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The Dragon Chronicle

Chapter Text

“Come on Makoto! It'll be fun!” Ryou's voice whined into his headphones. Makoto exhaled through his nose as he blew up another bubble of the gum he was chewing on. It popped with a light snapping sound, and he began to chew on it once more, its flavor already gone by this point. Three monitors were pointed at him, and were the only source of light in his apartment. It was a little bit pass midnight now, and Makoto was growing a bit tired. He lounged back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest with his legs propped up on one of the towers below his desk. His emerald green eyes flicked between the screens, and he adjusted his red framed glasses, pushing them back up the bridge of his nose.

“I don't know, Ryou. I'm not as much of a fan of gaming as you are.” Makoto commented, and put his elbow onto the handle bar of his chair to rest his cheek on his knuckles. Swiping to the right with his other hand, a small light flickered on the band he wore around his wrist, and the monitor directly in front of Makoto shifted through the news. Reports of global warming were mentioned, as well as an increasing amount of people growing sick with Dragon Sickness. The recent disappearance of the Caribbean plate was plastered all over the news; several reporters popping up to speak about it on his screen. Makoto hit a key to silence them. He didn't need to hear anymore about it; everyone already knew about it, and no one knew as to why it was happening. It was showing signs of slowly sinking into the ocean several years ago, before just collapsing within it. It was highly concerning, but worrying about it at this moment would do nothing for him. Blowing up and popping another bubble of his gum, Makoto held back the urge to roll his eyes when he heard Ryou sigh dramatically.

“Dude, come onnnnnnn!” Ryou whined once more, and Makoto eyes flickered back over to the monitor to his right. Ryou's face was on it, and he could see that he was sitting in the dark in his studio apartment; the lights of his monitor showcasing his face with his turn tables in the background turned off for once. His sandy colored hair was a shade lighter in the lighting, and his sapphire eyes were pleading as he looked directly at him. Ryou's fingers were laced together. “Pleaseeee?”

Makoto ran a hand through his dark, cherry red hair - which was cut short and barely reached the nape of his neck - and groaned. Ryou had been trying to convince him for weeks to go to play 7th Encount with him, when they didn't even have tickets to get in. He even tried to convince Makoto more than once to hack into their systems to get a pair of tickets, but that wasn't something he would do. He'd only enter a system to gain any information that his agency wanted him to get – not to get some personal want of his own or his friends. Also, Noden Enterprises were well known overseas and were probably almost impossible to get into. He didn't want to land in legal trouble over that, but it's a surprise he has not gotten into trouble with anyone over what he does for a living. Handing over the information to show companies how to improve their security after taking what he needed was what probably kept them off his back, but this was one company he didn't want to risk getting into.

“Fine. We can go to them tomorrow to check it out.” Makoto said, giving in to Ryou's demands. Ryou whooped in excitement in his headset, and Makoto rolled his eyes. Ryou got excited over everything, much to his chagrin at times.

"Thank you Makoto! Thank you, thank you-” Ryou repeated, spinning in his chair until he fell out of it, the crashing of his chair against the tile floor clattering in Makoto's headset. He snickered as Ryou tried to right himself after falling, pushing his chair back onto its legs, and latching onto the arm rests of his chair with one hand and his desk with the other. He shot up from where he landed, and Makoto watched as he rushed away from his desk, still jabbering to him about how they'd get there tomorrow for a couple of minutes before he went silent. Turning up the volume on some music he had playing in the background of their call, Makoto waited patiently for Ryou to return, still chewing on his gum. Ryou was known for crawling into bed and fall asleep in the middle of a call with Makoto, especially after working at a late night gig. It never bothered him, although Ryou's snoring was a bit too loud at times.

Flipping through a few more panels of the news, Makoto heard some shuffling from his call with Ryou. “You okay over there?” He inquired, and looked over at the monitor. Ryou was still no where to be found in the space he could see, and it sounded like he was under his bed covers. The sound of blankets rustling was starting to get a bit loud, and Makoto turned down the volume from the call. A quick glance over at the monitor directly to his left showed that his work was still progressing, slowly but surely. He would need to send out the information before he left his apartment tomorrow.

The agency Makoto was working for wanted him to get information from the ISDF. He had denied it at first, until they said it wasn't any top secret information. Something about the Dragon Calamity of 2020 and 2021. He didn't bother to read through what he grabbed too much; he had already knew a good amount about it after taking several history classes on the side during his time in college, and he had to wait to grab someone's log in that had authority to look at the files with a key logger to grab the documents. It was a bit too simple, but Makoto made decent money off of it, so it worked.

The sound of low mumbling brought his attention back to Ryou's monitor, and he turned up the volume on it. “What? I didn't hear you.” Makoto questioned, and he heard as Ryou let a content sigh.

“Thanks for agreeing to come with me. I didn't want to just show up there by myself.” Ryou popped back up into view, and flopped down into his chair, holding his phone in his hands with his blanket wrapped around his shoulders. “I am just a bit sad that I have to call out of work tomorrow.” Ryou mentioned, and Makoto huffed.

“We could of waited.” Makoto stated, pulling up his feet to the edge of his desk, and pushing off of it to whirl over to his trash can. Ryou had mentioned that he had this gig planned out several weeks ago that would of raked in a good amount of cash, and to call it off over a game frustrated Makoto a bit. But, it was Ryou that was losing money over it, not him. Placing his feet on the ground to stop beside the can, he spat out his gum and rolled his way back over to his desk. Ryou was still tapping away on his phone, his tongue sticking out slightly as he did so.

“And done. I think my boss will understand.” Ryou stated cheerfully, and he looked back at Makoto, his lips pursed into a straight line. Makoto rested his chin in the palm of his hand, resting his elbow against his desk.

“Are you done working yet? It's pretty late you know.” Ryou asked as he glanced at the clock, and Makoto shrugged at him. It had just turned two in the morning. He was a bit tired, but he had to stay up to finish his work.

“I didn't have the time to figure out how big the files were, so I'm not sure how much longer it will take.” The progress bar sat a little over half way done, and Makoto had been running it for about two hours now. Ryou yawned loudly into the palm of his hand, lounging as far back as his chair would let him. Makoto's eyes flicked back onto him.

“Go to sleep if you're tired, Ryou. You don't need to stay up with me.” Makoto advised, flipping through a couple more articles. His phone vibrated on his desk, and Makoto sat up straight in his seat to reach over and grab it. One quick glance at the screen told him it was his father, and he lightly tossed it back onto his desk. The plastic clattered against the wood, and continued to vibrate as it settled. His father could wait until Makoto felt the need to reply. Ryou straightened and shook his head at him in disagreement, leaning his forearms against his desk.

“No, no! I want to make sure you actually sleep today. You're notorious for not sleeping for days on end.” Ryou pouted.

“All part of my job sometimes.” Makoto replied dully, before he whirled around in his chair a few times out of boredom. The blanket underneath him caused him to slip out of it just as Ryou had done, and he was barely able to stop himself from falling completely down by placing his hands on the edge of his desk. Ryou let out a booming laugh at him.

"That's karma for laughing at me earlier!" Ryou said, and Makoto had opened his mouth to reply with some smart ass comment as he climbed back into his seat, when the monitor with the information on the Dragon Calamity pinged that it was done. With a slight grin came upon his lips, Makoto pulled up the file on the monitor in front of him, looking it over briefly. Ryou cocked his head to the side, trying to read it off of his glasses. Makoto blocked his lens from view by placing a hand on the webcam that was positioned over his monitor that Ryou could see him from, and he heard as Ryou let out a disappointed huff. He was a bit too nosy for his own good sometimes.

Satisfied, he popped the documents back into their encrypted folder, and shipped it off to his agency. Who knows what they wanted to do with it, but that wasn't really his business. He was getting paid and wasn't getting caught for going through files, and that's what mattered to him. He wouldn't say he was greedy, but to survive these days sometimes called for taking a few risks. Ryou yawned once again, a little less loudly this time, into his palm once more.

“Just go to bed. I'll meet you at the station by nine am tomorrow.” Makoto told Ryou, who nodded.

"Yeah, yeah. See you tomorrow Makoto!” Ryou replied happily, and the voice chat cut off, the static of it turning off ringing in Makoto's ears. He let out a sigh, and his phone rumbled on his desk once more. Plucking it off his desk, he slid his thumb up on the screen to see that his dad had sent him a couple of messages after Makoto ignored his call.

'Break into my files again, and I will trace you to your new apartment.' Shit. Well, there wasn't anything he could do now about that, Makoto thought to himself. He knew that he had everything set up correctly and it was all working to par, but he'd have to check to make sure before he went to bed tonight. Least he didn't have to grab anything important. Another text message came in, again from his father.

'Also, pick your battles carefully. I only noticed you because I know how your set ups work. You're lucky it was only about the Dragon Calamity of 2020 and 2021, or one of us would've had to hunt you down.' Makoto rolled his eyes. One more text came in, shorter than the rest.

'I love you my son. Stay safe.'

Chapter Text

Makoto woke up with a jolt to someone bashing their fists repeatedly on his front door. The wooden door shook slightly with the force, and his door knob jingled each time a fist knocked against the panels of the door. His phone was ringing and vibrating next to his head, and how he didn't wake up to the annoying ringtone, he'll never know. Picking up his head to read his phone, Makoto saw that Ryou was calling him, and he hummed, contemplating if he really wanted to answer the call since it was probably Ryou practically bashing his door in. 'What's the worse that could happen?' Makoto thought to himself as he accepted the call with a swipe of his finger across the screen before putting his phone to his ear.

“Morning.” Makoto said groggily into the mic, and he could hear Ryou shouting from where he was standing outside of Makoto's apartment.

“Get the hell up! You said you'd be up, ready, and at the train station at nine am, and it's friggin' ten thirty!” Ryou all but screamed into his phone. Makoto held it away from his ear and waited for Ryou to finish his rant, before placing it back. Makoto rolled over to lay on his back to stare at the white ceiling of his apartment.

“I'll let you in a moment.” He replied, before ending the call and dropping his phone onto his bed. Ryou groaned loudly from his door, and Makoto rolled out of bed with his warm blanket wrapped around his body to let Ryou in.

Ryou was fuming when he opened the door, and Makoto bit on his lower lip to hold in a laugh. “I don't get why you're so angry about this.” Makoto snickered as Ryou stomped past him, throwing himself down into the chair that sat in front of Makoto's computers. Ryou rolled his eyes at him as Makoto dragged his feet back to bed, before huffing indigently at him as he face planted onto the plushness of his bed once more.

“You. You are the reason why I'm so angry over this.” Ryou groaned, and swiveled around in his chair to face Makoto's monitors. He had turned off all of his monitors the night prior, but had left one of his computers running a couple of hours ago when he went to bed, and Ryou reached over to turn the monitor that was connected to it on. He rolled over onto his side, and curled up in a ball under his warm blankets to watch Ryou with blearily eyes. Makoto could barely see without his glasses on; Ryou was just a blur of his sandy colored hair and his black jacket blending into it. It was the same jacket Ryou wore during the fall and winter months, ever since he picked it up at some pawn shop when they were seventeen. The orange and black checkerboard fabric that lined the inside made Makoto think it was a gaudy, but Ryou was smitten with it the moment his eyes laid upon it.

Makoto saw Ryou swivel around and get out of the chair to approach him, his arms stretched out and fingers curled slightly as he tiptoed over. He yawned into his blanket, and was barely opening his eyes before Ryou pounced on him. Makoto whined in protest, his bed squeaking as Ryou's knees collided with the mattress on both sides of him, the sudden intrusion bothering him. Ryou laughed as he hovered over him, sitting himself down onto Makoto's hip, cushioned by his thick comforter. Makoto glared at him with a pout on his lips.

“If you even think about tickling me, I'll throw you out of here in a blink of an eye.” Makoto hissed at Ryou, who blew a raspberry at him. Pulling up his blanket to avoid any spittle that may come his way, Makoto huffed, blowing his fringe out his eyes.

“You'd think I'd do that to you after last time?” Ryou said with a smirk, leaning over to eye Makoto mischievously. “When it turned into rough housing and one of us almost ended going out your window?” He prodded Makoto with a finger into his ribs, who just chuckled nervously.

“I don't know what you're referring to.” He claimed, and he felt Ryou slide off of his hip while laughing. Swinging his legs over the end of the bed so he could stand up, Ryou glanced back at Makoto's monitor to check the time before looking back at him, whose eyes fluttered shut as he rested against his bed.

“Seriously though, we need to get going. It's almost eleven now.” Ryou stated with his hands on his hips and a frown on his lips. Makoto groaned as he wiggled out of his warm cocoon, rubbing at his eyes as he pushed himself out of his bed in his boxers. If they were still young teenagers, this would of embarrassed both of them, but after being close friends for almost a decade, they grew use to being in each others space. Ryou had lived with him for a couple of years when they were in high school together due to some circumstances, and they grew use to being around each other. They were about the same age as well - Ryou had turned twenty three during August, and Makoto was only twenty two – since his birthday fell a couple of days before December ended. They met when they were both thirteen, but didn't actually become friends until Ryou had stumbled upon Makoto practicing his gymnastic skills after classes one day in the gymnasium a year later, when Ryou was just looking for an area to go for empty space to jog in practice for his cross country meets. Ryou gasping out in awe had caused Makoto to falter and fall off of the horse pommel he was practicing on, which ended up in Makoto reassuring Ryou that he was fine, and no, Ryou did not cause him to hurt himself.

Rummaging around in his dresser drawers next to his bed, Makoto pulled out a few things to wear and headed towards his bathroom to shower and get ready. The seasons had began to change and fall was here, which meant that Makoto stayed in bed longer than he should, and Ryou would run laps around him when they were outside. He was probably the only person Makoto knew that actually loved the cold seasons, and would drag him outside just to experience them – dragging him out to go ice skating in downtown Tokyo at a small ice rink, or to go out for hot drinks when they both had a day off of work. Although Makoto disliked the cold, Ryou's company made up for it.

Finally showered and dressed in a warm sweater and jeans, Makoto opened the door to leave the bathroom. Looking over the top of his glasses, which were fogged over from him moving away from the moisture of the bathroom and into his chilly apartment, Makoto saw that Ryou was fooling around on his computer. Rubbing his hair dry with his towel and letting it rest around his shoulders, he wandered over to Ryou, whose brow was furrowed as he read the headlines of the news. Makoto looked over his shoulder to read the headline that the cursor sat on. 'More cases of Dragon Sickness reported; public concerned if it is beginning to become contagious.' Ryou sighed, scrolling downward to only find more articles like the previous.

“Media's trying to psyche everyone up again.” Ryou commented with a frown, as he continued to skim over the news headlines. Makoto nodded once in agreement, and watched absentmindedly as Ryou flipped through a few more, before he twirled around in his chair. Ryou's frown twisted into a smile at seeing that Makoto was mostly ready to go, and he shut off Makoto's monitor before grabbing his wrist. Makoto yelped as Ryou pulling him in the direction of the door.

“Let's gooooo!” Ryou said excitedly, and Makoto grumbled, tossing his towel in the direction of his bed and grabbing his winter coat off of the hook it hung on with one hand by the door.

“I didn't even get to fix my hair...” Makoto mumbled, and Ryou let out an amused chuckle.

“It's always a mess anyway, so come on. Get your shoes on and let's go!” Makoto huffed, but a small smile rested on his lips as Ryou dragged him outside and into the cool afternoon.

__________________________________________________________________

Makoto grumbled as he slouched forward on the train seat. Ryou was talking next to him, ranting and raving about 7th Encount and the stories he has read online about it; how good it was and how people claimed it was really realistic in terms of graphics. With his head in his one hand and a hot coffee in the other, Makoto just nodded at him when necessary, trying to avoid the urge to dump his coffee on Ryou. It would have been a waste of perfectly good coffee anyway, and was curbing off the headache that was starting to form behind his eyes. The train rumbled on the tracks as they sped towards their destination. The Vermilion Tower started to come into view; its spiraling beams twisting upwards towards the sky. Ryou was beaming as he looked out the windows, his eyes darting back and forth as he searched for the Nodens building as they were slowly getting closer towards the station. Makoto had not seen him this excited over a game in quite a long time, and the excitement would of been infectious if he was feeling a bit better.

The train squealed to a stop, the intercom overhead stating that they had arrived in the business district. Ryou and Makoto stood up, navigating through the horde of business men and women that were heading back to work after their lunch breaks. He and Ryou had left his apartment around half past noon, and it was now quarter after one, which was a lot later than the original time they had planned to be here. Ryou complained once or twice at Makoto over it, and snickered at him when Makoto glared at him. He'd only gotten a couple of hours or sleep anyway, and was rudely awakening by Ryou pounding on his door. They boarded off of the train, and Ryou directing them towards the busy business district, as hundreds of people bustled beside them. Makoto took several sips from his coffee as Ryou chit chatted with him as they walked towards Nodens, the company that ran 7th Encount. Makoto spaced out after a while as Ryou jabbered on and on; he didn't know much about them other than the fact that they were a gaming company that was well known now, especially since 7th Encount had sky rocketed in popularity in the gaming industry recently for its virtual reality aspects and battle system. Makoto was interested in how it worked, while Ryou wanted to play it to write a review about it later on his blog and experience it for himself after reading through hundreds of reviews for it.

Ryou tugged on the sleeve of Makoto's jacket, pulling him from his thoughts, and pointed at a very tall building in front of them. It was covered in tinted glass panes, and the words '7th Encount' were lit up in a neon green color above the entrance way to it. Several buildings surrounding it; four that were attached by hallways connecting the sets of buildings together, and the above those were two large, upside down triangle shaped buildings, with the words Noden Enterprises plastered above it. Ryou was beaming at him, and Makoto looked a bit fazed at the building. It was an odd design, but it stuck out from the rest of the plain, tall skyscrapers lined up beside it.

“Come on! Let's go up to the front. I think that doll there is directing people in.” Ryou said, and trotted off with Makoto in tow. The buzzing of people talking around them filled the air, and most of them were speaking about the game. Some commented on how life like it was, while others were talking about how they wanted to go up another level next time they played. A few were talking about different rumors of it in hushed tones, mentioning that Nodens opened the game up to search for players who got high scores for some kind of task. Makoto adjusted his crimson colored scarf slightly and went up the stairs with Ryou.

A girl with long, green hair that flowed down her back with a pair of pigtails resting on the sides of her head stood in front of them, the ends of her white, pleated dress moving slightly from the breeze that passed through the area. She wasn't shivering in the slight breeze that blew by them; a pair of leggings that ended at her knees keeping her warm. A pair of ankle boots rested on her feet. She was muttering to herself, and Ryou lightly tapped her on her shoulder, which caused her to flinch in surprise. She gasped and wheeled around to face them in shock, her large green eyes wide.

“O-oh!” She stuttered. “Am I in your way?” Ryou shook his head at her, smiling down at her. Ryou towered over her. He did look a bit intimating because of his height and people would detour away from him, but his soft smile usually brought them back.

“Somewhat, but it's fine. Can we pass by please?” He asked, and the girl gingerly took a step over to the side. She watched them in interest for a moment, before looking down at something she was holding in between her small fingers. Ryou approached the podium, as a small rabbit like doll waved at them. Their ears rocked back and forth with its movements, and the sleeves of its shirt did not fall down far enough to show fingers when it waved at them.

“Welcome to 7th Encount! Do you have a ticket?” It asked them cheerfully, its purple button eyes and the x shaped mouth that was stitched on it unnerving Makoto a bit. It just looked odd, while Ryou seemed unfazed by it. Ryou pursed his lips as he rummaged through his pockets for a moment, acting as if he may of had one. Makoto rubbed his temple with the fingers on his hand not holding his coffee.

“No, we don't.” He stated sadly, and the rabbit hopped once, their feet squeaking as they did so.

“Sorry! You cannot enter then. Please come back with a ticket; we look forward to seeing you play 7th Encount!” It dismissed them with a wave of its sleeve, and Makoto glanced at Ryou as they stepped away from the podium to head back down the stairs.

“See? I told you so.” Makoto nagged as they walked away, and Ryou nudged him in the ribs. Makoto shrugged and the girl from earlier approached them apprehensively, her eyes focused on the ground at her feet. She then looked up at both of them, her eyes wide and afraid.

“Uhm, excuse me,” She said meekly, looking between the two of them with wide eyes. Ryou cocked his head to the side, and Makoto hummed in acknowledgment.

“Will you both please come with me? I don't want to go in alone...” She muttered, and Ryou's face broke out into a wide grin as the corner of Makoto's lip twitched.

“Of course, we'd love to!” Ryou exclaimed as Makoto opened his mouth to argue that they only came to actually check it out. But as Ryou shot a glare at him, Makoto's lips pressed together. Guess they were going to play after all. The girl smiled widely at them, and gave both of them a small bow.

“Oh, thank you!” She exclaimed as she clasped her hands together, and together, they all ascended up the stairs. Ryou looked absolutely thrilled, while Makoto just ran a hand through his hair. He needed more caffeine if he wanted to stay awake, but it seemed a little too late to get another cup before they entered.

“Welcome to 7th Encount! Do you have a ticket?” The rabbit asked the girl, who nodded.

“I do.” She placed it on the counter, and slid it over to the doll. The doll looked down at it, then gasped in shock, its ears swinging slightly back and forth as it nodded its head.

"An S-Class invitation ticket! Of course, you may enter!” The rabbit told her. The girl stood there for a moment, her brow furrowed.

“May they come with me? I don't want to play the game by myself. It's my first time playing.” She asked, looking back at Ryou and Makoto over her shoulder. Ryou had a look of surprise on his face from the ticket she had handed over to the rabbit, before nodding enthusiastically at the girl, and Makoto chuckled at Ryou, before nodding as well. He didn't really want to play, but since the offer was in the air, he might as well. Makoto knew he would never hear the end of it from Ryou if they were to leave now.

“It's okay. It's ours as well.” Makoto reassured her, and she smiled sweetly up at him. The rabbit looked them up and down, before nodding.

"Sure! Have fun playing!” The doors in front of them slid open, and Mio entered it first, Ryou and Makoto trailing in behind her.

The walls were a deep violet color, along with the tile flooring. Their steps echoed off the flooring, the girls boots clicking against the ground, barely audible over all of the noise. The girl stopped and looked around in awe, her eyes taking in all the lights that were blinking around them. It was more of a club than an actual arcade - music was blaring and people were chatting loudly to one another, some with drinks in their hands as they conversed. She turned to look at the pair of them once more, her fingers gripping tightly on the hem of her dress.

“I'm sorry that I never introduced myself. I'm Mio Nagumo. Thank you for accompanying me.” She stuttered. Makoto smiled at her. She seemed a bit scared, and Makoto couldn't blame her for it.

“I'm Makoto Hayashi. Nice to meet you.” Makoto said as he fixed his glasses, pushing them up his nose slightly. Ryou threw an arm around his shoulder, and grinned down at Mio.

“And I'm Ryou Yamada. It's nice to meet you!” Ryou said cheerfully at her, and Makoto shrugged Ryou's arm off of his shoulder. “Thanks for getting us inside. I've always wanted to play 7th Encount.” Ryou jabbered as he eyed the bar to the left of them. Noting to himself that they'll be making a pit stop before they return back tonight, Makoto glanced around as they approached the secretary, who was standing behind a podium up ahead. She smiled at them as she tapped away on her keyboard when they approached, and Makoto looked at the set of pods that were on a stage beside them, then up at a very large television that hung above their heads. Anyone could watch as the people in the encased pods play 7th Encount, and Makoto watched with semi interest as a group of three ganged up on a lone monster.

Ryou pulled on the sleeve of Makoto's coat to get his attention away from the television, and the secretary printed out badges for each of them. Ryou must of filled out Makoto's information for him while he was distracted. “You can use these to come back and play at any time.” She handed each of them one by the card, and all of them had a lanyard attached that had 7th Encount etched in white text around the lanyard, which was violet in color. On the white, rectangle badge, it had their names in bold, black lettering, as well as a bar code on the back. An empty box outlined in black was in the middle of the badge.

“The white box in the middle will be where your picture is once you log into the game for the first time. Each time you come to play, you will have to insert the card into the machine bar code side down before it will allow you access.” She explained, and looked over the group before wagging a finger at them. “Oh, before you begin, you should have a third person in your group.” Makoto looked between the three of them with a puzzled look on. “One of you will be the navigator, and the other three will fight against the monsters in the game.” She explained, and Makoto hummed in thought. Mio was fidgeting with her fingers behind her back as she chewed on her bottom lip, and Ryou brought his fist to cover his mouth while he went through a list of people mentally that would be willing to join. “We suggest three people because of the games difficulty, but you can begin with less than three if you so wish.” She gave them a short bow, and smiled. “We hope you enjoy your time here!”

The three of them moved over to the side so the next set of people could speak to her, and Mio looked back and forth at Makoto and Ryou, before her eyes rested on Makoto. “I can be navigator. I'm too weak to fight.” She said, before a coughing fit took her over. Makoto frowned in concern, and she waved her hand at him to dismiss his concern once it had passed. “I'm fine, really. I've been sick for a long time now, so don't worry about it.” She told him, and Makoto let out a small sigh. Makoto looked over to see Ryou snap his fingers together, and he pulled his phone from his pocket, punching in a set of numbers before raising it to his ear. Makoto opened his mouth to say if he was calling Kaede that it wouldn't be a good idea, but Ryou put a finger to his own lips, smiling at him.

“Don't. It's worth a shot to see if she'll join us.” Makoto huffed in defeat, and Mio gave them a perplexed look. He and Ryou could speak to each other without saying much of anything, and Makoto realized he should tell Mio what Ryou was up to.

“He is trying to get us a third player so we don't get slaughtered.” Makoto mentioned in a lower tone to Mio, who just nodded and looked down at her feet.

“Hi Kaede!” Ryou said happily into his phone. “Makoto and I are downtown at the moment, at 7th Encount. We need a third person to play with us, sooooo,” He drawled. “Would you like to join us?” Ryou inquired, before spinning on his heel to face the pods. Makoto could barely hear Kaede speaking to Ryou, whose smile was growing wider by the moment. “Alright! I'll meet you at the station.” Ryou flipped his phone closed, before grinning at Makoto and Mio. “Kaede said she'll join us. She says she has nothing better to do.” Ryou explained, before heading towards the entrance. “I'm going to meet her at the station to bring her here!” He shouted, and bolted out the front doors, causing a group of players to look at him in confusing as he rushed by. This left Mio and Makoto standing there in silence. Mio seemed dumbfounded, and Makoto shrugged his shoulders.

“That's very typical of him.” He looked around the area once more, spotting a tiny cafe on the opposite side of pods. He might be able to grab another coffee before they began, and maybe a small lunch for him and Mio. She was the one that got them in here anyway – might as well treat her to it. He shoved his hands in his pockets, grasping for his wallet that sat at the bottom. “I'm going over to the small cafe over there." Makoto nodded in the direction of it.

"Do you want some lunch?” Makoto asked her kindly, and she hummed in thought for a moment, before nodding at him with a small smile on.

“I am a bit hungry, so yes please.” They wandered over, the sweet smell of baked goods and coffee filling their nostrils. Makoto let out a sigh of relief at the smell, and Mio hummed happily beside him. Although he didn't really want to play the game before, it would be fun to just have a day out with friends.

Maybe today would go a bit better than Makoto originally thought.

Chapter Text

Mio idly fidgeted with her hands as she watched people play 7th Encount on the screen above of where they stood, waiting for Ryou to return with Kaede. Makoto tapped away on his phone with his thumb, replying to an email from the agency about the information he sent them. They were pleased with it, and said they would send him the cash for it in the week in the mail. Turning the screen of his phone off, he glanced at Mio, who would cough into the inner crook of her elbow every so often. She didn't seem to be any older than fifteen, and her petite frame made her seem younger than that. She looked over at him with her wide eyes, before glancing back up at the screens.

“Uhm, are you bothered about something, Makoto?” She squeaked out, avoiding his gaze. Makoto blinked, then shook his head at her.

"No, I'm not. I'm a bit tired actually.” Makoto sighed, glancing upwards to watch a group of people playing 7th Encount. A navigator in a group stayed behind close behind the set of people they were playing with, and they had a small, holographic screen in front of them that seemed to display a map of the area, along with some details about the enemies on that floor. They tapped away on it, reading about the monsters and glancing at the layout every so often. Makoto looked at another screen and scoffed as that team fell in battle against a strong monster, their navigator going down in battle first after getting stuck in the attacking range of the battle field.

Mio hummed in response, looking away at the screen above them to look at Makoto once more. He looked at her from the corner of his eyes, before looking back up at the screens again. “How about you?” Makoto asked, and Mio let out a tiny squeak of surprise before looking at him once more.

“I'm okay. A bit nervous.” She stated as her fingers moved to fidget with the hem of her white dress. “I'm not very good at games, but I wanted to give this a try.” She nodded. As Makoto opened his mouth to respond, Ryou began calling for both of them. Looking over his shoulder, he spotted Kaede trailing behind Ryou, holding her wrist to pull her along. She looked a bit grumpy; her white hair was up in a loose bun that swayed from side to side as Ryou pulled her along.

Ryou seemed pleased to be part of the group once more, and Kaede closed her ruby red eyes and put her finger up to silence him as Ryou opened his mouth to start rambling. “Please. Getting here was a pain.” She stated, slightly agitated. She opened her eyes and smiled softly at Makoto as he gave her a small wave. “Good to know that you were also dragged here.” She mentioned, and Makoto chuckled.

“He bashed on my door and kept calling my phone until I got out of bed this morning.” Kaede laughed, brushing her white bangs out of her eyes and tucking the strands behind her ear.

“Sounds about right for him.” She smirked. Ryou had his arms crossed over his chest while pouting at them, and was tapping his foot.

“I'm standing right here you know.” He muttered, and Mio giggled as she listened to them all interact. Kaede looked down at Mio, taking a look over her.

“Ah, so you must be Mio? Ryou told me who you were when he met with me at the train station.” Kaede smiled sweetly at her, and Mio nodded, a bit flustered. “It's nice to meet you. I'm Kaede Yamaguchi.” She held out her hand, and Mio grasped it to shake. Mio led Kaede to the secretary as they chatted a bit, and the secretary reiterated herself to Kaede.

“Probably gets annoying repeating yourself all day.” Ryou muttered to Makoto, who shrugged.

"She probably makes good money doing this. I wouldn't complain." Makoto responded, and Ryou hummed in agreement. Kaede and Mio approached them a moment later, the blank card in her hands.

“So, are we going to start this or what?” She asked, glancing around to find the pods. Climbing up the short steps that were beside the secretary, they walked on a platform that had multiple sets of pods on them, in a diamond formation. Passing by several that had people in them, Makoto noted that the people inside seemed to be sleeping; their bodies laying against the padding of the interior with their eyes closed. A monitor of their vitals blinked on the outside of the pods, and looking around once more, Makoto saw that there were workers running around to check on everyone in the pods to see if they were okay. Augmented reality wasn't a possibility until recently, and it had not been studied fully to check to see how safe it truly was. They continued to search for empty pods, and Mio stopped in front of a set closer to the back of the area, as that was where a set was vacant. Crowded around a post directly in front of all of the pods, Mio reached out towards a touch screen that was on it. It blinked into life at the touch of her finger, and she pulled back her hand in surprise. Four card slot below the screen opened, and the words 'NAVIGATOR' blinked in white above the top one. The other three blinked different numbers with the word 'PLAYER' above said numbers. Mio was the first one to slide her card in, and it clicked into place in the navigator slot. A pod directly behind the post opened up, the screen that did the vitals on the door began to turn on. She stayed behind as Ryou slid his arm out in the group to place his card in one of the player slots, and it clicked in place, before a hologram popped up above the post. It asked him to choose a class out of a list of the four listed – Samurai, Duelist, God Hand, and Agent.

