusho needed to remind his apprentice that he needed to rest up and even then Reiji complied only if he could sleep next to Yuya.

 

Yuto on the other hand was completely fine since his body was developed enough for him to already move around the Duel Lodge, faster and faster each day. Shun was just glad that his wings haven’t grown to the full size yet. If that were the case, Yuto would be even harder to look after since the building had tons of space that he could explore. But nonetheless the lighting dragon wouldn’t go too far from his guardian plus he would try to snuggle next to Yuya every given moment. Most of the times Shun let him since he was well aware how the contact with a sibling felt like, since he would do the same thing with Kaito, whom he thought of as his brother, lots of times whenever he or the fellow XYZ mage needed some sort of the comfort.

 

The sight of two dragon brothers, all tangled up together with their long necks and tails was truly an adorable one. It was quite difficult to get Yuto away from Yuya since the lightning dragon felt as if something bad would happen to his brother should he go away from him, but the fire dragon needed a complete exposure to the Barian crystals several times throughout the day in order to heal properly. Whenever Shun and Reiji would just watch them sleep they felt a bit like parents, even though they were barely ten. They were also surprised at how connected the dragons were to them, realizing the true power of the bond they shared with them.

 

When Yuya was alright again, he joined Yuto on their daily adventures through the Duel Lodge. It took the odd eyed dragon a little while to get used to walking on his legs after only lying in the nest for a week, but with constant encouragements from Yuto, Yuya managed to keep up with his swift dragon brother. At first Shun and Reiji nearly got in the state of panic whenever their wards would disappear, but with Yusho ensuring them that hatchlings were only curious about their new home, the two mages eventually got used to it. Even if Yuto and Yuya would play hide and seek they wouldn’t leave the Duel Lodge. Due to the magical barrier, different from the one back in the Pendulum Kingdom, the dragons already felt something was off at the doors and windows. Whenever they reached them they would understand they couldn’t go pass them and returned back to their guardians once they had enough of exploring.

 

When the duo wasn’t busy with uncovering every spot in the Duel Lodge they would simply observe Shun and Reiji go with their usual routines. Reiji would read all the new spell books brought by Yusho from the Heartland and Shun would practice some new XYZ magic techniques. Whatever their guardians did, the two hatchlings tried to imitate them or in some other way join them, since their instincts were eager to learn more by each passing day.

 

As for right now, the young guardians yawned at yet another not well slept night since two weeks ago, when Yuya was all healed up, and the dragons concluded that they felt the safest with Shun and Reiji, meaning in their beds. Fortunately the dragons haven’t grown much, few inches at most, so they could still fit the bed comfortably. But it wasn’t really the size that was a problem behind their troubled nights of not sleeping well. No, it was the fact that dragons began to use their elemental powers in their sleep.

 

Yuya’s body temperature was already highly above Reiji’s and sleeping with him was like having a huge thermophore in the bed. Shun on the other hand had to deal with constant electric shocks coming from Yuto plus the dragon’s sharpened wings and other parts of his body could easily leave cuts behind. Whenever the lightning dragon moved in his sleep or rubbed his wings together, the sparks flew all over Shun. Luckily Shun had already been hit by a fair share of various spells in the past, so Yuto’s attacks were not that big of a deal.

Reiji wiped his drenched face with a towel that he had brought to his bedside a night before specifically for this reason and put his glasses on, already foggy from the summer heat combined with Yuya’s heat. The fire dragon was slowly waking up, opening his yellow beak-like-mouth to let out a yawn while stretching his limbs.

 

“I’m going to take a quick cold bath, can you watch over Yuya a bit?” Reiji asked while grabbing a change of clothes.

“Sure.” Shun replied sleepily, trying to fix his mess of a spiked up hairdo.

 

The fire dragon whined when he saw Reiji leave, but when Yuto began to stir out of his sleep too, Yuya eagerly stumbled to the other mage’s bed in order to play and wake up his brother. Reiji then headed down the hallway where a bathroom was. It had a large tub, big enough to fit literally everyone in the house and began filling it with water. He wasn’t that sure how exactly it worked but from what Yusho told him, a complex system of tubes steered the water from the mountain’s stream into the Duel Lodge.

 

Reiji let out a sigh of relief when the cold water touched his overheated skin. He’d do anything to be a good guardian to his dragon and if Yuya wanted to sleep next to him so be it. There was nothing wrong if the fire dragon didn’t know how to control his powers yet, he’ll learn one day soon enough and until then Reiji will just endure it.

 

After drying himself and putting on the change of clothes he’d brought along with his red scarf and glasses he’d always wear, the Pendulum mage headed for the room that was currently serving as a dining room. Shun was already there, watching over Yuya and Yuto who were currently chasing each other’s tails in some sort of wild game of tag. Reiji took a seat next to the XYZ mage, noting that the teal haired boy somehow managed to flatten out his spiky hair, though they threatened to spike up again. The food was already set on the table and by the time they started eating, their teacher showed up as well.

 

“Morning boys, how was your…” Yusho was about to ask, but didn’t finish after seeing the answer written across his apprentices’ faces “The usual I see.”

“At least Yuya didn’t set the bed on fire.” Reiji muttered when taking a sip of tea.

“And Yuto didn’t stab me with his wings or released too much electric energy.” Shun tried to eat his portion of food before either of the dragons could snatch it up. For now the hatchlings had their own mixture to eat, but as soon as they would learn to shift into human form, they would be able to eat the same food as their guardians.

 

For the next couple of minutes only the sounds of eating and drinking were heard with some occasional noises caused by Yuya or Yuto. The fire dragon didn’t like the supposed mashed dragon formula-like thing that much, but it was good for his little growing body while Yuto simply put up with it. Both dragons patiently waited for the others to be done, Yuya a bit more impatiently since he kept tugging on Reiji’s scarf. The lightning dragon let out something similar to a sigh as he nudged his little brother to stop already, the other dragon winced although he stopped and rather climbed to the small window to look at the morning sun.

 

“I see the dragons are growing well, Yuya especially.” Yusho smiled, looking at the odd eyed dragon attempting to see more of what was outside.

“Yeah, his fire powers seemed to have increased as well, but they’re developing slowly so he’s still learning to control them.” Reiji said before biting into a piece of bread.

“Yuto still has trouble with his electric powers…” Shun muttered, making his ward whine and nuzzle his head against the XYZ mage’s side as if he was apologizing “… it’s okay, you’ll learn to suppress them eventually.”

 

Yuto’s eyes brightened at the comforting words when all of a sudden a loud thud was heard, caused by Yuya falling on the ground when he tried to fly. Unlike all of his brothers, Odd-Eyes, was known to be the only dragon incapable of flying due to not having wings. But either way he wanted to be like his big brother Dark Rebellion with his sharpened purple wings. Yuto had managed to lift himself and even glide a bit, just days ago, impressing his little brother enough to try to imitate him.

 

However, no matter how hard Yuya flapped with his arms, flight just wasn’t possible for a body without wings. The red scaled dragon was well aware of that and yet he still tried, now miserably lying on ground with tears threating to pour out. Luckily Reiji took him in his lap before it could happen, gently stroking his injury.

 

“Oh Yuya… you baby, when will you learn to listen? Flight is just something your body isn’t made for.” the hatchling buried his head underneath his guardian’s scarf, sobbing quietly “But I’m sure we will find a way for you to fly someday when you’re older.”

“Reiji is actually right Yuya.” Yusho said, gently petting hatchling’s head “There are many ways to use magic to help you fly, but you will need to get a little older before you can use it.”

 

The red scaled dragon instantly rejoiced at the information, chirping like a happy bird. Reiji let him on the ground and Yuya went to his brother again, jumping around like he was screaming he will fly like him someday. The guardians smiled at the dragons playing another game of tag while eating the rest of their breakfast. Once they finished and the hatchlings were back in their playroom, an old storage room that had been cleaned up and furnished with whatever the dragons considered as toys, Yusho got closer to his two apprentices.

 

“Tsukikage and Hikage have finally reached Fusion. Due to several conflicts between the spirit worlds of Pendulum they couldn’t travel there faster, so they had to travel there using their magic only. They have been searching for Leo’s headquarters, though it’s rather difficult since the Fusion kingdom has been veiled by several spells to conceal its actual appearance. In other words, Yuri and Yugo will be hard to find and even harder to get back.” Yusho said while holding onto the pulsing pendulum around his neck.

“Isn’t there anything we can do? If the other dragons are anything like Yuya and Yuto, they are extremely vulnerable in the states they are now.” the Pendulum mage couldn’t imagine his dragon being in the hands of a man who would treat him as a monster.

“What you can do is to look after your own dragons as best as you can. You’re safe here and as your dragons will grow you’ll have to be there with them, learning alongside them how to handle the powers they hold.” Yusho sighed, hating that he didn’t have a better answer.

“But what about the others? Yuto might’ve been lucky to hatch properly, but Yuya barely survived! What if the other two ended up much worse?” Shun clenched his fists, remembering all the times he saw Reiji taking care of the recovering dragon.

“Those are the things I have to clear up with Tsukikage, Hikage and whoever I manage to contact in order to help them. I know Yuri and Yugo are going through rough times, but if we over react we might only worsen the situation.” the green haired man gently put his hands on the young boys’ shoulders, trying to comfort them “I admire your concern, I really do. But right now you are far too young to face Leo. Study well and take care of your dragons and that is how you’ll do the most you can do for the other dragons as well. And let’s not forget it – both Yuri and Yugo have found their guardians, so they are not entirely alone.”

 

The two apprentices looked down, feeling useless and weak. True their magical abilities were beyond what the magic of mages their age would be, though that wasn’t enough for them. They wanted to do so much more, to be like all those brave heroes from the Dragon War time who headed into the battle without a second thought and helped exterminate the enemies with their powers.

 

The young hatchlings broke their train of thought when they raced back to the dining room. Yuya jumped directly into Reiji’s lap, his mouth holding a book from which a red ribbon was hanging, marking the page where his guardian had stopped reading it. Although the fire dragon enjoyed venturing through the Duel Lodge and playing with his brother, listening to Reiji’s loud reading was Yuya’s favorite pastime. There was something about the way the Pendulum mage read each sentence that made his ward relax and curiously listen to the stories, spells or merely Reiji’s old journal. Like many times before the silver haired boy took the little dragon in his arms and went to his usual spot in the room with statues. He made himself comfortable in the pile of cushions between the statues of the Dark Magician and the Dark Magician Girl, the statues that Yuya was especially fond of. It was probably due to the fact that those were the spirits from Pendulum, the true home of the fire dragon. With Yuya swiftly wrapping around Reiji’s neck like a second red scarf, the young guardian flipped the pages of the book until he found the bookmarked part and began to read about legendary spirits of the Pendulum.

 

Soon after the silver haired boy left, Yuto tugged on Shun’s coat, telling him he was ready for his learning activity as well. Before his wings were fully developed, he would mostly train his control over electricity. Not wanting to electrify his guardian in his sleep anymore, the purple scaled dragon trained hard in order to learn how to control his powers. By the help of weaker raidraptors sent by Shun, Yuto tried to take them down using lightning magic and therefore get to know how his powers worked. Ever since he had lifted himself off the ground for the first time, the flight training was included as well. It mostly consisted of strengthening his wings, observing the flight of the materialized raidraptors and gliding outside the Duel Lodge, where the mountain’s wind would provide the right environment for it. Occasionally Shun would materialize bigger spirits that would take him on their backs so Yuto could experience the flying first-hand.

 

Completely opposite to Yuya who acted like a typical child, Yuto turned out to be much more mature. Even the youngest of the dragons proved to be eager to follow his big brother’s footsteps as he too would at times join his training and try to learn more with him.

 

Yusho watched the young guardians strengthening their powers alongside the bonds they shared. The marks left by the spirits of the adult elemental dragons weren’t there just to label them as guardians, but to connect to their dragons’ hearts to their own hearts. It helped Reiji to understand what Yuya felt whenever he would get upset and helped Shun to know when Yuto’s electric powers were too much to him to handle. It also served as some sort of conductor of their unspoken communication, similar to telepathy except they didn’t hear each other’s thoughts but emotions.

 

“Teacher… we need to talk.”

 

The performer sorcerer silently left the room where Reiji, after being done with the story, was trying to encourage Yuya to practice fire magic. The man passed by the window from where he saw Yuto being blown to the high tree from which he had no idea how to get out of and Shun climbing up in order to get him down. After a few more steps through the hallway and Yusho entered a room which used to be Kazuma’s old study, now arranged to be his private room.

 

Ever since the dragons were reborn, the green haired man spent every possible free hour sorting out a plan to get the other two hatchlings back and prevent Leo from executing yet another mad plan. Sighing while observing his old notes, the ones from pre-war times, Yusho couldn’t brush away the fact that some of the writings belonged to Leo. Even though his own ideologies got the best of the ex-ruler of the Unified Kingdom, the man used to be a lot like Yusho. Curious, innovative and eager to change the world just like him in his younger days, Leo has certainly changed a lot. Now he was just a mere shadow of himself, blinded by his craving for a perfect Utopia and the desire to do anything and everything he could to achieve it. Yusho closed his eyes and while chanting a spell, called for his former apprentice.

 

“Zarc.” Yusho addressed him simply, the silver haired mage observing the half-untidy study.

“Teacher, how close are Tsukikage and Hikage?” Zarc asked after some time.

“The last time I heard from them, they found out that children of the Fusion Kingdom are being sent to Academia, a school that teaches them magic, from the age of five. There’s no doubts the school is Leo’s doing since he always insisted on lowering the age restrictions on the several schools he had founded… “...but whatever he plans to do with those children must be part of his plans to create a new Utopia.” the man said.

“I see…” the former apprentice sighed, looking down “No sign of getting close to Yuri and Yugo then.”

“They’re trying to find the mages who survived the Dragon War, the ones chosen by the spirits. The last I heard of them, they went their own ways, but I’m certain they’ve found out about Academia and are fighting back.” Yusho tried to get Zarc to listen to him since the silver haired man has been down ever since there was no news about the kidnapped hatchlings “We will get them back.”

“But how much longer will it take? Yuri has always been the troubled one and in an environment where he is treated like a monster, it will only get worse as he grows up. Even with his brothers and me around, his aggressiveness was already hard to control. And Yugo… he would always act before he would think. Should his recklessness progress during his growth, there’s no telling how he will be able to handle his power once he’s older. Not to mention Leo’s forced hatching will make them grow much more rapidly than they should… he took away their chance to experience childhood as newly reincarnated dragons …” the former apprentice hardly held himself from another breakdown “I just want them back… my little ones…”

“Believe me Zarc I’m doing whatever I can to locate them. If I could, I would head for the Fusion Kingdom right away, but I can’t leave Reiji and Shun behind. They’re only ten, far too young to be left alone and they need me to guide them to become the right guardians.” Yusho assured his former apprentice who made a slight nod “Have faith in Tsukikage and Hikage. They will find a way to bring them back.”

 

For a while the teacher and his apprentice just stared into various directions as they both couldn’t handle any eye contact. Then Zarc reverted back into the pendulum by himself since he didn’t have any more to say and Yusho buried himself into his planning again. He would only stop when he heard the young mages call him for lunchtime.

 

 

….

 

 

 

“Alright, it’s clear.” the green haired girl whispered when sneaking out of her room with a huge backpack on her shoulders.

 

It was an early morning, still dark though the sun rays were already peeking out. Slowly she walked down the hallway, hoping that the wooden floor wouldn’t give away her position with its creaking. Even though she had done it numerous times before, she was still afraid she would get busted. Just a little more and she will be out, no longer needing to hide.

 

“Rin?” the girl nearly jumped at the sound of her own name.

“Hey dad!” she grinned childishly while gripping her backpack.

“What are you doing so early in the morning? The sun hasn’t even risen yet.” the man yawned sleepily.

“Eh… well…” Rin anxiously tried to think of a logical answer with no avail.

“In fact, you’ve been leaving the house during the same time for weeks now. Is there something I should know? Anything related to the amount of fish you keep brining?” her father gave the backpack a suspicious look when he thought it moved by itself.

“I... well… the truth is.” the girl almost started sweating before finally thinking of a response “I’ve been trying to improve my fishing skills.”

“Oh honey, if you need any help just ask, I know a lot about fishing.” the man smiled as he ruffled her hair.

“Yeah, but I want to learn by myself! And there aren’t a lot of fishermen at this hour.” Rin said determinedly.

“Well, I’m glad to see my little girl is all grown up then.” her father opened the door for her “But if something’s really troubling you, we are always here to talk.”

 

Rin only put on another of her childish smiles as she raced out of the house, waving back before disappearing in the forest.

 

“Is she going again?” Rin’s mother walked from the bedroom.

“Yes, going on the same path again and she will probably not return until dinnertime.” he scratched the back of his neck in though “Should we be concerned? She said she’s practicing fishing and she also told you she’s gathering herbs like she usually does.”

“She does bring lots of fish and herbs every time she returns though, so she’s certainly telling at least a bit of the truth.” the woman headed to the table where packages of medicine were waiting to be distributed “Let Rin learn on her own if she wants so herself, she is really bright for her age after all.”

“If you say so… but I still think something must be off…” the man muttered.

 

 

 

Once she was further from the village, Rin finally relaxed and set the backpack on the ground. With not a living soul anywhere near her, except for the forest animals, the young guardian started undoing the belts and ropes that prevented the backpack from opening. With the last rope undone, the head of the white scaled dragon peeked out immediately, whining from the discomfort of being cramped in such tiny space.

 

“I’m sorry Yugo, but I just can’t let my parents see you yet.” Rin apologized while helping her ward out of the bag as he stretched his all too sensitive wings.

 

The little dragon set his wings up and headed straight for the small bay, diving deep into the refreshing sea water. In a matter of minutes he was back, gnawing at the fish almost as big as him. Then he dragged his prey to the bushy tree line that hid the bay from anyone who would get too close. Rin politely declined the fish’s bitten off head brought to her by Yugo as she stared at her bracelet and the dragon mark of a wing, wondering just what kind of powers they both held.

Ever since Yugo hatched and recovered by the next day thanks to her bracelet, Rin has been thinking more and more of what she was supposed to do. For now she’s been only caring for her ward, making sure he was healthy, had enough to eat and sleep comfortably. These basic tasks were already harder than she had expected them to be.

 

From the first day it was clear that Yugo hated any kind of heat, so she had to learn how to cool him down before he would throw a hissy fit or even become sick again. Luckily the bracelet seemed to respond to her well and she managed to learn some basic ice magic rather fast. The second problem turned up when Yugo’s stomach rumbled. Since Rin’s family was rather poor there wasn’t much food for him and a dragon’s appetite was anything but small. The little food that the girl managed to scrape without her parents’ notice just wasn’t enough for a highly active dragon. With no other choice, Rin secretly started fishing in the nearby coast that she knew was hidden for her to bring Yugo along.

 

But no matter how much she tried to copy her father’s fishing, she barely caught anything, a few smaller fishes at most which was way too little for a growing dragon. However what she failed to notice was that Yugo watched her like a hawk, studying how she tried to attract fishes with bait, how patiently she waited for the right moment and how swiftly she pulled out the fish she caught. Yugo didn’t need long to learn all the basics and with the help of his swift serpent-like body, his wings that he used instead of fins and his sharp teeth, the little dragon succeeded in providing for his own food. So Rin took him fishing when it was still dark when fishermen wouldn’t be up yet and in truth, the bay didn’t have much fish to begin with, though Yugo proved they just hid behind the rocks. With time, the clear winged dragon completely mastered the art of fishing and in a matter of days he had started to catch so much fish that he couldn’t eat them all, even with the bottomless pit known as his stomach. Rin therefore started bringing his catch home, surprising her family and making up explanations on how could have a five-year old possibly had such successful hunt.

 

With Yugo’s hunger taken care of, Rin focused on training her powers. At first she had been repeating the same magic that healed her dragon, a simple yet useful blizzard spell with which she could freeze smaller puddles on the coast. Then she discovered the powers of the breeze which came in handy whenever Yugo try to build up air underneath his wings. He had managed to learn how to fly by himself, though the extra winds helped him discover new tricks and other ways to fly.

 

Though the real problem was with Yugo’s size. It was easy to keep him hidden at first, either under her pillow, in her closet or in the backpack she used to sneak him to the bay. But with him getting a decent meal each day, Yugo grew rather fast, barely fitting into any of the hiding places. Rin tried building him a nest right here by the bay where it was pleasantly cold, the sea had enough fish and a nearby stream provided drinking water. The place was also hard to reach for adults since it was surrounded by thorny bushes that were tricky to get through, unless you were small enough to avoid them. The plan nearly worked out, Yugo loved the little hideout made of rocks and furnished with soft hay, that she had “borrowed” from her neighbor’s farm, and when she got him to sleep there, Rin was about to sneak back to her family and return before he could find out she was gone since he would only wake up if she would stroke his head. However, she didn’t make more than ten steps before Yugo was already behind her, his bright blue eyes full of tears and looking like he had just been betrayed. His screeches of sadness nearly made her ears bleed from all the noise that the little creature could produce and despite her head hurting, Rin quickly took him into her arms, trying to calm him down before the dragon would let entire the village know of his presence.

 

“Shhh, I’m sorry! You can still sleep in my room, but soon you will be too big and I have no idea how to explain this to my parents!” she held the whining creature to her chest, hoping her voice will do the trick “I would never leave you. It’s just…”

 

Rin didn’t have the heart to tell him it was because he was a dragon as it was not his fault he was born this way. If he were a human, she could make up something, but with him being a creature from fairytales… she just didn’t know what to say. The mysterious bracelet was hard enough to take in by itself, but with an additional dragon mark and an actual dragon… boy would her parents get confused. After attempting once to leave Yugo outside, Rin didn’t try it anymore, though she kept the nest as a place where her ward could take a nap after some tiresome fishing or training. The green haired girl had a few more weeks at most to figure out what to do with him before his size became impossible to hide and by the looks of it Yugo, knew it too as he tried to help her in some way, even going as far as staying in the nest on his own. His body however reacted fast and he became almost weaker if he was separated from her for too long.

 

The girl’s thoughts were interrupted by growling. It was unusual for Yugo to act aggressive out of nothing, so she turned around to see what made him act this way. A half-eaten fish was lying at the edge of the coast as Yugo went into a position ready to attack, his wings pointing threateningly into the direction where the threat was coming from. Even Rin prepared her bracelet to fight with it if needed, but before fighting she wanted to see just what Yugo considered as dangerous.

 

Slightly bigger than the hatchling was what appeared to be an incredibly huge and slightly chubby seagull whose feathers were white with the exception of its head and the edges of its wings which were black. Despite all the growling from Yugo, the bird didn’t seem to mean any harm and only flew to higher ground where it began to fix its feathers before the dragon tried to bite it. Angry at his opponent flying away just like that pissed him off and Yugo went after it with his mouth opened wide, each time the dragon attacked the seagull dodged fast, even gracefully, like the hatchling was a mere fly to him. The dragon’s scales turned darker from his increasing annoyance at the seagull’s disregard of him and stopped only after Rin pulled at his long tail.

 

“Geez, let the birdie be, it won’t hurt us.” the girl mumbled when pulling the still fidgeting dragon into her arms “And look it’s flying away on its own, you probably scared the poor thing.”

 

Yugo attempted to break out of her hold till the seagull was no longer in sight, and then reverted back to his usual energetic self. Still eager to chase something, the hatchling dived back into the bay, probably to catch something else besides fish. It wouldn’t be the first time he would bring other edible sea creatures or even random objects he found interesting. While the dragon had his own fun underwater; Rin stared into the direction in which the seagull flew. The bird was rather strange now that she was thinking about it. Besides its unusually big size and strangely colored feathers, the seagull flew towards the mainland and not to the cliffs or the open sea where all seaside birds would usually go. Just what was up with that seagull?

 

Unknown to her, the said seagull was already deep in the mainland, using whirlwinds to make itself faster. For a while it flew solo, though soon enough another strange bird joined him in the air. This bird looked different, its body looking more humanoid and the majority of its feathers were a violet color. It didn’t have much of a beak, but it did have eyes bigger than normal and some additional green colored wings on its head. As the two mysterious birds flew together, they quietly chirped something to each other and as soon as they were done, they separated. The seagull went back to where it came from, while the other bird headed deeper into the mainland.

 

The violet bird flew for hours, not stopping for one bit. It didn’t feel tired, in fact it didn’t feel a thing. The bird was just travelling towards its goal until it started to approach its destination. It was no longer flying above villages and wastelands of the Common area, but was now getting higher to avoid the high buildings of the Tops area. This place was a complete opposite to the quiet Commons since the noisy Tops were always busy with something, not necessarily work related. After all, the richer and more powerful part of the divided society led much more luxurious lives, heavily relaying on the city’s systems of mechanisms run by the Commons that provided them with everything they needed. Since the poor citizens rebelled far too many times, the capital New Domino had its own elite bureau called Security, full of highly trained mage-knights that took care of any criminal activity in the bigger cities. Besides the great knowledge of magic, they were also capable of summoning magical creatures similar to spirits that made them even more unstoppable against the Commons, whose percentage of people with magical powers was quite low.

 

The bird avoided the towers of the Duel Palace, the castle like building which was built the highest in New Domino, acting as the center of the entire town. But that’s not where it was flying to. No, the winged creature passed the jewel of the city in order to head to the norther part of it. There were some buildings though they were much less dense than the rest of the capital. The more it flew, less of them there were in sight until there were just forests. Not just forests though as the bird went lower and began to glow.

 

A neon green light surrounded the bird when something in a similar color appeared in front of it. The bird chirped a specific melody as the light disappeared, revealing a red wall with a small entrance. As soon as it was on the other side of the red wall, the hole closed and the invisible shield made it look like a normal forest from the outside. But what the passers-by failed to see was that the shield hid much more than just a huge clearing.

 

Behind it was a mansion surrounded by a beautiful garden full of various flowers being tended to by a mage in a red and black dress. She was carefully pruning the flower bed full of roses with the help of a plant spirits. There was also a lake by which two kids were practicing magic. A lion spirit watched over them as the younger mage sent a weird mechanism-like spirit towards the other mage who defended themselves with a spell and called for a unicorn spirit. The bird dodged the stray spells, the kids apologized for not seeing it and returned to their battle. After a few more flaps with its wings it reached the balcony where another mage was standing, his orange hair nearly as spiky and fluffy as his personality.

 

“Good to see you Gale, had a nice flight?” the mage smiled, extending his arm for the bird to land on “Any news from Blizzard?”

 

The orange haired boy listened to the continuous chirping while making mental notes of what to do next. Gale, the violet bird was nearly done with its report when person whose hair was black with golden stripes approached him, holding a pile of mechanical parts and tools. He was about to ask him about the news when the owner of the bird dropped his jaw.

 

“Crow? What’s wrong?” the person asked confused.

“According to Blizzard… one of the elemental dragons has hatched and is currently in the most southern part of Synchro Kingdom…” Crow could hardly talk from the unexpected news.

“That’s impossible… they weren’t expected to hatch for months if not a year…” the other mage nearly dropped his tools “Which one?”

“The very protector of the

Synchro Kingdom, Clear Wing… and Yusei… that’s not even the crazy part.” the orange haired mage mingled with his fingers making Gale disappear.

“There’s more?” Yusei’s eyes grew wide from surprise.

“Yeah… though I hardly believe it myself… you should call the others for a meeting…” Crow shook his head, not sure how to say it, but he took a deep breath and said it slightly too loud.

 

“Blizzard saw Ray… she’s alive.”

 

 

 

 

 

It was a late afternoon though it was still bright due to it being the middle of the summer. Shun was taking Yuto on another flight around the mountains on his Rise Falcon so the hatchling could study the flying up close. The lightning dragon enjoyed the cold breeze the flying brought while trying to memorize how the giant bird caught the wind in its feathers without flapping. They made a few more rounds around the mountain tops until Shun concluded it was enough for today and he whispered to the Rise Falcon to turn back. The bird obliged, slowly making a turn when all of sudden something passed right in front of them. Yuto squeaked from surprise, though he quickly straightened his wings, fully prepared to defend himself if needed as well as his guardian who nudged to his bird to be ready.

 

Then the same presence passed them one more time, this time more slowly since before it was just studying them. Now it was right in front of them, its wings spread and tail waving uncontrollably. But instead of fighting, Shun merely smiled.

 

 

 

 

It was getting late, like late for dinner late and the XYZ mage still wasn’t back. Reiji was getting a bit worried for the fellow guardian despite knowing he was a tough guy. He was still a child after all, though Yuya nuzzling against his face calmed him down a bit. The fire dragon was at his favorite place, his guardian’s neck, which was a good way of resting and keeping up with what was going on at the same time, especially after all the training they did that day. The Pendulum mage headed outside to wait for Shun when he heard a bit too many wings flapping in the distance.

 

Thinking they could be under attack, Reiji quickly grabbed his spell book, though he dropped it once he realized one of the fliers was the XYZ mage. Shun landed at the footing of the stone stairs, that connected Heartland with the Duel Lodge, as Yuto got on his back, still fidgeting due to the presence next to them. It was indeed another dragon, but unlike Yuya or Yuto this one was full size and its body glowed in neon colors. Reiji needed some time before he recognized it as the legendary Galaxy Eyes and if he was here with Shun that could only mean…

 

“Reiji, I want you to introduce you to my friend Kaito. It’s thanks to him that I’ve reached the Pendulum Kingdom.” Shun pointed towards the dragon that slowly began to shrink until a boy with pointy blond hair was there, greeting the silver haired mage with a smile.

“It’s an honor to meet one of the legendary mages chosen by the spirits.” Reiji shook hands with Kaito a bit nervously “I really appreciate everything you did during the Dragon War.”

“Please, the pleasure is all mine. The war was merely a result of the teamwork of a lot of brave mages. I was just part of the team.” the blond haired mage chuckled “I should congratulate you for having been given the role of a dragon guardian. You will surely have your hands full.”

 

Reiji smiled at Kaito’s praise while Yuya curiously observed the stranger in front of him. Yuto didn’t have too much trouble with the newcomer while the other hatchling flinched when Kaito got a bit too close to him, wincing to his guardian who only took him into his arms.

 

“Yuya it’s alright, he won’t hurt you.” the silver haired boy petted his head.

 

Encouraged by Reiji, the hatchling gathered the courage to extend his neck out of the safety of his guardian’s arms so the unknown XYZ mage could stroke his head. Yuya kept his discolored eyes closed at first, but once a gentle touch was all he felt, he let out his own version of purring.

 

“It’s funny to see them being all little again, though I don’t recall Odd Eyes being so shy. He would usually be eager to meet new people.” Kaito said as he turned towards Shun and Yuto holding onto his shoulders “Dark Rebellion is the same as ever though.”

 

Yuto hissed since he didn’t know that was a compliment, Shun chuckled at his reaction.

 

“So you actually saw the elemental dragons? As their adult forms? How big will they grow?” Reiji showered the Galaxy Eyes tamer with questions.

“Big enough for you to ride them.” the blond haired mage replied “And yes I remember them all from the pre-War times. Since the moment they hatched they were the one thing the whole Unified Kingdom ever talked about. Their guardian however was very protective of them and would let only certain people see them, let alone touch them, though he did bring them in the capital few times per year for various ceremonies.”

“Wait if you saw the pre-War times and the Dragon War… how old are you exactly?” only now did Shun think about this. Ever since he was taken in by Kaito and his family, the teal haired boy simply assumed that the blond haired mage was a couple of years older than him and due to his short size his age was hard to tell. He knew about his role as the Galaxy Eyes tamer, heck he was the one to inspire him to help others in the Spirit Worlds Wars. But the fact that he was also involved with the Dragon War…

 

“I’m sorry I’ve never told you everything, but anything elemental dragons related was to be kept secret from common people. Now that you’ve become a guardian I think it’s time for you to know the truth.” Kaito sighed as the two dragon guardians awaited the answer to a confusing question.

“You don’t mean…?” Reiji said his thoughts out loud.

“The spirits need a vessel in order to freely leave their world and visit the four separated kingdoms. So they need a reliable and strong person to carry them. And to make sure it’s the right one, they give it some of their power in order to keep it in the right state.” the blond haired mage said, leaving the other two mages open-mouthed.

“You’re immortal?!” Shun said shocked which actually made Kaito chuckle.

“Goodness no, I just don’t age. My body hasn’t changed since the day the spirit of Galaxy Eyes choose me to be his vessel. It’s easier for spirits to live in the hosts that don’t change.” Kaito said with a smile “So to answer your question… physically I’m 14, but mentally… let’s just say it’s way more.”

 

The duo of guardians still had their eyes widened from surprise when Yuto tugged onto Shun’s coat. The teal haired boy looked up to where his dragon was pointing, seeing what appeared to be a shooting star. Yuya’s eyes followed it too, until it was apparent it wasn’t a regular one. Shooting stars don’t just glow in a mixture of neon colors and they don’t yell either. However that was just what was happening right now. Shun, Reiji and Kaito luckily moved away before the incredibly fast, whatever it was landed exactly where they just were seconds ago. The supposed shooting star landed with a big crash, dirt and a cloud of dust were flying everywhere.

 

Once the dust dispersed, the group of mages noticed a person on the ground, wearing a white and red armor, trying to pick himself up. His hair was really spiky and even though a great pile of dust was covering him, it was visible that his hair was a golden color, just like some parts of his armor, except for his bangs which were red. As he slowly got up, Reiji noticed that a part of armor on his back looked like folded wings made of metal plates.

 

“Next time we’re walking!” he shouted, though not at the others but at himself “We have to keep strengthening up our forms Yuma. It was a great opportunity to practice.”

“But they are meant for battles!”

“Considering your reaction when we got the news, it sounded as if we were heading to a battle.”

“That’s what I’ve been telling you!”

 

The knight looking person continued to bicker with himself until he began to glow again, this time in red and blue. Once the mysterious aura faded, two boys were there instead of one, still having what appeared to be a casual argument with each other.

 

“It’s your fault we crash landed! I’m not fully used to the wings yet!” a boy with black hair and red bangs, wearing a simple toga and sandals shouted at the other boy.

“Before we departed you said you had no problem with flying.” the other boy whose body was engulfed in a blue and white glow said.

“I wouldn’t if you didn’t go so fast!” the first boy said in annoyance.

“You said we should get to the Duel Lodge as fast as we possibly can and that’s exactly what we did. I fail to see what the problem here was.” the glowing boy said like he was thinking about it.

 “Not literally! We should… you know just forget it!” the black haired boy gave up, though he wouldn’t stop glaring at the other person.

 

“Still arguing like a married couple I see.” Kaito smirked, making the duo blush in embarrassment and instantly turn away from each other.

 

“We are not!” the black haired boy shouted, still blushing.

“Well Yuma he’s not that wrong, married people do…” the other boy said cross armed.

“Oh, shut up Astral!” he shouted towards the person he was arguing with, who was far too busy to observe the group of people he hadn’t seen before.

 

The dragons curiously stared at the odd duo, now realizing how different they were from each other. Unlike their guardians, Kaito and the boy named Yuma, the person with the name Astral wasn’t actually standing but floating in midair. Yuto got a bit confused how he was in the air without flapping so he just got off Shun’s shoulders and went to check it out for himself.

 

Once the lightning dragon was close enough, Astral noticed him too, exchanging an equally curious look towards him. The hatchling tried to touch the mysterious glowing boy but he simply went through him, like his body was transparent. While Yuto studied the mysterious being, Yuma finally calmed down and with a cheerful smile greeted the group.

 

“Sorry to just ignore you! My name is Yuma and the grumpy one is Astral! We’ve just arrived all the way from the Astral World, right after hearing the good news.” the young mage shook the guardians’ hands “Kaito said that the elemental dragons are well enough to visit! So where are they?”

 

Shun and Reiji gave each other puzzled looks since Yuya was literally in front of him and Yuto wasn’t that far off, still trying to figure out what Astral was.

 

“I think we already met them.” Astral mumbled when Yuto began to fly around him.

“What do you know, Mr. Genius?” Yuma pouted at his companion, though he quickly reverted back to his cheery self.

“Eh… so you’re the Yuma and Astral that Kaito talked about so much?” Shun finally got a word in after a seemingly endless dialogue of the two strange mages.

“You know them?” Reiji asked, still staring at the toga dressed boy.

“I’ve never met them, but Kaito mentioned that whenever he travelled to the Astral World, those two would help him out with various tasks in the spirit worlds. I didn’t expect they’ll be so…” the XYZ mage said, Yuma interrupting him before he could finish.

“Awesome? Strong? Epic?” the black haired boy puffed his nonexistent broad shoulders “No need to flatter us!”

“I meant childish…” Shun whispered quietly enough for Yuma not to hear.

“Well anyway, Yuya is right here.” Reiji said to change the topic, pointing at his dragon who was now in his hands.

 

The black haired mage curiously eyed the red scaled dragon who shyly hid behind the scarf, a bit scared of the overly enthusiastic Yuma.

 

“They’re… that small?” Yuma looked at Yuya and then at Yuto who just discovered a fun game, jumping through Astral’s transparent body.

“Considering they hatched just few weeks ago, yes.” Kaito smirked “Did you come alone?”

“Well I’ve invited the Arclight brothers, but they’re all currently visiting their dad in the Pendulum Kingdom. Then I’ve tried to contact Shark, but he wasn’t sure if he can come or not since Durbe insists on him staying in the Barian World due to Astral people trying to murder him and…” Yuma thought loudly, not noticing another person appearing behind him.

“So you have that little faith in me?” a deep voice behind him asked.

 

Yuma instantly turned around, face to face with a purple haired boy his age who also wore a toga, and also had a golden armor and an azure cape over it.

 

“Shark!” the black haired boy exclaimed as he jumped at his friend into bone-crushing hug.

“You have exactly three seconds to get off or I swear you’re going to re-experience that crash landing without your armor.” Shark growled at which Yuma immediately let go.

 

Yuto got tired of playing with Astral when he noticed another newcomer. His serious look and dark features literally sparked him with interest as he got to said boy, curiously sniffing him. Shark unexpectedly formed a smile as he took the lighting dragon in his arms, Yuto not minding one bit.

 

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen you, but you’re still the same little rebel as before.” the Barian stroked his back, Yuto snuggling to his touch.

“Not fair! Odd Eyes hid away from me!” Yuma grumbled since Yuya still wouldn’t leave the shelter that was Reiji’s scarf.

“That’s because you’re a noisy brat.” Shark muttered as he let Yuto wrap himself around his shoulders.

“Am not!” Yuma’s face turned red from anger which only scared Yuya more.

“Yuma, the hatchlings are usually very timid in their first weeks of life. Why don’t you try to be gentler and show you don’t mean any harm? Odd Eyes might therefore be more trusting of you.” Astral appeared next to him, suggesting that plan.

 

At first Yuma was ready to ignore him like always but then he thought about an idea and only grinned to his companion. Quietly chanting, his hands were surrounded by orange and yellow aura and once he clasped them together, a creature around the same size as Yuya appeared in Yuma’s hands. Unlike the hatchling, this one had orange fur covered by black stripes except on its belly and face. It also had a pair of huge ears that were crimson on the inside, in the same shade as its eyes. Like Yuya it also appeared to be very shy since it also nuzzled against Yuma’s chest like it was saying to not let him go. But that’s exactly what the black haired mage did. He crunched down and let the fluffy creature on the soft grass to distract it by making it explore the unfamiliar place while he nudged Reiji to do the same.

 

The silver haired mage understood what Yuma was planning, so he put Yuya on the ground too despite the dragon’s whines. The fire dragon tried to get back to Reiji, tugging onto his clothes and screeching like a newborn bird, but even though his guardian had every urge to just pick him up, he left him on the ground. Yuya wept some more until he finally saw another creature near him that did exactly the same. Curious and willing to be near anything he considered friendly, the odd eyed dragon eventually got closer to it, sniffing it suspiciously. The creature winced and retreated back to Yuma who only gently encouraged it to give the hatchling a chance.

 

“Come on Baby Toragon, Odd Eyes is harmless and is in fact a lot like you.”  Yuma smiled, nudging the fluffy dragon to meet the red scaled dragon whose curiosity led him to forget how scared he was.

 

Baby Toragon eventually got closer, letting Yuya examine him. The dragon with mismatched eyes then nuzzled his head against Baby Toragon’s fur, enjoying its softness. The fluffy dragon finally relaxed and began to play with the new friend, forgetting all about how uncertain he was. Soon Yuma joined their playing around too, Yuya also welcoming him as a new friend all while Astral watched over them.

 

“Observation number 445. Young ones appear to be able to be afraid of anything, but once they begin to play they forget all about the fear.” Astral mumbled as he noted down another of his observations.

 

While Reiji watched his dragon finally opening up to others, Shun went to Shark, smiling at the fact that Yuto also found someone he trusted besides him.

 

“I see Yuto has taken a quite liking to you… Shark is it? Kaito told me about you as his friend from the Barian world and you must have some kind of an aura he finds pleasant since he is usually awkward around Reiji and Yusho, but not with me or Yuya.” Shun saw the lighting dragon play with Shark’s long hair.

“Well, if anything I owe my life to this little guy. He has saved me and my sister after all.” Shark blushed when Yuto licked his cheek.

“He did? So you were involved in the Dragon War too?” the teal haired boy’s eyes widened at yet another new information.

“I wish I wasn’t, but yet I was. I fought alongside Yuma, Astral and Kaito, to protect the spirit worlds at first and then the whole Unified Kingdom, once all hell broke loose. It was tough, but we pulled through.” the Barian petted Yuto’s head “Me and my twin sister once found ourselves falling off a cliff and thought that was it, but Dark Rebellion caught us just before we hit rock bottom.”

“I see.” Shun proudly looked at his little ward, now tugging at the huge lily shaped pendant that Shark wore around his neck “Mind if I ask… were you the one who provided the Barian crystals that helped Yuya heal up?”

“Like I said, I owe this little one my life and if a couple of crystals decide between his brother’s recovery and being comatose, then I shall provide them.” Shark picked Yuto off his shoulders to pamper him in his arms.

 

Shun and Shark afterwards exchanged some more words with Kaito joining soon too, the teal haired boy got to know another XYZ mage while learning more about their involvement in the Dragon War. Shark was also impressed by Shun’s dragon mark, adoring the electrifying shade of purple and the symbol of lightning that looked more like a piece of art. Reiji and Astral stroke up a conversation too, mostly about the spirit worlds and the unique magic of the XYZ Kingdom, all while Yuma played with Yuya and Baby Toragon.

 

 

While the young mages were spending their time outside, Yusho watched them through the window. He smiled at how quickly his apprentices became friends with more mages and knowing it will be a while before they were done, he set the dinner to cool off so it could be reheated later. Moving away the pot with soup, he reached for the pot with steaming tea, pouring it into another mug besides his own.

 

“It’s hard to believe it has been five years already. You look good for someone who’s been living in the Astral World all this time, Kazuma.” Yusho took a seat next to a man who looked a lot like him except for different travelling clothes and a more built up physique.

“I could say the same thing about you Yusho and you’ve been travelling everywhere. I envy you actually.” Kazuma took a sip of his tea “The spirit worlds might be at peace right now, but it’s only a question of time before one of them will snap and cause yet another war.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t happen then.” the Performer Sorcerer observed a little round creature with big eyes and many colors on its body known as Rainbow Kuriboh, which was floating around. It was thanks to it, that Kazuma reached the XYZ Kingdom from the Astral World.

“Indeed we do. I hate to see Yuma going through all of this again.” the man watched how his son tried to catch Yuya who dodged away fast while screeching in amusement “He can pull through a regular war, but for something bigger… I’m afraid of just how much his frail soul can take.”

“He is a tough kid Kazuma, have faith in him.” Yusho set few maps of the kingdoms on the table.

“I know, but he is not like Astral who has witnessed thousands of wars through time, between humans and spirits, and stayed neutral about them. Yuma is the emotion that Astral pushed away and while he can continue with his eternal task on his own, Yuma can barely function without Astral.” the man said, pushing his mug back and forth to cease his nervousness “I’ve erased his memories so many times that I’ve lost count… some father I am…”

“Kazuma, you did it so Yuma could continue fighting alongside Astral which was always his wish. And if you had left him be as he was after the Dragon War had ended, he could have never picked himself up. Trust me, your son is getting stronger and soon he will be able to live with the painful memories.” Yusho patted his shoulder in support “So what exactly did you want to talk about?”

 

Kazuma reached for his backpack from which he pulled another map and a broken piece of a Barian crystal.  At first the performer sorcerer thought it was one of the regular ones, but once he noticed its dark shade and blackish substance sticking to it, he knew it was a specific one.

“A friend of Shark, or should I say Emperor Nash, secretly delivered me this last night and so far only the Emperors are aware of it.” Kazuma took a big breath before he continued.

 

“Someone has broken into the shrine of Don Thousand and stole the crystal used to communicate with him. Numbers are searching for the culprit, but considering this trail…” the man pointed at the sticky looking substance.

“Black Mist…” Yusho gasped at which Kazuma only nodded.

 

 

 

 

The sea seemed calm, though the winds were blowing quite strong as the two mages hopped off Sapphire Pegasus. Johan recalled his Crystal Beast while Judai checked if the island they landed on was the right one. It looked similar to the one where they’ve been recovering on for the past few weeks, empty and hardly populated. But the specific shape of rocks at the entrance of the cave told him otherwise, fully knowing that was the hideout Manjome was telling him about.

 

“Are you sure that’s the hideout of the Resistance?” Johan questionably scratched his head.

“If there’s a clumsy attempt of the XYZ Dragon Cannon sculpture made out of rocks, Manjome mustn’t be far.” Judai chuckled as he sent his Winged Kuriboh ahead in order to announce their arrival. 

 

Soon the furry creature was back, accompanied by a mage with spiky black hair wearing a long black cloak that fluttered majestically in the sea breeze. The brunet mage was about to say hi when the black haired boy gave him a decent smack on his head.

 

“Gee, what was that for Jun? I know that you don’t like me, but hitting me instead of saying hello…” Judai winced as he cradled a growing bump on his head.

“You moron! You said you had Yubel with you, not with Johan! Do you have any idea how much trouble you gave me by not letting me know if you go out or not? Asuka nearly strangled me for running away!” Manjome barked at the fellow Fusion mage about the last time they saw each other.

“So Jun also wasn’t okay with it…” Johan sighed as he went to his friend “You’ll be the death of us Judai.”

“Sorry…” the brunet mage mumbled as he followed Manjome inside.

 

The black haired mage chanted the passwords and spells that opened various passages until they were deep underground. They walked in silence, except for Manjome’s usage of spells until they reached the final entrance that he opened with the summoning of a spirit. A small yellow creature with eyes on its tentacles appeared, looking happy to see its master.

 

“Boss! You’re back! It’s been a while since you left to wait for your friends you were so worried about at the gate!” the spirit blabbered before releasing the final security measure.

“Shut it Yellow and just open the freaking doors.” Manjome shouted, which made the creature quiet instantly as it opened the door.

 

Once they entered, Judai and Johan found themselves in a huge hallway, walls covered by fading engravings of spirit worlds. There were several stone doors, each leading to rooms from where the shouting of spells and attacks were heard.

 

“Here are the training rooms, where orphaned Fusion mages and Academia’s students who escaped keep their strength up. Up ahead are the resting quarters and we’re going on the left.” the black haired boy led them to another bigger room where mages from as young as five up to late teenage years were waiting in line for food.

 

Most of the kids still wore their Academia uniforms which probably meant they’ve arrived here only recently. Others mostly wore worn out clothes since it was likely that was all that the Resistance could currently afford. Another thing that could be spotted was also the fact that all older mages and the ones whose clothes were suited for combat wore red ribbons around their upper arms, like the sign of a warrior. Manjome was about to show them to another door when a blond haired mage in a white and blue short dress instantly ran to them the second she saw them.

 

“Judai!” she shouted when throwing her arms around him “I was so worried when Manjome told me you were captured! Thank Gods, Johan got you out of that freak’s claws!”

“I’m sorry to worry you Asuka.” the brunet mage returned the hug “So you and Jun managed to form such a big group of mages to fight Leo?”

“Well we needed months before the Resistance was formed. Ex-Academia students are quite afraid to fight against their former principal and there aren’t many Pendulum mages here to back us up.” Asuka said while nudging to one of the food servers that she will be away for a while.

“We managed to contact Edo though, but he will need a while before he gets here from the Pendulum kingdom. Ever since we broke into Academia, Leo keeps tight control around the island.” Manjome continued to lead them through another hallway until they reached a room full of papers and a giant flat rock meant to be a black board “We will need all the help that we can get, especially now that Leo has one of the elemental dragons.”

“Wait, one? He didn’t get all of them?” Judai blinked in confusion.

“From what our spy told us, he only got the Fusion dragon, Starve Venom. The others seemed to be still safe from him.” Asuka said pointing at one of the reports.

“That’s a relief…” Johan relaxed though he straightened up fast “But if he has the very protector of the Fusion Kingdom that means…”

“Trouble.” Manjome finished the sentence “Which is why we have to gather up a decent army and strike that sucker down before the dragon is big enough to wreck chaos under his command.”

 

Judai and Johan nodded at the new information when a tiny pink haired girl like spirit appeared next to Asuka, whispering something to her ear. The blond haired mage nodded and the spirit disappeared in the blink of an eye.

 

“More runaway students were spotted at two different locations. One of our comrades is already on the way to pick some of them up, but we should help for the others.” she took the map of all the nearby islands “Couple of rather young ones are somewhere here while some of the older ones are here.”

“We will need to split up then…” Manjome thought loud “Me and Asuka we’ll head to pick up the younger group, you two can back up our comrade.”

“On it!” Judai and Johan said at once, listening to their friend for a more detail description.

 

In a matter of minutes they were already out, Manjome flying on one of his dragon spirits while Asuka wore some kind of an armor with wings and followed him. Johan called for his Sapphire Pegasus and offered Judai to ride it with him, which thebrunet mage politely declined and rather whispered something. As fast as Yubel heard his call, she instantly fused with him, turning him into a demon-looking mage. Judai’s eyes became heterochromatic, his hair became darker and most of all two bat-like wings sprouted from his back.

