Sunny and Cress took in their surroundings as they began to be covered in an orange coat of light. The Taldas River in the background darkened as night fell. The wolf pawed at the vial in his pocket, gritting his lupine teeth in worry. “S-sorry, Sunny, I’ve gotta take this now...” he reluctantly told her. “N-now? B-but… What if we get attacked?” she exclaimed, running up to her friend. Cress frowned and looked up at the sky. “I can’t risk letting him out. I don’t want the other me anywhere near you if what happened last time was any representation,” he said, rather seriously. Sunny was taken aback. “You really care about me that much?” she asked. Cress nodded with a faint smile. Just as he was putting the vial up to his muzzle, a disheartened looking bat came flying by from out of the ruins. Following it was a concerned looking folf and cat. He lowered the purple liquid from his lips when Sunny exclaimed, “Miss Emerald?” The cat gasped. “S-Sunny? What are you doing here?” she exclaimed, confused. However, this reunion was not at all quiet. Behind the fennec fox, the sound of shattering glass resonated through the air. She quickly turned around, only to see her friend struggling to control himself. The wolf had paw wrapped around the other, trembling in agony as he warned her about the threat to come. “S-Sunny…. Get away from me…. Save yourself…” he muttered, being overtaken by the second soul that lived in his body. The sun fell from the sky. Night set over the destroyed town. Shard, Emerald, Pyren, and Sunny watched as the shadowy wolf awoke.
Emerald watched intently as the wolf shifted into a more aggressive, almost bestial form. Pyren raised an eye in confusion. Shard shivered in fear of a terrifying foe he could do nothing about. Sunny watched her friend be forced out of his own body and replaced someone she no longer knew. “Mister Cress… I-I can’t leave you!” she responded, shaking the transforming wolf, desperate to get her friend back. Shard noticed the despair in her eyes and flew over to the fox. Still quivering, the bat asked her an innocent question. “T-that wolf…. he’s... he’s your friend?” Sunny looked up at the blue bat and nodded remorsefully. Hit by this, Shard gritted his teeth. “Her friend… What are we gonna do..?” he muttered. While they were wasting time, Cress had finally completed his transformation. The black wolf darted his rage-filled eyes around in confusion. “W-what the hell? Where am I?” he yelled furiously. Sunny held her paw close to her chest, sparking ever so slightly with feelings of self-preservation. Cress’ gaze eventually meandered over to the worried fennec fox. “Wait a second… I remember you! You’re the one who did this, aren’t you!” he spat at her. In his anger, the shadowy wolf charged at her, baring his claws with unparalleled fury. Right as Sunny closed her eyes and braced herself to be ripped apart, Pyren threw himself in the way, stopping Cress in his tracks. “Whoa there, boy!” he snarked, holding Cress off from tearing apart his fennec friend. Emerald’s paws glowed their signature pinkish-purple as she, too, prepared for battle. “Sunny, Shard, get somewhere safe! We’ll handle this one,” she exclaimed. Sunny then looked down and shook her head, while Shard held up his blue paw, staring longingly. Emerald was surprised to hear, then, two resounding “No’s!”
