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To the New Age

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[A Record from the Royal Library about the Drachen Duchy] 

The Kirklands have long held the position of Duke or Duchess of Drachen. Known as the Warden of the West, the Kirkland Dragons have always been loyal to the empire and have protected the land from both external and internal conflict. It was said that the first Duchess of Drachen was considered the dearest friend of the first Empress of Cautania. Until now, the relationship between the Duchy and the Crown remain a close one...

 

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Alfred picked at the cuffs of his uniform as he waited for his brother. They’ll finally have the trial today, and he couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s already been a week since they’ve arrived, and in all that time, Arthur had advised Alfred not to go see Ivan. It was frustrating, but the capital’s politics was beyond him, and he didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize the trial. He wondered how Ivan was doing. He wondered if he even had a right to worry when he couldn’t do anything at all to help him. 

“Uncle Al!” 

Alfred was startled by the sudden shout and easily caught the boy who barrelled into him. “Jack,” Alfred ruffled the boy’s brown hair and chuckled at the pout he was given. “What’s up, kiddo?” 

“Tell dad I don’t want to go!” 

“Go where?” 

“The party,” Jack said with a long suffering sigh, looking at Alfred like he was an idiot. He had a strip of plaster over the bridge of his nose, and Alfred wondered what sort of trouble his nephew had gotten into again. “They’re having a party tomorrow night because of you and the prince. Dad says I should go.” 

“Well you are the heir to the dukedom,” Alfred said as he crouched in front of his nephew. 

Jack gave him an affronted and betrayed look. “So you want me to go too? But it’ll be boring.” 

“You’re a dragon,” Alfred said, lightly poking the tip of the child’s nose. “I’m sure you’ll find something interesting. We always do.” 

“But I already have things that I like!” Jack exclaimed, scowling at Alfred. “Mum says you didn’t like going to parties either when you were younger.” 

“Ah, to think that Marianne would betray me like this,” Alfred joked. 

“It wasn’t really betrayal if she was telling the truth, was it?” Arthur said as he descended from the grand staircase in their front hall. Alfred stood up to face his brother. Just like Alfred, Arthur seemed to be in his military uniform. He hasn’t seen his brother in the black and white of the Empire since he had been recovering after his first war, and it was strange to see him in the uniform now. 

“Are we leaving now?” 

“Yes, just a moment,” Arthur said before crouching in front of Jack the same way that Alfred did a moment ago. “Do you truly not want to go?” 

“It’s boring,” Jack complained again, voicing his earlier complaints. 

“Then, would you like to go somewhere else?” Arthur asked.

“Somewhere else?” 

“Your mother and your brothers will be going back to Drachen tomorrow morning. Would you like to go with them instead?” Arthur asked, brushing aside a stray lock of hair from his son’s face. 

“Really? You won’t ask me to go to the party?” Jack asked, his grin wide and excited. “I can go back home?” 

“Of course, I’m sure your Uncle Matthew would be happy to see you as well,” Arthur chuckled as Jack suddenly hugged him. After the boy had stepped away, Arthur stood and placed a hand over his head. There was a small sad smile on his face that Alfred could see before Arthur had suddenly wiped it away and replaced it with a smile. “Why don’t you tell your mother about the change of plans?” 

“Yeah!” Jack agreed. “Bye, dad! Bye, Uncle Al! Tell the king I said hi!” Without saying anything else, the boy ran past Arthur, hurriedly taking the stairs two steps at a time. By the time the boy had reached the top, he was already shouting for his mother. 

“A change of plans?” Alfred frowned. “That’s not like you.” 

Arthur waved a dismissive hand. “We’ll be busy,” he said. “I don’t have the time to watch him.” 

And just like that, Alfred was reminded of the trial. “Right,” he said with a grimace. “Do you think we can win?” 

“We’re dragons,” Arthur said, echoing Alfred’s earlier reassurances for Jack. “If there’s no other way, then we only need to make one, yes?” 