 

“It’s been a while since I’ve used this form, but if we have a battle coming up I better get back in shape.” Judai grinned as he set his wings up to join Johan who was already in the air.

 

The location that Manjome send them to, wasn’t far, though it was at a rather dangerous part of the complex of the islands. If they didn’t pay attention to what was hiding in the fog they could easily hit sea reefs. Luckily their connections to the spirits provided them with good eye sight and senses so they could avoid the danger until they finally arrived to the small island.

 

Johan called off Sapphire Pegasus and summoned Ruby to search through the island better. Judai remained in his fused form in order to rely on his improved senses, searching for the runaway students or the comrade they were supposed to meet up with. The blue haired mage called for them few times, which creepily echoed through the reefs. Judai was going to fly higher to see better when an echo belonging to at least two people responded.

 

Assuming those were the students, though they sounded older than they expected, the Fusion mages duo followed their voices until they reached a less foggy part of the island. There they spotted two figures, so Judai and Johan were about to greet them when they noticed something off about them. From what Asuka told them, the majority of Academia’s runaways were found wearing its uniforms, similar to the ones that Judai and his friends used to wear when they were still students themselves. Those two wore rather strange clothes and their faces were completely covered by scarves.

 

Judai and Johan were ready to fight them off, thinking they were associated with Academia and the distress call was just to lure them into a trap, when the strange duo got on their knees and bowed to them in an extremely polite manner.

 

“Supreme King and Rainbow Dragon… it’s a great honor to meet you.” the mage in blue clothing said.

“We’ve been searching all over Fusion to find you and join forces with you.” the mage in red clothing continued.

“Only with your help we can save Starve Venom and Clear Wing.” they said at once, scaring the Fusion mages.

“Who are you?” Johan finally asked, carefully setting his hands up if it was indeed a trap.

“And how do you know about the elemental dragons…?” Judai paused and continued with another question “… and our warrior names?”

“My name is Tsukikage and that’s my brother Hikage. We were sent here by Yusho Sakaki.” the blue clothed mage explained “We were tasked to rescue the captured dragons and to do that we will need the help of you, the heroes of Dragon War times.”

“Yusho Sakaki? As in the performer sorcerer and the teacher of Zarc, the guardian of the elemental dragons?” Judai’s eyes widened.

“That is correct and we are ready to work with you in order to retrieve the stolen dragons that are no doubt in great danger.” Tsukikage slowly stood up.

 

 The boys thought for a while if those two ninja-looking mages were to be trusted when another voice joined the scene. It was too dark to see their face up close, especially since the mage’s form was cloaked.

 

“It’s alright, they are with me.” a female voice, belonging to a mage their age said “I was the one speaking to Asuka through her Cyber Tutu, so you can take them to the hideout where they will further explain things. Better hurry up before Academia’s guards know you were here.”

 

Considering she knew how Asuka’s communicating spirit was called and that she wore a red ribbon around her upper arm, which was the Resistance’s signature, they nodded and prepared to head back to the hideout. Judai was about to follow Johan and the ninjas when he saw that the mage was going in a different direction.

 

“Aren’t you coming along?” the brunet mage asked, now seeing her from behind and noticing she was about the same height as him if not taller.

“I’ll join you later, I have some trails to check out.” she replied not stopping.

“Wait!” Judai called, hearing Johan calling for him to hurry up. He was already on his Sapphire Pegasus while the ninjas summoned some kind of kites to fly along “Just give me a minute!”

 

Judai ran after the mage who was already performing some sort of a chant in order to travel faster.

 

“What are you looking for?” he asked gasping for breath “Maybe I can help.”

 

The girl turned around and as she did, her hood slowly fell off.

 

“My missing bracelet.” she said, now face to face with the Fusion mage who was shocked to recognize her face.

 

 

 

 

 

A boy with orange hair and in a Osirus Red uniform stumbled through Academia’s halls with a bunch of textbooks, hardly seeing where he was going. In front of him was a guard, Leo assigned him to look after him or more like to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.

 

Dennis hardly comprehended of everything that has been going on lately; he could barely even keep the track of time. Soon after the dragon he was supposed to be guarding hatched, he was moved into a different cell. The new one appeared to be larger and it had windows, with bars of course, but better than nothing. It was also accommodated for two people, students actually, as it had all that they would need to study. Dennis liked the big desk, the big bookcase filled with all kinds of spell books and all the empty notebooks ready to be written in with the best writing supplies. He was also surprised that he was allowed to attend lessons like other students, though he was under surveillance at all time.

 

Life for him might look fairly normal with an exception that he was excluded from other students, but he was awkward around others anyway so it wasn’t much of a big deal. What really reminded him his life was anything but ordinary, was his pulsing dragon mark. The moment he would leave the cell for lessons and private magic training, his mark would begin to glow in a vibrant pink and would even sting him from time to time.

 

Yuri missed him.

 

His dragon needed him.

 

But no matter how many times he would beg the guards to not separate them, ever since the day he started sharing a room with the hatchling, they wouldn’t listen. The plant dragon would chase after him every time, but before he could reach the cell’s doors, he would be hit by a paralyzing spell and would only wake up when Dennis was on the whole other side of the building. At the times the guards resorted to using a collar, even if it meant that the young guardian would have trouble following lessons since he would share the same pain as the hatchling. They didn’t care, they just wanted to complete their job the easy way.

 

Dennis’ thinking was interrupted when he accidentally bumped into someone he failed to see due to the textbooks he was carrying. The orange haired boy quickly began to pick up his textbooks while apologizing to whoever he toppled over. The person didn’t seem to mind much since he started helping him pick up his books without a word. Only when they piled up all the books did Dennis see that the person was his age, although he was already wearing Obelisk Blue uniform, the highest class in Academia. He also had unusually long hair for a boy and were a bright azure color. As much as Dennis wanted to express his surprise over other boy’s appearance, it was the other mage who was surprised by him.

 

“Wait you are…” the boy said like he just saw a rare spirit to hunt.

“Macfield! Hurry up!” the guard barked at Dennis.

“I have to go, again I’m sorry for bumping into you.” the young guardian partly bowed before heading towards the guard.

“Hey, wait for a second!” the azure haired boy pulled something out of his pocket “Consider this my apology, it was my fault anyway.”

“This is…” Dennis examined the bag of round objects “… candy?”

“I have a bunch of it in my room anyway so no need to worry!” the boy giggled as he raced back into the direction he was heading to in the first place.

“Thank you… but why?” the orange haired was puzzled by the action.

“It might be useful to be friends with a dragon guardian in the future.” the Obelisk Blue student called back before disappearing.

 

Dennis quickly put away the bag with candy before the guard could notice and followed him back to his cell. The doors were unlocked and he pushed in, but there was no sight of his dragon impatiently awaiting him like always.

 

“Starve Venom is currently in the greenhouse. A different guard will be sent in an hour to collect you and take you to it.” the guard passed along his orders before locking the cell and leaving the mage alone.

 

The orange haired boy kept himself busy by going through the notes he made in today’s lessons. It was basically what he already knew, the four standard uses of magic, a little about legends and an intro into close combat. The traveling mage that had visited his orphanage a couple of years ago knew more than those clowns who simply read the pre-written inscriptions to them.

 

“What a joke!” he thought when slamming the notebook close. Academia was indeed something he least expected when he boarded that boat. Why he thought he could meet people who thought alike and maybe even visit other kingdoms when he’s older. But what he was given was just a caged life with education he was already well aware of and was banned from meeting a single person.

 

Well, not quite if he counted the strange boy with a ponytail. The kid didn’t seem much older than him and yet he was already in the highest class. How could he be in Obelisk Blue if the students started studying at the age of five and that was exactly his age? Also, where did he get the candy from? He was of course grateful for the small token offreindship, a luxury he rarely experienced back at the orphanage, but he was still curious about it.

 

“Macfield, go retrieve your beast.” a guard knocked on his cell’s door, making him quickly stuff the bag of candy in his pocket as he got out of the cell.

 

This time he was supervised by Barret, a guard who also happened to be a mage from the Pendulum Kingdom and who took Leo’s orders death serious. During the first days when Dennis and Yuri were in the cell together, he would show no mercy towards the dragon even if he shown a tiny bit of aggressiveness. Once the word about Yuri’s killing spree spread through the Academia’s staff, practically no one wished to be assigned to watch over the deadly dragon and his guardian, no one apart from the bulky grey haired man at least. Barret was an adult mage and was well experienced in combat, especially with capturing and taming whoever he was assigned to.

 

However Yuri didn’t act that aggressive when he was allowed to be with his guardian. He would mostly just snuggle to him while they slept, urged him to help him strengthen up his plant attacks when they trained in the greenhouse, designed for the dragon, or merely trying to mimic the spells Dennis was learning. But should the guards touch his guardian or take him away from him, Yuri immediately reverted to his feral self, the flower petals turning into carnivorous plants and spikes appearing on his tail. In those cases the guards used the collar, but since it also worked on the orange haired mage, they needed to find another way to control him.

 

So they brought in Barret and his harsh restraining methods. The grey haired man would watch the hatchling like a hawk and the moment he considered him dangerous, he tied him up with a heavy chain. The dragon clawed it and bit it, but the magically enhanced restrains were too strong for him. At those times his aggressiveness would only grow worse and worse, until Dennis came to calm him down through their bond.

 

“You have one hour to get it out, if not we’re chaining it up. Understood?” Barret brought Dennis out of his thinking when he pushed him into the greenhouse, locking the doors behind him

 

Wherever he entered the second cage, meant more for a dragon, he felt as if he was transported to another world. A majority of the plants there were unknown to him, but that’s why he only enjoyed watching them more. The greenhouse was a nice way to keep Yuri from going feral which was good for performing assignments he got straight from Leo.

 

Get him to listen to you like a loyal dog.

 

Make him as strong as possible

 

Teach him Academia’s ideologies.

 

Those were the three major rules to follow from the Academia’s principal. There were also additional orders, but not as important as those three. Dennis was doing his best to follow them, so they wouldn’t punished for at least one day, Dennis did his best to do what he was ordered. Yuri would at times indeed listen to him like a puppy, but if the situation irritated him, things could turn ugly really fast.

 

Dennis walked some more until he spotted his dragons napping in the flower bed full of pink lilies. For some reason he was really fond of those flowers as he would bring them to Dennis all the time and stared at them as if that were his favorite hobby. That and the fact that a lot of sunlight got to the same exact spot. Since Yuri was in a way partly a plant due to the petals growing on his back, the sunlight did him good since the plant part of him got its share of food.

 

As for normal food… Yuri rarely ate anything that the guards brought him. Each time he would give it a good sniff and throwing it against the wall straight after. It was like he knew that whatever was in the food was bad for him. The only time he truly ate was through the sunlight and whatever he snatched from his guardian’s plate. If Dennis ate it so did he.

 

When Yuri stirred from his nap and saw his guardian, all the closed flowers around him opened, blooming in their best selves. The plant dragon partly flew to Dennis, coiling around him like a pet snake.

 

“Heh, yeah I missed you too.” the orange haired mage uttered when Yuri tightened around him a bit too much “I have something for you!”

 

Yuri curiously watched him how he retrieved the bag with candy, taking one for each of them. The plant dragon firstly waited for Dennis to take it in his mouth and then he also swallow it himself. The taste was incredibly sweet, like all of his favorite berries were joined into one and dipped into honey. Yuri seemed to like the treat too as he tugged onto his uniform to give him more. Dennis got caught into his whines and gave him another one, but that was it. He knew too much candy was bad, for humans and dragon hatchlings.

 

“Hey, do you want to see what I’ve learnt today by myself? It’s a different magic, look!” the orange haired boy brought his hands together and they glowed until a round-shaped creature appeared in his arms. It was black and had a funny face, looking like a cannon ball dressed up. The hatchling stared at it in a careful manner, not sure of what exactly it was.

 

“Catch it!” he shouted to Yuri who used his tail to get a hold of the weird looking ball. The plant dragon began to examine it, using even his petals that turned into carnivorous plants that tested if it was edible. A few seconds later the ball exploded leaving Yuri in dumbfounded state since he wasn’t sure just what had happened.

 

“Heh, you should’ve seen your face!” Dennis laughed as he sent him another one “Round two.”

 

Pissed at the joke that his guardian literally threw at him, Yuri this time hit it with his tail. Dennis also hit it back and for a while the two of them were passing the ball to each other just like the little kids that they were. The hatchling found it fun as well as his guardian, after a while of wearing an expressionless face and quivering in fear he actually got himself and his dragon laughing. This was just the two of themselves enjoying like they should.

 

 

“Alright, I see you got your dragon, now move back to your cell.” Barret entered the greenhouse, Yuri instantly snarling at him.

“But it hasn’t been even an hour yet.” Dennis contradicted, but grew silent when the man gave him a look full of authority.

“Whatever, you got the beast, so let’s get going.” he pointed towards the doors, the hatchling trying to get out of his guardian’s grip to bite the man he despised hard.

“Shhh, Yuri it’s okay. We’re just going back.” Dennis cooed, hoping it would calm him down.

 

While they were walking back only Yuri’s growling was heard, the dragon using every opportunity possible to just get on Barret and introduce him to his four man-eating plants. But with Dennis’ comforting words and strong grip, he didn’t and rather imagined how he would gnaw him one day when he will be stronger.

 

Just before Barret locked their cell, he gave Dennis a look that made him gulp down as he got uncomfortably close to him.

 

“Do not use that wretched XYZ magic, it’s the enemies’ magic.”

 

After that Dennis stayed stilled and only returned back into reality when Yuri nudged him to read him some plant-related spell books he found interesting.

 

Hopefully, it wasn’t XYZ magic.

 

 

 

 

 

Yuya rubbed his eyes to see just where he was. He knew he had fallen asleep soon after his new friends left after to playing so much. It was a fun day and even his big brother joined the games.

 

But for now he wasn’t sure what this place was. In a way it looked familiar and yet he failed to recognize it from any places around the Duel Lodge. It looked peaceful, with a waterfall silently falling into the nearby lake, flowers blooming and soft grass gently caressing his small body.

 

“Yuya!” someone with a familiar voice called, soon appearing behind him.

“Big bro!” the fire dragon chirped in a happy melody “You’re here too!”

“But where are we?” Yuto eyed the surroundings suspiciously.

“I don’t know, but it looks so beautiful! We should explore!” the little brother giggled.

“No, we should be careful, we… Yuya!” Yuto already lost sight of the other hatchling before he could even finish his sentence.

 

The fire dragon began chasing a colorful butterfly he found interesting since it was a similar color as his eyes. Yuto could hardly keep up with the other’s energy when he noticed someone preying from the bushes.

 

“Yuya watch out!” the lightning dragon stepped in front of his brother who was far too busy with the butterfly to notice the supposed danger. Yuto bared his teeth and spread his wings threateningly, hoping it would scare away whatever was waiting behind the bushes.

 

Then all of sudden, something with far too many wings flew out from the bush, charging at the lightning dragon. Yuya noticed the commotion, now seeing his big brother on top of what appeared to be another dragon. This one had white scales and bright blue wings, a complete opposite of Yuto, but the way it fought was quite similar to his own.

 

“Big bro stop!” Yuya hurried to the two hatchlings who were tossing each other.

“He started it, praying on us like some predator!” Yuto hissed while avoiding being bitten.

“Look who’s talking Mr. Come Out And Fight Me.” the white scaled dragon hissed, surprising Yuya and Yuto with the fact that he also talked.

 

The lightning and wind dragon exchanged some more insults and some hits until Yuya finally got between them.

 

“Just stop already! You’re not even funny!” Yuya growled as the gems on his stomach suddenly began to glow. Something in Yuto and the newcomer made them snap out of their petty battle, now turning their heads towards the yelling hatchling.

 

“No – More – Fighting!” the fire dragon now cried, making the dragons instantly comfort him.

“It’s okay Yuya we stopped” Yuto wrapped his wings around him to calm him down.

“You don’t need to cry for something like that.” the white scaled dragon tried to joked which turned out to be a bad idea.

“But it’s a terrible thing to do!” Yuya sobbed, looking at the two hatchlings at once with a slightly threatening glare “Apologize at once!”

 

The purple scaled dragon and white scaled dragon faced each other rather awkwardly as they now realized their fight was really pointless.

 

“Eh… I’m sorry for charging at you… umm.” the wind dragon started, puzzled since he didn’t know his name.

“Yuto.” he said emotionlessly.

“Hey you have a name that sounds a lot like mine! I’m Yugo!” the white scaled hatchling turned cheerful.

“My name certainly doesn’t sound like Fusion.” Yuto muttered when he went back to Yuya.

“Not Yuugou, Yugo!” Yugo hissed at his mispronounced name “Don’t just ignore me!”

“Whatever, let’s go Yuya, this guy is crazy.” the lightning dragon pushed his brother with a wing to move.

“But we just got to know each other.” Yuya’s voice appeared to be hurt “Why can’t we play?”

 

Yuto sighed, prepared to give him a big brother speech when Yuya was already gone, back with Yugo and looking at his wings.

 

“They’re so pretty! Can you actually fly with them?” the fire dragon excitedly stared at the bright blue color of Yugo’s wings.

“Of course, silly, just watch!” he made a few flaps and was already in the air, spinning and gliding like he was born in the sky.

“That was amazing! Wish I could fly like you…” Yuya looked at his wingless back.

“Well you can, just get on my back! I can carry you.” Yugo giggled as he crunched down so Yuya could climb on “And hurry before the grumpy one convinces you otherwise.”

“Yuya!” Yuto ran towards them, but they were already in the air before he could prevent them from taking off.

 

The lightning dragon was about to go after them, but after seeing Yuya all happy in the air he stopped. The strange hatchling looking a lot like them might’ve appeared out of nowhere, though he sure knew how to keep Yuya’s smile on. That was good enough for him so he watched them land and then play a different game which made him relax from the worries that his little brother might be in danger.

 

As he left them to play a game of tag, he decided to see more of this mysterious world they were in. While he was flying through all too familiar spots in this dream world, he followed some sort of a trail. It was hardly visible, but somehow he knew where he was going. The path was covered by various flower bushes until he reached a circle of them, hiding whatever was behind them.

 

Yuto peeked his head into the bush, almost instantly backing off when he saw another hatchling there. This one was violet and he was certainly angry that Yuto just barged in his private territory. The plant dragon growled at him threateningly, extending his petals that opened and closed uncontrollably. Yuto was about to move away, when a loud  screeching was heard and Yugo crash landed directly into the violet scaled dragon with Yuya still on his back.

 

“Next time remind me it’s not a good idea to do a summersault with you on my back.” Yugo grunted while picking himself up.

“I will… oh look another brother!” Yuya mumbled when he was face to face with the plant dragon.

“Yeah, he also looks like us!” the wind dragon got off him, and checked him up close “What’s your name?”

“Yuri…” he unexpectedly replied in an annoyed tone “Now will you please leave me alone?”

“Wow are those lilies? They are so beautiful!” Yuya sniffed the flowers closest to him.

“They look like the crystals in the cave.” Yugo agreed not noticing the growing anger in Yuri and Yuto who seemed about to just dig a hole somewhere and hide there from embarrassment.

“Really? Can we go check them out?” the fire dragon bounced from excitement.

“Sure! Let’s all go there!” Yugo grinned.

 

Thinking they got rid of the noisy siblings, Yuri and Yuto let out a sigh of relief, but their hopes were soon crushed when Yugo and Yuya dragged them along. At first the older hatchlings glared at each other, though once they entered the cave, they were too busy observing the beautifully colored crystals pointing from every inch of the rocks to hate each other.

 

Plus Yuya and Yugo continued to pester them with games until they eventually let it go and just indulged in the play. Eventually even Yuri relaxed and tried to catch Yuya and Yugo with his extending carnivorous flowers during their game of tag. Soon they switched to hide and seek with Yuto and Yuri turning out to be excellent trackers when it came to the younger siblings. The plant dragon even found Yugo when the wind dragon hid in the lake in the air bubble he had formed in order to breathe for longer time. Same went for Yuto who found Yuya when the fire dragon curled into a ball and imitated the look of the crystals in the cave.

 

Once they got tired from all the playing, they went back to the lake where there was a tall tree. Yuya didn’t know what kind of a tree was it, so Yuri told him it was a cherry tree. Yugo was more curious about it, to which the plant dragon added that for now the tree sprouts pink blossoms during the certain time. Yuto somehow knew it wasn’t the right season for them right now, but he was glad that the green leaves gave the shade from a bit annoying sun.

 

There under the tree, the hatchling decided to take a nap. Yuya and Yugo snuggled together, wind dragon’s tail tangling around Yuya’s. Yuto took a spot right next to him, his big wings covering up both of his siblings like a big blanket. Lastly Yuri lied next to Yugo, his tail protectively coiling around all other hatchlings like a shield. For the finishing touches, the plant dragon called for all the plants that were near using his powers. Without his siblings knowing, a flower bed consisting of the softest flowers sprouted beneath them.

 

If Yuri’s life was miserable as it already was, he at least wanted to make someone else at least a little better. The little fire dragon called him brother, right? And if the other two were truly his siblings, he would more than gladly play their game. Even if it was just a dream, he wanted to enjoy it as much as he could before he would awake again in the cold prison cell.

 

 

 

 

 

Zarc watched them all together again, all innocent and sleeping peacefully just like when he and Ray were with them. He sensed Yuya’s strong aura the minute that the hatchling fell asleep, which soon connected with Yuto’s and soon travelling beyond the XYZ Kingdom. Then he felt the pieces of their souls gather in a little pocket world that he entered thanks to his bond with the dragons. Only the almighty power of the Egyptian Gods kept him from running there and embracing his precious hatchlings to his chest. But he didn’t as he knew well that if that were to happen, his heart would end up in pieces.

 

The dragons wouldn’t remember him after all and if one thing hurt more than separation from his dragon babies, was the confused and possibly scared looks of them not recognizing him.

 

Zarc was ready to leave their dream sanctuary when he heard a whisper coming from Yuya who mumbled in his sleep.

 

“Hao…ryuu…”

 

The silver haired stayed still, gulping down when he heard the name he had heard so many times before.

 

 

 

 

“You should have a nickname!” Odd Eyes in human form said to his guardian while all of them sat under the very same blooming cherry blossom, enjoying the warm sun and the little picnic that Ray prepared for them.

“A nickname?” Zarc asked with a puzzled look as the odd eyed boy only grinned.

“Yeah you’ve given us all nicknames that you use for us and no one else does, while we still call you by the name Zarc.” Clear Wing whose head was finally resembling a human one said while chewing on a smoked fish.

“Ray suggested Dragon Daddy, but she also said you wouldn’t like it that much.” Starve Venom smirked from the tree branch where he was lying, making his guardian blush.

“You don’t really need to, my name is enough.” Zarc brushed Odd Eyes’ hair, whose head that was now in his lap.

“But Zarc just doesn’t sound special enough. When you call me Phantom, I feel empowered.” Dark Rebellion made his wings appear.

“When you call me Crystal, I feel special, just like the diamonds in our cave.” Clear Wing nodded.

“When I hear you calling me Lily, I feel unique, just like my favorite flower.” Starve Venom caught a fistful of falling cherry blossoms.

“And when you call me Firefly, I feel like I could do anything even if it’s impossible to me. Even fly.” Odd Eyes snuggled closer to his guardian “It’s only fair we give you one too.”

 

Zarc was engulfed by quite a mix of emotions while the four brothers tried to pick a suitable nickname. He had no idea that something as simple as unique name could have such an impact on your heart.

 

Hours had passed and the hatchlings still hadn’t found that one special name for their parental figure. They were willing to find it no matter how long it took, until Odd Eyes remembered talking with Ray once, when she read him old legends.

 

“What about Haoryuu?” the boy with mismatched eyes exclaimed.

“Haoryuu?” Zarc asked, never having heard about the name before.

“Yeah, it means Supreme Dragon!” Clear Wing remembered it from Ray.

“You might not be an actual dragon, but you have been taking care of us since we were born.” Dark Rebellion added.

“You’ll always be a dragon parent in our eyes.” Starve Venom climbed off the tree, nuzzling closer to Zarc.

“Our very own dragon dad! The best dragon there is!” Odd Eyes smiled, throwing his hands around his guardian’s waist.

 

From that day onward, he had never been called other than Haoryuu from his little ones which only made him feel more connected to them. Whenever he heard it, he would instantly smile, knowing one of his hatchlings was near.

 

 

 

When he heard Yuya call for him after more than a decade of silence, Zarc couldn’t help myself, but to let out a few tears. The young reborn dragons might’ve had their memory erased while being sealed in the eggs but they didn’t forget him just yet. They knew there was someone they missed and someone they couldn’t forget that simply.

 

The dragon they all adored and looked up to.

 

Their Haoryuu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shark walked through the castle’s hallways made of red Barian Crystals. He sure was glad he got to leave this place if only for a while to catch up with Kaito and Yuma, even though the latter was as noisy as ever. Not only that, he also got to meet some new friends along with two hatchling he lastly saw as adults. The purple haired smiled when he headed for his personal quarters, only to find the entrance blocked by someone who was possibly more annoying than Yuma.

 

“Tada-da-da look who is home!” another Barian Emperor giggled in an unpleasantly high pitch.

“Get out of my way Vector, I don’t have time for your games.” Shark grunted when the silver haired boy wouldn’t step away from the doors.

“Oh, you’re mean, so mean that you didn’t let me come along with you. I wanted to say hi to Yuma too.” Vector clenched his chest, pretending his heart was broken.

“You stay the hell away from him!” the purple haired mage growled.

“But why? We’re best friends!” Vector said in an innocent tone “He even invited me himself!”

“Look, Yuma treats you nice only because he doesn’t remember all the awful things you did to him during the Dragon War. If he would remember, he wouldn’t even look at you.” Shark pushed the other Barian Emperor against the wall to shut him up.

“But what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him, right? Come on, just a little meet up. It won’t hurt.” Vector smirked, rolling his eyes like the maniac he was.

“No, you’re still forbidden from leaving the castle. The only reason why you’re not in the dungeon is because the council hasn’t picked an emperor to take your place and the castle can’t run without all the emperors.” Shark ground his teeth, clearly saying he had enough of his nonsense.

“Tsk, you’re no fun.” the silver haired Barian finally gave up, spreading his wings and flying to some other part of the castle in order to possibly annoy someone else.

 

Shark let out a sigh of relief when he entered his personal quarters, meant for him, his twin sister Merag and his royal advisor Durbe. He didn’t make even ten steps when he was nearly tackled to the ground by said advisor.

 

“Master Nash you’re alright! You got me so worried when you didn’t return at the time you said you will!” the Barian Emperor with gray hair exclaimed.

“I was only half an hour late Durbe, you worry too much.” Shark sighed as he picked himself up “Where’s Rio?”

“Mistress Merag is still in her room with that guest of hers. They rarely come out, even for meals she orders them to be brought directly into her room…” Durbe thought “Which reminds me, you missed dinner! I’ll immediately alert the maids to make you something fast and…”

“Calm down Durbe, I’ve already eaten when I visited the others at the Duel Lodge.” Shark held his head for how much could his advisor complicate things.

“But the non-Barian food might…” the other Barian wouldn’t stop.

“Look, I’m fine. Just let me go to my room and I’ll be the happy Master you so wish me to be.” Shark forced a smile, so Durbe could be finally satisfied.

 

Once he entered his room, he immediately threw himself on the bed, tired from the entire day he had to spend as a social butterfly. But nonetheless most of it was fairly pleasant and he was glad to have visited his old home again. His short nap was eventually interrupted by a pair of giggling voices coming from Rio’s room.

 

He stood up and gave the doors that connected their rooms a quiet knock, but either way Rio heard it. She opened it, still giggling from some joke as she hugged him fast, just like he preferred.

 

“Ryoga! Nice to see you’re back. How are the others doing?” she waltzed back to her queen sized bed where another person was sitting.

“Pretty good. Kaito is still as stuck up as ever, Yuma wouldn’t shut up and Astral… well you know how he usually is.” Shark chuckled, reliving the memories of the nearly passed day.

“And the others?” Rio asked curiosly.

“Well…” the purple haired mage turned towards Rio’s guest “Your pupil is doing great.”

 

The person smiled a bit, but not much as her attention was directed more towards the bird-like spirits she just summoned.

 

“Ruri… you’ll have to face him eventually.” Rio sat next to the mage with long black hair weakly tied with a wing shaped clip.

“I know he’ll understand that you had to leave him with Kaito, so Leo wouldn’t find him.” Shark also took a seat next to her “And I bet he would be grateful for every advice you’ll give him about raising Dark Rebellion right.”

“I know…” Ruri mumbled, petting the bird that landed on her finger “But Shun is now a guardian and like Reiji he learnt to take care of himself, relaying on his own strength. Should I appear before him while he’s still developing his independence... I don’t know how it will affect him. It breaks my heart to leave a boy, which I practically raised after his parents perished in the crossfire between Astrals and Barians with someone else… but as the En Birds I shouldn’t interfere in his destiny. Just like En Flowers didn’t interfere in Reiji’s destiny after she saved him from Leo.”

 

Rio and Shark remained silent, watching only how the girl pressed a small peck to the bird and let it fly through the Barian World.

 

Just like how she trusted Shun to fly on his own.

 

 

Chapter Text

It was during an afternoon even though the sky was dark already. With winter coming it was really hard to tell since sun has set long ago and with cold along made it that more sinister. Despite all of it, Ray stubbornly walked through the piles of yesterday's freshly fallen snow, following the path that she went through so many times before though with not that much snow covering it.

 

But either way she was still so eager to see her friend in order to tell him all about her latest trip to the other part of the Unified Kingdom. As much as Zarc had wanted to join her, his hands were way to full with responsibility, so he had stayed behind in the Dragon Nest. Taking care of four baby dragons that weren't even one year old wasn't exactly easy after all.

 

Ray finally reached the certain cave where crystals bloomed like flowers in spring. Any other cave would feel like a freezer but this one was warmed up to the fullest. The crystals weren't just for decoration but offered a decent warmth as well since those were brought from Barian World and were filled with a great amount of fire magic.

 

"Zarc?" Ray called, a bit surprised that a familiar silver haired mage was nowhere in sight.

She looked around the living part of the cave that she helped to prepare as soon as Zarc  The place was furnished with boxes and pillows all over. Most of that part of a cave was taken by a huge basket full of soft blankets where hatchlings spent most of time as they were still too little to go around without getting exhausted fast. Ray checked a little fireplace surrounded by boxes and barrels filled with the long-lasting supplies where she left the backpack full of fresh foods for both Zarc and the dragons.

 

"Zarc?" Ray called again, passing another cave space where more things were kept, majorly Zarc's books, magic supplies and clothes.

 

Since he wasn't there either, only one other place was left. Getting rid of her puffy winter coat as the place she was heading to was even warmer. The steam surrounding more Barian crystals was coming from below accompanied by the sounds of water splashing. Combination of rocks and crystals along with many pools of steaming water made it look like a hot springs gateway. And right there was...

 

"For goodness sakes, put some clothes on Zarc!" Ray covered her eyes when seeing a form of certain someone emerging from one of the pools, while blushing beet red.

 

A silver haired mage quickly wrapped a towel around his waist to cover himself, blushing nearly as much as the female mage did. Around his shoulders was a curling form of serpent-like dragon with beautiful wings, Clear Wing nearly immediately flying to say hello to Ray by elegantly wrapping himself around her neck as well. A dragon whose dark green back was covered by pink petals, Starve Venom, was napping in puddle behind several crystals while red and purple scaled dragons were paddling around in a shallow pool. The purple scaled dragon, Dark Rebellion, was also testing how his wings produced tiny sparks whenever he rubbed them together.

 

While the certain dragon guardian hurried to the box where he stored his clothing, Ray couldn’t help but to admire his exposed upper body. Spread across his shoulders were two marks resembling wings, intertwined with blooming flowers on his left arm and thunder webs on his right one. Connecting all three of them were tiny markings of flames that reached all the way to his wrists and down to his shoulder blades. No matter how many times she saw it, the Dragon Marks were more beautiful than ever.

 

“Well if I knew you were coming, I’d be better dressed for you.” Zarc chuckled as he put on a shirt that was heavily drenched “It’s rather hard to give the little guys a bath and stay dry.”

 

Like the red scaled dragon, Odd Eyes, heard him, he jumped around the pool some more with his tail splashing water at everyone in sight. Ray luckily stepped a bit further so her dress didn’t get as wet as the majority of Zarc’s clothes were now which was slightly challenging his patience.

 

“Alright you all!” he raised his voice which made all four dragons instantly stop whatever they were doing in order to turn to their guardian “No more playtime for today. We’re going to hurry up with the bath time, you’ll get some dinner in your bellies and then it’s straight to bed for you all!”

 

Dragons whined at the plan as they all except for the Clear Wing, who didn’t like the hot springs that much due to being wind dragon, wanted to play in the warm waters some more. Despite eating not that long ago, their bellies rumbled, clearly hungry and in need for food. So one by one, the dragons hopped around the Zarc so he could gently dry them with a soft towel. The dragon guardian had to be especially careful with Dark Rebellion’s shards that were all over the dragon’s body and could easily tear the towel if he wasn’t precise enough. Same went with Starve Venom whose petals were very sensitive not to mention he’d whip Zarc with his tail if the guardian wasn’t thorough enough.  Odd Eyes luckily wasn’t as demanding when it was his turn, though he would quickly doze off in Zarc’s arms from being so pampered.

 

Putting a red scaled dragon in who was half asleep in Ray’s arms, while Clear Wing was still wrapped up around her neck, Zarc picked Starve Venom and Dark Rebellion as he took them back to their basket that was already prepared for their bedtime.

 

“Look after them a bit, I’ll just go change and bring them food.” Zarc requested to which Ray nodded, instantly pointed her eyes at the little bunch before they could leave their sleeping nest.

 

It might’ve only been a few minutes, but before Zarc was back with dragons’ dinner, the chaos has already unfolded. Starve Venom went on teasing Clear Wing with something that clearly pissed him off to the point of lashing out at the plant dragon, but instead of hitting the intended target, the tackle move hit Odd Eyes instead. The poor fire dragon was puzzled when he was kicked out of a pleasant nap, instantly bursting in tears which angered the eldest sibling right away. Dark Rebellion spread his wings and twisted his tail, threatening to Clear Wing and Starve Venom to not mess around their youngest sibling.

 

Having little to no experience of how to react, since the last time she saw them the dragons were pretty much just sleeping most of the time, Ray could only pull the crying Odd Eyes in her arms before the poor dragon could get hit more than he already did. Luckily Zarc showed up just at the right time to pull Dark Rebellion away from the others and calmed him down with a mashed mixture of something red and black looking.

 

“Can’t leave you guys alone not even for a minute…” Zarc sighed as he pushed the mushy food in Dark Rebellion’s mouth whose wing folded as he began devouring his dinner.

“What are you feeding him?” Ray stared at wooden bowl filled with something that had slightly grilling smell.

“It’s a sort of combination of raw and dried meat. Dark Rebellion really likes it plus it helps at regenerating his metal parts of the wings.” the silver haired mage handed her a baby bottle “Since you have Odd eyes already, you can as well feed him.”

“Is that…?”

“Yeah… out of all four of them, Odd Eyes is the closest to an actual baby…” Zarc smiled while setting two more bowls for the other two dragons “He loves human toys and picture books and prefers to eat what I eat.”

 

The moment Odd Eyes saw the bottle he immediately started gulping down warm milk mixed with honey. Ray couldn’t help but to giggle of how the little dragon grabbed the bottle with his beak-like snout, drinking the nutritional liquid. Zarc set a bowl with filleted fish for the Clear Wing who more than gladly dug into his meal, not caring if he swallowed fish bones as well since his stomach could pretty much handle everything. Starve Venom would usually feed on the sunlight as he was a part plant, but with winter days being shorter than usual, Zarc made sure to bring him enough food. The diet of a plant dragon mostly consisted of various berries about which, despite being a baby, Starve Venom was pretty picky about.

 

The dragons might’ve been pretty noisy during their dinnertime, but at least they didn’t try to pick fights with each other. All except Odd Eyes were quite fast to finish as they ate from their bowls while the fire dragon still fed on the bottle. True Zarc fed them all through a bottle until they were around three months old hatchlings, but he didn’t mind babying Odd Eyes one bit since the red scaled dragon enjoyed nestling in his lap while sipping down honeyed milk. 

 

Once they got their bellies filled, they all settled down at the various places in the basket for what Zarc called an-after-meal-nap. They weren’t really sleeping, just resting after eating their meals before going to bed. Those times were one of the rare ones where Zarc could take a breath since dragons’ full bellies prevented them from moving around too much. Just what Ray needed to finally talk with her childhood friend.

 

“I see you have your hands full.” she giggled when putting a yawning Odd Eyes next to his brothers.

“Don’t mention it…” the silver haired mage stretched his back “Just yesterday Clear Wing got lost in the woods when playing outside, Starve Venom was extra cranky due to a cloudy day, Dark Rebellion accidently cut my ankles with his tail and Odd Eyes nearly got sick due to being so sensitive to low temperatures.”

“Wish I could give you a hand… but my En magic training takes so much time and energy out of me. Not to mention I’m moving from one place to another all the time.”

“Don’t feel bad about it. It’s my responsibility as a Dragon Guardian to take care of them. You should focus on your role as the mage chosen by En powers more.”

“Yeah but still, I want to help you out as much as I can. It’s so hard to be away from you and them…”

“Speaking of which, how come you’ve come to visit? Teacher brought me a month worth of supplies couple of days ago, so I’m provided for a while.”

“Well I was wondering… how are you going to spend Christmas? It will be your first one as a Dragon Guardian after all.”

 

Zarc’s yellow eyes widened at that fact since his constantly busy schedule prevented him from really thinking those things through. He knew the traditional celebration well, as he visited many parts of Unified Kingdom, where the holiday was celebrated differently, accompanying Yusho on his travels. Not only would this year mark the first Christmas in his new role but also the first time his Teacher wouldn’t be with him. Like every year, the Performing Sorcerer would go around the towns and villages, helping those who were too poor to enjoy festivities by bringing them food and putting little shows to make them smile. Zarc would usually assist him as his apprentice, but not this year. As much as he wanted to spread the holiday joy around with his Teacher since he meet Yusho through these events, Zarc knew well that hatchlings came first.

 

“I didn’t really think about it to be honest. I guess it will be just like any other night so far, you know getting the little guys ready for bed, entertain them a bit and tuck them in. Maybe I’ll extend their playtime and make better dinner…” Zarc petted his dragons, each enjoying his loving touches “What about you?”

“Well, father is throwing a bunch of ceremonies and as both as the mage chosen by En powers and heir to the Unified Kingdom, I’ll have to be present at all of them…”

“Sounds like a lot of work. Teacher will be visiting orphanages and poorer districts in order to help them out in this time of a year.”

“Wait, he won’t stay with you? So you’ll be all alone on Christmas Eve?”

“Don’t make such a big deal out of it, I won’t be that alone.” he nudged at the four curled up figures in the basket “We’ll have a fun evening together, I’m sure I’ll think of something. You just focus on your flowers and birdies to show your people how awesome you are.”

“I actually mastered En Winds as well.” Ray chuckled, creating a slight warm breeze just to prove her point “Only En Moon is left to learn and then I can start combining them along with summoning En spirits.”

“Not fair… while I’m babysitting four tiny lizards you get to be all badass with unique magical powers."

 

Like Clear Wing heard him through his nap, the wind dragon spread his wings and whined in a protest.

 

"What? You are pretty much a lizard right now." Zarc chuckled as the annoyed dragon pulled at his shirt "Heh, I'm just joking, I know how magnificent dragon you are and just how more amazing will you become once you grow up."

 

An additional whine belonging to a dark green scaled dragon joined, nudging Zarc to pay attention to him by nibbling at his hand.

 

"Yes you're amazing too, Lord Starving Venemy The Third." the silver haired mage made a slight bow to the plant dragon.

"Can you actually understand what they are saying? Last time I came to visit you could only tell their emotions."

"Well I can tell their whines, growls and other similar sounds apart, but that's about it since they are pretty much toddlers in dragon years at this point." Zarc gently stroked Starve Venom's petals "Though they all have their personalities developed already."

"That I can tell." Ray giggled at the furious expressions Clear Wing was making when envying his brother's treatment "Starve Venom always seemed like a prince with his haughty behavior. And Clear Wing... truly a child full of energy."

 

The whole conversation stirred Odd Eyes and Dark Rebellion out of their naps as they too climbed to Zarc's and Ray's laps.

 

"Odd Eyes is definitely a baby of the group and Dark Rebellion already acts like the big brother." a young guardian started picking the pillows and blankets that lay around the basket "I think it won't be long before they'll be asleep. Is there anything you wanted to talk about?"

"Not really, just wanted to let you know that I brought you some stuff from the nearby village. Eggs, milk, flour, honey, dried meat...and also some new magical books, towels and cleaning supplies. I'm sure those will come handy." Ray nudged at the bag she brought along "I should get going. I promised to visit a local shrine to perform a sacred ceremony tonight."

"Thank you Ray, I'll surely make something out of this for... When is it again?"

"Day after tomorrow. This is the last stop before I'm returning back home. Father has been nagging me to get back days ago."

"Right, be safe." Zarc picked something from his pocket, giving it to his friend "You can keep it. It's like a torch except it has a Barian crystal powered by magic."

"It will come in hand for the nighttime travels, thank you Zarc."

"You're welcome." he walked Ray to the entrance "If you see Teacher tell him I said hi."

"Will do." she smiled before heading out of the cave "I promise to come visit as soon as I can."

"Take care." Zarc bid her goodbye as she used her En powers to form something looking like a pair of wings made out of flower petals.

 

The silver haired mage watched the tiny light of the magic powered torch disappear in the dark. Seeing that dragons were close to finally dozing off, he reached for the blankets to properly cover them up. Hatchlings yawned and huddled up together to keep warm like newborn bunnies. Zarc smiled at the lovely sight and was ready to head towards his own bedroom that was right next to the basket when he felt something pulling at the sleeve of his shirt.

 

Odd Eyes had the clothing in his little mouth, holding onto it with all of his might in order to prevent Zarc from leaving. The whole commotion woke up the rest of the hatchlings who all looked at their guardian with such a hurt in their eyes that nearly break Zarc’s heart. The silver haired mage subconsciously stepped away for a tiny bit which only made the four pairs of sparkling eyes bigger.

 

“Alright, alright I’ll stay with you, but just one more night.” Zarc sighed as he went to retrieve his sleeping clothes, a pillow and extra blanker “My back wasn’t made for this basket.”

 

Quickly slipping into his nightshirt, Zarc carefully set the pillow in the basket and got in it, the dragons overjoyed for having their parental figure with them. Odd Eyes almost immediately snuggled into the teen’s warm arms, curling up as close as he could to his guardian’s beating heart. Not to hurt him with his shards, Dark Rebellion nestled next to Zarc’s legs, right next to Starve Venom who got right between the youngest sibling and him. The young mage proceeded to tuck them all in with several sets of warm blankets and once he did, Clear Wing curled in a ball on his covered up back. The wind dragon didn’t like the warmth all that much, but he still loved being close to the person who has been taking care of them ever since they hatched.

 

With all of them more than ready for sleeping, Zarc whispered a command spell while mingling with his fingers at the closest Barian crystals. The glow in them faded a bit, similar to how flame would die out. The cave became darker, but still had enough light from other crystals in order to keep it under a decent dimness, suitable for sleeping.

 

Mouthing a quiet good night to his little wards, Zarc too fell asleep, snuggled close to the four tiny, but powerful creatures.

 

 

 

 

 

Ray kept glancing at herself in a mirror, not sure if the dress that was picked for her to wear on a Christmas ceremony was really her style. The extravagant gown had way too many frills, ribbons and other kitsch for her taste and the tight corset cut made it difficult to move around. She missed her blue tunic, white pants and boots in which she could freely walk for miles, without feeling uncomfortable or trapped. The monstrosity she was required wear was itchy and overwhelming, not to mention her hair was ridiculously tightly braided and pulled in bun which was adored by so many accessories that her head hurt. And of top of it she was supposed to wear a tiara as well, along with high heeled shoes.

 

Young heir to the Unified Kingdom sighed as she stepped to her bed where an unwrapped set of scrolls were. Compared to the scrolls and books she used for her En magic training, those looked much simpler. They were giving to her just when she returned home and by the specific signature, Ray immediately knew they were from Yusho. Even though it has been weeks since she saw him, it felt just like yesterday when they travelled around, learning about spirits and her own powers on the way. The scrolls were dozens of letters, even little children drawings from the small towns and villages that she visited, both with Yusho and Zarc before he was chosen as the Dragon Guardian. Those places she’d been to were usually devastated by rogue spirits or human bandits and she did everything she could to restore them to the way they used to be with the help of En powers.

 

The scrolls were filled with messages full of gratitude for what she did for them and since those people didn’t have much to give they at least left those little messages for her. Ray received many gifts for the Holidays, both from her father, people she ruled and various mages from all over, but she didn’t really care about material goods. She much rather read the gift cards and presents that had at least a little bit of dedication to her as a person and not as the Princess of Unified Kingdom or Mage Chosen by En powers. She sent several letters and presents to her own circle of friends at various places across Unified Kingdom, some of them already replying back.

 

All… except for Zarc… Ray wasn’t sure just what to give him. She’d bring him dozens of books about magic throughout the year so an extra one wouldn’t be all that special. Zarc wasn’t all that keen on clothing or accessories either and with hatchlings around she doubted a little handcraft would last for long.

 

“Princess?” someone knocked on her doors, probably a maid or a servant “Are you all set? Your father is waiting for you in the throne room.”

“Coming.” Ray replied in a sigh.

 

Young princess held onto a bracelet on her wrist, staring at the four gems adoring it. She got it on the same day that she was chosen by En powers, each gem representing one power. The bracelet would almost be like every other accessory if Zarc wasn’t the one who actively participated in its creation. From what she heard, the silver haired mage travelled all the way to the Fusion district of Unified Kingdom in order to meet up with a mage chosen by Gem Beasts themselves. The young mage taught Zarc everything about the usage of spirit gems and how to perform magic with it. Ray had no idea how long it took her childhood friend to make it, though considering the amount of detail, it must’ve been quite a lot.

 

With the help of a bracelet it was actually much easier to detect magic in natural sources that served as a base for En magic. Whenever she used them, Zarc would be on her mind. Keep on thinking about it, an idea finally sparked in her head. She quickly uttered that she needs a more time to get ready before reaching a crystal ball used for long distance communication. Without a second thought she sent her message and hoped it will reach the person on the other line as soon as possible.

 

“Princess? It’s been quite long since you called. Is something a matter?” a gentle voice answered back.

“It’s nothing serious Johan, but I do need your help.” Ray whispered back since she didn’t want anyone to know what she was planning

“It will take quite long to finish it… are you sure you don’t want me to make it? It will be faster.”

“No, this is something I have to do myself. Just give me the instructions and precise list of everything I need.”

“Fairy well then, just give me a minute.” the sounds of books moving and scrolls unrolling were heard “Now listen first of all…”  

 

And for nearly an hour she listened to Johan’s words of how to make something special for someone who meant a lot to her.

 

 

 

 

 

When Zarc remembered it was the Christmas Eve already, he was just in the middle of making a dinner for both himself and his little dragons. The hatchlings has been acting quite nice for the last two days and the young mage thought it wouldn’t hurt to make them a bit more extravagant dinner. He’d usually stick to Yusho’s guide to feed them with stuff that was good for their growing bodies mixed with the food they preferred. But to make something big for all of them was quite challenging. Even though they were all fine with some sort of a dragon baby formula for the first seven months, they’d eventually adapted their own taste for food.

 

Dark Rebellion liked all sorts of meats, Clear Wing was very fond of the seafood, Starve Venom preferred berries whenever he was tired of feeding onto the sunlight and Odd Eyes pretty much had an idea that everything that Zarc ate was the best. Now what to make for four hungry mouths plus himself with preferences as different as those? Both Ray and Yusho had loaded him with enough ingredients so he may as well use some of them before the spoil.

 

While searching for the right ones, Zarc felt something climb to his shoulder, he knowing almost instantly it was the youngest of the four dragons. It was nothing unexpected since Odd Eyes was curious of everything human-related and cooking was no exception. The rest of his siblings were across the cave, right the opposite of the kitchen area that had their little playground there. Yusho truly did a splendid job at putting together a great number of climbing sets, ropes, slides, swings and tons of other simple toys that dragons loved to carry around in their mouths. At the moment Clear Wing was chasing after Starve Venom who snatched a pyramid-shaped stuffed toy, making the wind dragon rather noisy since that was one of his favorites. In times like these Dark Rebellion would try to knock some sense into them, but the day sure was exhausting to him so he just lay on the pile of pillows trying to nap over all the noise from his brothers and the kitchen.

 

Zarc eventually remembered an old recipe he learnt from Yusho, back when they were staying at the Pendulum part of the Unified Kingdom. It was really simple and from what he knew the dish could go with literally everything. With a little help from Odd Eyes he prepared all of the ingredients on the stone counter, right next to the interestingly looking device he had got from the Signers when he was moving into the cave. Yusei told him that it was powered by magic and no matter how many times the leader of the Signers explained it to him, it was more confusing. To put it simply, the metal structure had Barian crystals inbuilt in it and he could heat them up with magic instead of fire.

 

Cracking the eggs, mixing in the milk, that he managed to save before Odd Eyes could get his beak on it, and adding the flour was just a start. Then came the harder part. With the fire dragon on his shoulders, who curiously observed the process, Zarc poured some of the mixture on the heated pan. Once he was sure that one side was cooked enough, he carefully gripped the pan’s handle, ready to flip it. He’d seen Yusho done it many times, so it wasn’t that hard right?