Needless to say, the fight wasn’t over. Cress broke Pyren’s grasp and grabbed him, lifting the folf up into the air with incredible strength. “Okay, okay, you can put me down now!” he yelled, getting a little panicky. The wolf growled and threw Pyren to the ground, darting around to find his real target. “Pyren!” cried Emerald, running to his aid. “Ow-OW! I think he broke a few ribs!” he told her between winces of pain. Cress snarled, turning to face Sunny. “I-I can’t just run away! Pyren and Miss Emerald aren't going to fight my battles for me forever!” she exclaimed, lighting her paws with a glorious blaze. Unable to face her, Cress shielded his eyes from the bright fire emanating from Sunny’s paws. “Ngh… I can’t hold it… much… longer...” she muttered, the light slowly dying out. As her fire faded, Cress took advantage of the opening and pounced. The raging shadowy wolf was ready to tear the now cowering fennec fox to pieces. When Sunny brought her shaking paws away from her face, however, she was surprised to see that his attack had bounced off of her. “W-wha…?” she gasped, noticing the blue shield now in front of her body. Surprising everyone, Shard had jumped into the fray. “I’m scared out of my mind… but if I don’t try, I can’t save anyone!” he yelled, his spirit rejuvenated. Sunny nodded at the bat and darted up from her spot on the ground. She knew what she had to do to save Cress. “M-Miss Emerald! I need your special necklace!” she exclaimed, nearly tripping as she dashed up to the cat. Emerald raised an eye curiously. “Necklace…?” she muttered, confused for a moment. The cat then gasped and began digging around in Pyren’s bag, searching for the pendant she had given him so many days before. “D-do you mind if I have this back?” she asked the folf with the broken ribs, blushing with embarrassment. “Sure, just give it to her, already!” he retorted, realizing the peril they were all in. Sunny was narrowly skirting half of Cress’ frantic swipes and having the other half bouncing off of Shard’s shield. “Waaah!” she cried after being struck by the furious wolf. “You’re going to tell me where the hell I am and what I’m doing here, fox! I’ll snap your fucking neck!” he yelled brashly, losing all sense of control. Shard’s protective shield had disappeared, the bat struggling to renew it in a panic. Cress then grabbed the terrified fennec fox by the neck and lifted her up into the air. “C-Cress… I thought… I thought you were gonna protect me...” she cried through choked breaths, her glasses falling off in the scuffle. She had never been more scared in her entire life. Not when she was alone in her burning village, and not even when learned that her father had perished did she experience this sort of terror. She was going to be killed by one of her closest friends, and there was nothing she could do about it, she thought. “S-Sunny!” yelled Emerald, throwing the twin-headed pendant towards her friend. Startled at the sudden throw, the shadowy wolf dropped his captive fennec fox. The cure to all of her problems had dropped into Sunny’s hand. She coughed once and hoped for the best. “Here…It’s the pendant you were looking for...” she muttered, holding out the necklace he had been searching for for so long. Angered at the insolent offer, Cress snatched it up in an instant. “What is this thing? Some dumb piece of jewelry” spat the wolf, throwing it to the ground. It was in that moment that something inside Sunny shattered. This Cress wasn’t like her friend. He wasn’t her friend, and he wasn’t redeemable. This wolf was a monster, nothing more. Snarling with rage, Cress threw his claws wildly, ready to destroy his former friend, but he only nicked her cheek before being stopped by an unlikely source. Right from behind the wolf, two small blue paws wrapped around his neck. Cress howled and shook his back frantically to get Shard off of him. “W-whatever you’re gonna do, do it now!” yelled the bat, being thrown off just as easily as Pyren was. Sunny thought quickly. She grabbed the pendant and leaped to the air, ready to save her friend. Soon enough, the amulet was strewn over Cress’ neck. It was finally over. With the dragon pendant strewn over his neck, the black wolf clutched his head in pain. “R-RAAUGH! What did you do to me?” he screamed, eyes dilating in a confused rage. The shadowy wolf once again began to shift forms as he hyperventilated, panicking as his very existence faded away. Cress’ fur mellowed back out to its light grey color, his mane slowly shifting and changing back to normal. Everyone watched in awe as Cress’ meek daytime form was brought into the moonlight. The wolf groaned once more and fell to the ground, his transformation completed. Finally, the other Cress was no more.