His brother’s confident tone startled a laugh out of Alfred. He placed a hand over his chest and took a deep breath. He could feel his magic like a storm waiting to be unleashed. Arthur’s magic itself seemed to be heightened, his green eyes flashing gold like Alfred’s for a moment. Looking like that, Alfred could understand why his brother was one called the Tempest of Drachen. 

Alfred curled his hands into fists and tried to calm himself.  Arthur was right. They were dragons, and he was never one to give up. 

“It’s time to surprise people again, huh?” Alfred grinned.

Arthur seemed to stare at Alfred for a long time, and Alfred shifted in worry. Before he could ask about the strange look on his brother’s face, Arthur had already moved past Alfred, touching Alfred lightly on the shoulder on his way out. “Shall we go?” 

 

------

The court was already bustling with people by the time they arrived. They paused by the entrance, and Alfred could feel people’s stares turning towards them. He ignored the people and started heading for their seats only to look back when he realized his brother wasn’t following him. “Arthur?” 

“Go ahead, lad,” Arthur said, waving him away. “I need to go see the Emperor.” 

“The emperor?” 

Arthur didn’t answer, and Alfred hesitated before he decided to take his seat. Arthur and Gilbert must have some business to discuss. 

At his seat, he started fidgeting. He hated it. It wasn’t like how he usually was at all. He could hear the whispers around him, but that was always the case at court, wasn’t it? He couldn’t help but feel that they were all still at the calm before the storm. The Kirklands were storm dragons, and they could always weather the storm. But he still couldn’t help but feel apprehensive about what was to come. 

He was too lost in thought that he almost jumped out of his seat when he felt the touch on his shoulder. Arthur gave him a worried look before taking the seat beside him. 

“What did you talk about?” Alfred asked to distract himself. 

“Hm?” Arthur seemed uncharacteristically absentminded. The duke was scanning the room like he was waiting for enemies to attack them. 

“With the emperor.” 

Arthur leaned back on his seat and stretched his legs in front of him. “Not much,” he replied. “The party tomorrow, I suppose.” 

Alfred groaned as he remembered the party that Jack was complaining about. “Am I supposed to go?” 

“You’re one of the guests of honour,” Arthur said, fingers drumming a distracting tune on his armrest. “Of course you’re supposed to be there.” 

Before Alfred could reply, the doors by the throne opened and Gilbert strode inside. Everyone stood as soon as the emperor entered the room and bowed. “Long live the emperor, and Glory be to Cautania,” everyone chorused as Gilbert finally took his seat. 

The emperor’s red eyes scanned the room, and Alfred shuddered, remembering similar red eyes in the ghost from the temple. When the emperor raised his hand, everyone took their seat. 

“Shall we begin?” Gilbert said. He looked to the seats opposite of Alfred’s. Alfred pressed his lips together as he saw Ludwig sitting with the rest of the RSS. “Director Reich?” 

The man met Alfred’s eyes and smiled as he stood. Those cold blue eyes never failed to unnerve Alfred. It was ridiculous really, but Alfred hated people who never seemed to show their true face. 

The project director and scientist gave a deep bow to the emperor as he reached the clear space in front of the throne. “The Royal Scientific Society pleads the Divine Emperor for a declaration of war.” 

The court erupted in whispers at the request. Silence only returned once Gilbert raised his hand. “A declaration of war? Against what country?” 

“The Boreal Tribes of the North, Your Majesty,” Drei answered smoothly. He turned toward the rest of the court. “As you’ve all heard by now, our peaceful expedition to the North was interrupted by an attack from the barbarians of the North. It was quite fortunate that Prince Ludwig was able to safely return with us. Furthermore, Captain Jones was able to return to us from the clutches of one of the northern soldiers.” As he ended his explanation, he turned to face the Drachen seats with a friendly smile. 

Alfred gritted his teeth and almost rose to his feet, only to stop when he felt Arthur’s hand on his arm. “Your eyes, Alfred,” Arthur warned. 