“Oh, I was never told that there were classes involved! I've only seen game play, but not the specifications of everything.” He said excitedly, as he clicked through all of them. Each stated the basics of each class. Samurai's were balanced in strength and defense, but had low magic resistance. Duelists were high in magic attack and defense, but low in physical attacking and defense. God Hands were strong physically and in defense, but were very slow and had no magic capabilities. Agents were fast and had average defense in both magic and physical, but were not strong physically or magically. Ryou hummed in thought, before clicking on the Duelist class button on the hologram. A pod opened for Ryou, but he glanced over at Makoto and Kaede instead of approaching it.

“I'm curious as to what you two will choose, so I'm going to stick around.” He said as he stepped to be beside Mio, who had stepped out of the way so that the post was more accessible.

“I am as well. Each class seems pretty interesting.” The hologram pinged at them to say it was done setting Ryou up, and to insert the next card into one of the slots.

Kaede approached the post, and Ryou stepped over to the side to let her interact with it. She inserted her card into another player slot, and the holograph blinked back into the class selection screen. She hummed in thought for a moment as she flipped between Samurai and God Hand with her fingertip, before tapping okay on being a God Hand. Makoto let out a slight snort of laughter, and she whipped her head to the right to look at him with a perplexed look on her face. “What?” She asked with a small frown on, and Makoto shrugged as he grinned.

“I'm not very surprised that you chose that, especially with your martial art skills and everything.” Kaede pouted, before nudging him in the ribs with her elbow as the screen told them to insert the final badge as another pod opened. Ryou and Mio moved closer so that they all stood side by side as Makoto popped his badge into the last player slot, and stared at the class selection screen. He wasn't very sure what to pick, and flipped through all the classes several times before Ryou squeezed so he could fit beside Kaede to stand by Makoto's side. Kaede grumbled a bit as he did so, annoyed that he just shoved him between the pair of them. She was just as interested in what Makoto was going to pick.

Ryou tapped on the Samurai class, and smiled. “Be a Samurai! It kind of fits the fact that you always choose a melee like class when we play games together.” Ryou said, and Makoto rolled his eyes, before hitting the accept button.

“That's because I already know you're going to select a mage like class, and proceed to run out into the field to get yourself killed because most mage's defensive's suck.” Ryou glared at him, and Makoto snickered. “It's the truth.” Makoto stated smugly, and the final pod opened in the back after the game accepted his class, and the hologram pinged at them once more, telling them to enjoy their time playing. Each of them went to their own separate pods, and stepped in to lay against the plush padding. As the doors began to close and a screen inside of the pod began to flood with information about the game in front of their faces, Makoto could feel his dislike for small spaces creeping up on him. He let out a sigh, and flinched when he heard Ryou laughter ring out in the speakers above him.

“Ah yes, let us begin our teasing before we even begin.” He deadpanned, and Ryou continued to laugh.

“It's alright Makoto!” Ryou exclaimed cheerfully. “Being slightly compacted isn't a bad thing.” Makoto huffed indignantly at that comment.

“You wouldn't say that after you've been shoved into a tiny server room for three days trying to untangle wires and reset the systems.” Makoto muttered. The sound of air whistled into his pod, and as he glanced around for the source. As he opened his mouth to ask the others if they heard it too, Makoto felt himself slowly starting to relax against the padding and his arms fell to his sides, and his eyes close as if he was being lulled to sleep.

________________________

When he reopened his eyes, all Makoto could see was a sea of flowers. They were Dragonsbane flowers, the ones that they had pictures of in his history textbooks from high school and college. They were a hue of red to orange with black stems that connected them to the ground in flocks, and swayed about gently as if there was a breeze. Breathing in the pollen from them in would negatively affect a human, and would bring upon Dragon Sickness at least, but death was likely to occur if one inhales too much. Makoto heard a gasp of surprise behind him, and looked over his shoulder to see that Mio, looking around with awe at the flowers. Behind her, Kaede and Ryou phased into existence in the game, and Kaede knocked into Ryou as she looked around with her mouth agape. Kaede reached out to grab onto the Ryou's elbow, and continued looked around with a look of surprise on her face.

“It so life like!” Kaede exclaimed, and Ryou groaned, rubbing his arm a bit where she had walked into him.

“Yes, and running into me was the best way to find out, wasn't it?” He said sarcastically, and Kaede tightened her grip on his arm. Ryou tried to pull back his arm as she glared at him, laughing at her. Makoto sighed, and Mio walked up to be beside him, looking on with concern at the pair.

“They're always like that.” He told her as he ran a hand through his hair. She gave Makoto a nod as Kaede and Ryou approached them to bring the group together. Makoto took another look around, and spotted Tokyo's Sky Tower from 2021 in front of them, wrapped up in vines that had Dragonsbane sprouting from it, twisting in between its steel beams and over the tower itself. It was broken in some places, some of the beams completely ripped from its structure. A purple haze had settled into the sky above them, as jolts of red electricity crashed between the clouds, a few heading down towards the ground. It didn't strike anyone in the area, and just seemed to be for aesthetic purposes.

“This place looks exactly like a textbook image of the Dragon Calamity from 2021.” Ryou said in awe as he got a better look around, and Kaede scoffed at him.

“That's cause it is.” She stated, and Ryou frowned. “You should of paid more attention in our history classes back in high school. This was a serious event in human history! We all wouldn't be living right now if it wasn't for Murakumo's Unit 13!” Kaede and Ryou bickered among each other, and Mio tugged on the sleeve of Makoto's jacket after a moment, whom was just watching on in boredom. He looked down at her, and her bright green eyes stared up at him seemed to be full of determination. She did come here to play, not listen to her team mates argue.

“I don't mean to bother you, but we should get started.” She began, and released his sleeve to point at the tower with a finger. “I skimmed through the manual, and all we have to do is climb up the Sky Tower and liberate it of monsters.” She told Makoto, who quirked a brow up at her.

“Skimming may have been a bad thing, but what's the worst that could happen?” He replied with a shrug, and looked over to see that Kaede and Ryou were still bickering, and had begun to resort to speaking more with their hands than their mouths. Kaede had her fist in Ryou's collar, staring at him angrily as Ryou stuck his tongue out at her in defiance. With a defeated sigh, Makoto took a few steps forward, putting his hand on Kaede's fist that was twisted in Ryou's collar, and with his other arm, he gently pushed her away from Ryou.

“Come on, we came here to have fun and not to be indulged by your casual bickering.” Kaede glared at Makoto as Ryou snickered in response, seeming to of won the argument. They split apart, before coming to stand beside Mio. She directed the group to the entrance, and moved to stay towards the back of the group while they each passed through the double doors of the tower. Kaede entered the Sky Tower last, and the doors behind them bolted shut. Makoto and Mio turned to look at the doors, and Kaede jumped a bit before she turned to hit on it with her fists. The sound echoed in the room, as a crash of lightning from outside boomed.

“What is the meaning of this?” She yelled, slamming her fists onto the doors. Mio seemed a bit taken back by it, and Ryou shot Mio a smile to calm her down.

“It's part of the game. We don't leave until we either clear our mission, or fail.” Ryou explained, and Kaede slumped against the door, her knees knocking into the metal as her hands fell to rest against her sides.

“I'm exhausted. I was expecting some simple and easy game.” She whined, before pushing herself off of the doors to stand up straight. Kaede stretched her hands above her head, and flashed in a white light, before a set of brass knuckles popped up on them. Kaede was a bit shocked as she pulled her hands down to look at them, but readjusted them as everyone's weapons came into being. Ryou held a deck of cards, and he shuffled through them with glee to take a look to see what they had, before a sphere of light around them cause them to fade. He frowned in disappointment, but knew it was going to happen. Duelists cards were kept hidden until they got into a battle, and would be automatically shuffled before use. The heavy weight a sword resting at his waist made Makoto look down at the sheathed katana that phased into existence at his hip. Makoto let out a huff.

“I don't even know how to swing a katana.” Makoto grumbled, and Ryou shrugged with a cheeky grin on.

“Just swish it back and forth!” Ryou exclaimed, bringing up his arms to act as if he was swinging a baseball bat. Makoto rolled his eyes at him, groaning in annoyance.

“That's not how it works, but I'll give you some credit for trying.” Makoto adjusted the his belt and tightened it so that the blade would stay in place before looking down the hallway they stood in front of. It wasn't very long, and there were no monsters down it. He'd have to figure it out as they went along. “Anyway, come on then. Let's get this started.” Makoto said as he jogged ahead of the group and down the hall.

The inside of the Sky Tower was a mess. Pieces of concrete littered the floor and blocked their way towards several of the hallways that led towards the staircase, and Mio navigated them around it, sticking to the back of the group. Kaede stayed near her, and kept an eye on her when Mio began to cough. Virtual reality or not, it seemed that their conditions in the real world carry over into it. Makoto led them forward, looking out the large windows beside them every so often to see 2021 Tokyo in ruins. Building were crumbling, and he could see the swirling of sand in the far distance. Massive, thick vines coiled around where Shibuya was, and dragons circled around some buildings in the distance. The lightning crashed around them, lighting up the hallways beside the windows, and the bang of the thunder never came. Everyone seemed grateful for that, and Ryou would jump if lightning flashed close to the windows. The silence in the tower was a bit eerie, but the sound of thundering would just make it worse.

They explored the first floor, encountering several monsters. They were not terribly difficult to beat, and each of the group was able to take down one of the monsters by themselves while Mio told them information about the monsters as they approached. Kaede approved of her weapon, and was taking out her anger from dealing with customers all day on the monsters they encountered, bashing her fists into their sides with a wide smile on her face. Makoto would carefully navigate around the battlefield, dodging enemy attacks as they swiped at him or sent magic in his direction. He would slash out with the katana with both hands, landing several hits onto each of the monsters he attack. It grew a bit easier as they fought more, the swinging coming a bit more naturally as they progressed. Ryou summons were useful on the battle field, taking down monsters that would rush towards Kaede and Makoto as they focused on another monster in the group, while his traps kept Ryou safe from harm. His energetic attitude towards being able to play 7th Encount never lifted while they explored, and Ryou would bound towards enemies he spotted to take them on with his deck, Makoto and Kaede rolling their eyes as they got into another battle.

As they reached the second floor, Mio coughed a bit harder than she had been previously. Makoto stopped to check on her as Ryou sprung off somewhere, Kaede hollering at him to slow down as she followed behind him so he didn't get hurt. Mio waved a hand dismissively at Makoto, just as she did before they played. “I'm okay, really.” She wheezed at him, and he frowned. Makoto stuck close by, keeping an eye out for any more monsters, and they rounded a corner and met up with Kaede and Ryou, who were bickering once again over something trivial. Mio tapped away on her holographic monitor in front of her. “Oh!” She exclaimed in surprise, Kaede and Ryou turning to look at her, their arguing ceasing for the moment.

“There's a boss monster up in front of us!” She stated, and they turned back to see a cloud spouting fire heading directly their way, its fanged teeth slick with saliva as its tongued lolled out of its mouth, and just hung over its teeth in a precarious fashion. Fire flowed from its eyes, and Ryou had a cocky smirk on his lips.

“Oh, it's just the boss Hell Cloud. It can't be all that bad.” He said, confidence oozing from him. The sphere hovered in Ryou's left hand, and he pulled several cards from it with his right. It disappeared as Ryou flipped through his hand, and he rushed to the back of the group to stay safe from the monster. Makoto unsheathed the blade from his side, and eyed the monster carefully, as Kaede flew by him to land the first hit on it. She slammed her fist into its side, and it hissed at her, and it spat small flames at her. Kaede jumped backwards and away from it, and landed beside Makoto, who rushed forward to slash the katana at it. The blade sliced through the cloud and lowered its health, and the hiss that came from its gaping mouth turned into a growl. The tongue in its mouth set aflame, and Makoto took several steps back as it lashed out at him. Kaede moved over to the side as she healed herself of the slight burn she received, eyeing Makoto carefully as he stepped nimbly to avoid the attacks. A loud thud behind them made Kaede look over her shoulder, to one of the monster's Ryou had summoned, holding ice picks in what appeared to be tentacles. Ryou pointed directly at the Hell Cloud in front of them, whatever he was saying being blocked out by the hissing coming from the monster as the embers in its mouth crackled. The summon launched itself at the cloud, slamming an ice pick down onto it, and the cloud disappeared into a cloud of smoke.

“That wasn't bad at all.” Mio mumbled, as Makoto sheathed the blade. Ryou's cards disappeared from his hands, and Kaede shook her cramped up fingers out as her weapons disappeared. Mio was smiling widely at them, her hands clasped behind her back.

“Can we continue on? I'd like to see what's ahead.” She inquired. Kaede, Makoto, and Ryou looked at each other, before nodding at her.

“Sure. There's no harm in checking things out.” Ryou jabbered, rushing ahead of everyone while they stood in the corridor. Mio watched in awe as he ran off, and Makoto rubbed his temples with his fingers.

“Let's not let him get too far ahead anymore – he'll wind up dead.” He stated flatly. Mio's brow furrowed in confusion as she looked at Makoto, and he shrugged at her. “I play online games with him, trust me on this.” They all hurried off to keep up with Ryou, who had already ascending to the upper floor.

Monsters attacked them left and right now, a little stronger than before. Between the second and third floor, the difficultly had changed drastically. Makoto still stood at the front lines, cutting down monsters as they approached as Kaede lunged herself at the enemies he missed, or to take out one that got too close that he didn't spot. Ryou moved to the back to summon monsters to do his bidding, telling them where to strike and what enemies to attack. They worked well as a team, and were breezing through the encounters. Kaede panted after pulverizing the final enemy from a group, her weapons disappearing from her hands as she crouched down, her hands on her bent knees.

“I wasn't expecting it to take such a toll on me like this.” She says between pants, and Makoto rested a hand upon her shoulder, the hilt of the katana in his other hand. She let out a chuckle, before straightening out her back and stretching.

“You can stay to the back for a bit if you want, and I can focus on the enemies more, if you'd like.” He said with a slight smile, and she stared at him, a bit perplexed.

“But we're both front liners! I don't want you to get beaten up here by yourself.” She said, a bit concerned. Makoto hummed in thought for a moment, trying to think of a way to quell her worries.

“I can try to keep enemies off of you for now then. Take a breather in the next battle.” She rolled her eyes in defeat at him.

“Fine. Just don't die on us.” She smiled at Makoto while lightly punching him in his arm as they continued on.

As the group walked around a large, circular hallway on the third floor, Makoto gazed out at the Tokyo of 2021 AD. From this high up, he could see farther out, and his eyes swept over the destruction. Tokyo and the wards surrounding it had taken heavy damage from the dragons that descended with Fomalhaut. The red lightning was more frequent now, and it was their only source of light in the hallway they stood in. Mio, who was directing the group from the front now as Makoto and Kaede patched up their wounds a few steps behind her with Ryou watching from the back. Mio let out a gasp as they round the corner, and everyone came to a halt in the corridor.

“Wait, this one isn't in the manual!” She stammered, backing away from the monster that was in a large, circular area. They were getting closer to the top of the tower, and this was the last, large area before they reached the staircase. The health bar above the monster labeled it as a dragon, and Kaede's weapon appear in her hands. Mio stared in fear at the dragon, and her monitor popped up in front of her once more. She flicked her finger over it as she skimmed the information, and it closes with a tiny pinging sound. “It's a lot stronger than the other monsters, even more so than the one we fought downstairs.” She explained to them, and Ryou quirks an eyebrow at her.

“How can you tell? It's not like the menu tells you their level of power or anything.” Mio fiddled with her fingers on the hem of her dress again, nervous.

“Well, if you look at it's dermal features,” She begins, pointing to the dragon, who was hopping around the area, its mouth open with its tongue lolling around. “It has power and mobility. So be careful.” She lets out a small gasp of surprise, and glances at the floor to avoid Ryou's impressed gaze on her. “Even I'm surprised I know that.” She mutters, before rushing to be at the back of the group. Makoto looked over at Mio and then the dragon one more time, before taking a step forward into the circular area with Kaede and Ryou at his side. The wall that separates them from Mio, and the words 'DANGER' flickered across the walls in bolded font, before fading. The dragon turn its head to face them, and Makoto swore it was laughing at them as they caught its eye.

Makoto hurried forward, drawing the blade. It barely cut through the dragon as it sliced into its scales, and the dragon bared its teeth at him. Makoto took several steps back, leveling the sword with the dragon as it galloped at him on its tiny legs. Good, he needed it to focus on him to keep the beast off of Ryou and Kaede. Ryou had thrown several traps around himself to keep him protected, and Kaede was buffering herself in the corner. The dragon launched at him, its maw opened wide to take a bite out of Makoto. He brought up the blade, and the dragon's back teeth sank into the steel of it, its red eyes staring at him. Makoto wished he had saved his stamina for this fight, since the beast was faster than anything they've fought already. Makoto panted a bit as he kept bringing up his blade when the dragon tried to bite him, aiming mostly for Makoto's torso as it sprung on its tiny legs up at him. It would release its hold onto the blade and take a step back, before trying again. Taking a risk, Makoto side stepped and slashed into the dragon's side, and it yelped out in pain as the blade pushed through its scales. The health bar above its head would chip off pieces when Makoto did land a hit, but this one slice into the dragon brought it down lower than the rest. Ryou cheered for him in the background, and the pattering of footsteps against the metal flooring alerted Makoto that Kaede was coming up from behind him.

The dragon hunched towards its injured side, slowly turning to face Makoto, who watched the dragon warily. It roared out at him, before galloping at full speed at him. Makoto heard Kaede let out a war cry as she sprinted, and the dragon quickened its run as Makoto pivoted on his heel to turn away from the dragons course. Kaede leaped into the air as the dragon chomped down on where Makoto was just before, landing a punch into the dead center of the dragon's face, barely missing the dragons sharp teeth as they clamped together. The dragon then burst into a shower of dragonsbane petals, which scattered into the air around Kaede and Makoto. Kaede stared wide eyed at him, and Ryou whooped in victory by the edge of the wall as it dissipated, and Mio let out a sigh of relief. She was smiling widely at the three of them, her face light up in happiness. Makoto sheathed the blade as Ryou rushed from his spot over to grab him and Kaede into a group hug, his arm around both of their shoulders as Ryou dragged the three of them together. Kaede began to laugh as her adrenaline wore off, and Makoto joined in their infectious laughter. He wouldn't admit if Ryou asks, but he did have fun playing 7th Encount.

Chapter Text

“Excuse me! Excuseeee me!”

Makoto pushed on the lid off of the pod with the palm of his hand, and the bright lights of the 7th Encount arcade area flooded his eyes with their neon colors. Blinking to adjust, Makoto looked down at the tiny rabbit doll from the gate was standing on their platform, ushering for them to approach them. They all huddled together in a small group around the center console as the rabbit let them take their badges back from the console, and the rabbit hopped on top of it. Each of them stuffed them into one of their pockets, while Mio held hers in her hands, flipping it over back and forth. There was a crowd of people surrounding the platform, most of them looking on in amazement. Makoto's eyes scanned over the crowd, before leaning over to Ryou.

“Uh, is this a good thing?” He whispered in concern, and Ryou shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know, but I think that rabbit has something to say to us.” Ryou whispered back, and Makoto rolled his eyes. Well, that was helpful. The rabbit was clapping its long dress sleeves together.

“You've been chosen!” They exclaimed, hopping down from the console and waddling over to the stairs. Mio let out a tiny noise of surprise, and stepped forward.

“Chosen? For what?” She asked, her hands by her mouth and the rabbit shook its head at her.

“We will explain it later; come with me to Noden's headquarters first.” Their footsteps squeaked as it walked down the stairs of the platform, and they turned to face them, gesturing with a dress sleeve to follow them through the arcade. The group shared a collective glance of confusion, and Makoto stepped forward first to follow the rabbit.

“Might as well. Let's go see what they want.” He sighed out, and they follow the rabbit out of 7th Encount in a line. People were murmuring to each other as they passed, the crowd dispersing to allow them through.

'So, they really were scouting for people who were high scorers.' A young woman whispered to a man that stood at her side, who eyed the group with interest.

'I can't believe people like them beat my high score!' Another man grumbled to his friend, who just nodded as they glared at the group. They left the building in haste, trying to keep up with the small rabbit as they grumbled to themselves angrily about something, and came to a halt a few footsteps away from the entrance to the Noden's building. Mio's brow scrunched up, looking worried.

“Are you alright, Mr. Rabbit...Sir?” She asked, and the rabbit pivoted on their heel to face them. They lifted one dress sleeve up to point in her direction.

“I'm not a rabbit!” They exclaimed. Mio took a step back, chewing on her inner cheek as she stared down at the doll. “Wipe that dumb look off your face. I'm the Almighty Nagamimi!” They stated, putting their sleeve on their chest. Makoto snickered.

“Yeah, you're a pretty 'almighty' doll alright.” Makoto jabbed, and they bounced angrily on its feet.

“I'm not some doll, nor a rabbit!” They explained, going off on Mio and Makoto in a rude manner about addressing them. Kaede took a deep breath before sighing from the back of the group. They were going to cause a scene if this kept up.

“As much as I'd love to stay and chit chat...” She muttered, her shoes clicking off of the concrete. Makoto looked over his shoulder at her, and saw that she was glowering at both him and Nagamimi. “I'd like to know what we've been chosen for.” Nagamimi stopped bouncing on their feet, and huffed. They pointed towards a building in front of them – the oddly shaped, upturned double triangle one that has been in their view since they entered the business district.

“This is the headquarters of Nodens Enterprises, the makers of 7th Encount. It's a bit sparse since we just moved here from America. Go up to the third floor, and it'll be explained then.” They replied, completely ignoring Kaede's question as they rushed into the building. Mio looked up to Makoto, looking for guidance. Kaede strode forward, pulling on the sleeve of Makoto's jacket, whispering to him in an angry manner. Ryou chuckled as Makoto looked back at him with a pleading look, before ushering Mio forward.

The inside of the building was a pristine white color, the floors sparkling from the bright lights that shone upon them. The walls were white as well, and had framed up newspaper clippings about the business. How Noden's boomed in North America, and was known for their feats in the science industry before they turned towards the gaming industry with the knowledge of virtual reality after studying humans under the effects of it. The mousy woman who sat at the reception desk shot up from her work, staring wide eyed at the group.

“You must be the four that Nagamimi mentioned. Please, follow me.” She stuttered in an anxious tone, looking frightened by the group. Kaede and Ryou shared a quick glance between the two of them, as Makoto and Mio trailed behind the woman. She directed them to the elevator that was beyond the bars to the left of her desk, stating that this zone and higher is forbidden for public access. The woman turned to look at them after she had pressed for the elevator to come down to their floor, fidgeting with her fingers behind her back.

"Do...you all have your cards from 7th Encount? It's the only way you'll be able to access here and beyond without me.” She asked meekly, and Makoto pulled his from his jacket pocket, waving it at her. The elevator opened with a tiny ding, and she practically jumped out of her skin at the sound. “G-good. Uhm, come this way please. You have to go to the conference room on the third floor.” She shuffled into the elevator, and held it open as they piled into it. Kaede and Ryou were speaking in hushed tones to one another, and Mio let out a gasp as they rose towards the floor. The sun was already beginning its slow descent, rays of reds, oranges, and blues painting the sky while a full moon shone parallel to the sun.

Before Mio could comment on it, the door of the elevator opened, and the woman practically shoved all of them out with the palms of her hands into the hallway. “Thank you and good luck! Sorry for shoving you all out.” She apologized, the elevator door shutting once more. Makoto blinked a few times, before looking down the corridor. Two, short women dressed up in matching uniforms glanced up at them from behind a counter, before they went back to work. A tinted window was behind them, but faint outlines of bookcases and a computer monitor could be seen through it. The group strolled down the hallways together, Makoto at the front of it with Mio close behind him, still staring outside with wide eyes at the sunset.

Nagamimi stood in front of the door a little past the counters, and the girls that were behind it never looked up at them, deep in their work. The grey haired one that had her hair twisted into a bun on her right side kept letting out tiny sighs as she worked, and the blonde one with her hair twisted into a bun on her left side had a smile plastered to her face, and was humming a tune as she flipped through a stack of documents in front of her. Their eyes were covered by their bangs, and how they were working and being able to watch the group without moving the strands out of their faces baffled Makoto.

Nagamimi was tapping their feet against the ground, their sleeves cross over their chest. “Hurry up, hurry up! Our boss is right through here.” They nodded their head towards the door to their right, and Mio turned her head to look up at Makoto once more. She looked incredibly nervous, still fidgeting with her badge. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes, before looking back down at Nagamimi.

“Can you at least give us a hint as to what is going on?” Makoto asked as Nagamimi groaned in irritation.

“Fine! But listen closely, I'm not going to repeat myself.” Kaede and Ryou stopped speaking to one another, and stayed close behind to listen in as well.

“7th Encount is no regular game. It was created to find those who have a unique ability.” Nagamimi began, and Ryou nudged between Mio and Makoto.

“Unique ability? What do you mean?” Ryou inquired, looking inquisitively down at Nagamimi. Nagamimi looked at each of them before responding.

"The ability to slay dragons.”

Ryou took a step back in surprise, and put his hand on Makoto's shoulder for support. Kaede took a step forward to stand beside the three of them. “The ability to slay dragons? But they've been gone for eighty years!” She stated with her hands outstretched, surprised. “What would be the point in searching for those with those abilities, all these years later?”

Nagamimi let out another sigh. “It's a long story. However,” Nagamimi uncrossed their arms, and pointed a sleeve at Makoto, who looked down at the small doll with his brows raised in confusion. “Governmental specifications say that you're the perfect specimen to fight against them, Makoto Hayashi.”

Makoto's lips flattened together, and he could feel Ryou's hand grip slightly tighter on his shoulder. “What?” He muttered, his arms crossing over his chest. No, this couldn't be right. “Are you sure something isn't wrong here? Last time I checked, I'm pretty average.” He stated flatly. Nagamimi lowered their sleeve so it came to rest at their side, and Mio's eyes scanned the whole group as it grew silent.

“Uhm. What about me? I can't fight.” She stuttered, and Nagamimi looked at her, adjusting their ears with a flick of their arm.

“You may not be able to fight, but you have suburb navigator abilities. Together, you two would be a perfect team to deal with the dragons. But, I digress. We're low on people right now, and if you accept the agreement and do well during training, I'm going to be your new boss!” Nagamimi explained, putting their sleeves on their hips, and Mio looked down at the ground, having stopped spinning the badge in her fingers.

“Anyway, you can ask questions to my bosses. They won't wait for much longer, so let's go.” Nagamimi stated, and the door to the conference room slid open. Nagamimi strolled in first, and Mio mumbled nervously as she entered. Makoto, Kaede, and Ryou followed closely behind, the room slightly dim as monitors at the opposite end of the room lit up most of the area. New reports were flashing by, along with the current stock market ratings, several security camera's feeds, and a command prompt at the bottom of it all. Makoto almost bumped into Mio, who had stopped a few feet away from the door. Kaede was looking around, stepping over to a small aquarium that was a little to her left, and Ryou made a sound of awe as he looked around, and stood off to Makoto's side, closer to Kaede than him.

A jovial expression sat on the face of the woman who stood at a circular table in front of them, her pink hair short and sticking out behind her. Her ears were pointed, and she wore a pair of black glasses on her face, her eyes closed. At the round table, multiple touchscreen computers were integrated into the table, each in front of one of the chairs that were bolted to the ground. The room slowly lit up as a man with medium length, purple hair that curled as it cascaded down his chest, turned a knob by the round table, and Makoto blinked a few times to get use to the adjustment.

“Welcome!” The woman said cheerfully, her head turning to look over the group. Makoto frowned. How did she see them without her eyes being open? She stepped forward towards Makoto, while the man waltzed over in front of Mio. He pinched her cheeks with a wide smile on his face, and Mio squeaked a little at the touch. The woman in front of Makoto looked him over, before nodding her head in approval. Makoto held his hand out to shake hers, before being interrupted.

“Ohh, they've finally arrived!” The man exclaimed, releasing Mio's cheeks to give her a quick peck on one. He turned to Makoto, pulling him in by the elbow to do the same to Makoto as he did Mio. A small noise of surprise slipped from Makoto as he stumbled to the side a bit, and the man released him, pulling back. Mio seemed more surprised than anything, rubbing at her cheek as Makoto's face flared up in embarrassment, the heat settling on his cheeks and up to the tips of his ears. Ryou snickered from his side, his steps quiet as he moved to stand beside Makoto. The man brushed a piece of his hair from his face, his lone grey eye that wasn't hidden by his hair looking over the group as a whole. The corners of his mouth quirked upwards into a smirk.

“My name is Julietta. It's a pleasure to meet you.” He held out his hand, and Makoto slowly reached out to shake it, and the man winked at him. “I'm the development director of Nodens.” Julietta told them, and the pink haired women let out a chuckle as she rose her hand to cover her mouth.

“His real name is Jurota Tomari, just so you know.” She commented, and Julietta looked at her over his shoulder, pouting at her.

“Don't mention that name, ever!” He stated angrily, releasing Makoto's hand to swat over in the woman's direction, who just giggled into her hand. Kaede had cast a confused glance between the pair of them, and strolled over to be beside Makoto, who still looked flustered. He was never against women or men hitting on him and liked both sexes, but such advances, friendly or otherwise, embarrassed him. Juiletta let out an exasperated sigh, rubbing his temples with his fingers. “Anyway, this is-” The woman gave them a small wave, a soft giggle coming form her as she interrupted Julietta.

“Hi! I'm Allie Nodens. I'm the President of the company.” She added, and Julietta let out a huff of annoyance at being interrupted. Makoto glanced between the pair of them, before looking around the room once more. They proclaimed to be a gaming company but something about this room seemed different from an average gaming company.

“I thought Nodens Enterprises was a gaming company?” He asked, and Allie hummed in thought, bringing a finger to her chin as she turned her head to look at Julietta.

“Oh? Is that what we are going by now?” She asked, and Julietta nodded in agreement.

“Yes. We're the world's leading game corporation at the moment. 7th Encount is the reason why, but it is also just a front we use.” Julietta explained, and Ryou opened his mouth to speak, and Allie cut him off.

“Anyway! Let's all go sit down. We have a lot to explain to you.” Allie stated enthusiastically, turning on her heel to head towards the round table in the middle of the room. Mio looked up apprehensively to Makoto, who shrugged his shoulders when he caught her gaze. The four of them took a seat at the table, and Ryou looked inquisitively at the monitors at their fingertips, while Kaede and Makoto spoke to one another quietly as they waited for Allie and Julietta to gather the necessary documents to show them.