The first things the wolf saw when he awoke were the worried faces of Pyren, Emerald, Shard, and Sunny staring right at him. He noticed that Sunny’s tan cheek fur was stained with her blood, and that Pyren had bandages wrapped around his chest. Cress then warily looked down at his paws, which were ever so slightly tinged red. “Oh, no! Nononono! Did… did the other me come out?” he gasped, still woozy from the fight his body had just been through. “Heh… you sure put up quite a fight,” noted Pyren, smirking slightly. Sunny, glasses reclaimed, smiled at her friend’s worry despite her cuts and scuffs from the fight. “It’s okay, you’re alright now!” she exclaimed. He stared at the nick on the side of her cheek, almost entranced by her blood. “I… did all that to you guys...?” he said, shivering with guilt. Sunny sighed. “You didn’t do it, Other Cress did, remember?” she told him, comfortingly. The wolf couldn’t shake the feeling and looked down with regret. “H-hey! Don’t be like that!” pleaded Sunny. “I mean... he’s not wrong,” mentioned Pyren, rather awkwardly. Emerald glared at him and swiftly elbowed the folf. “W-what?” he responded. “C’mon, look up!” cheerfully exclaimed the fennec fox. Cress took her advice and brought his head up, only to see the blanket of stars that enveloped the night sky. “T-that’s… the night sky?” he muttered, astonished and excited about the new experience. “Uh-huh,” confirmed Sunny. Suddenly, the newly cured wolf began to tear up. “Then that means…. I’m….” he struggled to say through his intense emotions. His paw gripped the necklace he was wearing as tears dripped over it. Sunny took the opportunity to close in and comfort her friend. Gazing into the cosmic ocean above while cuddling up with her new friend was enough to make her cry, too.
Cress continued to hug his fox fried, all the while sobbing tears of gratitude, leaving the other three Furs to themselves. “Well, whoever he is, Sunny sure seems to like him,” said Pyren, noting the two nuzzling each other in the background. “I suppose we should ask once they’re done...er… snuggling. But we still haven’t addressed the elephant in the room,” responded Emerald, turning along with her boyfriend towards Shard. “W-what?” he exclaimed. “Whatever you did, it was incredible!” she told him, seemingly proud of the small Fur. Shard blushed and rubbed his head. “Hehe…” he muttered, embarrassed at his power and sudden heroism. “How come you didn’t do the thing with the shields before?” asked Pyren, curious as to his reason. The bat sighed with a slight disappointment. “Look, I’m sorry for running away from you like that. It was selfish and rude of me. There. I apologized,” he said, bitterness in his voice. Pyren gave a quizzical look. “That’s...not what I asked…” he muttered. “Come on, Shard. We’ve already told you we want to help. Or at least I do, I dunno about Pyren here,” she told the bat, throwing a little shade at her boyfriend. “H-hey!” exclaimed Pyren. Shard, understanding where the cat was coming from, landed and sat down with the two lovers. “I guess if I’m really going through with this, I ought to tell you,” said Shard, gulping nervously. Emerald and Pyren prepared for the long haul as the bat began his story.
Ark awoke lying on the grass in a cold sweat. The boneyard was lit only by moonlight in the black of night, its silence betraying the signs of the dragons’ fierce battle. The young dragon darted up and frantically searched his surroundings for Granz. The black dragon’s absence was disappointingly obvious. Seething with anger, Ark rammed his claw into the dirt, only to notice a small object glittering in the grass. Curious, the blood dragon picked the object up, revealing it to be the ring he had seen on Granz’s finger during their battle. “Why would he leave this here?” he asked himself out loud, before retrieving his spell tome. Ark gripped the ring in his hand and looked off towards the mountains in the distance. “Damn it! I can’t even redeem myself before I see that girl again!” he yelled angrily. Taking a deep breath, Ark began to calm down and reorient himself to the task at hand. “I can’t go after my father just yet... I have to make sure Pyren and his friends are safe!” he said to himself, staring confidently into the distance, before taking off towards the Fur capital.