Alfred blinked and breathed deeply, trying to calm himself enough to turn his eyes back to normal. 

Gilbert laughed, startling everyone in the court and making them wonder if the King has gone mad. “That’s funny,” Gilbert grinned. “Are you saying our war hero was defeated by a barbarian and became his captive, Reich?” 

Although Gilbert’s words were meant to be taken as praise, Alfred couldn’t help but feel that he was being reproached. 

“No, Your Majesty,” Drei said, bowing his head in deference to the emperor. “They would not win against Captain Jones, not without trickery, that is.” 

“This is ridiculous,” Alfred muttered, glaring at the man in front of the Emperor. “Ivan didn’t use any tricks. Magic is—“ 

“Nonexistent,” Arthur said, giving Alfred a serious look. “We’ve talked about this, Alfred.” 

Right, Alfred thought as he gritted his teeth. He bowed his head and squeezed his eyes shut. To the empire, magic was nothing more than myths and legends. Alfred hadn’t believed in it either, not until it was too difficult to deny it any longer. He could feel his own magic coursing through him, and he was quite sure that his eyes would betray his emotions if he showed them right now. 

“—have brought the criminal here to be judged.” 

Alfred suddenly looked up as the doors opened to admit Ivan who was currently surrounded by guards. The guards didn’t wear the black and white uniform of the imperial guards. Instead, they wore the black and red of the RSS that Alfred was starting to hate. He leaned forward, not knowing whether he was hoping for Ivan to turn towards him or to ignore him entirely. “Ivan,” he whispered and curled his hands into fists on his lap.  

“And what judgment do you actually want, director?” Gilbert asked with a twist of his mouth. Alfred always saw Gilbert as another older brother, but at that moment, he felt terrified of the cold eyes of the emperor. 

And Ivan wouldn’t even look at him. He slumped on his chair and felt Arthur’s hand squeeze his shoulder. 

“Execution, your majesty,” Drei said. 

“No!” Alfred shouted as he scrambled to his feet. Everyone’s eyes were on him, and he ignored them all to look at Ivan. The other man looked calm as if he wasn’t about to be sentenced to death. Alfred wanted to rush towards him, to use his magic to push anyone who would stop him. 

But Arthur’s grip on his wrist reminded him that he couldn’t just exactly do what he wanted. 

“Captain Jones,” Gilbert said, his blood red eyes staring straight at Alfred. “Perhaps, it would be better if you were not present for this case.” 

“I apologize, Your Majesty” Alfred said, still feeling his magic, the lightning, stinging beneath his skin. He curled his hand into fists, nails digging into his palms as he forced himself to calm down. “I will not interrupt the proceedings again. I’m sorry.” 

“So am I, Alfred. That was not a request,” Gilbert said with his mouth pressed in a displeased line. “Leave the court, Captain.” 

“Do what he says, Alfred,” Arthur said, voice low beside him. He seemed tense, the grip on Alfred’s wrist tightening before it was gone. “I’ll come see you later.” 

Alfred looked from his brother to Ivan, suddenly feeling uneasy. Ivan gave him a small nod, the first acknowledgement the Sirin has given him since he had walked into the court, and Alfred bit his lip. He sighed and took a deep breath. When he faced the King, his face was blank and devoid of emotions. “As you wish, Your Majesty.” 

Alfred could feel everyone’s eyes on him as he left. In the empty hall outside, he slid into a crouch and buried his head between his knees. He had never felt so trapped until now, not when he was in the trenches, not when he was Ivan’s prisoner. It might have been his magic, sharp and piercing and so eager to be free. It might have been the court and the RSS and all the things that have changed since he took the mission from Gilbert. 

“What am I supposed to do now?” He muttered and slowly breathed out, feeling the spark beneath his skin slowly calm until it was almost silent. Just like how it was before. He wasn’t sure what he liked better. 