“Do you think this is actually a good idea, Makoto? We all have jobs and responsibilities, not time to sit around and listen to them blabber about dragons.” She asked in a hush tone, and Makoto pursed his lips together. Sure, it was odd to even be discussing dragons, and the fact that he was the best 'fighting specimen' was even odder, and Makoto gave a small shrug of his shoulder.

“I'm not sure if this is a good idea either, but we might as well see what they want since we're already here.” He replied, and Julietta cleared his throat as he peered over Ryou's shoulder, who was leaning over to mess around with the touchscreen in front of him. Ryou let out a tiny squeak, before closing out the application he had opened. Allie stood beside Julietta, a thick stack of papers in her hands. She filed through it with her fingers, before walking around the edge of the group, handing all of them a stapled set. Makoto flipped through it in his hands, a large outline of the events of 2020 and 2021's Dragon Calamities in his hands.

“Do you all know of the Dragon Calamities of 2020 and 2021?” She asked, and the group nodded. Mio looked between Allie and Julietta, before looking at her hands in her lap.

“I think I've heard of them in passing. They're not mentioned very much.” She stuttered, and Allie giggled at her.

“That's alright! As long as you have an idea what we're taking about, you'll be fine.” Julietta continued to stare down Ryou, who was growing nervous the more Julietta watched him.

“As you know, it began with the coming of the True Dragons Nyala and Fomalhaut, and the spread of a flower called Dragonsbane. These flowers are poisonous to every living thing on the planet, sucking the life out of the planet dry as the True Dragons wait to consume it.” Julietta began, stepping away from Ryou and up to where Allie stood, in front of Makoto and Mio. “They say there are seven True Dragons scattered throughout the universe. In 2020 and 2021, humanity almost succumbed to Nyala and Fomalhaut as they ravaged the planet. However, a team called Unit 13 from Murakumo fended them both off, and we have been at peace since.” Julietta explained, and they all listened intently as he continued.

“However, the miasma that covers the planet is beginning to grow thicker, and is starting to kill off humans with a disease called Dragon Sickness. It causes the antibodies to attack the immune system in our bodies, killing us slowly, but painfully. Most common symptoms are a hoarse cough, as well as headaches, nausea, and a fever.” Beside him, Makoto saw Mio jolt as if she was shocked, and could hear Ryou let out a sigh from behind him. “If you know anyone with this sickness, they don't have much longer to live. Most have, roughly, less than five years to live once diagnosed.” Julietta told them, his tone solemn.

“But enough about that!” Allie interjected, clasping her hands together. “Because of Murakumo, we've learned a great deal about dragons from the samples taken during the calamity eighty years ago. From it, we created a portfolio called the Dragon Chronicle.” Julietta placed the rest of the papers he was holding onto the table, leaning against it with his arm on the table to hold his weight as Allie finished talking.

“Our true goal is to gather the True Dragon samples we do not have – which there are three of. Technically, it is four, since we have a partial sample of Nyala from 2020.” Julietta noted, shrugged with the arm he wasn't using to lean against. Mio flipped the page of her stack of papers that were on the table in front of her, chewing on her bottom lip as she looked up at Julietta and Allie.

“Why? What is the point of this?” Mio asked quietly, and Julietta stopped leaning against the table, then straightened out his posture.

“Finishing the chronicle will allow us to bring down the 7th True Dragon: VFD.” Allie took a step forward, her smile fading.

"Even though humanity is in a time of peace, the 7th and final True Dragon slumbers, and is going to awaken within the next two years if we do not do something now." She stated, and Mio gasped in surprise. "VFD is known to the be the True Dragon of creation and destruction - devouring entire universes to create new ones, before falling into slumber once more. The moment it shows itself, our planet will meet its end." Kaede guffawed, resting an elbow on the table with her chin resting in her palm. It echoed off of the walls, and Allie went silent, a small frown on her face.

"Are you kidding me? This sounds like a whole load of bullcrap." She said, snickering as her laughter died down. Ryou was frowning in disapproval behind her, and looked up at Makoto, who just let out an annoyed sigh before he turned his head to look over at Julietta. The stapled documents that they had given him were flipped open, stating the same information they were sharing with them on it.

"I agree with Kaede. This seems a bit far-fetched." Makoto said in agreement with Kaede. Allie shrugged her shoulders, her earlier easy smile returning.

"Well, we can't force you to join if you don't believe us. This isn't mandatory anyway." She said, and Julietta huffed beside her.

"However, I do want to make it clear that we're not the only ones who know of this threat. The ISDF, and several other world governments know that we are going to have another Dragon Calamity on our hands if we do not do something. The earlier, the better." Julietta disclosed, a hand on his hip as he slouched to the side. Makoto leaned back into his chair, crossing his arms as his eyes skimmed over the papers. If that is true, then his father knows about it. Julietta cleared his throat once again. "There are signs pointing to their coming descent once again. Global warming, the Caribbean Plate collapsing into the ocean, as most of all, Dragon Sickness." Julietta elaborated, and Kaede hummed in thought.

"The news did report about the Caribbean Plate disappearing..." She muttered to herself, looking back down at the documents in her hands, thumbing over them. Allie stepped back over to the desk on the far end, her heels clicking off of the tiles below her feet.

"The only way to prevent VFD from awakening is to complete the Dragon Chronicle." She sat down in the chair, before crossing her legs. "Makoto Hayashi. You, who stands between the threshold between the past and the future, have the power to prevent this from happening." Allie announced. Makoto swallowed nervously.

"Me? I'm just an ordinary person." Makoto told them anxiously, waving his hands in front of him as he grew flustered. Kaede and Ryou's eyes were on him, as if they were studying him. "It's just a bit hard to believe all of this." Julietta shrugged once more, and Allie uncrossed her legs, leaning forward in her chair to type away on the keyboard resting on the desk.

"It's too bad that you don't believe us. We really wanted your help in completing the Dragon Chronicle." Julietta sighed in defeat. Makoto shook his head in disagreement.

"No, I'm not saying I won't, but if you can actually prove to me that dragons are going to land on Earth again and tell me what I need to do to help out if they do, then I will agree to it." Kaede slammed her palms onto the table and rose out of her seat, causing Mio to jump out of her skin beside Makoto.

"What! Are you crazy? You're going to waste your time on things that might not even be true?!" Kaede argued, and Makoto narrowed his eyes at her.

"Kaede, if they say that the ISDF knows about this, then it's probably not a joke." He countered, and she gritted her teeth at him.

"You're smarter than this Makoto. There's no way it's true." Ryou, stuck between them, glanced back and forth at the pair with unease.

"I hate to interrupt but," Ryou began, his voice meek. They looked down at him, as Ryou ran a hand through his long hair and Kaede lowered back into her chair, still glowering at Makoto. "It might be a coincidence that your mom is researching Dragon Sickness while your dad works for the ISDF, Makoto. It can't be a coincidence that we are sitting here, hearing about how the miasma is thickening, and that my mother died several years ago to Dragon Sickness, which is caused by it." He mentioned quietly. Allie had ceased typing, and Kaede deflated, her anger dissipating while Makoto just watched Ryou, a somber expression on his face. The room was covered in an awkward silence, and Mio was the one who broke it as she slid out of her chair, her feet tapping against the floor.

"I'm sorry, but I don't think my skills will be very useful in this situation. I'm going to go home." She said softly, turning on her heels to leave the room. Julietta watched her, discouraged as she stepped closer to the exit.

"Please, your navigator skills are highly needed." He commented, and Mio didn't turn around to face him, but shook her head.

"I can't save the world. I'm sorry." With that said, she left, the door sliding to a close behind her leaving form as her hair trailed behind her. Julietta let out a sigh, staring at the door as it clicked shut.

"We can't bring someone to the battlefield if they do not have the will to fight." He explained, turning to look back at the trio. Allie hummed a tune from her desk to fill the silence, as each of them contemplated their choices while reading through the documents that were handed to them again.

Makoto twirled a strand of his hair around his finger, reading through the information. A lot of it looked familiar; several of the pages talking about the Dragon Calamity of 2020 and 2021, and how humanity was on the brink of extinction. A group of young adults, roughly the same ages of him, Kaede, and Ryou, had fought back against the threat, and ended up saving humanity. However, it lead to a lot of complications. Most of the world was in ruins due to it, and out of the eight billion humans who resided on the planet for the dragons descended, only a good five hundred thousand survived it across the globe. America and Japan were the two countries that suffered the most - the True Dragons Nyala and Fomalhaut nesting there during their reign of terror, while America had more Imperial Dragons to deal with than anything. At one point, Makoto had asked for a pen to circle different bits of information he had never heard of. How the leader of Murakumo in 2020 turned on humanity, and become a dragon-human hybrid that wanted to rule over the planet. Murakumo took them down before taking down Nyala, and began to help rebuild the world afterwards. In 2021, SECT 11, America's equivalent to Murakumo, sent two of their best over to Japan to help deal with Fomalhaut when that True Dragon landed in Tokyo, Japan. The same group of people from Murakumo helped bring down the True Dragon, and the world continued on. To his right, Ryou was chewing on his fingernails as he read through the information, a bit stunned by it. To his left, Kaede was doing the same, but with an intense look of concentration, trying to soak up the information. Allie and Julietta were speaking to one another by Allie's desk, going through the latest news.

Makoto leaned back, stretching his arms upwards before letting out a content sigh as his joints popped. A thundering crash came from outside, and an ear splitting roar shook the windows. Makoto and Kaede sprung out of their seats, as Ryou fell, the sound startling him. Allie looked unfazed, while Julietta rushed over to Allie's desk, wobbling as fear settled in. Allie hummed as she clicked on a few keys, bringing up a security camera's footage from outside. Makoto held out a hand for Ryou, pulling him back up onto his feet, and they rushed over to see the footage, Kaede tagging along beside them. They all came to a halt in front of the desk, and another roar penetrated the air, directly outside of Nodens. Kaede's mouth was agape, her hands flying to cover the gasp that came from her lips. Ryou watched, his eyes wide with fear, trying to take in the sights. Makoto had his teeth grit, his arms shaking at his sides.

Dragons. Hundreds upon hundreds of dragons were soaring through the sky, several crashing towards the ground. People were running for their lives, some trying in vain to flee from the jaws of a dragon that stomped outside of Nodens, screaming in fear. Nagamimi's squeaky, rapid steps sounded against the tile, before they hopped up onto Allie's desk, sending some papers to the floor. "We have a problem! A massive swarm of dragons are descending down onto Tokyo!" They exclaimed, panting slightly. Makoto glanced down at them, deciding not to question where the rabbit came from. Allie stopped humming, before leaning back in her chair.

"Nagamimi, where is the ISDF? Aren't they the ones who are trained to handle these situations?" She asked calmly, and Nagamimi's moved their head upwards at the camera feed once more.

"They're coming, but they're going to be a while. Traffic got backed up the moment the dragons descended." Nagamimi stated, and Allie tapped away on her computer once more.

"Okay, okay! I'll just seal the entrance and we can wait it out." Julietta chewed on his lip, musing on the fact that Mio practically just left. If she was still outside, then that would be an issue.

"Allie, don't do that just yet. Can you bring up the entrance camera please?" Julietta asked, and Allie nodded her head once, humming happily in response. With another click of the keys, the entrance camera came up on the screen, zooming in on a scared Mio, who was cowering as a dragon slowly trudged over to her. Its tongue was licking its chops as it came closer to her, and she let out a piercing scream. Makoto pivoted on his heel, and Kaede whipped around to stare at him and Julietta looked over his shoudler in disbelief.

"Where are you going?!" She shouted, fear evident in her voice. The doors slid open in front of Makoto, and he looked over his shoulder at her.

"I said I would help if dragons were to descend, and there is obvious proof that they are, so I'm going to go do what I said I would, and help." He declared, determination in his eyes. The doors shut behind him, and Ryou shook in dread beside Kaede, before sucking in a breath and exhaling. He turned and ran after Makoto, and Kaede watched in silent shock, before steeling herself and racing after them. Allie chuckled from where she sat, while Nagamimi was hollering at the trio to come back, and Julietta put a hand on his face.

"I can't tell if he is being foolish, or fearless." Julietta mumbled into his hand, as Nagamimi hopped up and down on Allie's desk, still ranting. Allie leaned forward with her elbows on her desk, her chin in her palms with her lips in a tight frown.

"If he is truly a Dragon Hunter, his resolve will carry him through. However, I cannot guarantee that his friends will make it out alive." She speculated, and Julietta removed his hand from his face to rest at his side once more. He glanced back up at the monitor to watch as they rushed down the hallways, Makoto leading the group as Ryou joked nervously with Kaede, whose expression seemed stuck between fear of the dragons outside, and annoyance at Ryou's jokes. Julietta let out a snort as he watched them, before he looked down at Nagamimi, reaching over to pat them on the head.

"Nagamimi, be their support. They'll need it." Nagamimi groaned in displeasure, but pursued after the trio.

Chapter Text

Air raid sirens blared over the terrified screams of the populace outside, all whom were rushing indoors any nearby building from the descending dragons. Roars of dragons filled the air, shaking the panes of windows as they whizzed by, the gust coming from their wings shattering the glass on the skyscrapers as they flew through the air over Tokyo.

Makoto rushed down the staircase, practically jumping down the stairwells as his hands glided down the rails while Kaede followed close behind, her footsteps echoing off of the walls. Ryou was a bit farther behind, panting as he tried to keep up. He came to a halt at the top of the second floor staircase, his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. There was a stitch in his side, and Ryou could hear Kaede's scream of terror as they reached the first floor. Sucking in a breath, he began to jog back down the steps, as Nagamimi hopped onto his back, her ears wrapping around his neck. He yelped, gripping onto the handrail with both hands as he slid to stop himself from falling down the stairs out of surprise, and Nagamimi let out an annoyed grumble.

“Come on! We have to catch up to them before they go out and get themselves killed!” Nagamimi hollered from his back, and Ryou regained his footing on the stairwell, then picked up the pace once more. They reached the first floor, and Ryou leaned against the wall as Nagamimi slid off of his back, and raced over to Makoto and Kaede, her ears flopping behind her as she ran.

Kaede had her hands plastered onto the large windows that showed outside, eyes wide with fear as she looked over the destruction. Human bodies littered the concrete around Nodens as several dragons stomped across the pavement, devouring those who were dead before taking flight once more. Blood was splattered across the ground, and orange flowers with hints of red on the tips began to bloom between the cracks of the concrete, the black roots trailing towards the blood and the dead who had not been eaten. Kaede flinched back from the window in shock.

“Dragonsbane?” She whispered, and Makoto looked out the window beside her, his eyes scanning over the mayhem. That was definitely Dragonsbane. The flowers thrived off of the blood and flesh of dead or dying humans, before undergoing metamorphosis into dragon seeds - which would birth new dragons. Nagamimi's squeaky steps pulled Kaede from the window, and she glanced between Nagamimi and the destruction outside.

“Are you really going to fight like that? Without weapons?!” Nagamimi shouted, and Makoto turned on his heel to look down at the small rabbit. He gave her a shrug.

“No. I was going to go out to grab Mio and anyone else that was nearby who was still living, and rush back in. We could figure things out from that point afterwards.” He stated, and Nagamimi let out a defeated sigh. She knew it was pointless to try to convince him otherwise. Slapping her dress sleeves together and then holding them at her sides, a katana and a pair of brass knuckles falling from the each end of the sleeves. Makoto's brows shot up in confusion, and Kaede gasped beside him. She looked between the weapons and Nagamimi, opening her mouth to say something as Nagamimi nudged them in their direction with her sleeves.

“I know it's pointless to try to tell you otherwise. Fight first, ask questions later.” Nagamimi said, and Ryou hobbled over to them, finally gaining control of his breathing. Nagamimi looked him up and down, before hopping back up onto his shoulder. “Sadly, I don't have anything for you.” Nagamimi told him, nestling into his hair slightly as she sat upon him. “Unless you are able to pull at the strings of your power, you won't be of much use.” Ryou gave a solemn look to Kaede and Makoto, who were pulling the weapons up and off the floor. Kaede fit the brass over her knuckles, while Makoto looked over the katana in his hands, before glancing back at Ryou with concern. Ryou crossed his arms over his chest, before moving some strands of his hair as Nagamimi fussed over it, trying to see the group.

“What do you mean by that?” He asked, and Nagamimi brushed some hair off of her, before lifting a sleeve up to point at Makoto.

“To make this simple, you're an A-Class Psychic. He is an S-Class Samurai.” Nagamimi stated, and Makoto gave the rabbit a confused look, buckling the sheath to his waist with the katana in it. Nagamimi then pointed at Kaede. “And she is an A-Class Destroyer.” Kaede looked down at her hands, then back up at Nagamimi. She chewed on her lower lip.

“S-Class humans disappeared years ago though. There is no way-” Kaede began, and Nagamimi let out a huff.

“That's what the media thinks. Do you honestly believe that humanity would stop having them just because there hasn't been a threat of monsters in a while?” Nagamimi rudely interrupted. Kaede frowned, clenching her fists to feel the metal cool her palms as she glared at Nagamimi. “S-Class humans still exist – it is just that no one has been running standardized tests in schools for them in decades since Earth hasn't been threatened in almost a century. We at Nodens, as well as the ISDF, have been because we knew this was going to happen.” Nagamimi explained hastily. She rustled her sleeves once more in the direction of the exit.

“We can carry on this conversation later – right now, we have a dragon invasion to deal with!” She exclaimed, and Makoto shared a glance between his friends, before pivoting on his heel. Kaede and Ryou followed him, Ryou grumbling at the back in displeasure about having to run after the pair once again.

Outside of Nodens was a wreck. The stench of blood mingled with gasoline, while screams of horror continued to fill the air. Makoto took a quick glimpse around, catching a glance of Mio's green locks as she ran from a dragon that had crashed onto the ground to their left. She was heading in their direction, before slipping onto the concrete, landing onto the hard, cracked ground below. She let out a yelp of surprise as she landed on her hands and knees, ripping open her leggings and scraping the palms of her hands, and she flipped over to look up at the dragon that was boring down at her.

It towered over her, standing bipedal with puffs of hot air escaping from its nostrils on its long snout. Its scales shimmered in the dying sunlight, shining a pristine silver color. Broad, teal colored horns jutted out of its head, looking almost like crystals when the light reflected off of them as they jagged outwards. A single horn sat on the end of its snout, and it snorted at Mio as it opened its maw to devour her. She let out a shrill scream as Makoto hastily ran over to her, drawing the sword at his hip. Kaede screamed at him as he rushed out, and Ryou watched in horror as the dragon snapped its jaws at Mio.

A loud clang filled the air as the dragon's front teeth bit down onto Makoto's sword as he held it aloft and sideways, gritting his teeth as the dragon crunched onto it. Its red eyes stared him down, and another puff of hot air came from its nostrils, as if it was amused to see someone stand up to it. Makoto had the palm of his hand against the thin, unsharpened side of the blade, his other hand gripped the hilt as he held the dragon back. Mio trembled behind him, and she let out a startled gasp.

“Makoto?” She mumbled, and the dragon let out a low growl at him. Makoto's arms shook as the dragon took a step forward, pushing him back, his feet sliding over the concrete. Pounding but quick steps came from his left side as Kaede let out a battle cry, leaping into the air as she collided her fist into the side of the dragon's head. Its sharp teeth drifted off the sword, squealing loudly against the metal as the dragon stumbled to the side, before whipping its head in their direction, baring its razor sharp teeth at them. Makoto turned to face it, bring his sword back up in an aggressive stance as he clutched it tightly in his hands. Kaede bounced back and forth on her feet beside him, her fists up in front of her. She was grinning wickedly at the dragon as Makoto stared it down, sneering at the monster.

Nagamimi flailed her sleeves around, slapping Ryou's face slightly with the plush sleeves. “Don't act foolish! This is a do or die situation!” She hollered, as Ryou glanced away from the battle and down at his hands. He clenched and unclenched them, questioning if he could even help his friends. Nagamimi turned her head to look at him. “You can summon your abilities if you just focus. Psychics have a hard time using their magic for the first time, but once you will be able to sling spells around once you get a feel for it.” Nagamimi whispered to him, as if she was trying to coax him into taking a shot at it. Ryou took a deep breath and tried to focus, but was unsure as to what to focus on. He turned his eyes back onto the battle in front of him; Mio pulling herself to her feet and rushing over beside Ryou and Nagamimi as Kaede and Makoto clashed with the dragon. Mio would glance over her shoulder, eyeing the monster with fear.

Kaede and Makoto worked together well - moving as if they were dancing a waltz around the dragon, who would snap its jaws at them in vain as they moved. Makoto spun around on one side of the dragon when it snapped its teeth at him, flicking the sword upwards to nick it as it missed. Kaede bounced around the dragon on the other side, slamming her fists into its face when it lashed out at her. They circled around its front, leaving cuts and indents in its scales. For both of them, it was growing easier to handle their weapons. It felt natural.

At one point, they stood side by side; arms brushing against each other as they both panting slightly. Makoto had the sword pointed at the dragons torso as Kaede held her fists up in front of her. Blood spattered their clothes from the hits they got on the dragon, who was bleeding from its face and from a few cuts in one side of its torso, where Makoto had slid the blade across its scales. The dragon took a few steps back from the pair, reeling its head back and sucking in a gust of air. Kaede quirked a brow in confusion as Makoto turned, holding the sword in one hand as he clutched onto Kaede's arm, dragging her back. She let out a sound of surprise as she was dragged, and Makoto rushed away from where they stood, trying to avoid the flames that spewed forth from the dragon's mouth.

Fear rushed through Ryou, and he brought an arm up in front of him as his eyes screwed shut, the other grabbing a hold of Mio as he began to take several steps back. Nagamimi was screaming at them to move to avoid the flames that grazed across them, and Ryou felt his risen hand freeze. Icicles shot out from the ground in front of the dragon, and the dragon pulled back, screeching out in surprise as it coiled its head away from the ice. Mio shivered from the cold against him, and Ryou's eyes shot open, looking over the ice and down at his hand. Bits of frost were stuck to his fingers, and he flicked his hand downward to get them off. Makoto and Kaede stood near him, looking at him in shock. The flames were extinguished by the ice; puddles of water on the concrete as some had melted where the flames brushed over them. Kaede let out a light laugh beside Makoto at the sight, before taking a step forward towards the dragon as the ice fully melted at their feet, leaving large puddles that seeped into the crackled concrete below their feet. Makoto let go of her arm as she stepped forward, and brought up the sword once more, shooting a smile over at Ryou, before looking back at the dragon.

They could easily handle this.

Running off of adrenaline, Kaede and Makoto rushed back into battle, fists and sword raised as the dragon bellowed out a roar at the group. Ryou let Mio go and stayed to the back of the group, just as he had done while they were playing 7th Encount, trying to summon up the magic he had just cast. Nagamimi slid off of his shoulders and onto the ground, screeching at a surprised Mio to fall back towards Nodens. Kaede burst open the dragons scales while Makoto ripped at the skin underneath, and the dragon would lashed out at them with its teeth. Kaede would mock the dragon when it missed her, sticking her tongue out at it before knocking her fist into its face. Makoto darted around it, slicing into the skin that was exposed from Kaede knocking the scales off, the deep punctures dying the rest of its white scales on its torso a deep scarlet. Ryou, still a bit confused on how he summoned the magic from earlier, rushing around the perimeter of the battle, thrusting his hands out towards the dragon in hopes that he could cast it again. Flames licked his fingertips before frizzling out, and the cold would seep into his palms before evaporating. Ryou would glance up to the fight before he looked back down at his hands, grumbling in annoyance as nothing happened. A painful cry from Kaede being knocked to the side by the dragon snapped Ryou from his thoughts, and he looked up to see Kaede sprawled out on the concrete as Makoto rushed over to her.

The dragon let out a snicker, bloodied spittle dripping from its jaws and onto the concrete below. It took several heavy steps towards Kaede, seemingly satisfied with knocking over one of them, and Kaede pushed herself up onto all fours, before falling back to onto her side. Makoto skidded to a halt in front of her, holding the sword up both hands while he panted heavily. His teeth were grit together as the dragon gazed down at him, and it opened its jaws once more before reeling back.

The sight of the dragon rushing its head down to take a bite out of friends spurred Ryou back into action, and he let out a roar as he rushed over, flicking his arm with his fingers sprayed out in the dragon's direction. Electricity bounced between his fingertips, before lightning shot from his palms, piercing through the dragon's torso. A wet gurgle came from it as it shuddered, the electricity coursing through its body. It stumbled towards the fountain in the middle of the plaza, before flopping over to the side and into the water that spouted from the tip of the fountain. The edges of the fountain cracked where it landed, blood pouring from its wounds that dyed the water red, and it twitched once before coming to a rest.

Makoto lowered the sword in his hands and sheathed it, before turning to crouch down beside Kaede. “Kaede! Come on, stay with me!” Makoto pleaded, shaking her shoulder gently, and she groaned in pain at him. She shifted on the ground before sitting up, her bloodied hands in her lap as she blinked up at Makoto. He had his hands on her shoulders, trying to keep her steady as she looked at him with unfocused eyes.

“Is it down? Or are we dead?” She mumbled, her eyes moving to look at the ground and Makoto let out a sigh of relief. She was going to be alright.

“It's down. Ryou finished it off.” Makoto told her, letting go of her as he stood up onto his feet and held his hand out to her. “Come on, let's get back inside before one of us actually does die.” Makoto said, and a chuckle bubbled from Kaede. She was dazed, and would need to be looked at after smashing into the ground. Kaede took Makoto's hand, who hauled her to her feet, reaching out to grasp her shoulder as she stumbled forward. Ryou reached them, standing beside Makoto as he gasped for air. Kaede, finally able to balance on her feet but held onto Makoto's hand and reached out to hold his shoulder for support, looked around the area slowly. Makoto turned his head to beam at Ryou.

“I'm impressed! You really saved us just then.” Makoto exclaimed cheerfully, and Ryou chuckled nervously.

“It was nothing. I saw you two in danger, and had to react.” Ryou replied, tinted pink from embarrassment. He moved to Kaede's side to grasp at her other arm and throw it over his shoulder, allow her to lean against him for support as well. “But let's head back. She needs to be looked at as soon as possible.” Ryou stated sternly, looking around. People were still rushing down the street and around the plaza. He was frowning a bit, and Makoto grew concerned for Ryou. Would he too be affected by the Dragonsbane? Pushing that thought tho the side, he and Ryou helped Kaede hobble back to Nodens as she swayed back and forth between the pair of them. They came to a sudden halt as a thundering crash came from behind them.

Makoto looked over his shoulder to see a massive, crimson colored dragon standing near them, in the center of the Nodens plaza. Silver, lightning bolt shaped horns, with plates of violet and blue cut into it stuck out from the side of its face, and its yellow claws scratched against the concrete below. Its wings were bulbous, and also plated with the same colors of its horns on the edges, the ends spiking outwards. It bellowed out a deafening roar towards the sky, before it glared at the group. Kaede was giggling as she leaned against Makoto, and he slowly shrugged Kaede's arm off of his shoulder. She stumbled back into Ryou, who shot him a questioning glance as he pulled Kaede closer to his side.

“Get inside. I'll hold it back.” Makoto advised, and Ryou sputtered.

“What?!” He shrieked, looking at Makoto with fear in his eyes. “Are you nuts? That thing will tear you to shreds!” Ryou exclaimed, and Makoto turned to face the dragon, taking several steps towards it as he unsheathed the sword at his hip. He glanced back at Ryou over his shoulder, smiling. He had to protect his friends, and he was the only one in still in semi-fighting shape. Kaede was down for the count, and Ryou's newly found magic kept frizzling out on him. There was no way they could all take it on, and Makoto could trust Ryou to get Kaede to safety.

“I'll be alright. Get inside with Kaede.” Makoto tried to reassure him, a slight smile on his face as he looked at Ryou. Ryou let out a defeated sigh, before grasping Kaede at the waist, her shirt bunching up in his fingers and he ushered her to walk faster. A throaty rumble came from the dragon as it eyed him with curiosity, before lashing out with a claw. Makoto narrowly dodged it, hopping backwards as it swung out to hit him, and the dragon took a heavy step towards him, its claws out and ready to attack. Makoto barely dodged it when it swung at him, its claws fraying the edges of his clothing as he barely missed its strokes, and the ends of his scarf was in tatters on the floor by the dragon. He was sucking in air through his teeth as he held the sword in shaky hands, his arms hurting from gripping it too tightly and from having the tip of a claw clip him through his jacket.

The dragon growled at him, seeming to of grown tired of this game of cat and mouse. Makoto held his ground against it as it took another step forward, and it pulled its head back as black miasma seeped out from its mouth. As it brought its head back down to be level with him, Makoto brought his arm up to cover his nose and mouth, and the smog poured over him. His eyes watered while he took several steps back, the cloud dissipating around Makoto after a moment. He coughed heavily into the crook of his elbow, barely able to see the dragon through his watery eyes, the hues of crimson, violet and blue swirling together. The dragon sneered at him, and brought its clawed arm up once again to crush him as gun shots rang out. It let out a shriek of surprise as the bullets pierced its scales, being forced backwards and away from Makoto.

“Form a perimeter around the dragon! Second unit, see to any civilians that need medical assistance!” A voice boomed, barking out orders to the troops that surrounded them. Someone trudged over to Makoto, laying a hand on his shoulder as he continued to hack into his elbow. He tensed up, and whomever was holding his shoulder gripped him tighter as he struggled in their grip. Makoto cracked open his eyes to get a look at them. A balding man with several large scar patches covering his head, wearing a navy ISDF uniform was the one who was had their hand on his shoulder. He had a bushy black beard that was neatly trimmed, and he looked Makoto over with interest in his grey eyes, a small smile tugging at the side of his lips.

“So, you're the one who held it at bay. Why does this not surprise me.” He uttered, and Makoto quirked a brow at him, his coughing finally ceasing. The sword hung limply in his right hand as he rubbed his the back of his left hand over his eyes while gunshots rained down upon the dragon in front of them.

“What do you mean?” Makoto questioned, his voice raspy. The man shook his head at Makoto, before glancing over to a man that stood to his side. The younger man watched the dragon carefully with olive colored eyes, his arms crossed behind his back. His chestnut brown hair was cut short, and his bangs fell over his eyes. He let out a huff, removing one of his arms from behind his back to brush them out of his face with gloved fingers.

“I'll take care of this one, Admiral Yoritomo. You're still injured from before.” The younger man stated, and the man grasping Makoto's shoulder, Yoritomo, released him. Makoto sheathed the sword, and rubbed his shoulder briefly, soothing the slight throb from the Admiral's tight grip.

“Alright, Yuma. Go on.” Yoritomo sighed, sounding disappointed. Makoto flashed a perplexed glance at the two of them, before watching the man to Yoritomo's side take several bold steps towards the dragon. He radiated confidence, and the soldiers stopped shooting at the dragon as it howled out in anger at them. They scattered as the dragon whipped its claws out at them, regrouping together behind Yoritomo and Makoto, guns raised and pointed at the dragon. Blood trailed down its scales, and it gazed down at Yuma as he stood in front of it, a snort coming from its nostrils. Yuma grunted, clutching at his head with one hand, the other trembling at his side as jet black lightning sparked down his arm and into the palm of his hand. The dragon bellowed out a roar at him, rearing up a claw to crash down upon Yuma, whose hand fell from his head as he pulled back the other one, a ball of black lightning in it.