Ark contemplated where his brother might be at this point, but figured that he had already taken off after him. “I couldn’t keep that kid away for more than a minute. Then again, I’ve never really wanted that, anyway,” he muttered, chuckling at his remark. The dragon glanced down at the bones of his ancestors littering the field below, silently mourning for those he did not know. “Who… who even am I to be his brother? If dragons and furs have always had this blood feud, why would my mother ever consider adopting him? And what was it that Granz called me? A blood dragon? My regeneration, that thing I did with my blood…” Ark shuddered at the experience. “It certainly was terrifying…” He shook his head, and with it, his fear. “I can’t let this get to me. Whoever I am, whatever I am, it doesn’t matter in the slightest! We’re brothers, and that’s all that there is to it! I’ll just have to find him so we can put an end to this nonsense. I won’t let my father tear this world apart, and I certainly won’t let him tear us apart!”
“My power... No, my Sign… it’s always been here… I’ve just never wanted to use it,” explained Shard, lying down from his sitting position. “How come? It’s not like it hurts anybody. Seems harmless to me,” asked Emerald. Shard closed an eye and winced. “I... I shouldn’t blame my power…. It’s my fault what happened,” he muttered, rubbing his short-furred arm. “I get that, but can we get to what happened to make you like this?” demanded Pyren, eager to hear the rest of his tale. Emerald shot her boyfriend a glare. “Come on, Pyren, you know this must be hard for him,” she said. His eyes fell in disappointment, but he got the picture. “Sorry. That was rude of me. Go on,” he told the bat. Shard only shook his head profusely. “No, no, you’re right. I should get to the point.” The bat gulped and reluctantly continued. “I didn’t always wander around alone. Originally, we were a pair,” he said. Shard brought a paw to the scarf he had been wearing. “She was a bat like me, named Seles. She and I were best friends. Inseparable. Back then we got matching scarves as a sort of token of our friendship. Mine’s blue to match my fur, and hers was green to match hers.” “What happened to her?” asked Emerald. Growing rather saddened at the question, Shard continued. “We were a couple of troublemakers, to put it lightly. If you could think of something dangerous and illegal, you probably found the two of us doing it. Her sign sure helped us get away with a lot of it,” he explained, laughing nervously. “She could slow time down around herself, letting us get away with almost anything. Though, neither of us could really do much when the time came. Two delinquents like us were bound to catch attention from someone, so of course, we were hunted down on several occasions.” Shard chuckled softly, reminiscing while he explained. “Now that I think about it, we sorta had fun being on the run. It was exciting to us, at least at first. Eventually, it wore on us. Neither of us got much sleep and we always had to be on the lookout for anyone suspicious. The two of us ran and ran and ran, but we couldn’t outrun fate. When the time came, and it was do or die, Seles told me to make a break for it while she distracted our assailants. I pleaded with her to stay and help her, but she refused to listen. I… I couldn’t do it. When push came to shove, I ran back, hoping I could help her fight… but…” Shard trailed off, beginning to sob. “I saw her before she died. Whoever did it was gone by then, but she was still there, lying on the grass. She… she smiled at me. She was happy…” he explained, crying all the way through. “I could have saved her! If I hadn’t run, I could have saved her!” exclaimed the bat, sobbing into his scarf. Emerald placed a paw on the bat’s shoulder as he buried his face in his paws while he cried. While the young cat comforted him, Shard brought is head up and pulled a small, green, tear-shaped crystal from a fold in his scarf. “This is all I have left of her.”
Pyren and Emerald were speechless. “I feel like I'll never be able to forgive myself for letting her die, ” said Shard, finishing his story and tucking away the gem. “I can't believe all that happened to you… Even Sunny didn't have to watch her father die…” muttered Emerald, glancing over at the happy fennec fox and wolf. “What are you gonna do now?” asked Pyren, worrying he wouldn’t get to see his friend anymore. Shard gave the folf a solemn look. “Seles and I lived life like we'd never have another day. Ever since she died…. I've lived in such a horrible way… I felt empty. There were brief moments of happiness, sure, but once it settled…. it was back to despair.” Pyren and Emerald only stared, remaining silent as the bat spoke. “I've always wanted to change! I... know she'd want me to, but…. I've just been so afraid! How could anyone ever trust this small, scared, little bat to protect them? I was totally hopeless… until you guys came along. You all helped me see the light in front of me. I wanna save people. I wanna do for others what I couldn't do for Seles! No more aimless wandering. I think that's what she'd want me to do. Live for now, not something long gone. So don’t worry, I’m here to stay. You have my promise.”