 

Wrong. Instead of elegantly turning in the air, it accidently landed on Odd Eyes’ head. The hatchling jumped off Zarc’s shoulders, running around like a headless chicken since he was confused of why it was suddenly dark. Zarc quickly chased after the little dragon which had drawn the attention of Clear Wing who was still trying to get his favorite toy from Starve Venom, so the wind dragon half flew to his brother in order to get the weird thing off his sibling’s face. Clear Wing bit into the flat looking bread, surprised at how good it tasted and before he knew it, he ate all of it. Odd Eyes whined at the fact that he couldn’t get a bite after watching his older sibling eating it with such delight.

 

“What’s going on here?” a familiar voice called from the entrance of the cave.

“Ray?” Zarc asked in puzzlement once he recognized a figure wrapped in a thick winter coat, carrying more bags than the last time she stopped by “I thought you had ceremonies to attend.”

“I did already, so it’s not a big deal. Father said to show up at the beginning, do the speech and dance around for a bit which I all did, so any argument he’ll have will be against him.” Ray shook the snow off her shoulders “What are you making? It smells good.”

“Pancakes… but I forgot how to turn me properly. The first one already ended up on Odd Eyes’ head.”

“Well step aside then, pancake master is here!”

 

Ray wasn’t kidding when she said pancake master. She flipped one pancake after another and not even half of an hour later, Zarc was met with a huge pile, all cooked just right. Of course, Zarc wasn’t just standing and watching the whole time while Ray cooked. He prepared the fillings so everyone could have the kind of a pancake they wanted, placing them on a wooden low table. This was an easy part. The hard part was to explain to the hatchlings, whose mouths were practically drooling at the wonderful smell, that dinner wasn’t ready yet and the fillings weren’t the main courses.

Fortunately Ray was fast at what she did and before long the pancakes were all set. Feeding them presented a bit of a trouble since dragons couldn’t put fillings on the tasty bread like dish, so Zarc and Ray switched places at properly spreading the extra fillings on the pancakes and rolling them up while other would keep hatchlings away.

 

Clear Wing was overjoyed when he got to eat the strange dish again and with an addition of mashed fish! Dark Rebellion also curiously bit into his pancake filled with bacon and immediately made another bite at how good it was. Starve Venom was a bit fidgeting around new type of food, but once he smelled a wonderful combination of sourness and sweetness belonging to his favorite berries he dug right in. Lastly Odd Eyes got a rolled up pancake with a great amount of honey on top, the very same one that Zarc made for himself. Ray also got her turn, trying a combination of both honey and bacon on her own pancake.

 

The dinner went on for nearly two hours since Zarc and Ray had to keep preparing new pancakes for hatchlings, who kept pleading with their wide eyes for more. Eventually they ate every single one of them, along with all the fillings they’ve prepared. Little dragons reverted to their after-meal nap, each snoozing right at the table which relieved the two mages since they were rather exhausted from the whole dinner preparations. They carried the hatchling back to their basket, grinning at how peaceful they looked compared to when they were nearly fighting over the last pancake.

 

While his little wards napped, Zarc used the opportunity to give a kitchen area a proper clean up and Ray more than gladly assisted him. Once they went on tidying the pantry, she also advised him what he could use up soon so it wouldn’t go to waste, suggesting several new recipes that Zarc wrote down in an interest of trying them up in the following days.  By the time they were done, the hatchlings still weren’t done with their nap, so the duo headed towards the upper part of the cave for a little catching up talk.

 

“Phew, this sure was Christmas dinner to remember. Thank you a lot for all of your help.” Zarc smiled while leading his friend to his favorite part of the cave that had a see-through wall from the inside, made of special transparent Barian crystals.

“I’m glad I sneaked out, this was way better than the snobbish party that my father is throwing at the castle. Thank the Egyptian Gods that I managed to learn fast-flying from En Winds.”  

“That’s really awesome, you’re learning so fast.”

“Oh Zarcy, spare me all the compliments. You’re amazing too Dragon Daddy.”

“Not that nickname again…” Zarc blushed redder than a tomato (no pun intended).

“But it’s true! Your little ones really see you as their parent and whenever I’m around all of you, I can feel so much positive aura. The bond you share is a wonderful example of harmony between human and spirit world.”

“Oh, Ray…” the silver haired mage nervously scratched his neck “I’m just fulfilling my role as a Dragon Guardian.”

“Sheesh you’re annoyingly modest now, you know that?” Ray playfully smacked his shoulder “Oh this reminds me!”

 

Ray headed back to the entrance area where she left her bag, taking several small packages out of it. The hatchlings half stirred out of their nap once they felt the duo of mages near them again. Zarc was a bit surprised when Ray handed four packages into his arms.

 

“I know you’re supposed to open them on Christmas morning, but I was just curious if those were okay…” Ray nervously shifted from one foot to another “I was in a bit of a rush, but I managed to finish them.”

 

Zarc curiously opened the first package, seeing that there was red wool scarf in it.

 

“Well I have plenty of scarves, but I’m sure one more will come in handy.” he smiled at the nicely knitted clothing.

“It’s not for you silly.” Ray took the scarf out of Zarc’s hands and rather wrapped the certain fire dragon in it “It’s for Odd Eyes. The wool is enhanced by a magic that prevents it from burning up.”

 

Odd Eyes woke at the strange but soft sensation, snuggling even more into the basket with newly obtained warmth. Zarc proceeded to unwrap the rest of the packages, all proving to be scarves though they were made out of different materials for each dragon.

 

“I knitted the scarf for Starve Venom out of special kind of bindweed blossoms. They’re poisonous but they also attract a lot of sunlight.” Ray pointed at the pink colored scarf that the plant dragon wore proudly, like it was a royal cape.

“What did you use for Dark Rebellion’s scarf? It feels so rough.”

“It’s something that they use in Synchro district a lot, called steel wool. Supposedly it absorbs all the leftover electrical currents. I thought it would come handy for Dark Rebellion to learn to control his electrical abilities.”

“And Clear Wing’s?”

“Oh it’s basically just made of silk since he doesn’t like warmth that much. I’m sure it will come handy in some way, if nothing it at least flaps nicely.”

 

Zarc gently wrapped the scarves around the remaining hatchlings who all inquisitively observed them and from the tiny pleasant voices they were making, he thought they liked them. Starve Venom went on sniffing his scarf, Dark Rebellion tested its elasticity, Clear Wing more or less ran around with it, just see the gentle material in the wind while Odd Eyes simply nuzzled against it until he felt sleepy.

 

“I don’t think they’ll want to sleep alone after the royal treatment they got.” Zarc chuckled already heading to his room to pick his sleeping things “I wish I would have something for you too though… I could’ve only offered you pancakes.”

“No need to beat yourself over this, you’ve already given me so much other wonderful things.” she smiled as she rolled up her sleeve “Like this bracelet right here.”

“I’m glad it came in handy, not to mention it matches your eyes.” Zarc winked which made Ray blush intensely.

“Oh you!” Ray pushed him in annoyance which only made him tease her more when she suddenly remembered one other important thing.

 

Digging through her pockets and bags, she pulled out another nicely wrapped package though unlike the ones in which scarves were wrapped, this one was much smaller. Zarc carefully removed the wrap and as he saw more and more of what was inside, he couldn’t help but widen his eyes from the shiny light that was coming from it.  

 

On a long string was a single sky blue crystal, illuminating from all the light that Barian crystals were producing. Around the crystal were two beautiful wings, embracing it like they were its guardian angel, protecting it from the outside danger. Its beauty however, wasn’t what caught Zarc’s interest when he observed it up close. He could feel magic coming from it, similar to the one Yusho and other performing mages would use. It was like a chest filled with pleasant memories full of laughter and love, its pleasant aura instantly covering him in mirth. And he wasn’t the only one. The hatchlings all stopped playing with their gifts as they felt an incredibly good feeling in their hearts, their tiny heads instantly turning to their guardian.

 

“It was forged with the same magic that you used for my bracelet. It is only fair you get one too.” Ray slipped her fingers over the gems on her bracelet.

“Ray… I don’t know what to say… it’s so beautifully crafted.” Zarc put it around his neck, noticing how it swung and swayed “The way it moves looks like a pendulum.”

“Happiness is like a pendulum, the more you give…” Ray recited.

“…more of it comes back.”  Zarc finished “I guess that’s where you got an idea.”

“Teacher said it so many times that I lost count.” she smiled, thinking about the first few days when she was learning magic under his apprenticeship “Also, the crystal is supposed to keep the bond between you and dragons going strong. In case you want to connect with them better, it will also enhance your guardian abilities through your own Dragon Mark.”

 

To test it out, Zarc decided to use the calming down chant that he’d sometimes use to lull the hatchlings in sleep. Almost immediately, their eyes started to close and along with it, they too snuggled back to the pillows and blankets. Clear Wing protested big time since he wanted to fly around with his new scarf for some more, but the magic got him too and he was only capable of flying back to his guardian’s arms where he curled up and dozed off. Gently, Zarc laid him close to his brothers and lastly tucked them all in with a warm blanket.

 

“I should get going… I promised that I’ll be back by the midnight. Thank you for the pancakes, they were delicious.” Ray started putting her winter coat on.

“Even though you’re the one who cooked them.” Zarc smiled as he hugged her tight “Thank you for truly amazing gifts. I’ll make sure to treasure them forever.”

“No need to get so poetic about it.” she giggled though she turned a bit serious “But yeah, I’m glad you like them and I hope those will help you out, at least as much as my bracelet did to me.”

 

The duo exchanged some more words of gratitude until Ray determined it was getting late and once again took a form of a winged spirit and by the guidance of a light from Barian torch headed home. Zarc then returned to the basket, watching his four wards sleep without a care in the world, their steadily rising and falling chest proving that.  

 

As quietly as he could, he held onto his new gift, using its power to connect with the hatchlings’ minds.

 

“I’m not sure if you hear me or not, but I just wanted to wish you Merry Christmas. I apologize that it wasn’t anything special, so once you’re a little bit older I promise to throw you a party. Odd Eyes… I wish you lots of new adventures where you can freely explore human world. I promise you to take you to the nearest village once you grow up a little. Clear Wing… may your wings develop soon so you will be able to take your flight higher and higher. Starve Venom… may there be many sunny days to keep your spirits and smile up so you can discover new plants. And Dark Rebellion… may you grow strong soon, so you can protect your brothers that you care about so much. Until then, I’ll be there for you as your guardian.”

 

Zarc saw tiny smiles form at the dragons’ mouth as they let out their own version of purring.

 

“Never forget… no force on this or any other world will prevent me from protecting you..." 

 

He clenched the pendant tight in thoughts of what could happen to them in the future if he won't be careful enough, but he relaxed once he saw Odd Eyes' peaceful face.

 

"I love you... with all my heart from now on... and forever more."

Chapter Text

Judai didn’t know what was going on, but what he knew was that someone he thought was dead stood before him. Just right there. And from what he remembered from Asuka, the so-called Resistance member who also acted as a spy knew the girl well.

 

“I’m sorry to break it to you, but I’m not really Ray. The name’s Serena.” she sighed as she fixed the ribbon tying up her ponytail.

“B…but your face, you look like just like her!” the brunet mage still couldn’t believe his eyes.

“Yeah I got that a lot from Asuka and Manjome, but we can’t talk about that right now, I can’t stay for long. I’m sure the others can explain the rest.” Serena casted the same spell she did before, covering her body in an aquamarine veil and her face with a crescent shaped mask. Judai tried to stop her, but he could only watch how the girl floated into the opposite direction from where they came from.

“Judai!” Johan’s voice was heard from the distance as he flew towards him on Sapphire Pegasus “Are you set to go? The ninjas are sensing multiple mages coming. We got to hurry before they get to us!”

“Yeah… I’m going.” Judai murmured as he spread his demonic wings so they could fly off.

“Are you okay?” the blue haired mage asked once they were in the air, flying towards the two dots in the sky which they knew were Tsukikage and Hikage.

“I’m fine… just thinking.”

“What are you thinking about?”

“We’ll talk about it once we get back, alright?”

 

The two of them took the lead since the ninja mages weren’t familiar with the location of the Resistance’s headquarters. As they flew they tried to cloak themselves into the sea mists as much as possible in order to shadow their presence. The ninjas were quite skilled, following them without a problem until they reached a familiar island. As Judai reverted back into his human form he could spot Asuka and Manjume tending to three runaway students, all visibly soaked to the bone and shivering. The black haired mage handed them some capes to shield themselves from the cold air as the blond haired mage comforted the younger looking student who was crying. Johan recalled his pegasus spirit while Judai instructed the two new additions to the Resistance inside. Asuka escorted the rescued kids to the sleeping quarters while the rest of them went back to the common room. Tsukikage and Hikage quickly went through their introductions, telling a bit of what has transpired so far and by the time the blond haired mage was back they managed to describe their journey and what has Yusho found out about Leo. Manjome agreed to start coming up with a plan that would get both Yuri and his guardian out of Leo’s hands as fast as possible when Judai remembered about the mysterious Resistance member.

 

“Asuka… that spy of yours, the one we met…” he started a bit uncertain.

“You mean Serena.” she said, putting down the map of the areas surrounding Academia “I was going to tell you about her and another spy we have near Leo’s school before we went out, but the retrieving mission happened so fast that I couldn’t.”

“Then is Serena really…?” Judai asked as the image of the girl’s face wouldn’t leave his mind.

“No, she’s not Ray.” Manjume interrupted making Johan raise his eyebrows.

“Ray? What the…” the blue haired mage wasn’t sure if he heard it right.

“She may bear Ray’s resemblance, but Serena isn’t really her.” Asuka continued “While a piece of Ray’s soul resides within her, everything else of her is En Moon’s manifestation. She possesses En’s powers of the moon and can freely use Lunalight spirits that live in her body.”

“In other words she’s a very skillful mage and our current spy without whom we couldn’t have gathered as much information as we have. Serena also started the whole Resistence group about five years ago, though it took a while before she found a proper place and started gathering people.” the black haired mage added as he brought several scrolls to the table where some maps were already spread “But lately she has been working solo in order to stay hidden. That asshole of a king started to notice her presence and not to mention her powers are limited without the bracelet she used to carry.”

“Serena can still use her En Moon powers, but she’s much weaker without it and she can’t use her powers to their full potential.” the blonde haired mage sighed.

“That explains why Leo could perform the ritual that forced the dragons to hatch prematurely…” Judai thought out loud.

“What’s the state of the other elemental dragons right now?” Johan asked facing the ninja mages.

“According to our Master Yusho Sakaki, Odd-Eyes and Dark Rebellion are growing up, though a bit more rapidly, fine. The fire dragon had some complications during his first week, but the last time we heard he is now fully healed up thanks to his guardian’s nursing.” Tsukikage told, remembering the last contact with their Master.

“As for the wind dragon we are still unable to locate him. Our Master strongly believes that Clear Wing is somewhere really far with his guardian. If he were to be lost or seriously injured the other dragons would’ve felt it.” Hikage finished.

“So what’s our next move?” the brunet mage asked while looking over the scrolls with the reports“Starve Venom might be small and weak for now, but since their rebirth was triggered by force he will grow much faster. We should act as soon as possible.”

“Judai, you’re forgetting that we seriously blew up our cover.” Asuka intervened “Leo knows that you two broke into Academia weeks ago and he’s clearly aware that there are people who are against him. The whole reason why Edo haven’t got here yet, why Serena has trouble sneaking around and why our other spy has to work in great secrecy is because that man cloaked the majority of the islands surrounding Academia in mists and shields. He knows someone is onto him and nothing will stop him from taking us down.”

 

The group was then silent, each individual thinking what was the best thing they could do. The plant dragon was more under the influence of the mad king each passing second and more the time they stalled, the lesser the chances they had of rescuing the dragon and its guardian in time. As they began to exchange various ideas of what could be done, three little spirits entered the room, carrying a bag that was nearly their size.

 

“Boss! This came from… you know who.” Yellow handed the bag to Manjome who examined it with an interest.

“Good, we finally got some of it in our hands.” the black haired mage emptied the bag, some items fell out and rolled around on the only free spot on the table. From afar they looked like gems, but up close they reminded them of something else.

“Barian crystals?” Johan picked an oval shaped object shining like the jewels on his crystal beasts.

“Not quite.” Asuka brought a glass container to store them for later research “It’s what our spy has been collecting information on for the last year.”

“We found out that Leo is working on multiple projects. Besides training young mages into soldiers, taming the plant dragon and his guardian, capturing spirits and plotting who knows what, we found out about one more secret project done in the most concealed part of Academia. Even the highest ranking teachers aren’t allowed there, only the king himself and a group of researchers are rarely seen anywhere else around the castle.” Manjume said after dismissing his trio of spirits and checking a tiny scroll attached to the bag “From what the enciphered note stated, those supposed crystals are used in the project, but it’s still unclear what is it used for since the center of everything is highly secured. The only other thing that we know is that the researcher in charge of the project isn’t from the Fusion Kingdom.”

 

The new info was quite hard to take in since it left them with more questions than answers. The members of the Resistance knew they had to give it time and properly analyze everything they had so far, but considering they got something that was retrieved after months of patient observations, they decided to put all of their energy towards trying to understand what Leo was up to. The crystal-looking objects were taken to the room reserved for research properties by Asuka followed by Johan who knew a great deal about gems as a crystal beasts tamer. Tsukikage accompanied them too since the Fuma clan stored a lot of findings and researches over generations while Hikage assisted Judai and Manjome at going through all reports that Resistance’s spy brought.

 

They didn’t have much at hand for now, but as the hours passed and soon even days, the group slowly dived into the great secret behind the mysterious project. The last few spirits that managed to hide from the hunts also helped them gather information, though only from places far enough from Academia. Manjome and Asuka had to head back to the other Resistance members from time to time as they were in a way leaders of it. The ninja mages also contacted Yusho who passed them some more news from Kazuma, specifically about the theft of a very important object whose whereabouts were currently unknown.

 

They had much to do and the time was running out fast.

 

 


 

 

 

“When is Jack coming?” Yusei asked while checking the underground room that they hadn’t used for a while.

“Knowing him, obviously long after everyone else.” Crow muttered as he looked around the dusty place “When was the last time we did this?”

“Too long ago… probably around the time the whole mess with that creep was over.”

“Do you really think Ray is alive? The Blackwings would never lie to me, I’m sure of that, but if she were to be…”

“That’s what we’ll be asking the One. If anyone I’m sure it knows since it pretty much can see everything that’s going on in the Synchro Kingdom.”

 

The duo of Synchro mages wiped the dust off the painted ground. The place sure needed a thorough cleanup after being sealed off for years though for now just the circle shaped painting was enough. Yusei thought about the very first time he was brought here, when he still carried the mark of the Tail instead of the Head. It was so long ago when he and the other Signers were taught about the power of their marks, about the new threat and incredible powers all connecting them to the Crimson Dragon. That other time Godwin was with them to guide them to battle, but this time they were alone to make all the important decisions. As the Head of the Crimson Dragon, Yusei was considered as leader of the Signers and was expected to guide his team now. All the other Signers looked up to him and while he had managed to provide the others with proper guidance, the situation they were dealing with now was beyond his skills. They needed to speak with the being whose servants they were – the Crimson Dragon.

 

By the sound of the many footsteps approaching them, they could guess the others weren’t far. Before Yusei went to unseal the ancient room, Crow notified the other Signers to have a quick meeting which was in a way strange since they all with the exception of Jack spent pretty much all their time together. Jack on the other hand would stay at the Tops since he was a member of the Council and that’s how he was able to deliver the news to the other Signers and notify them of what was going on.

 

Soon a red haired mage wearing a matching short ruffled dress came into view, along with two cyan haired kids who looked like a mirror version of each other. The girl wore a similar ruffle dress as the mage except it was in a lighter shade of crimson and wasn’t as ruffled and covered up by a white vest. The other twin, a boy, wore plain shorts and a short matching coat under which a blue shirt was peaking. It was pretty obvious that his outfit was a younger imitation of the majestic coat and navy blue outfit that the last person in the group was sporting. After all, Jack has been the boy’s idol for years.

 

“About time you got here Mr. King.” Crow playfully teased the blond haired mage.

“If those old geezers wouldn’t be so full of planning the next Friendship Cup I’d be here sooner. As if some gladiator tournament would settle the tensions between the Tops and Commons.” the man complained before the orange haired mage could throw any more nicknames at him.

“Well, as long as Rua, Ruka and Aki don’t need to leave the mansion to get you, I don’t see the problem with you being late.” Yusei chuckled as he took place on the floor’s painting right where the head of a serpent-like dragon was “Should we begin then?”

 

As much as Crow and Jack wanted to continue bickering at each other, they knew the meeting was serious and stepped to their places as well. The rest of the Signers followed, each of them exposing a mark that each of them had engraved in their arms.

 

“Tail.” Crow started and the back of the painting began to glow.

“Wings.” Jack continued as nearly the entire picture began to glow safe for the spots where the others were standing.

“Foot.” Aki said, feeling a slight prickling as more light filled the room.

“Hand.” Ruka put her hands together like she was praying, feeling her loyal spirit Kuribon near her.

“Heart.” Rua crossed his hands touching the chest while a little circle shaped drawing began to glow in the grasp of the dragon’s left claw.

“Head.” Yusei finished as all the marks were connected and so the glowing painting was complete. Each of them could feel the soul of their respective dragons roar loudly, calling for the creature they too served.

 

A crimson light filled the painting, illuminating the entire underground room as all the Signers felt an enchanting power. Soon they no longer were in their own world, the walls disappeared as they were replaced by an endless space full of shooting stars. They were connected to analternative dimension which was neither like the human world or the Synchro Kingdom’s spirit world, which Rua and Ruka would visit at multiple occasions. Here there were no humans or spirits, only them, the six Signers connected with their dragons and one more being, far more divine.

 

The sleek, serpent-like crimson red body, clawed hands and feet, eyes glowing brighter than the sun was the creature that made them, the Signers - what they were. By being given a piece of its soul that connected them with their Signer Dragons’ souls, the six individuals became the servants of the Crimson Dragon that now floated above them, its long body coiling around an invisible axis. Almost at once each of them bowed to the powerful being, with Yusei making eye contact when speaking with the dragon.

 

“Crimson Dragon… it’s been a while since we last requested your help and today we need it once more.” the black haired mage stated as the dragon howled back for the answer which Yusei interpreted as words.

“Yes I was going to inform you about it sooner or later, Stardust.” the Signers raised their eyebrows at just how quickly Crimson Dragon cut to the chase “You’re confused about Rin.”

“Rin? Don’t you mean Ray? Gale ensured me it was Ray that its keen eyesight picked on.” Crow butted in.

“The young lady that your spirits saw both is in a way Ray and she isn’t, Blackwing. But she is Clear Wing’s Guardian.”

“Guardian? Wait, does that mean…” Jack seemed to realize something.

“I think it’s the best if I just show you.” the dragon’s glowing form became brighter, turning the walls of one dimension into another.

 

Ruka immediately recognized it as a memory pocket dimension since the spirit of her Ancient Fairy Dragon would use it a lot to communicate with her. The walls started off as blank, but as more images showed up on them, the Signers could recognize the event that was burnt down in them for so many years.

 

The places they knew in ruins, wasteland wherever you looked and dark clouds blocking any ray of light. It was the world after the Dragon War had ended, with no one but the mages chosen by the spirits still standing by the devastating scenery. They could see memory versions of themselves tending to other wounded comrades, looking for any possible survivors or just staring at the lifeless world as if they didn’t believe their eyes. The Signers could hardly watch their own memories as they had experienced many wars before the Dragon War even begun, each very painful and full of sorrow even as just a memory. The Crimson Dragon led them through various events until Ray came into view, her clothes torn and covered by blood but she still stood there as if it was nothing.

 

The maroon haired girl observed a huge seal surrounded by spirits which kept all of their magic pointed into the creature trapped in the seal. The only other mage participating in the ritual was no other than her childhood friend Zarc, seemingly exhausted and drained of his magic. She knew that those things had to be done for the sake of those few who survived, but watching her friend hardly controlling the seal was heartbreaking. Not only was the creature there once four elemental dragons that protected the balance between humans and spirits, to Zarc they were like a family. Ray could recall those fourteen years of how each of them was growing up, but now all they were was a monstrosity beyond recognition that no one could defeat, let alone control.

 

“Ray… I’ve decided.” she heard the silver haired adolescent say “I’ll end this.”

“Are you really sure about it?” even though she knew the answer Ray hoped Zarc wouldn’t do it.

“There’s no other way… believe me if I could, I would keep the seal up until the day I die, but with it… the Supreme Dragon King will wipe away what’s left of this world. If I turn them back into eggs, they’ll be able to start from the beginning and the world will get to recover.”

“About the world… I was thinking I’d use En powers to-“

“No!” Zarc grabbed a hold of Ray’s shoulders in despair “You mustn’t sacrifice yourself too!”

“Look around you Zarc! Does this world look to you as something that will ever be alive again? The rivers have been evaporated, the soil has turned into ash, the greenery has been burnt down and only a handful of humans and spirits survived! This world has no future as it is!”

“But if the spirits and remaining mages join forces-“

“Those who were left are drained of their powers! They can hardly hold themselves together let alone bring the world back to the way it was!”

 

Yusei and the others could see their fallen comrades continue to argue in anguish, each wanting the other to survive. The Synchro mage knew the two of them were discussing something, he however never knew what hard decisions they were force to take back then. If he were to know what they were planning he might’ve intervened though deep down he knew their sacrifices were needed for a better future. The prophecy he’d been trying so hard to prove to be false has at last come true. Then he could see Yusho Sakaki coming to his two apprentices, learning about their plans as he too tried to talk them out of it.

 

“Zarc as the Guardian of the Elemental Dragons used the remaining magic and the life force he possessed to end his dragons’ suffering by defusing them and putting them back in their eggs. Ray as the mage chosen by En powers, used her magic to revive the world, but unlike Zarc’s spirit who was sealed in Yusho’s pendulum, hers was lost in the new world.” the Crimson Dragon then showed the two fallen mages performing their last rituals before disappearing.

 

“So Ray then didn’t really die?” Crow scratched his head in confusion.

“What you are about to see is a heavily guarded secret, known only to few in order to protect the dragons.” the dragon summoned a memory that showed Ray in her last moments.

 

The mage held onto the pendulum that hosted Zarc’s spirit close to her heart as Yusho looked over the newly created dragon eggs to see if the ritual was successful. Ray excused herself which the others understood, knowing she needed time on her own to grieve for a person she just lost for the sake of the creatures he cared for dearly. But that was just a disguise for what she was about to do.

 

“Ray… you don’t need to do this…” Zarc’s voice echoed from the pendulum “You can still revive the world without your sacrifice.”

“If I do, the same tragedy will repeat. The dragons need a guardian like you and a peaceful environment where they will grow up.”

“I know it’s your choice, but going so far for them…”

“I loved them too Zarc… all four of them… the quiet Dark Rebellion, the mischievous Starve Venom, the playful Clear Wing and the innocent little Odd Eyes. You’re not the only one who saw them as your family.”

“Please just think this through again, I can’t bear to lose you as well.”

“I’ll do it for them; they deserve to have a second chance. Even if all of me is lost, I will find a way to keep them safe.”

 

Despite her friend’s protests Ray took the pendulum back to Yusho and left without another word. Then it was like the whole image became a painting drenched in a river as the world as they knew it was overgrown by new greenery, filled with clear winds and thrived with new life. The Signers recalled the moment when they didn’t know what was going on for a while as the scenery continued to change. By the time it was over they were back at Godwin’s mansion like nothing happened. Only once they contacted the other mages and took a flight in the new world they realized what the young mage had done to fix the consequences of the war.

 

Ever since then they were looking after the Synchro Kingdom protected by the powerful seal of Crimson Dragon. Due to being the most isolated of four different kingdoms, The Signers relied heavily on their comrades from the war for any news. But some information appeared to be only known by spirits as powerful as Crimson Dragon.

 

“What you don’t know is that Ray’s spirit wasn’t entirely lost. The powers of En took four tiny pieces of her soul and turned them into four beings that, just like Ray promised, looked after the dragon eggs from afar until they would hatch. Each of them stayed guard in their respective kingdom and protecting guardian marks, looking out for anything that might appear to be a threat to the unborn dragons.”

“Why do I get a feeling that wasn’t all that happened…” Crow muttered nervously since he was the talkative one of the group.

“If one part of Ray was reincarnated to be Clear Wing’s guardian, does that mean that there are another three parts looking after the other dragons?” Yusei asked, thinking about everything that Crow told him from what his spirits saw.

“I’m afraid it really isn’t as simple as Black Feather said. You see, about five years ago something happened that forced Ray’s counterparts to pass the guardianship to other mages.”

“Five years ago?” Aki questioned, trying to remember what could’ve possibly transpired at that time.

“Regulus reported spirits going missing and massive plains in the spirit world somehow ended up in ruins.” Ruka mumbled as the Kuribon nodded in agreement.

“Yugi and Atem reported that Egyptian Gods had been trying to break out of their seals around that time too… same thing with the XYZ Kingdom’s powerful spirits.” the leader of the Signers added.

 

“A very powerful sorcerer who happens to be the ruler of the Fusion Kingdom used a forbidden magic to steal the guardianships from Ray’s counterparts and tried to take them as their own. En Winds was the only one who managed to keep her mark of a Dragon Guardian. En Moon prevented the mage from obtaining the other three guardianships but lost the bracelet with which she had full control over the natural magic of the moon in the process. The remaining three marks left Ray’s reincarnations and found their way to their rightful guardians. Starve Venom’s guardianship was so passed to a Fusion mage with a pure heart, one of the four destined mages who would take care of the dragons after Zarc and Ray would pass away. Odd-Eyes’ destined guardian turned out to be the king’s own son, so En Flower took him away before the king could use him for further attempts to steal the guardianship. Dark Rebellion’s guardian was a surprise for En Birds since she had known that particular mage and had taken him under her wing long before all of that started and in order to keep him hidden, entrusted him to one of the XYZ Kingdom protectors.”

 

“So if I got this right, those three failed to protect the marks of guardianship but luckily they had backup guardians?” Jack said straightforwardly.

 

“You are correct, Red Daemon. Ray’s counterparts did everything they could to keep the guardians safe, though at the cost of erasing their memories of the past and their very existence. Even Zarc’s and Ray’s own mentor Yusho Sakaki had no idea who Odd-Eyes’ guardian was until En Flower led him to the young mage when he was old enough for his dragon to feel his presence. If Yusho was able to easily locate the other guardians on his own so would the dangerous mage king. En Birds requested the mages chosen by the spirits in the XYZ Kingdom to keep Dark Rebellion’s guardian safe while she used her powers to cloak his presence until he too would connect with his dragon. En Winds came to me asking to change her into a Synchro’s Kingdom mage and have her memories sealed so she could stay hidden until the day Clear Wing would hatch. En Winds told me everything before I sent her being to be reborn as just a human girl named Rin. En Moon on the other hand was never able to locate Starve Venom’s guardian due to her missing bracelet that she searches for. En Flower however helped her form the Resistance, group that’s fighting against Academia – the school that is transforming young mages into soldiers run by the king who started all of this in hopes that Starve Venom’s guardian might appear among the new students.”

 

“That king… is he, is he really?” Aki asked a bit uncertainly as she thought of some unpleasant memories of the time before she was found by the Signers.

“The very ruler of the Unified Kingdom, Leo Akaba. Not only did he somehow recovered memories of the pre-war times, he got his hands on magic belonging to a powerful spirit that even I failed to recognize. Black Rose, and everyone else, you must be very careful from now on...” the Crimson Dragon told them.

“Is that also the reason why Clear Wing and the other dragons hatched sooner than Yusho predicted they would?” Yusei remembered the Performer Sorcerer’s visit years ago.

“I’m afraid so. I managed to recover Clear Wing’s egg and then take it to En Winds, but it seems like Leo got one of the other eggs and used it to forcibly hatch the dragons. This left a heavy mark both on the dragons and their guardians.”

“But how could he had done this?!” Ruka shouted, clenching onto Kuribon in protective hold “He used to do so much to connect spirits and humans… why would he try to enforce Elemental Dragons, the very symbol of harmony between those two kinds, to be his?”

“People get blinded by power, Ancient Fairy. While he was indeed interested in the spirit worlds, jealousy and hunger for more power clouded his heart. En powers carried Ray’s wish to bring her father and countless other people back to sanity once the world was revived and even placed him in Fusion Kingdom where only children possess magical abilities so he could be as far away from it as possible. But something happened five years ago, something that returned all of his past memories back along with his ideals. No one could predict that he would actually proceed with the plan that Zarc refused to accept in the pre-war times.”

 

All the Signers looked down, knowing something had to be done now that the secret was out. Ray did everything she could to keep her promise to Zarc and for years she succeeded, but now it seemed like she needed help to go on. If the Clear Wing hatchling was indeed in the Synchro Kingdom, they could’ve at least brought the wind dragon and En Winds to their highly protected home until he could learn how to control his powers.

 

“I know what you’re thinking, but you shouldn’t rush to bring Yugo and Rin here just yet.”

“Yugo?” Rua scratched his head in confusion.

“It’s how Zarc renamed him to blend into his reborn life better.”

“Why would we leave him out and in the open?” Yusei interrupted “You stated it yourself that Akaba is after him.”

“He’s safe within the Synchro’s Kingdom. My power protects him from any outside factors, so you shouldn’t rush, until he learns how to shift at least.” the Crimson Dragon used his powers to show some unclear images “There’s something else that I wish you to investigate before you bring Yugo and Rin here.”

 

The scenery of the endless space full of stars was replaces by images of several places all over the Synchro Kingdom. Yusei recognized the plains of Crash Town, miles and miles away from the Tops that Jack knew well, Aki shivered a bit at the sight of a place she hasn’t seen for years, Crow smiled slightly when he saw several Common areas that he would visit regularly and the twins were surprised to see Syncro’s Spirit World as well.

 

“I’ve been sensing foreign magic energy at several places around the Synchro kingdom. It feels like synchro magic while it doesn’t at the same time. I would like you to find out as much as you can as I’m not sure about it myself. I only know it may be dangerous if it stays in the shadows of unknown.”

“Is that magic present at the places shown in front of us?” Jack crossed his arms when he was one of the Top’s outskirts.

“Yes, and I would like you to observe them with your signs. Each and every one of you will go to those places to study them up close and as soon as you learn more about them, I will be giving you new orders.” the dragon faced each Signer respectively “Red Deamon will observe an underground district in the Tops. Black Rose… I know your connection to that… organization and that it will be hard for you to see it again, but the Knight will accompany you there, so stay brave. Black Feather, I sense that magic at many different locations all over the Common area and since you know it fairly well, I entrust those locations to you. Ancient Fairy and Life Stream, you are to visit the Spirit World as the magic is present there too.”

“But… how will we know we’re searching in the right place?” Rua asked nervously.

“Trust your marks like you trust me. They will lead you to the right places and help you observe the mysterious powers.” the Crimson Dragon made the images disappear “So go and search for the answers my dragons. Every clue that you find is important.”

“What about Yusei?” Ruka asked once she realized he wasn’t given a mission.

“Stardust already has a task that only he can do while you do yours. As soon as you’re done, gather right here so we can unfold the mystery hidden in the Synchro Kingdom.”

 

With those words the starry scenery disappeared and the Signers were back in the room with a painting of the Crimson Dragon which was no longer glowing. They knew what had to be done, so as soon as they were back outside the mansion, they called upon the spirits residing in their bodies. Jack’s body was surrounded by black and red flames as the Red Daemon Dragon spread his massive black wings, turning its body into a demonic looking dragon whose horns and bone like structures adored his massive body. Aki and Crow did the same, with the orange haired Signer being surrounded by countless black feathers and Aki with rose petals. Their dragons roared as they took over their bodies, Aki feeling her body becoming sleek like stems, her tail being covered with thorns and lastly rose like plates forming her wings. Crow heard the screeching of his own dragon possessing him as black fur appeared all over his body along with two wings full of huge feathers that glowed in a mixture of black and red. The three newly transformed dragons took their flight into different directions, each headed for the location that the Crimson Dragon assigned for them.

 

Rua and Ruka said their good-byes to Yusei and they too headed to the spirit world. Instead of using the spirits of their dragons, Ruka called upon Regulas to take them there. A lion spirit appeared before them, taking them on his back as he summoned a portal to the Synchro’s Spirit World. The twins held on to Regulas’ mane tightly as the lion spirit roared while disappearing through a glowing slit in the air.

 

At last Yusei was left alone, thinking about the orders that the Crimson Dragon gave to him without the other Signers knowing.

 

“Gather the Destiny Breakers. You must meet again.”

 

Slowly he headed towards his workshop, located in the second floor of the mansion near a balcony. Ever since he was a young child, living in the slums of the Common Area back in the Unified Kingdom, Yusei loved to tinker around the thrown-away objects. With the Synchro area being at the brink of an industrial revolution and mages working with blacksmiths, they’ve developed a mechanism that was powered up by magic. With more and more machines being massively produced, Yusei could only watch how the city became modernized right before his eyes. As he stepped into his workshop, a spirit resembling a pink bird wearing red boots and another one looking like a hamster with screws projecting out of its back instantly came to his side, asking if he needed any help with a new mechanism he was building.

 

As much as he wanted to continue with the project, he had to leave it aside for a while. An additional meeting came first after all. Reaching for the pendant he wore around his neck, Yusei stared at what looked like one third of a golden circle with a red jewel in the middle. Quietly calling after two more spirits, the black haired Signer headed for another room where he would keep parts from Top’s junkyard that he still found useful. It was also the place for which he knew well he wouldn’t be bothered in.

 

The moment he closed the doors, two humanoid spirits appeared before him. One was a girl with pink hair in light green outfit carrying staff resembling tuning fork while the other was a brunet boy in a heroic outfit holding onto a staff. Yusei took the pendent in his hands, showing it to the two spirits.

 

“Tuning Magician and Timesword Magician, lend me your power to reach my comrades. We need to talk.”

 

The magicians nodded to his request as the female spirit started spinning her staff and the male spirit threw his staff at it. The moment that the weapons clashed, Yusei’s pendant began to glow, reaching over the barrier created by the Crimson Dragon to contact the remaining members of Destiny Breakers, a small group of mages, the only ones knowing about a certain accident that happened so many years ago…

 

 


 

 

 

The battlefield at which the young mage stared looked like something out of a nightmare. Everywhere he looked, there were ruins of what used to be a town. The fire was spreading fast, despite his friends’ attempts to extinguish it. Residents were screaming in panic despite being escorted by mages who protected them from ongoing attacks by shadowy figures whose destructive forces were wedging havoc. He did everything he could to lead the people to safety, but this still didn’t stop the terrorizing forces from attacking them. All of a sudden, more of the shadow beings appeared before the terrified people, sending numerous deadly spells towards them.

 

The young mage was ready to defend them, but someone else did before he could use his defense magic. A huge black dragon set itself before them and while those used by the shadow beings were powerful spells, the dragon didn’t get as much as a scratch. Its red eyes glowed as it went after the enemies.

 

“Thank you Jonouchi.” the mage smiled at which the dragon slightly bowed its head like it was saying you’re welcome as it spread its enormous black wings in order to join another dragon in the sky that was also attacking the shadow beings.

 

“Master, almost all of the citizens have been safely evacuated.” a female spirt, wearing a blue and pink outfit along with pointy hat, appeared before him.

“Please, continue searching for survivors Mana. Jonouchi and Seth can keep the Darkness away for now, but there still might be people trapped in the buildings.” the mage pulled his hood lower down over his face.

“Right away, Master!” she quickly nodded as she started calling upon fellow Spellcaster and Fairy spirits to assist her. Since spirits didn’t possess real bodies they had no trouble going through the burning flames and buildings in order to look for trapped and injured citizens. When they would stumble upon someone, they would signalize to Dark Magician Girl and she would temporarily materialize them, so they could carry the survivors to safety.

 

Fortunately some more mages joined in bringing down the flames and even one of the dragons flew down in order to absorb the fire. Spirits sent by Dark Magician Girl also saved few more people and thanks to her healing abilities no more lives were lost that day. The mage let out a sigh of relief once all the flames had been extinguished and the town’s people safely transported to the nearby village. The two dragons in the sky went patrolling in order to exterminate any other signs of the Darkness or Rare Hunters, and after they finished searching the area they came back and landed infront of the mage and a female spirit.

 

“Great job you guys! By working together we’ve managed to save all those people!” the mage removed his hood, revealing his pointy crimson locks and blond spikey bangs “But this is only one town and who knows which one will be next.”

 

The two dragons nodded and spreading their wings, they were ready to fly to where help was needed. They waited for the mage to climb on one of their backs and he was already grabbing onto the black dragon’s bony body when he felt a tingling feeling on his chest. He looked down on his Millenium puzzle dangling on a chain around his neck, but that wasn’t the source of the feeling. It was from another pendent he wore, much smaller which looked like two thirds of it were missing. Taking a hold of it, the mage faced the dragons and Dark Magician Girl again.

 

“Take a short rest guys, you should regain some of your strength if we’ll be heading for another rescue operation again.” he said, the dragons gave him a puzzled look, but soon curled up and folded their wings for a nap. The area was free of any danger for now, so it was safe enough for them to catch some much needed rest.

 

The mage then walked towards the building that survived the fire and found some space, peaceful and barricaded enough, he sat down, crossing his legs. Knowing what her Master was about to do, Dark Magician Girl lifted her staff and created a protective force field around him since the mage was very vulnerable in such state. Closing his eyes, he chanted the spell that only three more people knew while holding onto the pendant.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Yusei stayed focused on the pendant as the Tuning Magician and Timesword Magician gathered their magic until two transparent projections were shown before him. One was of a brunet mage wearing a red jacket over a black tunic and white pants with Winged Kuriboh floating next to his shoulders. The other one was of a much shorter mage, his extravagant hair nearly making a third of the whole projection. He was wearing a long dark blue tunic, covered up by chest armor in a similar shade, black tight pants and a hooded red cape.

 

“Judai… Yugi… I’m glad we’ve managed to meet up.” Yusei started, the other two Destiny Breakers nodding at the greeting.

“What’s going on? Is it…” Judai looked confused.

“Calm down, I just want to talk.” the black haired teen assured and then turned to the shorter mage “Atem couldn’t come?”

“He’s in the Millenium World so you probably couldn’t reach his pendent. His hands are full with the recent unsettling activity concerning the high leveled spirits, especially the Egyptian God spirits.” Yugi lowered his head, thinking about his partner “But I will pass along any information that you’ll give me to him.”

“Very well then.” Yusei nodded, eyeing Judai next “As you may or may not have heard yet the Elemental Dragons have already hatched, but not naturally. They were forced to be reborn prematurely by someone who-”

“Yes… it’s all my fault.” Judai butted in before the Synchro mage could finish, earning a shocked look from Yugi.

“I’m sure it’s not entirely your fault Judai, things-“ Yugi tried to comfort him which only made the brunet mage rage more.

“You don’t get it! Akaba used the power of the Supreme King residing within me in order to steal the eggs! It’s a miracle only one of them made it to the Fusion Kingdom and on top of that he used it to trigger their rebirth much sooner, resulting in their rapid growth and nearly killing them!” Judai yelled.

 

The other two Destiny Breakers understood the pain of his grief and let him be for a while, but they knew they didn’t have much time left. So Yusei told them about what the Crimson Dragon had told to him, Yugi being the least knowledgeable about it of them all. Eventually Judai joined the conversation, telling them about Serena, better known as En Moon and just how similar she looked to Ray when she was fourteen. The Fusion mage also mentioned their struggling plan to recover Starve Venom and his guardian as soon as they could, though their numbers and powers were highly limited. As much as Yugi and Yusei wanted to assist him, they were more needed in their own kingdoms. The Snychro mage had to deal with an unknown danger lurking around the kingdom, while the Pendulum mage had his hands busy with the recent rise of Shadow Realm and the increasing number of Rare Hunters. The brunet teen understood right away, although Yusei promised to send some of the Signers to help him out as soon as the unknown magic that the Crimson Dragon warned them about was taken care of.

 

“Do you think… there will be… another Dragon War?” Yugi asked quietly, horrifying memories circling in his head “Because if one dragon gets corrupted there’s only a matter of time before…”

“No destiny is carved into stone, we write our own fates.” Yusei said with a very determined tone “Didn’t you learn anything from our battle with Paradox?”

“I did and I still hardly believe your ideals.” Judai shook his head “True that the guy was a maniac who got corrupted by some unknown magic, but the prophecy that he kept repeating came true anyway. The Elemental Dragons destroyed the world and both Ray and Zarc had to pay the price because of it.”

“But there were numerous times that they saved the world. The creation of the Elemental Dragons has never been a mistake, if anything it helped to restore the world as it is.” the Pendulum mage defended.

“As much as I appreciate this discussion, we’re running out of time.” Yusei butted in “Long story short, our main concern is to protect our kingdoms, including the Elemental Dragons and their guardians. Odd-Eyes and Dark Rebellion with their guardians are already under protection of mages chosen by XYZ spirits, Clear Wing and his guardian are for now safe and we will go recover them soon, so that leaves Starve Venom with you Judai.”

“We’ve sent one of our trusted members of the Resistance to investigate the mysterious research that has been going on behind Academia’s closed doors for a while now. It may be useful for our plan.” the brunet mage replied, Winged Kuriboh nervously shifting on his shoulders “For now we’re still waiting for few backup mages from Pendulum to arrive.”

“Judai if it was possible, I’d send you some of our forces but…” Yugi started before he was interrupted again.

“It’s alright, I understand. Even if it were for just spirit forces I doubt any of them would dare to step a foot in Fusion. Spirts are practically extinct there now.” Judai picked up Winged Kuriboh, cradling it in his arms “I’ll continue reporting on the progress of Starve Venom’s recovery along with his guardian. You two keep your kingdoms safe.”

“We sure will.” Yusei nodded, noticing his spirits slowly running out of magic “If you notice any changes, even if they seem irrelevant, please tell me.”

“You have my word. It’s why we formed the Destiny Breakers after all.” Yugi made a slightly bow as the projections of his other two comrades disappeared.

 

The Pendulum mage opened his eyes, and stared at Dark Magician Girl and Kuriboh who must’ve come to check on him. Yugi smiled as he ruffled up the little spirit’s soft fur.

 

“Things sure pass by fast, don’t they?” the mage asked rhetorically while standing up and slowly returning back to where his other comrades were waiting. Considering the fact that he couldn’t see their dragon forms in the distance they probably shifted back into their human forms. If they were smaller they were also easier to hide from other people.

 

Soon he found two tall mages near the forest where he’d left them before the meeting with the Destiny Breakers. He saw the mage with blond hair by the name Jonouchi, wearing a white short-sleeved tunic and blue pants, talking with the brunet mage wrapped in a white and black coat who was leaning against a tree with his arms crossed. While Jonouchi hosted the spirit of Red Eyes Black Dragon in his body, Seth had Blue Eyes White Dragon within himself. Just like always, Seth didn’t appear to be really listening to the blond teen, no matter how serious the other one sounded. Fortunately Yugi arrived before this could result in a fist fight.

 

“Yug, great timing! We need your help.” Jonouchi let go of Seth’s clothing.

“It’s not a big deal, this idiot is just panicking about it for no reason.” the brunet mage sighed which enflamed the other teen’s rage that much more.

“What is it?” Yugi asked puzzled as the two mages stepped away for a bit, revealing they weren’t alone.

 

There was a young girl, around fourteen years old. She was wearing a long white tunic that was pleated on the bottom, black leggings, pink boots and a red hooded cape hood which was covering up her shoulder-length pink hair.

 

“She says her name is Yuzu and wishes to speak with you.” Seth said as Yugi was surprised to see someone who he had no idea existed until the last meeting with Destiny Breakers.

“It is an honor to meet you.” she said, bowing to the short mage “But I’m afraid that I have some bad news to deliver to Pharaoh.

 


 

At the same time Yusei was getting ready to leave. He had gathered enough information to carry out the mission that the Crimson Dragon had entrusted him with. Tuning Magician and Timesword Magician were resting in the corner after their strength ran out, though they lasted long enough to hand Yusei some of their magic in order to travel faster. Crash Town was after all really far away, much further than any of the locations other Signers were headed. Some of his spirits wished to accompany him, but due to the length of the trip and danger in those areas, he rather had them watch over their home.

 

Yusei went to the balcony and after taking a deep breath called upon the being within him. Bright white wings sprouted from his back as sparking white and blue scales covered his body, until he had completely turned into Stardust Dragon. Spreading his huge wings, Yusei set for his travel to Crash Town. It had surely been a while since he was up in the air, flying at a high speed and experiencing it through his dragon’s body. Ever since the war ended, the Signers were laying low, not participating in any battle in their dragon forms and rather tried settling things as humans. But now Crimson Dragon gave them new tasks that gave them the very same feeling of dread, just like before they went to fight Dark Signers and Z-ONE.

 

As Yusei flew, he failed to notice a tiny Kuriboh-looking spirit that instead of brown fur was covered in white and black armor, through which only its glowing blue eyes were seen. Once he reached the ocean, a path known to locals as the Stardust Road, he caught a glimpse of another much bigger spirit.

 

A spirit that looked awfully similar to his Stardust Dragon form…

 

 


 

 

 

“Okay, try dodging one more time and then we’ll go back inside.” Shun called towards his dragon who nodded in response, ready to wrap up another training session.

 

It has been a while since Kaito, Yuma, Astral and Shark came to visit, Yuto and Yuya were nearly one month old at that point. They didn’t get any other visitors since then with the exception of Yusho’s friend Kazuma, though the explorer spent more time with the Performer Sorcerer than with them. Their daily routine didn’t change much. The two dragon guardians would tend to their dragons most of the time, feeding, training and taking care of them while Yusho would help and go to town from time to time for part-time jobs and to bring them supplies. The dragons were already the size of a bigger dog, making sleeping in the same bed that more difficult since they were still really attached to their guardians and preferred to share a bed with them.

