Chapter 2:

Battle 1: A Dragon Falls

Dragon Waker

Part 2
Nora kicks off the ground. Faster than she was just flung, she flies back through the holes made by her own body. The dragon is exactly where she left it, as if it was waiting for her, as if it knew she wouldn’t flee. It dowses her with flames. Her ki charged sword cuts them in half, leaving a V-shaped area beneath and behind her free of burns. She charges her sword again, and sends a slash flying toward the dragon’s throat. Some dragons wouldn’t bother dodging, believing themselves to be invulnerable to the attacks of a human, but this dragon deflects the slash with its obsidian talons.

Nora clicks her tongue. She charges her pistol and aims for the dragon's eye. Unlike her earlier shots that were meant to inflict minimum damage to the surroundings, this charge would instantly blind even a dragon. Before she can fire, the dragon whips its tail at her, collapsing a multistory office building in the process. Nora leaps the tail and consequential shrapnel. She fires her pistol midair to propel herself backward and out of the way of the dragon’s racking claws.

Nora rapid charges her pistol, firing dozens of shots at the dragon’s face and eyes. Its massive wings cover itself like a shield, blocking every shot to Nora’s surprise. Her rapid shots aren’t as powerful, but she still expected them to pierce its wings. She lands deftly and pauses to charge a more powerful shot. The dragon uses this brief stop to unfurl its wings at light speed. Wind smalls into Nora like a brick wall. She’s thrown off her feet and sent skidding across the scarred and debris littered asphalt.

She scrambles to her feet, but already the dragon is upon her. Mere inches separate her and it’s talons. Again and again she escapes death by the literal cloth of her shirt. In her dance to stay alive, she unwittingly leads the battle to a more populated area. People haven’t even time to scream before they are flattened by overturned cars and chunks of asphalt. She knows the damage is devastating, and more lives are lost with each second. She won’t let this continue.

Talons aim to cut her to ribbons, but she doesn’t dodge, she parries. Her ki charged sword knocks the talons aside, then she leaps and goes for its throat. Mid-swing, she is swatted away like a fly. Nora’s wayward slash cleaves a bus in half, while she is flung aside and smashes through glass and concrete before coming to rest in a gray cubicle. She throws aside an office chair, nearly hitting a petrified middle-aged suit. More suit people look at her, terrified and confused.

Nora growls, causing the people to back away and start to flee, though her growl is not directed at them, but herself. She feels her efforts to scare people away from the dragon were pointless. Their battle has long since left where it started, and Nora knows she can’t protect everyone. Evidenced by her knowledge that many innocents have already been killed.

The building shakes terribly, accompanied by the sound of crushing glass and concrete. The floor tilts beneath Nora’s feet. She knows the dragon must have collapsed it. She scoops up the two closest people under her arms and bolts from the building, jumping through the closest window. Nora extends her ki temporarily to the two screaming people before they meteor into the concrete. She knows they should be unharmed, but doesn’t have time to check. She forces them to their feet.

“RUN!” She shouts at them. They obey without question.

Nora turns back to the dragon, weapons charged with ki, but the dragon isn’t looking at her. Instead, it’s looking up. A sudden explosion across the dragon’s spiked back surprises Nora. She follows the dragon’s gaze and sees an aircraft circling high overhead. Another explosion strikes the dragon, but it doesn’t even flinch. Nora clicks her tongue in annoyance, knowing a silly drone strike won’t scratch a dragon. No attack will unless it’s charged with ki.

“You may have survived the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, but it wasn’t charged with my ki.” Nora says to the dragon, though she knows it can’t hear her.

The dragon turns back to Nora. Her muscles tense in preparation for an attack. It whips its tail, sending hunks of debris skyward, but not in her direction. She waits, uncertain of what she’s waiting for, then the drone overhead bursts into flames. If dragons could smirk, she feels certain that would be its expression right now.

Hot fury fills Nora’s veins, replaces her blood; for all the lives taken, she swears to kill the dragon. She launches herself headlong into battle, hurling a ki charged slash at the dragon, stronger than any she’s made before. It leaves a fissure in the street as it hurtles toward the dragon, which responds with the largest gout of fire yet. The attacks collide, the slash splits the flames into two burning streams, but neither attack stops. The flames incinerate everything on both sides of the road, while the slash cuts straight toward the dragon. At the last moment, it rams the ki charged slash with its horns, but the slash is undeterred. It cleaves through the dragon's horn and opens a gash in its neck.

For the first time since it appeared, the dragon makes a sound, and Nora smiles that it’s a howl of pain and shock from her attack. Her fury pushes her forward, and the dragon responds in kind. She shoots and slices at its tough hide, but it doesn’t stop or even slow. It smashes her into the ground, swats her away, and knocks her through buildings, but she gets up instantly every time. Buildings collapse, cars fly through the air, and people scream as their melee rampages across the city.

Nora can tell her attacks are starting to damage the dragon, but she also knows at this rate, she'll run out of ki well before she kills it. The dragon's attacks are more vicious now. Half the shots from her pistol are just using the recoil to propel herself out of harm's way, but her attacks are more vicious now, too. She feels stronger and faster; her instincts razor sharp. She swears this dragon won’t get the better of her, that she’ll defeat it before her ki is drained.

“AAAAAHHHHHHH!” Nora screams as she launches into a fury of blows.

She’s a blur of motion, sprinting, jumping, and soaring around the dragon. She dodges every attack while leaving deep cuts and holes in its hide. As she cuts a gash in its stomach, it tries to crush her beneath its weight, but she kicks it with such force that its whole body lifts into the air. In an instant, she leaps into the air, sword poised over the dragon’s neck, ready to sever it. The next instant, a shockwave bursts her ear drums and ruptures her organs.

Nora knows what happened. As a child, she incorrectly imagined the bellow of a dragon to sound like a gargantuan dinosaur's roar, but reality is different. The bellow is so deep and powerful it can’t be heard, only felt as it tears through one's insides, ripping them apart.

Trapped in midair, Nora’s mind works overtime to both save herself and kill the dragon, but it’s readily apparent she can not. With her remaining ki, she can kill the dragon or repair herself, but not both. The decision is instantaneous, ki charges her sword to bursting. She swings with all her might, cleaving the air in two and with it the dragon's head from its body. A final wail escapes the monster before it enormous body collapses to the ground, motionless.

Nora falls. Unable to catch herself, she hits the ground with a crunch and bounces to a halt against a pile of rubble. Her vision swims, and she knows she’ll be joining the dragon soon. She can just make out a pool of thick red inching toward her, and even through the pain feels when the warm ichor touches her skin. In her last moments before letting herself slip away, her eyes rest on the dead dragon, and she sees caught in its lifeless eye the same pain she feels right now.

Rule #1: Dragons are not so different from humans. With time, patience, and someone to lead the way, they can coexist, and need not kill each other. Nora finally understands her master’s words. She makes a promise to herself, her master, and every dragon she’s slain that given another chance, she would try harder to follow her master's rule and bring about true peace between humans and dragons. At the time of making it, she believes herself dead and thus her promise meaningless, but in time she comes to realize just how important this promise is to all of humanity and dragon kind alike.

The tale of Nora Eclaire has only just begun.