As Shard finished his story, Cress was squeezed Sunny like a toy. “This feeling… I’m… me…I’m finally me, and no one else...” cried the wolf, an overwhelming joy spreading throughout his body. “Sunny… I won't ever be able to thank you enough for helping me,” he said. Sunny smiled and ran a paw through the scruff around his neck. “Sure you can! Just continue to be a happy little wolfy and I'll be fine!” she told him, sharing his elation. Cress blushed at her comment. “L-little?” he meeped. “W-well, maybe not so little…” she chuckled, with Cress joining in as well. The grateful wolf began to wipe his tears, but was unable to stave them off entirely. “You have no idea how much this means to me. For all my life… I've felt trapped in a body that doesn’t belong to me. Thanks to you and your friends…. I can be myself. I’m really, truly free…” he told her, tightening his already strong hug. Sunny closed her eyes tightly, whimpering from being crushed. “So…. tight…” she cried. “O-oh. Sorry…” Cress muttered shyly, before letting go of his small friend. The fennec fox stretched and shook around to get some energy out, then re-affixed her attention on the wolf she was sitting with. “Umm…” she mumbled softly, beginning to blush. Cress tilted his head confusedly. “What’s up?” he asked. “I don’t really know how to say it… but...“ she muttered, unable to complete the sentence. “It’s okay, Sunny. You can tell me,” he comforted her. “Well… it’s just that… since we’ve started traveling together... I’ve sorta gotten this…” she trailed off. Cress kneeled down to be face to face, and put a paw on her shoulder. She only squeezed her eyes closed in embarrassment and blushed harder than ever. “Oh, Cress… I-I’ve got a crush on you….” she muttered, humiliated.
Cress frowned quizzically at the admission. “T-there’s nothing wrong with that! I think of you as a really good friend too!” he told her. Sunny only looked away. “I-It’s not that! I-It's….” she muttered, tensing up. The fox shook her head, put her paws together, and gave a soft, embarrassed smile. “It’s more of a lovey thing….” Confused at the comment, Cress scratched his head. Sunny closed her eyes as if wincing from pain. “I-I’m sorry… I know you’re way older than me… but...” Cress then put a paw over her mouth. “Mmph!” she cried as she was silenced. “Don’t worry so hard about it! You’ve done me the biggest favor in the whole world! There’s no way I wouldn’t wanna hang out with you,” he said, taking his paw away. “O-okay…” she muttered, cheeks still rosy. “You’ve taken care of me for these past few days, so now it’s my turn to take care of you,” he told her. Sunny began to tear up, just as he had moments ago. “C-Cress….” she muttered, beginning to smile again before nuzzling her wolfy friend.