Yuma sprung into the air, and Makoto watched with his mouth agape as the two collided - fist to claw - and the dragon screeching as it was thrown backwards, the ball of energy in Yuma's hand causing it to stumble as electricity flowed through it. Static crackling filled the air, and the massive dragon shook as the last electric cackle went across its chest, before it collapsed onto the concrete. Yuma landed softly onto the balls of his feet, returning back to his previous stance of his arms folded behind his back. Yoritomo took several steps to stand beside him, as Makoto stood in awe. Several of the troops from behind them rushed forward, pulling apart the dragon with the switchblades they procured from their pouches around their waists.

“Good work. Let them collect the High Dragon specimen before we return.” Yoritomo told Yuma, who nodded. Yoritomo walked forward to the group of soldiers that were taking apart the dragon. “Return back to ISDF HQ when you are finished gathering up the specimen.” He ordered, and those without blood on their hands saluted him, a round of 'Yes Sir!' coming from the group. Yuma glanced over his shoulder at Makoto, before turning to stroll over towards him. Yuma came to a halt, his lips slightly pressed together as he stood in front of Makoto, eyeing him curiously as he leaned in to look at him in the face. Makoto glanced away and pulled back, a bit taken back with how close Yuma was.

“You seem to be a regular human but...” Yuma muttered, and Makoto looked at the man in front of him, confused by what he meant. Yuma shook his head, not finishing his sentence. “Are you alright? I did see it land a few hits on you.” He asked, moving away from the subject while sounding a bit concerned. Makoto shook his head slightly.

“I seem to be okay. I do have some cuts and scrapes on me, but that's it.” Makoto replied, and Yuma hummed in thought, before taking a few steps back. Makoto tried to straighten his posture out, but slumped over to the side. Something did feel a little off to him as fatigue began to seep into his bones, as well as a throbbing pain in his chest. His sight was going a bit blurry as well, and Yuma become a muddled mixture of blue and brown.

“That's good to hear. You should probably be looked over though, that miasma it spat at you could -” Yuma began, and Makoto collapsed, his knees buckling underneath him. Yuma's hands shot forward as he stepped forward to grasp Makoto before he hit the ground, and he was dead weight against Yuma. Makoto's cheek rested up against his chest, and his glasses dug a bit into his jacket. “Of affected you in some way.” Yuma sighed out as Yoritomo rushed over at the sight of him hefting Makoto over his shoulder, his arms dangling and tapping lightly against his back as Yuma adjusted the weight on his shoulders. Yuma glanced over to his right to see Yoritomo heading towards him, and the hollering coming from Ryou made Yuma look over his opposite shoulder at the man as he ran out of the front door of Nodens, his sandy brown hair flowing behind him as he jogged over.

Yoritomo reached him first, fretting over Makoto for a moment; trying to wake him up by prodding at him and speaking in a hush tone to him. Yuma frowned at him, the concern on Yoritomo's face odd to him, especially over a civilian. Yoritomo let out a dissatisfied huff at not being able to wake Makoto, before noticing that Ryou had reached them. He skidded to a halt in front of the pair, panting slightly while his bangs stuck to his fore head.

“I'll take him back.” Ryou told them between pants, holding his arms out towards Yuma. Yuma shrugged Makoto off of his shoulders, and Ryou let out a grunt as Yuma transferred Makoto to his outstretched arms, practically dropping Makoto on Ryou's forearms. “Piggy back him instead. I can't carry him.” Ryou huffed out, and Yuma pulled Makoto out of Ryou's arms, holding him once again as Ryou turned around, his back facing Yuma. Ryou had crouched down at his knees a bit, letting Yuma place Makoto against his back. Hefting him up higher onto his back, Ryou hunched forward slightly from the weight, letting out a sigh.

“Thank you.” Ryou mumbled as he looked at the pair of them, before rushing back off towards Nodens. Makoto grumbled, bouncing against Ryou's back slightly as they hurried back. Nagamimi stood at the entrance, nagging at them the moment they got through the door.

“He could of gotten himself killed!” Nagamimi shouted, bouncing up and down on her feet. “The fact that he decided to rush headlong into a battle with a High Dragon was the dumbest thing I've ever seen anyone do!” Nagamimi commented, and Ryou rolled his eyes, before rushing towards the elevator. He had dropped off Kaede up at the medical ward moments prior, and had rushed out of the building to check on Makoto. Seeing him slung over that ISDF member shoulder made him incredibly concerned for Makoto, and he ignored the stitch in his side to grab his best friend from them.

“Let's just be happy that he survived.” Ryou mentioned, and Nagamimi crossed her arms over her chest, growing silent as the elevator rose back up towards the infirmary.

_______________________________________________________________________

Yuma watched as the sandy haired man brought back the red headed one towards the towering Nodens building, eyeing them with curiosity. The troops behind them were still shooting the dragons out of the sky as they circled the area, a bit lost as to what to do without their commanding High Dragon directing them. Yoritomo let out a huff beside him, rubbing a hand over his bald, scarred head.

“That red head is Commander Hayashi's son, Makoto.” Yoritomo told Yuma, who had a hand to his chin in thought. “I haven't seen him since he was a child, and to think he has gotten involved in this, as well as being able to hold back a High Dragon...” Yoritomo whispered to Yuma, who hummed. “The Commander is not going to be happy to hear about this.” Yoritomo stated, before he turned on his heel, and began to round up the troops as Yuma gazed steadily at Nodens Headquarters. He was curious about this 'Makoto', and made a mental note to ask Yoritomo more about him.

Chapter Text

Bright lights shone upon his eyelids, and Makoto let out a sleepy sigh. Slowly, he cracked open his eyes, the light blinding him momentarily. Everything was a blur to Makoto as he sat up in the bed, his vision returning as he scanned the room. It was a light beige color with white tiled flooring. Fluorescent lightning lit it up, and there was a tiny window showing him the view outside that was parallel to the bed he was resting in.

Makoto had no idea where he was. He rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his palms, and looked directly to his left and right. His glasses were folded up on the bedside table to his right, and his clothes were to his left, sitting on a counter. Tilting his head down, Makoto noted that he was in a medical gown. Leaning over to his right, he plucked his glasses from the bedside table, and unfolded them to place over his eyes.

He blinked once again, his sight adjusting as the blurriness faded. He was in a hospital of some sorts. A long counter with a sink and hand washing station were to his left, along with an assortment of first aid supplies; a box of different sized bandages, gauze, sterile cleaning pads, and antibacterial ointment all put into separate containers on the counter. An information poster was taped to the adjacent wall, going over the signs and symptoms of Dragon Sickness.

Makoto rubbed his temples, a headache throbbing against his skull. He dreamed of fighting a large dragon, as well as holding back one with a katana in his hands. As his fingers moved away from his head and rested in his lap, Makoto's eyes glued onto the bandages around his right forearm. Wait, he was injured?

As he picked at the bandage, the door opened to his right. A tall, but lanky man with thick glasses stepped through. His black hair was slicked back and had signs of grey between the strands, with a large but bushy mustache resting on top of his lip. The man was holding a clipboard under his arm, and a pen resting in the breast pocket of his doctor jacket. He was squabbling with someone from behind, and a flash of Kaede's white hair tied up into a messy bun peaked through the doors before being pulled away.

“I'm sorry Yamiguchi, we can't let you in due to patient privacy.” The doctor stated, and Makoto could hear the aggravation in Kaede’s voice as several nurses held her back.

“As if I give a damn! Makoto is my best friend!” She shouted, and the doctor let out a sigh, shutting the door swiftly behind him with the bottom of his shoe. Kaede's protests could be heard even with the door closed, and Makoto was positive he heard Ryou's voice somewhere in the squabbling between her and the nurses that had to hold her back. The doctor turned, gazing at Makoto sternly. His mustache shifted slightly as the man pursed his lips together, before scratching down onto the clip board in his hands.

“I am very sorry for the interruption, Hayashi. I am Doctor Hori.” Doctor Hori said, placing his clipboard under his arm and holding out his hand for Makoto to shake. Makoto quirked a brow before taking the doctor's hand, a firm shake between them. “You have been out for about a day after holding back that High Dragon that had descended in Noden's courtyard. For that, I thank you. A lot of us would of died if you had not intervened.” Doctor Hori stated, and Makoto pulled his hand out of the doctor's grasp, letting it rest in his lap once more. So, it wasn't a dream. Makoto swallowed down his embarrassment before speaking.

“It wasn't a problem. I'm just impressed that I survived.” Doctor Hori nodded in response, approaching Makoto's bedside. Doctor Hori put his clipboard down onto the bedside table, and slipped the pen back into his breast pocket. Pulling the stethoscope over the top of his head, Doctor Hori nestled the buds into his ears, before placing the chest piece onto Makoto's chest, close to his heart.

“Just breath deeply for me for a few moments.” Makoto complied, and the Doctor hummed to himself a few times, sliding the cold metal over his chest. Doctor Hori pulled away from Makoto, straightening out his posture as he pulled the buds from his ears, allowing the stethoscope to rest around his neck. He gestured for Makoto to hand him his wrist, and Makoto held it out for him. Two cold fingers dug into the skin on his wrist, and the room was silent as Doctor Hori took his pulse.

“You seem to be doing fine.” Doctor Hori said after a moment, picking up his board once again to jot down some information. He looked over Makoto once more, who held in the urge to squirm under the Doctor's hard gaze. “Any allergies? Chronic illness?” Doctor Hori asked, and Makoto shook his head. The doctor scribbled down a few more things, and turned to take several strides back towards the door, sliding it open with the tip of his shoe. “Please return if you have any issues, Hayashi. You're free to go.” With that, the Doctor exited the room, sliding the door shut behind him.

Makoto let out a sigh of relief. He slipped out of the bed, a chill going through him as his bare feet touched the ground. He quickly shuffled over to the counter to take his clothes from it. A yellow sticky note rested on the shirt, and he pulled it off to read it over. Ryou's messy scrawl covered the paper, and it looked like he had written it hastily as it was harder to read than usual.


Hey!
Allie and Julietta entrusted me to grab you a spare set of clothes last night, after I
dropped you off at their Infirmary. I barely could believe that Noden's has a hospital ward! It's really high tech too.

I grabbed the first set of things I could find in your drawers, so I
hope you don't mind what is in this pile. I made sure to grab a new jacket for you,
since your other one is torn to shreds.

- Ryou

Sliding out of the gown and into a set of casual clothes, Makoto pulled on the black, thick jacket that had fake fur lining the hoodie attached to it. It had been resting at the bottom of the pile. He smiled to himself. Ryou had grabbed one of his favorites, and rifling through the pockets, Makoto found a packet of sealed gum resting at the bottom of one of them, along with the key card he received at 7th Encount. If the gum was Ryou's way of apologizing for going into Makoto's apartment without saying anything, he accepted it. Not like Ryou could ask anyway, since he was unconscious up until recently. Makoto ripped open the plastic and pulling a strip of gum from the package, tossed the wrapper into the trash, and folded the note before sticking it in his pocket with the gum and card.

Sliding on his shoes that were resting by the door, Makoto made his way out of the hospital room. Kaede and Ryou were standing across the hall, leaning against the wall. Kaede was chewing on her bottom lip with her brow furrowed in frustration, tapping away erratically on the screen of her phone. Ryou had a pair of earbuds in, music jingling from them as he swiped across his phone's screen. Makoto slowly shut the door behind him, before clearing his throat. Kaede practically jumped out of her skin, her phone clutched between her fingers as she looked at him, wide eyed. Her face shifted from shock to happiness, and she beamed up at him.

“Makoto! It's great to see that you're alright!” Kaede said excitedly, taking a step forward to pinch his cheek. Makoto frowned slightly as she pinched his skin gently.

“Yes, yes. I'm perfectly fine.” Makoto grumbled, glancing down at her. Ryou let out a chuckle, pocketing his phone and earphones.

“It is nice to see that you're alright, especially after that fuss Kaede just caused.” Ryou added, and Kaede turned to look over her shoulder, glowering at Ryou. Her pinch on Makoto's cheek turned into a hard grip, and Makoto grimaced a bit, squirming to get away as her fingers tightened. Ryou let out a nervous laugh, glancing away from Kaede's gaze. “Anyway, Julietta and Allie want to see us in the conference room. We should get going." Kaede released her hold on his cheek, and Makoto rubbed at the area, a red mark in the shape of her fingers slowly blooming on his cheek. Ryou sped down the corridor with Kaede in tow, and Makoto let out a sigh through his nose before grinning to himself. Some things will never change.

He followed them through the hall and to the elevators, heading back to the west buildings of Nodens. Kaede and Ryou bickered a bit between one another; Kaede claiming her outburst in the hallways was justified, while Ryou argued that there was no need to cause such a scene. Makoto stood in silence, looking out over Tokyo.

Tokyo wasn't in complete ruins, but he could see that the Dragons had caused some major damage. A lot of the buildings surrounding Nodens had deep claw marks in them, and Dragonsbane poked out of the cracks of the steel beams. The courtyard in front of Nodens had massive cracks in the concrete from where the Dragon and High Dragon had landed the day prior, and there was a set of construction workers out there, pouring concrete into the cracks to mend them. It was as good as it was going to get, Makoto presumed.

Kaede and Ryou continued to bicker as they reached the door of the conference room, and Makoto looked over his shoulder as he was about to open the door, a frown on his lips. They could bicker over anything mundane for hours. “I get it. Kaede was a bit too loud in the hallway. I'm fine. Let's go.” Makoto told them, waving his hand at the pair of them. Kaede pouted and crossed her arms over her chest in defeat, and Ryou snickered at her. The door slid open, showing Julietta standing on the opposite side of Allie's desk, watching as information flooded the giant monitor while speaking hastily to her. Allie was whispering back to him as she typed away on her keyboard. They were deep in conversation about what was being shown on the monitor, and Allie quieted down once her office door opened.

“Ah! They're back!” Allie exclaimed, and Julietta turned to get a look at the group. He smiled broadly at them, ushering them to approach Allie's desk. Their footstep echoed off of the floor as they ambled over, and Allie stopped typing. “It's great to see that you all survived. I knew that you would.” Allie said, and Julietta quickly glanced over the group, looking for any serious injuries.

“It's impressive how you're still okay after taking on a High Dragon, Makoto.” Julietta stated, and Makoto tilted his head to the side.

“A High Dragon? That's what class of Dragon it was?” Makoto inquired, and Allie nodded with fervor.

“Yes! That large one you held back as your friends returned inside was a High Dragon. They're below both True Dragons and Imperial Dragons, but act as a General if neither are in an area.” Allie explained. With several taps on her keyboard, four different images of different Dragons came up, each different than the last. The first one all the way to the right looked exactly like the first Dragon they had taken down outside, labeled as a Dragon. To the left was a High Dragon, then an Imperial Dragon. On the end of the True Dragon Fomalhaut in a slightly fuzzy image. Allie typed away once more, and the images of the Dragons disappeared, replaced by an empty desktop.

“Anyway, we have more important matters to speak about.” Her head turned as she looked over the group, a calm smile on her face. “As you saw yesterday, Dragons have finally returned to Earth. What we told you was true, and now it is up to you three if you'd like to join us in an effort to quell the Dragon threat once again.” Ryou nipped on his bottom lip as he stood beside Makoto, looking a bit pensive. Kaede still had her arms crossed, her hip jutted out as she rested her weight onto one leg, frowning. He glanced quickly between his two friends, and then back at Allie.

“I, as I said I would, will help out with this threat.” Makoto stated flatly, and Kaede deflated beside him, slouching forward a bit as she looked at Makoto in disbelief.

“Seriously? You're going to put your life on the line?” She questioned, and Makoto shrugged, shoving his hands into his pockets. The piece of gum in his mouth smacked between his teeth as he chewed, and Makoto pulled out the packet to unwrap another slice to toss in.

“I said I would, and you know I don't back down on promises.” Makoto replied, smirking at her. Kaede let out a defeated sigh, and Ryou chuckled beside Makoto. Least one of them was happy between the pair.

“I'm in if Makoto is. Maybe it'll be fun Kaede!” Ryou assumed, and Kaede rolled her eyes. She mumbled something about how they're all going to wind up dead because of either Makoto or Ryou one of these days. Makoto ignored her mumbling, as Julietta clasped his hands together.

“Then let us explain a bit more. Maybe that will better convince you.” Julietta said, looking over at Allie. Allie's fingers flew across the keyboard once more, and another image popped up on the monitor. A large, cylinder tube came onto the monitor with a green like fluid resting in it. The ends were capped off, as circuits ran over the flattened tops. Bullet points of information came onto the screen, detailing information about what was in the tube.

“In that device is the specimen of the First True Dragon – Iod. This True Dragon appeared on Earth roughly forty million years ago. They planted the Seed of Life within the core, and from it, life as we know it sprouted.” Allie described, the specimen rotating slowly on the monitor. Julietta brought a fist up to his mouth and cleared his throat. Makoto's intent gaze went from the specimen on the screen to Julietta.

“From analyzing this specimen, we now know that Humankind and Dragonkind share a deep bond. Iod created us, and this specimen proved it after we pulled the detail from it.” Julietta said, and from beside Makoto, Ryou and Kaede made tiny sounds of interest as they listened to Julietta speak. “We are collecting the remaining True Dragon specimens to complete the Dragon Chronicle to defeat the Seventh True Dragon – VFD.” Julietta glanced at each member of the group, before shrugging his shoulders. “There's a lot more to it, but that is the basics.”

Allie cleared her screen, joining her fingers together to rest in her lap as she leaned against the back of her chair. “From what we know, the ISDF has the Fifth True Dragon specimen: Fomalhaut. Because of this, your objective is to collect the four remaining specimens.” The three of them grew a bit apprehensive, and Julietta picked up on this quickly.

“Defeating those remaining True Dragons is going to be incredibly difficult. We don't expect this done in a fort night, so don't fret. You'll be trained a bit for battle before we throw you into the frying pan.” Julietta disclosed, winking at the group.

“But we can go over that later,” Allie interjected. “Are you still willing to aid us in our plan, Operation Code: VFD?”

Makoto chewed on the gum, blowing up a bubble before popping it with his teeth. “Sure. I pretty much already agreed to it, so I don't see why not.” He said, and Kaede let out an abrupt sound of surprise beside him, turning her head to give Makoto a skeptical look.

“Are you out of your mind, Makoto? We're probably going to die out there!” She proclaimed, and Makoto quirked a brow at her, smirking.

“We?” Makoto began. “You don't have to help if you do not wish to. I'm not going to force either of you into it." Kaede deflated a bit, a tiny frown on her lips as she chewed on her bottom lip. “Also, since when were you one to turn down a fight? It seems unlike you.” Makoto jested, and Kaede cheeks puffed up in disapproval, her arms still crossed.

“This is different. We will be putting our lives on the line here. This isn't some dingy, back alley fighting.”

Ryou glanced between the two, then sighed. “But Kaede, think about it for a moment. Nagamimi told us that Makoto was the one who had the largest ability to fight back against these Dragons.” Kaede peered around Makoto to look at Ryou. “We shouldn't just sit on the sidelines. We should help out Makoto in the process. We have the ability to do so.” Kaede rubbed her temple with her finger tips, huffing out a breath in annoyance.

“Fine. But if I die and you both survive, I'm haunting both of you.” Kaede grumbled, and Ryou beamed at her. Makoto turned his head to look at both of them, and both nodded their silent approval in sticking beside him.

“Guess that's a yes from us. We'll help you.” Makoto said, and Julietta smiled widely as Allie went back to typing on her computer.

“Fabulous! Now that you've all agreed to it, we need to come up with a team name for you three.” Julietta exclaimed excitedly, and looked between the three of them once more. Raising a hand to rest his cheek against as he mulled on it, Julietta snapped his fingers with his free hand. “What about Unit 13?” Julietta recommended, and Makoto narrowed his eyes with his head tilted slightly.

“Wasn't that the name of the unit who took down Nyala and Fomalhaut in 2020 and 2021?” Makoto queried, and Julietta hummed in acknowledgment.

“It is, yes. Although a bit dated, the name carries good luck, you know.”

Makoto looked between Kaede and Ryou once more, and they gave him firm nods of agreement. Allie tapped away while they had spoken, and a tiny dinging sound came from the speakers attached to the monitor in front of her. “Sorry. I was updating the key cards you all have to grant you access to the upper and lower floors of Nodens. You're free to explore as you please.”

Low squeaks came from behind them, and each of the group turned to see Nagamimi approaching the desk. “Yo, are you all done? I want to show these guys around the office.” Nagamimi stated, coming to a stop near the desk. Allie looked in the direction of the rabbit.

“We're all done.” She turned her head to look back at Makoto. “Take a tour around before we begin our mission. You have a lot to do before you get sent on the first official one.” With that said, she went back to typing away on her keyboard once more, humming a tune. Nagamimi looked over the group, before walking back towards the exit. They followed her in tow, and Julietta leaned to rest his lower back against Allie's desk, waiting for them all to leave.

“Do you think they'll actually make it?” Julietta asked quietly, a hint of sadness in his voice. Allie ceased humming her tune for a moment to make a sound of agreement.

“I have great faith in that group. Kaede Yamiguchi may need a bit more convincing, but Ryou Yamada seems okay with it. They're both impressive when it comes to gauging their rank in the class hierarchy. They may not be S-classes, but they're strong.” Allie paused to collect her thoughts. “However, Makoto Hayashi is our main asset of this. Keep an eye on him.” Allie ordered, and Julietta's steely gaze rested on the closed door to Allie's office.

Chapter Text

Nodens Enterprises was laid out a bit odd. Nagamimi brought the group on a tour of two out of the four buildings of Nodens. She had told them that the other two buildings considered mostly of servers to keep 7th Encount up and running across the globe, as well as acted as a storage area for spare parts.

The two main buildings, one to the east that faced the ocean, and the other to the west that faced downtown Tokyo, shared the same layout. The elevator panels within had an assortment of buttons from the top to the almost the bottom of the paneling, each labeled with what consisted on that floor. The first floor was the entrance, and the second floor was the development floor. Nagamimi skipped over the first floor, and showed them around the second floor.

The second floor was just a sea of employees for 7th Encount, rushing around as they worked on the game stability. The Dragon’s descent had caused connection errors across the globe, and since it was Nodens main source of profit, people ran around the room like chickens with their heads cut off to report updates. A tall, opaque barrier split the office in half, and on the other side was a rectangular wooden table with plastic chairs tucked under it. In front of the table was a white board that flickered with information about 7th Encount; stability, how many players were online, and the amount of errors currently in the game. It also stated when the next meeting to discus the game would be, and a timer on the board ticked down to that moment.

A door at the end of the meeting room was cracked open, and Makoto had wandered over as Nagamimi spoke hastily to Kaede and Ryou. He peered in, his hand resting on the door frame, and saw a desk covered in an assortment of folders and papers, which were stacked high. They blocked the view of a monitor for a computer, and Makoto could hear a tower whistling from below the desk as it vented out hot air from itself. Nagamimi shrieked at him to get out of that room when she caught him looking in, and dragged them on their way.

The third floor they were already acquainted with, being the conference floor. Chika and Rika worked diligently from their posts behind the counter. Chika was grumbling to herself as she flipped through a series of documents in her hands, as Rika hummed a happy tune to herself as she tapped away on a keyboard in front of her.

The fourth floor was barren, save for a small table that sat in the middle of the carpet. There was some caution tape across some doors in the room, and another door that was directly around the corner and a little ways down a hallway of the elevator lead to a terrace. Nagamimi had cleared her throat, before explaining that this was where the three of them would be staying from now on in a few days, as they finished up modeling the three bedrooms within. Makoto quirked a brow at the rabbit, folding his arms over his chest.

“Why is that? We all have our own apartments in Tokyo.” He stated, and Nagamimi shook her head.

“Did Allie or Julietta not explain this to you?” She quipped, and from the silence between the three of them, Nagamimi already knew the answer. She let out an annoyed sigh. “We need you three to stay on site. If another set of Dragons descend and we need your help, getting here will take too long, and we’ll all be dead before you even arrive.” Kaede frowned, shifting on her feet.

“We all have jobs outside of here, you know. We can’t just leave them.” She said, and Nagamimi shrugged, her sleeves barely lifting off of the ground as she did so.

“Not my problem. You three will have to figure that out.” With that, she lead them back to the elevator, and Kaede pouted. They continued to follow Nagamimi up and through Nodens. The floors above them held rooms for the employees that would stay overnight at Nodens, having horrid night shifts hours that would even made Makoto regret working for them. An area at the top of the building was roped off, and Nagamimi told them that this part of the building was still under construction. A quick glance at it told them all that it was going to be a bar, and Makoto stifled a sigh as he felt Ryou growing giddy at the idea of living somewhere with a bar close by.

Nagamimi toured them through the building to the west, not allowing them onto certain floors. They were closed off currently and not in use at that moment, for Nodens had no use for them currently. They peeked into the door on the first floor, which was the medical ward that they all were in a few hours prior, waiting for Makoto to wake up. The next few floors above it where not in use, while the fifth floor held a massive library.

Kaede and Makoto lit up the moment they stepped onto the hard wood flooring, and Ryou groaned from the back of the group. Nagamimi stopped the pair from exploring it fully, as they didn’t have time for that. They were loosing daylight, and the sun was going to start setting soon. She ushered them back into the elevator, before hitting a specific sequence of buttons on the panel. The elevator stayed stationary for a moment, and Ryou tilted his head as he looked down at Nagamimi.

“Why are we not moving?” He asked, and Nagamimi let out an ominous snicker. They began to plummet down. Makoto and Kaede gripped onto the railing behind them, as Ryou let out a shout of surprise before he joined them. The elevator came to a stop, and the doors let out its casual ding as they opened. Makoto and Kaede stepped out behind Nagamimi, as Ryou stumbled out, shaking from the sudden descent.

A vast, almost endless, tiled area was laid out in front of them. Scientists flitted to and fro’, jotting down notes onto a clipboard in their hands as they looked upon the massive test tubes in front of them. As the group approached the tubes, Kaede had let out a gasp, her hands over her mouth as Makoto and Ryou stared at what was within. Ryou had reached out to put his hands on the glass, before a scientist beside him swatted his hands away.

Dragons. Twenty small Dragons were floating inside each of the tubes that were lined up, all in a neat row. Panels jutted out, different buttons and knobs upon the console. Information scrolled across the small windows on the consoles, stating what kind of Dragon was within, as well as their vitals. Tubes extended out of the Dragons and towards the console, filtering their blood and bile so they could continue living in a stasis as the scientists studied them.

Nagamimi said nothing to the group as they looked over the Dragons. A majority of the scientists ignored the group as they gawked at their research. A man in a long, pristine white trench coat strolled up beside them. His chestnut brown hair was a mess, and his glasses were askew as he beamed at the group.

“You three must be Unit 13. I’ve been hearing many rumors about you already!” He said excitedly, adjusting his glasses on his face. Makoto looked over his shoulder at the man, who was smiling widely at him. “You’re a human, but hold S-Class powers? Practically unheard of in this day and age.” The scientist rambled. He held out a hand towards Makoto, who turned to accept it. Kaede and Ryou regrouped beside Makoto as the scientist continued to speak. “I’m Mitch. I’m one of the scientists that came here with Julietta from America. I’ve been researching into the Dragons for years and was given the opportunity to come here to study even deeper into them.”

From below, Nagamimi huffed impatiently. “We don’t have all day. I still have to have them report back to Allie before sending them off. Give them their shots.” Makoto looked down at Nagamimi, before looking back up at Mitch. Shots?

“What do you mean by shots?” Makoto asked worriedly. Mitch gave him a friendly smile, and waved a dismissive hand at him.

“Oh you know, just a basic injection. It should grant your bodies more resilience while fighting against the Dragons, as well as boost up your strengths. It’ll vary for each of you, but you all should see the effects of it in the next week or so.” Mitch explained, and waved over another scientist. The scientist brought over a locked box, and it popped open to show three syringes filled with a murky, peach colored liquid. Makoto automatically took a step back as anxiety gripped him.

“Oh no, I’m not okay with getting prodded by a needle.” He outright stated, and Nagamimi grumbled angrily from the floor. Kaede and Ryou shared a concerned glance, and Mitch reached forward to grab Makoto’s arm as he tried to flee.

“You signed up for this, you know.” Nagamimi told him, as Makoto struggled against Mitch’s tight grip. “It will help you not die out there, which is the last thing we all want.”

Two scientists poked Ryou and Kaede first, as Mitch held onto Makoto, who was still trying to wiggle his way out of the scientists strong grip. One of the scientists beside him prepped the syringe and needle for Mitch, before handing it over to him. Mitch’s friendly smile never left his lips, as he slowly pricked Makoto’s skin with the tip of the needle. It pierced through his skin and down to the muscle, and Makoto winced as Mitch drove the needle deeper, before pushing down on the plunger of the syringe. The murky liquid drained from it and into his arm, and Makoto held back the urge to pull away.

Mitch extracted the needle from him, and patted on a bandage over the puncture. “There. I’m all done. I suggest you all go rest up, and let the solution do its job.” Makoto tore his arm out of Mitch’s grasp, frowning as he looked at the man. Nagamimi had left to tear Kaede and Ryou away from the Dragon specimens once more, and escorted them out of the room.

They all followed Nagamimi in a slight daze, the injections making them grow fatigued. Nagamimi’s squeaky steps echoed off of the walls as she led them back to Julietta and Allie, and the group fell into a synchronized walk beside one another. Kaede shot Makoto a look of concern, and Ryou looped an arm around Makoto’s.

“Are you feeling alright?” Kaede asked, and Makoto nodded in response. He was fine, just a bit surprised. “I was surprised to see all of those Dragons in tubes. Why do you think they’re performing tests on them?” Kaede questioned. Makoto gave her a shrug, and Ryou leaned over to get a look at Kaede, grinning.

“Maybe they’re curious about them? There isn’t that much information about them.” Ryou said, and Makoto hummed in thought.

“There’s a decent amount about them online, but you have to search through the deeper parts of the web to find anything worthwhile.” Makoto mentioned, and Ryou let out a small gasp.

“Really? You’ve never shared the information with me!” Ryou stated in surprise, and Makoto shrugged.

“It was one of my jobs for the agency I work for. I didn’t see the point in spreading the information.”

They walked in relative silence back through Nodens, Nagamimi taking them the long way back to the conference room. Makoto and Kaede spoke a bit about the books that they had caught glances of while in the reference room, and Ryou rolled his eyes, stating that the development room for 7th Encount was a hundred times cooler than some old books. The conversation of Mio arose, and Nagamimi let out a disheartened sigh.

"She left shortly before you awakened. She said that she was thankful you all saved her, but stated she would not be useful for us, since she did not want to fight." Nagamimi explained, shrugging her tiny shoulders. "None of us know where she has gone, but she said she would keep in touch from time to time." They all dropped the conversation as quickly as they started, accepting that Mio didn't want to get caught up in this chaos. None of them blamed her either.

