Chapter 9 –Der Gefallene
“Luci, the crystal shard earring that you’re wearing, they’re Aether and not amethyst right?”
Setsura’s question was practically outlandish since with the current value of Aether in this world, a shard of that size could have easily been exchanged for a mountain. Even so, that datum did not seem to bother her at all.
“Yes,” he replied melancholically and gave a distant gaze towards the sporadic formation of white clouds in front of him.
His answer did not surprise Setsura but her heart unknowingly ached slightly in her chest. Closing her eyes as she smelled the cold accelerating breeze engulfing her rubicund cheeks, the couple continued to spend their time in silence at the front deck of the airship.
“The weather is just too great!” After taking a deep inhale to shake off her uncertainty, Setsura exclaimed in excitement over her surroundings.
“Say, which city we’re dropping off at?” Setsura turned her head to Lucianus and leaned against the iron bar.
“We aren’t. We’re heading to Aetheria,” Lucianus’s expression was very calm.
“Ah okay,” Setsura nodded in agreement but it was quickly swapped with a holler, “Wait, what?!” She was utterly confused because the Aetheria that Lucianus mentioned was none other but the legendary ancient floating city that had been constantly circling around the mainland without fixed direction.
It was said that the city itself held the secrets of the world but until now, none was able to confirm it due to the fact that every single scouts or adventurers that was sent to there for investigation was never ever heard again.
Concerning the safety of its people, attempts on visiting the city was eventually stopped and now highly forbidden by the common law of every mainland governments.
Nevertheless, the enigma of Aetheria did not stop people from desiring to get close to it. And that, led people to use airship to tour and witness the beauty of Aetheria without physically touching it.
In fact, the current airship that was boarded by the trio was one of those which its route would include passing by Aetheria’s current location – that is if it did not move around by its mood again.
“We’re heading to Aetheria,” Lucianus repeated his words to Setsura, affirming his plan. The return of the dead seahags was absolutely unusual, especially the seahag king’s words; he had to confirm something in there, in Aetheria.
Lucianus furrowed his eyebrows as he got a really bad feeling about this.
That very night, Setsura was awakened by the same old nightmare that had haunted her for years.
“It’s not even a moonless night,” Setsura sulked.
Slowly and quietly, she got out from her bed without giving too much motion since she did not wish to disrupt Lucianus who was sleeping beside her. She walked towards the glass window and put her hand on it.
The night was in total serenity with countless twinkling stars hovering around the crescent moon as if they were playing hide and seek while the clouds were floating by.
And yet, Setsura’s expression was filled in solemnity, as if there were a lot of things going through her mind.
Upon turning her sight to the sleeping Lucianus, whose appearance did not change at all since the first meeting four years ago, she sighed and decided to leave the room to get some fresh air.
“I’ll be back soon,” Setsura murmured before leaving the room, as if she knew Zakura was observing her all along in katana form.
After closing the door, she realised the hallway was entirely dark, none of the lights were switched on, leaving only the penetrating moonlight bathing the path in glittering glow.
Believing it is a measure taken by the airship to reduce usage on the Aether, Setsura did not give too much thought over it and headed for the deck. The passageway was shrouded in silence except for the airship propellers whirring its way through the dark sky.
However, it did not take long for Setsura to notice the weird signs around the airship, especially at the deck.
“This place is too quiet,” she looked around as the escalating wind left her long hair flying in one direction.
With the airship currently being in the middle of the Firle’s migrating path, a type of nocturnal bird which flies south for breeding purposes, there should be some around the sky during this season but there was none. Not even the cry of Firle could be heard.
All of a sudden, a faint long howl could be heard from afar.
Immediately alerted by the situation, Setsura hastily scanned her surroundings but she did not found anything.
By the time she heard the second round of howl, the volume of it was much louder and clearer, enough to alter the pressure of the wind. Along with its roar, an incoming dark figure could be seen approaching the airship in great speed.
“What is that…?” Setsura blocked the rough wind with both of her arms as she wrestled to keep herself balanced.
Before she managed to get a good look of the dark figure, it zoomed through the right side of the airship, forcing the wind pressure to cause the airship to slant to the left. The sudden movement of the airship bounced Setsura off the ground and threw her out of the airship.
No! Setsura was extremely shocked and she panicked to grasp on anything within her reach.
Through tough luck, Setsura managed to grab the iron bar quickly, temporarily prevented her from falling off the airship. She gave out a cry out of fear as her life lingered at the iron bar.
However, her helpless state did not seem to gain the mercy of the dark figure. It roared loudly and approached the airship in a rapid pace once more. The dark figure was ominously huge, around double the size of the airship.