“What now?” Pyren asked his girlfriend. Hearing the question, she contemplated while tapping her footpaw. “Before we consider our next move, shouldn’t we greet our new guests?” she told him, turning to the fennec fox and wolf with a hopeful smile on her face. Sunny looked up at Emerald, continuing to cry tears of joy. “Miss Emerald!” she cried, running into the cat’s arms. “I missed you so much!” Sunny told her. Emerald took the cue and comforted her foxy friend. “It’s so good to see you safe…” she muttered, rubbing Sunny’s back in their hug. “I’m sorry… we shouldn’t have left you like that. Something bad could have happened to you…” said the cat. Sunny gulped with a twinge of fear and didn’t say anything. It was probably better for Emerald to not find out what had happened. The problem had already been solved, anyway. Pyren joined in on the grinning, before taking a glance at Cress and squinting. “Wait a minute…” he said, scratching his head with a paw-finger. “I remember you! You’re the wolf that gave us directions in Andea!” Cress chuckled and rubbed his head. “Huh? Oh, yeah...” he said, still a little antsy from meeting new people. “What are you doing here, anyways?” Emerald asked Sunny, her stern side coming out again. “I didn’t want to stay cooped up in a house! I’m not the shy schoolgirl I used to be anymore. You helped me change that, so I wanted to come and help you and Mister Pyren,” she responded. “And who’s the wolf?” questioned the cat, eyeing Cress, who was standing alone and trying not to be noticed. “When I was trying to find you two, I bumped into him and wanted to help him out. It was hard at first, but we became super good friends!” Sunny exclaimed excitedly. Hearing this, Emerald let go of Sunny and approached the lone wolf. “Cress, was it? I sure hope you were taking good care of Sunny on your way here,” she said, practically scolding the poor wolf. “Umm... I think she was the one taking care of me, hehe...” he muttered, blushing embarrassedly. Emerald snickered at the comment and lightened up, introducing herself and becoming acquainted with Cress’ situation. “Who’d have known that’s really what the amulet did,” she said after hearing his story. “Yeah… Good thing, too, or else I might have been stuck like that forever...” Cress noted. “Well, I just want to thank you for making sure she was safe. I’d have been devastated if anything happened to her…” said Emerald, grateful that her friend was unharmed. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to protect her with my life! You can count on me, ma’am!” he exclaimed confidently. Emerald smiled the enthusiasm before returning to her boyfriend’s side. Sunny, on the other hand, had been slowly edging closer to the bat who had been quietly observing. “I’ve never seen you… What’s your name?” she asked with an innocence only a girl like her could have. Shard gasped, surprised by her sudden appearance. “M-me? I-I’m Shard…” he muttered, shaking at the sight of the strange girl. “Hi, Shard! You’re super cute!” she said, smiling with unparalleled enthusiasm. Shard didn’t even have the chance to say “Oh no…” before the fennec fox pounced on him for a smothering hug.
Ark flew around the enormous metropolis that was Landalsta, as it was obvious that he wasn’t welcome. Its buildings towered over those of Andea and Vele, and below them were what looked to be slums. “Probably better that I’m not seen, rather than causing any unnecessary panic,” he said, unlinking his tome. He looked down, then back toward the mountains. “Dad’s got the last one. I just know it,” he said, thinking about the terrible fate that awaited his friends should he fail to stop his father. Glancing down, Ark scanned the area for figures. “Where are you, Pyren...?” he asked himself. Looking around for a bit, he eventually spotted a Fur walking in the direction of the city. “Someone walking alone… that can’t be him…” muttered the dragon, descending to get a closer look. To his surprise, it was Sylvi.
The badger noticed his approach and drew her knives in anticipation. “Whoa, whoa, careful there!” he exclaimed, gliding back to avoid being ganked. Sylvi gasped when she saw who it was. “You're….!” she said, surprised at the dragon’s sudden appearance. Ark shot her a grin. “You know… I never actually learned your name,” she mumbled awkwardly, running a paw through her dark hair. “Ark,” he said, holding out a claw. Sylvi looked at it with disgust. “I-I tried to kill you… how could you trust someone like me?” she exclaimed. “Well, quite a few people have tried that at this point, and you seem like the nicest of the bunch,” Ark told her, trying not to get too serious. Sylvi rolled her eyes at the comment. “ I was hoping to find you, but your friends said they didn't know where you were,” she said. “You spoke to them? Were my brother and his girlfriend there?” he asked excitedly. “Y-yeah, but…” she trailed off. “Wait a sec, why were you looking for me?” asked the dragon, curious as to why she of all people would want to see him. Sylvi shook her head. “The Royal Landalstan Army is on the move. Defending the capital is their first priority, but I can’t imagine what’s making them so scared...” she said, rather grimly. Ark gasped. “No… if they're ready to fight… then…” “Then what?” demanded the badger. “The Dragon Army is on their way! This is gonna be a serious fight!” he said with fear in his voice. “W-what? How?” said a confused Sylvi. “They had a scout. We have to go, now!” yelled Ark, taking off in the direction Sylvi was walking from. “H-hey! Where the hell do you think you're going?” she yelled, following him.