 

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“You promised!” Alfred shouted, turning to Arthur in the middle of his pacing. He couldn’t keep his hand still. He wanted to work on something, maybe punch something to get rid of the anger in him at the moment. “You said you’ll help us.” 

“There was nothing I can do, Alfred,” Arthur said calmly. He sat behind his desk, looking over some letters and documents. 

Alfred felt like he was fifteen again and trying to convince his brother that he was old enough to go to war, that he was old enough to fulfill their family’s duty. He wasn’t, he hadn’t been. Arthur had been right about that, but Alfred had been stubborn and prideful and angry. He always had been. He felt the same anger now and the same stubborn pride, except he was fighting for something other than his own birthright. 

It was ridiculous how much he and Arthur had argued since the end of the trial. It was ridiculous how much he could still feel like a child with no power to change anything. It was ridiculous that his brother and the emperor still expected him to attend the party that night. 

“Couldn’t you have at least reduced his sentence?” Alfred hissed at his brother as he pulled at his hair. He could feel the lightning in him, but he could also feel his brother’s own magic, a resistance that was strange and familiar at the same time. He continued pacing around the room to get rid of his restless energy.  “To something other than an execution?” 

“Perhaps, this was for the best,” Arthur said, staring at the desk in front of him. 

Alfred turned to his brother in anger once again. “So that’s the truth,” he snarled, slamming his fist on the desk in front of his brother. The scorch mark on wood showed just how little control Alfred currently had on his magic. His brother only gave him an impassive stare, as if there was no need to fear the storm inside the younger dragon. 

Perhaps, there wasn’t, Alfred thought. After all, didn’t his recent experiences show that he seemed to have known nothing about his brother at all? 

“What exactly do you mean, lad?” Arthur asked, green eyes flashing gold for a moment like Alfred’s own eyes. 

“You never planned to help us,” Alfred accused. There was a long pause, and Alfred felt the sting of betrayal from seeing the calm look on his old brother’s face. He clenched his fists on top of the desk, drawing his magic deep inside the way Ivan had taught him. He took a deep breath before looking straight at his brother once again. “Tell me I’m wrong, Arthur.” 

Arthur frowned at him. “I wish I could tell you everything,” he said as he stood up. Arthur looked tired, his magic becoming faint around Alfred. “You should get ready for tonight. Perhaps, you can say your goodbyes after the party.”

“Stop fucking patronizing me!” Alfred snarled and whirled, lightning building in his fist as he aimed a punch at his brother. His fist stopped several inches away from Arthur’s face. It felt as if the air in front of him had turned into a solid wall. He gritted his teeth and tried to move away only to realize that he couldn’t, the pressure of the wind around him had become shackles that kept him from moving. 

“Then you should stop acting like a child,” Arthur sighed, golden eyes staring at Alfred as the air became heavier around him. “I am not your enemy, Alfred. There is another way to get what you want. You should realize that once you’ve calmed down.” 

Alfred only glared at his brother as Arthur left the room. The moment the doors shut behind the duke, the wind released Alfred from its hold. Alfred felt the fight leave him as his brother’s magic released him. He leaned backwards on his brother’s desk, hands curling over the edge of it. “Another way,” he murmured as he closed his eyes and calmed down. 

He visualized the palace where the party would be later and the citadel and dungeons nearby. He thought of the airships that he could see when he waited to see the emperor, airships that he had helped to develop throughout his career. He thought of the Drachfeurite that was still in his pocket, responding to every whisper of his magic. Everyone would be busy during the party, and Alfred had more than enough tools for the plan that was slowly forming in his mind. 

Alfred opened his eyes and smirked. There was another way. He wasn’t sure if it was what his brother had meant, but it was Alfred’s way. And he had always been stubborn, hasn’t he? He took the Drachfeaurite from his pocket and turned it over in his hand. “Ivan’s going to be surprised,” he told the empty room before shrugging. 

Arthur was right. He had to get ready for a party. 