 

Though at least Yuya and Yuto learnt how to control their abilities now, so no more burnt bed sheets, waking ups with static in their hair, accidental cuts or being overheated. Yuto was especially proud to be able to forge lightning magic and Shun made sure to help him train every day. Yuya also started participating in trainings more and more since he watched his brother train and wanted to be like him. Reiji had to be especially careful when Yuya trained since he had to put all sorts of shields up so that his ward wouldn’t accidently put the Duel Lodge or the nearby trees on fire.  Fortunately right now, Yuya was more interested in the fireflies that started gathering at the sight of the setting sun, the little dragon was chasing them since he was curious of what they were.

 

Yuto on the other hand steadily watched his guardian perform a powerful spell and was ready to avoid it at the last second. But for some reason the lightning dragon felt a weird feeling in his chest and too focused on it, he failed to dodge the spell. While it wasn’t that strong, it was still powerful enough to knock him against the nearest tree, kicking the air out of his lungs.

 

“Yuto!” Shun shouted, rushing to his dragon as fast as he could.

 

Worried for the other dragon as well, Reiji followed Shun to check onto Yuto, whose form was sprawled on the ground. But instead of purple scales, black outlines and sharp wings, the guardians were surprised to see something else.

 

On the place where Yuto was blown to was a young boy, not looking more than five or six years old. His spiked up hair was black with an addition of lavender colored bangs. Shun, confused about what was going on carefully stepped closer, eyeing the child up close since he looked incredibly familiar to him. The XYZ mage took off his coat and wrapped it around the boy since the poor kid had nothing on.

 

“Shun… did it happen already…” Reiji asked the teal haired boy who took the child in his arms. Shun was about to reply when the boy opened his eyes, replying to the question straight off. The eyes were the very same shade of yellow that Dark Rebellion had so this boy had to be…

 

“Re.. Re-ji…” a high pitched voice from somewhere near called, making the two guardians instantly turn around.

 

Another 5-6 year old was struggling to walk towards them while a huge red tail was making his balance that more difficult. His hair was dual colored as well, with the lower bangs being tomato red and the upper ones a vibrant green color, just like his eyes. There was no mistaking it – that was Yuya. The boy managed to make few more steps before the awkward movement of his tail caused him to land in the grass face first. Reiji instantly discarded his cape as well since Yuya was also naked.

 

“I thought they were supposed to take human form only after a couple of years.” Reiji muttered as he took Yuya in his arms, the boy attempting to pronounce his guardian’s name correctly “The teacher might know more about it than we do.”

 

Shun nodded and together they carried them inside to the living room where Yusho was going through some papers, which he dropped in surprise at the unlikely sight. Since he had received memories of the past, Reiji and Shun knew that their dragons could shift into human forms, they just didn’t know it would be so soon. Yusho instructed them to carry the dragons to their beds where they would be more comfortable and he could examine them more closely. Yuya and Yuto on the other hand acted pretty much the same as they usually did in their dragon forms, though they moved their now human fingers and other limbs with curiosity.

 

Once the dragons were in their beds, Yusho proceeded to take a closer look at Yuto first since unlike Yuya he was also injured and appeared to be more exhausted after shifting from one form to another. Despite the dragon having regenerative abilities, Yusho rather healed him himself since the whole transformation was exhausting enough for the kid. Yuto was mumbling some uncoherent sentences, but other than this he dozed off pretty soon. Shun brought some of his clothes for his ward, all of them too big, but they would do for now. The lightning dragon let his guardian dress him and as soon as all the buttons were done he was out cold. Yusho assured him that Yuto was alright, just exhausted from making the complete transformation at once.

 

Then there was Yuya whose human form wasn’t complete. Besides the tail he also had some horns, his feet were still in his dragon form and instead of ears he had wing-like appendages. A great deal of memories rushed through Yusho’s head as he could clearly remember the day that Zarc showed him how successful the dragons were at shifting into a human form with the help of some simple magic that they learnt from Ray. Odd-Eyes who was now known as Yuya curiously stared at the man who gently examined his dragon features. When the man ran his fingers through the boy’s scales, Yuya couldn’t help but giggle since he was very ticklish. In the end Yusho determined that both of the dragons were completely healthy and that there was nothing to worry about. Soon Yuya also became sleepy and as his form shifted back to the one of a dragon, he passed out as well and Reiji could only pull covers over him to keep him warm.

 

Now that the dragons were taken care of, a bigger problem had to be adressed. Why were they growing so fast?

 

“Reiji, could you get me the spell book about XYZ magic with the red covers and yellow bookmark?” Yusho asked all of a sudden, the apprentice nodded at the request and stood up to fetch it from across the room. In a matter of seconds Reiji was back with the heavy book. The young guardian expected his teacher to look into the book for some answers, but was surprised when Yusho didn’t even open it.

 

“I see… that’s how it is.” the man’s eyes widened in realization.

“What is it?” Shun tried to follow.

“You didn’t need my help to get the book.” Yusho said, making even less sense than before.

“What does this have to do with anything?” the teal haired mage still didn’t get what it was all about.

“I mean, you reached a book shelf that you couldn’t weeks ago. And you didn’t even need to step on your tiptoes.”

 

Reiji and Shun looked at each other in puzzlement, both starting to connect the strange things that have been happening to them lately. How their clothes and shoes were getting slightly tighter, how their reflexes and magic conjuring was getting better and how much quicker they would learn to use new spells and spirit summoning.

 

“As their guardians, you’re connected to your dragons, not just mentally, but physically as well.” Yusho pointed at their marks “Which means… Leo’s doings affected you as well.”

“What do you mean?” Reiji blinked in confusion.

“He caused the dragons to hatch prematurely… and this also made them age much faster. If they were to grow normally like they used to before- I should’ve notice it sooner – they would be still small and mentally at the level of a toddler, but at this point they’re at least five years old already. Their dragon forms were bigger when they firstly transformed into humans, thought I think those will grow pretty soon too… in order words you will grow with them at the same speed.”

 

The apprentices’ jaws nearly dropped from the shock. Them growing as fast as the dragons… meaning if they already reached five years in only a month…

 

“Then how old are we now?!” Shun reacted first.

“My guess is that it has been at least a year for you two, so you’re already eleven.” Yusho said after thinking all of this through for a while “I once witnessed someone who had a similar spell casted on themselves. It started up rapidly, making them age for several years in weeks, but then it slowed down to only a year for a month until the person died.”

“Then we’re only going to live for less than 90 months?! Less than seven years?!” Reiji calculated fast in his head.

“Goodness no! Your situation is far different. The elemental dragons were fourteen when they were put back in their eggs, so your rapid aging will most likely stop at that time.” Yusho quickly comforted his apprentices so they wouldn’t panic “Leo might be a fool, but even he wouldn’t make such a stupid mistake.”

“So… in less than a year… we will be already 20?” Reiji found his voice after minutes of shock.

“Yes… and Yuya and Yuto will be 14 and that’s when this will stop. Since that’s when… when they were turned back.” Yusho tried to forget about the loss of that day while trying to explain the situation to Shun and Reiji “From now on, you’ll have to be especially careful with your trainings since this is just the beginning. Not only will you age in your bodies but mind as well and mental growth at this speed can be quite a shock.”

 

Shun and Reiji still stared at their teacher with wide eyes, gulping down his words with a great deal of nervousness. Fortunately Yusho realized it soon enough and instead of talking about it more, he led them to a room with some statues of spirits in it.

 

“For now the best thing that you can do, is to make yourselves stronger. Nine months isn’t a lot of time, but we can still make the most of it if the two of you throw yourselves into training. As their guardians you’re supposed to be one step ahead of your dragons.” Yusho announced facing the two youngsters before him “I know so many things have turned your lives upside down in the last few weeks and it will only become tougher for you…”

 

“We can do it!” Shun shouted, surprising the man “I’ve always wished to become a mage chosen by the spirits like Kaito and now I have a chance to be as strong as I wanted.”

“I never had a goal in my life before, but now that I have Yuya it feels like I’m finally living for a reason. I’ll do anything I can to be a rightful guardian for him.” Reiji added in a quiet yet determined voice.

 

Yusho watched the fire and lighting in his apprentices’ eyes, a pure passion that kept them going no matter in how difficult the situation they were caught in. The last time he saw someone as passionate as those two was after Zarc completed his first rescue mission with his dragons.

 

 


 

 

 

The fog and the mists gathered around Academia were difficult to get through unless you were a mage trained to see in the dark and had quick reflexes. As a member of the Fuma clan, Hikage didn’t have that much trouble with it, swiftly climbing from one rock to another as he tried to reach the back of Academia. Since the back side of the building, where they mostly stored supplies and tools, was placed right next to an active volcano, no one dared to sneak there and more importantly – the security wasn’t as tight.

 

He managed to find the right spot and as he mumbled a simple spell a part of the wall was broken apart for just a few seconds, enough for him to slip in and then put itself back together like a jigsaw puzzle with no signs of ever being broken in the first place. Hikage quickly rushed through the hallways while being careful not to use too much magic. According to Judai and Manjume, little non-fusion magic wasn’t detectable, but should he try to use more complicated techniques or summon his spirits, it would give away his position right away. So the Resistance planned to have Hikage explore the part of Academia that had been built long after Judai, Asuka and Manjume graduated from it. Neither of them had any idea of what was going on there other than no one but the shady looking researchers were allowed in. It was hard to believe that their spy managed as much as to take a peek into it, let alone take something that they were developing there.

 

“Sun shines in the shadow.” Hikage stopped in his tracks as he heard an unknown voice coming from somewhere in the hall.

“And so does the moon.” the ninja mage replied with the arranged password, looking around until he saw an Academia student sitting on the pile of boxes with legs crossed.

“You are right on time, I’m impressed.” the student reached in their pocket for a crumpled piece of paper “You have ten minutes to memorize it, then it will turn into ash. I can lead you to the airway that connects with the hidden labs but that is about it. From that point on you’re on your own.”

 

Hikage nodded and focused on the words, passwords, traps and all the other information on the paper, all while the student stayed guard for anyone who would wander in their direction. The ninja mage didn’t expect for the Resistance’s spy to be bold enough to venture Academia’s territory as one of the students. He was even tempted to ask him how they blended in so well when the spy’s appearance changed. Instead of an Obelisk Blue student they were now a member of Ra Yellow with both their hair and eyes changing colour and even their height changed. So that’s how the spy did it, changing their looks so regularly that even the Resistance wasn’t sure about their true identity.

 

“Time’s up.” the spy said and in the same second, the paper disintegrated before ninja’s eyes “The northern hallway will be empty, but still cloak yourself with invisibility spell, the one that your clan specializes at. I can distract them but those guards are skilled and will recognize an unknown presence.”

 

The ninja mage instantly hid himself with his magic as a reply and the spy stood up, heading for the restricted area. Just like the mysterious Resistance member said, most of the time they were alone, however at one point a group of what seemed to be Yellow Ra students passed them. They didn’t seem more than ten years old and yet Hikage could already sense more power surrounding them than Reiji. Whoever was training those mages must’ve trained them with an iron fist.

 

As a member of the same class, the spy gave them a stern look and the students did the same. After all majority of those who came to Academia were here for power, not friends, so every other student was considered a rival. Luckily they weren’t strong enough to sense Hikage’s presence, though just in case the spy changed their appearance to that of an Osiris Red student.

 

“Here.” the spy nudged at the small hole in the ceiling “You can use that to get to the restricted area. Try not to enter the building itself since they’ve upped the security ever since I got in. I’m sure you’ll get enough information just by observing.”

“I thank you for your cooperation.” Hikage bowed even though he was still under an invisibility spell.

“I won’t be able to accompany you back, so I hope you engraved the map in your brain.” they replied before heading back to the main hall “I’ll try to get more information on how Starve Venom and his guardian are restrained. Hopefully the others will manage to figure something out.”

 

And just like that the member of the Resistance set off in the same direction that they came from. Not losing a moment, Hikage climbed towards the hole and as quietly as he could crawled towards the restricted building. On his way he had to undo some traps he was warned about, watch out for the guards and keep his ears open at all times. Every irrelevant chat among the students, teachers or others could contain vital information about Academia, such as the one he heard somewhere close to the training grounds.

 

“Is it true you’re in the same class as a Dragon Guardian?!”

“Shhhh we aren’t supposed to talk about it.”

“But you’ve seen him right?”

“I did, but really he’s nothing special. His magical abilities are nearly below the average.”

“It might be that he’s just not allowed to use his whole power. I mean only few actually know who he is, everyone else is just speculating.”

“So when he’s not in the class he’s with the dragon? Do you know where they keep it? It’d be awesome to see it!”

“Guys the lesson will start soon, we should get going.”

 

Hikage moved forward once he heard enough. Despite wanting to bring Starve Venom and his guardian back to Yusho since he was supposed to be protecting them, the members of the Resistance and especially Judai told him that they shouldn’t act without a plan. After all none of them really knew much about Academia, at least not about how it was now. It was no longer a welcoming school with loving teachers who’d teach them the ways of magic and how to connect with spirits. Now it was just a shadowy facility where young mages were brainwashed into soldiers.

 

It took him a while, but at last, Hikage reached the restricted area. The building was nearly one fifth of the entire school and considering the brand new walls it was built recently. Unlike the classrooms and training grounds, those spaces were mostly occupied by tables and storerooms full of objects and substances that the ninja mage had no idea what they were, about two dozen adults, probably mages in protective clothing were walking up and down, checking over messily written notes, boiling potions or were simply debating about what they were doing. Hikage swallowed hard when he saw several researches carrying spell-crafted cages full of weaker spirits to do who knows what to them.

 

Another spark of interest was a group of rather young mages ages from five to eight who were being examined and had something injected in them. The ninja tried to get closer, but unfortunately the number of airways was limited. Getting himself close to the man who appeared to be in charge of the whole thing, a creepy looking guy with long curly white hair and wide-open eyes, was the best he could do for now.

 

“How are the subjects responding to the new mixture?” he asked in a skin-crawling tone of voice.

“It depends on their magical abilities. Some are positive, some negative, but for the most not much happens.” another researchers holding a bunch of scrolls answered “So far only one was successful and I doubt we’ll manage to create another one.”

“Well keep working on project Guardian. The king is breathing down my neck about it.” the man walked to where the young mages were being experimented on “… instead of letting me do my own research.”

 

Hikage tried to listen to the conversations some more, but he soon realized he couldn’t understand much about what was going on in the restricted building. The substance they were studying at the Resistance’s headquarters was nowhere in sight and from what he gathered up it could as well be just a failed experiment. Just before he left he went to take a quick look at some of the other rooms, though he didn’t find out much as they were mostly storerooms or smaller labs where researchers were writing reports.

 

But boy was he surprised what he saw in at the last room in the restricted area.

 

A small opening provided by the airway gave him a magnificent view at the hall-like room nearly three times bigger than the huge researching room. There were a few researchers making notes while the rest were watching over the fight that was unfolding before their eyes. Surrounded by trees, bushes and other jungle-grown plants was an arena where three students were at once fighting something smaller, but deadly.

 

About the size of a big dog with a vicious tail doubling its lenght, there stood a plant dragon, Starve Venom or how Zarc renamed him, Yuri.

 

Even though he looked as if he had more chance to win against the students who were seemingly terrified of his appearance, the dragon looked anything but in a good shape. His petals were much paler compared to the majestic paintings of him back at the Fuma clan shrine, the bright red orbs over his body had an almost blinking glow and his brilliant pink and dark green scales were full of scars. Not far from the dragon stood an orange haired mage wearing an Osiris Red uniform, worry gleaming in his eyes.

 

The tallest student facing the dragon, around fourteen years of age, plucked up the courage to gather up the magic needed to cast right into the opponent. Despite the worn out look, the plant dragon reacted instantly, spreading its petals to fly in the air, dodging it and instantly coiling his thorny tail around the student’s neck, who was too shocked to make a sound. The other two younger students attempted to get the dragon off their colleague by summoning fusion forged spirits. While the water- and fire-covered snake-like spirits managed to strike the dragon, Yuri still wouldn’t let go of the student who was slowly losing his breath due to the tight hold. Terrified for their fellow student, the duo rashly attacked the plant dragon at once, hoping they could at least rescue the suffocating colleague. But they forgot that Yuri’s tail wasn’t the only thing that was deadly.

 

At once his petals transformed into carnivorous plants, all four of them pinning and biting into the summoned spirits until they disappeared, all while the dragon gnawed onto one student’s side and penetrating the other student with its talons. In less than five minutes, all three students were barely alive, defeated by a creature three times smaller than them.

 

The guards quickly took them away so the medical team could heal them at once, all while the researchers continued to scribble down the details of the fight. No one, but the orange haired mage did the same for the dragon who barely moved after the forced training sessions.

 

“Please… can’t you give him a break? He’s been fighting since morning without a decent break or food.” the young mage pleaded while gently healing the dragon’s injured spots.

“It’s his majesty orders.” a muscular looking guard said without bothering to make eye contact.

 

Only now did Hikage notice that the so called king of Fusion was actually there, sitting on a throne-like chair while supporting his chin with a hand like he was extremely bored with the situation before his eyes. As the mage that the ninja presumed to be the dragon’s guardian continued to protest, Leo stood up, stepping before the six year old.

 

“What appears to be the problem, Macfield?” the man asked with arms crossed behind his back.

“Can’t you see he’s exhausted?!” Dennis couldn’t hide his outrage at the dragon’s treatment “He’s been doing everything that you asked of him and still you make him fight for hours!”

“So? Starve Venom is a dragon, a beast capable of incredible strength and stamina.” Leo replied with zero empathy.

“He’s only a month old!” Dennis felt all the built up anger towards the man who imprisoned him and Yuri pouring out of his mouth “Yuri is not a weapon!”

 

All of a sudden, Dennis felt a shockwave from his collar, pain instantly engulfing his entire body in an excruciating hold.

 

“I think I made myself clear you are not to refer to it as this childish name. No one allowed you to name it as your pet.” Leo fiddled with his fingers making the shocks lessen once he notice the boy was having trouble breathing “A beast like it doesn’t need a name.”

 

Dennis gasped for a breath, his hands shaking after more torture. He knew he shouldn’t act up, especially not before Leo, but living like this for more than a month has been practically driving him crazy each passing day. Lying paralyzed on the ground prevented him from interfering into what unfolded next, something so sudden that even Hikage was surprised.

 

Despite the barely healed injuries, Yuri flew directly at Leo at once, his four transformed petals lashing from his back to gnaw at the man’s body. While Leo managed to avoid the tail and two of the petals, the rest of them caught his arms, the sharp edges of the carnivorous plants stabbing into his skin. But unlike so many students who had screamed or froze in fear when dragon attacked them, Leo simply narrowed his eyes and snapped his fingers. The collar that Yuri wore immediately produced a strong electrical shock, much stronger than the one used on Dennis, but despite the pain, the plant dragon still wouldn’t let go. Yuri’s glowing green eyes glared with such loathing that scared even his own guardian who had thus far become accustomed with his appearance. The dragon continued to bite into the flesh of a person he despised all while the collar continued to shock him. In the end a guard responsible for the dragon and his guardian, Barret, had to step in, casting a spell that blasted Yuri against a rock.

 

Dennis immediately rushed towards his ward, even after the effects of the punishment made his body feel like it was stabbed by hundreds of needles at once. Like always he was ready to heal him, since no one else dared to, when he noticed something different about the dragon. Or more like no dragon at all.

 

Trying to stand up among the pieces of rocks, was a boy Dennis’ age whose violet locks covered his head with a pink colored undercut below them. His neon green eyes were still glaring at Leo under thick eyebrows the same color as his undercut. By now the guardian noticed that the boy had nothing on and quickly shed the upper part of his uniform to cover him up. The boy gave him a quick look full of gratitude, letting him know he was in fact still Yuri, before pointing his piercing look at king Akaba again.

 

“So you’ve finally shifted.” Leo said with an unchanged expression “The ceremony really worked.”

“Le..Leave Den…nis… out of… this…” Yuri stuttered the words like he had trouble talking.

“Oh, but just like you he didn’t follow the rules.” the king stepped menacingly before the two boys “As students of Academia, you’re to swear your loyalty to me only. Disobey the rules and you’re punished.”

 

Yuri appeared as if he was going to throw some more words towards Leo, but the exhaustion finally got the best of him and he fainted right into Dennis’ arms. The guards finally got approved to get closer, one group dragging Dennis and Yuri in his complete human form away while the other one tended to Leo’s injuries caused by the dragon. The king wasn’t one bit dazzled, even when his cuts were healing. In his mind he just continued to think about Yuri’s face, completely identical to one he saw for the first time so many years ago.

 

 


 

 

He was sitting on a bench in the garden surrounding the palace located in the very center of the Unified Kingdom as his five year old daughter picked flowers. Young Ray had her long maroon hair tied in a bun while the sleeves of her royal gown were making it difficult to reach some of the flowers.

 

“Can’t I wear something more simple, dad?” the girl frowned at the dress.

“Ray, you’re an heir to the throne. It is befitting for you to dress as a lady.” he said, not looking away from the scroll he was reading.

“But I can’t do much in this!” Ray pouted as she stood up and walked away from the garden.

“Ray,” Leo called, but his daughter wasn’t having it. Sighing he put away the scrolls about spirit worlds in order to follow her when he was met by a familiar face.

 

With a red hat and draped in red traveling clothing, there was no mistaking it. Yusho Sakaki returned from another trip around the kingdom. Leo actually smiled at the sight of his old friend and was about to give him a friendly handshake, when he noticed Yusho wasn’t quite alone. Right next to him was a silver haired boy, around the same age as Ray, dressed in a similar outfit suitable for travelling. He seemed rather uncomfortable being around the ruler of the Unified Kingdom, but he did his best not to show it.

 

“Oh, I guess I should make introductions.” Yusho smiled nervously as he nudged to boy to get a little closer “Meet my new apprentice, Zarc.”

“Apprentice? Are you really sure you’re capable of having one?” Leo raised his eyebrows.

“Not really, but this young man insisted on becoming one with such passion in his eyes that I simply couldn’t refuse.” the man proudly patted Zarc’s shoulder “Not to mention his magical abilities are superb.”

“Interesting… so does Zarc-“ Leo continued before he got cut off by another voice.

“Uncle Yusho!” Ray appeared out of nowhere “You’ve came to visit again!”

“I see you’ve grown taller.” Yusho greeted the princess.

“Not only that! I’ve also started learning magic! Do you want me to show you right now!?” the girl excitedly raised her arms when she saw someone else next to Yusho “Oh, and who are you?”

 

The silver haired boy blushed at the sight of a nicely dressed girl and would only stare at her sparkling indigo eyes, so full of energy and excitement.

 

“Z-Zarc…” the boy blurted which made the little girl giggle.

“That’s a nice name! Are you Uncle Yusho’s friend?” she asked.

“Apprentice…” Zarc replied partly looking away to hide his bashful face.

“Wow, that’s so amazing! How much do you know already? Did he teach you any spells yet? Uh, do you know how to summon spirits?”

 

Ray wouldn’t stop asking questions so Zarc just nudged her to slow down and let him answer. The girl shyly quieted down, eagerly listening to the boy who described all of his training sessions with Yusho in detail. The two children eventually moved towards an area full of trees where they continued their talk, Ray not hiding her amazement at the young mage one bit. Leo was about to follow them but Yusho, placed an arm on his shoulder.

 

“Let them be, Leo. It has been a while since I’ve seen Zarc actually talk with someone by himself.” the Performer Sorcerer said “I can assure you he won’t do anything to your daughter.”

“Just where did you find him? And how can you be sure about that? Last time you came by was four months ago with no apprentice.”

“He’s only five and the whole reason I took him in was because… well because he had no one. He was isolated by his peers just because his magical abilities were so strong… and he is that strong because he was forced to be that way.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that he was abandoned as a child, left in the outskirts of the XYZ district just when another Number War broke lose. He had to grow stronger fast in order to survive before he was taken in by a group of mages who despised his abilities.” Yusho looked at how Zarc performed some spells that impressed Ray a lot “Children deserve better and you didn’t think twice when Dr. Fudo asked for your help. After he sacrificed his life for his only son during the Zero Reverse accident, you searched for his child until you found out that he was safe and sound at one of the Synchro’s district orphanages.”

“That’s different, Dr. Fudo was a spirit world researcher for whom I had great respect not to mention I actually knew his son for a while.”

“Well I might not know Zarc’s background, but that moment I knew he needed help and guidance. I failed to save many people in the past and if I can help out one innocent soul, I will do it.”

 

Leo stared at his daughter summoning a bunch of weaker spirits and Zarc appeared as if he was actually talking with them. He didn’t know why, but for some reason he felt like his friend’s apprentice gave a bad vibe, like the one he felt around only certain mages. In the last few years he witnessed many young mages capable of connecting with spirits, more than he, with so many years of researching and hard work; couldn’ do itt. Why were those lucky children simply chosen while he had nothing but basic spirit summoning in his power? Why could that random child from a warzone have more power than he’ll ever have in his lifetime? It wasn’t fair!

 

“Have you ever questioned why some people are closer to the spirit worlds than we are?” Leo asked after a while, gripping his scrolls nearly to the point of tearing them “Or why are so many children suddenly born with abilities connecting them with spirits.”

“Leo… I know how much you desire to discover their world, but just like they cannot truly exist in our world, we can’t in theirs.”

“But your friend Kazuma did it!”

“His situation is far different. His son is connected to the Astral World and the spirits gave him a role to guide him.”

“And what about the several young mages who act like hosts to the spirits? Explain how that other kid from the Fusion district has two powerful spirits in his body or how a bunch of kids from the Synchro district had spirit marks appear on their arms. Explain how mages can actually live in Pendulum’s spirit world. Explain how your so called apprentice can randomly converse with the spirits right now.” Leo pointed at Zarc “You claim our worlds shouldn’t interfere and yet they already do.”

 

Yusho stared at his old friend, saddened by just how much Leo changed ever since becoming a king. He knew how difficult it must’ve been for him to rule over the Unified Kingdom, but the fact that he focused all his attention into the spirit worlds research was worrisome. He clearly remembered their young years as apprentices and how intrigued they were about what lays beyond. How happy Leo actually was when they were learning about spirits. But after Leo’s father passed away due to an illness, he had to take over his role as the heir to the throne and leave all of his dreams behind. Yusho then set off on his travels with Kazuma, though he tried to visit Leo as regularly as he could.

 

“Leo look, it is true that our worlds are slowly connecting and you should leave it be. I know how much you wish to be part of it like so many young mages are becoming already, but if you’re not among them you should just accept it. I’m, sorry, but that’s just how things are.”

“But if we research those kids and where their abilities are originating, maybe we could-“

“No, absolutely not!” Yusho raised his voice, something he rarely did “I forbid you from studying the children. The majority of them have been through a lot and the last thing they need is someone poking into their powers. You might be a king, but you are not a God.”

 

Leo clearly remembered that one moment when Yusho lectured him so loud that Zarc and Ray were stopped in their tracks to see what was going on. He could still feel just how dumbfounded he felt when his one friend, who he thought understood him, turned on him. No he wasn’t trying to play god, he was simply curious about the different world and wished to be a part of it. Just like how Zarc continued to summon spirits and then talk to them, he wanted to do the same, belonging to the spirit worlds.

 


 

 

And now he was getting closer.

 

He already had one fourth of the puzzle and needed the other three to execute his ultimate plan of creating a world where both spirits and humans live side by side. And now he witnessed the human form of the one dragon he particularly despised, but it meant that the other dragons were also able to take human forms. Just a bit longer and they will grow up to their latest form, carrying all the power of the combined worlds.

 

The power he needed to create the ultimate Utopia. He was now closer to it more than ever before.

 

Leo instructed some of the researchers to come to him, discussing some of the future plans he had in store for the so called project he had in mind. Hikage carefully sneaked to the air slit closest to them, hoping to get even more useful information. The ninja mage heard a lot more details about Yuri’s and Dennis’ training, some of the methods used to tame them nearly making him sick to his stomach. How could someone refer to such young children as “tools” or “weapons”, treating them like they didn’t matter at all? Or how Leo didn’t think they deserve the dignity of being referred to by their personal names.

 

But then Leo said something that made Hikage’s blood run cold.

 

The whole plan of what he’s about to do once he gets his hands on all the dragons and sources of En powers. What he is willingly to sacrifice to get it. What he has in store for the four kingdoms and most importunately… just what his motivations are.

 

This was important, he had to report it back to the Resistance as soon as possible. They knew a big storm was coming, but not something as terrible as that… something much worse than the Dragon War. Hikage wished he could move faster or conjure a spirit to send a message to the headquarters, but with the security so tight he couldn’t afford the risk. He could just try to get back to the place where he entered as hidden as possible. The spy said he wouldn’t be able to guide him back, so Hikage’s memory of the map was his only guidance. Just a few more entries and he would reach an empty part of Academia.

 

He would not be able to escape if someone was sitting by the entrance point that was not a Resistance’s spy.

 

While the spy was capable of changing their appearance, the Resistance marked them with a hidden aura. No matter what powerful detection magic would be used, no one but other Resistance members could sense that special aura. A young boy around five or six of age with cyan hair tied in a ponytail and sporting an Obelisk Blue uniform, stood by the entrance point, blocking it and despite Hikage’s invisibility magic, the student somehow knew he was there.

 

“Surrender now, you have no way out.” he said while licking something that appeared to be a lollipop “Or do you want to fight? I’m fine with both.”

 

Hikage carefully drew nearer, testing if he could still somehow escape, but the boy quickly moved closer, hands up and ready to cast spells.

 

“Battle it is then.” the cyan haired mage sighed, reaching into his pocket “Well at least I can test it out.”

 

The ninja terrifyingly realized that what the student held in his hands was the very same crystal that was brought to the Resistance by their spy. Thinking it could be some sort of magic carrier, Hikage’s eyes widened when the boy swallowed it whole like it was candy.

 

Before his eyes, the boy grew at least a couple of years older, his irises became bigger compared to the pupils and his entire aura was no longer a typical children’s aura that young mages had. To Hikage it appeared to be one more suitable more for a teenager than such a young child. The student’s mouth formed a creepy grin and his eyes projected what could only be described as madness.

 

“Time to hunt down my prey!” the boy laughed, charging at Hikage like a wild beast.

 

Hikage was prepared to battle until the end in order to deliver the important information, but before he knew it, everything turned black.

 


 

 

“Yugo? Where are you?” Rin looked around, trying to point out the bright blue wings and serpent-like body “I brought you some smoked fish.”

 

Normally, the wind dragon would respond at once as the processed meat was his second favorite food. He preferred freshly caught fish, but the ones that were dried and cured by smoking were definitely among his favorites. Rin couldn’t count all the times that Yugo made especially big puppy eyes whenever he wanted some.

 

Though right now there was no sign of him. Over the last few weeks she had to leave the house practically in the middle of the night due to the growing dragon’s size and his outrageous eating habits weren’t helping. By now Yugo became the size of a greyhound, making his form much more difficult to hide. Rin was slowly running out of ideas on how to hide him better at this point and would even attempt to teach him to stay at the hidden coast during the night; of course the wind dragon refused to do so as he was fairly attached to his guardian.

 

Rin knew she needed to do something about it, otherwise, she’ll have to explain to her parents what is dragon doing in their house. Not to get it wrong, she knew her parents were understanding and kind, but taking in a dragon was completely out of their league. Especially for a house as tiny as theirs. The young guardian would also visit the neighbors who had several books, but other than fairy tales and legends there was nothing useful about dragons.

 

A sudden splash interrupted her thinking, she figured that it was probably just Yugo. The dragon loved to swim underwater since it was pleasantly cold for summer and with his wind abilities he actually learnt to catch enough air before diving so he could last without it for a while. Sometimes Yugo would even wait in an ambush just to scare Rin a bit, though by now, the girl grew used to it.

 

“Not going to work this time Yugo. This trick is getting old-“ Rin started saying when she realized it wasn’t a dragon that was emerging from the water.

 

Instead of the serpent-like dragon with azure wings, there was a boy her age with short spiky hair in darker shade of blue along with blond bangs. He appeared to be having trouble with his balance as he was barely standing once he got closer to the shore.

 

“R-Rin… Ri-n” he uttered out before he fully emerged from the water.

 

Stoned by the sudden shock, the poor girl was overloaded with what just happened. One, someone discovered her hiding place. Two, Yugo was nowhere in sight. And three, this weird boy who somehow knew her name had nothing on! Rin blushed a deep red after seeing something that probably the majority of girls her age shouldn’t see at least before their teenage years. Without a second though she grabbed the branch lying next to her feet, wielding it like a sword.

 

“What are you doing here?!” she shouted, the branch inches away from the boy’s shocked face.

“Ri..n. Rin…” the boy could only repeat, struggling to stay on his feet.

“How do you know my name?! What did you do with Yugo?!” Rin swung the branch around threateningly.

“I… I’m…” the mysterious boy tried to say, his voice sounded strangely familiar to the young guardian.

“Answer me!” Rin’s eyes narrowed down, dead serious about smacking the kid if he wouldn’t answer her questions.

“…Y-Yu…go..” he said quietly, trying to get closer which only startled Rin more.

“Stay back you pervert!!!”

 

Any balance that the boy had was lost when he was smacked hard in the stomach. With a loud splash the boy landed back in the water and Rin was ready to interrogate him about Yugo’s whereabouts….

 

… only to realize Yugo was right there and the boy was gone.

 

The dragon whined in discomfort for some reason, whipping his tail around like an angry dog. Rin was about to pick him up and take him to safety in case the strange boy would appear again, when all of a sudden her bracelet started blinking. Ever since she healed Yugo with its power, Rin wondered how it actually worked. In a way she understood it had some sort of healing powers, but at times she could feel a cold aura around it. She would try to point it at little pools of water by the shore, and they would freeze. Besides that she also learned how to create winds that she’d use to help Yugo glide. Thought now, the young guardian started feeling its power once more, both in the bracelet and in her mark. It felt strange and yet like it was a part of her, all while Yugo was screeching something.

 

“It’s me Rin! It’s me!”

 

Rin flinched, startled by a voice with no clear origins. She instantly looked around if that strange boy returned, all to no avail while the dragon seemed to be annoyed due to the lack of attention and flew right into her arms. As the wind dragon, Yugo wasn’t particularly heavy thought his size was much harder to hold onto.

 

“What’s gotten into you?” Rin was puzzled “Did that boy hurt you?”

 

“I am that boy!”

 

Now that sentence sounded clearer and she could also notice she heard it in her head at the same time as Yugo screeched again. Rin gave him a confused look, asking herself how that could be possible and if the same voice was just messing with her.

 

As if Yugo had heard her, he flew back on the ground, and with a few deep breathes he started glowing. The green haired girl witnessed his use of wind magic a few times before, mostly to help him fly, but what was happening now was a completely different deal. The glow completely engulfed him, covering every part of his body until his form started shaping him into something that Rin could hardly believe to be true.

 

The same boy appeared again, but this time Rin saw it. His bright blue eyes, nearly as beautiful as his wings were there, illuminating in the light of the sun reflected by the sea. The boy was Yugo, and Yugo was somehow also a boy. A dragon that can transform into a human. Rin was about to say something when Yugo was again covered up with a dazzling glow and just like before his form shifted back. The wind dragon was back though he didn’t seem as energetic as before with his tail being dragged on the ground and wings down and not as bright as before.

 

“Yugo, are you okay?” Rin put all of her questions about the new ability aside for her ward’s well-being.

“It’s hard to turn…” the familiar voice echoed in her head “I thought if I looked human… I wouldn’t need to hide…”

“Yugo this is amazing!” Rin thought in her head excitedly which somehow made the dragon bury his head in Rin’s shirt “Wait, can you actually hear this?!”

 

Yugo nodded which made her gasp in surprise. So the bracelet wasn’t just for healing and producing cold, it was for communication as well! Just what else was the mysterious jewelry capable of? She’ll have to think about it some other time since Yugo looked in bad shape. The transformation or whatever the dragon used to turn must’ve drained a lot of energy out of him since Rin couldn’t recall a time, except for the day he hatched, when Yugo looked this tired.

 

Gently, she lifted his body, carrying him to the little well-hidden nest that she had upgraded with a tattered pillow. The dragon gratefully curled up in a ball, making its own version of purring as Rin stroked his head.

 

“Don’t go… I’ll turn into human... just don’t leave me…” Rin heard Yugo talking to her in her head.

“I’ll stay.” Rin said in her thoughts “And I’ll help you while you learn how to transform.”

 

Yugo snuggled closer to her, almost falling out of the nest, while slowly dozing off. Once the dragon was asleep, Rin smiled, knowing that she got a solution for the literal growing problem.

 

“We’ll get through this together.”

 

 


 

 

 

Crow needed a while before he decided which Commons area to visit first. The Crimson Dragon had shown him several locations, all pretty well known to him. As an orphan, the Tail Signer grew up on the streets, struggling to survive until he meet Yusei and Jack who brought him into an orphanage ran by a really kind woman named Martha. While the Fusion, Pendulum and XYZ districts changed a lot once they were separated into four kingdoms, the Synchro district and now kingdom was the only one that stayed mostly the same. There were still huge social differences present, the Commons was facing poverty and harsh labor while the Tops lived in luxury. Despite Jack’s efforts as the Common who reached the Tops and his role as a Council member, there were still a lot of things to take care of, but that wasn’t really something that the powers of the Crimson Dragon could solve. The whole caste system had to be fixed and with such heated tensions from the Commons and ignorance of the Tops, one mistake could result in civil war.

 

For now Crow was set to help out at the shelters and particularly the orphanages, delivering them necessary supplies, helping with repairs and sometimes teaching youngsters useful skills. Aki, Rua and Ruka would often accompany him, with the twins also playing with the children and the female mage helping out at the fields with the use of her powerful plant magic. As much as Yusei wished to help out as well, the events from the pre-War and post-War times forced him into hiding, away from the largely populated areas and would only go visit his friend Kiryu from time to time. While only a few trusted people knew of their secret as Signers, many believed the Crimson Dragon and its servants to be just a mere legend. So any time either of them had to fly somewhere each used different magic ability to hide themselves. Yusei’s Stardust and Ruka’s Ancient Fairy both had the ability to dazzle everyone’s sight, Rua’s Life Stream and Aki’s Black Rose used some sort of camouflage to disappear in the sky and Jack’s Red Daemon and Crow’s Black Feather could cloak themselves into a mist that struck the passers-by with a sudden shock, quick enough for them to slip through.

 

As for now Crow was getting closer to one of the biggest Commons’ settlements, the very same one where he, Jack and Yusei grew up. While still not perfect, it was certainly looking much better from pre-War times when the majority of houses were in a bad shape, crime rate was a lot higher and the streets were messier. Landing in a backstreet that was wide enough for him, Crow reverted back to his human form and called upon Gale, who gladly took a flight around the town to have a look at things while the orange haired mage went to check on the orphanage.

 

With the renovations, the building looked decent enough, the walls and roof were in one piece and children at every corner. Most of them were in the front yard, younger ones playing around while the older ones conversed with each other or tinkered around with scrap iron. It sure was nice to see that at least the children still had hope for a better future.

 

“Crow?” someone called from behind him.

“Martha.” the orange haired mage smiled when he saw a familiar face.

“You usually notify me about your arrivals. Did something happen?” the middle aged woman questioned.

“I think it’s better if we step inside.” Crow’s expression turned more serious.

“Sure, I have to start preparing dinner for the children soon anyway.” she nodded, opening the door for him.

 

On the way in, several children greeted him with hugs, all happy to see him and a bit saddened when he said he can’t play with them just yet. As much as he wanted to spend some time with the children, he knew some things had to be discussed. Martha led him towards the kitchen which was empty since the other caretakers were outside looking after the kids, so the two of them had all the privacy they needed.

 

“How’s Yusei?” Martha asked right away while starting to peel the veggies for a stew.

“The same he’s always been, building devices, teaching Aki and the twins magic and sometimes he goes to visit Kiryu.” Crow smiled thinking about his childhood friend “He just needs… to stay hidden.”

“I hoped the whole thing would end after the Z-ONE accident.” the woman sighed, trying not to think about the past events involving her foster child “Not only did the Dragon War make everything worse, our kingdom moved right back to where it started, back to the Tops and Commons.”

“Jack is doing his best… but the new Council is nothing compared to Godwin. The guy at least knew what he was doing when he was in charge.”

“I just wish none of you gets hurt. You might be older than you look, but sometimes you still act as imprudently as children.” Martha stopped for a moment “You all left as soon as you turned fourteen and the next time you showed up was with Yusei who literally had a hole in his abdomen!”

 

Crow gulped down, knowing that another lecture was on the way. Apart from everyone else he knew, Martha was one of the rare regular civilians who still remembered the events from before the Dragon War. Yusei made sure everyone was safe before he and the other Signers headed for battle, but unfortunately not everyone survived. Martha and a few of the children were the only ones who survived and while the kids had forgotten about the war through Ray’s magic, she never did. Now that the world has been renewed she tries her best to take care of the future generation while Crow helps, but neither of them had ever felt like the war truly ended.

 

With the new Council, everything went back to the way it was and with the founding of the Security, all the Commons lived with the constant fear of being taken by them. Martha and the other caretakers were forced to keep the kids inside whenever they would arrive to patrol the streets and if there was the slightest misdemeanor the Security had all the right to take them away. The Facility was no longer a prison for people who actually deserved to be there, but for every Common that was marked a criminal in the eyes of the Security. There was another forced labor-like facility built deep underground as well, where the living conditions were so unbearable that a lot of people sent there never came back. The Synchro Kingdom became a bigger mess than before and none of the Signers knew how to fix it. However, now wasn’t the time to discuss the discrimination of the Commons.

 

“Did you see anything strange around town lately?” Crow asked, mentally noting for any strange aura or magic around the orphanage.

“There are a lot of strange things happening around here, but for the particularly strange stuff I’m not so sure about.” Martha continued to prepare the stew “Is something going on?”

“A mysterious magic appeared on several locations around Synchro and each of us went to check it out. I thought you might’ve notice it.” he explained.

“Now that I think about it…” the woman thought a bit “A couple of days ago, a few children went further away from the orphanage and said something about seeing weird-looking spirits. At first I thought they were just making excuses for sneaking out of the safe zone, but they described them in such detail that Shinji went to take a look.”

“Where is Shinji?”

“The other part of town, helping out at another orphanage.” Martha noticed the tense expression on Crow “Is that what you’re looking for?”

“Could be, I’ll have to talk with him to see about it.” Crow headed outside “Thanks for all the help, but this is urgent.”

“Don’t get into too much trouble.”

 

The Tail Signer slightly grinned at the last sentence, thinking about all the times he, Jack and Yusei would go out and Martha would always say that same sentence. Those sure were good times when everything was much simpler, but once Yusei and Jack found out that they were Signers of the Crimson Dragon, their childhood days were over. Crow understood their new responsibilities back then and supported them in any way he could once they left to train with Godwin, he staying behind to take care of orphaned kids around poorer districts. But sooner or later, he joined them as a Tail Signer, something neither of them ever expected to happen. With all the other Signers, he became a servant of the Crimson Dragon, chosen to carry the spirit of Black Feather Dragon. The new role made him into a warrior, a protector of the Synchro district and when it was under attack, he was there to fight. But no battle was as terrifying as the one against the Supreme King Dragon during the Dragon War.

 

As Crow walked through the streets, he could still recall the ginormous monstrosity flying above the buildings, its wings menacingly flapping while destroying everything in its path. The thought of the same thing repeating once more gave him chills, but he was determined to do everything he could in order to prevent it. Everyone, including the reborn people, survivors and other spirit vessels deserved a safe world. His flow of thoughts was interrupted when Gale landed on his shoulder, chirping something to him.

 

“Is that so? Good thing we’re headed there already.” Crow mumbled as he fastened his pace hoping that Shinji was still at the same place.

 

It took him nearly half an hour of slight jogging before he reached the orphanage that Martha told him about. The majority of the children were outside, the older ones watching over the young ones or even helping with the renovations. From the looks of it the roof had to be fixed and some of the windows, so most of the workers were there, including Shinji who was currently climbing down a ladder. Crow was about to greet him when all of a sudden he was tackled down by three children.

 

“Crow!” all of them shouted in excitement, giving him a group hug.

“Frank, Amanda, Tanner?” the orange haired mage was surprised by the warm welcome.

“Yup, it’s us!” Frank grinned as he let go of Crow to let him stand up.

“You came to visit!” Tanner, the youngest of the trio wouldn’t let go of his leg.

“And you have Gale with you!” Amanda’s eyes sparkled at the sight of the spirit.

“Heh, you three surely grew up.” Crow said once he got a decent look at them “You’re not getting into any more trouble do you?”

“Nope!” the two boys said instantly, while the girl sighed in disappointment.

“Well anyway, has any of you seen Shinji? I have to talk with him.” the Tail Signer noticed that the other mage was no longer by the ladder.

“Oh, they’re all having a break right now, they’re probably inside.” Amanda pointed at the corner where all the workers were gathered.

“Alright, I’ll come back as soon as I discuss something with him, alright?” Crow crunched down so he was at the same level as the kids.

“But big brother Crow, won’t you play with us?” Tanner nearly teared up at him leaving.

“I will, I just need to take care of some things first.” the mage patted the boy’s shoulder which slightly cheered him up.

 

The small child nodded reluctantly as Frank and Amanda lead him away since they knew Crow was serious. The Tail Signer passed some more children who greeted him until he got to person who was just about to finish his after-work snack. Shinji was one of the rare Commons who possessed magical abilities and would therefore do his best around the town in order to help those in need. He was a mage in his late teens, with short spikey purple hair with azure highlights and was wearing simple working clothes.

 

“Crow!” Shinji greeted as soon as he noticed him “What brings you here? You rarely stop by this part of town, is something going on?”

“You could say that, but I really need to speak with you.”

“Me? What is there to talk about?” the other mage gave him a weird look when a hint of realization appeared in his eyes “It’s about that thing isn’t it?”

“If you mean strange spirits then yes.”

“We better go somewhere a bit more private.” Shinji glanced at the children and other workers who cheerfully conversed while on their break.

 

Five minutes later they were in a storeroom packed with pieces of wood and scrap metal to be used for repairs. Shinji’s expression turned to a concerned one once he took on Crow’s serious look. While the purple haired teen was a good friend of his, the Tail Signer still didn’t trust him enough to reveal who he actually was. So far Shinji knew Crow was in a way associated with a group of mages that would help out in the Commons’ and even Tops areas at times, but he had no idea they were the legendary servants of the Crimson Dragon from the folktales. Should Crow reveal that to him, Shinji would probably try to convince Crow to join one of his revolutionary groups that tried to establish equality among the Tops and Commons, but their methods involved recklessness and overall violence. True all Signers agreed something had to be done about it, Shinji’s plan was however not the correct way.

 

“So Martha probably told you some kids were freaking out over the spirits and knowing how tough they all are to be scared by something like that, I went to see what it is. What I saw, well…” Shinji thought of the right words “I don’t really know how to describe it. It didn’t look like any of my spirits or like others’ normally summoned ones and it gave off this weird magic.”

“How weird?” Crow raised his eyebrows.

“Like… it was the same aura produced by Synchro magic, you know how we summon weaker spirits and then tune them up to become stronger, but at the same time it just felt off like it wasn’t really there.”

“This sounds strange…” Crow started thinking back to the time when they were fighting Z-ONE and they faced off artificially made spirits, beings oddly similar to the ones that Shinji just described “Could you show me where did you see them last?”

 

The purple haired mage nodded as he opened the door and led him through the streets. Gale flew above them, looking around just in case. It was getting late after all and the Security would soon start to patrol the streets. Fortunately both Crow and Shinji were used to them enough to know when they were near and with Gale and an addition of one of Shinji’s Battlewasps, they had enough eyes everywhere.

 

After a while they reached a junkyard that was more or less empty of any people, since those would only come for useful parts first thing in the morning when a new load was dropped from the Tops. Shinji pointed at the iron fence that was bended in an awkward angle like a boulder landed on it. And yet Crow doubted that was what happened. It was like a battle had unfolded here, destroying everything in sight. The kids were pretty darn luckily to get away without a scratch considering in what a bad shape the fence was.

 

“That’s when I saw them.” Shinji pointed at the pieces of broken fence.

“Them? How many of them were there?” Crow’s eyes widened.

“The first time the kids saw them there were only two or three, but when I went to check it out, it was close to eight or so.”

“Just what-“

 

But Crow couldn’t finish the sentence. All of a sudden Gale and Shinji’s spirit Battlewasp Dart started freaking out, circling around the junkyard as a menacing aura filled the dusky streets. Almost at the same time, at least a dozen figures started emerging from the ground. The Tail Signer was prepared for anything, but what he was about to see gave him the creeps, reminding him of the time when he first got involved with the Crimson Dragon.

 

The bodies of the supposed spirits were jet black, fully merged with the darkness of the streets. Their limbs moved at an incredibly slow pace, each looking around like a curious child. They weren’t particularly big, but for Crow who has always been the second shortest in his team, right before the twins, the creatures were at least two times bigger and three times wider. Some picked pieces of metal or stones off the ground like they were tools while others continued to look around. Gale and Dart flew back to their respective mages, hiding behind their backs from the unknown creatures.

 

After all, those weren’t in any way spirits since they were fully materialized. The only way for the spirits to exist in the human world like this was if they were summoned by a mage who materialized their bodies, but there was no mage powerful enough to summon that many of them. And if those were spirits summoned by mages, the spirits would be by their side listening to their commands since their existence depended on them, not going around without any boundaries. So that’s what the Crimson Dragon was talking about, unknown magic that was most definitely a result of some twisted experiment or an inconsistency in the spirit worlds. Crow was ready to get close, just to see them in more detail, when all of a sudden, all of the creatures pointed their eyes at him, their limbs dropping the object they were holding as the two mages became their center of interest.

 

But that wasn’t what scared Crow the most.

 

Their jet black bodies had glowing marks in shining neon colors appear all over them. There was only one type of spirits that Crow knew that looked like this.

 

“Er-Earthbound Immortals?!”

 

Then all of them attacked at once.