Things were mostly calm for everyone. Emerald and Pyren were chatting with Cress, while Sunny was tickling Shard. Suddenly, Emerald’s tail perked up. “Someone’s coming!” she yelled. The five of them looked around, seeing nobody, until Pyren looked up and saw the grey dragon descend. “Long time no see!” he said, landing. Pyren was furious. “Y-you! We've been searching for you for days since you ditched us! Now you have the nerve to show up and say ‘long time no see?’” he yelled at his brother. “H-hey, calm down!” pleaded Ark, backing up. “I've got something important to tell you all!” he said. In his rage, Pyren charged at his brother and punched the dragon in the face as hard as he could. As Ark recoiled in pain from the blow, his brother ran up and threw his arms around him in a hug, bursting into tears in the process. “I missed you, big bro…. Don't ever leave me like that again…” he cried. The other four merely stood in shock at the events unfolding. “Pyren…” muttered Ark, unsure of what to say. “You big idiot… do you know how much I worried about you?” cried the folf. “I'm sorry. No amount of apologies could make it up to you. I left you out of my own anger and shame and came back with nothing to show for it…” Ark told him, running his claw through his brother’s soft, orange fur. “Just promise me… we’ll stay together…” Pyren sobbed, bringing his head up to look his brother in the eyes. Ark gritted his teeth as he remembered what Granz told him. He looked down at the ground, scared of the events to come, but also wary of his brother’s fate. Shaking his head, the dragon brushed off the stray thoughts. “I'll always stay with you, Pyren. Even when we’re apart, I’ll make my way back to you,” Ark reassured his brother, letting go of the sniffling folf. He took a moment glance at the strangers surrounding him and the folf, but his eyes eventually returned to Pyren’s chest, which had been wrapped up after the scuffle with Cress. “You’re hurt,” he said. Pyren closed an eye and chuckled nervously. “Uh-huh. I kinda got banged up a bit dealing with Cress over there, but it’s nothing serious,” he told Ark. Taking his brother’s word for it, Ark squinted at the seeming absence of someone he was expecting. “Whatever happened to that fennec fox girl?” he nervously asked. In his panic to find his friends, he had almost forgotten his original mission. The same one that he had failed to complete. “Umm…” muttered Sunny, who had managed to sneak up on Ark.
“You're Pyren’s brother, right?” she asked. Ark was frozen. He could do nothing but quiver at the sight of her. “W-what’s wrong?” she asked him. “I-I…” he muttered, his face going pale. The dragon fell to his knees and buried his face in his claws. Pyren and Emerald gasped. Cress didn’t know what to think. Shard was equally confused. Sunny put her paws together and scrunched up nervously, scared she made him upset. Ark brought his head up and looked at her with shame. “How could I ever ask you to forgive me…” he muttered. Sunny cocked her head. “I miss my papa… I really do… but I don’t think he’d want me to dwell on the past forever.” she told him with startling maturity. Ark winced, unfazed by her comment. “I couldn’t even kill the bastard that did it to you...” he said. Sunny frowned. “Killing him wouldn’t have solved anything!” she exclaimed. “You didn’t have to watch him die! You didn’t have to experience that feeling of helplessness, that feeling of utter futility...” muttered Ark, still wallowing in self-disappointment. “I know that! I didn’t have to see him… but I also didn’t get to see him. He could have had something to say to me, but I’ll never get to hear it...” she said, sharing some of Ark’s disappointment. The dragon gasped, having totally forgotten. “He… he told me to make sure you were okay…” he muttered. Sunny smiled, Ark’s message having instantly cheered her up. “Well, I’m alright now. I have all these nice friends that I never would have met if not for what happened! You don’t need to ask me for forgiveness! I was never mad at you to begin with!” she exclaimed. Ark gasped at her sudden outburst of positive emotions. Wiping his tears and getting up, the dragon’s feelings of failure began to fade. “I guess you’re right. As long as you’re happy, then I haven’t truly failed...” he muttered. “That’s the spirit!” exclaimed Sunny. The moment wouldn’t last, however, as just as she said that, Sylvi finally caught up, exhausted from running.