------

The glittering lights of the ballroom were a familiar sight, a beautiful and impressive show of the country’s scientific progress. Alfred used to be impressed by them. He used to think that they were one of the best things he’s ever seen. But ever since his exposure to magic, they seem lacklustre in comparison.  In the same way, Alfred had been to many of the Royal family’s balls and gatherings. Some of them have also been held for him in the past just as it was now. He used to enjoy the attention, used to believe that he would be a better duke than his brother because he knew how to influence people and command their attention. 

Now, he felt nothing but dread and uneasiness as he felt everyone’s gazes on him. They were the same gazes that had turned on him when he made a scene in the Emperor’s court. 

He sighed and picked up a glass of wine from a passing server. There were too many eyes on him, and it frustrated him. He’d lost his brother for a while, but he still had to deal with the rest of the nobles in the party. He found a place by a pillar, near one of the empty balconies, and scanned the rest of the room.  Alfred tensed as he realized just how many of the RSS were current in the room. Neither the king nor the prince were in the room, and his brother had disappeared somewhere. If he was going to act tonight, it should be now when the people closest to him were not there to pay attention. 

He drained his glass of wine and started towards the exit. He didn’t even care about the gazes on him anymore. Whether his plan succeeded tonight or not, those stares would mean nothing to him after this night. Still, he needed to get rid of everyone’s attention if he was to succeed with his plan.  Before Alfred could do anything to get people’s gazes away from him, the arrival of prince Ludwig was announced. Everyone glanced towards the great double doors at the top of the grand staircase. 

Alfred grinned. Well, there couldn’t be a better distraction now, could there? 

He turned to leave the ballroom through one of the smaller side entrances. Everyone had already turned towards Ludwig and had started to approach him as he descended into the room. Alfred was prepared to run the moment he was clear of the ballroom. He was prepared to throw everything away that night. 

It was stupid. It was reckless. It was the only thing he could think to do. 

The door handle was in his hands when he felt the hand on his shoulder. Alfred flinched and whirled around, hand going to the hilt of the small knife he’s hidden in his coat. He glared at the stranger who had stopped him. “Can I help you?” 

The stranger’s eyes flicked towards Alfred’s hidden hand. The man looked quite unassuming with his dark hair and dark eyes, someone who people would never notice twice. Alfred realized that he really didn’t know him. It was quite suspicious in a banquet hall filled with the familiar faces of the empire’s most prominent noble families. 

“Can we chat for a moment, Captain?” The stranger asked. Although he had phrased his question as a request, he was already leading Alfred outside with the tight grip he had on Alfred’s shoulders. It was a short walk to a small reception area, and Alfred was too stunned at the man’s actions that he allowed himself to be pushed in. 

Alfred finally responded as he stumbled in, whirling around and pulling his knife out. The lock clicked behind the stranger, and he grinned at Alfred. “Come on, Alfred,” he said. “We both know the dagger is not your best weapon.” 

“Who the hell--” 

The man’s dark hair slowly turned white and the Emperor’s bright red eyes looked from Alfred’s face to the knife in his hand. “Do you plan to use that?” 

“Your majesty?” Alfred stared, uncomprehending for a moment, at the emperor. He tried to understand how Gilbert had just changed how he looked. Was it magic? Can the Emperor use magic? 

Gilbert chuckled and clapped a hand over Alfred’s shoulder as he walked past Alfred and sat on one of the couches in the room. “Alfred,” Gilbert called out. He crossed his legs and leaned back as Alfred turned to look at him. One gloved hand gestured to the other couch. “Take a seat. As I said, let’s chat for a moment.” 

Alfred hesitated, hand gripping the knife tighter, before he moved to take the seat that Gilbert pointed at. “Shouldn’t you be at the party?” He asked the emperor in front of him. 

“Shouldn’t you?” Gilbert shot back with a grin. He rolled his shoulders back and settled back on the couch. “I plan to show myself after our chat. It should be interesting. But between the two of us, you’re the one who has no plans of going back there, yes?” 