Nagamimi’s squeaking steps came to a halt as they reached Allie’s office once more, and the door slid open to show her sitting on a love seat that had a small coffee table in front of it, which was off to the side of her office. She held a tiny porcelain cup in her dainty hands, smiling at the group as they entered her office once more.

“Welcome back! How was your tour?” She inquired, and Nagamimi let out an irritated huff, before stepping over to where Allie sat, hopping up onto the couch herself.

“It could have been worse. I showed them where they will be staying, and around the office. Mitch also gave them their shots, to which Makoto almost ruined.” Nagamimi grumbled, and Makoto rolled his eyes at the rabbit.

“I’m just not a fan of needles.” He murmured, and Allie let out a light giggle, placing her cup down onto the table.

“It’s okay! You’re not the only one, so no worries.” They all stood awkwardly by the door, and Allie gestured at them to approach her. “There is no need to be so formal with me. I may be a CEO, but I am just as human as you all are.” Allie said as they crowded around her. She offered a cup of tea to each of them, and Kaede was the only one who accepted the offer, sipping at the drink eagerly. Allie looked down at Nagamimi, before looking back up at them once again.

“I presume Nagamimi explained that you all will be living here?” They all nodded in response, and Nagamimi adjusted in her spot.

“You should of told them about that before they left to get a tour! They looked at me like I had three heads when I told them all about it.” Nagamimi complained.

“Well anyway, you all have several days before you need to report back here. Feel free to bring your own things from your homes on that day, since those bedrooms should be completed by then.” Allie said, ignoring Nagamimi’s comments. “You are all dismissed for the day. Have a safe trip back home!”

With that, they each gave Allie a bow. Kaede placed the cup gently down onto the table, and left in tow with Makoto and Ryou. They took the elevator back down to the entrance, and wandered outside.

Chapter Text

Several days had passed, and before all of them knew it, each of them were set up in their own rooms at Nodens Headquarters.

Their bedrooms were next to each other; Makoto’s at the end closest to the terrace that was attached to their living area. Ryou’s was beside his, and Kaede’s was on the end, closest to their shared living room that had an attached kitchen adjacent to it. It was spacious, even with the kitchen, and had two bathrooms – one for Kaede and the other for Makoto and Ryou to share. Most of the flooring, besides the bathroom, were lined with a grey carpet, and the walls were painted the same color. The attached kitchen had a breakfast bar that was lined with marble and came with bar stools made of wood with leather padding on top, along with a fridge and stove up parallel to it. One of them had put a rice cooker onto the counter beside the stove, and Kaede had brought along her dining set for them to use. Makoto’s coffee pot was placed near the fridge, already plugged into an outlet nearby as it brewed a fresh pot for them to share.

Kaede and Ryou took it upon themselves to decorate the living room, which now had a television with Ryou’s medium sized kotatsu before it, several of Makoto’s bookcases with his and Kaede’s books upon it, and an assortment of Ryou’s posters of different musicians he enjoys taped up behind the television. Ryou’s gaming systems were arranged neatly on the television stand before the television, their cords tied together to keep the area clear of wires. The room was still incredibly empty, even with those things within it.

Their bedrooms were a bit more crowded. Allie had bought each of them a full sized mattress set, as well as a wooden desk with a rolling chair tucked into it. Each got a view of Tokyo from their rooms; large window panes that spanned across the backside of their rooms. They came with white blinds that were long enough to cover the windows from top to bottom, which would block out the setting sun.

Makoto had already set up his computers at his desk, which he had to pull a little bit away from the wall to get all the wires to fit. The pair of towers were on the floor under of the desk, the wires connecting to his set of monitors trailing up the back. He was barely able to squeeze the three monitors onto the desk he was provided due to the shelves that were attached to the desk, but Makoto was able to arranged them to make them fit. The extra shelves of his desk were empty, as Makoto didn’t own much in terms of décor. The rest of his room was tidy. His bed was made with his comforter from his own apartment resting on top. His personal bookshelf rested to the left of his desk and had some photographs on it, as well as some of his college textbooks. Makoto kept them just for reference, and also because they worked as good paperweights at times. There was a box of older computer parts tucked away in the closet, mostly of pieces Makoto was going to either sell off, or build a new tower with. But overall, his room was the most basic out of all of them.

Kaede’s room was also decorated to the fullest extent, but still had some space. It was a bit more on the girly side than Ryou and Makoto expected from her. Several layers of colorful pillows were propped up on her bed, along with a brightly colored bed set. The pillows were more for decoration, which is what she told them, but looked soft enough to sleep on. Her desk was covered in photos of Kaede together with her family, as well as images from Kyoto, and a few from Kaede’s tournament wins when she practiced martial arts in secondary school. Several more lined the walls behind her desk, but those mostly consisted of her family than anything. A variety of little cat figures were on one of the upper shelves of her desk, all different kinds of breeds. Other cute knick knacks littered her desk, along with some stationary that she would use to write letters to her family. Kaede had also thrown down a rug onto the floor, which was cut into a shape of a cherry blossom, the vivid pink color faded with age.

Ryou’s room was cramped, to say the least. His computer set up took up the most, along with his music producing set up – all crammed together by a wall. His bed was shoved up against the wall, unlike Kaede’s and Makoto’s, which were left in the middle of the room. His bed was a mess – blanket upon blanket thrown upon the sheets, and the bed wasn’t even made. The rest of Ryou’s posters were tapped all along the walls. They all varied – some were of musicians Ryou really enjoyed and looked up to, while others were of video gaming posters he was able to get a hold of; mostly of older, retro games that would be incredibly hard to find in 2100. Speaking of which, Ryou had a display set up of old, refurbished gaming consoles that had their classics lined up beside them. He took great pride in it, as well as owning them in nearly perfect condition. A few from before 2020 were also in the pile, and Ryou worked endlessly on them to get them back into their original condition – trying to fix up the chipped cartridges and get new labels upon them.

Makoto waited patiently in front of the coffee maker with a mug in hand, tuning into the sound of the liquid dripping into the pot as Ryou blasted the television behind him, curled up under the kotatsu while watching a popular show that he liked to keep up with. Kaede was humming to herself at the breakfast bar, fiddling with her phone as she texted her friends. As the coffee marker dinged that it was done brewing, Makoto’s phone vibrated on the counter beside Kaede, signaling he either received a new email or text message. Pouring himself a mug of fresh coffee, Makoto pulled out the bar stool beside Kaede, and slumped into it. They were all tired from unpacking and rearranging the rooms, and finally had a moment to rest as the sun began to set. Tapping his finger onto his phone twice, the screen lit up, stating that there was a message from Julietta.

Makoto,
Please bring you and your team mates to the conference floor – Allie wants to speak with all of you. Your mission begins tomorrow, and she has some things she wants to go over before you all set out in the morning.

Makoto scrolled through the message, before turning the screen off as he rested the phone against the counter once more. Kaede glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes before looking back down at her phone.

“What’s up?” She asked, tapping away another message. Makoto took a sip from his mug, cupping it in his hands. It was pretty chilly in the room, and the warmth coming from the mug was the only thing keeping his hands warm.

“Julietta wants us to meet up with Allie. She wants to speak to us before we begin our mission tomorrow.” Makoto told her, and his phone vibrated on the counter once more, the screen lighting up to say that the agency he works for had sent him an email. He’d look at it later – they should go see Allie first. Makoto put his cup down onto the counter and slid out of his seat, heading towards where Ryou laid on the floor. He laid on his side against the carpet, eyes glued to the screen until Makoto nudged him with his foot. Ryou looked up at him, an annoyed frown on his lips.

“I heard you. Let me at least get to a commercial break.” Ryou grumbled. Makoto wandered away and back towards his seat, Kaede giggling softly at an image as he slid back onto the cushion. Several minutes had passed before Ryou got up from his spot, joining Kaede and Makoto at the breakfast bar. Together, the three of them left their new living quarters, and made their way back to Allie’s office.

Silence reigned in the elevator and hallways, and the three of them reached Allie’s office without an issue. Chika and Rika were working diligently on their assignments. Chika was grumbling under her breath as Rika hummed a tune to herself, flipping through the paperwork at a breakneck pace. Rika’s head turned in their direction as the three of them walked down the hall, giving them a small wave in greeting as they passed.

The inside of Allie’s office was the same as usual, and Allie sat behind her desk, tapping rapidly onto her keyboard with a smile on her face. They approached her, and Allie turned her head to look at them. How she saw the three of them baffled Makoto since her eyes were never open, but he shelved that thought to ask her at another time.

“Ah, welcome back! It is great to see that the three of you are doing well.” Allie said, swiveling her seat so she could rest her forearms on her desk. Her fingers intertwined together. “You all have made a wonderful recovery from the other day, and I see that you are all moved in. Was there enough space for each of you? How about the fridge, did it have enough food?” Allie asked. Makoto nodded while Ryou shook his head.

“I don’t have enough space in my own room-” Ryou began, and Kaede slammed her foot onto Ryou’s toes, causing him to flinch in pain.

“You would if you didn’t cram it full of everything you own, as well as leave it a disgusting mess.” Kaede muttered to him, and Makoto leaned forward to glare at both of them, before turning his gaze back to Allie, holding in a sigh.

“We’re fine. Thank you for providing us with a place to stay, as well as other necessities.” He said to Allie, giving her a small bow. Allie waved a hand at him, shaking her head.

“It was no trouble! It is the least I can do for our Dragon Hunters. Now then,” Allie began, opening a drawer to her right. She rummaged through it for a moment, as Kaede and Ryou bickered at each other under their breaths, and Makoto had to hold back the urge of slamming his foot onto Kaede’s to get them both to stop. From the desk, Allie pulled out three small earbuds, along with a small, cellular like device. She placed them gingerly onto her desk in front of them, pushing a set to each of them with her fingers. Kaede and Ryou ceased their argument, looking down at what Allie had pushed towards them with interest.

“These will serve as your communication devices. You all will be on the same frequency as one another, as well as Julietta, Nagamimi, and myself, while on the field.” Allie explained to them, and Makoto picked up the set closest to him, tucking the bed into his ear into his ear as he rolled the smaller device in the palm of his hand, looking it over. There was a screen on the front of it that was blank and dark. There was a tuning knob to change the frequency, a tiny nub that was flicked to the ‘off’ side, and a headphone jack. The nub had two more options besides the off option, which included the options to be on or muted. Ryou was messing around with his, the earbud in his ear as he played with the tuning knob, and Kaede rolled the earbud between her fingers while the device sat on Allie’s desk. Allie watched the three of them, before clearing her throat to gain their attention once again.

“We require that you have these on at all times while on the field. It is the only way we can keep in contact with you three, as well as to keep an eye on you for your safety. We don’t want the three of you dead!” Allie told them, resting her arms against her desk once more. “Your first mission begins tomorrow at noon, and I would like to see the three of you at the Portal room by that time tomorrow.” Kaede quirked a brow up at Allie.

“Portal room? Nagamimi never showed us any rooms with a...portal in it.” Kaede said, confusion in her tone. Allie nodded her head, her smile diminishing a little.

“It’s a separate room that we have been keeping a secret from most employees of Nodens. Only a select few know of it, and Julietta will be bringing the three of you down there tomorrow.” Allie explained, and Makoto glanced up at Allie. “There is a reason why, and it ties into our mission of finishing the Dragon Chronicle. We’re trying to keep knowledge of it under wraps for as long as we can, although the ISDF does know of it. But, I digress.” Allie said, shrugging her shoulders. Her bright smile returned, and she raised her arms up to rest her chin in the palm of her hands as her elbows rested on the wooden desk. “I shall see you three tomorrow afternoon! Get some rest, because you will need it.” With that, she dismissed them from her office.

As they each left her office and headed back up to their quarters, Makoto pulled the bud out of his ear and placed it into his sweater pocket, along with the tuner. Ryou continued to fiddle with his as they ambled on back, and Kaede left hers in, holding the tuner in her hands. The rest of their night was uneventful, each of them crowding around the kotatsu to eat a dinner Kaede whipped up, before heading to their own rooms to rest up shortly after. Kaede left first early in the evening, stating she was exhausted from the move. Ryou left Makoto shortly after, claiming he wanted to sort through some more of his things before tomorrow, and headed off in the direction of his room.

Makoto was the final one to leave, turning the television off and turning off the heater before heading towards his room. He slipped into his pajamas and laid underneath the comfort of his covers, he stared up at the ceiling, listening to the dull noise of Tokyo’s nightlife outside of his window. As he counted the seconds ticking by, Makoto began to wonder what was in store for them. Fighting a True Dragon sounded almost impossible; that High Dragon from the other day could of easily killed all of them with one swipe of its meaty, clawed paws. How were they going to survive against something that was possibly twice as strong as a High Dragon?

Makoto’s anxious anticipation for the next day grew, and he slowly fell into a fitful slumber.

Chapter Text

‘And here you stand – the last of your kind in this universe.’

A massive, bipedal dragon towered over Makoto, its white scales glistening with violet colored blood. Cuts and nicks covered its body, and Makoto glanced down at his hands, which were grasping a sword tightly. It emit a calming, blue glow that warmed his hands while it frizzled in and out of existence. The dragon let out a thundering roar, landing down onto all fours to stare at Makoto with its eyes – a crimson color that glinted with anger. Its maw opened to show rows upon rows of sharp teeth, and the bloody stench from it made Makoto reel back.

Raising the sword in his hands, Makoto slashed it across its gaping mouth, blood pouring from the wound. It howled in pain and rose to be bipedal once more, a menacing growl vibrating in its throat as it stared down at him. Makoto hopped away from where he stood to avoid becoming a pancake as the dragon slammed one of its claws down, the ground cracking beneath their feet. The dragon snarled at him and bared its fangs. As the floor below shattered like glass, Makoto flailed desperately to grip onto something, dropping the sword into the abyss below him. His fingers clung to a small piece of the shattered floor, and the dragon let out a guffaw as it looked down at Makoto, flapping its wings to stay aloft as the ground crumbled. With only the tiny panes that his fingers were stuck to, Makoto was paralyzed with fear, stuck watching the dragon’s neck uncoil as it lowered its head show Makoto its line of teeth once again.

‘And here you die – the end of the human race.’

The loud throttling of someone slamming their fists against his door jolted Makoto awake from his slumber, and he sat upright in bed. His clothes and sheets clung to him by the cold sweat that covered his skin, and his heart was beating erratically. His fingers bawled up in his shirt, and he shivered once from the frigidness of the room. Slowly, Makoto laid back down, pulling his comforter up and over his head. The banging ceased after a moment, and he let out a sleepy huff. Hoping that whomever was doing that wasn't going to continue, he nestled deeper into his comforter and let his eyes flutter to a close. Makoto contemplated the dream he just had.

It was...odd. He had never dreamed of anything like it before. Sure, he has had his fair share of odd dreams, but that one...felt different. Ignoring the unease feeling he got from it and feeling his heart finally calm down, Makoto slowly drifted back to sleep. It was a few minutes later when his eyes shot open as the slamming upon his door returned in full force.

“Makoto! We gotta get going!”

Sitting up in his new bed, Makoto blinked several times as his eyes adjusted to the light in the room. His comforter slid off of his shoulders, crumpling up into a pile around his waist. Typical of Ryou to be the one to try to awaken him. His door slid open, and Ryou was already dressed and ready to go; his standard gaudy, black and orange jacket with a checkered interior zipped up to cover his shirt. Ryou approached the end of the bed, and Makoto could barely make out the bright smile that rested on Ryou’s lips as he looked at him with blearily eyes.

“Come on! Get up, get up!” Ryou chanted, pressing his palms against Makoto’s bed and pushing the mattress up and down with all of his might. Makoto huffed out an annoyed sigh, before swiping his glasses off of the table beside his bed.

“I’m awake, jeez...” Makoto grumbled, and Ryou stopped bouncing the mattress with the palm of his hands, beaming at him. Makoto rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hands. Ryou’s excitement to begin their mission was practically oozing from him, and Makoto slowly dragged himself out of bed. Ryou stood in the center of his room, bouncing on his heels.

“Come on, hurry up! Julietta is waiting in the hallway for us, along with Kaede so we should-” Ryou paused, his smile fading into a sheepish grin as Makoto looked over his shoulder to glare at him. “I’ll...wait outside with them.” Ryou said, seeing himself out. Makoto relaxed a bit as he gathered up rest of his clothes before heading out into the living room and towards the bathroom.

Feeling a lot better after running a hot shower, Makoto approached the group in the hall as he put the communication device Allie had given them yesterday into his ear. Pushing the cellphone like device into the depths of his pants pocket, Makoto moved to stand beside his friends. Kaede and Ryou were chatting away with Julietta, who seemed to be listening intently, nodding his head as they spoke. Kaede quieted down as Makoto approached, and greeted him with a warm smile.

“Good morning!” Kaede exclaimed cheerfully. Ryou glanced away from Makoto, possibly feeling bad for waking him. “As Allie said, Julietta is here to show us the way to the portal.” Kaede gestured over to Julietta, who gave Makoto a grin. He began to walk down the hall, waving his hand at them to signal them to follow him. Ryou and Kaede began to jabber once more, and Makoto picked up on pieces of it as he still waking up from being rudely awakened.

“Where do you think the portal goes?” Ryou whispered, and Kaede slightly shrugged her shoulders.

“Who knows. Maybe to another dimension?” Kaede replied, and Ryou hummed in thought, before shaking his head in disagreement. They ceased their conversation as Julietta brought them into the elevator. With several quick taps on a handful of the buttons, the elevator descended lower into Nodens. Makoto saw Tokyo’s skyline disappear, before the elevator plummeted down as it did the other day. Kaede and Ryou stood on either side of him, and both had gripped onto his arms out of sudden shock. He was a bit taken back to – but not wholly surprised. They did deal with the same thing yesterday.

The elevator dinged once as the doors slid open. They were in a hallway that was identical to all the rest in Nodens. However, there were no windows to view outside, and a low hum of electricity filled their ears. Julietta ushered them all forward, and they followed him down the hall towards a door at the end. Kaede’s fingers were in a vice grip around Makoto’s fore arm, and he had to shake it to get her to let go. Ryou walked silently beside them, his eyes fixated on Julietta.

They reached the door at the end of the hallway, and Julietta spun on his heel to address them, his expression stern. “Now, I need you three to understand a couple of things before I open this door.” He began, placing a finger on his chin with his other hand on his hip. “You do not mention this portal to anyone else. This is a project I have been working on for several years, and I have poured a lot of money into it. Enough to bankrupt several, multi-million businesses. It’s only by 7th Encount’s success that I was able to finish this.” Julietta turned back to face the door, and the three of them shared a collective glance of concern.

Julietta rested his hand upon a panel beside the door, the red panel changing to a green as his hand laid across it. It made several beeps as it scanned over his palm, and the door slowly slid open. Julietta stepped in first, turning to face the group once more with his regular smile on his lips. “Come in. Come see my beautiful project.”

As they stepped in, a gasp of awe came from both Makoto and Ryou. Ryou took several steps forward, before rushing up a set of steps and onto a bit of raised, circular ground. His feet tapped against the metal that made up the machine, and Makoto gazed over the room. Makoto had to hold back the urge to ask Julietta how everything worked, but he made a mental note to talk to the older man about it later.

The room itself was massive. To his right was a control console that had several Noden’s employees fretting over it, speaking in hushed tones as they tapped away on a screen. Several empty boxes sat at the back of the room, and a pair of large monitors rested on the back wall, displaying information about the portal itself. It stated that it was in stand by, and that it was fully functional at the moment. Makoto’s eyes landed on the machine itself – which was just a slab of metal shaped in a circle in the center of the room with four more circular pieces on its corners. The hum they heard earlier was coming from the machine, and Makoto swore he saw a small, electrical spark come off of the parts above the plates.

Ryou was humming to himself as he eyed over the machinery before he wandered over to the employees. They seemed to ignore him as he glanced over everything. Kaede took several steps closer to the portal with Makoto in tow. The entrance door opened once more, and Nagamimi strolled in to join them, hurrying over to the control console. She booted Ryou out of the area, and he proceeded to wander back over to stand beside Kaede and Makoto once more, barely containing his excitement. Julietta glanced at her, and the shuffling of cloth could be heard as Nagamimi gestured that they were ready to begin while she flopped down onto the flat top of the console. Julietta cleared his throat, gaining their undivided attention.

“This portal will allow you three to travel to the past, and to the future. In those periods, you will stop the True Dragon that is rampaging, and bring back a specimen for me to study.” Julietta explained, and snapped his fingers. One of the previous employees rushed over to them, holding the weapons that Makoto and Kaede had used during the dragon descent several days ago, along with a belt that had several sets of pouches on them. Makoto reached out to grasp at the katana and one of the belt sets, while Kaede took the brass knuckles into her hands and another set into her hands, eyeing them over with a frown on her face. Makoto adjusted the blade to his hip, the sheath strapped to the belt the employee had handed over. Ryou fiddled with his for a moment, and opened each of the pouches to see what was within.

Makoto flipped his open to find several, small vials of murky liquid within. There was also a roll of bandages and gauze, and several packets of antiseptic ointment in individual packages. Ryou and Kaede seemed to have the same things, and Ryou looked at the vial in his fingers, his brow scrunched up in confusion.

“Drink those only if you need to. They’re not made for constant use, but they’ll replenish your stamina if you grow tired. You did receive those injections the other day, and if they did their jobs correctly, you probably won't need them. Also, there should be another in there that is thicker. Rub it sparingly on any wounds.” Julietta told them, gesturing at the pouches. Ryou quirked his brow at Julietta in confusion as he put away the vial in his fingers back into his own pouches.

"What were the injections suppose to do?" He questioned, and Julietta hummed in thought momentarily.

"They are suppose to improve your skills on the battlefield, as well as improve your own attributes." Julietta began, before shrugging. "It will vary between all of you. You may be faster to react to an attack, or your attacks may be stronger. It depends upon your genetics more than anything." He paused, looking at each of them with a smile on his face. “I imagine you all will be fine. It was more to give you all a better fighting chance against the Dragons. Anyway, let’s get this show on the road! Nagamimi is going to be your navigator, so listen to what she has to say. It may save you in a life or death situation.” Julietta indicated for them to stand upon the portal, and the three of them approached the raised slab, standing side by side on it. Makoto stood with his arms crossed over his chest, already wanting to go back to bed. Ryou bounced on his heels once again, humming a tune to himself. Kaede glanced around, a bit concerned as she adjusted her weapons.

“You didn’t tell us where we are going, Julietta.” Kaede mumbled, glancing between Julietta and Nagamimi apprehensively.

“You didn’t tell them where they were going?!” She squawked at Julietta, who shrugged in response. With a sigh, Nagamimi shook her head, flopping down onto the top of the console. The monitors behind the portal began to light up, a sequence of numbers running across the screen. “Their blood will be on your hands if something happens to them.” Nagamimi muttered, as the employee adjusting the knobs on the console handed Nagamimi a headset. She fit them snugly over her head, removing the hat that adorned her head to do so. Julietta took several steps away from the portal as the humming sound became louder, walking to join Nagmaimi by the controls.

Makoto could barely hear Nagamimi speaking to them over the humming as it increased, but he did hear Kaede’s shriek of surprise when a bright light flashed in front of their eyes, before being engulfed by a sea of darkness.

Chapter Text

As the darkness began to fade away, every single one of his senses hit Makoto like a brick. The salty breeze of being near the ocean filled his nostrils, and the thundering roar of a crashing waterfall surrounded him. Kaede’s nails were digging into the fabric of his sweater while Ryou had his whole hand wrapped around his right arm. He tried to open his eyes, but the brightness overwhelmed him. Makoto blinked a few times, slowly adjusting to the light. Glancing to his left and to his right, he was absolutely amazed at the sight before him.

They were standing in the middle of a floating platform, the stone below their feet cracked with age. Bright green vines twisted around the posts in the small alcove, and Dragonbane flowers peaked through some of the vines; their darkened vines slowly sucking the life out of the them. Trees and bushes with no leaves that almost looked like they were made out of crystal rested in small, square pots. Some of the bushes were lined against the railing between the circular platforms, while the trees were around the edges of the larger platforms. Other, larger areas floated a little ways away from the group, and water poured over the sides of these floating platforms. Bridges extended from one spot to the next and Dragonsbane vines twisted around them, the flowers in full blown.

Surrounding the place was a massive waterfall that seemed to encircle the area, and Makoto could not see where it ended as it continued way beyond his line of sight. The water flowed freely to the depths down below, and Makoto wasn’t willing to find out just how far of a drop it was to the bottom. The sea spray floated gently in the air as it came off of the gushing water, but it did not reach the platform they were standing upon. A cool breeze whipped through, and Makoto suppressed a shiver. It was a bit chilly, and he was thankful that he wore his coat today.

Ryou admitted a low whine beside him, and Makoto glanced at his friend. He looked a bit frightened, his eyes darting back and forth as he took in the sights around them. Kaede, however, let out a small gasp of awe as her eyes adjusted and she looked around. She removed her fingers from Makoto’s arm, and rushed to the edge of the platform, standing on her tiptoes to look over the edge. Makoto stood still, waiting for Ryou to calm down before trying to take several steps forward to investigate.

Static came from the small headphone like device wrapped over his ear, and Nagamimi was grumbling under her breath until she realized that they could hear her. “Are you three alright? Kaede, get away from the edge!” She growled, and Kaede let out a disappointed huff before moving to stand back beside Makoto with her arms crossed over her chest and a pout on her lips. Ryou slowly removed his hand from Makoto’s arm and shoved his hands into his pockets, then let out a sigh as he calmed down.

“Where are we anyway?” Makoto questioned, taking a few steps forward.

“Atlantica, the capital of Atlantis. You three are twelve thousand years in the past, in the middle of what we know as the Atlantic Ocean.” Nagamimi explained, and Kaede flinched in surprise beside Makoto.

“Twelve thousand years? In the past?!” She exclaimed aloud, her brows high upon her forehead as she chewed on her lip. Raising his hands to rub his fingers against his temple, Makoto held back the urge to sigh. He wasn’t taking Julietta seriously when he said they’d be traveling to the past and future, and was regretting not doing so.

“Yes, in the past Kaede. Now hurry along. We have a lot of work to do.” Nagamimi’s feed cut out, and only the rushing sound of the waterfalls surrounded them. Ryou’s casual smile returned, and he rushed ahead of Makoto, excited to begin their mission. Kaede and Makoto exchanged glances of concern as Ryou’s form grew smaller in the distance, before racing after him. Kaede called out to Ryou to slow down.

It was going to be a very long day.

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They had traveled across several of the floating platforms, admiring the sights around them. Runes were etched into the stone below their feet, and were glowing a calm blue color that practically blended in with the rushing waters. Railings carved out of emerald surrounded the edges of all of the platforms, preventing anyone from falling to the depths below. They were incredibly sturdy too, especially on some of the platforms that looked as if they were crumbling to pieces due to the Dragonsbane.

Makoto frowned, growing concerned. They had not come across any humans yet, and had ended up fending off several twisted animals that charged at them. It seemed as if the Dragonsbane was corroding the psyche of them, and they were mindlessly mulling about on some of the walkways. None of them wanted to put down the animals; dangerous to them or not. Nagamimi had grown frustrated at them over it, and told them to do their jobs of protecting themselves – even if it involved drawing their weapons against other creatures.

Approaching another winding staircase that would lead them deeper into the town, Kaede’s piercing scream echoed from behind Makoto. He pivoted on his heel, catching a glance of one of the purple rabbits that had been attacking them. Its claws were extended as it lunged at Kaede, razor sharp black talons that would be able to slice them apart in seconds. Kaede rose her leg into the air and thrust her foot out in its direction; the heel of her brown boots colliding with the rabbits face. It squealed out in pain as it was flung back from the kick, blood pouring from its mouth where Kaede had knocked several of its teeth out. It skidded across the stone floor, coming to a halt over some of the vines of the Dragonsbane.

It rose back onto its hind legs, trying to hiss at them. Blood dripped onto the dark vines of the Dragonsbane below its feet, and the vines shuddered. Makoto quirked a brow, one hand resting on the hilt of his blade as he prepared to unsheath it. Was he imaging things, or did the vines really twitch? A quick glance at Ryou, who stood beside him, told him that no, he didn’t imagine it. Ryou was squinting at the vines, and his arms slowly raised up to be level with his torso, a small ball of fire fizzling into existence between his palms, ready to attack if he needed to.

The rabbit dropped back onto all fours, preparing to charge at Kaede. She rose her fists up and let her leg slide back into a fighting stance, a scowl on her face. The vines then jerked up from the ground, coiling around the rabbit’s torso and neck. The petals of the Dragonsbane flowers behind it began to open up into full bloom, and the vines dragged the thrashing rabbit closer and closer to them. It screeched and fought desperately against the vines, biting down onto them and trying to claw its way out through the thick, plant material, but to no avail. The vines tightened around it, thorns digging into its side. No blood came from the animal, and it howled.

Kaede’s face twisted from a scowl into pure fear, and she took several strides back, heading towards Makoto and Ryou. Ryou looked bewildered as he stared, and Makoto grimaced in disgust. The rabbits plump features disintegrated as the thorns and vines dug deeper into its flesh, and its painful howls turned into soft whimpers of defeat. Some of the vines slowly uncoiled from the rabbit as they deposited its body in front of the flowers, and with one final twitch, the rabbit ceased moving. Its body began to melt in the vines that held it aloft, as the flowers twisted to hover over the body; everything reducing into a bloody heap. Some of the liquid dripped between the cracks in the vines, splashing against the ground and dying it crimson. Makoto heard Kaede gag at the sight, and Ryou could barely continue watching, turning his eyes away from the sight.

Swallowing down the bile that rested in his throat, Makoto continued to watch. The murky liquid seeped into the vines, and the flowers instantly grew; the petals gaining a more vibrant orange hue, and the vines thickened in length. They all held their breath as the vines returned back to their places around the railing and ground. The vibrating from the communication device in their pockets caused each of them to flinch, and Nagamimi’s squeaky voice came to life in their ears.

“That’s how the Dragonsbane thrives. It will suck the life and blood out of a wounded being, and then devours it. It’s how Dragons are created – those flowers will turn into Dragon Seeds once they gain enough life force.” Nagamimi told them, sounding a bit solemn. “You won’t be seeing many Lucier around here due to the Dragonsbane killing off any of those that are wounded. That also includes you three. Try not to get injured, or least keep your blood from getting upon the vines.” Nagamimi explained.

“It was...quite a gruesome sight.” Kaede mentioned softly as she rejoined Makoto and Ryou by the stairs. Makoto gave her a nod in agreement, and Ryou inhaled deeply as he let the fire in his palms disappear. They began to travel up the steps, the static still in their ears as Nagamimi stayed on the line. She was whispering to someone, who sounded a lot like Julietta, and then cleared her throat to gain their attention.

“Although you will want to save the wounded, do not forget that your mission is to find the True Dragon that is destroying this place, and grabbing the-” The signal began to fade in and out as quake shook the area. Makoto stumbled forward on the steps and slipped, putting out a hand to grab the rail beside him and the other in front of him so he didn’t hit the ground face first. Kaede faltered and gripped tightly onto the staircase railing, holding on her dear life as her knees crashed against the ground. Ryou tried his best to stay standing as he stood between the two of them, but in his flailing to do so, he slid forwards. He put both of his arms out to prevent himself from fully colliding to the ground.