 

 


 

 

 

Reiji and Shun sat on the stone stairs before the Duel Lodge as they watched the sunset go down. Their wards had been fast asleep ever since going through their first transformation, so the two of them actually got some free time for themselves instead of looking after two energetic half-dragon kids. Yusho assured them that Yuya and Yuto just need to rest and will probably be in bed until the next day when a brand new training will be introduced to them. Shun was looking forward to it like he always was while Reiji simply stared at the buildings of Heartland while slowly sipping his tea.

 

“What’s on your mind?” Shun broke the silence.

“What isn’t?” Reiji looked up “I’ve been the teacher’s apprentice ever since he found me, I’ve just become a guardian to a legendary dragon who can turn into a human and now I’ll skip nearly 10 years in less than a year.”

“When you put it that way, it does sound nearly terrifying…” the XYZ mage nearly regretted what he asked.

“But at the same time so many other things happened. I got to learn magic I never thought I could, I got an amazing mentor to teach me about it and now I’ll get to pass those skills to someone else. Yuya might be the youngest and the most childlike, but he’s becoming stronger each day.” Reiji rolled up his sleeve to see the mark again “Becoming a Dragon Guardian is a great responsibility to bear, but I’ll treasure it for the rest of my life.”

 

When Shun listened to Reiji’s monologue it was like listening to himself. Like him, he also didn’t have many memories from his early childhood apart from the faceless figure who taught him bird-style magic and Kaito taking him in. From that point on he also had several interesting mentors who helped him strengthen up his magic, from Kaito himself to his family friends, the Arclights. While this kind of life felt fulfilling, he was still missing something. Kaito would leave for the Astral and Barian worlds on a regular basis while all members of the Arclight family had a tendency to travel a lot. With all of them on the move, Shun would often feel out of place since the only thing he could do to contribute to those families were simple tasks like taking care of the house and looking after Kaito’s little brother. The teal haired mage wanted to help them more, so on the day that he got a clue of who his old teacher might be, he didn’t hesitate to set off on his own journey in hopes of finding his purpose in life.

 

And he found it, in a form of a growing dragon shifter whose personality matched his. Like Yuto read his mind, he always knew what his guardian was thinking, instantly bringing him the things he needed or climbing in his lap if Shun wanted to pet him. Unlike the cheerful Yuya, Yuto was far more cool and collected, especially for a dragon in his toddler years. Now that he saw him shift into human form, he could hardly wait to interact with him more and build up their bond.

 

He wasn’t sure about Reiji since Yuya’s personality was completely opposite to the one of the Pendulum mage, but when he saw him patiently read books to the young dragon, answering all of his unspoken questions and overall comfort him whenever needed, Shun knew Reiji was the one for Yuya. Reiji might’ve been only eleven years old, but deep down he carried wisdom of someone far older.

 

“Do you think the war will repeat?” Reiji asked, leaving the other guardian puzzled.

“What do you mean by that?” Shun blinked in confusion.

“The war we saw in our memories, the Dragon War that nearly destroyed the world.”

“I don’t know and I certainly hope it won’t. The XYZ’s spirit worlds have enough wars as it is… but with everything that has been happening lately, it’s only a question of time.”

 

Their minds then went back to the memories they’ve received, the ones containing images of the enormous dragon that wreaked havoc everywhere it went. To think their wards were once part of it, only made Reiji and Shun that more determined to protect them. Their looks shifted towards the window belonging to their room where the young dragon shifters were sleeping and in their thoughts were focused on only one thing.

 

They won’t let them be taken by someone who won’t give them the love and care that the hatchlings deserve.

 

They will keep them safe and teach them how to become stronger, away from any harm.

 

 


 

 

“Big bro wake up!”

 

Yuto rubbed his eyes at the sound of his sibling fuzzing around. They were back in the same place with the forest, lake and cave, where they met the other two dragons who looked just like them. From that time on, they would revisit it many times, sometimes running into Yugo only, sometimes just Yuri and one other time they were all alone. During those moments they would mostly play or explore the hidden corners of that place until they would eventually both curl up together and fall asleep before waking up back in the real world.

 

While everything seemed pretty much the same like the last time they were here, there was one difference. Instead of their dragon tails, scales and claws, they had human bodies, just like their guardians. They were both wearing the clothes that Reiji and Shun sometimes did and from what Yuto remembered it was called a toga, a fairly common clothing in the XYZ Kingdom.

 

“What is it now Yuya…” Yuto yawned at the sight of his brother cheerfully nudging him to get up.

“We’re back there! You know - the forest where we meet Yugo and Yuri!” Yuya excitedly looked around and then at himself “And look! We look like Reiji and Shun!”

“We just took on our human forms.” the lightning dragon muttered though was a bit surprised by his own words.

“Well let’s look for Yugo and Yuri! Maybe they look like this too!”

 

Half dragging, half leading his big brother, Yuya instantly headed for the cave full of crystals where Yugo would usually be. Among many colorful crystals, the wind dragon could hide well since his wings were similar to the bright blue crystals there. Yuya looked around while Yuto stayed by the entrance when all of a sudden, someone jumped behind Yuya.

 

“Got you!” Yugo chuckled as he tackled Yuya to the ground, the two of them rolling around until they stopped at a wall both laying on their backs, laughing their hearts out.

“Yugo!” Yuya hugged his sibling “You look different too!”

“Yeah so do you!” the wind dragon giggled as he stood up, greeting Yuto who wasn’t far from Yuya.

 

Yugo wanted to ask Yuya more of how he’s been, when his eyes landed on the outfits that the fire and lightning dragon were wearing. Yuya wore a long white toga that was held together by a light brown belt and a red cape in the same shade as his hair. Yuto on the other hand wore a similar white toga that reached to his knees, clipped by a black belt and a purple cape over it.

 

“Are you wearing dresses?” Yugo laughed so much he nearly slipped to the ground.

“No, this is XYZ Kingdom’s traditional clothing. We need to blend in well.” Yuto crossed his arms since he was slightly offended by his sibling’s words.

“Well it doesn’t work for me, I could notice you walking miles before me in this girly getup!”

“Speaking of girly, aren’t you wearing girl clothes yourself?” Yuto went off to check the baggy yellow shirt and blue pants that Yugo was wearing.

“I-It’s not what you think!” Yugo quickly covered up the back pocket on his pants but not before Yuya saw it.

“Aha! You have a flower there!” Yuya giggled at the embroidery of flowers on the pockets.

“Rin borrowed me her own clothes, okay!”

“It looks pretty.” the fire dragon smiled which made Yugo blush a bit “Who’s Rin?”

“My guardian… Do you have them too?”

“I have Reiji! He’s really smart and reads to me all the time! He also lets me fall asleep in his lap while petting me!  I wish he could come here someday… he’s shown me so many interesting things… and I want to show him this place too…” Yuya said, thinking about the days he’s spent with his guardian.

“And yours?” Yugo turned towards Yuto who was leaning against the wall since he wasn’t a much of a talker.

“Shun’s great… he is teaching me how to become stronger every day and doesn’t hesitate to teach me more difficult combat moves when I want to.” Yuto said apt and to the point, disappointing Yugo a bit with it.

 

Yugo and Yuya went on discussing more about their guardians as Yuto looked over the place he’s had so many questions about. So far he figured out that the place wasn’t real, in fact it was just an illusion within their heads that helped them connect. The first time he and Yuya came across their other two siblings, he somehow knew that those were their brothers and as more time passed, closer they became. And all those times, Yuto couldn’t shake off the feeling that this closeness and warmth felt somehow familiar. Was this place a memory they should know?  Did they play here just like this before? And if they did, why did it feel like something was missing? Were they here with Reiji, Shun, that Rin and with whoever Yuri’s guardian is?

 

“Hey where’s that grinning bastard? I still have to kick his ass for pushing me into the water and calling me a mermaid last time!” Yugo brought Yuto out of his thinking.

“Well he wasn’t that far off, your dragon tail does look kinda like the mermaid’s that Reiji read to me about…”

“Oh come on, not you too!” the cheeks of the wind dragon turned red from embarrassment “Where is he anyway? Is he waiting in an ambush like that night before?!”

“Calm down, we’ll all go look for him. He’s probably just uninterested to join us like the first time we came here.”

“Yeah let’s look for Yuri!” Yuya already went off, Yugo and Yuto hardly catching up since their younger sibling quickly disappeared in the bushes.

 

The fire dragon immediately headed for the familiar little nest surrounded by lilies, a place where Yuri would usually be. But to his surprise Yuri was not there. The nest was still there, looking even more comfortable than the last time and there were also many more flowers growing all around it.

 

“Yuri?” Yuya called, a bit concerned since he didn’t know where else he could be. Maybe he was indeed hiding somewhere to tease Yugo again. The youngest sibling was about to head back to where his brothers went when all of a sudden he got that gut feeling.

 

Slowly he turned around, listening to and trusting his instincts as he began to follow an invisible trail. That was odd, that way led to the part of the forest where none of them dared to go. The trees were taller and the bushes were so thick and full of thorns it was nearly impossible to get there without getting lost midway or caught in the thorns. Yuya was however determined to get there no matter what. True that was a mere dream, something that Yuto would often tell him, but still the pain he felt was like it was real. Despite that, he was already going through all the thorny branches like it was nothing, ignoring all the cuts he sustained.

 

The gut feeling was getting stronger and stronger, until he felt a familiar aura that belonged to none other than his siblings. He knew for sure that neither Yugo nor Yuto would go there, so the only one left was Yuri. And curled up under the roots of a big tree and countless thorny vines, was a kid with the same face as him. Just like the other two brothers, the color of Yuri’s hair was similar to his scales or more like the petals growing from his back when he was in his dragon form. He was wearing white pants and a red jacket with white outlines over a black shirt.

 

Yuya was about to give his brother a cheerful hug when he was stopped in his tracks by something he noticed about Yuri. Besides the fact that he took on his human form, something else was present that Yuya failed to see before.

 

Bruises and cuts… and lots of them covering his exposed pale skin on his abdomen and his hands. Even his face had couple of them and Yuya could swear that Yuri looked far skinnier than the last time he saw him. As he got closer, he could see the extension of Yuri’s wounds and the more he saw, the more his tears threatened to spill out.

 

“Yuri… are you okay big bro?” Yuya asked despite knowing the obvious answer.

“Yuya…” Yuri mumbled in a pained moan as he tried to stand up.

“You’re hurt…” the youngest dragon could no longer hold his tears at seeing Yuri like this “I’m going to get Yugo and Yuto, they might know how to help-“

“Don’t… I don’t want them to see me like this…” the older sibling grabbed Yuya’s sleeve, preventing him from leaving.

“But I can’t just leave you here. You’re my brother!”

“It’s fine Yuya, I’m okay with just being here. Now go play with Yugo before he’s too bored and I’ll need to listen to his tantrums echoing all over here-“

“I’m staying with you!” Yuya got closer, throwing his arms around Yuri’s slim waist.

“You don’t need to-”

“But I want to! If you’re sad I’m sad too and I want to you to be happy!”

“Yuya…”

“I want you to smile… It hurts me so much when I know it hurts you, but you say it’s okay for you and that’s wrong!” Yuya sobbed, tightening his embrace by each falling tear.

“Damm now I made you cry too…” Yuri hardly kept himself together after seeing his youngest sibling bawling his eyes out because of his own misery.

“I’m sorry…” Yuya wiped his tears in the collar of his toga without letting go.

“For goodness sakes, don’t apologize, it’s not your fault. They’re my problems and I’ll deal with them on my own.”

“B-but, can’t I help?” the fire dragon was face to face with his brother “Just something little for you not to hurt anymore?”

 

Yuri thought about when he would wake up next to Dennis and before he would even realize it was morning, the guards would already be inside their cell separating them. His guardian was only allowed to accompany him to the green house where he would be kept while Dennis was at his lessons. Once those were over, harsh training would follow. The high ranked students would summon powerful spirits that he and sometimes Dennis too had to defeat. Not only did Yuri feel like there was something wrong with those spirits, when he was fighting them he had that unspoken urge to just kill them, not only knock them out. Same went for the students he was supposed to fight and the deadly vines on his back could quite often overdo themselves, even when the students no longer moved. The blood felt strangely good in his mouth, from humans and materialized spirits alike.

 

And yet, when it came to Dennis, it was like he was an entirely different person. Whenever he was with his guardian it felt exactly the same as when he was with his brothers, no pain, no fear, just warmth and serenity. The orange haired mage would always comfort him whenever no one was around and even thought Yuri couldn’t speak at the time, Dennis somehow knew what he was trying to tell him. The days in Academia were hellish, but those moments when Dennis held him in his arms and when he was asleep next to him, it was a completely different feeling. As an early bloomer, Yuri knew he had to get to his guardian at every cost, hence why he pretty much killed off all the students standing in his way the moment he hatched, when he saw Dennis in the hands of a person that was holding him against his will.

 

Yuri wanted to protect anyone that gave him that feeling of safety in his torturous life. He couldn’t bring himself to see Dennis or his brothers in harm’s way and Yuya… his little brother was just like him, not wanting to see him in pain. His tiny hands were gripping at his clothing and his mismatched eyes despite having tears running down, had a fire of determination in them.

 

“You really want to protect me, don’t you Yuya?” Yuri sighed.

 

Yuya nodded as more tears fell, his arms only tightening around his sibling’s waist.

 

“Then stay with me… until we both fall asleep.”

 

The fire dragon wanted in a way to get Yuto and Yugo first so all of them could be together, but in that moment he realized that Yuri needed only him. Yuto might be a bit mad and Yugo pissed about being left out, but that didn’t matter just yet. If Yuri could feel better this way then so be it.

 

Yuri lifted his arm, so Yuya could get closer to him, just like when they were in their dragon forms. The younger sibling buried his face in the collar of Yuri’s uniform so the plant dragon could embrace him as well, holding his little brother close just like Dennis would hold him. Despite the naïve and childish nature that Yuya had, he was incredibly selfless and mature when it came to his brothers. That was one thing that Yuri remembered well.

 

He was not a weapon.

 

He was person loved by his siblings and guardian.

 

He must remember that.

 

 


 

 

Dennis was finishing up his report on something from his history lesson while Yuri was long asleep on his bed. The orange haired mage had only a few more lines to write and then he’d too be in bed. To him it seemed rather unfair that with all the training and experiments that the teachers have been putting him through, the homework seemed a bit over the top. Like seriously, after non-stop physical exercise, magic training and long lectures, they expected him to sit down and write reports? Just one more reason for him to hate Academia.

 

The young guardian sighed as he went to retrieve a textbook to check something, when he noticed a small shift on the bed. Yuri remained in his human form, even after hours of being shifting for the first time. Like always his body was completely still and his facial expression unchanged from a neutral one.

 

But for a tiny moment, Dennis could swear he saw him smile.

 

Quietly he put the textbook down and tip-toed to his ward, fixing the covers so he was more comfortable.

 

“I hope at least your dreams are nice.” Dennis whispered while gentle caressing Yuri’s lilac bangs “That king is wrong… you are not a beast, his weapon or my pet. You’re my friend.”

 

And again, a slight smile was on Yuri’s face.

 

 


 

 

 

“So you’re telling me that this thing contains bits of Don Thousand’s power.” Leo Akaba asked in a curious manner.

 

Two figures, one floating and the other one clothed in many layers of capes, obviously not wanting to be seen.

 

“Indeed it does, your majesty. But I must warn you, it can be used only once. Another break-in into Barian Lake could be much more suspicious to others than the first one.” the clothes person bowed, talking in an extremely polite manner.

“Are you sure you that your master doesn’t want anything in return?” Leo raised his eyebrows.

“As long as you release his power in any way you desire, the master will be satisfied.” the floating person replied in a chuckle “He doesn’t really care, so choose how to use it wisely.”

“Fairy well, then you’re dismissed.” the king of Fusion said to which the two people bowed and disappeared.

 

Once Leo was alone in his throne room, he looked at the crimson crystal again, imagining all of his plans coming to life right there and then.

 

“Soon the project Guardian will be complete.” Leo said as he cradled a stone tablet that had a face of a certain ninja chiselled on.

Chapter Text

 

"Heartland! Heartland!" Yuya exclaimed, his voice echoing all over the Duel Lodge.

"Hold still." Reiji said, completely focused onto his ward "I can't tie your toga properly otherwise."

"Sorry..." the fire dragon apologized, hardly keeping his enthusiasm at low volume.

 

Ever since he and Yuto learned how to shift into their human forms, their curiosity for the world outside became bigger. Each evening when they would watch sunsets, either alone or with their guardians and Yusho, their eyes wouldn't move from the buildings of the city, namely the highest building in Heartland - Heart Tower. Not only the city, but the two hatchlings wanted to see everything outside Duel Lodge. The forests surrounding the city, the plains, the mountains, even the sea. Even though Yuya didn't take water that well, unless it was boiling hot, he was eager to go check if the seawater really was salty like Reiji told him.

 

"Keep your hood on at all times." Shun instructed while putting on a long cape on the lightning dragon "Even if you mastered your human form by know, you might still accidently get your tails and horns out."

 

That was one of the many reasons why their guardians were so reluctant to allow them out of the safety of Duel Lodge. Yuya and Yuto could accidently shift, someone could snatched them up regardless of knowing if they were elemental dragons, they could accidently come across a fight between Astrals and Barians... they could even get lost in the big city due to how crowded it was.

 

Yusho and Kazuma assured them that the two Spirit Worlds were currently in a state of political peace, neither of them could sense any non primarily XYZ magic users and they had several solutions for the rest of their worries.

 

At last, more than a week after the hatchlings shifted for the first time, they decided to take them to Heartland. Yuya was so excited that he nearly couldn't sleep the night before their trip, potentially waking up his guardian several times during the night when his body heat would respond to his excitement. Reiji was used to it by now so he simply took a cold bath in the morning and changed the soaked sheets.

 

Even the short worded Yuto showed his excitement by starting to wake up before Shun and trying to do as many daily tasks as possible by himself to show he was independent enough to help them out if that meant going to Heartland.

 

In the end Yusho concluded that the best way for them to experience Heartland was if they accompany Yusho while he's getting supplies, then go meet Kaito and visit his home. The two guardians and hatchlings would so be accompanied by at least one adult or experienced mage at all times in case something would go wrong.

 

The two dragon shifters so wore traditional XYZ clothing, consisting of white robes  called toga and hooded capes that concealed their faces. Reiji, Shun and Yusho wore similar clothes as well in order to blend in the crowd better. Even though a lot of merchants from other kingdoms would regularly visit Heartland, they still preferred to look like normal XYZ kingdom residents.

 

"All set to go?" Yusho asked playfully to which dragons replied with joyful shouts and guardians with a nod.

 

And off they went. First came the stone staircase that connected  Duel Lodge with the town. To think Yusho would walk up and down those stairs daily sure made the young guardians respect him more. Once they reached the town, Reiji and Shun were puzzled how the dragons still had enough energy to run around like there was no tomorrow. Yuya admired every aspect of the new surroundings, from the stone roads> , little crystal powered street lamps that would illuminate the town during the night to the waves in the ocean. Yuto followed him suit, sharing his excitement though he made sure that Yuya didn't hurt himself.

 

"There it is, the Dragon Bridge." Yusho pointed at the structure that they were approaching "One of the rare monuments in XYZ Kingdom that survived the Dragon War."

 

Just like any other bridge, this one connected the roads separated by the river that exited in the sea. It was made of stone and enhanced by precious materials like marble and obsidian. And each corner of the bridge had a beautiful statue of four elemental dragons.

 

"Is this how big I will grow?" Yuya looked at the statue of Odd Eyes.

"Yes, those are in natural sizes." Reiji replied, being amazed himself that in less than a year the hatchling will grow to the size of an elephant.

"And those are Yuri and Yugo?" Yuto looked at the structures of Starve Venom and Clear Wing.

 

Shun and Reiji were a bit reluctant to tell them about their missing brothers at first, but once Yuya revealed that they've been visiting Yuri and Yugo in their dreams they saw no reason why not to. The hatchlings were growing fast and they would find out about their siblings sooner or later. Yusho even took his time to explain how their dream connection worked, so they could be more in control of it each time. As much as Yuya and Yuto wished to meet them in person, they were sad to learn that  this was currently not possible, though Yusho assured them that they will see them one day.

 

As they crossed the bridge, Yuto noticed several seagulls floating above them and the lightning dragon really had hard time controlling the urge to just get his wings out and chase them like Shun's Raidraptors. It was so tempting that his tail nearly got out, but taking in several deep breaths helped him a lot so he just played it cool and followed the rest of the group.

 

Yuya knew Heartland was a busy city, but not to this extend. Wherever he looked there were people going on with their lives, merchants selling their goods, people buying it and others just moving around. The fire dragon wasn't used to so many people and for a while he reverted back to his shy persona, clinging onto Reiji all the time. Yuto was a bit overwhelmed by a > population as well though unlike his younger sibling, the lightning dragon was more opened to explore the city, all while holding Shun's hand so he wouldn't get lost.

 

Fortunately they soon arrived to the market where there were less people and they also noticed a familiar face. Kaito was just in the middle of paying for a bag full of apples when he saw them.

 

"I see you've arrived safely." the XZY mage put the apples to the rest of groceries that he bought "Do you enjoy Heartland."

 

Both dragons nodded from underneath their hoods, glad that someone they knew was with them. Just like Yuma and Shark, Kaito would come to visit them often, sometimes even flying with Shun and Yuto. Though this time he wasn't alone. Hiding behind his cape was another boy, couple of years  older than the hatchlings, whose hair was cyan blue and eyes hazel.

 

"It's alright Haruto, say hello to them." Kaito gently nudged the child to greet the group.

"Hi..." Haruto said shyly "Welcome to Heartland."

"This is Haruto, Kaito's little brother." Shun explained to the hatchlings.

 

Yuto politely shook Haruto's outstretched hand while Yuya introduced himself just as shyly. Kaito's sibling appeared like he wasn't sure how to talk with Yuya and Yuto at first, but once he realized that the dragon shifters were just like him, he opened up to them more.

 

Yusho and Kaito showed the youngsters how to shop for groceries properly and even Shun was impressed of how many different foods Heartland's market offered. The dragons and Haruto were also given few exotic fruits to try, Yuya liking  the one called tomato the most. Packed with enough food for the rest of the week, Yusho headed back to Duel Lodge, entrusting Kaito to lead them around for the rest of the trip.

 

Once they reached the outskirts of Heartland, Yuya felt more relaxed since there was much less people and more of the sea to see. The Heartland Tower was a bit too packed at this hour so the next location to see was Kaito's own house. Unlike the majority of buildings it stood out due it's ....

 

"Make yourselves at home, we're having guests at the moment." Kaito instructed as he carried the groceries to another room and nudged Haruto to lead them to the living room.

 

Sitting behind the coffee table were three men, slowly sipping the steaming tea. The older two of the three were chatting while the third one greeted Haruto when showing the hatchlings and guardians around. By now Kaito was back, removing his cloak and hinting to young guardians that they could do the same. Shun also showed where they could hang their extra clothing since he knew the house well due to growing up behind its walls.

 

"Ah Shun, it's good to see you again." one of the men approached the teal haired guardian, giving him a gentle hug "It's been a while since you were home."

"Reiji, Yuya, Yuto, this is Dr. Faker, Kaito's and Haruto's father. He took me in when Kaito found me on the streets of Heartland." Shun introduced "And those are Byron and Chris Arclight. They are from Pendulum Kingdom, but they often visit XZY Kingdom."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, young guardian." Chris, a man with long silvery white hair with a few purple and teal streaks smiled while shaking hands with Reiji "It's good to see the dragons are in safe hands."

"Are you a spirit vessel too?" the Pendulum mage asked.

"Not quite." Byron came closer, using a walking stick "Dr. Faker, Haruto, myself and my sons are all survivors of Dragon War and in order to continue protecting the kingdoms from destruction, we were given powers that mimic Kaito's state as a spirit vessel."

"My father and Haruto were both blessed by Astrals thanks to Kazuma while Arclights received Crests from Millenium Order in Pendulum."

"Crests?" Reiji asked to which Chris lifted his arm to show a shiny bracelet around his wrist.

"We can also use them to partially merge with a spirit. It's similar to equip magic, except it can last longer." another voice, belonging to a pink haired boy with a similar bracelet, responded "Would anyone like some more tea and cookies?"

 

The guests took that as a sign to finally sit down, Yuya, Yuto and Haruto getting their own little table with soft cushions while Reiji and Shun joined the adults. The boy who brought them tea turned out to be Byron's youngest son Michael who was also the one who made the tea and snacks. The last member of Arclight family, Thomas, was currently still out, exploring the forests surrounding Heartland.

 

Since everyone present was aware of the elemental dragons and meant no harm, the hatchlings were able to revert back into their dragons form which was quite tiring to keep up at all times. Haruto joined them in their play of chase in the garden outside. The guardians were a bit skeptical to leave them alone, although Kaito and Michael followed them outside to watch over them, relieving Reiji and Shun of their duties, if only for a bit.

 

The young guardians used the time to talk with

 

"Sea!" Yuya, back in his human form, shouted once Kaito and Michael showed them the way to the private beach that was directly connected to Kaito's house and protected by massive walls.

"Salty!" Yuto cringed once he tasted a bit of water caught in the poodles.

 

Michael only laughed while showing them the hidden corners of the beach, the tiny animals such as crabs and sea shells hiding behind the rocks and crystals of salt gathering at the rocky edges. Kaito watched them from afar, though he wasn't the only person watching them.

 

In his hand was Zarc's crystal, given to him when they met up with Yusho at the market.

 

This wasn't the first time that the hatchlings spent at this beach. Like various locations all over the four kingdoms, Kaito's house and the same exact beach were one of those places that remained unchanged. It was exactly the same like the time when the former guardian, Ray and hatchlings came to visit for a bit of a summery gateway.

 

And Yusho wanted for a depressed Zarc to see it, to be a part of it like he once did.

 

Zarc's spirit hardly watched without shedding a tear or two. He remembered every single thing about the days when he took hatchlings to Kaito's beach where they were safe and could act like normal kids. He could recall Yugo flying high and then throwing himself in the water for that ultimate splash. And Yuri sunbathing right next to Ray who both loved the warm sunlight. He could recall Yuto catching a crab, bringing it to Yuya who  played with it rather than ate it. And the beautiful sunset they all gazed upon until it sunk and it was hatchlings' bedtime.

 

Zarc has been worrying sick for Yuri and Yugo, but just then, if only for a little while he was able to calm down. Yuya and Yuto were safe at least, Yugo was most likely in safe hands as well if he really was in Synchro kingdom and Yuri... he had his guardian and brothers in his dreams.

 

They'll get them back someday soon and when they'll be all together, they will go on that beach again.

 

...

 

 

The group consisting of three mages and a newcomer were about to create a portal created by Dark Magician Girl. The only way to enter a spirit world was for two spirits to create it from both sides and even once it was opened only certain individuals could actually go through it. Joununchi and Seth were both part spirits, Yugi was a special case and from what Yuzu told them she could enter as well due to being a manifestation of En powers.

 

Unlike the forest outskirts of Domino, Pendulum's Spirit world was a desert full of shrines and a single big city ruled by Millenium Order. The group was greeted by Dark Magician, spirit that was most of the time with order's leader, but would also be there to open the portals with his apprentice, Dark Magician Girl.

 

"You're much earlier than expected. Did something happen?" the spirit eyed them all cautiously.

"I'll explain everything once we see Atem, Mahad."  Yugi nudged at Yuzu who made a polite bow.

"Fairy well then. The Master is at the meeting right now, but they are close to wrapping it up." the male spirit bowed and together with his apprentice they headed towards the main city.

 

Yuzu pulled the hood more over her head, not due to the residents, consisting of both spirits and chosen humans, seeing her on the streets, but because of her face. Despite having only a tiny fragment of Ray's soul inside of her, she still bore a striking resemblance to the former owner of En powers. Ray was well-known in all spirit worlds, just like Zarc and his dragons since they would often visit to perform various ceremonies, helping out with the conflicts and spreading certain philosophies in order to connect different worlds. The great sacrifice that the two chosen mages made shook spirits greatly, so it was wise for her to stay in shadows rather than give them false hope.

 

They passed several residents fixing a damaged shrine, a few of them carrying supplies and underneath many tents, mages were healing injured spirits. Majority of them looked in a rather bad shape, some even missing body parts or were disfigured in some other way.

 

"What happened here?" Yuzu was shocked at the state the spirits were in.

"For the last five years, Shadow Realm has been spreading rapidly, affecting Millenium World greatly. Rare Hunters have grown in numbers, going after every weak spirit, stealing their powers for their own gain. We've been doing our best to keep it safe, but the last month has been especially harsh. Because of Shadow Realm we've been getting more sandstorms than ever and many spirits from other kingdoms came here, seeking shelter." Yugi replied sadly.

"I might know why..." En Flower muttered.

 

They passed few more streets, residents bowing to Yugi even though he was originally from the human world since everyone recognized him as pharaoh's trusted partner and not as an outsider. The people of Pendulum's spirit world have been living here for generations and were the only such nation still living the same way they did hundreds of years ago before Dragon War. Back when humans and spirits were only starting to interact among themselves, there were two other nations that connected with spirits. The nation of Signers soon abandoned their spirit world for the sake of their quickly developing world that showed more promise than the power of spirits they barely understood. The nation in Fusion was sadly wiped out by Light of Destruction, despite their great discovery of spirit vessels. That only left XYZ district with two separate spirit worlds that have been practically in war ever since the spirits existed. In the end Pendulum’s spirit world, also known as Millennium World was the only one whose nation survived for all those years.

 

The current ruler, pharaoh by the name Atem led Millennium Order, a powerful organization made of his royal advisors who were all spirit vessels or carried a Millennium Item, like his Millennium Puzzle. Joununchi and Seth were both members of the order while Yugi’s situation was a bit different. The young mage was a result of an extremely rare occurrence known as mirror birth when the same soul is born in two separate bodies at the same time. Despite growing up differently, Yugi and Atem have always seen each other as equals and shared a close bond that only grew more powerful with each new challenge they faced together.

 

“I’ll let Master know you’ve arrived.” Dark Magician floated towards the building that served as the Millennium Order’s headquarters “Please wait outside until meeting is over.”

 

Soon the male spirit returned, allowing them to enter. The meeting room was almost entirely occupied by a huge table and blackboard full of maps showing different parts of Millennium World. Atem wearing his royal robes was at the end of the table, putting away the paperwork with a help of a small spirit Kuriboh.

 

"Aibou? Is something wrong?" the pharaoh blinked in confusion, not expecting to see the group back so early.

"Other Me, there is someone who wishes to speak with you." Yugi nudged Yuzu to step closer.

 

Atem was surprised to see a non-resident in Millenium World, thinking it must be another spirit vessel or a spirit. Once she removed the hood the pharaoh looked nearly as dumbfounded as Yugi did when first seeing her.

 

"Ray?" Atem uttered, shocked to see a person he believed to have died 10 years ago.

"I'm afraid I'm not who you think I am." Yuzu sighed as she began to tell her story.

 

Over an hour later, Atem, Yugi and others heard the rest of what has been happening ever since they witnessed the ruins of Unified Kingdom being turned into four separate kingdoms. All except Yugi, who has been told by Yusei and Judai about it, were surprised to learn that fragments of Ray's soul continued to live on with the help of En powers in order to look after the dragons.

 

"But five years ago something happened and we were forced to prematurely pass on our dragon guardianships." Yuzu looked down, unable to face others while telling the following part of her story.

"Five years..." Atem repeated, thinking about the situation in Millenium World.

"Ray knew just how much her father was involved in events that caused Dragon War, but she was still forgiving when recreating the human world with her sacrifice. She thought that if he were to be reborn with limited amount of magical abilities surrounded by young mages that he could teach at special boarding school like he always wished to, his mind wouldn't be corrupted by his ideas of perfect utopian world and for the first five years it actually worked. He even got married and had a son." the pink haired mage made a slight smile that soon faded "But then everything went wrong."

"Was it the thing that made him turn the students into child soldiers?" Jununchi grimaced at the idea alone.

"And enslave the spirits of Fusion Kingdom?" Seth crossed his hands.

"One day he remembered everything, his former plans to reunite all the spirit worlds with human world, his hatred for the Dragon Guardian and even his magic was back more powerful than ever. Neither of us knew before it was far too late." Yuzu told with a heavy sense of guilt "It's our fault that he's in power again."

 

Atem needed couple of minutes to process all of the new information that started making more sense. If the former king planned to steal guardianships from Ray's counterparts he must've got his hands on a powerful magic, its power strong enough to throw the worlds out of the balance.

 

"But you prevented him from obtaining the guardianships, didn't you?" Atem added to make her feel less guilty.

"The only thing we could do was sending it to the next guardians in line and protect them instead." Yuzu nodded "I couldn't let him continue hurting his child ."

"His own son?" Yugi questioned with a shocked expression.

"Yes... somehow he figured out his son Reiji had some sort of connection to Zarc's dragons and studied him like a subject until he found out he was the next guardian. Before we managed to stop him, he already used him for an experiment to get his hands on the Dragon marks. I barely managed to save him before the ritual took nearly all of his life energy." her hands shook while talking "Once he was well enough I left him with Ray's former teacher and due to our secrecy I had to erase all of his memories and made him believe he was an abandoned orphan. I'm just glad someone  more caring  than his own father got to raise him. He's a smart kid and even better guardian to Odd Eyes. More than I ever got to be."

 

The heaviness of En Flowers' story left everyone in deep thoughts, realizing just how much influence Leo Akaba had on everything. Yugi remembered Judai describing him the place that he once called home, now a prison for young mages and spirits alike. But unfortunately he knew just in what kind of a state their own kingdoms, both Pendulum and Millennium, were.

 

"Don't beat yourself up because of it. You've done much more than you think you did and you said it yourself that the guardians are in safe hands now." Joununchi tried to cheer her up.

"We thank you for all the information that you shared with us and it will be used well. Is there anything else we can help you with?"

"Yes, actually there is something I need to do before I go to meet up with En Moon. I need to visit someone in the dungeons." Yuzu stood up.

"The dungeons?" the pharaoh glanced in surprise and his eyes became even wider when certain someone appeared next to the pink haired girl.

 

The dungeons were located deep in the desert underground as far away from the city as possible. It was carefully guarded by spirits and mages since the prisoners there were equally despised by both even before the Dragon War started. Yuzu followed the pharaoh and Yugi through the dark hallways full of spider webs. The deeper they went, darker it had become right until they reached the lowest part of the dungeons that held only a single prisoner.

 

Magic enhanced bars that were glowing in dark shade of green were the only true source of light in there, menacingly throwing light on the prisoner. Special chains kept his arms restrained, preventing him from using any sort of magic in order to break out. Same went for his legs, chest and pretty much any inch of his body. Atem couldn't afford to let him loose, no after the corrupted mage brought the chaos to his kingdom and other worlds as well. He had to be stripped of his magic and imprisoned for all eternity. It was the only justifiable punishment for all the pain of thousands he caused.

 

"Ah pharaoh, what a pleasant surprise." the prisoner looked up when hearing their footsteps "It's been a while since you've paid me a visit. What's the occasion?"

"This time I won't be the one talking." Atem replied simply, nodding to Yuzu to step closer.

 

The mage discarded her cape, completely revealing herself to the chained prisoner who wasn't one bit surprised by her appearance. That single look that lacked any signs of interest was enough to confirm her suspicions.

 

“I know what you did.” Yuzu's eyes narrowed down “My only question is why.”

“Did what? I did many things, you’ll have to be more specific.” the prisoner rolled his eyes.

“Don’t play dumb, I already know you’re the one who stole En Powers during the Dragon War. Why did you steal the forbidden memories?”

“Ah the memories. Well maybe because Dragon War was so entertaining? So much destruction and despair-“

“Don’t lie!” she raised her voice that echoed through dungeon's corridors “Why would you steal the memories and give them to the worst person possible?!”

“I wouldn’t say Leo Akaba is the worst, though he is a bit ignorant about many things.”

“Why would you want him to remember? Why?" Yuzu drew out her staff and she would've smacked the prisoner's face if it weren't for the bars "Tell the truth, Bandit King Bakura!"

 

The prisoner gave her a toothy grin before laughing hysterically. Boy, was he glad someone other than the pharaoh and his servants came down here. He had forgotten how fun it was to taunt pure souls like fragile En Flowers.

 

“It hurts, doesn’t it? Breaking a promise, not only to a pathetic dragon guardian, but also to that puny little En powers user. Face it, you're all just spells possessing tiny soul fragments that are weak. Akaba might be a fool, but he's growing strong fast. Just look how far he's gotten in merely five years. The new war is coming." Bakura threw his head back in enjoyment.

"That's enough." Atem used magic to silence Bakura's mad speech when he noticed how distressed Yuzu was becoming.

"How did he knew all of this?" Yugi asked out loud "He's been kept here for the last ten years."

"Ah little Yugi, always asking the right questions." the prisoner stapled fingers "I have my ways to do as I please and even the thickest bars or the strongest chains won't prevent me from taking your throne. The game you had barely defeated me in caused you to lose quite a lot."

"And yet I still won." the pharaoh made a steady eye contact with Bakura "But right now you're not the one playing it, are you?"

"Sadly I am not, but I can still be in the first line watching  your kingdom fall into ruin once more. It has already started and there's only a question of time before Shadow Realm takes over." Bakura turned towards Yuzu who practically shook from rage "Say... mind if I ask you how you've figured out it was me?"

 

The girl didn't say a world, so somebody else that appeared next to her did the talking.

 

"Who do you work for?" the person asked bluntly.

"Well, well, well this day is just full of surprises." the prisoner pulled a slight close-flipped smile "I'd never expect to see YOU again. How's your new life?"

 

The person looked almost exactly the same as the prisoner, except for the much softer features. His white hair wasn't as spiked or were his eyes glowing as menacingly. He was dressed in a simple white gown from which two different wings were projecting. Just like Atem and Yugi, he was also a result of mirror birth but unlike them he could never get along with his mad other half. He tried, tried way too hard to make him see the world the same way he did. But this only caused him to end up in his current, barely existing being.

 

He had no real body, barely any powers and his other half has already taken almost all of his soul. The tiny soul fragment that remained was only kept together by a simple spell.

 

"To think my pathetic other self would survive relying on his favorite spell. Truly ironic."

"Who ordered you to give Leo Akaba the memories?" Bakura's other self repeated.

"Do you really think there's something more? What if the memories were already there and he simply remembered? What if so called En powers were simply not secretive enough and failed to do one job they had?" Bakura continued to taunt until Atem concealed the bars with a veil, preventing the prisoner from seeing or hearing them.

 

Yuzu was still caught in her own guilt, despite Yugi's kind words. Atem slowly walked them out of the dungeons and back to the palace where they had more privacy to talk. Yuzu sat down, still shaken up even though Kuriboh climbed to her lap, trying to cheer her up.

 

"I'm sorry you couldn't get more answers, but at that point Bakura starts to try messing with your head. It's how he's always been and it's surprising he has revealed as much." Atem sighed while patting her shoulder in support.

"It was more than enough." Yuzu reached for her bracelet while petting Kuriboh "Now I know where to look next and how to help other Ens."

 

The whole time that the pharaoh and girl talked, Yugi couldn't stop staring at the transparent figure next to Yuzu. Just like the first time he saw the En power user, the mage was hit by a mixture of relief and sadness since he was sure he lost his friend during the Dragon War. Bakura's other self used to be Yugi's close friend, learning magic at the same school as him before he met Atem. When he found out he had the other self as well he did his best to help him get along with him, but unfortunately the other half was too corrupt at that point and it even tried to kill Atem. The last time Yugi saw him was when the white haired mage used all of his power to prevent his evil self from getting his hands on Supreme Dragon, a process that led everyone to believe that he died. Yugi hoped with all of his heart that his friend was reincarnated when Ray revived the world, but no matter how much he searched, he could never find him.

 

"How did you survive, Ryou?" Yugi asked his long lost friend.

"It's thanks to Ens really." Ryou said while folding his two wings "After Ray sacrificed herself, Ens took on her appearance and made sure any Dragon War reminder was erased or changed. The remains of my soul would've been swallowed by Shadow Realm after my other self destroyed my body if En Flower hadn't found me."

"So this means Change of Heart is now the only thing preventing you from fading away." Yugi eyed his friend's nearly transparent form.

"Unfortunately yes, though when I'm close to En Flower I'm safer so for the past years I've been helping her protect the dragons." Ryou answered, leaning closer to the shorter mage.

"Are other three Ens the same as Yuzu?"

"Until five years ago when En Winds choose to be reborn as human they were. Now En Moon is helping out the Resistance while En Birds watches over Dark Rebellion and Odd-Eyes from Barian World. I try to help around En Flower as a thank you for saving me… and we’re both trying to find out who's behind all the recent events."

"Spreading of the Shadow Realm?"

"The ritual that Akaba used in order to get the Dragon Marks effected all spirit worlds, but when he used the stolen power of Supreme King to claim the eggs things only became worse. You've probably seen it enough yourself."

 

Yugi remembered burnt down villages, the faces of people who lost their homes and terrified spirits from Fusion Kingdom seeking shelter in Millenium World.

 

"I have a bad feeling..." Yugi mumbled as he watched another sandstorm in the making approaching the town.

 

First Rare Hunters and now this…

 

 

 

 

"Okay try it just one more time."

 

"Hello... and nice to meet... you. I'm Rin's mate-"

"Friend! Not mate!" Rin face-palmed at Yugo's use of words "If you say this they'll definitely think something is wrong!"

"I'm sorry, but it is hard to talk and stay human."

"It's alright. I'm just worried my parents won't allow you to stay and I really want to be with you at all times, but because you're so big I can't hide you anymore."

"Even if they kick me out, I'll just stay at our hideout." Yugo smiled once turning back in a dragon "What matters is that we stay close to each other."

"I know..."

 

Ever since Yugo learned how to shift into a human form, he did his best to keep it up as long as possible. But due to being so young without a help of an experienced mage, Yugo didn't know how to use his powers properly. He would try too hard, exhausting himself completely or do the opposite of what he was intending. Even though he had no trouble communicating with Rin through their mind link, talking in his human form presented quite a challenge since human speech was something he just wasn't used to. Rin so taught him those few necessary phrases that he repeated day and night until today.

 

By now his both forms were way too big to sneak around the house without being noticed so the two of them came out with a conclusion: either he pretends to be an orphaned boy and convinces Rin's parents to take him in or stay at the hideout permanently until he... well until he grows to the full size and he can no longer hide there. Neither Rin or Yugo weren't sure if they could tell them the truth since the memories of Dragon War clearly stated that the existence of elemental dragons is supposed to be kept a secret. Should someone find out about a dragon and its guardian, Rin doubted it would be good.

 

"Here goes nothing." Rin sighed while opening the door to her house "Mom? Dad?"

 

Her mother looked up from the bowl of herbs she was preparing for a medicine while her father put down the fishing net that he was patching up.

 

"What is it sweetie?" the woman asked, wiping her hands in an apron.

"I... Ehmm..." Rin froze, not sure what was she going to say "Can I introduce you to my friend?"

"Sure thing." her mother smiled, stepping away from the stove.

 

Like every child, Rin would bring all kinds of small animals that she found outside, showing them to her parents and begging them to let her keep that injured bird, friendly mouse or huge bug as a pet. Imagine their surprise when a boy her age stepped in the hallway instead. Wearing Rin's old clothes consisting of brown shorts and yellow shirt with small flower embroideries, Yugo shifted from one foot to other nervously while completely focusing on keeping his tail and wings from showing up.

 

"Well hello there." Rin's mother greeted with a smile "What's your name?"

"Y-Yu... go." the dragon shifter uttered.

"You go? You go where?" Rin's father gave him a confused look.

"Yugo..." the boy repeated, clearly annoyed that they got his name wrong but was too busy keeping his human form up.

"His name is Yugo." Rin corrected "We met about a month ago."

"I see." Rin's father grinned "So that's why you've been sneaking out of the house."

 

The girl nodded with a gulp, a bit surprised that her parents figured out this much already.

 

"I don't recall seeing you in the village or in the nearby towns. Where are you from?"  Rin's mother crunched down to Yugo's level.

"Nowhere... I don't have... home." Yugo mumbled, doing his best to remember the lines he was supposed to say.

"Yugo is an orphan." Rin explained "He has nowhere to go..."

"Oh dear, you poor soul." the woman stroke his cheek lovingly "Where you've been so far?"

"Sea... fishing..." the dragon shifter replied.

"So that's why Rin's been bringing so many fish lately." Rin's father playfully ruffled Yugo's hair "You had a teacher, much better than myself even."

"You've been on your own all this time?" the woman worriedly glanced at the bare footed boy in borrowed clothes "Why didn't you tell us about Yugo sooner?"

"I-I was afraid you wouldn't let him stay."

"Nonsense dear, any orphaned child is welcome in our house. Especially if he is your friend." the woman gently pressed her hand against Yugo's forehead "Are you alright? You look a bit pale."

"Tired..." he mumbled, slightly swaying from side to side.

"I think you should lay down for a bit then." Rin's father said, looking around their tiny house for a place to rest.

"He can sleep in my room." the girl already dragged Yugo towards her room.

"Are you sure? It's rather small for the two of you."

"It'll be fine!" Rin pulled up a grin in hopes to distract them from Yugo looking paler.

"Alright then, but tomorrow I'd love to hear his secret for catching so much fish." Rin's father said and went back to patching the fishing net.

"I'll make a bit of herbal tea just in case." Rin's mother reached for some of the dried herbs.

 

Rin quickly pushed Yugo to her room, the dragon shifter finally being able to let out his wings and tail. The moment the doors were closed, Yugo threw himself on the bed, gasping from exhaustion.

 

"We've made it." Yugo breathed in relief, his wings stretching and tail untangling.

"I can't believe it worked. I was sure they wouldn't allow you to stay..."

"Your parents are nice." the dragon mumbled before falling asleep.

 

Rin chuckled at the sight of the dragon who would growl at seagulls and viciously devour fish, now all wrapped in blankets and letting out his own version of snoring.  The full human shifting took quite a toll on him so he had to be more careful with it in the future. It was a bit easier to have tail out at least, though this meant squeezing his tail underneath clothes.

 

But as long as he could stay with Rin, Yugo didn't care. Even if it hurt him, the closeness with his guardian always calmed him down. They’ll go through this together and one day Rin hoped to fly with Yugo for real, not with his past self in dreams only.

 

...

 

Shark observed Heartland from the hill, watching the sun in the last moments before it turned into a sunset. The Barian Emperor was in his human form, the armor making him look like a warrior returning from the battle when really he was on his way back to Barian World. He just wished to watch the town through his former, human eyes more.

 

Shark wasn’t always the spirit-like being by the name Nash. Just like his sister and his friend Durbe, they all used to be normal mages back in Unified Kingdom, until a certain someone ruined everything that is. Barians are beings born from certain humans who died a violent death and had a strong desire for revenge. In his case it was his sadness for losing his kingdom, anger for seeing his friends being hurt and outright agony when seeing his twin sister sacrifice herself for his own sake. To think the very same person responsible would become Barian as well was unthinkable since he couldn’t look at that person’s face without remembering his insane expression when fighting him.

 

And yet here he was, about to head off to a meeting which will consist of actually talking with that guy. The mere imaging of that was enough to make him punch a nearby tree that scared a flock of birds on it enough to make them fly away.

 

“You can come out, I know you’re there.” Shark said without looking back.

From behind the nearby rock walked a slightly taller mage whose pink eyes gleamed in the light of setting sun. His blond and maroon locks were spiked up, hiding cross-shaped scar on his cheek behind them. Shark knew that mage, who wore clothes more suitable for Pendulum Kingdom well, but he really wasn’t in the mood to talk with him.

“You’re as sour as ever.” the teen grinned as he brushed through his hair with his fingers “Something is eating you.”

“I don’t really have the time, IV. I’m having a meeting with other emperors soon.”

“And you’re in such a hurry that you stare at Heartland for nearly an hour?”

“You have way too much time on your hand, puppet freak.”

“So do you.” Thomas grinned as he stepped closer “I guess you really couldn’t let it go.”

“It’s none of your business.”

Shark began to walk away, far too annoyed with everything in order to lose more time with the last person he’d wish to talk to when all of a sudden his body couldn’t move more. The Barian Emperor tried to make another step despite knowing he will get nowhere at that point.

“I think I told you to stop using your creepy magic on me.”

“Can’t help it if Marionette Strings are extremely useful in this.”

“Just get on with it, I’m not in right mood.”

“Uh, getting angsty are you? Well, if you really want to know, yes I’m interested what’s been going on with you lately?” Thomas leaned uncomfortably closer to Shark's face “You are far more willing to talk with me.”

“You won’t let me go until I tell you, won’t you?”

“That’s the idea.”

“Fine…” Shark sighed, fixing on of his locks of hair “It’s Yuma.”

“Nawww of course it is the chosen warrior of the Astral World.” Thomas winked, making the other mage uncomfortable.

“Not in that kind of a way… It’s just… I’ll be forced to act fine before the Council. And you know well how much they hate Astrals – and as their lovely leader of Barian Emperors I will have to appeal to their likening and pretend the Astrals are evil and their world is hell… all while that creep will add more made up facts just to piss me off.”

"If you're talking about Vector you should just ignore him. The guy purposely provokes people like you for his own entertainment.”

“This still doesn’t solve the fact that Council will want to discuss the break-in of Don Thousand’s shrine, but only to have a reason to go after Astrals again. I know the two worlds are technically at peace right now but it feels like cold war to me. I can’t keep doing this as an emperor.” Shark looked down, feeling a bit dizzy from all of what was going to happen “And Yuma… he is so blissfully unaware of all of this, even though he was the one suffering the most. He deserves to know.”

 “You want Yuma to remember, but you don't at the same time. Are you?” Thomas turned serious for once, keeping a firm eye contact with a Barian “Unfortunately fate isn't the kind of a puppet that you can control. It's far too powerful to be pulled by strings.”

“Are you poetic now?” Shark asked more for the sake of it rather than for expecting an answer.