Alfred stilled, carefully watching the emperor’s expression. Gilbert’s face gave nothing away. He looked amused yet cold as always. Alfred felt a chill on his back as the emperor’s red eyes continued to watch him. He wondered if he should be ready to get executed with Ivan. He wondered just how much of his plans Gilbert has guessed. “Are you trying to persuade me to go back?”

Gilbert threw his head back and laughed loudly. “Hell no!” He exclaimed. 

“What?” Alfred asked with a frown. 

“Say, Alfred,” Gilbert said. “Did Arthur tell you anything about tonight?” 

“Tonight?” Alfred repeated. He felt lost. He couldn’t understand what the emperor wanted from him. He couldn’t understand why the whole meeting was happening in the first place. “About the party?” 

Gilbert sighed. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, waving his hand in front of him. “Let’s talk about your plan instead. How exactly do you plan on rescuing that Sirin?” 

“Why?” 

Gilbert chuckled at the look of suspicion then confusion on Alfred’s face. “Did I break you, Alfred?” 

Alfred shook his head. “I don’t understand what’s happening.” 

Gilbert laced his fingers together over his knee. “I’m trying to help you,” he said. “Arthur asked me to, and I did promise to protect you.” 

Alfred blinked. “But--” He scowled at the blade in his hands. “You sentenced him to death.” 

“I did.” 

“Then--” 

“Stop asking questions,” Gilbert ordered. He then sighed and shook his head. “Then again, it’s you. You’ve always asked questions,” he muttered. “You dragons have always been curious creatures.” 

“Gilbert,” Alfred said, dropping all formalities. It didn’t seem like the emperor or his brother were doing things in any official capacity right now anyway. “What’s happening?” 

“We’re making plans for the future,” Gilbert said in a soft voice. He snapped his fingers and the empty table between them suddenly had a pack of supplies and a gun on it. Gilbert reached into his coat and pulled out an envelope, which he placed on top of the pack. “Take it. It’s from your brother.” 

“From Arthur?” Alfred placed his knife on the table before he took the envelope in his hands and turned it over. He thumbed his brother’s familiar handwriting on it before looking back at the emperor. “You want me to escape with Ivan?” 

Gilbert smiled. “Ah, that’s right, Antonio should be back by now.” Gilbert tapped his fingers on the table in front of him. “There’s an airship in his fleet. It has a white dragon for its masthead. It should be quite fitting, yes? What’s wrong? Didn’t you always want to leave the empire?” 

Alfred shook his head. “Not like this,” he murmured. 

“Well,” Gilbert chuckled. “It’s the best we can give you. You have an hour. Will you take it?” 

Alfred nodded. He made a choice at that point, and he grinned at Gilbert. Alfred had always planned to be free of his duties in the empire. As Gilbert had said, he had always planned to go on an adventure. This was not his original plan, but he can make it work. “You better not change your mind, your Maj--no, Gilbert.” 

Alfred took the things Gilbert offered and headed towards the door. As he touched the lock, he hesitated and turned toward Gilbert who was still sitting on the couch without a care. “Gilbert?” At the emperor’s questioning look, Alfred smiled. “Thank you.” 

Gilbert snorted and raised his hand in goodbye. Alfred nodded and immediately left the room. Once the younger man had left, Gilbert turned towards the corner of the room where another person appeared. “What do you think, Eli? Do you think they’ll make it?”

Elizabeta rolled her eyes as she took the seat beside Gilbert. “Should you really be thinking about other people tonight?” 

Gilbert ignored her question and took the knife Alfred left in his hands. He leaned his head on the back of the couch and twirled the knife between his fingers. The light of the lamps in the room seem glinted brightly on the silver blade. “Tonight should be interesting.” 

Elizabeta shook her head and gave a long suffering sigh. “You’re insane,” she said. “Shall we go?” 

-----

Alfred ran. He ran like the devil was after him. He didn’t know who was on his side. He still wasn’t sure if Gilbert was lying and setting a trap for him. Even if the emperor wasn’t lying, there were bound to be people against this whole plan. 