“Sylvi?” asked Emerald, confused at her returning. “G-guys…” she sputtered, out of breath. “The Dragon Army is coming! We have to-” Before she could finish, the ground began shaking. “W-what’s going on?” cried Shard. Panicking at the sudden noise, Sunny and Cress clung together. Emerald put her paw on Pyren’s shoulder and pointed a paw to the horizon. “Pyren! Look up there!” she said. A colossal wall of purple energy reaching to the sky arose just on the horizon. Ark gritted his teeth at the sight of it. “It’s begun,” he said. “What is it?” questioned Pyren. “The Dragon Army’s first move. It’s a spell covering the entire land,” he said, biting his tongue as he lied. Even without hearing this, the whole group began to panic. “Hey, hey! Calm down, everyone!” yelled Emerald, trying her best to control the crowd. Cress put his paws protectively around Sunny. “You all need to get to safety. Pyren and I have some unfinished business to take care of,” said Ark. Pyren’s face lit up. “Yessss! I get to go!” he shouted, filled with joy. Sylvi squinted angrily. “No way I’m leaving. This is my chance! I can redeem myself to my family!” she objected. Sunny objected as well. “I don’t want any more fighting! I wanna do all I can to save people, be it dragons or furs!” she said, excited. Cress looked down. “I’ll follow to you to the ends of this world… I’ll protect you wherever you go!” he said to her, determined. Emerald walked up to Pyren. “Go with your brother. Find your dad. I’m gonna stay with everyone else and fight,” she told him. “Emerald…” he muttered. She brought her head closer and gave him a long, wet kiss. The blushing folf was speechless. “Promise you’ll come back okay,” she said. Pyren nodded. Shard rubbed his head. “ I feel like the odd one out here,” he said. Emerald turned around to face him. “You can go if you want,” she said. He gripped a paw. “I can’t. I won’t watch without doing anything like I did with Celes. I’ll help you guys out. Let’s stop this stupid fighting,” he said. “Guys…” muttered Pyren. “Go take care of your business. We’ll handle this,” said Emerald. “Where would I be without you all…” he said. “Time’s-a-ticking, Pyren,” said Ark. “Right. Let’s go!” he said, excited. They waved goodbye, and took off, full speed ahead towards the dreaded Granval Peaks.
“Sir, it seems like they’ve erected some sort of barrier!” A figure in armor turned to face the speaker. “A magical barrier? What is the status on their forces?” he said. “About 200 coming from the northwest, sir.” The armored figure brushed a hooved hand on one of his greaves. “They’re making the first move?” he questioned. “I’m not sure, but the scout told me they’re coming…” The fur in armor growled. “Our reports said they’ve been stationary for months! First this barrier, now they’re on the move?” he said, grabbing the soldier by the neck. “S-sir….” muttered the choked fur. The figure in armor threw him to the ground. “Get up. Send another scouting party in to get details. I want data on their weapons, armor, formation, and what types of dragons we’re dealing with. As for us, we’re taking the fight to them. This millennia-long blood feud ends here.”
Chapter 10 of Chosen of Fir: Mementos From a Distant Father.