"He saw you die... are you really sure you want him to remember that?" Thomas firmly crossed his arms "The guy is embodiment of pure emotions and is as fragile as Baby Tiragon. Do you really want to break him just so he could remember you? Is it really worthy to make him remember the days when you were still a human? Not to mention that he won't be remembering only that, but everything that Vector did to him, all of Emperors' pasts before becoming Barians and on top of that what happened during the Dragon War?"

"Don't...” Shark breathed heavily as the flashbacks of Yuma’s tearstained and terrified face filled his head.

“Yuma only knows you as Shark and not as Emperor Nash or Ryoga of Spartan City. He sees you as his buddy he cares about and doesn’t give damn if you’re supposed to be his enemy. Isn’t this enough? You’re really being selfish if your answer is going to be no.” Thomas’ tone of voice was getting more serious and also more calculated than before “The current situation of the worlds is already in chaos, don’t make it worse and if you don’t believe me, you’re free to check Domino in Pendulum Kingdom. It would make Barian dungeons look like a summer gateway compared to it.”

“Enough!” the Barian Emperor yelled stomping on the ground like a child rebelling against own parent “I know okay! I know that messed up king is back! I know Pendulum Kingdom is facing the rise of Shadow Realm, I was there with you for crying out loud! I know Yuma’s future has been decided for him since the day he was born! I know for Don Thousand’s sake, I KNOW!”

Shark sat down to catch his breath after throwing everything out on Thomas who merely watched with unchanged expression.

“I know what’s going on, but I’d lie to you if I said I’m okay with it… It’s just so messed up.” the Barian kept his hands pressed together “And yet I still have to watch it unfold it before me.”

“I never said you should be fine with it…” Thomas patted his shoulder in support, Shark letting him comfort him for once “Just that you shouldn’t act on emotion. You’re keen on making bad decisions if they’re involved, believe me I know.”

 

The Emperor didn’t say a thing. He just stared at sun that was close to disappearing into Heartland’s open ocean.

 

“I should get going…” Shark stood up, raising his hand to open a portal.

“Yeah you were in a hurry to go on a meeting, weren’t you?” Thomas smirked, remembering the lame excuse to get away “Say hi to your cute sister for me.”

“I’ll make sure to forget it.” the Barian chuckled and left for his world before the other mage could figure out what he had just said.

 

Shark slipped through the portal like so many times before, slowly transforming into his Barian form since the spirit world was created for his kind and spirits only. The vicious atmosphere and outright hellish conditions made it unlivable for anyone else, so if anything Barians didn’t need to worry about intruders. The emperor glanced at his reflection in one of the crystals in the royal palace, seeing his mouthless face and scaly purple skin.

 

Even by this day he hasn’t got used to this form of Nash the Barian Emperor. Nash was a stoic leader that along with other Barian Emperors ruled their world with a firm hand and no emotion at all. Underneath that alien skin, he was still Ryoga, a scared prince who witnessed his home being destroyed and people slaughter under maniac's hand. The very same maniac who was passing him right now, with his bulging eyes and stupid hand gestures. The meeting hasn’t even started and Vector was already getting on his nerves.

 

“There you are! I was afraid you’d forget to come again.” Durbe rushed to him while catching his breath.

“It’s my responsibility, so you shouldn’t trouble yourself with me. Do you have everything necessary ready?" Shark glanced at the pile of paperwork in Durbe's hands.

"I wouldn't be your advisor if I didn't." the gray skinned Barian nodded "Mistress Merag is already in the boardroom, we should join her soon."

It didn't take him long together there. Merag already seated at the table where she was talking with the other two Barian Emperors Alito and Girag. The shorter one, Alito was red skinned and had messy brown hair while Girag was taller and had more built up physique. Like always Alito was swaying his sword around while talking since he hardly ever stood still due to how energetic and eager to fight he was all the time. Unlike him, the stoic Girag was completely still, mostly adding to what Alito was so excitedly talking about.

 

"And then I punched him straight into his face! He was a tough opponent, but a really stupid one too." Alito proudly showed off his muscles.

"The warriors will start to get discouraged if you continue to fight in the coliseum, Alito." Girag sighed while petting his tanuki spirit partner Ponta on his shoulder.

"Not my problem if they all suck! Those guys didn't even try to be manly." the brunet Barian grumbled "They're an insult to real men! Hell Yuma is ten times manlier than those guys were!"

“Speaking of Yuma, did he come to see your match?” Rio asked once she noticed her brother coming since she knew he was too embarrassed to ask himself.

“When did he ever not come?” Alito chuckled “Even the loudest crowd can’t drown out his cheers! It made me so pumped up!”

 

The Emperors continued with their chit-chat about visiting XYZ Kingdom while waiting in the boardroom for meeting to begin. Like him, the majority of Barian Emperors missed their lives as humans and would regularly visit their certain places that carried a significant memory to it. For example Alito who used to be a gladiator back in Pre-War times, would still participate in those matches, reliving his days as a warrior champion. Back when he was a human, he had no magical abilities and yet he wiped the coliseum’s floor with his opponents. Now he was even better, though whenever he looked at the audience, he knew it wasn’t the same since he always failed to find the prince he was fighting for, a person that wasn’t revived after the war. Gilag would visit the places where he fought with Ponta’s help since just like Alito, the stoic Barian Emperor used to be a regular warrior and not a mage. Durbe would sometimes accompany Shark or Merag on their own quests, though most of the time he was either working or was stuck in Barian library. Another emperor, with yellow skin and slick blond hair to his lower back by the name Mizael sat next to him and was just like always clearly pissed about something and like Durbe quickly guessed it was about his failed mission to fight with Kaito again. 

 

“Is it really necessary for you two to fight?” Durbe flipped few pages on the book he was reading while talking with the pouty Barian “Can’t you just ignore the fact that there’s another Galaxy Eyes tamer besides you?”

“No! You clearly don’t understand! It’s a matter of honor! There could only be one!” Mizael stood up in dramatic manner “Someday I’ll prove to be the strongest!”

“To who? No one really cares about this.” Durbe sighed since the statement made the other Barian only more pissed.

 

Shark listened to Girag who told him about his trip to a place where one of the major Pre-War battles took place, Ponta pointing more than once that he was there too. Speaking of spirits in boardroom, the purpled haired Barian happened to notice that Girag wasn’t the only one with company.

 

“Is that-?” Shark pointed at the bird on her shoulder, Rio silencing him right away.

“Yes it’s one of Ruri’s birds and I grew to love it okay? It’s so cute!” Rio gently petted the little black and purple feathered bird.

“Yeah but… I don’t think Council will allow pets at-“

“Oh shut it! Girag brings Ponta on every meeting and so far they didn’t complain about it.”

 

The older twin sibling sighed, knowing there was no use in arguing with his sister. When Rio was up to something she would carry out until the end, no matter what he’d do to stop it. And besides, ever since Ruri practically started living in her quarters, Rio was noticeably happier and more excited about each new day. So if she wants a pet bird, why the hell not.

 

With the two siblings, gladiator, former general, royal advisor and Galaxy Eyes tamer, there was only one member missing and majority of them was actually relieved that he was late. But sooner or later, the unpopular Barian showed up as well. Playfully scampering around like a child while throwing annoying nicknames at others which irritated the other Emperors, Vector had a habit of doing just that. After the Dragon War was over, others hoped that Council would recognize Vector as guilty and lock him up for the crimes he committed before and during the war. Unfortunately it turned out that they couldn’t replace him since each Barian emperor needed to have a connection with Over Hundred Numbers spirit, the very same spirits the Barian Council was made of. Number 104, also known as Masquerade failed to find a suitable Barian to replace Vector and despite other Emperor’s outrage, the silver skinned Barian remained an Emperor. His doings during the war were never recognized as bad since Council despised Numbers and therefore Astrals, so hurting the main protector of Astral World was actually something they were in favor of. Shark, Rio, Durbe, Mizael, Alito and Girag might be powerful Barian Emperors, but to Over Hundred Numbers they were still inferior.

 

The moment Vector took his seat, sitting down cross-legged, the council appeared before them. Star Seraph Sentry filled entire room with a shine from its armor, Ragnzero followed with its intense cold, Galaxy Eyes Tachyon Dragon appeared with a low growl, Masquerade arrived in nearly the same manner as Vector did, Battlin’ Boxer Star Cestus nearly took down the door again with its grand entrance, Giant Hand followed suit and lastly Silent Honor ARK appeared, the strongest of them all.

 

The Emperors, even Vector all bowed before the Over Hundred Numbers who took their places as well, observing them as always. The spirits didn’t actually talk since they were perfect embodiment of Chaos and therefore didn’t need to talk to express what they thought. For that fact, they had no emotion as well, so everything they did was based on the calculations for their own benefit. With Barian World being a collection of Astral World’s discarded magic, the Council bore a big grudge towards Astrals who were more focused on using Ranking Up magic to fix situation, rather than taking care of the mess they’ve caused. So there was no surprise the two worlds were still at war and used every opportunity to put the blame for their misery on other world.

 

As much as the Council loved to exploit Astral World as much as possible, there were actually some important matters to discuss this time. The break-in of Don Thousands’ shrine.

 

Like Pendulum had three Egyptian Gods, Fusion Kingdom had Sacred Beasts and Synchro had Crimson Dragon, XYZ had Don Thousand. Even though the Chaos spirit had been the oldest among the god spirits that ruled the worlds, Don Thousand also happened to be one of the most unstable ones. He was also among many other reasons why Dragon War started since his seal was broken and he was free to spread Chaos magic at the already unstable residents of Unified Kingdom. Luckily, the Barian Emperors managed to seal him once more and since that day Council kept the spirit from causing any more trouble. The shrine was so built around his seal for Barian residents who still worshipped him since he was practically the god of Barian world. Over the years even a special Barian crystal was formed to communicate with him, but it was off limits for normal residents. Only Over Hundred spirits and Emperors could access it since it was located in the ocean underneath the island the shrine was built on.

 

And now that crystal was gone.

 

It had to be one of the people presented there as they were the only ones who could withstand the harsh conditions of Barian Sea. Naturally, everyone presented was considered a culprit and before they reached even remotely satisfying conclusion several hours had passed, this ending the meeting. By some miracle Vector wasn’t acting up, the few mocking words being the only bad thing he did, despite being questioned about the break-in. He didn’t beat around the bush like he usually did, answering all questions honestly and without a single sign of lying. No matter how ideal it looked, Shark couldn’t shake the feeling that Vector had something to do with it.

 

Over Hundred Numbers scheduled another meeting in couple of days and disappeared the same way they appeared, leaving Emperors to return to their personal quarters. Shark was relieved to be back to his room, away from other Emperors and especially Vector who tried to provoke him by telling him how he sneaked to coliseum where he saw Yuma again. Of course Shark knew well that Astral was more than capable of protecting Yuma, but the thought alone of seeing that creep anywhere near his friend was enough to make his blood boil. Luckily Rio managed to drag him away before her twin could do anything, but this didn’t necessary helped Shark. No… his Ryoga self wanted to utterly drag Vector to hell for everything the other Emperor did. Rio managed to talk him out of it and by the time they were back to their shared quarters, Shark excused himself in order to take a nap.

 

Rio on the other hand, headed for the balcony with a wonderful view on the black spiral, a Barian alternative to sun gleaming above the sea. The lilac pieces of chaos magic floated around the rose-like trees like fireflies, making it looked not that much different from Heartland. The bird on her shoulder chirped and flew to the fence, admiring the view with her.

 

“What do you make of Vector?” she asked.

 

The bird blinked and in matter of seconds, Ruri was there instead.

 

“I don’t know. He’s difficult person to read.” En Birds sighed, crossing her legs “I can’t tell if he’s lying or telling the truth. I can usually tell that, but with him… I don’t know. It’s like he’s in such a state of neutrality that neither truth nor lie can be told apart.”

“Do you think he’s the culprit?” Barian Empress continued to stare at the sea.

“He had something to do with it. I just happen to have no evidence to back up my words.” Ruri got off the fence, changing the robes she wore into travelling ones “I’ll need to check something so I’ll be away for a few days.”

“You’re going to go meet him after all, aren’t you?” Rio smiled to which En Birds nodded “You’re always welcome to stay here, Ruri. I truly enjoy your company.”

 

Ruri gave her friend a warm embrace before her arms turned into wings and using a form of her En Birds spirit Lyrical Luscinia, she flew towards the portal to human world. It has been a while since she used that form, but she knew she’ll have to get used to it again after her time in Barian World. Shun will grow up soon and he’ll need his teacher again to guide him on his way to become a guardian capable of protecting and teaching Dark Rebellion.

 

“Are you sure it was Dark Mist? The infamous Number 96? A Barian deity that once fused with Astral?”

“I wish it wasn’t and yet here I am with its tracks on the remains of the crystal necessary for communication with sealed god of Number spirits. Though I doubt Black Mist did it alone, someone, either a Barian or another Number spirit must’ve given it a hand.”

“But don’t only Barian Emperors have access to the sea of Barian world?”

“They do and yet all of them have an alibi for that day.” Kazuma sighed as he fiddled with a small piece of crystal “From what Kaito could tell me from Ryoga, even Council isn’t that sure about it and he honestly thinks none of them is even bothered enough to investigate it. They are more concerned with their own issues.”

“I see… I really wish there was something I could do to help you out.”

“No need to bother with it Yusho, your company is enough. I don’t really have anyone else besides Yuma, Astral and Rainbow Kuriboh.” “Speaking of which, how are your wards doing?”

“Heh, they will literally grow before my eyes. Due to Dragon Guardian marks both Reiji and Shun will turn 19 in less than a year. As for the dragons, they’re both learning things wonderfully and since they’ve recently learnt how to take human forms, Reiji and Shun took them to Heartland to meet Shun’s foster family. I’m sure they’re having a lot of fun.”

“So they went to see Tenjo family. Maybe even Byron managed to return from his journey around Pendulum Kingdom. From what I know his three kids live in Heartland, close to Tenjo’s though they also travel a lot individually.”

“They should be on the way back now, I better start making dinner.”

“I shall take my leave then.” Kazuma stood up, Rainbow Kuriboh following him “I’ve really enjoyed the talk with you my old friend, I’ll make sure to stop by soon.”

“Have a safe journey.”

 

Kazuma took those few books he brought along and once they were safely stacked in his backpack, the man nudged to Rainbow Kuriboh to create a shortcut-like portal to Astral World. Not that many spirits were capable of transportation and since Kazuma regularly visited the protected house, he was given the special kind of spirit that could easily take him from one world to another.

 

It was a rather obvious change when instead of a colorful scenery of a setting sun above the forest and lively Heartland was replaced by gloomy shades of blue that was Astral World. Rainbow Kuriboh transformed into a floating vehicle in order to carry Kazuma to the residence where they were staying. Yuma and Astral were probably back by now, returning from a short visit to Spartan City, the second largest town in XYZ Kingdom. Just like always Kazuma opened the doors, proceeding to hang his hat and give his son a hug as usual.

 

But that’s not what happened.

 

Instead of running towards him in joy with Astral by his side, Yuma was leaned against the armchair in an awkward angle, his crimson eyes emptily staring in the distance. Next to him was Astral who was trying to get him to respond and right next to them was…

 

“Eliphas, what’s the meaning of this?!” Kazuma narrowed his eyes at the Council member as he crunched down to check on Yuma.

“Just what it looks like. He remembered again and I had to erase the memories.” Eliphas replied coldly, crossing his arms.

“But your method is ten times more painful and difficult to recover from! I thought I made myself clear that I’ll be the one who erases his memories!”s

“And you weren’t there when it happened. Astral couldn’t do it, so I came to do it instead.”

“Just how long will you keep him going like this!? His body is still human!”

“If I must remind you, Kazuma, Yuma is far from being human at this point. He’s a part of Astral that was reincarnated in your world and we can’t possibly afford to lose such a valuable warrior and healer who can protect our world.” Kazuma couldn’t stop glaring at the face of man who caused his son to be this way “Remember that you’re only here because I went to the great lengths to have your soul reincarnated from the Dragon War times. If you continue to talk with me this way, I’ll be forced to-“

“Fine, I get it!” the man hardly kept his rage in check “I’ll stay more close to Yuma from now on and if he remembers anything I’ll be there immediately to react.”

“Good, I’ll be therefore returning to the main hall.” Eliphas teleported out of Kazuma’s house.

 

As soon as the Council member was gone, Kazuma quickly took his son in his arms in order to get him out of the uncomfortable position. Once he got him to the nearest bed, the man instantly placed his hands on Yuma’s forehead, mumbling the spell he has been forced to learn as soon as he was revived. Yuma’s opened eyes became less lifeless as his eyelids slowly slipped down and his breathing became more noticeable. Kazuma kept repeating the spell until he was sure every fragment of that memory was gone and all damage from Eliphas’ spell was healed up. The whole time Astral was floating next to him, silently observing the whole process.

 

“I apologize, I accidently showed Yuma more than I should after we went to see Alito's match. I had no open conclusion that the objects Yuma bought at the local market would trigger the memories. It was coming to him in smaller bits and by the time we’ve returned he almost recovered all of them and I-“

“You are the last person who should apologize, Astral. Just like Yuma, your sole purpose has been decided upon you since your very creation.” 

“Still, I care about Yuma a lot and I should be more careful around the things that might bring back his memories.”

“Astral… you and Yuma deserve to live to the fullest. I’ve lived my life and my dreams, I’ve explored the most of what the world had to offer, I’ve met a love of my life and had two gorgeous children with her. Dragon War took all of this away from me, but at least I was free. Unlike Yuma.” Kazuma sadly stared at his resting son “The moment Yuma was born Eliphas brought me to you, entrusting me to connect the two of you together so you could become the chosen protectors of Astral World. Because of it, Yuma never get to experience his childhood like I did.”

Astral sadly looked at his friend being tucked in by Kazuma. How many times has he witnessed this by now? Astral lost count of it despite keeping a precise track of his observations. The times when Kazuma was forced to make Yuma forget about certain events. Like Kazuma he was also against memories being wiped out, but once he witnessed the consequences he had to agree to do whatever it takes to help Yuma.

 

The two of them went on many missions together, taking part in dozens of battles over the years and despite everything Yuma always kept his smile on and tried to cheer up others as well. Either you were a human or spirit, Yuma didn't care. He might've acted like a dork at times, but his heart was pure. So pure it was easy to break.

 

Astral could still remember the exact moment when he was created thousands of years ago in order to protect Astral World. The Barian World wasn't created yet back then so his main role was to merely watch over his world, not until Don Thousand was banished and threatened to spread chaos everywhere. The two of them clashed in a battle, resulting in Don Thousand being sealed and him heavily injured. The fight caused him to lose a part of himself and for centuries he had to live without that missing part. Over those years Astral couldn't tell what he lost since he didn't feel all that different and yet he was aware he lacked something. Only when he met newborn Yuma through Kazuma did he understand what he lost - his own emotions, now reincarnated in human form.

 

He watched him as he grew up from the distance, intrigued of how different he was compared to him and yet he felt more at ease when being near to him. Only when Yuma turned six was he allowed to meet him, both glad and a bit annoyed that they will be stuck together from that point on since Astrals couldn't leave their world without an appropriate vessel. The things were a bit jumpy with their relationship at first but sooner or later they grew to like each other.

 

Their bond became even stronger once they performed Zexal for the first time when Yuma just turned thirteen and that's when Yuma learned about his origins. He was really surprised about it at first but didn't care that much about it since it only mattered that the two of them stayed together.

 

Then Eliphas found out that Kazuma wasn't teaching Astral the way he was supposed to, blaming him for exposing Astral to Chaos and separating the two. Astral couldn't remember that time that well since he was stuck in coma-like state until Yuma managed to convince Eliphas to let him prove that Kazuma did nothing wrong when not following his exact orders. Yuma was able to reunite with him at last and for a while kept quiet of what has been happening during that time.

 

It was Shark who revealed just how bad the separation affected Yuma. The young mage wouldn't eat, speak or sleep without him and at times he would just wonder around looking for him until he set off to find him in Astral World. It wasn't easy. Kaito and Arclight brothers had to use all of their magic to get him there since Eliphas blocked all normal portals and nearly ended up killing him. Yuma also had trouble going through that world without a connection to Astral since it greatly affected his physical state. And yet as broken as he was, he demanded to see Astral for any cost. Eliphas warned him to not interfere since he rather had Astral "fixed" than letting him reconnect with Yuma who was blamed for exposing him to Chaos. Still Yuma challenged him to a battle, using everything he had. He was on his back legs several times, hearing Eliphilas' "give up already" dozens of times until Yuma finally won.

 

Eliphas watched the boy’s broken and bruised form collapse on the ground, barely surviving at that point and yet he still tried to crawl towards the crystal where Astral was. It was thanks to one of Astral World residents named Enna who finally convinced the ruler to accept the change in their world for once and reluctantly he agreed to reconnect Astral and Yuma again.

 

Knowing this made Astral only more protective of Yuma, not leaving his side ever again. With their renewed connection, they discovered other Zexal forms that came handy once the Dragon War began. While everyone was handling the situation in human world, he, Astral and Barians had more trouble with Don Thousand, a god who for unknown reason broke out of his seal, dead set in using the chaos unfolding outside for his own means. Yuma and the rest of his group managed to put him back into his seal, but not before all the damage was done.

 

Yuma couldn't handle the destruction of his home, witnessing death and much deadlier battles happening right before his eyes. It was like being separated from Astral again except it was much worse. He lost his family, his friends and even some of the spirits he was close to. Despite everything he somehow pulled through but once the battle was over, he couldn't take it anymore. The sadness and shock alone was enough to enter a state of being barely alive and it was only thanks to the members of Tenjo and Arclight family that used their remaining magic to heal him that he survived. Once Ray revived the world Yuma was well again, but only physically. It turned out that Yuma was suffering from a heavy case of PTSD, causing him to be disoriented from the real world and not really living at all. All days he would be stuck up in his room, too scared of ever coming out. The friends that survived the war tried to help him, but Yuma would only start screaming until they would go away. The symptoms became so bad that Yuma started fearing even Astral and that's when he started running out options of to do, so Astral had to take drastic measures.

 

He went straight to Eliphas, a person with whom he still had trouble speaking, falling on his knees and begging him to help Yuma. The ruler of Astral World gradually accepted the new changes brought by Yuma and Astral, but he still bore a slight resentment towards the boy. In the end he came up with a solution that appeared rather harsh, though at that point Astral was desperate enough to accept anything. Eliphas so, after months of searching, found Kazuma's soul and revived him under the condition that he keeps watch over his son and erase the memories of war.

 

It took Kazuma nearly a year before he tracked down every single memory of those terrible events and made it look like the war never happened. In a matter of months Yuma became more responsive which was obviously a good sign. Few months later and Yuma was talking again. And finally after more than a year Yuma was back to his old self. Of course everyone he knew were taught the alternative version of the war so his memories didn't come back. In case they did, Kazuma knew a spell that he learnt from Eliphas to put Yuma in sleep and remove the parts he remembered.

 

That seemed to be going well for the past few years. Yuma and his dad even moved in with Astral in his world, making them into official residents of Astral World. But in the recent year, Yuma started remembering more and more rapidly, ending up in spell induced sleep at least four times per month. Eliphas suggested permantly "fixing" his memories, but Kazuma was strongly against it since the process would turn his son into emotionless puppet which practically meant an eternal prison for someone who was practically an embodiment of emotions.

This is how it was now, Yuma trying to lead a happy life, being blissfully unaware of what was really going on and his father erasing the memories to keep him in a bubble. He wasn’t sure how they can keep going by this point, but he had faith in his son that one day he will be able to defeat the fears that haunted his soul. He knew he will, in fact he made sure his son will truly grow up by teaching him the philosophy of powerful saying Kattobingu. The word itself had no meaning, but the message it carried was powerful since it taught to never give up no matter the consequences and if you were to fail, the most important thing is to pick yourself up first and then continue solving the problem. Yuma even started calling it a game of high-fiving the sky, trying it different things each new day and just lived his life.

 

“I’ll be heading off to bed.” Kazuma yawned, exhausted from the trip to ruins before visiting Yusho “Could you watch over him?”

“You don’t need to ask since this is the only thing that concerns me now.” Astral floated to Yuma’s bedside “I’ll let you know if anything that I can’t solve myself will happen. I’ll guard him with my life.”

 

Kazuma smiled and after finally discarding his hat, he headed towards his own room. But not too fast since the curiosity got the best of him when he peeked through a crevice of the doors that were ajar.

 

Astral, being able to touch Yuma when in this world, gently caressed the boy’s spikey bangs and whispered that he will protect him and help him face his fears one day.

 

Judai stared at the painting hanging on the wall next to the desk where he put down more maps and reports he was going through. Winged Kuriboh appeared on his shoulder, nuzzling against his face once he sensed distress coming from his friend. The people on the painting were after all gone for good and the Fusion mage wished they could help him with a piece of advice since their break-in plan was still in early stages when the Academia was getting stronger.

 

“What would you do?” Judai sighed while remembering all the times they helped him in battles.

 

It has been a week since Hikage literally disappeared from the face of the Earth. His brother tried to locate him, but found no explanation for his sudden disappearance. The last message they’ve received from Hikage was a simple statement that he discovered something big and is about exploit it, but soon after he disappeared. Tsukikage concluded that Hikage was either captured or well, killed. As the members of Fuma clan, the ninjas have been taught from an early age that things can go bad fast so in this kind of cases Tsukikage remained silent and distracted himself by helping others to prepare for the rescue mission.

 

Edo Phoenix arrived the previous day, with tons of information regarding Academia so everyone has been pretty busy the last few days. They had to put together a good plan since the failure wouldn’t only put their lives in danger, but all members of Resistance as well

 

“Hey! I brought you tea.” Johan’s head peeked into an extra office where his friend was “How is it going?”

“Slow… the spy sure writes down a lot.” Judai tiredly put down the report he was working on “I wish he could help me up. Even if he was a jerk I learned a lot from and his help now would no matter how you look at helped us on the battlefield.”

 

“You mean him…” Johan looked at the painting again.

 

Johan didn’t personally knew that person painted there, but he sure knew a lot about spirits, Fusion magic and about spirit vessels since he was one himself. The blue haired mage recalled that battle fought in great secrecy to not raise the panic for the sake of protecting a young guardian with hatchlings. Crazy mage by the name of Paradox was convinced that the dragons had to be killed off for the sake of all worlds, so he went off capturing spirit vessels of dragon spirits with Sin magic. Johan was his third target after Blue Eyes and Red eyes and despite Judai’s efforts to save him, Sin magic was too powerful and controlled him like a puppet. The person from the painting was the next target and by the time all powerful mages gathered up, Paradox had nearly all powerful dragons in his grasp. But somehow they won that battle and successfully protected the hatchlings.

 

Now they simply needed to prepare for another, much harder battle approaching.

 

 

 

Crow stared at the figures he never though he'd seen again. Faceless bodies coated in black and covered by glowing markings in yellow and orange. It couldn't be possible, they've dealt with them years ago. There was no way they could ever come back in any form, especially the ones looking so humanoid. Only the Giant was supposed to look like them.

 

"Look out!" Shinji yelled when Crow was met by a huge boulder that one of the dark spirits threw.

 

Thanks to the warning, the Tail Signer managed to dodge in time. Same couldn't be said for the building it hit though. The already fragile house fell apart, the debris falling everywhere. Shinji quickly summoned a bigger spirit that he jumped onto as his smaller spirits followed him closely behind. Crow did the same, calling upon Raykiri while Gale stayed by his side.

 

If it weren't for Shinji, Crow could've transform into Black Feathered dragon, probably dealing with the threat easier, but for now he had to stay undercover. The other mage seemed to know what he was doing, taking down a larger spirit that disintegrated into dust.

 

"Weird... spirits aren't supposed to disappear like that. Are they spirits at all?" Crow inner-monologued while ordering Raykiri to destroy a group of smaller dark spirits.

 

He recalled the time when Yusei faced Earthbound Immortal of a Giant for the first time. How Yusei as a Stardust dragon tried to defeat him to no avail, even nearly dying when his abdomen was penetrated. It took him an intense training and discovery of a new dragon form before he was able to defeat the Giant and therefore giving the rest of Signers hope to defeat the rest of the Dark Signers.

 

But even when all Earthbound Immortals were defeated, they all were treated the same way as the normal spirits - being sent back to their spirit world where they were sealed off. The ones he fought felt real, too real for that fact. The mages had powers to materialize the spirits, but as soon as they were weakened or ran out of necessary magic to keep them up, the spirits would be transported back to their world. Those... things turned into dust, just like humans would if they were to be lit on fire.

 

"Hurry up! They are trying to get to the orphanage!" Shinji called when one of the dark spirits took down his wasp spirit.

"Hold on!" Crow nudged Raykiri to attack. The winged spirit called upon lightning across the sky that blasted any dark spirit that got too far from the fight.

 

Shinji defeated what was left and soon the only reminder of the dark spirits was the black dust on the ground.

 

"What was that?" Crow still couldn't believe his eyes as he crouched down to examine the remains.

"Wish I would know. Those things have been terrorizing Commons for the last few weeks. I bet it's something Tops sent to clear up our numbers again." Shinji angrily clenched his knuckles.

"Don't jump to conclusion just yet." the Tail Signer scooped a fistful of the black dust "Those things look like spirits and yet their bodies appear to be structured the same as humans."

"That's what I am saying! Only Tops would be capable of doing something as twisted to clean up the Common Areas!" Shinji didn't lose an opportunity to talk over Tops again.

"I know, but first it's better to learn more before- aghhhh" Crow screamed before he could finish the sentence.

 

Whatever that black dust was it certainly wasn't just the leftover of Earthbound-like spirits. The substance grew, completely covering up Crow's arm and spreading fast, about to cover up his shoulder and chest next. Shinji quickly started casting spells at his friend's arm to no avail since the spells only appeared to hurt Crow.

 

Then Gale charged at it, pecking and clawing at the substance that started to look more and more like a huge snake. Surprisingly the spirit's attacks had affect on it since it was becoming smaller. But more Gale attacked, more he was covered in it until the bird spirit was completely covered up.

 

"Gale!" Crow shouted, trying to help his spirit in some way, but to no avail.

 

In the end it was like the Blackwing could no longer fight, disappearing along with the black substance. Crow quickly used his Signer powers to check if Gale was alright in the spirit world and was relieved to learn that he was, just exhausted and needed to rest before he could be summoned again.

 

"Just what was that?" the Tail Signer asked himself, wondering if other Signers had to deal with the same threat.

 

...

 

Jack didn't like the streets of Tops. Not only he had to wear a disguise over his normal clothing, but all the places were heavily crowded. Despite the small percentage of Tops, they were still in big numbers. The street he was at was especially famous for many shops where rich Tops loved to spent money.

 

But he wasn't there to shop or get supplies. What he sought was a small shop where several women were gathering, their eyes pointed at the owner of the shop.

 

"Who wishes to know their fortune? My fortune fairies have all the answers!" the owner, a black haired woman surrounded by tiny spirits exclaimed.

 

The Wing Signer was rather annoyed to be stuck in line with at least a dozen women who patiently waited for their fortune to be told. Majority was interested to hear when they are going to get married, if they'll become even richer or other typical nonsense. It took nearly an hour before Jack reached the owner since each customer demanded more details.

 

"What's your spirit sign?" the owner asked cheerfully without looking up.

"Hummingbird." Jack replied, making her flinch a bit.

 

The woman fixed her round glasses as all the fairy spirits disappeared. She nudged to Jack to step inside the shop while she removed the table with charms and fortunes.

 

"I apologize ladies, but I'll need to close for now." she said, earning several whines from the customers waiting in the line "You're welcome to visit tomorrow for cheaper prices."

 

This was enough to make them stop complaining and soon the crowd in front of the shop was cleared up. The Wing Signer followed her inside, passing various displayed products. There were mostly items that bring good luck like colorful stones, feathers or plants as well as items that served more for decorative purposes like dream catchers or scrolls full of beautifully written poems. The people of Tops weren't that keen on using magic, but they sure loved to own objects that appeared magical.

 

"Misty is currently out, but she's on her way here." she pointed her finger at the stairs hidden behind the counter "I was going to contact you myself, but I guess you were faster."

"Is something wrong Carly?" Jack raised his eyebrows not used to her talking so seriously.

"You'll just have to see for yourself." Carly lead him deeper and deeper until they eventually reached the storage.

 

Jack was going to ask what they were doing so deep underground when loud screeches filled the room. Locked in magically enhanced cage was a tiny black colored spirit that tried to break out by banging its head against the bars.

 

"Quiet!" Carly shouted, the spirit instantly staying still without a sound.

 

If it weren't for the eye color change, Jack wouldn't be sure if it really was Carly in front of him. The combination of orange and black in her eyes was a clear sign someone else took over by her permission.

 

"What is that?" Jack pointed at the spirit-like being that was still frozen in fear.

"I can't say for sure." Carly replied with deeper tone of her voice "But I can tell it's certainly not a spirit or anything remotely similar to it. They started appearing in the Tops' outskirts couple of weeks ago, sneaking around the streets and attacking random mages, mostly Commons who live here illegally."

 

The Wing Signer crouched down, eyeing the creature more closely. He could see it wasn't entirely black but also had several neon colored markings. If he couldn't tell better then he'd believe the being was...

 

"It is not an Earthbound Immortal, not a real one at least." another voice joined the conversation, belonging to another black haired woman in elegant white and green dress "It's much too different."

"How different?"

"Different in a way that they aren't spirits at all. They are solid and when I destroyed them, they weren't sent to the spirit world." Carly added, nodding to her friend to come closer.

"Not to mention they fear us." Misty stepped closer to the cage, causing the creature to start trembling.

"You mean they are afraid of your Earthbound Immortals? But don't all spirits fear you?"

"That would be the case, but the fear this one is showing is similar to how someone would fear authority." Misty tapped on the cage, the creature retreating in the corner "Whatever those things are they are definitely connected to Earthbound Immortals, otherwise they wouldn't react the way they do towards us."

 

Jack was deep in his thoughts, trying to figure out what was going on, but more he did, more he was drifting back in the time of their battle against Dark Signers. He remember seeing Carly turning into giant Earthbound Immortal of the Hummingbird that nearly killed him. Overwhelmed by guilt since he felt responsible for causing her to be this way, Jack couldn't bring himself to fight her, not until her real self begged him to stop her.

 

Did this mean the history is going to repeat again? Will the city face destruction like so many times before? Jack didn't know, but he knew that the tiny creature in the cage wasn't as weak as it looked.

 

"I hope others have learned more than I did." Jack sighed, thinking about other Signers.

 

...

 

It took Yusei hours before reaching Crush Town. What once used to be a mining town, was now a blooming trading town full of travelling merchants and mages who got by doing odd jobs. Renamed into Satifaction Town, it was led by Yusei's friend Kiryuu who was also taking care of young mages, teaching them magic in his spare time.

 

Since it was getting late, Yusei doubted anyone would be up at that hour, well except for people on the night patrol, namely Kiryuu.  The guy would work too much at times, still carrying a heavy burden of the time when he almost killed the Head Signer and was dead set on making things right from that point on.

 

The town was quiet except for the music coming from the inn where the late-travelers were having that one drink before bed. Otherwise no one was outside, streets empty, illuminated by only torchers.

 

Yusei thought it was nice to see the town so peaceful for once when all of a sudden, a loud noise coming from a distance was heard. The Head Signer instantly changed direction, flying towards the mountain that used to be a mine, but was closed down after an accident that made it unstable.

 

Thanks to the keen eyesight of his Stardust Dragon that allowed him to see in the dark, Yusei could tell that something huge was there, most likely fighting something equally big. Yusei nearly froze in the air when he recognized the bigger opponent.

 

Earthbound Immortal of a Giant.

 

Kiryuu's Dark Signer form.

 

After Dark Signers were defeated, they choose to keep being vessels to Earthbound Immortals since they feared someone more corrupt would take control of the destructive spirits instead. Former Dark Signers could still use their powers and even turn into them, but since their defeat there was no need to do so.

 

The fact that an experienced mage like Kiryuu saw the situation dire enough to transform  into his dangerous form was worrisome. What threat demanded the power of Earthbound Immortal?

 

The answer soon literally jumped before him, Yusei not sure if he was seeing right. It looked nearly identical to Boomer’s Earthbound Immortal - Whale. The creature was slightly smaller, bearing blue neon marks instead of purple ones and looked more like a dolphin than a whale.

 

Unlike its animal counterpart, this creature screeched louder than the loudest factory in Tops, its voice echoing all over the valleys. On top of its giant form it also produced some sort of black substance that coiled around Kiryuu's leg, preventing him from moving.

 

Quickly counterattacking with his shooting sonic attack, he blasted the creature away and only by that point did he realize that it had some sort of a chain attached to its tail. Thinking it could be a thing controlling the Earthbound Immortal look-alike Yusei targeted that spot with his next blast. Picking on what his friend was doing, Kiryuu did the same, swinging his giant arm at the creature. The thing screeched even louder, using its tail to push them away both. The chains remained unchanged and it only made the creature madder when they tried hitting it.

 

The more they hit it, more of that dark substance oozed from it. This time Kiryuu was fast enough to dodge it, but with his Earthbound Immortal body it was only a question of time before he was caught up again.

 

Then it was like the being lost interest in attacking them and tried to get to the town.

 

Kiryuu reacted at once, grabbing onto the chain around its tail, preventing it from going any further. The thing screeched even louder, trying to wriggle out of Giant’s grip, but Kiryuu didn’t let go. The town was safe for now, Yusei however knew that his friend could only hold his Earthbound Immortal’s form for a short while before turning back to his human form, so he had to act fast.

 

The Head Signer knew that what was about to do was meant for great emergencies only, but if this didn’t look like emergency he didn’t know what did. Taking a deep breath, Yusei focused onto his birthmark of Crimson Dragon, connecting with all other Signers as he began to glow in crimson light.

 

Crow who was patrolling the streets of Commons heard Yusei’s call and without a second thought sent his Tail mark to him. Jack who was looking for more of the smaller Earthbound Immortals with Carly and Misty instantly sent him his Wing mark as well. Aki who was still flying towards her destination in her Black Rose dragon form sent him her Foot mark. And lastly twins who were going through Synchro's spirit world, riding on Regulus' back sent their Heart and Hand marks while Ruka chanted a prayer for good luck. If Yusei needed their assistance then the threat surely was a great one.

 

The birthmarks travelled through air, glowing in shining crimson color by the speed of light in order to reach the Head Signer in time. Once Yusei's own Head mark collided with the rest, the light began to materialize until they formed a special spirit that Yusei so far used only a few times.

 

"Savior Dragon... I need your help."

 

The pink colored dragon nodded and in the flash of light transformed into several glowing circles. Yusei flew through them all, feeling his Stardust's body slowly transforming. Extra wings appeared on his back, red and purple gems covered his body and his already illuminating scales were replaced by the ones that looked like they were crafted from stars itself. His form was covered up by extra armor-like scales and his longer tail kept him in balance. The people from the town stared at the unknown light coming from the distance, convinced a shooting star was flying towards them.

 

Yusei was no longer Stardust Dragon but Savior Star dragon, spirit strong enough to take down the Earthbound Immortal look-alike. The creature screeched from the light that Yusei's new form produced, backing off from the town. Even Kiryuu was slightly trembling before Yusei, but wouldn't let go of the dark being.

 

"Take it down Yusei!"

 

The Head Signer didn't need to be told twice. Spreading his four majestic wings, Yusei leaped down, gathering all of his necessary energy set to destroy. Using Shooting Blasting Sonic, Yusei's dragon form went right through the Earthbound Immortal as it wailed like a wounded animal. Slowly its form began to disintegrate and along with its chain turned into a black dust. Yusei landed next to the pile of its remains just when Kiryuu transformed back into his human form. Both mages then fell of their knees as their forms required a lot of power to be kept up, but relieved by the fact that the town was safe.  Yusei felt the others’ birthmarks leaving his body, quietly thanking them for lending him their strength.

 

“Don’t touch the dust. Just don’t.” Kiryuu muttered when Yusei was about to look at the being’s remains “It acts as it is alive and gets everywhere. Just leave it be for a while, it’ll disappear eventually.”

“What was that?” the Head Signer asked staring at the field where they were fighting the mysterious being just moments ago.

“Wish I would know.” the mage sighed as he sat down on the nearby rock “Bommer wrote me about seeing them at the see where he was patrolling. They didn’t act aggressive until couple of days ago when according to the rest of Dark Signers, they started appearing in different forms all over Synchro Kingdom.”

 

Yusei took a seat next to his friend, thinking about his meeting with Destiny Breakers. So it already began. Not only were Elemental Dragons back along with Ens, but old enemies were seemingly returning as well or at least something resembling them. After their last battle when Godwin and Rutger peacefully passed away, leaving the rest of the former Dark Signers to continue pacify Earthbound Immortals, Yusei thought that the battle was concluded, but from the looks of it, it barely began.

 

“Were there any more of them?” Yusei asked, pointing at the black dust.

“Only smaller ones that even the common mages were able to take down.” Kiryuu replied “Some of them were so small that they weren’t much of a fight and then some bigger ones were hard to beat. But the one we defeated was a different story. It appeared out of blue, destroying everything in its path.”

“How long were you fighting it?”

“Not for long before you’ve arrived. It was like it wasn’t even interested about attacking me or the town at first but then it was like something within it snapped and made it go crazy.”

“This sounds like mind control…” Yusei thought out loud “But no matter what magic you use, it won’t work on spirits.”

“It worked on the spirits experimented on by Arcadia Movement.”

 

Kiryuu was going to continue talking, but stopped knowing that the cult group was a sensitive subject for Signers, especially Yusei and Aki. The organization that tried to turn the Foot Signer against them was probably reliving her memories since the location she was sent to a place where Arcadia Movement’s headquarters used to be. Yusei could still remember the days when Aki considered him an enemy and blindly followed Arcadia Movement. It took many clashes of their dragon forms against each other until the Foot Signer finally accepted herself and agreed to join the Signers in their battle against Earthbound Immortals.

 

 Speaking of which – Yusei was going to suggest checking for any smaller versions of those dark spirits around the mines, when a handful of the black dust gathered in a ball and started growing. Kiryuu wasn’t exaggerating when he claimed that they act like living beings. Forming a shape of a winged spirit, the creature quickly slipped away before Kiryuu or Yusei could react. It was like it knew that staying with them meant no good news, but this still didn’t mean it was out of their reach. Despite the exhaustion of the previous transformation to Savior Star Dragon, Yusei turned into Stardust Dragon form. His muscles felt sore and his wings made it difficult to fly and yet the Head Signer always put others’ safety before his. Kiryuu was about to join the chase as well, but a horde of smaller Earthbound Immortals that appeared from the rest of the black dust didn’t really gave it a choice. He could only hope that Yusei will be able to defeat the creature before causing more destruction.

 

The Head Signer didn’t even realize how fast the creature or him, running on pure adrenaline to mask the pain, were going. Before he knew it, they were already out of the bare land and by the seaside. The fog made it that more difficult to see where it went making Yusei worried in case the being decided to attack a defenseless village. Just when he was about to fly back to the shore to go through his surroundings again, something unexpected happened.

 

The sea began to glow in mesmerizing light brighter than stars on the sky. The Head Signer nearly forgot about phenomenon known as the Stardust Road, when the tiny algae underneath the water would glow in beautiful bioluminescence, powerful enough to fill even the sky with its own version of starlight. Engulfed by witnessing such an occurrence, Yusei nearly forgot he was after the remains of the Earthbound Immortal and thanks to the extra light he was able to see it.

 

The being was racing as far from the shore as possible towards opened ocean. Yusei headed straight after at, not letting it reach other Kingdoms and possibly spread more of that substance. Whatever it was, it was better to be dealt with in Synchro than anywhere else. As he continued to fly further and further from the shore, Yusei felt his birthmark tingling a bit, knowing they were close to the border. Crimson Dragon protected Synchro Kingdom by creation this very same barrier, allowing only Synchro residents and certain mages with special permissions to enter.

 

The Head Signer had no idea if the barrier would work for a being that was and wasn’t a spirit. If the thing would slip even through that, then Yusei was concerned if any more of them left Synchro Kingdom. That Earthbound Immortal luckily appeared to be unable to do so, the invisible wall preventing him from going any further. He was prepared to strike it down, but just then he saw his vision going blurry and wings becoming heavier.

 

This wasn’t good. The Stardust Road distracted him enough to forget he was running out of his strength after the battle with dolphin being and flying all the way here, enough to experience dizziness and soon complete exhaustion. The creature at least couldn’t leave Synchro Kingdom so maybe if he manages to weaken it down and then summon a powerful spirit with synchro magic it could possibly work. The dark spirit seemed to pick on its current situation, knowing the big white dragon was a threat so it started lashing on him like its life depended on him. Yusei avoided majority of the attacks and gathered enough power for a sole Shooting Sonic attack to take it down.

 

Unfortunately the dizziness was getting worse. Despite the powerful attack, the Head Signer still had to see his opponent clearly otherwise no matter how much power he’d used would prove useless on the Earthbound Immortal. He dodged another attack that headed for his wings that were getting more and more tired. Reading the situation, Yusei knew he had to either transform back into human form or find another solution. Just when he was hesitating what to do, another light seemingly appeared out of nowhere.

 

A dragon.

 

Due to its incredibly light engulfed body, Yusei had trouble identifying it, but one thing was clear. The dragon was not the enemy or that’s at least what its actions interpreted. Dragon’s wings clashed together as some sort of the electric magical circle appeared behind it and for a split second, the dragon turned red, shooting a pink haired blast towards the dark spirit. Earthbound Immortal or whatever it was had no chance. It disappeared the moment the blast hit it.

 

By the time the mysterious dragon was done destroying any other particles of the black dust, Yusei managed to get back to his senses, using the power he was going to use in the battle for regenerating his lost strengh. He wanted to at least thank the dragon for its help, even if it wasn’t an ally. The Head Signer carefully followed him towards the nearby island that he didn’t even notice until now and only now it was clear that the place was in fact outside the barrier, hidden from Synchro, by being concealed in fog and distance.

 

The mysterious dragon had no trouble flying low; avoiding the trees and reefs like it was a second nature to it until gracefully landing at the cliff with a clear view at the Stardust road. There the dragon folded his wings and its glow lowered down for a bit, revealing its detailed dragon form. Looking almost like Yusei’s Stardust form except for armor-like plating it was wearing, the dragon didn’t appear hostile or interested in meeting him. No, it looked more like it was scared and even its movements were done nervously.

 

“Who are you?” Yusei asked, using his birthmark which allowed him to communicate with spirits.

 

There was no reply, so that either meant that the dragon didn’t want to talk with him or that it wasn’t a spirit. For the latter it could only mean two things. Either was it a mage merely wearing a dragon-like armor similar to the one he would see Seth wearing back in Pendulum Kingdom…

 

…or the dragon was a spirit vessel!

 

But how? Spirit vessels were rare as it was and dragon spirit vessels were even rarer. There were six dragon spirit vessels consisting of himself and Signers in Synchro, two in XYZ, two in Pendulum and now only one in Fusion. Not to mention he was presented on every single ritual where mages were made into spirit vessels.

 

The dragon eyed the Signer in suspicion, like he will attack him at any given moment or something. Not able to pick on any signs of violent intentions, Yusei took a risk and transformed back into his human form, all while the dragon observed him in curiosity. The Head Signener felt relieved in his original form, no longer needing to keep up the dragon form.

 

“My name is Yusei Fudo and I mean you no harm.” Yusei started carefully, his hand pressed to his chest “I’m a spirit vessel to Stardust Dragon. Are you a spirit vessel to this dragon spirit?”

 

The dragon showed a genuine surprise when seeing him in human form talking and slowly it began to shrink down, becoming smaller and smaller until it reached human size. The scales slowly revealed that underneath that brilliant white glow, was the person dressed in black rags, contrary to his rather colorful hair, consisting of two shades of blue and pink bangs. Standing before him was a boy no older than sixteen, still staring at him with great suspicion.

 

“Yusei Fudo…” the boy repeated “Are you trapped in VRAINS too?”

 

 

Chapter Text

Before you begin, here is a little something for you! A map!

dragon guardians map

(if you have any other questions regarding the map, feel free to ask in the comments)

 

 


 

 

"VRAINS? What do you mean by VRAINS and being trapped?" Yusei repeated the boy's words in confusion.

"VRAINS as Virtual Reality Artificial Intelligence Network System." the boy replied simply.

"A what?" Yusei asked since whatever the kid just said didn't make any sense "Is that a place or something?"

The boy opened his mouth like he was going to explain, but closed it instantly when a loud echoing noise was heard from the distance. Swiftly he grabbed onto Yusei's arm and dragged him towards the nearest cave in the cliff. The Synchro mage could tell that the boy was familiar with this area. The kid led him through small and tight corridors until they were deep enough to be hidden from whatever danger was lurking outside.

Even once the noise quieted down, the boy covered Yusei's mouth like telling him that it's not over yet. Loud footsteps were heard from the outside, so whatever was there was most definitely huge. Was it another Earthbound Immortal? Or maybe it was a mage with a summoned spirit? Yusei didn't know. This set of islands has been forgotten ever since the world had been restored by Ray and it barely changed from the pre-War times. It used to be another kingdom, but a terrible incident before the Dragon War had made the islands bare and uninhabitable. Well, not for this kid it seemed.

The boy would constantly be on guard like a cat, keeping his eyes open and ready to run if necessary. Only after a long while he nudged Yusei to follow him further in the cave. The corridor led them outside to the different part of the island they were currently on.

"We can't talk here, it's not safe." the boy said while mingling with some sort of a bracelet attached to his wrist "Knights of Hanoi have ears everywhere so follow me if you want answers."

Like the kid wasn't mysterious enough he had to say something to further proof that. Apparently those Knights of Hanoi were also residents on these islands, but judging from the tone the boy was using when mentioning them, they were a threat to him. Were they the cause of that noise from before?

"Are you coming?" the boy asked while pointing his eyes around like a nervous bird.

"I am. I'd only like to know your name at least." Yusei said, the scene reminding of the time he met Crow for the first time.

The boy gave him a curious look and kept his lips pressed together firmly like he was reluctant to say it. But soon enough he let out a sigh and answered.