As the tremors began to subside and the fear of the stone cracking to send them to their deaths slowly faded, each of them slowly stood up. Makoto brushed his hands off on his coat, and checked to make sure that everything in his pockets was still there. Kaede frowned, wiping away the dirt that was on her knees while grumbling to herself about how she spent good money on the clothes she was wearing. Ryou let out a sigh as he stood back up, looking a bit flustered as he wiped his hands onto his jeans. Nagamimi was screeching over the line as the signal began to restore itself.

“Are you all okay? That had me worried...” Nagamimi said, and Makoto chuckled a bit. Kaede shot him a glare, before hurrying back up the steps.

“Yes, we’re fine. Good to know that you were concerned for our well being.” Makoto replied, jogging up the steps to keep up with Kaede, Ryou towing behind him. He seemed to be a bit put off by that sight and the quake that just passed, and Makoto made a mental note to talk to him once they returned back to Tokyo.

“I was not! Allie would have my hide if I let you die barely an hour into your first mission!” Nagamimi rebutted. “We have a mission to complete here, and that is to find and get a specimen from the 3rd True Dragon, Nyala. It is currently bringing Atlantis down to its knees, and we need to find it before it actually does.”

Makoto and Ryou caught up with Kaede, who was waiting for them at the top of the steps, her hands on her hips. At the mention of Nyala, she perked up a bit, and her lips flattened into a frown. “But wasn’t Nyala the True Dragon that descended in 2020? Don’t we have a specimen from then?” She queried, and Nagamimi let out a huff.

“Technically, we do. But it is an incomplete specimen. The Lucier – which is a race of beings in this time period that were highly advance for their time – were able to wound it as Atlantis fell, so when the Dragon returned in 2020, we were only able to get a partial specimen. It’s not enough to complete the Dragon Chronicle.” Nagamimi told them, and they continued down the paths laid out before them. They were ascending higher and higher into the capital, and Makoto caught a glare of something shining several platforms above them off of his glasses. He stopped for a moment to try to catch it again to figure out what direction it was coming from, and Ryou tugged on Kaede’s sleeve to stop them from continuing any further.

“Makoto? What is it?” Ryou asked, and Makoto shook his head.

“Nothing. Let’s continue on.” He replied, and they continued heading through the town.

A large archway greeted them as they headed towards the center of the town, vines wrapping around it. Two, human like figures stood guard a little of the way in, holding sharpened spears and wearing bronze helmets. They worse very little – a royal blue cloth wrap that reached down to their ankles with bronze colored armor on top that covered their midsection down to the middle of their thighs. Arm guards with leather gloves gripped onto their lances, and they pointed them at the group. Closed toed gladiator sandals made of the same bronze of their helmets adorned their feet, and Makoto had an odd feeling that they were lighter than they looked.

“Halt!” One of them called out, their tone serious and commanding. Makoto rose a brow at them, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’re not one of us. What reason do you have for coming here?” They asked, and Makoto quickly surveyed the area. These were the first two guards they had seen since they began their trek, and they did not seem to be the friendly type. He could feel Kaede and Ryou’s eyes on him, leaving Makoto to be the one to deal with them.

“We’re here to help take down Nyala.” He told the guards, which was the honest truth. If there were people here, he wanted to help them take down the True Dragon that was plaguing them. One of them let out a guff, sarcastic laugh, and Makoto glowered at them.

“You think that you can save this proud kingdom, when its own guards cannot? That’s very arrogant of you!” They said, and they put a fist over their chest, beating it once against it. “We await our end, in honor of our former king. I would say that you may leave, but due to your insolence, I shall dice you into shark bait!” They twirled their lance to hold it one handed, the tip of it pointing towards the ground. The other guard followed suit, changing to stand in an attacking stance that would allow them to easily swing at them. Kaede immediately put her fists up and hopped back and forth on her toes, and Ryou conjured another small flame in the palm of his hands.

Makoto slowly pulled his blade from its sheath. He shot a glance over his shoulder at Ryou and Kaede, before facing the pair of guards once more. “I do not wish to fight either of you. Neither of us will gain anything from it.” He stated, and the one of them tapped the tip of their lance against the ground, then lunged forward at him to swipe upwards at Makoto. Bringing his blade down to block the attack, they clashed together, metal upon metal ringing out. Makoto let a sigh out through his nose. “But if you so insist, then so be it.” With both hands on the hilt, Makoto pushed the blade against the lance, forcing the guard back. They leaped away as the blades slid off one another and reached out to nick them, landing back beside the other guard. The other guard rushed forward, heading towards Kaede and Ryou.

Makoto and the guard that had lunged for him bounced their weapons off of one another; adrenaline rushed through him as he brought up his blade to deflect and parry, while the guard tried to keep distance between the pair of them. They had clipped one another several times with their weapons, and Makoto could feel the blood on his cheek beginning to dry as the breeze picked up. Wanting to get this over and down with, Makoto took a long stride forward to act as if he was going to lash out with his blade, and the guard swung their lance downward. Smirking, he hopped over to the side and sheathed his sword. The guard began to laugh at this sight.

“You’re a fool for withdrawing your weapon!” They shouted, bringing up the lance to slice him in half at his waist. Makoto took another step forward and crouched down slightly so that his elbow pointed in the guard's direction. He thrust it forward and into the guards exposed stomach, and the guard let out a grunt, faltering backwards and onto the stone below. They dropped their lance to clutch at the jab as they fell, and it clattered to the ground beside them. Makoto redrew his blade, and poised over the guard, both feet standing beside their waist so they couldn’t move. He pointed the tip of it at the guard, who groaned and writhed below him.

“You are no...ordinary foreigner.” The guard spat out. With a quick look over his shoulder, Makoto saw that Kaede and Ryou had the other guard down upon the ground as well, who seemed to be cowering in fear of Kaede’s harsh glare, her fists raised in a threat to hit them once more. Bruises covered their body, and Ryou just stood to the side, flames flickering in the palm of his hand while the other rested on his hip. He looked unimpressed.

Makoto removed his feet that pinned the guard in place and moved to allow them to stand. Instead, they rolled onto their side and reached for their lance. Scoffing, he planted the heel of his boot onto the back of their hand, and they cried out. “I think we’re done here.” Makoto hissed out, and the guard brought their hand close to their chest, massaging it. He heard Nagamimi’s snicker in his ear.

“Careful now. You all will be seen as trouble makers if you keep it up.” Makoto let out an irritated huff at that statement, and felt the tingling sensation of his adrenaline rush coming to an end. “Continue on though. There’s a large energy signal coming from the highest platform that is not too far ahead of us. I want you three to go investigate it.” With Nagamimi’s voice frizzling out, he moved away from the guard, then made his way over to join Kaede and Ryou as they headed towards an alleyway that would hopefully lead them to another set of stairs.

Chapter Text

With an ear piercing shriek, the Dragon before them toppled over the side of the staircase, hurdling down towards the brine below. Makoto and Kaede stood perfectly still with their weapons drawn, caked with blood. Ryou stood a little ways back on the circular platform, panting heavily with exertion. Kaede and Makoto shared a glance before they each went to opposite sides of the staircase, looking below for any sight of the dragon. As his eyes scanned the areas below, Makoto didn’t see any signs of the monster. All that was below them were the previous platforms they had traveled on; a few of them with claw marks ripping chunks off of the side of the hovering slabs of rock, indications of battles that had taken place upon them. He pulled himself away from the ledge, and looked at his friends.

“Did you see it?” He questioned, and Kaede shrugged her shoulders. Relief washed over Makoto, and Ryou let out a low tired sigh that drew both his and Kaede’s attention to him.

“I’m so ready to go back to the present now.” Ryou grumbled, dusting off his jeans with his palms as the flame a lit in it flickered out. He strode forward to join Kaede and Makoto upon the steps, trudging his feet along. Sheathing his blade, Makoto proceeded to ascend up the steps once more, Kaede and Ryou both following him. They were so close to finishing their mission today, and he wasn’t going to ruin it by turning back now, even if they all wanted to just go back home at this point.

Journeying through the rest of Altanica proved to be long and tedious for the group. At this point, they had been on their feet for several hours, and as the adrenaline rush of their last battle wore off, they all wanted to call it quits for the day. Ryou had grown exhausted as they got closer and closer to the source of energy that Nagamimi wanted them to inspect, and Kaede would grumble to herself every so often about how she wished she had brought a bag with food for the trip. Makoto was downright grumpy by the time they stood in front of the last set of ascending steps in the town, which was guarded by a dragon. With a mixture of barely getting any sleep the night prior and not having a moment eat anything before they left, he was agitated, and took it out swiftly upon the monster in their way.

No one said anything as they climbed up the last set of steps. The crashing of the waterfalls below grew less and less thunderous as they traveled skyward, and the salty air seemed to of thinned out. However, it grew more muggy as they traveled, and Makoto had to shed his sweater, tying it around his hips. Kaede and Ryou had removed their winter sweaters earlier – complaining that it was too hot several floors below this one.

As Makoto stepped upon the final, and highest platform in the town, he was overcome with a sense of awe. Large pillars encompassed this platform, vines of verbena wrapping around the cracking stone. A large dais was in the center with a massive, azure stone that sparkled in the sunlight that shone from above. A concave pool of water was below it, the liquid still. The light he saw out of the corner of his eye must have been from the stone. Kaede and Ryou were also just as enchanted as he was at the sight, looking around the area.

‘If I’m not mistaken, that stone must be orichalcum.’ Nagamimi mentioned, sounding pleased. ‘You three should try to get a closer look at it.’ Ryou was the first to take a step forward, hand outstretched to place upon the dais.

“It may be just orichalcum to you foreigners, but that stone is the heart and soul of Atlantis. If you touch it, expect a swift death.”

Makoto flinched at the masculine voice coming from behind, and turned on his heel to face it. Several people were rushing up the stairs, the clang of metal echoing throughout the area. A tall, stern faced man with pointed ears and long blond hair that had a single braid tucked behind his ear was at the head of the group. He was just as tan as the guards they met earlier, and his clothes looked loose fitting; a long sleeved, pale violet tunic that ended at his knees with a belt clasped around his waist. White sandals adorned his feet, which barely made a sound against the stone below them. A woven cricket kept his hair in place, and it tied together in the back.

A shorter, slimmer woman stood at his side, looking solemn. Her long, pink hair was separated into three braids mid way down her back, the ends barely brushing against the ground. A thin coronet woven out of gold adorned her head that had an intricate design resting over her forehead. She had cat like ears that matched her hair with tuffs of white, ball like fur sticking out from within. She wore the least out of the group – a white wrap attached to a purple and gold collar around her neck, covering her breasts. A cape rested off of her shoulders, flaring outwards and tinted with a blue hue at the ends. Her midriff was mostly exposed; an open faced corset the same color as the collar rested from below her chest and down to her hips looked more like metal plating to protect her. A band of gold at the top of her hips kept it snug against her and there was a long, white and blue bustle floating gently behind her as she walked. The metal like plating was also on her legs; stretching from her thighs down to her ankles. It had a cross stitch pattern that ended at her knees, and the bottom flared out from her ankles. A black, bikini bottom covered her bottom, the strings cut out in a diamond shape. She too wore sandals, but they were gold in color.

Several more people rushed up the steps, donned in the armor of the guards they had taken down earlier. They surrounded the woman, and held their lances in a tight grip, ready to strike. Ryou took a step away from the stone, and slowly leaned over towards Makoto, cupping his hand cover his mouth.

“Is that guy an elf?” He whispered, and Makoto held back the urge to rub his temple with his fingers while letting out a sigh of exasperation.

“No, those are the Lucier, Ryou.” He mumbled, and Ryou hummed in response. Kaede glanced over the guards, and then moved to stand on Makoto’s other side. His friends flanked him as the tall man stared at each of them, a frown on his face.

“I am the high councilor of Atlantis, Tallieri.” He held his arm aloft, fingers pointing in the direction of the woman who stood at his side. “And this, is our ruler. Queen Ulania.” Tallieri spoke, and Ulania said nothing, her bright green eyes focused on the group. The man let his hand rest back at his side, his cloak fluttering slightly in the breeze. He eyed each of them intently, before focusing on Makoto. “If we were not under the threat of Nyala destroying us, I would have you thoroughly investigated as to why you are here. However, we do not have the time for that. Please leave this place.” The last sentence came out as a demand, and Makoto crossed his arms over his chest.

“We’re here to help you take down Nyala.” Makoto rebutted, and Tallieri let out a sigh, shaking his head. The guards behind him chuckled, and Makoto narrowed his eyes at them.

“There is no point in trying. Our previous King could not take down the Dragon with our best soldiers, so I do not know how you plan on doing it.” Tallieri turned to look at the stone, growing silent. “We must connect this to the Great Star Crystals, so we can destroy both when we need to. It is our only chance at taking down Nyala. We will die in the process, but we will be saving the rest of this planet from a fate similar to ours.” Ulania glanced over at him, her frown deepening. She gave one, small nod and stared down at the ground at her feet as her ears flattened against her head. Tallieri turned his head to look back at the gaurds, and motioned for them to take their positions at the head of the steps. The pair of them moved to stand at the top, standing tall at the head with the tips of their lances pointed skywards. He then turned to look back at the group.

“It is time for you three to leave.” He said, waving a hand at them to dismiss them. Makoto bristled, growing agitated. Nothing would come of them destroying their town – Nyala would still return in the future, twelve thousands years later. However, Makoto knew he couldn’t mention that. They’d look even more like heretics than they already did, but he couldn’t stand seeing them so willing to throw their lives away. There had to be a way to convince them otherwise.

“You all don’t have to die to take down Nyala. There has to be another way.” Makoto stated, and Tallieri glared at him. Ulania’s eyes shot up from the ground, staring wide eyed at him as she let out a tiny gasp of surprise, clamping her hands over her mouth.

“You should not sympathize with those who have already come to accept their deaths. Guards!” He yelled, and the guards at the stairs turned, bringing their lances down to point at Makoto. Kaede and Ryou both tensed up beside him, while Makoto returned Tallieri’s glare. The guards took a step forward, and Kaede glanced over her shoulder at them, before whipping her head to look at Makoto while tugging on the sleeve of his shirt.

“We have to go, now.” She whispered to him, nodding her head in the guards direction. Ryou swallowed beside him, looking just as anxious as Kaede was. They were all exhausted, and probably couldn’t handle another fight. However, before Makoto could agree to leave before they all got skewered, Ulania removed her hands from her mouth.

“Wait! Do not hurt them!” She pleaded, and the guards stopped in their tracks, lowering their lances. Tallieri looked surprised; his brow quirked upwards and his lips flat together as he looked down at the Queen, who stared back up at him. “Return to your positions. I wish to speak to him.” Ulania pointed at Makoto with a finger. Tallieri was taken back as the guards behind the group took their positions back at the steps, obeying their Queen.

“Please reconsider, your majesty. You are the last of the royal family. If anything were to happen to you, we would lose what little hope we have left.” Tallieri said, his arms crossing behind his back. Ulania gave him a firm nod, a determined look in her eyes.

“I am aware of that, Tallieri. However, I wish to speak to him. It is my final wish.”

Tallieri stared long and hard at Ulania, before letting out a sigh of defeat. “Do as you will, your majesty.” Ulania perked up at that, her ears swiveling forward. A small smile adorned her face, and she took a step forward towards Makoto. She eyed him up and down once, before doing the same to Kaede and Ryou. Both squirmed under her gaze, and she turned back to look at Makoto.

“You all wear such strange clothing. I heard that the beings on land make their clothing out of the hides of beasts.” Ulania mentioned, tapping her finger to her chin. “This is very unexpected.” Makoto lightly chuckled, the tension easing from his shoulders.

“The world is very vast, your majesty.” He replied, and Ulania waved a hand at him, her smile widening.

“It is, indeed. I know very little about the world outside of Atlantis. Where are you three from?” She inquired, and Kaede shuffled her feet for a moment, her fingers loosening from Makoto’s sleeve as she let her hand fall back to her side.

“We are from a place called Tokyo.” Kaede told Ulania, stuttering slightly from nerves. She still seemed a bit frazzled after all the battles they had endured that day, as well as the guards turning their lances on them. Ryou, however, seemed calm. He stuck his hands in his pockets, flashing a grin at the Queen.

“It’s very far from here. On the other side of the planet.” He added on, and Ulania’s smile turned into a small pout as she silently mouthed out the name. Tallieri’s brow rose even higher.

“I have never heard of that village. However, we only receive word from our messengers that are stationed on land close to here. They do not travel far.” Tallieri mentioned, and Makoto could see his tense posture receding as well. He glanced back at Ulania, smiling at her.

“Do you love your country, Queen Ulania?” He asked, and she nodded with fervor.

“Of course. I adore it here – the crashing of the waterfalls lulls me to sleep every night. The citizens are kind and courteous, and we are very friendly to outsiders.” At the sight of Makoto’s smile twisting into a frown, she faltered. “Well, before we were before Nyala attacked. We have grown very afraid, and a lot of the citizens are in hiding.” She fidgeted with her fingers in front of her. “I wish you could of seen us before this. Our lovely nation is in ruins because of the Dragons.” She said sadly, casting her eyes towards the ground for a brief moment, and she looked back up at him, the previous determination resting on her face once more. “Even so, I still have the belief that this place is truly the greatest paradise on this planet.”

Makoto’s previous smile returned. The Queen was a lot stronger and determined than she original gave off, and that put some hope in him that they would fight back. Her lips pursed together once more, and she leaned forward slightly. “I can sense this light within you.” She began, taking another step forward. Tallieri stayed behind her, but watched her carefully as she approached the group. “It burns just as bright as the strongest Atlantis Knight. I have a feeling that you shall usher the world into greatness, once Atlantis has fallen.” They all stood in silence as Ulania studied each of them, looking each of them in the eye.

Makoto’s lips turned down into a frown once more, his hope diminishing. “You cannot give up just yet. Atlantis still has a chance to survive. You all have a chance to.” A sad smile rested upon Ulania’s lips, and she laced her fingers in front of her while her ears lowered.

“It is very optimistic of you to believe that we do. However, if we miss the chance to destroy the final crystal that keeps our kingdom afloat, Nyala will travel to the lands above us. We cannot allow that to happen. The Dragon has destroyed countless Lucier cities in a matter of months. We cannot let it be unleashed upon the planet.”

Tallieri cleared his throat, gaining the attention of everyone. “The death of our previous King, Utrello, sealed our fate. We lost countless soldiers and civilians when Nyala stormed our sacred grounds, and we plan on taking down the Dragon by destroying our kingdom. We have already accepted our fate.” Makoto deflated upon hearing that, and he heard a soft sigh come from Kaede beside him. Ulania gave them a short bow, before turning to face Tallieri.

“We do not wish to see you harmed. It was wonderful to meet you three, but this is good bye.”

Running his hands through his fringe, Makoto let out a sigh. He turned on his heel, and made his way back down the steps with Kaede and Ryou in tow. He cycled through several ideas as to try to prevent Atlantis from falling, but they all fell flat. Crackling static filled his ear, and he came to a halt as his feet reached the platform after the staircase.

‘There is no point in trying to convince them otherwise, Makoto. We came here for the specimen anyway – not to save the entire race of Lucier. It would change history if we did, and none of us know what would happen if we were to do that.’ Nagamimi told him, and Makoto sucked in a breath.

“I know, I know. I just feel bad for them.”

Nagamimi scoffed. 'Don’t. There is no reason to feel bad for them. Just focus on your mission.’ She grew silent for a moment, before letting out a huff. ‘You three should return. You’re probably exhausted. Stay there – I may be able to open a portal there for you to all return. It will be faster than making you travel back to where you started.’ The feed cut out, and Kaede glanced around, chewing on her lower lip.

“A portal? Right here? How?” She mumbled, as a flash of green light assaulted their eyes. A small, diamond shaped object floated a few feet away from Makoto.

‘Just approach it and place your hand upon it. It will let the three of you through and back to the present.’ Nagamimi mentioned, causing Kaede to flinch in surprise. Ryou chuckled at her, and she glared at him, following Makoto as he took several steps forward. As he placed a hand upon it, the light engulfed all of them, causing the world to go dark around them once again.

Chapter Text

“Do you believe she will return safely?”

“My fortunes say that she will. The travelers she will encounter will not harm her.”

A man let out a sigh, standing firm in his designated position to the side of the throne. He tucked one of his small braids behind his pointed ear before resting his hand back down upon the dagger that was strapped to his belt around his waist. His hair barely brushed his shoulders and his fringe framed the side of his face; the color reminding many of the other Lucier of the seaweed that rested in the calmer ocean waters. He wore the clothes of the higher class. Men would wear a light tunic that reached to their mid thigh with a belt around their waist, and a pair of fitted trousers. The tunic sleeves were loose and were cut and stitched back into a flower petal like pattern. Most wore sandals, but he had decided to wear his armor today instead of the rest of his casual outfit, just in case anything were to happen. Plated arm guards went from his knuckles to his elbow, and he wore his armored boots. His armor was light but sturdy – able to take several hits from any enemy he encountered. He turned his head to look at the woman that stood parallel to him, his light brown eyes watching her carefully.

She was shorter than him; only coming up to the top of his shoulders. Her long hair was two toned – multiple strands of pale blue and green that cascaded down her back and ending at the back of her knees. Her bangs were chopped and somewhat uneven. She had two, long strands of hair that were by the side of her face that she would put one braid into before pushing each of the strands through their own metal clasp, and she would loop in a jewel to hang off of it. A thin headband rested before her ears – purely for decoration. She wore a thin, white dress with a sleeveless overcoat. It was a deep, royal blue with a black trim, and had semicircle stitches in it to keep the outfit together. Her cape was white in the back but violet on the inside with swirling patterns etched upon it, a sign of her status as the Queen’s Fortuner. It split in half at the middle of her back, and the ends would jingle due to the ball that rested at the tips. The frilled ends trailed across the ground as she walked. She looked back at him with bluish green eyes – her expression bored.

“Are these travelers Lucier or not?” He asked, and the woman shook her head. Her ears lowered a bit as she pouted.

“They are not. My fortunes did state that they are not of this era – but they do not bring us harm.”

The man ran a hand through his hair. “What else did your fortunes state, Soliania?”

“It only showed specific images. Images of the battles that will pass. A fleeting image of hope between two groups of people. A large, floating stone. The destruction of Atlantis.” Her eyes bore into the man. “I saw images of the Dragonslayer in one of the travelers hands. I saw Queen Ulania speaking to them as well.” She told him, and the man fiddled with the dagger strapped to his belt.

“Is that all you saw?”

“That is all I saw, Zaos.”

Zaos watched Soliania for another moment, before turning his head back to the door. Leaving it up to the stars, they waited patiently for their Queen to return back to the palace.

_____________________________________________________________________

Black cat ears swiveled forward, and a pair of magenta eyes watched and listened to a bipedal Dragon saunter up through one of the rocky caverns. Crystals and ores lined the walls, keeping the caves lit. Not like the Lucier needed it – they could see perfectly fine in the dark. The lights in the caverns were only useful when there were outsiders visiting, back before the Dragons came to wreck havoc upon them. Now they just twinkled brightly in the caves; some of them being removed from time to time to mold new daggers or armor when they had a moment to leave camp and gather whatever materials they could find.

The woman smirked to herself as she hid behind one of the larger stones that jutted from the ground. The Dragon was heading away from their camp, and deeper into the caves. In reality, she should give chase and kill it before found its way to their camp, but she wasn’t in the mood. Nor did she want to get covered in their blood – it was sticky and she had the worse time cleaning the armor she wore after being coated in it. The bronze was beginning to dull due to how many times she has had to clean the blood off, as well as scouting the damp, salty caves for hours on end to keep the Dragons at bay. She had to protect the last of survivors back at the camp with her life, and Eigur would have her hide if he caught her slacking off to clean her armor.

She didn’t wear too much armor anyway – just metal plated armor that covered from her mid thigh down to her ankles and plated gauntlets on her arms. Her shoes were also made of the same kind of metal – a light, durable metal that the blacksmith was able to mold into boots for her. There was also a chest plate made of bronze strapped around her torso, which had several nicks and dents in it from different encounters with the Dragons and rabid animals that now roamed the tunnels.

The rest of her outfit was basic, and the fact that it was still stitched together was impressive. It was a basic black tunic that was frayed at the ends after seeing many battles, and it came down to her mid thigh. She was able to salvage a pair of short, black shorts from one of the abandoned homes within the tunnels, and after scrubbing them thoroughly, she wore them under her tunic. A sharp dagger was strapped to her right thigh – her main weapon. She went by the name of Rae, and was one of the few Rune Knights in the Caldeon Militia, and one of the even fewer survivors from her tiny village. It had fallen to pieces as the Dragons ravaged their lands, and only her and a few others were able to escape the onslaught.

Rae slowly rose up to her feet as the Dragon left the area, and turned on her heel to return back to camp, trying to ignore the sadness that welled up within her. There was no point in dwelling on the past, especially if the future was so unclear. She had to focus on her new task at hand – reporting to Eigur about the stray once she returned to camp. She hurried off back down one of the caverns, her hurried footsteps the only sound echoing around her.

Chapter Text

The portal room in Nodens snapped back into view before them, and each of them had to regain their balance after traveling so quickly through time. Makoto’s stomach flopped as they landed back in the present, while Ryou swayed from side to side, bumping into Kaede in the process. He hastily mumbled out apologizes to both of her as he tried to regain his balance, which he was having difficulty doing. Makoto reached over to grab a hold of Ryou's arm, yanking him over so he could lean against him until he was stable enough to stand. Kaede looked like she was on the urge to vomit, and clutched onto the first thing she could grab, which was the sleeves of Makoto’s sweater. She dragged him down towards the ground as she let herself fall to her knees, and Ryou groaned as he too was dragged down with them. Several Noden employees rushed over to them, their white coats trailing behind them and several small first aid kits in their hands.

Makoto barely caught a glimpse of the tags that were pinned to their coats before they began to check over the three of them. One crouched down to be eye level with him, as another worked to pry Kaede’s fingers off of his sweater, before gently pushing her to sit down upon the ground. The medic in front of him ushered him to sit down as well, to which Makoto obliged. His stomach was still a bit queasy, so having solid ground beneath him was a blessing. They gave him a quick glance over, and bandaged up any of the wounds that were easily visible on his hands and arms. The medics moved away from the group after a moment, and left as quickly as they came.

Nagamimi hopped off of the control console and hobbled over to the group as they began to stand back up onto their own two feet. It took several minutes, but they were able to all stand up straight once more and not relying on each other for support. “You three did a good job for the first time being on the field.” She told them, the ends of her dress sleeves barely touching the floor as she crossed them over each other and against her chest. “Allie would like to see all of you at once. Something about the mission. She’s in her office.” She waved them off to dismiss them, then returned back to the console to speak to the other employees there. The three of them shared a concerned look before making their way up towards Allie's office.

As they traveled back through the hallways of Nodens, Kaede and Ryou stayed silent. Makoto glance at both of them for a moment, trying to assess how they were feeling. Kaede looked exhausted, and she was rubbing a thumb over the back of her knuckles. They looked a little bruised, and she winced once when she ran her thumb over one of the darker bruises. Ryou seemed glum, which was odd for him. He kept his eyes glued to the windows, looking out over Tokyo. He caught Makoto’s gaze once and gave him a tiny smile, a silent way of saying he was alright.

It was just...odd to hear them so silent. Makoto was use to their bickering and friendly jabs at one another, even if they were tired. He was so use to hearing their voices that it was basically background noise to him, but it was comforting background noise. Was what Ulania said to them before they left weighing that heavily on their minds? They all knew they couldn’t do anything about it, but seeing a species so willing to give up their lives to get rid of one Dragon was discouraging.

Makoto gave a short wave to Chika and Rika as he walked by their desk, whom were barely visible behind their mountain of paperwork. Mounds that stacked up to their chins was scattered around the desk they shared. Rika noticed him first, and gave all of them a large smile while returning the gesture, and Chika just let out a huff in return, her pen blazing across a document she was working on. She never looked up once from her work.

Allie’s office doors were open when they reached them, and Makoto peered in before entering the office. It was dimmer than usual inside; the only source of light being the monitors behind her desk. Nothing was upon them besides the afternoon news, which was filled to the brim with rumors about the Dragon descent, and what the ISDF is doing about it. Allie was humming a tune to herself, and she ceased her tune as she noticed that Makoto and his friends had entered the room, stopping in front of her desk.

“Welcome back! How did you mission go?” She asked as she clapped her hands once. The lights within the office brightened a bit. Ryou let out a tiny groan from beside Makoto as his eyes adjusted, and he rubbed at them with the heels of his palms.

“It went alright.” Makoto told her, trying to hold back his disappointment of not being able to convince Ulania to try to fight back against Nyala. Allie probably heard it all from Nagamimi anyway, who was navigating them the entire time through Atlantis. Allie’s casual smile stayed upon her face.

“That’s good to hear! I heard you took down several Dragons with relative ease.” She rummaged through her drawers for a moment, before pulling out several sets of glass vials from within. They clinked against one another as she laid them on her desk. Kaede let out a low, questioning hum from beside Makoto as she leaned forward to get a better look at them. “I request that you three collect tissue samples of any Dragons you defeat. They’ll be useful for the researching team.” Allie pushed the tubes closer to the group, and each of them took a set of the vials off of her desk and into their hands. The glass seemed to be thick, and Makoto heard Ryou flick a finger against one of them, and it let out a light ringing sound as he did so.

Allie watched them as they placed the vials into a pouch around their waists, and leaned her forearms upon her desk. Her gaze lingered on each of them for a moment, and a small frown rested on her lips when she finally landed on Makoto. “I heard that their Queen turned down your help, and I am sorry to hear that. I can only imagine how difficult it was to hear that. But, you all must focus on your mission." She told them as a group as she laced her fingers together. "I know it is tough, but their fates are already sealed. We cannot do anything about it. However, I can tell that each of you are slightly injured. You all should go and rest for the rest of the day. Keep the communication devices I gave you close by though – Nagamimi will send out a call when the next mission begins, which may be as early as tomorrow.” Allie said, before leaning back in her chair as her carefree smile returned.

'So, she did know that Ulania turned down our help.' Makoto thought to himself, pushing his glasses up his nose a little. "I just feel like their sacrifice will be in vain." Makoto began, and Allie cocked her head to the side, her smile twisting into a small pout. "Nyala is temporary put down due to their sacrifice, so they never did accomplish what they hoped to achieve. It seems wrong to just let them kill themselves for the 'greater good'." His eyes are focused on Allie, the edges of her lips quirked up in a tiny smile. From behind him, Makoto heard Kaede let out a soft sigh, and a small chuckle came from Ryou. They all wanted to help the Lucier of the past. Allie let her hands rest in her lap and hummed in thought for a moment.