There were less guards around the palace and Alfred would question it more if it wasn’t for the hints his brother and Gilbert have already dropped about some plan besides his own happening tonight. 

He wondered what they were planning and if he should be worried for his brother. He wondered if he should stay as his heart continued to beat wildly with every gilded hallway that he passed. This was his home, the country he’s served for several years of his short life. He grew visiting the palace, playing with Ludwig and learning from Gilbert. They were as much his family as the Kirklands of Drachen were. 

And he was planning on throwing all that away tonight. 

You can always make a new home, a new start. But once someone was dead, there was nothing you could do, no prayer to the gods that can make them come back. Whether it was science or magic, Alfred knew there was no going back from the dead. He’d learned that all before. 

He’d learned to hate it. 

Alfred called on his magic, lightning sparking underneath the soles of his shoes as he boosted his speed. He ignored his surroundings now. He didn’t need any distraction to make him hesitate right now. 

When he was near the entrance to the palace dungeons, he skidded to a stop before he appeared before the guards. It would be better not to fight for now. Alfred checked the gun Gilbert had given him just to be sure before he placed it back in his coat. He fixed his clothes and his hair that had become messy from his run before turning the corner and walking towards the large iron doors to the dungeon. 

There were two guards in front of the iron doors who immediately stood to attention when Alfred appeared.

“Captain Jones?” One of the guards said in a confused tone. 

Alfred gave them a friendly smile. “At ease, men,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m not here for an inspection.” 

“T-then--” 

“I’m sure you’ve all heard, but the barbarian in the dungeons owes me for what he did.” Alfred shrugged. “I just thought I’d pay him back, hm?” 

“Oh, of course,” The guards nodded and were already quickly moving to open the doors. 

Alfred smiled at the sight and handed each guard some money. “The two of you should probably take a break,” he suggested as the guards received his bribe. “I’ll take care of things here, alright? Leave the keys with me.” 

“Yes, captain!” One of the guards handed Alfred the keys he asked for. With a salute, the two guards quickly left down the hallway. Alfred watched them go before turning back towards the open iron doors. He took a deep breath and clutched at the strap of the pack he was carrying before walking forwards. His steps echoed on stone as he walked down.

The path to the dungeon was lit by lamps powered by Red Drachfeurite, and the light flickered as Alfred passed them, reacting to the young dragon’s magic. Alfred could feel his heart beating faster and faster like the drums before battle. It was colder underground, and it reminded him of the Boreal mountains, of the man who could control the ice as easy as breathing, of the temple underneath the snow that had been forgotten and left behind time. It reminded him of a dance under a singing tree and the hesitant touch of a Sentinel Sirin. 

Alfred stopped in front of the only occupied cell in the dungeons. Ivan sat on the ground, with his wings drooping behind him. They didn’t seem to be broken, but there were chains that kept him from moving too much. His head hung low, and he didn’t look up even when Alfred had stopped. 

“Ivan?” Alfred asked, hesitantly touching the bars of the cell. 

Ivan raised his head, violet eyes widening in surprise. The chains rattled as he tried to move forward towards Alfred. He stopped, shoulders slumping, and his eyes narrowed in suspicion towards Alfred. There were some bruises on him, and he looked exhausted. “What are you doing here?” 

Alfred gripped the keys in his hands tight enough for his knuckles to whiten as he examined Ivan. They should be fine. He didn’t look very injured. Anything else, they can just fix later. “What are you talking about?” Alfred grinned at the other. “The hero’s here to save you. Let’s get out of here!” 

------

[An Excerpt from an article about the airships of Cautania] 

...Cautania remains one of the best developers of airships in the entire continent. Many believe that the Empire’s continued victory in its wars can be attributed to the strength of its Aerial Force. Of course, one of the best developments for the Empire’s airships happened after Captain Alfred F. Jone’s discovery of the use of Drachfeurite...