"Fujiki... Yusaku Fujiki."

"Mind if I call you Yusaku?"

"It's fine."

The boy named Yusaku then nudged him to follow quietly. From the area with cliffs they climbed up, towards the forest with many torny bushes and vines. It reminded Yusei of one of Aki's spells, thinking about how difficult it was to pass through it though it didn't seem much of a problem for Yusaku. The boy passed through it like it was nothing with zero scratches.

They continued to walk for what felt like hours when it was really less than an half of hour. The sky was cloudy and dark so it was hard to tell the time. Yusaku was quiet for most of the time apart from telling Yusei where to go or warn him of the hidden dangers hidden in the bushes and ground. The Head Signer used the opportunity to study the boy a bit, curious of how he became a Spirit Vessel. He participated in every ceremony that turned human mages into vessels for Spirits. Dragon Spirits were among the rarest and strongest so only a small number of mages had them. There was him and the rest of the Signers, Atem’s two royal advisors in Pendulum, Kaito and one of the Barian Emperors in XYZ and Johan in Fusion. There used to be two more dragon spirit vessels but that was about it. Who could’ve perform a ceremony on this boy? Yusaku was way too young to perform it himself and judging from his reaction to the mention of spirit vessels, he clearly had no idea about it.

“Watch your footing, the ground is unstable here.” Yusaku said as he started climbing up the cliff.

The area heavily consisted of cliffs and rocky hills with barely any greenery. There was no surprise why no one was living here, at least from a farmer’s viewpoint. And yet this kid appeared to be in a good health, maybe a little too skinny but otherwise he didn’t look malnourished. He probably got by with fishing, hunting and whatever edible fruits were growing here. Yusaku swiftly climbed up the cliff, slipping into a barely visible entrance of a cave. Then came more rows and underground passages. It felt like a massive ant nest, each path leading to more sets of paths. Yusei used a bit of his magic to light the way while Yusaku just went by, clearly knowing where he was going without seeing anything. Not only was the kid a spirit vessel, he even happened to have a night vision!

“We are close.” Yusaku muttered as he led the Head Signer through a final set of rows.

Yusei found himself in a big cave, nearly as big as the Chamber of Crimson Dragon. Yusaku went around, lightning up the oil lamps that revealed the rest of the cave. Despite looking modest, Yusaku kept it neatly organized and convenient to live in. In one corner were chests and boxes filled with seemingly whatever the kid found useful. Then there was a corner with scrolls and books, all of them in a rather bad condition, mostly torn and missing pages. Another corner with a table with tools, reminding Yusei of his own workshop. Finally there was a corner obscured with pieces of fabric, concealing what must’ve been a makeshift mattress where he slept.

“Are you hungry?” Yusaku asked politely while already walking towards a small fireplace with red crystals.

Seeing how there was already a pot of something stew-like, Yusei politely said yes and watched how the boy used the magic to heat up the crystals. Yusaku then poured the soup into two small bowls, handing one to Yusei. The Head Signer thanked and after sitting down on a roughed-down pillow, he slowly slurped the warm stew that was actually really good. They ate in silence, the only sound coming from the clunking dishes and dripping oil lamps.

“I have three questions. First one is: How did you get in VRAINS?” Yusaku finally asked, like the question had been sitting in his mouth ever since he first spoke.

“You've mentioned it before and I'm still not sure what do you mean by it.”

“I meant this world.” the boy looked all around “The sky, the ocean, the islands and what's beyond.”

“Ah, we don't call it VRAINS. It's simply called a human world and each part has its own name. The place we are currently at is called Link Kingdom.” Yusei explained as the boy took in every word “It used to be a vibrant kingdom, nearly as advanced as Synchro, but decades ago it was struck down by a major disaster that wiped out all human settlements. No one has lived here for ages… so it's rather surprising you live here. How did you get to live here?”

“I don't really know…” Yusaku drew quick, short breaths like he was scared of something “I just found myself here and… I survived…”

The kid might've acted mature and tough on the outside, but talking to him like that felt like speaking to a frightened child.

“Are you alone? Is there anyone living with you?” Yusei asked, curious if this kid really survived all on his own.

“I…” Yusaku started when all of a sudden a tiny purple light appeared out of nowhere.

“Ah I see you're back Playmaker! I told you my amazing Storm Access will work!” the light spoke as it slowly changed into a little humanoid spirit.

Yusei has seen a fair share of various spirits in his life, but never one that looked like this one. What was more, he hardly recognized the magic that the spirit was radiating even though he knew the practically extinct magic that the residents of Link Kingdom used to have. While it felt slightly similar, it was still way too different. The little spirit was too busy babbling to notice another human in the room and when it finally did, it freaked out like a mouse in front of a cat.

“Knights of Hanoi are here?!” the spirit rushed behind Yusaku's shoulder, trembling “How did they get in? I double checked everything! Please don't kill me or Playmaker!”

“Relax Ai, he is not a Knight of Hanoi.” Yusaku pulled the spirit off him.

“Who's Playmaker?” Yusei asked while eyeing the spirit.

“It's how Ai calls me for some reason.” the boy sighed as he nudged at the spirit “This is Ai. He is Ignis, an artificial intelligence based on me. He's been with me ever since I got here.”

“Artificial Intelligence? I've heard about Artificial Spirits but never about Artificial Intelligences.” Yusei scratched his head “Was that dragon spirit this Artificial Intelligence too?”

“Nope, that was actually a spirit that my friends created in Cyberse World! I wanted to do a little experiment and it really worked! Playmaker and Firewall Dragon became one!” Ai proudly puffed his chest.

“So you performed the ceremony that turned him into a Spirit Vessel?” Yusei crossed his arms, putting everything together “It makes sense… but for that you'd need a presence of a Divine Spirit… and last I heard, Link Kingdom has no Spirit Worlds or Divine Spirits.”

“Well it hadn't, but now it has Cyberse World and Cyberse spirits!” Ai floated to Yusei “You know, you are kinda like Playmaker or more like an older version of him. A mage possessing another dragon spirit! I bet your magic is even greater.”

“Can you knock it off with magic, Ai? We both know this world isn't real. It's a simulation, a game, a virtual reality world that is keeping us trapped.” Yusaku sighed as he walked away from the Head Signer “You're becoming delusional Ai, this world is trying to convince you that all the fantasy and magic is real and it is not.”

For a second Yusaku had an angry look down, a face of someone who is outright fed up with something. But what? Nothing that Ai and Yusaku were saying made sense to him nor did he understand what was going on in this kingdom. It had a spirit world now?

“This Cyberse World… may I check it out?” Yusei asked and Ai happily obliged.

“Of course! Let me guide you there!” the spirit pointed towards the hidden doors. The Head Signer followed, noticing Yusaku wasn't coming. The kid went cleaning the dishes without a word, nodding that he is fine with not going.

Yusei so headed towards another row while Ai illuminated the path with a violet light. He went on talking with how great the Cyberse World was and how smart Yusaku was and Yusei listened to everything with a smile. Ai surely was a lot like Rua, so full of energy and excitedly talking about things he liked. They went through several rows until Ai finally quieted down and his tone changed.

“You have to forgive Yusaku… he's been through a lot as a child.” Ai said rather seriously “He's hurting without showing it, but when he was with you I could sense he was calmer.”

“What do you mean?”

“You said you had seen Artificial Spirits before. Do you know how they are created?”

“Well I've seen a few methods. Bodiless spirits that possess manmade materials, manifestations of pure magic and powerful auras of mages that passed away. Though neither of those are exactly common.”

“There's another one… and Yusaku was a part of it.” Ai said, surprising Yusei by not using Yusaku’s nickname.

 

The Head Signer needed a second before he realized what Ai meant. There was indeed another way to produce an Artificial Spirit, but it was strictly forbidden and Yusho Sakaki made sure no one tried to even attempt it. Did it really happen, was Yusaku really…?

“He was used as a base and put through tremendous suffering for a long time… just so they could create me.” Ai said sadly with a strong feeling of guilt “There were five more children, and five more Ignis just like me. We didn't ask to be created and yet we were.”

“Who did it?” Yusei asked calmly despite practically shaking from anger.

 

Ai slowly turned but before he could answer they were already in front of a portal that oozed with magical aura. Yusei felt radiant energy, magic that he only felt when being close to spirit worlds. His Signer Mark sizzled a bit, assuring him this was indeed a way to a spirit world.

“Even if I told you, you wouldn’t be able to do anything.” Ai said as he opened the way to Cyberse World “They are not even in this or any other world.”

….

 

“And again!”

Yugo scooped a handful of berries with his tail and he threw them towards Rin whose eyes were completely glued on them. She watched them carefully and in a split of a moment she focused all of her energy on them. Almost all of the berries were coated in a layer of ice, frozen just right. The wind dragon gladly stuffed them in his mouth, enjoying the icy delight.

“You're getting better!” Yugo said through their mind link “And frozen berries are just amazing!”

“Thank you… I'm still learning though. Small objects are not a problem. Bigger ones are much harder to freeze.”

“Hey you've been only using it for a couple of hours. I'm sure you'll get better!” Yugo stretched his wings “I mean I still have trouble talking and keeping my human form up. You’re using ice magic without ever learning it!”

It was true, Rin was in fact an ice mage. No one in her family or in the entire village had as much as a grasp of magic, so when Rin accidently froze a glass of water, luckily without her parents noticing, the girl was surprised. She and Yugo then quickly excused themselves, saying something about getting more fish and before they knew it they were back at their little hideout. There Rin began to practice on small puddles of seawater.

The young guardian wasn’t sure how to use it since she has never seen an actual mage or a spirit before meeting Yugo. Her parents would tell her about encountering mages when travelling outside the village, but never how they could use magic. At first she assumed the magic came from the Dragon Mark due to her being Yugo’s guardian and yet the more she thought about it, more she could remember little “accidents” when she was younger. How the water she drank in the scorching heat would always be cold. How her hand wouldn’t get burns when accidently being splashed with a boiling water.

Or have she was able to heal newborn Yugo.

The magic was inside her from the start and she was determined to learn how to use it in order to protect herself and her dragon. It was the thought to protect that helped her remember how to use it again and before long she was turning puddles to ice. Yugo watched her train with an interest, curiously banging his tail on the ice until it broke or chewed onto the pieces like they were toys. Rin eventually thought of a way to train quick freeze magic by using it on a small rocks that Yugo threw in the air.

Once they ran out of stones nearby, Yugo accidently started throwing berries that Rin kept in her pocket for a quick snack. Unfortunately Rin didn’t notice the difference in time and froze all the berries. Yugo whined at not having a sweet snack and tried to ear it anyway so they wouldn’t go to waste. It turned out not to be such a bad idea after all since it was pretty hot on that day and a little refreshment did him good. Yugo convinced Rin to get more and about an hour later they were back, their pockets full of berries and a young guardian ready for more practice.

Yugo happily swallowed the thirtieth berry already, still having place for more. The wind dragon was ready for another round, prepared to throw the berries and then catch them when frozen.

Only that there were none this time.

The dragon looked around in panic, not sure where the berries could’ve fallen. The answer soon flew by literally.

Long white wings with several black feathers and cold wind following it. Rin needed a while to remember the very same seagull that had showed up near their hideout before. It was way bigger from what she remembered and she certainly didn’t recall it having so many black feathers. While the young guardian was dazzled by its appearance, Yugo certainly wasn’t, growling at it like an angry dog.

“Hey that’s mine! Give it back!”

The seagull ignored him, only flying towards a nearby cliff where it swallowed the rest of the berries. Even though his snack was way down the its gullet, Yugo refuse to let the bird thief go. He instantly spread his crystal clear wings, rushing towards the cliff.

However he didn’t make it far.

Strong wind currents from the sea carried him up and down, left and right, anywhere but in the direction of the cliff. Yugo stubbornly flapped his wings and waved with his tail, all to no avail. He has never flown this high before and he was still learning flight in general. Still he couldn’t just let some birdbrain have his snack!

But soon enough Yugo got tired. His wings started to ache and his tail could barely move. The wind dragon gave up, floating back to Rin who caught him in mid-air. She was about to comfort him when a gush of air made her look up. The seagull was back looking even bigger than before which made Rin step back with one arm wrapped around her dragon and other one pointing at the bird, ready to defend herself.

And yet the seagull didn’t attack. In fact all it did was fly to the cliff and back and repeated.

“Trying to be a show-off aren’t you?!” Yugo growled in Rin’s arms.

“Wait… I think it’s trying to show us something.”

“Like what? How fast it can fly to that cliff?”

“Not only that… but how as well.”

Only now did Yugo actually look at the seagull closely. The air currents didn’t present any problem to it and the bird flew through it like it was a mere gush of wind. The seagull indeed knew how to ride the wind right and if Yugo didn’t know better the seagull was willing to help him out.

Curious about its flying technique, Yugo got up in the air, following its lead. He watched carefully, any flap, any move with other limbs, the dragon copied it completely. The bird observed him with an interest and even repeated the moves that Yugo had trouble with it. Before he knew it, Yugo reached the cliff, surprising even himself with how quickly he learnt how to fly properly. All full of joy he flew back to Rin, even making several somersaults before literally tackling her on the ground.

“I did it! I did it!” he chirped like a fletching after its first flight.

“Yeah I saw.” the girl smiled despite being covered by sand from head to toe “You should’ve thank the birdie for teaching you.”

Yugo nodded, ready to go back when he noticed the seagull right next to them, its talons splashing the seawater at the edge of the beach. In a blink of a moment the edges of water turned into ice, much more solid from Rin’s attempts at the puddles. The seagull then look straight into her eyes and Rin knew it.

“Looks like we have a teacher.”

 

Every object, manmade or not can contain a memory. A collapsed building can tell an entire story.

Aki slowly walked through the rubbles of what used to be a castle-like building. Or more like a prison. The memories of screams and pain were still so real in her head, reminding her of fate that she barely escaped. Would she really end up as the soulless weapon? As a destructive witch that dooms everyone not to Arcadia’s liking? She didn’t even want to think about it.

Fortunately the sound of clanking hooves brought her out of her thinking. The mist of a fallen rubble and dust soon revealed a horse-like spirit and a mage in armor on its back.  If it weren’t for the familiar aura, Aki would’ve probably call upon her plant spirits so she just approached the mage calmly.

“It’s been a while, Knight.” Aki smiled, watching how the mage removed the helmet.

“Not too long, my Black Rose.” Knight slipped off the horse spirit, her long blond locks dinging down her back “Looks like Crimson Dragon passed on my message.”

“Your message?”

“It was I who informed Crimson Dragon about strange occurrences around this area. And from what I’ve heard so did the Dark Signers in other parts of Synchro kingdom.”

“Yeah I felt it myself. Whatever it was, it was powerful enough for Yusei to call upon Savior dragon. I surely hope he’s alright.” Aki caressed her Signer mark that briefly disappeared just before she got here.

“He wouldn’t be Yusei if he wasn’t.” the Knight laughed.

“Sherry… why would Crimson Dragon send me here out of all six Signers?”

“It’s because he knows you’re still holding onto this place.” Sherry kicked a few rocks in front of her “No matter the pain we can all still be attached to the places we once called home.”

 

Home? Yeah right, Aki thought. As if she could see the rubble in front of her the same way she sees her little family of Signers. Yet no matter how much she tried to brush it away, a face of a certain man and his sweet words kept showing up before her eyes.

“He is dead, forget him!” she screamed within her mind to herself, unwilling to fall for his tricks yet again, even now that only memories kept him alive.

Fortunately, a comforting hand on her shoulder let her know she is not alone in this and gave Sherry a smile. As someone who has also been used by the bad people in the past, the Knight knew well how it felt, but she didn’t let that stop her when comforting the Signer. They’ve really grown close in the last few years after the fall of Yliaster and if there wasn’t the danger present at the moment, they would’ve probably catch up with their lives.

That danger decided to appear in the very next moment. Fortunately both women sensed it at the same time, pushing each away to safety. Two dark creatures appeared at once, one glowing in blue and being covered by chain while the other one was consisting of just a huge pair of arms and emitting orange light. The women reacted instantly, Sherry summoning her armor and calling upon her knight spirits while Aki took on her dragon form.

Two average sized materialized spirits might’ve not presented much of a problem to a Signer Dragon double their size along with an experienced mage, but they surely put up a good fight. They even managed to bring Aki to the ground by chaining her wings and greatly hurt one of the Sherry’s powerful spirits. Luckily the two women analyzed the situation fast, combining their powers in the combat.

Sherry’s spirits and she grabbed onto the blue spirit’s chains as Aki grabbed the other spirit with her massive talons, throwing it against the rubble. The reminder of the building broke apart, burying the creature underneath and at the same time, Sherry blasted the other creature away using her magically enhanced lance. The creatures were reduced to the black dust that sinisterly twitched like it was alive. Aki reverted back to her human form, curiously observing the remains. She was about to touch it when Sherry pulled her away in an instant.

“Don’t touch it.” she warned as she poked it with her lance “The same thing took down my Fleur de Chevalier. That black thing spread like fire all over my spirit until it self-unsummoned.”

“What were those things?” Aki still tried to comprehend what just happened “They looked and felt like Earthbound Immortals and not at the same time.”

“I honestly hoped you could help me out with it but it looks like you know even less.”

“No… all of the Dark Signers chose to be bound to their Earthbound Immortals in order to keep them under control. The only ones that aren’t, are sealed underneath Godwin’s mansion. Crimson Dragon keeps the Condor and the Spider under control as they can greatly influence any spirit vessel that they possess.”

“Then I truly don’t know who else could be behind it. The Seal of Crimson Dragon keeps outsiders away, Yliaster has been taken care of and from what you’ve told me, Jack Atlas keeps Tops under control.” Sherry leaned against the wall, deep in thought “Who else would have a power to summon those artificial spirits?”

 

Aki was about to answer that she can’t think of who else could be responsible for this when something piqued her interest. Slowly she stepped towards the object lying among the rubble of the previous fight and taking Sherry’s warning into consideration she rather summoned one of her plant spirits to get it. Rose Fairy carefully picked the object and once she determined it was safe she handed it to Aki. The Signer turned it up and down, looking at every detail in order to confirm that her suspicions were wrong. However, with a shock in her eyes, she realized she was correct.

“No way…” Aki muttered, remembering events from more than a decade ago. How their Signer Marks suddenly disappeared along with their dragons and how the ashes began to fall from the sky like black snow.

And how Yusei suddenly disappeared as well.

“What is Paradox’s mask doing here?!” Aki uttered as Sherry’s eyes widened from the shock.

 

 

Dennis nervously fidgeted in the full classroom, barely focusing on whatever lecture they were having.

Fusion. Right, it was about Fusion magic again since Academia wouldn’t teach anything else even though the majority of the students were aware there were other types of magic as well. The main city of Fusion was a trading city after all and a lot of travelers from other kingdoms would come to visit. Dennis had even learnt XYZ magic before coming to Academia after merely practicing it for a few weeks with a help of a travelling mage.

Despite being Yuri’s guardian, Leo still made him attend all the lessons just to make him bend down to the glory of Academia. No matter how much he didn’t want to, the guards always found a way to make him obey them and do whatever he was ordered. Even now he was in the class just because Leo didn’t want him to be with Yuri on his training. Or more like taming.

Yuri has been growing quite fast in the last few days, his vines easily reaching across entire training ground and taking down stronger opponents. Most of the times Dennis was required to be present during those “training sessions” but in the last couple of days he was being sent to one and the same lesson. If he wasn’t worried about Yuri he’d be bored out of his life, barely keeping his eyes opened. Fortunately (though unfortunately) the doors were suddenly opened, Barret slamming his hands on the doorframe.

“McField! Training room, now!” he yelled, causing entire class to turn their eyes on him.

Dennis quickly gathered his notebooks and left his seat while visibly shaking. He heard the chatter among other students, trying hard to ignore their judging eyes. How could he not if by now every single dorm knew he was a dragon guardian? Teachers kept it a secret and yet the rumors spread fast.

“Leave this stuff.” Barret threw Dennis’ notebook and pencils across the classroom “Hurry up!”

The boy trembled as he reluctantly left all of his unfinished homework and demanded reports behind, but he knew well that if he didn’t listen, Barret would punish him in less than a second. So he just obediently followed him. Barret walked so fast that Dennis nearly had to run to catch up with him. Why would they need him all of a sudden? Didn’t they want him away from Yuri? The answer was soon painfully clear.

The moment they stepped in the training room it was obvious something was terribly wrong. The entire training room was unrecognizable, the pieces of concrete were lying everywhere and there were carnivorous vines sprouting from the ground, maiming at anything moving. The group of mages consisting of teachers, guards and senior students were scattered all over the place, trying to get situation under control.

Dennis knew that Yuri had an ability to make plants grow faster, but not to this extend. Speaking of Yuri, the dragon was nowhere to be seen due to all the plants and vines. It wasn’t even clear which form Yuri had, dragon or a human. In all cases, he was dangerous in both.

“You know what to do.” Barret placed something in Dennis’ trembling hand “This or we use the other method. If you know what’s good for both of you, you’ll do it.”

The young dragon guardian swallowed hard, not wanting either of the two options to happen. But in the end this was less painful way to get Yuri to stop. Carefully Dennis entered the mess of a jungle, avoiding the snaps and thorns. He might’ve been Yuri’s guardian and the plants didn’t see him as much of a threat as other people, but he still had needed to be cautious. Many parts of the ground were colored blood red, probably from people who tried to subdue the plant dragon. Despite knowing Yuri won’t attack him, he was still scared of what he was capable of.

Right in the middle of all this was a spot surrounded by the most vicious of vines, their sharp edges maliciously gnawing at anything that came too close. This had to be it.

“Yuri!” Dennis called, the vines immediately snapping at the direction of the call.

The boy dodged them fast and hurried to the bundle underneath the giant leaves full of spikes. There lay Yuri in his human form, his clothes ripped and bloodied. His eyes were glowing in the most poisonous shade of violet, glaring at Dennis like some vicious beast. The dragon tail, petals and horns kept appearing and disappearing, but Yuri kept trying to go back to full human. Through his blurred out vision he could still sort out Dennis’ bright orange locks, enough to let him come closer.

“Yuri… what they did to you again?” Dennis asked, fighting a swarm of tears.

“I… don’t want… to be… a monster.” the plant dragon uttered, clenching onto his chest.

“You are not a monster! You’re my friend!”

“I don’t want… to go back… to my dragon form…”

“Don’t tell me…” the young guardian’s tears started slipping down “You’ve been keeping your human form on since that day?!”

“I don’t… want…” Yuri could only mutter now, too drained to care “I won’t let… them… use me…”

 

Dennis burst out crying, throwing his arms around Yuri’s shoulders, not caring if the petals would hurt him. He was gone for a couple of days and they already reduced Yuri to this?! And Yuri refused to change into his dragon form all this time. For a hatchling like him it was a downright torture since every elemental dragon needed to switch from one form to another at this stage.

 

“Why Yuri… why?!” Dennis sobbed while cradling a person he was supposed to protect.

“They took you… away…” Yuri whispered with barely audible voice “I wanted… you… back.”

“Did you… do all of this so they would allow me to see you?”

“It worked.” despite the pain the plant dragon smiled “Now… do it.”

 

Yuri’s eyes turned directly towards a pointy object in Dennis’ hand. He knew that thing well. By now the dragon got so used to the shocks from the collar that he would literally let the pain consume him until he fainted. Still, the guards needed a way to get him immobilized faster somehow. So they created those tranquilizer-filled injections. If he were to be a fully grown dragon it would be less effective but for a small and young hatchling it did the trick.

Yet it was still difficult to inject him with those. If Yuri didn’t dodge those shots, he would create a swarm of vines that would gnaw every person who came even remotely close. To top all that, his dragon skin was pretty thick and could be only pierced at certain areas.

“Come on…” Yuri coughed from exhaustion “Let them… think… they need… you.”

“I-I can’t…” Dennis barely kept himself together “They will take you to that research room again.”

“I don’t care…” the dragon managed to reach for his guardian’s hand that held the injection “You will be with me…”

 

Dennis shook his head, not wanting to cause his ward any more suffering. At that point Yuri knew that no matter how much he pleads, his protector won’t do it. Sighing in defeat, the plant dragon had to resort to the plan b.

Using the last of his strength, Yuri grabbed Dennis’ fidgeting hand and pulled it towards his upper arm. The needle pierced through his skin, the tranquilizer immediately slipping in his blood stream. Yuri could feel his blood burning and his entire body becoming stiff, all while Dennis could only watch. All the vines and predatory plants fell on the ground in unison, rotting away. The makeshift plant hideout soon revealed paralyzed dragon in his human form and his guardian still holding onto the injection.

“Nice work McField.” Barret stepped closer with a group of researchers who immediately tied up Yuri with magic enhanced chains.

Despite being paralyzed, the researchers were still greatly terrified of the plant dragon, one of them even running away screaming when Yuri snarled at him. Even Dennis was approached in a similar way though they weren’t that bothered with restraining him. From how it looked like the young guardian was obedient enough to follow the orders, even walking into a danger zone that landed many in the infirmary.

Carefully, their hands on more tranquilizers just in case, the guards took Yuri to a room close by, also known as the one of the most restrictive rooms in Academia. The dragon and his guardian were treated like a precious cargo or more like a time-ticking bomb from the way they were taken around with caution. Dennis has been brought here for only a few times, but from what Yuri told him, the dragon has been taken here far many times. Sometimes when the young mage had lessons or homework to do or sometimes when he was unconscious due to the drugged food he was given.

Dennis hated the way the researchers talked about Yuri, using the worlds such as “it”, “creature” or “being”, never by his name. By now the boy got it clear that using Yuri’s name when others were present would only get him in trouble so he reserved it only when the two of them were alone. Still it was hard to watch his dragon, as proud as he was, being restrained in the most humiliating way, with even a muzzle strapped to his mouth, and poked with needles. His form would shift from time to time, but less intensely compared to how fast his dragon features were sprouting in retreating back to his body.

Dennis was checked over as well, though it was mostly for just his regular well-being, some smaller tests and the one hundredth analysis of his Dragon Mark. In fact, the violet mark on his arm was the only thing the researchers were really interested about. He didn’t matter, only his mark did. Yuri was right, they didn’t believe Dennis was that necessary for whatever they were using the dragon for.

Come to think of it, was Dennis even meant to be a guardian in the first place? Or did the mark just picked up a random kid that was deemed alright enough?

His train of thought was suddenly stopped by the door opening. Dennis expected more guards or researchers, certainly not an Obelisk Blue student that was a head smaller than him, walking in like he owned the place. He even chewed on the candy like some rich kid as one of the researchers escorted him to the other part of the room. The student ran his hand through his cyan colored ponytail, sitting down on examination table like it was a fancy armchair.

The more Dennis watched him, more familiar he appeared to him, though he really couldn’t remember from where. The boy tried really hard to connect the dots, but before he knew it, he was ordered to drink something that soon made him rather drowsy. The kid with a ponytail didn’t see him faint, though for a brief second it felt like they were staring at each other up close. Dennis didn’t know if whatever was in that drink made him hallucinate or was that student actually waving to him.  He didn’t know. He was out cold before that kid started talking.

 

On the other side of the research room the door opened. The guards set the curtains and sound-proofed magical shield to obscure whatever was about to unfold there. After all, the king Leo Akaba liked his privacy and didn’t want to let anyone know of what his plans were truly about. Not even the subjects of this key plan.

“So, any luck with a ninja guy?” the boy unwrapped a lollipop and stuffed the whole thing in his mouth.

“He is still being interrogated but I don’t believe he’ll be willing to talk.” Leo replied without making an eye contact “The members of Fuma clan are trained from an early age to keep their mouth shut.”

“Too bad.” the student bit off a piece of the candy “I captured him alive because I thought he may turn useful for you. Otherwise I would-”

“Yes, we are well aware of your reputation, Sora Shuinin, but even without a word from a member of a Fuma clan we got enough answers.” Leo clenched his fists, glaring in the distance “Yusho knows I have Starve Venom.”

“Yusho? As the Yusho Sakaki?” Sora blinked at the sound of the name that sprinkled with familiarity.

“Don’t get sidetracked by his name and reputation.” the king sent him a piercing glare that immediately shut him up “That man is your enemy, an obstacle that is to be removed. Do you hear me?”

 

Sora straightened up instantly and set his two hands together in some sort of salute, just like he has been taught for all of those years. Academia’s principal was satisfied enough with his obedience so he just brushed it off and turned to the researchers.

“How is the project going?” Leo asked while looking at the tray with several crystal-looking objects.

“Well, out of all test subjects, Shunin has shown the most progress. His body is responding well to the new formula and I believe he will be ready in about a week.” the researcher replied.

“And others?”

“The majority is not responding well, especially the younger ones.” another researcher said with stern face “Your Majesty, if we continue with the tests, they might not make it.”

“The new formula needs to be improved and it can’t be without more tests! Continue until you make sure Shounin is absolutely ready.” Leo ordered, sending shivers to all people present, even Sora “Only this way the project will work.”

 

The researchers nodded nervously and quickly got back to work. Sora, who has heard every word, let them examine him, drawing more vials of his blood, testing his reflexes and most importunately, gave him a crystal-looking object. This one looked a bit different from the ones he was usually given and even gave away a strange glow. Regardless, Sora did the same thing he did with all of them.

He put it in his mouth and bit into it like that lollipop before.

The crystal structure slowly dissolved in his mouth and the more he swallowed, more changes his body felt. His bones literally grew in size like the rest of his body. The aura became significantly stronger, making many researchers step away from him. Sora curiously checked his stronger body, admiring the power that was practically oozing off him.

All those exams, tests and harsh trainings have finally paid off. Ever since he was little he dreamt of becoming, not only the best Obelisk Blue, but the elite Obelisk Blue. Many doubted he’d succeed due to his obviously small size and arrogant personality. But he had learnt how to use this to his advantage and before he knew it, he was among the top students. With results as flashing as those, he had an opportunity to either join the elites or take a risk of becoming even stronger. Naturally he picked the second option since everything was just like a game to him at that point.

Even when he entered a research room full of students that were restrained or experiencing horrifying side effects of whatever they were made to digest, Sora didn’t stop. The first time he took that crystal he thought he’d die from the pain, but refusing to be seen as a weakling he pushed through and soon he was cracking the crystals like candy.

“Your Majesty, we’ve just tested the rapid growing effect. It is nearly perfected!” one of the researchers announced which made Leo grin.

Sora was pleased with the news as well, but deep down he felt tense.

Only one more week and his very first mission will begin.

 

….

 

Kazuma rinsed another wet cloth, placing it on his son’s forehead. It’s been days since Eliphas forcefully removed Yuma’s memories, leaving him in this state. Not only did Yuma slip in and out of consciousness, he even developed a fever. Astral was by his side, doing whatever he could to ease Yuma’s pain or run errands for Kazuma so he may not need to trouble with anything else while taking care of his sick son.

Kaito and Chris also paid a visit, unfortunately unable to help much but to bring more news concerning the elemental dragons. Then they hurried to Pendulum since the Shadow Realm spreading became uncontrollable at many places and both people and spirits needed to be evacuated to safer places. For now Yugi, Seth and Jonunchi were handling the situation, though they could use a pair of extra hands. Other than that there was just him, Astral and unconscious Yuma.

“Mr. Kazuma, you have a visitor.” Astral floated back in Yuma’s room “It is alright, I will watch over Yuma and let you know immediately if something changes.”

Kazuma nodded and stepped in the living room of the house that shone in the colors of the stardust. His guest was already seated at the table, petting Rainbow Kuriboh who enjoyed the gentle strokes.

“I hope you don’t mind that I’ve already made myself comfortable, my old friend.” the visitor smiled, removing his hat.

“Not at all Yusho, you are always welcome here.” Kazuma took a seat next to him “I see Rainbow Kuriboh has shown you the path.”

“Indeed, this little guy surely knows every inch of this world.”  Yusho smiled though it quickly changed “I’m sorry to trouble you, especially considering the state Yuma is in right now, but I really need a friend’s advice.”

“Yusho, you’ve helped me in more ways than one, so I’ll be always there if you need me.” the man placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder in a supporting manner.

“I’m lost Kazuma, so lost of what I should do.” Yusho covered his face “Zarc is sinking deeper in depression every single day because of Yuri. I want to go get him right now, but if Leo already knew so much about everything that’s most likely what he wants me to do – rushing into things recklessly. Also Reiji and Shun are much too young to be left alone at the moment. I could’ve asked Tenjos and Arclights for help, but the situation in XZY and Pendulum has worsen. And even if they could, they can’t teach them all about being a dragon guardians.”

“Yusho, is it that you don’t know what needs to be done or you don’t know if you’re doing the right thing?”

“I’m just so unsure… Yuri is suffering along with his guardian, Yugo and his guardian might be safe for now, but it is just a matter of time before Leo makes his next move.”

“What is his plan anyway? Still that utopian united world idea?”

“I’m not sure myself. From what Tsukikage told me he has turned Academia into research facility and young mages into soldiers for Gods know what. Spirits have practically abandoned Fusion Kingdom due to all the hunting.” Yusho clenched his fists “The Resistance has a spy on the inside, but during the latest spying attempt, Hikage went missing. Now they most certainly know I’m trying to get Yuri and his guardian back.”

“Yusho, like you said, Leo knows how much you care about Zars’s dragons and he will use it against you as much as he can. I know you want to go get Yuri right away, but I seriously think you should leave this to Resistance. From what you’ve told me they’ve been saving the students for years. Plus they have two spirit vessels on their side, one of them being a dragon one.” Kazuma said with a pat on his friend’s shoulder “You should focus on teaching your wards everything they need to know so they’ll be able to protect their dragons. They are smart kids.”

“Thank you Kazuma.” Yusho smiled despite the despair he was feeling “You always know how to say the right thing.”

“I’m sure Zarc will understand. You raised him well.”

 

Yusho nodded, gazing towards the stairs that led to a second floor. Astral briefly appeared and then floated back to Yuma’s room. He couldn’t even imagine just how bad Kazuma must’ve felt.

“How is Yuma doing?” Yusho asked, Kazuma’s face immediately losing its usual grin.

“I won’t lie, not too good.” he sighed “He is starting to remember again much more regularly, but the last time, it was the worst one so far. Neither III nor Astral could tell what triggered it.”

“Would you mind if I examine him? From what you’ve told me in the last letter, I might know what’s wrong.”

 

Kazuma didn’t need to be told twice, leading Yusho to Yuma’s room right away. The young mage was in a deep slumber, still suffering from a fever. Astral, who was holding onto his partner’s hand, moved away after Kazuma gave him a reassuring nod so the Performer Mage could get a better look on Yuma. From the outside, the young warrior of Astral world appeared to be fine physically, no visible injuries or other inconsistencies.

 

“What do you think Zarc?” Yusho asked inside his mind while holding onto the pendulum.

“What I think? I think Eliphalas should go to hell for forcing a child to fight and treat him like a weapon.” the former Dragon Guardian replied in anger.

“Zarc…”

“What makes him different from Leo?! I know their worlds are at war, but instead of finding a way for Astral and Barian world to coexist he rather tries to destroy it by sacrificing the lives of the most innocent!”

“This is their personal matter that they have to resolve by themselves alone. We are merely observers and right now our job is to help this poor child.”

“Fine.” the spirit sighed as he floated closer to Yuma, looking more closely for anything that Yusho might’ve missed.

 

He instructed his teacher to turn the young XVZ mage to his side and remove the clothing, exposing his upper back. Like the rest of his body, Yuma appeared to have much paler skin compared his usual tanned one, except for one place. Just at the base of his neck was a tiny, barely visible cross shaped scar that was hidden by Yuma’s drenched hair. 

 

Yusho immediately pressed his hand against it, murmuring a spell. All of a sudden Yuma’s body began to toss and turn, trying to get Yusho’s hand off his neck. Kazuma and Astral quickly grabbed onto Yuma’s body, holding him down so he wouldn’t accidently hurt himself. The Pendulum mage focused more of his magic into the chant since he noticed how much Yuma was struggling against it.

 

“Hold still just a bit more…” he kept whispering, until the source of pain was extracted.

 

The second it was gone, the body of a young mage went still. Astral quickly checked his vital signs which were luckily alright. Yuma just appeared to be exhausted. Even his fever went down and watching his son’s health improving for the first time in several days surely piqued Kazuma’s interest.

 

His eyes went from now peacefully sleeping Yuma to something that Yusho held in his hands. Or was holding. Whatever it was, it disintegrated fast after Yusho used purifying spell. That could only mean-

 

“Chaos.” Kazuma said, not believing his own words “But Yuma can handle Chaos. Even Astral can now.”

“Not the amount he had inside of his body.” Yusho sighed while staring at the fading cross shaped scar on Yuma’s neck “Someone must’ve put it in him when he wasn’t looking.”

“That cannot be possible. I kept a watch on Yuma the whole time we were in Spartan City. If he were to be affected by too much Chaos, I would feel it too, but I didn’t.” Astral said while fixing the edges of the blanket.

 

Kazuma wanted to believe it couldn’t be possible, but he knew. He simply knew what was going on and he was terrified that it was happening now when so much was going on all at once.

 

He was after Yuma again.

 

 

 

“We are here.”

 

Rua and Ruka watched how the endless grass fields were slowly replaced by forests and forests soon revealed a small castle and kingdom surrounding it. The spirits quickly sensed the presence of two Signers and their dragons who appeared alongside them, bowing down the second they got off Regalus’ back.

“My, you surely came as soon as you got the message.” an old spellcaster spirit welcomed them.

“What’s going on Torunka?” Rua asked once he noticed several changes around the castle.

“I think it’s better if you talk with Demak first. He was the first one to notice them.”

 

The twins nodded and let the spellcaster lead them to the throne room. The monkey spirits were everywhere, running back and forth with scrolls and supplies. There was also an unusual number of spirits since they would usually be outside of the castle. The deeper they got in the castle, more spirits were present, filling up every room and hallway. Rua and Ruka had to leave their dragons and Regalus in a room that still had space in order to get through.

 

It took them a while before they reached the throne room and even that place was crowded. With Torunka’s help they eventually got there, their short statures preventing them from seeing that there was someone else besides the Dark Signer of a Monkey. Ruka immediately recognized that mop of blue hair and white cape.

 

“Big bro Johan!” she exclaimed as she rushed to hug him, Rua following suit.

“We’ve missed you!” her twin cried as he clenched onto Johan’s tunic.

 

The vessel of a Rainbow Dragon smiled as he nudged to Demak to put their discussion on hold for a bit. The spirit vessels from every kingdom didn’t interact as much due to their busy work, but the twins and Johan got a chance to bond more since they could travel to other spirit worlds besides their own. At times he’d bring Judai along too so their bond only grew over all those years.

 

“What are you doing here?” Ruka asked, noticing even more spirits being present.

“You could say I’m a delivery boy.” Johan crunched down so he was closer to the twins’ level “Bringing more Fusion spirits to Synchro spirit world.”

“Is situation in Fusion really that bad? With Academia and all?” the female twin gasped from realization.

“So you’ve heard…” the Fusion mage sighed “Yes, it has become dangerous to the point that spirits no longer see it as home. King Akaba has figured out how to break in Fusion Spirit world. We’ve managed to save the majority of spirits and brought them here since Millennium is facing the rise of Shadow Realm and XYZ’s spirit worlds are at war with each other.”

“That’s so awful! To just barge in their home and attack them!” Rua shouted.

“The Resistance is doing whatever it can to protect the spirits, but as of now Starve Venom and his guardian come first.”

 

The twins were about to ask if they were any closer to rescuing the elemental dragon when Joahan’s trusted spirit partner Ruby appeared on his shoulder. The little spirit whispered something to his ear to which Johan nodded. Even without a word, Rua and Ruka knew that the Fusion mage had to leave soon.

 

“Will you say his to big bro Judai for us?” Rua asked, clearly said about such short reunion.

“You know I will. Maybe he’ll even accompany me the next time we bring more refugee spirits.” Johan stroked their hair “Until then you two make sure you keep Clear Wing and his guardian safe too, okay?”

 

The Hand and Heart Signers nodded to keep the promise and watched how Johan called upon Rainbow Dragon who used its powers to create Rainbow Bridge. It was one of the rarest abilities that dragon spirits could possess, to connect two spirit worlds. With a help of its power, the spirts could retreat much faster and sooner compared to fleeing through human world. The twins waved their goodbyes, hoping they would get to see Johan and Judai soon.

 

As soon as the blue haired mage left, Demak came to their side with a handful of scrolls along with Torunka and Regalus. The refugee spirits began to leave the throne room, leaving the group of five on their own. With more space, Ancient Fairy Dragon and Life Stream Dragon managed to get there as well.

 

“As you may heard from Crimson Dragon, something strange has been going on in Synchro since a few days ago.” Torunka started as he used his magic to make a projection of several places all across Synchro.

 

The twins recognized locations and even spotted the other Signers fighting unknown creatures. Crow fought them alongside his friend from Commons, Shinji; Aki and a comrade named Sherry, also known as Knight were fighting a particularly big one and Yusei… he was fighting them in his Savior Star Dragon form. If Yusei needed their help to defeat them, they surely were powerful and dangerous enough to even make the Dark Signers concerned.

 

“Fortunately, they can’t seem to enter Spirit Worlds. But their structure is worrisome. They are solid, just like spirits summoned by mages and spirits possessing vessels. Either they are similar to Rare Hunters from Pendulum or someone is controlling them, which possesses another problem.” the Dark Signer of Monkey explained.

“Mages need to be close to the spirits in order to make them solid.” Ruka said, remembering her first attempts to summon the spirits.

“That’s right.” Demak pointed at more projections of Synchro kingdom “So far no one reported seeing those creatures in other kingdoms. They appeared in Synchro only. Inside of the barrier.”

“So that’s how Crimson Dragon could sense them.” Rua mumbled.

“It appears they are attracted to specific places.” Torunka added “Satellite, where Zero Reverse happened and battle between Signers of Crimson Dragon and Dark Signers took place. The ruins of Arcadia Movement headquarters, where many innocent lives were lost. New Neo Domino, center of Tops and place where you fought Z-ONE. And Satisfaction Town, formerly known as Crush Town. Place where many were enslaved and worked to death.”

“All of those places carry a significant amount of energy left behind by people whose lives were lost during those events.” Regulus said, acknowledging the signs “Should someone use this energy to convert it in something like Artificial Spirits would as well resort to something like this.”

 

Then Demak nudged towards two monkey spirits who rushed out of the room. Soon they returned with a small cage that was covered up with a cloth and whatever was in it constantly hit against the bars. The twins nearly jumped when the creature in it made a particularly loud noise when trying to get out. Demak only rolled up his sleeve, exposing his Dark Sign of a Monkey that began to glow in yellow. The creature attempted to crush the bars a few more times before it stopped, trembling in fear. Once it stopped, Torunka removed the cloth, revealing the being that made both twins gasp in fear.

 

“Are those… them?” Rua winced at the sight of the creature.

“One of the smaller ones.” Demak answered “Miss Misty and Carly managed to capture it and their spirits brought it here. So far we only know what we’ve told you and the fact that they are afraid of Dark Signers.”

“Wait, they are afraid of you? But they literally look like Earthbound Immortals.” the Heart Signer blinked in confusion.

“That they do, but it is far from an average fear. They don’t acknowledge us as their masters or obey our commands and yet they fear us the same.” Demak made his Dark Sign of a Monkey glow, which made the creature shift to the back of the cage.

 

Ruka genuinely felt sorry for the creature in cage, despite seeing Yusei, Crow and Aki fighting much bigger version of them. They were dangerous, that much was clear, but at the same time it wasn’t their fault. The creatures were most likely created to be this way, knowing nothing but destroy and obey the command of their master. The Hand Signer even tried to get closer, if only to try to understand those creatures better. She felt the dark aura surrounding the cage and the more it screeched, more she began to realize.

 

“What if there is a new Dark Signer?” Ruka asked as everyone raised their eyebrows at realization.

 

 

“Watch your step, it is pretty slippery at this part!” Ai called as Yusei entered the mysterious Spirit World.

 

He has been to all known Spirit Worlds, finding each one of them unique in some way, though they still shared the same traits. But this Cyberse World, as Ai called it, was completely different. The magic surrounding it sort of felt like long-forgotten Link magic and yet it was mixed with something new.

 

The more Yusei moved forward, more solid the world became. His mark continued to sizzle and even Stardust Dragon twitched like something unfamiliar was there. But soon enough, any sign of discomfort was gone and radiant aura was the only thing he felt.

 

Yusei’s jaw nearly dropped to the ground from the sight he was seeing. Millennium World had a desert kingdom. Fusion Spirit World and Synchro Spirit World looked a lot like human worlds. Barian and Astral World were completely alien. But this? This was a perfect representation of how the paradise is supposed to look like. There were forests, grass fields, waterfalls and rock structures wherever he looked, blooming with life. Spirits that he had never seen before were roaming the land while the sun shine brightly.

 

“The Cyberse Tower is this way.” Ai pointed to a tall structure in the distance.

 

It wasn’t just one tower, but six in fact. They were too far for Yusei to see them in detail though he could tell each of them was surrounded by different elements. Once they got close enough, the Head Signer could see just how detailed each tower was. One looked like a volcano surrounded by flames. Another one was circle shaped and had dozens of tiny tornados floating around. What he assumed to be a water tower had little stone structures that had streams and waterfalls. Yusei barely saw the fourth one due to how bright it was shining. One more had floating gems everywhere and the last one seemed sort of basic with not much distinctive traits.

 

Each tower, with an exception of the last one, also had a small humanoid spirit that looked like Ai next to them, each of them busy working on towers. They were so focused that they didn’t even notice their friend before he loudly announced his comeback.

 

“I’m home!” Ai shouted, bringing attention to himself, though none of them seemed overly enthusiastic about seeing him.

 

“Did Datastorm work?” green colored spirit asked.

“It did! It was just like you and Lightning predicted! Playmaker joined with a Firewall Dragon!” Ai said while puffing his chest like it was all thanks to him.

“Did he make it far?” a blue colored, feminine spirit asked in concerned manner.

“Well… he left the island and came back soon. He still needs some practice…” the dark Ignis bowed his head.

“So we still don’t know what lies beyond this place…” the red colored spirit crossed his arms in a sigh.

“But there is someone who might tell us more about it!” Ai floated back to Yusei “He can also use magic and join with monsters!”

 

All five of spirits looked down in unison, probably only now realizing that the human who arrived to their world wasn’t Yusaku.

 

“Another human?” the light colored spirit by the name of Lightning floated closer to Yusei in an interest “Though strangely, his magic feels a lot like Yusaku’s.”

“Why did you come here?” the blue spirit asked in a concerned manner.

“I’ve visited all Spirit Worlds and yet I was never aware of Cyberse World’s existence. I wanted to learn more about it.” Yusei replied politely with a bow “I’m also interested in how you performed the ceremony necessary to turn a mage into a spirit vessel, more about your magic and… more about that boy Yusaku. He kept repeating things that I found confusing.”

 

The Ignis looked at each other, like they were in a thought if they should trust him or not. The blue Ignis kept staring at him with her eyes changed, most likely using magic on him.

 

“He is telling the truth.” the blue spirit said “I believe, it is safe to entrust him our story.”

“Yeah, I don’t sense any magic associated with Knights of Hanoi. I’m sure we can learn something useful from him.” the red spirit added.

“I don’t know…” the green spirit flew around Yusei’s head for a few times “He still looks suspicious to me.”

“I doubt we will ever get a greater opportunity than this.” Lightning rested his palm against his chin “We might find a way to improve Cyberse World.”

 

The light spirit floated right in front of Yusei along with the blue spirit. Lightning outstretched his tiny hand like in a manner of agreement.

 

“If you wish to hear our story, you agree to answer on some of our questions. Keep in mind that we might have plenty of them since our world is rather isolated.” the Ignis said in serious tone “I advise you not to lie since Aqua can quickly tell a truth from the lie.”

“Understood.” Yusei made a slight bow in a manner of respect.

“We can start with your interesting mark first.” the green Ignis floated closer to Yusei’s sign “It gives off magic that I don’t recall sensing in Cyberse.”

“I come from the Synchro Kingdom, a place that is the closest to the ruins of the Link Kingdom – place we are at now. Besides Synchro, there are also Fusion, XYZ and Pendulum and each kingdom has a Spirit World and Divine Spirits who protect them. Servants of Divine Spirits act as Spirit Vessels for their most powerful spirits and I’m one of the six in Synchro.” Yusei rolled up his sleeve and revealed his shining Head Sign “Synchro’s Divine Spirit is called Crimson Dragon and its servants carry one of its six dragon spirits along with a mark that connects us to it.”

“That would explain the unknown dragon that you’ve brought with you.” the red spirit pointed at Stardust Dragon who appeared nearby when Yusei called for it.

“For a mage to become a vessel, a certain ceremony needs to be performed with a presence of a Divine Spirit. In my case it was Crimson Dragon.” the Head Signer remembered Yusaku’s dragon spirit “It still puzzles me how you managed to turn Yusaku in a Spirit Vessel.”

 

The Ignis exchanged glances like they weren’t sure how to reply, when Ai came forward with an answer.

 

“To be honest we don’t know ourselves. By your means we probably are those Divine Spirits of Cyberse World and this Link Kingdom. But we only created Firewall Dragon.” Ai scratched his head in thought “That way Yusaku could summon it as a solid spirit and use it to fly to outside world in order to gather more information. We’ve never expected he’d be capable of merging with it.”

“That’s right, this only happened recently. Before Yusaku could only summon regular Cyberse spirits and use magic.” fire spirit explained further.

“So it is still a mystery how he became a Spirit Vessel…” Yusei leaned back and looked up “How did he even get to Link Kingdom? This place has been abandoned since Dragon War.”

“Dragon War?” all Ignis, except for the orange one, asked in confusion.

 

Yusei sighed, clearly knowing that he had a long story to tell. Still, he took a deep breath and started from the beginning, from the times when only Divine Spirits existed all the way to the present day. All Ignis listened with a great interest, remembering every word as a form of taking notes. From time to time, Yusei was asked additional questions that he answered patiently, even adding a thing or two to further explain them.