"You're very determined to help them, aren't you?" She queried, and Makoto nodded. Allie let out a light laugh. "I shouldn't of asked. The look in your eyes tells all. We can try once again to convince them to not lay down their lives, but only after you all have healed up a little from your fights today." A smile broke out upon Makoto's face, absolutely thrilled to hear that. A bright red breaking news banner flashed upon the monitor behind Allie, and his eyes moved from looking at her and up to what was playing upon the screen.

It showed a live aerial view of Nodens from a helicopter, and it was zoomed in upon a group of people heading up and through Noden’s Plaza. There was a handful of ISDF troops marching towards the building; rifles and other weapons in their hands, all while dressed in a combat uniform. Regular civilians stepped to the side as the soldiers passed, allowing them a quick and easy passage up to Noden's Headquarters. Three men were at the head of the group, and Makoto could make out Yoritomo and Yuma, but there was a third man beside them. The camera zoomed in closer upon the third man, and Makoto visible tensed; his hands curling into fists at his sides. Kaede shot him a concerned glance and Ryou frowned, and took a step forward to place a comforting hand upon his shoulder. They knew who the final man was, and Makoto’s reaction was understandable. Allie swiveled in her chair to watch the news as the door to her office opened, and Makoto turned on his heel to see who it was. Nagamimi was waddling hastily forward towards Allie’s desk with Julietta trailing behind her, looking frustrated. He was scowling and his arms were crossed over his chest, fingers digging into the sleeves of the cardigan he wore. He came to a halt a few feet before everyone, watching as the ISDF inched ever closer to their building.

“The ISDF is here to investigate us under the cover of wanting to work together, as well as hand over another True Dragon Specimen.” Julietta spat out, and he uncrossed his arms to raise a hand towards his ear. A small device similar to the ones Makoto, Ryou, and Kaede were wearing was in his ear, and Julietta pressed a small button upon it. “Yes, let them in. We don’t want to start an all out war with them.” He grumbled, before recrossing his arms.

“You three are to stay here. We all need to speak to them about our plan, and hopefully they brought over that specimen. They know that we will cooperate with them if they do.” Julietta said, his eyes focused upon the news as he adjusted his hat. Although unwilling, they had stayed there under Julietta's command. Makoto tried his hardest to not fidget as he stood beside Kaede and Ryou, waiting for the ISDF to come up to meet them. Allie turned back in her chair to face her computer and returned to work, the clacking of her fingers on the keyboard filling the silence as they waited patiently. Nagamimi had hopped onto her desk to flop down upon it, silent.

It had felt like an eternity before one of the ISDF members knocked upon her door. Allie hit a button upon her desk, and the door slid open once again to let them in. The man stepped forward first; Yoritomo and Yuma directly behind him, along with three of the other soldiers. None of their weapons were in their hands, but everyone in the room knew that the soldiers could hold their own if a fight were to break out. Yoritomo and Yuma flanked the man at the head, their hands behind their backs. The man at the front had steel grey eyes, and a thick head of jet black hair that barely reached the nape of his neck with his fringe slick back and out of his eyes. A pair of square, black framed glasses rested on the bridge of his nose. A diagonal scar cut through his right brow, and he was dressed in the ISDF uniform that all members wore, with an extra medal pinned to his breast beside his name tag.

The man glanced over the entire group with a tight lipped frown on his face, before his eyes landed on Makoto. His lips quirked into a small smile, but his eyes narrowed. The man inhaled deeply, before letting it all out in one swift huff. “To think that I would meet my son here, seven years after I last saw him.” The man said, taking a step forward. Yuma and Yoritomo remained where they were, but were watching their superior carefully. Makoto stood his ground, and glared back at the man even though it was taking every fiber of his being not to lash out. His friends took a step closer towards his side; Kaede with a look of disgust on and Ryou with a scowl. “And to read a report that he is a Dragon Hunter? An S-Class Dragon Hunter? I'm a bit surprised that a mere child is a Dragon Hunter, but no matter." The man smirked, stopping a foot from Makoto. His full name was etched into a silver tag that was pinned to his breast, ‘Hayashi, Daisuke’. “If this wasn’t such a serious situation, I would be glad to see you, Makoto. But we have a lot to discuss in such a short amount of time.”

Chapter Text

“So, in agreement with our terms, you will hand over access cards to all high ranking members of the ISDF to every room in both Nodens buildings, as well as access to this ‘portal’ you have.” Daisuke stated, a smug grin on his face. Julietta glared at the older man from under the brim of his hat, seething with rage. The same rage Makoto shared with him.

This would be the first time he has seen his father in almost a decade, and it started off with him stomping his way through Nodens as if he owned the place, and demanded to be treated as a King. He, along with Admiral Yoritomo and Yuma, were to be given the same access cards that he, Kaede, and Ryou held. Allie typed away on her keyboard, silent as Daisuke spoke of their terms and conditions. Julietta adjusted his hat so he could get a better look at Daisuke.

“Except Unit 13’s rooms. They are off limits to everyone besides whomever they wish to give access to enter.” Julietta declared rather forcefully. Makoto shot a questioning glance at him. He already knew his father’s response without looking at him.

“That goes against our-” Daisuke began, his grin turning into a frown.

“I request that you respect their privacy. They're our team of Dragon Hunters, not yours. You do not deserve to pry into their daily lives beyond their duties as Dragon Hunters.” Julietta spat, and Daisuke glowered at him. Makoto coughed into his fist to hide his smirk at Julietta’s response. With his arms crossed over his chest, Daisuke turned his gaze away from Julietta, and back at Allie, as if he was expecting a different answer form her.

“I agree with Julietta. However, we shall agree to all rest of your conditions.” She said, her tone light and airy. A few small pings came from her computer, and she rummaged under her desk for a moment, pulling out a trio of white cards. Bar codes were imprinted on the bottom, and Allie stood up from her chair. Her heels clicked against the ground as she walked around it and up to the Commander, holding the three cards out to him. “Each of these cards will allow you, Admiral Yoritomo, and Yuma Kisaragi into all of the rooms in Nodens, sans Unit 13’s. It’ll also allow you to enter the portal as you please. I will make more as needed.” Her casual smile slowly shifted into a menacing, toothy grin. Makoto silently hoped he would never be on the receiving end of that grin. “Now, may we receive our part of the deal?”

A vein throbbed on his head as Daisuke snatched the cards from Allie’s hands, thrusting one of them into his breast pocket of his ISDF jacket. He handed the other two to Yoritomo, who gave one over to Yuma. He looked over it in his hands, flipping the thick card to look at the front and back, before pocketing it as well. Daisuke snapped his fingers, and one of the soldiers that stood in the room stepped forward, cradling a box close to their chest. They rushed forward, and handed the box over to Daisuke, who plucked it from his hands. The box was a glossy black color, and quite thick. Flicking the lock off of it, Daisuke pulled back the lid, and within was a glass tube similar to the ones Allie had handed over to Makoto earlier. It rested against a plush red interior, which kept it safe from harm.

A thick, cream colored liquid rested inside. Hues of pink, purple, and blue glinted off of it as the fluorescent lighting reflected off of it. A silver name plate was sewn carefully onto the inner part of the lid with the words Fomalhaut etched into it. Julietta perked up at the sight of it, and strode forward. Daisuke held the specimen out to him, and Julietta willingly took it from it from his hands. Daisuke let out an indignant huff, crossing his arms behind his back.

“Now then, let us speak of Nyala and how we are going to handle this threat.” He commanded, and Julietta nodded, before gesturing over to where they could all sit. Makoto, Kaede, and Ryou sat beside one another with Allie and Julietta bordering them on both sides. Yoritomo, Daisuke, and Yuma sat parallel to them, and Allie led the group conversation. Nagamimi stayed upon Allie’s desk, trying to seem inconspicuous but there was no doubt in Makoto's mind that she was filing everything they said away for further use. Kaede, Ryou, and Yuma would interject their ideas every so often, while Julietta and Daisuke would butt heads over their different approaches in getting the Nyala specimen. Daisuke wanted to destroy it, while Julietta argued that grabbing the specimen and hurrying back to the present would be the best chance of survival for all of them. Yoritomo and Allie would be the ones to put a stop to their heated discussions. Makoto stayed mostly silent, and only spoke up when spoken to. He was barely paying attention, focused more on his thoughts of Atlantis and thr Lucier that were awaiting their deaths. He felt his father’s piercing gaze resting on him more than once, which he would return with a glare of his own if he caught his gaze.

“Let’s change the topic. I have a few questions for Unit 13. Makoto,” His father began, turning his eyes upon him once more. “How did you learn of Nodens? Did they contract you to become a Dragon hunter?” He queried, and Makoto glanced over at Allie, who gave him a small nod. He looked back at his father, holding his gaze.

“Ryou. Also no, I stated I would become one if the Dragons did descend upon us.” He replied dully. The corner of Daisuke’s mouth twitched.

“Did you drag Ryou and Kaede into getting involved with dealing with the Dragons?”

Makoto let out a snort, and rested his chin into the palm of his hand, which was propped up by his elbow on the table. Really, his father believed he just willingly dragged them into this mess? “No. I told them they didn’t have to join me in this unless they wanted to.” Kaede and Ryou both nodded once in agreement, further proving his point. Daisuke leaned forward onto his fore arms, his fingers laced together and a wicked grin upon his face.

“Have you spoken to your mother recently?”

Anger flared through him. His father’s questions going from a professional standpoint to a personal one frustrated him. More so due to the fact that Makoto felt that his father could care less about his mother, especially after what he did. He was trying to get a reaction out of Makoto, and it was going to work if he didn’t reign in his emotions. “That’s none of your business. It's also irrelevant to this meeting." Makoto replied curtly, drumming his fingers against the table. In all honesty, he hadn't spoken to her in a few years, but it was none of his fathers business if he did or not. Makoto saw as Daisuke’s jaw clenched together.

“That’s not how you should speak to your father.”

Makoto scoffed. “Are you really considered a father if you abandon your son?” He knew he was pushing it, but his reply caused the reaction he wanted. Silence fell over the room while the tension rose. Daisuke’s face flushed red with anger, and his arms shook ever so slightly as they rested on the table. Makoto smirked in triumph, even though it left a bitter taste in his mouth. He let one reign of his emotions go, and it would come to bite him in the ass later on down the road. Kaede looked between the pair of them as she chewed on her lower lip, and slowly reached over to place a hand over his in an attempt to comfort him.

Makoto had barely caught sight of Yoritomo’s flinch at his statement, and held back the urge to quirk his brow. What was his reaction for, and why was he affected by what Makoto said? Before he had the chance to think more on it, Julietta cleared his throat, and all eyes landed on him. “Let us move on. We have much more to discuss.”

Julietta led the conversation after that, bringing up what they were going to do next in their plans to handle the Dragons in Atlantis that were in their way. He mentioned that he was working tirelessly that he was working on a way to get into the lower wards of Atlantis, which would hopefully lead them to more clues as to where the True Dragon was roosting. Yoritomo contributed to the ISDF’s discussion instead of Daisuke, who still seemed too angry to speak, glaring menacingly at anyone who looked over at him. Yoritomo mentioned that he, Yuma, and a small group of troops would go with Unit 13 next time they went through the portal, and Allie agreed that it would be best if they did travel together in uncharted territory.

Time passed by faster as Makoto listened intently to what was being discussed instead of dwelling in his thoughts as he had originally done. Kaede had removed her hand from his once she noticed that he was calm once again, and Makoto could tell that Ryou was on the brink of passing out from exhaustion, his eyes half lidded as he stared out into space. The fact that the three of them were still continuing on after all the fighting they did that day impressed him. Some of the aches and fatigue from the battles were starting to catch up with him, and Makoto had to stifle a yawn more than once while sitting at the table.

“We will conclude here, and will resume in a few days time. The ISDF may explore the parts of Atlantis that Unit 13 has already gone through to get a feel for the area, as well as finding ways to prepare for more monster attacks. Starting today, both Nodens and the ISDF will work together in taking down the True Dragons.” Allie announced, rising from her seat. They all joined her, and Yoritomo and Yuma gave them a short bow.

“Thank you for having us here.” They said in unison, and Allie waved a hand at them dismissively.

“It’s fine, it’s fine! It was a pleasure to have you two.” She said cheerfully. Daisuke scowled at her, and turned on his heel to leave. The ISDF soldiers in the room saluted him as he left the office, before following suit. Makoto visibly relaxed as he did, and let out the yawn he was holding in into the back of his hand. He looked up at Yoritomo and Yuma after, who standing off to the side, listening to Julietta explain the mechanics of the portal to them hastily. Kaede and Ryou had begun to head towards the exit, and Kaede looked over her shoulder at him once they got a few feet away from the table, and noticed he wasn't following them.

“We’re returning back to our rooms. Are you join to join us?” She asked, and Makoto shook his head.

“Not just yet. I’ll be there soon though.” He told her, and she nodded, walking in line with Ryou. As they left the office, Makoto made his way over to Yoritomo and Yuma. He stood beside Julietta, who was rambling still rambling as Makoto approached. Catching sight of him out of the corner of his eye, Julietta stopped speaking and glanced down at him with a small smile on his face.

“Feeling better?” He asked, and Makoto let out a tired sigh.

“Much so.” Makoto looked over at Yoritomo and Yuma, feeling a bit guilty. They didn’t need to see that side of their Commander, nor of him. Especially since they were still getting to know each other, and were going to start working together. “I’m sorry about my comment earlier. I shouldn’t of provoked my father, but my anger got the best of me.” He apologized, and Yoritomo let out a hearty chuckle.

“Apology accepted. You two seem to have quite a lot of issues to sort out as father and son.” Yoritomo replied, and Makoto rubbed his fingers against his temple, a deep frown settling on his face.

“That’s an understatement. But none the less, I cannot wait to fight beside you both in Atlantis when the time comes. Hopefully my team and I can learn a few things from it.” Makoto said, and Yoritomo looked pleased about that, while Yuma gave him a firm nod.

“We will be working side by side quite often from here on out. I look forward to it.” Yuma told him, and Makoto scratched idly at his cheek with a finger, looking a bit sheepish.

“Same. Let us hope that you don’t have to save my hide again any time soon.” Makoto replied, chuckling lightly. Yuma was the reason why he was still alive and standing, which he was incredibly thankful for. Yuma shrugged his shoulders at him.

“It wasn’t a problem. I’m more impressed by how friendly you have been towards us since we arrived, especially since we stomped in here and declared what we wanted from you.” Yuma began, the corner of his lips turning up into a friendly smile. “It’s quite a relief, really. I get a feeling that we will become close friends, Makoto.”

Makoto turned his eyes away from him, embarrassment welling up inside of him at the sight of that smile. Julietta let out a light snort at him, and clasped a hand upon his shoulder.

“You, Kaede, and Ryou are doing superb. Don’t fret too much over your abilities.” Julietta mentioned, and Makoto felt a bit of pride well up inside of him. “However, you should rest. You’re probably exhausted, and a bit wounded.”

Nagamimi let out a huff from Allie’s desk, and hopped down from it. Her squeaking filled the air as she made her way over towards them, and crossed her dress sleeves over her chest as she came to a halt beside Julietta. “Although you're not good at following orders, you should listen to Julietta. Go off and get some rest.”

Yoritomo and Yuma stared down at the doll in disbelief. “It...moves? The doll moves?” Yoritomo mumbled, and Nagamimi began to hop on her feet, growing agitated.

“How many times do I have to say it?!” She shrieked, and Makoto rolled his eyes after he and Julietta shared a grimace. “I’m not some doll! I’m not someone dressed up in a costume! I am Nagamimi!” She ranted, and Julietta removed his hand from Makoto’s shoulder and placed it onto his back, nudging him towards the exit. He should probably leave, especially if Nagamimi was going to spring into one of her rants and raves about how she was not a doll.

With a short wave directed towards Allie and Julietta and mouthing a small ‘sorry’ towards Yoritomo and Yuma, Makoto took Julietta’s advice and headed back towards his quarters. The elevator dinged once as the doors slid open as he reached the floor that he lived on with Kaede and Ryou. Although the thought of living with those two was a bit overwhelming, Makoto did appreciate their company, and was thankful to be near his closest friends. He was just glad to have his own space, as well as the fact that he and Kaede could keep an eye on Ryou and whatever antics he was bound to end up in.

As he slid open the door to their shared living room, the smell of the leftovers from the night prior wafted towards him, and Makoto barely heard his stomach rumble over the television blaring. Ryou was already in his regular spot at the kotatsu, playing one of the many gaming consoles he had hooked up several days prior. Kaede was parallel to him and had her feet tucked underneath her as she sipped at the tea cup resting in her hands. There was a bowl of leftovers resting in an empty spot between the two of them, steam rising from the food. Makoto made his way over, flopping down onto the carpeted ground and pulling the bowl of food close to him. Kaede let out a giggle beside him.

“Hungry much?” She teased, looking over at him. Makoto already had some of it shoved into his mouth, and he nodded once at her as he shoveled more of it into his mouth. She rolled her eyes at him with a grin on before turning her attention back to the television. The late afternoon turned into early evening, and they all planned on retiring to bed early. Kaede had left the moment the first stars began to twinkle in the night sky, leaving Ryou and Makoto to their own devices. Ryou had tossed a controller Makoto's way shortly after Kaede left, a sign that he wanted to talk on a more personal level. It's not that they didn't want to include Kaede, but Ryou preferred speaking to him when it he wanted a honest, calm answer.

Ryou spoke up first, his eyes glued to the screen as he dodged a shell one of the AI's had chucked, his character swiveling around it in the go-kart. "So, how do you feel about the ISDF working with us?"

"Hm, well." Makoto began, swearing under his breath as he narrowly dodged a banana that someone had dropped in front of his character on the screen. "I am fine with it. They'll be incredibly helpful while on the field. But, I could care less that my father is involved. As long as he doesn't hinder us, I'm going to ignore him." Makoto replied, and Ryou hummed in response.

"Don't blame you for that. Do you think he may be some sort of Class?"

Makoto's lips pulled into a frown. "I'm not sure. Since I do, he is bound to as well. It is hereditary. He's probably a Samurai of some sort as well." He wasn't sure, as no one really spoke of the different levels of Classes anymore, nor the skills that people may inherit. There was a lot of research about them, but since humanity was lulled into a false sense of peace, no one thought much of them after the defeat of Fomalhaut. Even with the knowledge he had about them, Makoto knew he had barely scratched the tip of the iceberg when it came to how the different Classes worked, as well as the skills that came with them.

As their characters crossed over the finish line, Ryou placed his controller onto the ground beside him before stretching his arms above his head as he glanced over at Makoto, who just let out another tired yawn. Ryou leaned back onto his hands, his brow knitting together. "Makoto, do you think we'll...be okay?" He asked quietly, concern in his tone. Adjusting his glasses that rested on the bridge of his nose, Makoto turned to look at him.

"We'll be fine. We've survived through a lot of other situations, and we'll come through in this one as well." Makoto replied confidently, and Ryou let out a light laugh as he began to gather up their controllers, preparing to go to bed as well.

"I still question how we have survived for this long, but I'd rather not start doubting it now." Ryou said, switching off the console. Although he was tempted to lay down on the floor and pass out, Makoto dragged himself up and onto his feet, removing his glasses to rub at his eyes. Wishing Ryou a quick good night, he made his way over to his room, and after swiftly changing into his pajamas, Makoto curled up underneath his blankets.

As he laid in his bed, he questioned what the future would bring, especially if the ISDF was now involved in their mission. However, Yuma's comment of looking forward to working with him and spending time with him caused a small flock of butterflies to take flight in his stomach, and Makoto tried his best to shove down those feelings. He had a mission to help out humanity alongside Yuma and his fellow ISDF members, not to possibly gain some dumb crush on a guy he barely knew.

With a huff, he rolled over onto his side in his bed, and listened to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo at night.

Chapter Text

“Makoto.”

Makoto grumbled sleepily, nestling himself deeper under his blankets. The warmth within was inviting. Much more inviting than whomever was trying to wake him.

“Makoto!”

A cold hand was placed upon his bare shoulder, and Makoto groaned loudly as he tried to roll away. Their icy fingers dug into his skin, and he sighed into his pillow. As their nails dug into his skin, he knew he wouldn’t be able to escape without getting scratched.

“You need to get up. Nagamimi just finished pitching a fit in our living room, stating you have a visitor that is causing a scene on the first floor.” He turned his head in the direction of the voice to see who was speaking to him, and cracked open his eyes. Thought blurry, he could make out Kaede’s snow white hair, her lips were pressed together in a deep frown. She wore a thick, long sleeved lavender sweater, and her fingers barely peeked out of the end of the sleeves.

“For wearing such warm clothing, your hands are freezing, Kaede.” Makoto said, his voice groggy from sleep. He saw her roll her eyes at him, letting out an indignant huff as she took her fingers off of his shoulder. Makoto pulled the blanket up to cover the skin.

“Just get up you nerd. Nagamimi’s screeching was annoying to listen to, and I do not want to hear her complaining anymore.” With that said, she turned on her heel and stomped out of his room. Makoto rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling, questioning who would come to Nodens to visit him. His mother was in another country, so he doubted that she would. His father could just waltz into Nodens, so it wouldn’t be him either. With a resigned sigh, he pulled himself up in his bed and leaned back on one arm while rubbing at his eyes with the other. Light filtered into his room through the blinds that covered the large pane windows behind him, and Makoto could barely make out the honking of car horns from outside.

The ISDF dubbed the latest Dragon descent that killed a small portion of the population as ‘The 3rd Dragon Wave’. Their Japanese site was covered in warnings about not going out at night, especially in the slums or in the abandoned subway stations that weaved beneath all of Tokyo. There was a chance that Dragons would be hiding in those spots, more so in the subway system than the slums. It was mostly pitch black in the subway system, and very few dared to navigate through it. There were all sorts of rumors of monsters lurking beneath it, even before the Dragons returned, and although Ryou wanted to check it out more than once, Makoto always declined. He wasn’t willing to go through the tunnels before the Dragons came down, and he really didn’t want to now.

The ‘slums’ were areas that never got fully cleaned up after 2020 and 2021. Cracked and abandoned buildings lined the streets there, and in the back alleys of the Shibuya slums, there were still some vines that coiled and twisted from the ground due to the Imperial Dragon that had roosted there back in 2020. The government deemed that spot unsalvageable in 2022 after multiple attempts to fix up the area. They then pooled their money into fixing up the economy and rebuilding the Sky Tower. The old, twisted heap of metal still stood, eighty years after the previous leader of Murakumo, who had committed treason and shifted into the Dragon known as Muzuchi, made it their resting spot. Its name was changed to the Vermilion Tower in 2050, after the new Sky Tower was completed. The old tower was treated as a tourist attraction, and many would flocked to see it. He and Kaede had visited it once, interested in how the tower was reformed due to a Dragon bending the metal to their will, all while issuing a challenge to Murakumo in a fight to determine whether humanity survived or perished.

Slowly pulling himself out of bed, Makoto swiped his glasses off of his bed stand. Grabbing the towel that was hung on a hook over his door and some clothes out of his dresser beside it, he hurried off towards the bathroom he and Ryou shared across the hall. Their shared living room was mostly silent, save for the television playing the local news. Kaede was in the kitchen, evident by the sounds of something sizzling in a pan. Ryou was either up and playing games in his room, or still sleeping. It was a typical morning for everyone, besides himself.

Refreshed and finally fully awake, Makoto left the bathroom dressed casually, clicking the door closed behind him as he headed into the living room. Kaede was sitting at the breakfast bar, munching on the end of her breakfast while scrolling idly through her phone, an empty plate littered with crumbs resting off to the side. She glanced up at Makoto as he passed, and gave him a short wave as he headed out the door. He returned the gesture as he slid close the door that separated the living room from the hallway.

Slipping out of his house slippers and pulling on his regular shoes, Makoto made his way over to the elevator, sliding his access card through terminal that was attached to the wall beside the elevator. A green light blinked beside the monitor, and a line of green text passed by, asking him to select what floor he wished to go to. Tapping on one of the upper buttons that would allow him to go down to the entrance of Nodens, the elevator door opened up, and Makoto stepped inside. From within, he could see over most of the business district. The city itself as a whole was, for the most part, back to normal. It had been two weeks since the Dragons descended on Earth once again, and the ISDF had worked tirelessly in controlling the threat. It had taken them several days to push back the beasts from Tokyo, and although the clean up was still in the process, a majority of people had returned back to their daily lives. Well, those that had survived the onslaught.

As the elevator got closer and closer to the entrance, Makoto could see some of the cars and trucks that were passing by on the adjacent streets, and he could also make out people hurrying towards their destinations. He hadn’t left Nodens since the Dragons returned, other than to visit his apartment to grab his stuff. The rest of his time was spent fiddling around in Nodens – going through what he could of their library full of books or playing games with Ryou in their living room. The threat of dealing with the Dragons seemed to be almost like a far off fantasy, until he got reminded that they existed by either the news or by glancing out upon Tokyo and seeing buildings with massive claw marks cutting through the concrete corners.

The elevator dinged once as the doors slid open, and Makoto stepped out of it. He was instantly greeted by the sound of two women arguing at the front desk, and he could recognize one of the voices.

“I want to see either Ms. Allie or Makoto!” It was Mio, trying to be demanding even though her voice squeaked as she did so.

Someone tapping a pen against a desk filled the air for a moment, before a sigh. “Miss, do you have an appointment with our CEO?” It was the one of the women who worked at the front desk, sounding aggravated and exhausted. She must of never met Mio, as the meek receptionist did several weeks ago. “Does Hayashi know you? I do not see you on any list stating that he does.”

“U-um, well, you see-” Mio said, sounding defeated. Makoto hurried his pace towards the front desk, and Mio caught sight of him as she rose her eyes off of the ground. Her pout changed into a large grin of joy, and Makoto couldn’t hold back the smile that cracked onto his lips. It was good to know that she was alright.

“Mio? What are you doing here?” He asked, strolling up to the desk with his hands shoved into his pockets. The receptionist looked at the both of them, a bit dumbstruck.

“You know of this girl?” She asked, pointing at Mio with the end of the pen. Her brows were pressed together in annoyance. Makoto looked over at her and gave her a nod.

“I do. She invited me to play 7th Encount with her two weeks ago.” He explained. Mio beamed up at him, her fingers laced together in front of her as she rocked on her heels.

“He also saved me when the Dragons returned. I owe him my life.” She stated, and the receptionist glanced between the pair of them before letting out a sigh. She scribbled something down onto a paper on her desk, stamped it, and then landed over a sticker to Mio. Mio stood on her toes to take it from her, and looked it over. The words ‘visitor’ were written in marker upon it.

“I’m sorry for doubting you, but it is part of my job to not allow just anyone into this building.” The woman told her, and Mio gave her a firm nod.

“I understand. Thank you for being so vigilant.” She peeled away the adhesive from the back before placing it onto her shirt as she followed Makoto back towards the elevator. “But, I did come here to see both you and Ms. Allie. I need to speak to both of you.” Mio said, curling the ends of one of her bright green pigtails in between her fingers.

“Oh? About what?” Makoto queried as they stepped into the elevator, selecting the floor Allie’s office was on. The elevator slowly rose up, and Mio kept her eyes glued on the scenery outside of the windows and onto Tokyo’s skyline. She sucked in a breath through her nose, seeming to gather her strength to speak. After a moment, Mio stared up at him.

“I want to become your Navigator.” Mio stated outright, determination set in her eyes. Makoto’s grin widened. So, she was going to take up Allie’s original offer. He was impressed that she trekked all the way back to Nodens and even demanded to see one of them to the receptionist. She’d be much more pleasant than Nagamimi barking orders in their ears.

“I’m thrilled to hear that. Nagamimi is a bit of a jerk anyway.” Mio giggled at that, hiding her mouth with her hand.

“Yes, she really is. Has she been mean to you recently?”

Makoto let out a snort of laughter. “Is that really a question, Mio?” He replied, and Mio’s laughter grew. The elevator doors opened once more as they reached the floor Allie’s office was on, and walked together towards her office. Chika and Rika didn’t lift their heads as they passed, engrossed in their work. Makoto swore that the stacks of paperwork surrounding them never actually lowered. They were always piled high, and he questioned just what they were working on that required that much paperwork to be filled.

They strolled into Allie’s office, hearing her humming as she worked on her own computer. Nagamimi was resting on her desk, her back turned away from the pair as she stared up at the monitor above her head. Allie turned her head in their direction as she heard them approach, her pink hair swaying as she moved. Her brows shot up at the sight of Mio, looking genuinely surprised at the sight of the green haired girl.

“Mio! Welcome back!” Allie said, getting up from her chair. Nagamimi scooted around to face them as Allie got out of her chair, her ears dragging against the wooden desk. She scoffed.

“So, you’re the one they almost called security on at the front desk.” Nagamimi grumbled, crossing her dress sleeves over her chest. She didn’t seem very impressed. “They said some girl was claiming that she knew Allie and Makoto, and was trying to enter without an appointment to see either of them. But, I’m surprised it was you. You caused quite a fuss!” Nagamimi stated, a bit annoyed. Mio’s lips turned into a frown, and she looked down at her feet.

“I am sorry for causing such a ruckus. But I really wanted to get inside. I really wanted to speak to both of you.” She said, looking up at both Makoto and Allie. Allie stood in front of her, a large, jovial grin plastered on her face.

“So, what did you want to speak to us about?” Allie questioned, and Mio’s eyes went wide. She stumbled incoherently on her words for a moment, and looked up at Makoto.

“I….” She started, glancing between the two of them. She truly looked like a doe in headlights, and seemed desperate for some guidance. He would give her the small push she needed to say what she wished to say. But just this once.

“Just tell her how you told me.” He said calmly, and Mio’s eyes rested on him for a moment. The fear in them changed to the determination he saw earlier, and she gave him a nod. With her hands balled into fists at her sides, she turned her head to focus on Allie.

“I want to help. I want to become Unit 13’s Navigator!” She proclaimed, and Allie clapped her hands together, her grin widening.

“My, my! What a change of heart. Julietta will be thrilled to hear this as well.” Allie said, nodding her head with fervor as she rested her hands upon her hips. “You can switch out with Nagamimi. She’ll direct you the first few times they go on missions, but after that, you’ll be their sole lifeline. I hope you’re ready for it!” Allie stated, and Mio let out small cheer of joy. Makoto bought up a fist to cover his mouth, hiding his smile. Their happiness was infectious.

Mio and Allie then began to speak of Mio’s living situation. She mentioned that she had been staying close by, in some of the motels that lined the outer parts of the business district Nodens was located in. Allie was shocked to hear this, and a bit appalled. It was a safe area, but she questioned how Mio could afford something like that, and the fact that no one seemed to question her within.

“I just stayed indoors and thought about my options. I also ordered take-out so no one would see me other than the delivery man. ” She had explained, rummaging through the bag that hung off of her shoulder. She pulled out a few wads of bills, and Makoto could barely contain his shock at the sight.

“Mio, you’re holding several hundred bills in your hands.” He muttered, staring at the wad. She flipped through the bills through the bills once, before letting out a low sigh.

“I know. My grandfather had left it for me. My invitation ticket to 7th Encount also arrived in the mail that day with no return address too.” Allie quirked up a brow, tapping a finger to her chin as her lips pursed together.

“You received a ticket in the mail to play 7th Encount?” She asked, and Mio looked up at her as she stuffed the cash back into her bag, and nodded once.