Understanding her circumstances if the dark figure was to pass through the airship again, Setsura struggled with full strength, attempting to pull herself inside the iron bar.
Unfortunately, when she nearly managed to do so, the dark figure rushed through the side of the airship and Setsura toppled, losing her grip on the iron bar.
At the verge of death, a hand appeared out of the blue and seized Setsura’s thin wrist, pulling her inside to the deck.
“I’m sorry for coming late,” Lucianus gasped out an apology, his heart continued to pound like a runaway horse and sweat dripped down the side of his forehead, a clear indication of him rushed from the room all the way to the deck to rescue Setsura.
“Luci…” Setsura jerked in tears, completely touched by Lucianus’s action.
“Guys, leave the mushy stuff out for now,” Zakura interrupted the couple bluntly without hesitation.
“Alright, if someone would, explain to me what exactly is that thing?” Zakura knitted her brows as she observed that ridiculously huge dragon.
Obviously, her question was directed towards Lucianus since he seemed to be an encyclopaedia for every little thing.
“Nidhogg, the one and only in the world,” Lucianus identified the dragon with ease through its distinctive howl that seemed to tear upon the sky.
“Loyal but ill-tempered, definitely not something you wish to deal with,” his expression darkened, recognising that once so familiar Nidhogg which take command from no one but one person.
“Whatever it is, if it brings obstruction to our way, we’ll clear it,” Zakura smirked in confidence but she was stopped by Lucianus.
“Don’t dream, we’ve got no chance against it in the sky. For anything else, worry about this airship breaking into half,” Lucianus pulled Zakura’s shoulder; he was very serious on the Nidhogg’s intention.
“Then what would happen to the people in it? What about us?” Setsura did not like what she heard.
“I wonder…” Lucianus gave a faint mockery smile; the only person that he was worried at was Setsura’s safety and not others. At this height, it was clear that no one onboard will survive the fall unless… an idea suddenly struck his mind and his eyes glowed in hope.
“O puissant welkin, whoso heedeth my words, and boweth mine urge: burneth with damned flames, and pisseth like eternal pour,” Lucianus chanted as he held Setsura close into his arms. His body was wrapped with a thick aura while his clear blue eyes turned ruby.
Followed by his chant, the stars in the sky responded in a strong glow and shot towards the airship, causing a minor meteor storm around the area.
With burning meteorites falling without aim, some crashed on the airship, destroying its front right propellers and part of its gasbags while some knocked on the huge Nidhogg, driving it away for some time.
With its parts destroyed, the airship began to lose its equilibrium and speed, gradually lowering its altitude from the ground by a lot. Even so, it is still impossible for anyone to survive a fall at this height but there was not much time left.
With the meteor storm weakened, the Nidhogg roared fiercely and rushed towards the airship.
Clutching its claw at the airship, the Nidhogg gnawed off the airship parts one by one. As the iron plates and wood planks fell from the airship, some of the airship passengers can be seen falling off from the loose holes, screaming for their lives.
The airship continued to wreck in pieces by the Nidhogg and the internal parts shuddered.
“Gracious! What have you done,” Zakura shouted in displease as she crouched down at the ground with the couple for balance.
“Zakura, can you fly?” Lucianus asked Zakura in a serious tone. He was well aware that it will soon be their turn to be thrown out of the airship. He looked down to Setsura who was quivering in fear.
“You do understand that levitating and flying are two different things right?” Zakura gave a disappointing reply.
She clearly understood Lucianus’s intention on trying to hand Setsura to her but it was just not within her ability to do so. As a katana, she would definitely withstand the fall without problem, but for them… Zakura bit her lips.
“I see. That’s too bad then,” Lucianus gave a smile and tightened his embrace on Setsura, shielding her.
Within split seconds, their surrounding was wrecked apart and the trio began their long descent to the ground. Instinctively, Zakura levitated and attempted to slow down both Lucianus and Setsura’s drop.
“Hang in there!” Zakura screamed but her efforts were absolutely futile, they are too heavy for her to handle. Eventually, she lost her grip and the gap between her and the couple widened.
“Don’t worry,” Lucianus continued to caress Setsura’s head to comfort her.
“You’ll survive this, believe in me,” Lucianus gave her a gentle smile and tucked her into his arms to protect her from the incoming impact as the two continued to fall headfirst towards the ground.
With all his might, Lucianus released his power to form an immensely dense aura around them in hope of lessening the impact. She had to survive this, she has to, Lucianus frowned.