 

Over halfway to his story, Yusei came to a conclusion that those spirits were either incredibly isolated the whole time or just appeared out of nowhere. The events before and after Dragon War were relatively new and everyone who still had the memories of it could recall them since they happened in the last ten years. What surprised him was also that they kept asking him about the magic, not about the magic he was using, but the magic in general like they were child mages who never heard about magic before.

 

During his answering session, he finally managed to tell them his name and learned the names of other Ignis besides Ai, Aqua and Lightning. The red Ignis, also known as fire Ignis was Flame and he appeared to be cool and collected most of the time. Wind Ignis or Windy for short was more energetic and would playfully jump around whenever he became too bored when listening to Yusei. Windy also didn’t cover the fact that he didn’t trust him and would glare at the Head Signer most of the time. Lastly, there was Earth. The orange Ignis wouldn’t speak during the entirety of the conversation, only nodding and whispering his questions to Aqua, who asked instead of him.

 

Finally, Yusei covered up the rest of the most recent events, explaining how creatures, similar to the one they had fought more than ten years ago, started appearing in Synchro again, and how Yusaku gave him a hand in defeating it.

 

“When I was talking to Yusaku, he kept referring to this world as “VRAINS”.” Yusei remembered out loud “And Ai also mentioned that he was used to create an Artificial Spirit Ai. Where does Yusaku fit in this story?”

 

Ai was about to start with the story, when Lightning covered the place where his mouth was supposed to be, instantly quieting him down. The other Ignis looked down, clearly uncomfortable with sharing their story. Only Aqua managed to float closer, her hands pressed together like in a prayer.

 

“Before we tell you our story, you must understand that we are all a result of an experiment that took place ten years ago. Neither we nor those poor children had a say in it.” Aqua said while trembling “And also… we are not from this world.”

“From this world?” Yusei repeated in confusion “Were you in another Spirit World before?”

 

Aqua nodded as Lightning created a projection. To Yusei it looked like the main city in Synchro, but it looked much more advanced. The buildings and whatever devices were moving through busy roads all seemed to be powered by a very strange magic. Even the people there wore entirely different clothing compared to what he saw in all the kingdoms. It looked like a brand new civilization, filled with more people and much more devices than he had ever seen in the Tops.

 

“Where is this?” the Signer asked, looking for any similarities or clues where that might be.

 

“Those are Yusaku’s memories of his home world. Or more like… home dimension.”

 

 

“Finally asleep.” Reiji smiled as he pulled the covers over Yuya’s and Yuto’s sleeping dragon bodies.

 

The two hatchlings insisted on training more that day, practicing their shifting abilities and their powers. By now Yuto learned how to use lightning magic and would constantly ask Shun to help him train. While the hatchling could summon lightning, that didn’t necessary mean he had a control over it. Most of the times he would miss the intended target and hit his guardian instead. It was a miracle Shun was still alive by that point, but despite all the times he got hit by his ward's magic, he encouraged him to keep on trying in order to learn.

 

Yuya on the other hand was a bit slow and yet he was more motivated just as much as his sibling to learn more. The fire dragon could make sparkles when snapping his fingers and even tiny flames. The first time he managed to turn the sparkles into flames, he was so happy that he went to light every single candle that he could find in Duel Lodge. Yuto and Shun nearly freaked out when seeing the room with statues being all lit up, thinking the fire has erupted.

 

Same went for their guardians. Yusho not only taught them how to improve their magic, but showed them how to use the ones outside of Pendulum and XYZ. Shun more or less preferred to use XYZ magic, since it was something that connected him to his home while Reiji mastered one type of magic after another. Yuya watched with awe how his guardian summoned different spirits with which the fire dragon could spar in order to strengthen his dragon body. He became more and more used to his partial transformation as well as Yuto did.

 

And yet they were still hatchlings and young mages that needed to rest after any kind of training. Once the wards were tucked in, Reiji dragged an armful of pillows right next to them so he could read while watching over them. The Pendulum mage has recently became interested in XYZ’s culture and would read any book or scroll about it. Yusho, Kazuma, Kaito and Arclights gladly lent him their literature determining the history of the kingdom, its magic and its spirit worlds.

 

“What are you reading?” Shun looked over Reiji’s shoulder towards the thick book.

“The history of XYZ Kingdom, about Astral and Barian Wars.” the silver haired mage replied, turning the page to the pretty graphic illustration “Astral World sought the ultimate perfection, so every time there was an imperfection, it was banished out of their world. This led to the creation of Barian World and to this day, those two worlds cannot coexist without a conflict… Shun?”

 

Reiji automatically read the sentences outload since he was so used to Yuya asking him questions. He completely forgot that Shun lost his parents due to those wars and lived on the streets for some time because of it. His expression was completely void of any emotion as he was likely thinking about his past.

 

“Shun I… I’m sorry.” Reiji quickly closed the book.

“It’s fine…” Shun mumbled as he stood up, heading towards the doors “I think there is some laundry to be washed. Can you watch over Yuto for me?”

“Sure…”

 

The Pendulum mage watched the fellow guardian leave, thinking just how much pain he was hiding. Unlike him, the XYZ mage was much more talkative and opened up to others, and yet he had a past that was just a dark as his own. He really wanted to help him out, but for now he knew he had to leave him be. By now he had learnt that’s how Shun dealt with his inner turmoil.

 

The XYZ mage, with a handful of dirty clothes, mostly from Yuya’s and Yuto’s training sessions, just got to the spring behind the Duel Lodge. Rolling up his sleeves, he began to rub soap into the first piece of clothing. The slow and precise strokes was just what he needed, especially after seeing that illustration.

 

Fires of mystic origin and magic clashing in the skies while people could only run in hopes they don’t get hit. True he was only a toddler when the last major crossfire between two spirit nations happened and his memories of that time were hazy, but it still felt so real to him. He would calm himself by simply stating those were the nightmares that never happened and yet the older he became, more they turned into a reminder of grim reality.

 

All this thinking made him loosen his grip on the clothing, slipping right out of his soapy fingers. Shun knew that Yusho had more than enough clothes for all of them and could easily afford new ones, but he still appreciated things they had. As someone who has lived in the streets for a while, the young guardian knew well that everything is useful in some way or another. He quickly rushed after the clothing that was closer and closer to the river. The river that ended with a waterfall.

 

Shun stepped up, determined to even summon his Raidraptors if he doesn’t reach it in time. Luckily, he didn’t need to resort to such drastic measurements since someone else caught it. Whoever it was, Shun didn’t care as he politely thanked for their help in a bow first and only then did he look up who it was. The person was much taller than him, probably around Chris’s age or even Yusho’s age. Their appearance was concealed by a thick overcoat, which was very uncommon in a kingdom with such warm climate.

 

“Is this yours?” the person asked, surprising Shun since the voice sounded very familiar.

“Yeah…” Shun took the clothing “Thank you for catching it.”

“You’ve grown... Little Falcon.”

 

The second young guardian heard that name, his mind became a swirl of memories. The images that he managed to brush away were back, rushing through his head. No, he didn’t want to see that, not again. Shun grabbed a hold of his head, begging whatever force there was to make it stop. Not now that he had to be strong for his dragon.

 

All of sudden, he felt warm hands on his cheeks, their softness reminding him of sense of home so long ago. That’s right, Kaito’s father would do that whenever he felt unsafe… or did he? Was it Kaito? Or one of the Arclights? The feeling was right, but the hands that were holding his face weren’t.

 

“It’s okay, just breathe.” the person crunched down, pressing their hooded forehead to his, while still holding his cheeks “It is just memories, nothing else.”

“Wh-Who are you?” Shun muttered while still shaking.

“I think we better go back. You could probably use an extra hand for all of your laundry too.”

 

Shun was a bit dumbfounded by all of this, but nodded to it anyway. Yusho told them many times not to talk to the strangers… but this person felt familiar in some way. Well, as long as they only accompany him to the spring there shouldn’t be a problem. Shun so just got back to where a pile of clothes still awaited him and watched how the person simply rolled up their sleeves, crouching down to start washing right away. Too puzzled of what he should ask, the young guardian followed suit, scrubbing and soaping. With extra help, they were done much faster so before they knew it, they were hanging the laundry.

 

“It sure has been a long time since we spent together like this.” the person muttered and that’s when Shun finally realized it. From underneath the hood he saw two lilac locks of hair and soon some purple ones as well. What truly give it away, were bright blue earrings shaped like feathers; and Shun knew only one person who wore them.

 

“Teacher…” he uttered as the tears began to bubble up in his eyes “Why…”

 

Instead of saying anything, Ruri just embraced him as Shun cried. During all those years, Shun missed his teacher dearly, but he always hid those emotions as he didn’t want to trouble others with it. Now that she was here, he instantly remembered everything she had taught him and the days she was looking after him.

 

“Why did you leave…?” Shun muttered under his tears “Why did you just… disappear?”

 

Ruri wiped his tears with a handkerchief with a bird embroidery, while trying hard not to cry herself. Her little ward was Dragon Guardian now, a guardian of Dark Rebellion. As much as she wanted to release him from such dangerous task, she just couldn’t. It was her duty, both as En Birds and Ray’s fragment to protect this kingdom and its dragon.

 

“I’m so sorry Little Falcon, I really am.” Ruri gently stroked Shun’s hair “If there was a way, I wouldn’t leave you, but in the end I had to. I’ve never left you on the streets, I only implanted that memory so you wouldn’t look for me. And yet in the end you did…”

“I was worried something happened to you… and even then I wanted to go look for you.”

“I know, I know.” Ruri squatted down to Shun’s level “And that’s why you need to listen to me carefully.”

 

Despite having numerous questions, Shun gave her an assuring nod. He knew that he was no longer a child, in fact, now that he had to watch over Yuto, it only confirmed that he had an important role to play.

 

“What I’m about to tell you is something that you absolutely mustn’t tell anyone, not even the other guardians and especially not the dragons.”

“Why will you tell me then?”

“Because at least one of the guardians has to know this and out all of them, this information is the safest with you.” Ruri held onto her former ward “You know that the previous reincarnations of the Elemental Dragons caused a terrible event known as the Dragon War which took the lives of a previous Dragon Guardian and En Keeper. Now you’re one of the guardians and you must be aware of their rage.”

“Rage?”

“That’s right. A new reincarnation may have given them a second chance at life, but the remains of their inner rage is still there. It is in their hearts and if one is consumed by it, everyone else will be as well. This is why you must learn to calm down Dark Rebellion.” Ruri brought out a small red neckerchief that she tied up around Shun’s neck “As an embodiment of En Birds, I have the power to calm down this rage, but I might not always be there, so I’m entrusting some of it to you. If at least one dragon calms down, others will likely follow.”

“En… Birds?”

“Yes, one of the four En magic branches. If you received the memories, you must’ve briefly seen En Keeper. Sadly, she gave up her life in order to rebuild the world. I’m just a mere spell that held onto one of her soul fragments. Our only purpose was to watch over the Guardian Marks and the dragons.”

“Then why… why did you raise me?” Shun asked which made Ruri look down.

“Because… because I took the soul fragment that held the dreams of the future of the En Keeper. Her wish so became my wish.” Ruri stepped closer, embracing Shun one more time “When I saw you wandering through burnt down streets all alone while crying for your parents… I just knew. When you fell asleep in my arms… I couldn’t let you go. Other Ens tried to convince me into giving you to someone else, but I just couldn’t. I’ve seen you as a child that I wanted to raise, teach and love like my own.”

 

Shun kept his hands around his former teacher, remembering more and more about his childhood when Ruri held him just like this.

 

“But five years ago, I could no longer watch over you. If I would, you’d likely be the next target. That’s why I entrusted you to Kaito. I have known the vessel of Galaxy Eyes for many years and knew that the magic of his family is powerful enough to conceal your presence.”

“Target?”

“You were next in line to become a Dragon Guardian. Before that, the Ens held onto the Dragon Marks until dragons would hatch. Leo Akaba somehow figured out who would be the next guardian of Odd Eyes and used him to steal the Dragon Marks. All except for En Winds were forced to pass them forward.” Ruri gently rolled up Shun’s sleeve, exposing his mark “We knew Akaba would try to track us down, due to our En magic, so we decided to disappear to Spirit Worlds. I spent the last five years in Astral and Barian World, but I never stopped watching over you. I have an ability to look through birds’ eyes so I could see you train and become stronger. I could’ve never been more proud of you, Little Falcon.”

 

When Shun heard that nickname for the third time, he could remember trying to copy his Teacher’s magic. He quickly mastered enough XYZ magic to learn to summon his first Raid Raptor and he recalled Ruri being so happy that day. After it, he would just continue to train in order to summon more Raid Raptors, but his Teacher was gone before he managed to summon his second one.

 

“You’ve truly grown up and now that you have Dark Rebellion to look after, the only other thing that I can teach you, is the Song of Peace. And remember, you must never tell anyone about us. Only a selective few can know about this.”

 

And so Ruri taught her former pupil one more spell before she partially turned into Lyrical Luscinia, her beautiful wings gently flapping towards the sky.

 

“I’m always with you, Little Falcon.”

 

 

 

“Another… dimension?” Yusei couldn’t look away from the memory projection.

 

He heard about multiple worlds, rarely about multiple dimensions. So far no one has been able to unveil their existence as they were only weakly back-upped theories. And yet he was staring at the memory of one. It was just like their world was revived one more time but this time replaced completely by something that hasn’t existed before.

 

“That’s right, Yusaku is from another dimension… or at least part of him is.” Ai said in a bit uncomfortable tone.

“In this other dimension, the magic has never developed the way it did in yours. Instead of it, people created machines and devices in order to lead a comfortable lifestyle. Magic is only a concept there, a fairytale meant for entertainment. Even the spirits are mere illustrations on trading cards and magic is only in video games.” Lightning explained while showing various images of items that Yusei has never seen before.

“Video… game…?” the Signer raised his eyebrows.

“It is like a projection with a story and challenges. The majority has a fictional character that you can control or some sort of a puzzle to solve.” Flame created another projection where someone was putting some sort of goggles over his eyes “Yusaku would mostly play a card game, similar to the creatures and magic of this dimension.”

“Then how did he or you get here?” Yusei crossed his arms while studying the card game with illustrated cards.

 

Lightning switched a projection to an empty street where a white haired boy was heading inside the house. Since those were Yusaku’s memories, Yusei guessed that the boy was Yusaku’s friend or someone he knew. Through his eyes he could see many interesting devices in the house, but all of a sudden, the image turned black. At first, the Signer thought that Lightning intentionally made it disappear. Then he saw something that looked like an image that you see when you slowly open your eyes. Yusaku held those goggles in his hands, though they looked more like a visor. The boy put it on and watched how the whole space turned into arena, similar to the game he was playing before except it looked more advanced.

 

Yusaku played that card game again and by now Yusei got a hang of it. Each player had Life Points that they had to bring down by using spirits to duel. Other cards known as spells and traps, backed up the spirits so they could cause more damage. Whoever Yusaku was dueling against, wasn’t that good, in fact, the boy won quite fast. Then a writing appeared in the air.

 

Up for another round? YES/NO

 

The boy lifted his finger to press YES and the arena was cleared of cards. Yusaku confidently started another game against an opponent who appeared to be more experienced. The strategies Yusaku was using seemed quite useful as he would adapt them against completely different player for the second time. However, the opponent had a trump card that made Yusaku ran out of his strategic options and his Life Points hit zero. Just when Yusei was about to ask them what was the point of showing him this, big capital letters appeared before him.

 

YOU LOSE!

 

The arena suddenly became empty and Yusei could hear a pained screamed along with what sounded like a lightning spell. A loud thud followed and the visor fell off Yusaku’s face. Only now did Yusei realize that Yusaku was no longer in the house, but in a small white room illuminated by strong lights.

 

Then it was Ai who created another projection, this time from a different angle that had a view of the entire room. There was Yusaku, lying on the ground and crying his eyes out.

 

“What… was that?” Yusei felt his nails digging in the skin from how strong he was clenching his fists.

“Lost Incident.” Lightning replied simply “A project to create Artificial Intelligence with free will.”

“I’ve told you before. We are all Artificial Intelligences, AIs for short. Something you call Artificial Spirits. Artificial Divine Spirits in fact.” Ai stopped showing the projection “In thatdimension, creating an AI is not that hard and lots of their machines are ran by AIs.”

“But to create an AI with free will… it is like to create a human being.” Aqua kept her hands together “That’s why our creator came up with this terrible experiment.”

 

Ai showed a different projection that went fast forward for what appeared to be weeks and weeks of experimentation. Yusaku became visibly skinnier and weaker after each punishment in a form of not getting food and electroshocks.

 

“We all started off as simple AIs, the ones that were created to blindly follow any order.” Flame added “By watching six different children duel, we slowly began to develop our personalities. We weren’t aware what was going on. We only knew we had to absorb and learn from any data that we see.”

“It was months later when we became aware of what was going on.” Ai stopped the projection at point where Yusaku looked like he was just about ready to give up “Someone must’ve fiddled with controls since we no longer had an order to learn from the kids.”

“In fact, we weren’t required to do anything.” Windy chirped “We were free.”

 

Yusei was rather overwhelmed with so much information. Even though he didn’t fully understand most of what Ignis were saying, he was still horrified of what was going on in a different dimension. He witnessed firsthand how wars could affect people, especially children. Despite that dimension looking like a peaceful place, such terrible things still happened to the most innocent.

 

“So you escaped?” Yusei asked further.

“That’s the thing – none of us remembers.” Ai exclaimed while still showing the projection that literally switched from the white room to the Cyberse “It is like that period of time got erased from us. Somehow we found ourselves here.”

“So we did what every living being would do. We began living.” Lightning switched the projection with much bigger one.

 

The memory showed the six Ignis slowly turning the empty space to look like human world. The Ignis Tower was the very first thing that they created and from that point, the other features began to appear. Earth’s tower created lands and hills. Aqua’s tower filled them with water. Lightning’s and Ai’s tower provided day and night. Windy made sure there was a breeze and Flame warmed it up. It began to resemble the today’s Cyberse more and more. Yet still, Yusei had another question.

 

But before he could even say it, the answer was shown as well.

 

What appeared to be a typical day in the Cyberse, with Ignis adding more touches to their world and Ai slacking off in the grass, was quickly interrupted by a sudden flash. The entire Spirit World shook like there was an earthquake, even though natural disasters were not meant to happen there. All Ignis quickly rushed to the side of the impact, in order to take care of the damage.

 

Only to find Yusaku’s curled form there.

 

The six year old was in a deep sleep, his chest barely moving. Only Ai was brave enough to approach him since Yusaku was his Origin, a person he was based on. He tried to get a response, but he couldn’t get anything other than the fact that the boy was alive.

 

“We weren’t sure what to do back then. We were only programmed to live by our own will.” Lightning continued with his arms crossed “Despite our excessive knowledge, we didn’t know what we were supposed to do with a human child that somehow got from one dimension to another.” 

“Oh, just admit it you wanted to get rid of him!” Ai narrowed down his eyes “It interfered with your great plan how to build Cyberse!”

“We weren’t attached to him the same way you were, Ai. To you, losing Yusaku would be like losing a part of yourself and that’s something we weren’t aware of that time.” Aqua calmed him down.

“For the next few days we searched the Cyberse for anyone else. Yusaku was the only one to get here.” Flame said as the projection showed the boy waking up and being all confused.

 

Yusei watched how the span of several days had Ai being near Yusaku, as the other Ignis went back to building the Cyberse world.

 

“Since we didn’t know how to help the child, we’ve looked in the memories of the children we were based on.” Aqua pointed at the memory where Ignis tried to interact with Yusaku “Each of us had at least one memory that helped us learn how to take care of a child. My Origin had a little sister, Earth’s Origin saw adults taking care of the children, Lightning’s Origin had memories of being looked after, Flame’s Origin had memories of interacting with other children and Windy’s Origin had a lot of memories of fun.”

“With a help of those, we’ve completely recreated a part of Cyberse world so he could grow up in peace.” Ai pointed at how Yusaku began to look better physically “Still… there was one thing that we were never able to learn.”

 

The memory then showed Yusaku sleeping under the tree when all of a sudden, he woke up in tears and gasping for air. Several smaller spirits nuzzled against him, but the poor kid couldn’t stop crying. Ai was floating right next to him trying to cheer him up to no avail.

 

“We had some knowledge about human body and mind… but we absolutely had no idea how to heal his trauma. No matter what we did, he kept reliving the Lost Incident. We knew that if we don’t do something his both physical and mental health would worsen greatly.” Aqua leaned down her head “But luckily Ai and Flame came up with a temporary solution.”

 

The projection changed yet again, this time with Yusaku running around, touching and moving the objects in the Cyberse. The spirits followed him around and even helped him reach certain areas.

 

“Windy’s and Flame’s Origin both spent a lot of time playing video games before the Lost Incident and we assumed that Yusaku did too.” Ai nudged at several places that looked similar to the world under those goggles “So we convinced him that he was in a massive video game and that he has to complete all the levels in order to finish it. This kept him occupied for a years and also helped us build Cyberse.”

“I see…” Yusei mumbled, thinking about all other Spirit Worlds.

 

All Divine Spirits didn’t randomly change their worlds whenever they felt like it due to all the spirits residing there. That was another thing that made Cyberse so unique. It was like a playground for Ignis and apparently Yusaku as well. In Spirit Worlds, certain people could survive for years since all of their needs could be make possible with a help of spirits.

 

“How come Yusaku lives in Link Kingdom now?” Yusei remembered that cave that the young mage turned into his living quarters “Didn’t you say you made him believe he is in this video game thing?”

“Well, he still does. He simply believes he unlocked another level and is now trying to upgrade his playable character with mini quests and missions.” Flame pointed at direction leading out of Cyberse “In his home dimension, there was this VRAINS system that had a never-ending video game and our version of it is heavily based on it.”

“Didn’t he ever question about going home? Or where other people are?” the Signer thought out loud.

 

The Ignis exchanged their looks, shrugging with shoulders.

 

“You must understand – for five long years we were convinced we were in a distant part of our home dimension. We told the same thing to Yusaku and over this time we slowly began to figure out we are in a different dimension. The boy did ask us to take him home, but we didn’t even know where we were. So we played along since he was so young and vulnerable.” Aqua explained further.

“Though after those five years, something happened.” Lightning floated towards his tower “Something that finally made us realize what was going on.”

“A new door, leading out of Cyberse appeared.” Flame nodded “As we weren’t sure what lies beyond, we sent Ai and Yusaku there. They’ve been exploring it ever since, but never managed to leave the island.”

“Not until now.” Lightning stared at Yusei, namely more at the spirit of Stardust Dragon behind him “Your ability to become one with the spirit is really similar to Yusaku’s.”

 

Yusei stared down at his pulsing Signer Mark, only now realizing just how long he has been here. He was supposed to only check on the mysterious being in Crush Town and return back to Godwin’s mansion. As much as he wanted to learn more about the other dimension, the Ignis and Cyberse, he had to head back. By this time, other Signers must’ve been back, ready to report their sightings and decide the next move. If Earthbound Immortals-like spirits were appearing all over Synchro they had to get Clear Wing and his guardian to safety as soon as possible.

 

“I really appreciate your hospitality. Thank you for telling me your story.” Yusei made the polite bow and his dragon spirit partner did the same “I will likely pay a visit again.”

“Thank you for all the information about the outside world and its history. We will be able to study this dimension much easier now.” Aqua floated right next to Yusei, lightly brushing his cheek as the means of showing gratitude “Whenever you wish to visit, just find Yusaku and Ai and they will show you the way to Cyberse.”

 

The Signer smiled and accompanied by Ai again, he left the Spirit World. Unlike before, Ai was quiet, silently floating next to him in thought.

 

“Are you going back now? Back to your Synchro Kingdom?” Ai asked in a worried tone.

“Yes, I have to return. Others must be worried and we really need to discuss our next move.” Yusei glanced at his Signer Mark “Stardust Dragon has probably recovered enough as well. That thing surely did a number, even on my Savior Dragon form.”

“Before you go… can I ask you for a little favor?” the Ignis asked in a pleading way “It won’t take much of your time, but it will mean a lot.”

 

The little spirit floated to Yusei’s ear and whispered his request.

 

 

The sun was setting down in the scorching desert of Millennium World as two people sat at the balcony of the royal palace. Yuzu was going through some things with Atem, Seth and Jonunchi, so Yugi could catch up with Ryou in peace.

 

The spirit of his friend was kept together only by a spell called Change of Heart, giving him the close resemblance of an angel with a bat and bird wing. Yugi still couldn’t believe that a friend that he thought he lost ten years ago was right here with him.

 

“It is only recently that I’ve fully regained my soul. Before, it was in pieces.” Ryou gazed back to Yuzu “En Flowers kept me with her all this time.”

“How did you find out about memories?” Yugi asked, feeling uneasy at the thought alone.

“We didn’t really, it was more like a gut feeling. Yuzu went looking for any proof to back up her words so that’s the reason why we didn’t visit sooner. She and En Moon were busy with founding the Resistance in Fusion.”

“What about… anyone else…” Yugi muttered so quietly he wasn’t sure if Ryou even heard him.

“No, I was the only one. Everyone else didn’t revive.” the spirit sighed “Ray might had powers to revive the world, but in the end she couldn’t save everyone”

 

Yugi leaned against the bench, thinking about the Dragon War. Was it really ten years ago already? It felt like it was only yesterday when he and Atem would go visit Dragon Nest, playing with Zarc’s Dragons and discussing the Spirit Worlds matters with Ray. Even if the world was revived, many places and people were long lost. Yugi knew well that the past couldn’t be changed, but that didn’t make him miss his friends any less.

 

“Yuzu has found some clues of why the Shadow Realm might be spreading. We are heading to the temple of Legendary Warriors next.” Ryou brought Yugi out of his thinking.

“Oh, do you need Mana to accompany you? I have enough other spirits for support on my missions.”

“I would really appreciate that. It’s been only the two of us and other Ens so far.”

“You know you can count on me!” Yugi smiled as he was about to call for Dark Magician Girl.

 

The female spirit appeared soon enough, more than eager to help out Yugi’s friend. As she and Ryou discussed about which path was the most practical to take, Yugi headed towards Yuzu to see if he could help with anything. En Flower was just in the middle of showing Atem something.

 

And that something made Yugi freeze.

 

It was an aqua colored crystal.

 

 

 “Is everyone here?” Judai asked loudly, to which he got several responses at once.

 

The meeting room was packed this time, with a few additional members of Resistance and their spirit partners. To his right was Johan, who has just returned from his mission in Synchro’s Spirit World. To his left were Manjoume and Asuka, both setting up the scrolls and maps for future missions. Tsukikage was standing by the doors like usual, always on guard and ready to fight if they were suddenly under the attack. Serena looked tense and yet calm enough not to show it. Next to her was the newest addition to the Resistance.

 

Edo, who has been residing in Domino until it was overrun by Rare Hunters, arrived recently, having quite a trouble navigating through the mists around islands in Fusion Kingdom. It sure was difficult to get anywhere if you weren’t an Academia student. According to Serena, every student was put under some sort of a spell that helped them get around. The older students even had an ability to make fog disappear and reveal the hidden areas. This had them protect their hideout even more, setting new concealing spells and more mages on the watch. At first they considered increasing number of the spirits as well, but considering how rare spirits in Fusion were right now, they were much easier to track down.

 

Serena and their other spy, whose identity was still unknown since they would change their appearance all the time, have come across something big and they thought it was necessary to discuss it as soon as possible. This something was currently lying on the table for all to see.

 

A bunch of different colored gems placed in a glass box has been a subject of debate for the past week and now there were finally some answers. With Johan’s help, Asuka managed to break them apart and fully study their contents. She still didn’t have all the answers, but it was enough to connect with everything they had so far.

 

“They are magic and strength enhancers.” Asuka stated “The people who absorb it, gain abilities beyond their state. It is quite dangerous, even from a touch alone.”

“If Leo is using these, he must be forming powerful troops… but for what?” Johan added.

“He has already captured a vast majority of all Fusion spirits…” Edo thought out loud “What else is there that he’d want, besides spirits and elemental dragons?”

“We must remember, his main plan is to create an ultimate utopian world. All types of magic, spirits and humans in one.” Judai asserted while pointing at the map “The Unified Kingdom might’ve worked for long years, but spirit worlds are much too different to coexist. Even if it’s possible, this does not give him a right to interfere with the balance. Even Divine Spirits are only allowed to reshape and change what is their Spirit Worlds, never what’s beyond them.”

 

Edo was a bit taken back by how serious Judai was, though he quickly understood his former rival must’ve been through quite a lot since they last time they’ve met.  

 

“Our spy was very close to finding out, but the answers were locked in a part of Academia that would expose their real identity.” Serena sighed in thought “Hikage came really close, but unfortunately he was caught.”

“My brother managed to send me some of what he found out in his last moments through our special bond.” Tsukikage said, giving the members of Resistance some home “But it is just in bits in pieces. He saw students being experimented on and researchers having them use those gems. I still can’t decipher the reason why though. It is like he tried to tell me, but something prevented him from doing it so.”

“The spy reported hearing about your brother being captured.” En Moon tried to sound comforting.

“He won’t give out anything. It is the way of Fuma clan.” the ninja stated without any emotion.

“We know and yet this still means we will have to hurry up with the mission.” Judai pointed at the map of the Academia “Akaba most likely suspects an ambush or a sneak attack any time now.”

 

The team was left in a thought, thinking what would be the most logical solution before suggesting anything. If the king didn’t expect anything before, now he certainly did. Their other spy was still well hidden in Academia, but with Hikage’s capture it was only a matter of time before they are caught as well. To barge in now, it would be like a suicide mission considering how unprepared and outnumbered they were. But taking it for too long would mean leaving Starve Venom and his guardian to Akaba’s mercy and what’s more, giving the king time to prepare. The members of Resistence were aware of that well and were forced to construct a plan based on the first option, a break in Academia as soon as possible to get the dragon and the guardian.

 

For now it was necessary to at least rescue the main victims of Akaba’s cruel experimentation, who were also his greatest weapon at the moment. With the two of them somewhere much safer, perhaps in XYZ with his brothers and Yusho or even in Synchro with Signers, the next plan would be more definite. Even though Judai still had nightmares from when Leo tortured him, he was that much bent on getting all innocent lives that were ruined under the hand of a messed up king out of Academia.

 

“I might have a plan… but it is incredibly risky.” Edo spoke after the long minutes of silence “Should it work, we would have a great advantage in proceeding to free not only the dragon and his guardian, but all Academia deserters locked in the dungeons.”

“And what if it fails?” Judai asked right away.

 

Edo felt nervous with so many pairs of eyes pointed at him, so it was rather hard for him to say the next sentence.”

 

“We lose the spy.”

 

 

 

 

 Yusei walked through several rows of underground tunnels again and by now he was pretty sure he knew the way. The pathways might’ve looked like a maze, though with Ai’s guidance they weren’t hard to memorize at all. Unlike before, they were headed somewhere higher. To the top of one of the main mountains of the Link Kingdom to be precise. Like the Ai said, that’s where they found Yusaku, sitting at the entrance of the cave, with his feet dangling over the edge of the cliff. The boy was going through an old book that looked like an ordinary wear-and-tear, but Yusaku held it with utmost of care when turning the pages.

 

The Head Signer was rather worried about approaching the boy now. Not only were the images of him as a six-year-old child being tortured still so real in his mind, but he now understood all of his gestures that he portrayed before. From the way he tried to act tough, to how he continued to ask him the same questions and how his voice simply broke when being asked if he was alone. A part of Yusei just wanted to take this child to Synchro where he could be taken care of by much more experienced people and get to live in a peaceful environment.

 

Yet still, an entirely different crisis was on the rise at the moment and by this point, not even Synchro appeared to be safe for someone like Yusaku. For him to keep believing to be in some sort of a video game, Ai asked him to play the part too.

 

“Act as… NPC? What even is that?”

“It is a part of a video game, a Non-Playable Character. Their purpose in the game is to help the main player or play a part in the quests.” Ai nodded, showing a tiny projection of a game where the playable character was talking with another non-playable character “I strongly believe Yusaku thinks you’re from his home dimension and he will continue to ask you questions you cannot answer. So by acting like NPC, you can still interact with him without breaking the rules of the game.”

“So… what exactly do I need to do?”

“NPCs can be like mentors of the main player. That’s why I call him Playmaker – it is the name of him as a main player. Since you can merge with your dragon spirit, you’re perfect for teaching him about it!” Ai floated around in joy “I know that you’re in the hurry, but it is really important that Yusaku learns this as soon as possible.”

“Why the haste?”

“It’s because of Knights of Hanoi.”

 

Yusei blinked in puzzlement, having heard this name before from Ai. In fact, the Ignis acknowledged him as this Knight of Hanoi before, so he was curious just who they were.

 

“It started happening a couple of years ago. Before, the main islands was empty, safe for the animals and rogue spirits, so Yusaku could freely explore everything. Of course, I was always with him along with Cyberse spirits in case something would happen to him, since he is much more vulnerable outside Cyberse World. Then those Knights of Hanoi started appearing. From what you’ve told us about Rare Hunters, they kind of appear to be like them. Solid beings, but drawn to the spirits and mindlessly wandering through the human world. Yusaku did manage to fight some of them off, but it is still dangerous. With your help he could learn how to fight them better.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

 

From what Ignis said, the Firewall Dragon just sort of appeared with a help of something called Data Storm. The moment when Yusaku and the spirit joined together was apparently just as random like when it appeared for the first time.  Yusei still didn’t understand why Ignis were so hell-bent on keep making Yusaku believe that he was in a video game, despite the boy being old enough to know the truth. One side of him understood that this made-up world prevented him from the pain of his past and yet at the same time, it wasn’t really a solution but an escape. Still, this was something that needed time to be unveiled, so for now, he was willing to play along if that meant helping Yusaku control his new powers.

 

“So, you’ve seen Cyberse World…” Yusaku said while closing the book.

“Indeed I did and I was wondering if you might have any other questions.” Yusei smiled in a friendly way.

 

Ai’s idea of Yusei’s NPC was that Yusei was some sort of guide from a different part of a game. His role was to meet up with Yusaku, who was the main character, and show him around the Link Kingdom. As a thank you, the NPC then teaches him some new abilities and gives him new quests to complete until the next time he comes to visit. With that he would supposedly unlock and new level and be able to fly further in his dragon form.

 

 

“As a matter of fact I do. I didn’t get to ask you my other two questions, after all.” Yusaku put down the book and wrapped himself up in the rags more “How can you transform into a dragon?”

“Technically, I don’t turn into a dragon, I just let a spirit of a dragon to possess my body. Spirits cannot exist outside their Spirit Worlds, so the only way for them to become solid is through mages and Spirit Vessels.  If you want to join with your Firewall Dragon, you have to call after its presence and only when your bond is established enough, can the two of you become one.”

“So that’s why…” Yusaku stared down the island of Link Kingdom in thought “I’ve used its help many times on the quests. It must’ve filled up the bond gauge and leveled up our partnership.”

“So whenever you wish to merge with your spirit partner, you have to let it know.” Yusei called upon his Stardust Dragon in its spirit form to make an example “Do you think you could do it right now?”

Yusaku blinked at the suddenness, but did it anyway. He closed his eyes, focusing his thoughts into invisible controls until he started seeing tiny pieces of sparkling dust floating towards him. Slowly they began to form the dragon, first its body, then its limbs and lastly its head. The spirit roared, spreading its wings and leaned its massive head towards its partner.

“You did it great. Now this might be a bit tricky.” Yusei unrolled his sleeve to expose his Signer Mark “Your mark might be invisible, but it is still there. You have to clear your mind, forget everything that you’re seeing and just focus on your dragon. Let the power of your bond connect you both.”

The boy was rather confused at how precise those rules were. Usually he would get a pop-up message with necessary information or a spirit showing him what needs to be done. This time it felt way more real, unlike the same series of quests for years. Yusaku took a deep breath and focused on the imaginary command board in his head. It was how he usually did it when magic needed to be used. It really was just video game and the more levels he unlocks, more clues he will find to get back home.

When this man Yusei appeared, Yusaku was really hopeful that another player was trapped here as well and could help him get back home. It wasn’t that he hated this video game, but being here for such a long time with nothing from his home and having a bunch of spirits for a company was starting to annoy him. By now he barely remembered how he even got here, he just knew he had to beat the game. Unfortunately, Yusei turned out to be just another NPC, acting as a guide which became rather obvious when he had no idea what VRAINS, AIs or other similar things were. Still, he was the first human NPC that he met here, so he was willing to learn whatever he would teach him.

Just like Yusei told him, he made his mind blank and thought about nothing but Firewall Dragon. He could hear it roar and the inner network connecting them together. It was exactly like the first time they’ve joined together, but this time it felt different, like he wasn’t simply taking a form of a dragon. No, the dragon and him were turning together, becoming one being.

“Can you hear me?”

Yusaku flinched at the voice in his head, though he calmed down once he realized it was Yusei, now in his dragon form as well.

“It is easier for us to talk this way. You can answer me back the same way.”

“Like this?”  the boy was surprised by his own ability.

“Yes, now I know that you’re a pretty solid flyer, but let’s just fly around for me to see if there’s anything for improvement.”

The boy underneath Firewall Dragon’s skin nodded and off they went. Ai rather stayed behind, summoning a little Kuriboh-looking spirit on which he lay while the two dragons soared through the skies. Before, Yusaku cared only about completing the quests and surviving. He might’ve taken some time off sometimes to read or hang out with spirits in Cyberse, but just flying around like this? Clearly this was a tutorial and yet it was the best darn tutorial he had so far.

“I will have to leave soon, but I promise you to come back for a visit. Could you complete a few tasks until the next time I come back?” Yusei said after flying for a bit “I left the list with all of the quests and missions with Ai.”

“Alright… but Yusei, can you answer one more question?”

“I will do my best to.”

“Can you give me more information of what lies beyond the point where I met you?”

The huge form of Stardust Dragon pulled a smile and nudged for them to land on another mountain hill close by. Same how he led him to merge with the dragon, he also taught him how to do the same in reverse. Yusaku was surprised just how simple it was. Back then where they met for the first time, Yusaku really struggled to become human again, no matter how simple it looked. This time it was like simply taking his clothes off.

Yusei took a seat on the nearby rock and so did Yusaku, observing the Signer drawing the map on the dirt.

“Like I’ve told you, the place we are at is called Link Kingdom. There are four more major kingdoms. I come from the one called Synchro…”

Yusaku’s eyes followed every drawn line, each of them shaping a huge world constructed of many big islands, lands, mountains, forests and plains. Every time Yusei drew a new city or area, a short story about it followed. After years of exploring Link Kingdom, Yusaku felt like his world was tiny when it was in fact bigger from anything that he could imagine. So many levels to be unlocked before he can go back home.

“Why do you want to go home?” Yusei asked him like he was reading his mind.

“It is obvious, this is a game and I don’t belong here. It’s something that NPCs probably don’t understand, you’re part of this world after all.” Yusaku muttered.

The Signer continued with the descriptions of the world, knowing that the boy was still too deep in this thought to make him understand. Someday, Yusei told himself, someday I will take him to see this world and I will find a way to get him back to his own world.

Unbeknown to them, someone else was watching Yusei’s little presentation of the world from afar, through orange glass of the visor on the knight-like helmet he was wearing…

 

 

“We are here again!” Yuya excitedly ran through the grass field of their dream world with Yuto “I can’t wait to show Yugo and Yuri what I can do!”

Yuya kept his human form on, along with dragon tail and horns. Before he had trouble keeping his balance up since his tail was so massive. Thanks to Reiji’s training, he no longer had any problems and on top of that he knew how to use his fire magic properly.

“Yuya!” called a voice from above.

Like a swift, the second youngest hatchling, drifted down with incredible speed and he stopped just a few inches from the ground. Yugo was in his human form as well, safe for the wings and the tail. Yuya didn’t know if it’s been this long since they’ve seen each other last or did his brother’s wings actually doubled in size. They were huge and yet they were shining in radiant light of the afternoon sun.

“This was amazing!” Yuya clapped, still astonished from the trick Yugo pulled.

“Isn’t it!” the wind dragon said just as excitedly “I’ve had a really good teacher!”

“Your guardian?” Yuto asked.

“Nope, a seagull!” Yugo laughed “It was the most badass seagull I’ve ever met!”

Yuya started to laugh, thinking his brother was joking, but once Yugo went into details, he realized he wasn’t. Yugo went on and on, how he and Rin met this seagull who taught them so many things until he simply took it in the air and showed it. The fire dragon was literally blown away by so many acrobatics and even wanted to try it himself, when he remembered he didn’t have wings. Still, Yuya had his own set of tricks to show, combining his own magic and imitating Yusho’s performing magic. Even though fire and wind magic aren’t supposed to go together, the way Yuya and Yugo were combining it looked like a perfect synthesis.

Yuto couldn’t even get to say anything from how much his two siblings had to say. He kind of felt left out, but he was still happy to see them spend time together. It sure has been a while since they met like this, so they should enjoy this time as much as possible as brothers. Speaking of brothers, where was Yuri again? The last time, Yuya said that Yuri was too tired to join the play, so Yuya kept him company.

There was only one place that Yuri found secretive enough to rest there while the rest of them played. Yuya did blurt out how to get there a few times, but that was about it. Knowing that peace and quiet was something that the second oldest hatchling preferred, Yuto respected that and never forced him to go hang out with them, even though their time here was limited and precious considering how far apart they were at the moment.

Still, it’s been a while since he has seen him and he just wanted to check on him in order to see if he was alright. He left Yuya and Yugo to play with their combined magic styles which kept them busy enough not to notice him flying away. Using his newly learnt partial transformation, Yuto spread his Dark Rebellion wings and headed towards the woods. It was just like Yuya described it. Dense woods and thorny bushes made it difficult to even come close to it and for some reason this area felt cold, despite being a place in his dream world. It didn’t look anything like Yuri’s flower garden, place where they met him the first time they came to his world. There were no flowers there, only plants that could get you hurt if you weren’t careful enough. As much as he knew about Yuri’s fascination of carnivorous plants, this place just didn’t feel like him and yet his gut feeling was telling him, he was here.

And he was.

Sitting on a thick branch of a tree like it was a deckchair, Yuri was staring somewhere in the vastness of the woods while fiddling with the thorny vines tangled around the tree. So Yuri got to learn how to control his powers as well, Yuto thought even though he has seen his brother make flowers open up for Yuya, who was curious of how they looked like when in full bloom. Unlike then, Yuri was actually making the vines move like snakes, wrapping around the tree like he was trying to choke a life out of it. His clothes appeared to be different too since he didn’t wear his red or purple Academia uniform but white slacks and a shirt that was obvious too big for him.

His wrists and bare ankles looked lankier than the last time he saw him which were an obvious sign something was wrong before he even saw all the bruisers, cuts and needle marks. He had his own suspicions and this ultimately confirmed it.

“So you decided to show up.” Yuri said without facing him “That’s lovely.”

“We don’t know when it will be the next time we meet. We should spend as much time as we can together.” Yuto replied simply.

“That I know, but I’m not in the mood.” the plant dragon clenched his fist, making the vines untangle from the tree “You three have fun.”

“Yuya and Yugo miss you.”

“Do they? They sound perfectly fine without me.”

“Yuri… don’t be like that.” Yuto flew up the tree and sat down next to his brother “I know you don’t mean it and if there’s anything you’d like to talk about, I’m here.

“Can’t stop acting like a knight, can you?”

“I’m your brother and it’s the duty of the oldest brother to take care of all younger siblings.”

For a second, Yuri released all the vines and they flopped to the floor like their life just got sucked out of them. Whatever made him do that was a clear sign that the plant dragon lost some of the control or was so deep in thought that he couldn’t focus.

“Yuya told you, didn’t he?” the plant dragon muttered with a slightly angry look down.

“He didn’t, he always just say that you were tired or that you wanted to spend more time with him.”

“Then how did you find out?”

“I overheard my guardian talking to his teacher. At first I didn’t understand what was going on, but soon enough I figured it.” Yuto reached for Yuri’s heavily bruised and bloodied hand “Yuri… what are they doing to you and your guardian there?”

“Wish I would know…” the other sibling sighed as he looked away from his brother “It is so random that I can’t even understand what is going on. They make me eat so many weird things and then make me fight, then they prick me with needles and make me fight so more. They even took Dennis away and tried to get rid of him. I hate it.”

Yuto didn’t know what he was supposed to say. The three of them lived such care-free lives with their guardians that he couldn’t even imagine what Yuri was going through. He was hurt and his guardian couldn’t be with him. To think he could be in his place and be separated from Shun like this was outright horrifying. Just who could be this cruel to hit and experiment on a child and take his only source of comfort away. It was just unimaginable.

So he did the only thing he could.

He embraced Yuri as tight as he could, even though he made his brother flinch noticeably. Still he didn’t want to let go. He wanted to comfort him as much as he could, for all the times when he couldn’t be there for him even though he was supposed to. Yuri tried to push away his hands away at first, but soon he gave up, accepting his brother’s loving touch. Yuri didn’t say anything and Yuto didn’t either. They didn’t need words at the moment, just the feeling and the comfort behind it.

Yuri felt like Yuya was there with him again, only this time, it was a different type of warmth. What he was feeling wasn’t the naïve wishing-well positivity that he would get from Yuya or Dennis. No… what Yuto gave him was strength and courage to let him know he wasn’t alone and that even if they are far away, his brothers are there with him. Even though Yuto was the oldest and had all the right to baby him as his little sibling that’s just something that the lightning dragon didn’t do. He understood his inner turmoil of not wanting to share his misery with others and silently he could read the words behind his actions.

“It’s alright, I know you’re in pain. I know you don’t want to look weak. I know you want to be strong for your brothers. I just want to let you know that you don’t need to hide those feelings from me. I won’t question them and I will certainly keep them with me.”

Yuto has certainly changed since the last time they met, becoming much more mature compared to the fact that he was his age. He sounded so wise, just like someone else he knew but has long forgotten who it was.

“Don’t be afraid to be who you truly are.”

Yuri blinked in confusion, since those weren’t Yuto’s words, but from someone else. A person whose voice echoed through the woods. The lightning dragon didn’t acknowledge it as he simply kept his arms around his brother and didn’t react distinctively to it. To whom did that voice belong to? It sounded familiar and yet so far away from everything he had ever known.

But it didn’t matter. If someone else was there for him as well, it was that much better.

 

Yuri’s eyes opened abruptly, met by the same dark ceiling of his prison cell as always. The dream was over and he couldn’t fall back asleep, no matter how he tried. He really wanted to go back to the tree, to his garden, to his brothers. But he was way too awake to go back now and had to accept the fact that he didn’t manage to spend more time with his other brothers besides Yuto.

“You’re awake!” a familiar voice was heard when a certain orange haired head turned away from the study desk “I was so worried they put you out for a while.”

Out? Right, he was still under that paralysis drug. He could move some of his limbs to a certain degree, but he surely couldn’t stand up or walk. Those bastards surely didn’t want to risk anything with the latest experiment that they performed on him.

“Are you okay? They better didn’t do anything to you.” Yuri’s eyebrows narrowed “Next time I’ll kill them if they even try to take you away.”

“Yuri chill! It was a normal checkup, they didn’t even inject me with anything. I only had to drink that thing that makes me sleepy. Other than that they didn’t do anything.” Dennis tried to calm him down.

This still didn’t ease Yuri’s grip on the blanket. Even if Dennis was unharmed and his usual cheerful self, the researches still crossed the line when the two of them got separated. Not only was it cruel to keep two people with such an important bond apart, it drove Yuri physically insane. He didn’t know how much longer he can keep his increasingly uncontrollable rage back before he snaps even on Dennis. He didn’t want that and yet it was most possibly something that Akaba had in store for him. Make him get rid of a guardian that was considered “unfit” and “weak”, only to be replaced by a new perfect guardian.

No, if they even dare to harm Dennis, he’ll show them just how angry can Starve Venom get.

 

“Hey, do you want to read a book with me?” Dennis interrupted Yuri’s murderous train of thought “I was allowed to library for once and I found this textbook!”

“Ritual magic?” Yuri blinked at the title.

“Yeah, it is a magic that is commonly used in Pendulum and in Fusion. At first, I thought someone forgot it since it was lying on the ground, but I figured it probably fell off the shelf since they are so packed. “

“Sounds interesting enough.”

 

Dennis happily jumped on the bed with the book and once he placed the pillows so Yuri’s paralyzed body was still comfortable enough, they began to read together. Yuri on that matter listened more since he was still not that used to reading more than a few lines. His guardian read out loud patiently and slowly so his ward got to learn how to read. Unlike him, Yuri wasn’t required to attend classes, only training sessions.

 

“So the only difference between Fusion and Ritual magic is that the two spirits don’t merge together but are sent to the Spirit World and a stronger spirit replaces them?” Yuri repeated what was read to him.

“Apparently, yeah.”

“But this is so unpractical, what if-“the plant dragon reached for a page to see it better, but just then, two things happened at once.

First, Dennis’ dragon mark began to glow and then Yuri’s eyes turned yellow. The two of them freaked out a bit, but then they saw something glowing at the last page. Dennis curiously flipped the pages until he reached the part that certainly wasn’t there before. It was written by shining, gold ink that glowed just as intensely as Guardian Mark.

 

We are your friends.

We know you are prisoners here.

We will come to rescue you.  

In exactly three days, you will get further instructions of the escape plan.

Those messages can only be read when the two of you are together.

Do not tell anyone about this.

Hold still for a bit longer, we will get you out of there soon.

Resistance

 

Dennis and Yuri released the book at once and the message disappeared and reappeared when they touched it again. Was this really happening? Someone outside Academia was willing to get them out? Dennis heard the name Resistance only once and that was when he was met with Yuri’s past reincarnation. Were the senders of this letter the members of Resistance? Whoever set the book for them really thought of everything and if at least one part of it was true, the rest was likely to be true too.

They just hoped the word soon really meant soon.