“Mhm. It just stated my name and address on it.” She fidgeted with her fingers for a moment, and glanced back down at the ground. “I’ve been searching for my father for several months because I’ve always wanted to meet him. I was hoping that coming to Tokyo and playing 7th Encount would bring me closer to finding him….but I haven’t found him yet.” Mio mumbled, barely audible. Makoto frowned. His comment towards his father yesterday now stung, and he felt bad for saying it. Least he knew who his father was and that he was alive, even if he did dislike him.

“I bet you’ll find him soon enough, Mio.” Allie chimed in, placing a comforting hand upon her shoulder. “Tokyo may be vast, but there are only so many people here.” Allie removed her hand, and placed it back upon her hip as the other one rested by her side. “But let us find a place for you to stay while you work for us. I imagine we can make a room for you on one of the floors.”

Makoto stayed quiet as the pair of them spoke about her living arrangements, coming to an agreement that she could have a room on the floor above the reference room. She wanted to be close to all the books Nodens had to offer, wishing to go through them in her free time. He did, however, dwell in his thoughts. He felt bad for Mio for not knowing her father, and he questioned where her mother was. Did she just let her leave with that much cash with no concerns? Did Mio even live with her prior to coming here? Did she even approve of Mio searching for her father?

He was pulled from his thoughts as Mio tugged on the fabric of his jacket by his elbow, a look of concern on her face. “Makoto? We’ve been trying to get your attention for the past minute. Are you alright?” She asked, and Makoto let out a nervous chuckle.

“I’m fine. I get caught up in my thoughts sometimes. Sorry.” He said, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. Mio flashed him a grin as she released her hold upon his jacket.

“It’s okay. I get that way too sometimes.”

Allie let out a light laugh, and moved back over to her desk. Nagamimi had sat quietly on it, grumbling to herself every so often as she watched the news play on the monitor behind the desk.

“Ah, Makoto.” Allie began as she sat down in her chair. “Julietta wanted to see you down in the portal room. He wants to prepare for the next mission.” Makoto frowned, crossing his arms over one another.

“Already? We can’t go any farther up in Atlantis because we reached the top, and we cannot go lower in it, unless he wants us to make a leap of faith over the side.” Makoto said as Mio looked between the two of them, confusion resting on her facial features.

“Atlantis? As in the kingdom that rests in the ocean in fairy tales?” She asked, her eyes settling on Allie. Allie hummed in response.

“No, a real life Atlantis. One that existed twelve thousand years ago, Mio. You’ll see it for yourself once you began your training. Which may start soon, by the way.” Allie said cheerfully. Nagamimi pushed herself off of Allie’s desk and onto the tiled floor below.

“With what Julietta told me earlier, we may commence the second part of our mission today.” Nagamimi stated, holding up a sleeve in Makoto’s direction. “I hope you and your friends wounds are healed from the other day, because you may be facing some Dragons today. Grab them and head down to the portal room.” She commanded, and Makoto let out a huff.

“Alright, rabbit. I’ll alert Kaede and Ryou to meet me down there.” He smirked as Nagamimi began to stomp her feet on the ground.

“Dammit, stop calling me a rabbit!” Nagamimi screeched at him, and Makoto let out a snicker. “I am Nagamimi! What can’t your foolish human brain understand about that!” She shouted, and Makoto shrugged at her.

“Contrary to your belief, I’m pretty intelligent. I just prefer to tell things as they are, Nagamimi.” He replied, and Nagamimi fumed silently, before trudging back over to the desk that she used to navigate him and his friends when they were on the field. Mio giggled into her hand as she followed Nagamimi, slipping into the chair beside her.

“He does have a point. You do look very much like a rabbit.” Mio said, and Nagamimi let out an angry sigh.

“Don’t support him. Get to work.” Nagamimi grumbled, and Makoto continued to snicker as he made his way out of the office. He loved getting a rise out of the doll, mostly just because it fell for the bait every time. He waved at Mio as he left, and she returned it as Nagamimi told her to drag herself over to her new workstation immediately, least she wants to be fired before she even began.

As Makoto reached the elevator, he pulled his phone out of his pocket, and typed away a message in a group chat that he, Ryou, and Kaede used. Idly pressing a finger upon one of the buttons in the elevator, it began to lower back down towards Unit 13’s floor.

Mio came back, and is going to be our navigator from now on.

A pink bubble popped up immediately at the bottom. Kaede was always the first to reply, and was the fastest typer when it came to replying on her phone. She was glued to it if she didn’t have a book or paintbrush in her hands.

Really?! Oh, that’s wonderful news! It’s great to hear that she is safe and sound.

It is. Nagamimi also stated that Julietta wants to meet us in the portal room.

Ryou’s purple bubble came up at the bottom now, indicating that he was typing.

Sweet! I wonder what he wants from us. Maybe he found out some more info about Atlantis?

Makoto hummed for a moment, tapping his chin. The elevator went past the floor his room was on, and he cursed under his breath. As he glanced up at the screen above the buttons, Makoto noticed he had pressed the button for the portal. Whoops.

Maybe. Ryou, can you grab my bag and weapon from my room? The elevator zipped past it without me noticing.

Sure! I hope you’re packed and prepared. We’ll meet you down there soon!

Packed, sure. Prepared? Maybe. The elevator opened up to the hallway leading to the portal room, and Makoto ran a hand through his hair. If they were going into a deeper part of Atlantis, he truly hoped that the Lucier within wouldn’t be as hostile as the ones closer to the top.

Chapter Text

Tapping his foot against the tile, Makoto waited impatiently with his arms crossed over his chest for Kaede and Ryou to meet him at the portal room. Several of the engineers were mulling around, adjusting different knobs upon their panels, as well as jotting down notes about how the portal was running while in standby. The screen behind the portal was slowly turning on, a light, fizzing sound filling the air. Julietta had told him, before running off to his station to prepare for their transport, that they were going further below the surface of Atlantis to potentially find some orichalcum that they could take and use to forge new weapons to fight against the Dragons.

It was still odd to Makoto that orichalcum, a metal typically seen in fantasy games, was an actual thing in the past. They didn't know too much about it either, but Julietta was hoping it would be strong enough to cut through the Dragons like a hot knife through butter.

The door slid open, and Makoto glanced up from the ground to see his friends walk in. Kaede was in the process of tying her hair up into a loose ponytail, while Ryou hummed a tune to himself, holding Makoto’s belt with a multitude of pouches upon it in one hand and the katana in the other. They approached him, and Ryou held out his things towards him.

“Here you go! I didn’t go through any of your things, so I hope you’re ready.” Ryou said excitedly. Kaede rolled her eyes at him, resting her hands on her hips.

“I cannot believe you’re excited for this, Ryou. We’re going into unknown territory with Dragons all over the place, and you’re acting like it is going to be a trip of a life time.”

Ryou shrugged. “I’m interested in the Lucier that may be living underground. Maybe they’ll be more hospitable than the ones above.”

Makoto strapped his belt around his waist, and adjusted the sheath of his katana so that it wouldn’t bump against his leg. “Or they might be more hostile. They may be dealing with the worst of the Dragon invasion.” Makoto mentioned. Ryou let out a defeated sigh, and trailed behind him as they made their way up the small steps leading to the middle of the portal.

“You’re both such party poopers.” Ryou mumbled, barely audible over the vibrations coming from the portal as it began to charge. One of the engineers behind the control panel rose a finger at them, signaling that they were about to be transported. Makoto shut his eyes to not get blinded by the light that sparked around the portal. He did experience the same disorientating sensations as last time; extreme dizziness as a hint of electricity danced across his skin, and the sounds of the crashing waterfalls that surrounded Atlantis alerted him that he had reached their destination in one piece. Ryou let out a low groan beside him, and Makoto slowly cracked open his eyes, turning to look at Ryou. The brunette had his head in his hands as he crouched down.

“I’ll….never get use to that.” Ryou muttered, rubbing circles into his skull with his fingers. Makoto felt as Kaede shivered violently next to him, her arms bumping into his.

“W-why is it so cold?!” Kaede said between clattering teeth, vigorously rubbing her hands up and down her arms as she shook. Her short sleeve shirt wasn’t doing much to keep the chill off, and Makoto rolled his eyes. Glad that he had decided to wear a thick, long sleeved shirt under his sweater, Makoto pulled his bulky sweater over his head, and held it out to her. Kaede reached out and took it greedily from his hands, and slipped it over her head without an issue. She let out a content sigh, hugging her arms across her chest. She glanced up at Makoto, a wide smile on her face and she gave him a nod of thanks.

As Kaede finished situating herself with his sweater, Makoto took a look around them, and approached close to the edge of the rock they stood upon. Kaede wasn’t wrong – it was quite colder in this part of Atlantis. Makoto could feel the chill through his sweater, and the spray coming from the crashing waterfall felt like ice upon his face. The salty smell of the sea breeze was even down here, and the stone they stood upon seemed a bit more slippery compared to the paved walkways above. It even seemed a bit more weathered, probably having been beat down by the salt and water for however long Atlantis had been above the sea. However, the Dragonsbane still thrived well here, unaffected by the salt or coldness of the area.

Portions of rocks floated around them, levitating above the ever ending abyss of the ocean, Dragonsbane covering the stone. A larger, more predominant rock formation floated several dozen feet away, towering up towards the main part of Atlantis they were all in not too long ago. It also seemed to descend far below them, and he could not make out even the end point of the stone. A crack of static in his ear made Makoto flinch where he stood, and he took several, shuffled steps back from the edge.

‘Oh wow! That place looks lovely!’ Mio said in awe, and Makoto ran a hand through his hair. He had already grown use to Nagamimi’s haughty tone and quips, and was actually expecting the rabbits voice more than Mio’s to come over their pagers. ‘Julietta wanted me to tell you that you three are in a place called Cladeon, and you are currently in the outskirts. It’s far below Atlantis, and most of the Dragons seem to be roosting there. Please be careful as you make your way through the area. It’s also a very, long drop down.’ Her feed fizzled out of his ear, and Makoto glanced at Kaede and Ryou. Ryou had finally stood back up again, adjusting the collar of his jacket to better cover his neck. Kaede seemed to be in just as much awe as Mio was, her hands on her cheeks as her eyes scanned the whole area. Makoto had an odd feeling that she would return here later, a sketchbook in her hands to take down the scene around them.

“You’ve finally arrived.”

The trio all snapped to attention, seeing Yuma and Yoritomo standing on one of the many, flat stones in front of them. Yuma looked a bit surprised to see them, while Yoritomo wore a tight lipped scowl on his face.

“We will be continuing forward. If you find a safer route to pass these rocks, mention it to us. We need to get our troops safely across.” He told them, before nodding in the direction of a small platoon, all who were treading carefully across the rocks. Several held their hands out to their comrades on lower ground, pulling them up and onto the rocks that were closer towards the Yuma gave them a short bow, the palms of his hands clasped together as he bent at the waist.

“Please excuse us.” Yuma said as Yoritomo walked off. He turned on his heel and broke into a small jog to keep up with his supervisor, whom was heading towards their small group of soldiers. Yoritomo jumped between the gaps with relative ease, and Yuma followed his lead. Makoto heard Ryou scoff from beside him, and saw as he crossed his arms over his chest out of the corner of his eye.

“What a bunch of show offs.” Ryou muttered under his breath. “We should prove to them that we’re not useless.”

Makoto let out a snort of laughter as Ryou’s competitive streak began to show. “I would of liked to believe we proved ourselves to them when those Dragons descended, but I agree.” With that said, he strolled forward, and followed the same path that Yuma and Yoritomo did, sticking close to the center of the rocks. They were the least slick there, and he had more traction under his feet. Kaede and Ryou followed him, sticking close together but several steps behind him. The afloat stones never budged as Makoto leapt across and up them, planning each jump precisely so he did not tumble down into the abyss below. He was quite surprised at how easy it seemed, and the ISDF soldiers shot him a glare as he passed by them. However, Kaede and Ryou seemed a bit reluctant to follow him, standing on the stone they arrived on a dozen feet below him. They shared a glance with one another, before looking up towards Makoto.

“Makoto! Are you sure this is a good idea?” Kaede called out towards him, barely audible over the crashing water. Makoto nodded, giving her a small smile. He saw as Ryou began to tie his hair up in a bun with a hair tie that rested around his wrist, and it snapped his hair into place. Looking over his shoulder as he took several steps back, Ryou broke out into a sprint. As he reached close to the edge, he sprung off of his feet and landed upon one of the many slabs of stone on both feet. Makoto kept an eye on him as Ryou made his way up to where he stood, and once Ryou landed beside him, he sagged down towards the ground. Wheezing in his breaths, Ryou rose a shaky hand to undo his bun as he sat upon the ground, pulling the hair tie out in one, swift motion.

Makoto held a hand out towards him to help Ryou onto his feet, which he accepted. “I’m impressed. When was the last time you worked out?” Makoto asked, a sharp grin on his lips. Ryou shot a glare at him, brushing his fringe out of his eyes.

“Can it, nerd.” Ryou replied, before barking out a laugh. Turning his gaze back upon Kaede, Makoto saw that her eyes were wide, seemingly impressed with Ryou. Makoto pointed his thumb over at Ryou, who was still panting slightly as he regained his breath.

“If he can do it, I know you definitely can, Kaede.” Makoto said, trying to motivate her a little. She puffed her cheeks out at him, her brows lowering. She took off running from where she stood, and sprung across each of the stones as Ryou had just done, bouncing from one to the other. As she reached the final stone with a smug grin on her face, Kaede began to falter, one of her feet slipping out of under her due to how wet the slab was. She began to fall backwards as she fumbled to regain her footing, gasping loudly in surprise while flailing her arms wildly around her in a desperate attempt to grab onto anything.

Makoto automatically reacted as terror coiled in his gut, shooting an arm out to grab her by her forearm. Jerking her forward, Kaede stumbled forward and into his chest, letting an arm wrap around his waist. Makoto felt as she shivered, possibly from fear or adrenaline, and released her forearm. Kaede placed it on his back, patting it gently as she grounded herself.

“You over did it a little.” Ryou said with a snicker in an attempt to lighten the mood, and Kaede immediately pulled away from Makoto, her face flaring with embarrassment as she glowered at him. Makoto let a sigh out through his nose, and began to prep himself for another one of their casual arguments. However, Kaede said nothing as she pointed a shaky finger at Ryou, before turning on her heel and stomping over to the entrance of the dangling tower. Ryou hummed to himself for a moment, the grin leaving his face.

“Ah. I probably should of worded that better.” Ryou mumbled to himself, and with a shrug, Makoto jogged to catch up with Kaede, who had gotten farther than they had both realized. He decided to keep his comments to himself, knowing that Kaede would take her time to chastise Ryou later. Probably over dinner as well, after the end of this mission.

Chapter Text

Kaede had not waited for them at the entrance of the tower, which was a jagged, narrow crack in the wall with Dragonsbane twisting around the edges of it. Makoto squeezed his way into the narrow tunnel, Ryou following directly behind him. It grew darker as they traveled deeper within, and they eventually had to come to a stop since the light that had peeked in through the entrance of the cavern had faded away. Makoto could barely hear the waterfalls that crashed outside, muffled through the thick rock that surrounded the both of them.

“Jeez. How did Kaede get any farther than this? I can’t see a damn thing.” Ryou mumbled as he snapped his fingers, a tiny ball of fire resting gently above his open palm. Makoto turned to look at him over his shoulder, the flame hovering casting Ryou in a dim, orange light. He was slightly hunched over, as his head would brush against the ceiling if he stood at full height.

“You know how she gets when annoyed. She’ll just plow through anything without so much of a second thought.” Makoto stated flatly. Ryou rose his hand a bit above both of them while letting more magical energy flow into the flame. It lit up the corridor they were in, and Ryou let out a low whistle at the sight surrounding them. Thick Dragonsbane vines hung down from the ceiling, their thorns razor sharp and deadly. There were barely any flowers or seeds attached to the vines, and the ends would curl outwards, as if searching for fresh blood.

With vigilance, they both avoided the thorns as they continued forward, Ryou clutching onto the back of Makoto’s shirt with one hand while he kept the other aloft. After scooting their way through the tunnel, faint peaks of light shone across the gavel beneath their feet, signaling that they were either at the end of the tunnel and about to pop back out in Atlantis, or that there was some kind of town within. Makoto picked up his pace, growing frustrated with how small and cramped the space was, as well as constantly worrying about the Dragonsbane vines above both his and Ryou’s head. If those vines were anything like the bloodthirsty ones above, Makoto didn’t want to find out the hard way how the vines are down here when they encountered fresh blood.

Ryou let out a tiny whoop of excitement and let the flame in his palm go out as they got out of the tunnel. Makoto immediately took off his glasses to rub at his eyes with the back of his hand as they adjusted to the change in lightning. Beside him, Makoto heard as Ryou let out a small gasp of awe. As he opened them, he noticed why Ryou was so amazed.

Large, crystallized gemstones dotted the walls, keeping the cave lit. They were a rainbow array of colors, each shining with an ethereal light that bounced off of the jagged walls and the smooth flat rock beneath their feet. Stone pikes jutted from the ceiling, salt water slowly dripping from the hanging spike. Water cascaded around beneath them, which had eroded the stone around them and created makeshift bridges from one platform to the next. It looked to be low tide at the moment, and Makoto could tell where the water rested during high tide, as well as being able to tell that most of the stone beneath their feet was connected to one another. The ceiling above them was ascended several feet from where Makoto stood, and he could see that the gemstones lined those scaling walls as well, and water poured over from cracks, creating miniature waterfalls like the ones outside within.

Makoto let his eyes trail over the crystals, spotting Kaede not too far from him and Ryou. Her head was tipped upwards with her mouth agape as she took in the sight. She stood on one of the larger platforms of rock that gave her an overview of the area. She looked absolutely enthralled with the scene before her, and her hands were raised in front of her while she tapped her fingertips together. She definitely had the itch to draw, and Makoto let out a chuckle.

“Good to see that you’re alright.” Makoto called out towards her, and Kaede flinched where she stood, her eyes wide as she looked at him. Her posture relaxed immediately once she recognized him, and Kaede let out a nervous laugh.

“Sorry, sorry. Least I stayed here and didn’t wander farther in. This place looks amazing.” Kaede replied, making her way over to them by the mouth of the entrance. She came to a halt in front of Makoto, rocking back and forth on her heels with a wide smile on her face. “I should of brought my sketchbook, but I didn’t even consider it. If we stop by here again, I will want to sketch out this area.” Makoto took another quick glance around, before shrugging his shoulders.

“I don’t see why not. We’ll just have to navigate back here.” Kaede let out a small sound of glee at his response, before hurrying on ahead. Ryou trailed right behind her with the same enthusiasm, their footsteps echoing off of the walls as they hurried deeper within. In his ear, Makoto could hear Mio giggling at him as Nagamimi groaned. With a defeated sigh, he broke out in a jog to catch up with them. The last thing he needed was to lose track of either of them.

Chapter Text

The trio made their way through the cavern, weaving around Dragonsbane vines and flowers that coated the floors and coiled up the walls. Carefully, and with Mio guiding them in their ears, they made their way over the stone bridges, trying not to slip on the moisture that clung to the stone. It grew colder the deeper in they traveled, much to Makoto’s displeasure. He was beginning to regret giving his sweater over to Kaede, but wasn’t going to ask for it back. She needed it more than he did. He rubbed his hands idly against the sleeves of his long sleeved shirt, trying to stay warm as he shivered, and it took all of his willpower to not let his teeth clatter. Every so often, he swore he could feel Kaede boring holes into him, and Makoto tried his best to avoid making eye contact with her.

“Wait.” Kaede demanded as she came to a halt at the base of a set of steps that were engraved into the rock, causing Makoto and Ryou to both stop mid-step up the stairs to look over their shoulders at her. She pulled her arm into the sweater and tugged the collar, effectively pulling the sweater over her head in one quick motion. Kaede held it up towards him, and when Makoto turned to face her, she shoved it towards him. Prying his hands off of his arms, Makoto reached out to grasp it, the fabric warming his fingers instantly. Kaede pouted at him when he tried to hand it back to her. “Don’t give me it back to me. Just put your sweater back on. I’ll be fine.”

Without a word, and accepting the fact that Kaede would put her foot even harder down if he didn’t do what she said, Makoto slipped his sweater back over his head. The warmth that came off of it quelled his shivering, and he got a faint whiff of the floral perfume Kaede wore as the fabric brushed against his face. As he pushed the hood off of his head, Makoto let out a content sigh, before looking over at Kaede with an easy smile on his lips. “Thank you. If you do want it back, feel free to ask.” He told her. A light pink tint sprung across Kaede’s cheeks, and she glanced away from his gaze.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Kaede mumbled, crossing her arms over her chest. “We should keep moving.” Kaede sped away past Makoto and Ryou, rushing up the steps. Makoto peered over at Ryou, who stood beside him, looking for an answer to her reaction. Ryou, who was chuckling behind a closed fist in front of his mouth, just gave him a lazy shrug of his shoulders, before following behind Kaede, taking the steps two at a time.

Makoto watched with a frown on as they both ascend higher and onto one of the platforms above. Curious as to why Kaede seemed so embarrassed about it but deciding not to think on it too much for now, Makoto shoved his hands into his sweater pocket and made his way up the steps to join both of them.

Cutting through another narrow tunnel that grew wider as they traveled, the trio came upon Yoritomo and Yuma, as well as a handful of ISDF troops with them. They were huddled together and talking in hushed tones, while Yuma and Yoritomo seemed to be keeping watch at the foot of the group, close to the mouth of another tunnel.

A sigh of relief escaped from the trio. Makoto was glad to of finally caught up with them while Mio and Nagamimi directed them through the tunnels for several hours, following their faint signal. Their communication devices weren’t the greatest piece of technology, but for something to work so far in the past was a blessing.

Makoto heard as Nagamimi let out a long sigh on the other side of the line. ‘I’m going to take a break.’ Nagamimi said, sounding a bit tired over the connection. ‘Mio will cover for me. Don’t die out there while I’m gone. I have some ideas I want to give to Julietta about this whole ‘communicating-across-time-periods’ thing cause this connection sucks.’

There was some light shuffling over the line, and Makoto heard as Mio began to type on a keyboard. ‘Sorry, I’m setting up once more. Tell me when you guys are about to leave again.’ The connection cut off. Looking over at Kaede and Ryou, Makoto saw as Kaede rummaging through the bag on Ryou’s back, pulling out a bottle of water for each of them. She handed one over to Ryou before holding another out to him, which Makoto accepted gratefully. He didn’t notice how parched he was until they actually came to a stop.

Makoto took a deep swig from the bottle while Kaede began to go through Ryou’s bag once again. Her tongue poked out of her mouth as she searched, and she shot a glance at Makoto. “We should take a break as well. We’ve been traveling for quite a while.” Kaede stated, pulling out a notebook and a pen. Ryou made a sound of agreement.

“I agree. My feet are killing me…” Ryou grumbled, shrugging his shoulders to adjust the bag on his back as Kaede zipped it closed once more. Makoto twisted the cap back onto the bottle, and slid it into the pouch of his sweater.

“Sure, we might as well.” Makoto said, looking at each of the ISDF soldiers that were resting, before resting his eyes back on Yoritomo and Yuma. Kaede and Ryou could take their break, and he could speak to them and any of the ISDF members to see what their mission was. Julietta sent them to find orichalcum, so what was the ISDF doing down here?

Making his way over to the Admiral and Yuma, Makoto saw as they stopped speaking to one another to turn to face him as he approached. Yuma moved away from Yoritomo, making his way over to the other soldiers in the area. Makoto watched as he left, and Yoritomo coughed into his fist then crossed his arms behind his back. His eyes turned to look at the Admiral once more. “Glad to see that the three of you made it through the tunnels safely. Were there many Dragons?” Yoritomo asked. Makoto shook his head in response.

“No, there were a couple. Nothing compared to the ones that were prowling on the surface.” Makoto told them. He had an odd feeling that they had taken out the Dragons who had avoided the ISDF, who must of dealt with most of the pack.

Yoritomo gave him a firm nod. “Good to hear. We need you three in top form if we are to continue.” He eyed Ryou and Kaede, who were huddled close together, the light scratching of Kaede jotting down notes filling the air. “We’re searching for the Dragonslayer.” Yoritomo whispered to him. “There is a slim chance that it is still within the Lucier’s hands, but we will need it to succeed in our mission. It is vital to taking down the Dragons.” Yoritomo explained to him, and Makoto cocked his head to the side, raising a brow.

“I was under the impression that we were all searching for the orichalcum that would help us forge better weapons to fend off the Dragons.” Makoto said, and Yoritomo hummed.

“That is also one of our goals, but the Dragonslayer has priority. For those in the ISDF, at least. You and your group work for Nodens, so the missions they give you do not need to line up directly with ours.” Yoritomo stated, crossing his arms over his large, barreled chest, his expression neutral. “We just need to be able to work together – whether your director truly wants to or not.”

Makoto held back an urge to sigh. Allie didn’t seem to have a problem with them – Julietta was the one that pitch a miniature fit over working with the ISDF without explaining as to why he did. “I’m sorry if it comes off as that way. I believe that my friends and I are fine with helping you. I have no issues at this moment, and I’m greatful you took out most of the Dragons that were in this direction. We would of taken even longer to get here, and we wouldn’t be in good shape either.” Makoto told Yoritomo. A small smile rested upon Yoritomo’s lips.

“You are welcome.” Yoritomo said, looking over at his troops and Yuma, who was watching in silence as the troops interacted, staying a few feet away from them. Yoritomo’s smile turned into a slight frown. “However, we want to get going in the next five minutes to give your team a moment of rest. You should take a quick rest as well. We have quite a ways to go after this.”

Makoto scratched idly at the nape of his neck, his hair barely brushing against it. “I’ll be alright. Thank you for your concern.” He gave Yoritomo a brief bow, before hastily making his way back over to Kaede and Ryou. It was nice of Yoritomo to try to watch over him, but he would be fine. He’ll rest when they return to Nodens. He joined the pair of them as they took down notes about the area, most of them made so Kaede could sketch it out later, and a few about different monsters they had came across.

Five minutes had passed faster than they realized. The ISDF soldiers were back up on their feet, weapons hoisted over their shoulders and helmets back on their heads. Yuma had returned to Yoritomo’s side. Kaede returned the notebook back to Ryou’s bag, and Makoto handed over the water bottle from his pouch for her to return to the bag. Yoritomo turned and led the soldiers into the tunnel, their steps echoing off of the rocks surrounding them as they made their way through. Makoto contacted Mio through his miniature headsets, one finger upon the button that was on the earbud.

“Mio, we’re about to continue our way through the tunnel.”

The static in his hear made her almost impossible to hear her, but Makoto could hear that she acknowledged they were returning back to their mission. Makoto, Kaede, and Ryou shared a glance, before following behind the ISDF, sticking close to the back of the group.

As they traveled further in, a repugnant smell crept into the tunnel. Makoto heard as Ryou gagged, and Kaede covered her nose with the collar of her shirt, her brows furrowed in confusion as she glanced around, searching for where it was coming from. Makoto pulled up his sweater to cover his nose and mouth. Some of the soldiers in front of them grumbled to themselves about it, flipping their visors to cover their faces fully to keep the stench out.

Ryou let out a tiny yelp as something crunched underneath his foot, and he rushed forward to stick close to Makoto and Kaede. Yoritomo and Yuma came to a suddenly stop at the front, and the rest of the soldiers stopped in their tracks. Makoto almost bumped into one of them at their abrupt halt. A murmur went through the group, and he nudged his way through them to reach Yoritomo and Yuma. Kaede and Ryou stuck close to him.

Reaching the front of the soldiers, Makoto had realized why Yoritomo and Yuma stopped progressing forward. Hundreds of bones in a variety of sizes littered the ground. Several decaying Dragon corpses were shoved against the side of the narrowing tunnel, dried blood coating the scales that had not been ripped off. Bits and pieces of the meat under the skin of the Dragons had been dug out. Each of them had long, sharp spears shoved into their skulls, and arrows dug into the sides of their necks and torsos. Kaede reached out to grip upon the side of Makoto’s sweater sleeve, and Ryou pitched his nose close with his fingers. “Dude, this is super gross.” Ryou muttered, and Makoto nodded. Their bodies have been out for quite a while, judging by the scent.

An arrow narrowly missed the group, burying into one of the dead Dragons. Yuma slid into an offensive stance, bringing up his fists. Yoritomo took a step to the side to give Yuma room, before looking over his shoulder at Makoto and his soldiers. “That was probably a warning that we’re not alone here. Be on your guard.” He said, and the soldiers behind them immediately pulled their weapons from their holsters, prepping for battle.

Ryou rose his hands up, palms facing the ground. Conjuring up flames to lick around his fingers and palms, the light flickering off of the walls and casting him in an orange glow. Kaede released her hold upon Makoto and brought her curled her hands into fists, holding them up steady in front of her. Makoto drew his blade from its sheath, and sucked in a breath through his mouth to avoid the horrid stench of the dead Dragons.

Two figures fell from the ceiling – a pair of Lucier. The man landed gracefully next to her, his hair a bright orange color. It was cut short and spiked outwards with a single braid dangling in front of his left ear. The strands stuck out over the light purple bandanna he had wrapped around his head. It crossed over his forehead and trailed behind his skull, flowing behind him as he landed. Black and gold armor covered the side of his torso, leaving his chest bare. His dull blue breeches were tugged into thigh high boots, which were plated with golden armor that was tied into place by a bright blue rope that wrapped around his thighs. A belt similar to those the trio saw on the Lucier on the surface was around his waist. He eyed them carefully with steel grey eyes as he spun a pair of twin daggers in his hands.

He looked more regal compared to the woman to his side, who seemed to be a bit more worn and ragged than him. The woman had a short dagger in her hands, lightning cracking and sparking around the blade. Her ears were flat against her pitch black, short hair, and her mauve eyes were full of anger as she stared straight at them. Her black tunic was frayed at the ends, and the bronze armor covering her torso, arms, and legs seemed a bit worse for wear with all the scruffs upon the metal.

“Leave. We do not take in humans in these parts, especially invaders.” She snarled, her eyes glued onto them.

“Invaders?” Makoto exclaimed, carefully taking a step to the side to distance him from Kaede and Ryou. He didn’t want to nick one of them on accident if the woman lunged at them. “We’re not here to steal from you. We’re here to help with the Dragons.”

The woman lucier observed him, and a sharp, harsh laugh came from her. “I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Do you really think you could hold off the Dragons?” She sneered at him, and Makoto felt anger rise in him. Does no one seriously believe in them here?

“We’ve taken down most of the Dragons that were on the surface, and have worked in taking down the ones we could find in this labyrinth of tunnels.” His grip on his katana tightened, and he saw as the womans sneer turned into a scowl of displeasure. “We’re not here to harm any of you, or put you in a worse position against your war against the Dragons.”

The woman Lucier bristled in anger. She jutted her chin out towards him, baring her canines. “Fine, then prove yourself!” She shouted, leaping forward. The man beside her burst into action, heading towards Yuma and Kaede with his blades ready to strike, while the woman went for Makoto. He rose his blade up, poised to attack as electricity cackled around them.