Rise of the Devourer

Book 3: Chapter 48 — Return
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Book 3: Chapter 48 — Return

Noah blinked his eyes, looking at the bedroom he was in and trying to remember what had happened last. In a vague blur the memories came of the events after the battle.

After killing the wyvern Noah stored its heart and body in his inventory before rising on the nightshade as they returned. The return party had only suffered minor strikes, most thunder wyvern busy tending to their injuries and licking their wounds.

The return from the battle had been ridden on a surge of adrenaline from the victory. Noah had found Aurelia and Vion quickly, both of them looking injured as well, but both had also completed their quests, and had a smile on their faces.

Everything after that had been a blur as Noah had reached the hive and immediately collapsed, falling asleep.

He rose from the bed, feeling his head hanging heavy, but his body felt rather freshed. Stretching his limbs, Noah got up from his bed, feeling a jolt of excitement run through him as he finally began to go through all his notifications.

A myriad of notifications filled his interface, a dozen assisted kills that had also been attributed partly to him, but the main ones were these.

Quest: Wyvern’s Heart, complete!

Reward: [Advanced Skill Book of Cooking].

You’ve gained one skill point for killing an adult wyvern.

Your title [Titan Slayer] has increased in strength.

[Wyrmblood] has reached level 50.

[Arcane Step] has reached level 50.

[Abyssal Fusion] has reached level 50.

[Void Annihilation] has reached level 50.

There were dozens of other little notifications as well, with all his abilities going up at least one level, even the ones he didn’t use at all.

And the monster continues to grow. Can’t wait to see what Kaelan and the others think of me now.

The thought brought a smile to his face as he got up, which was when the gate opened with a click and Aurelia stepped inside. 𝓯𝑟𝓮ℯ𝘸ℯ𝘣𝑛ℴ𝘷ℯ𝓵.𝘤𝑜𝑚

“Good morning,” she said, smirking. It was dark outside just behind her.

“Good morning. Had the best nap of my life,” Noah replied, in too much of a good mood to even come up with some kind of quip.

“That was a nap, huh? If that was a nap then I’m not sure I want to know what proper sleep would look like,” she said.

“Give it a few years and I bet I’ll wake up while saying something like ‘who dares disturb my slumber!’” Noah said, doing his best impression of a grumpy dragon.

“That fact that I believe you is probably the scariest part in this,” Aurelia replied, shaking her head in exasperation. “Anyways, come. Our ride back to the city has arrived?”

“Our ride?” Noah asked, his mind immediately heading towards the airship they’d taken to arrive at Drakonias.

“Zax of course,” Aurelia said.

Noah paused. “Did you just call an ancient dragon that even an ascendant wyvern and the queen of this hive respects your ride? Are you trying to replace me as the group idiot or something? You’ll have to battle me for the role!”

Aurelia’s eyes widened ever so slightly. Then, a smile formed on her lips. “You know, I really don’t realize it being with you so often, but you’re definitely leaving your mark on me. And I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

“Glad that it’s not Erwest who’s rubbing off on you?” Noah asked.

Aurelia burst into laughter. “I don’t think I could ever get a stick that far up my ass.”

Noah grinned. “I will say, it’s weird, but I do miss him a little. I wonder what he’s been up to?”

“Yeah, it is weird, given how grouchy and grumpy he is and how he barely talks to us at all… but I’d definitely grown used to his presence. I definitely miss Snow more though.”

“I wonder how her and Shadow and Sky are doing as well. And Kaelan, Valeria, and… actually, maybe not Seraphina. Not sure I want to know what she in particular has been up to,” Noah said, remembering her proposal out of nowhere to marry him and have his kids.

“Hmm, good thing we’re about to head back!” Aurelia said, grabbing Noah by his arm. “Let’s go.”

Noah let himself be pulled along, as the two stepped out of the dimensional chamber.

***

The wyverns buzzed with activity the past few days, the pulse of victory and joyous roars still goes around through the area. Noah felt the same buzzing excitement filling him as he walked to the matriarch of the hive, finding Zax and Vion already standing there.

Vion looked more uncomfortable than Noah had ever seen her. Apparently, the princess was still not completely over her experience with Zax. The older dragon stood rather gracefully next to the young princess, talking to her about something that Noah couldn’t hear. Likely a magical spell Zax had created to keep their conversation private.

The group noticed their arrival and Zax gave Noah a wide smile.

“The sleeping child awakes,” the matriarch said in greeting, as the two of them arrived.

“It seems the training was rather successful,” Zax said, glancing at the three of them one after another.

Vion shifted under Zax’s glance, almost as if uncomfortable. Aurelia had a burning look in her eyes, as if this fact was only going to push her harder and faster. Noah simply grinned happily like an idiot.

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“They have. And so have our children. Though the battle was not without losses, the thunder wyvern hive is now in recovery, and it will take just a little longer for that old fool to wake up. And our children have all grown stronger from the battles, especially those who have accompanied the three of you. For that, you have our thanks,” the ancient wyvern said, rumbling as she lowered her head to be closer to the three of them.

“It should be us who should be thanking you. Thanks for helping us train and for not telling your children to turn us into snacks,” Noah said, and the ancient wyvern laughed, shaking the entire hive around her.

“Though he says it as a joke, we definitely mean it. This wouldn’t have been possible without you. I could’ve never imagined growing so much in such a short period of time. We truly appreciate it,” Aurelia said, and then glanced towards Noah. “Although, I must admit, I’m a bit miffed that Noah has caught up to me at last despite that.”

“Better keep up or I’m gonna leave you behind!”

“I… also want to say thanks…” Vion said.

“Anything for our children. And you are one of them,” the matriarch said.

Vion nodded, and then after a pause, she glanced towards Zax. “To… you too. Even though just looking at you still makes me wanna punch your face in.”

Zax laughed. “It would be remiss for a young dragon to do anything but. You from before certainly would’ve, but not you now, that is a mark of growth. Not just as a person, but over your mastery of your instincts.”

After a moment, he paused, before his expression was replaced by a gentle smile. Zax extended a hand and for a moment Vion’s entire body tensed, but he simply placed it on her shoulder, and lightning crackled around his body.

Vion’s own magic responded, the world around her heating ever so slightly.

“It is difficult for dragons to mingle with kin. We are… terrible creatures in that regard. Ever so hungry to fight, to prove our worth. No matter how vast or powerful we grow, we remain unable to learn how to express our love in any but the most aggressive and violent of ways. A part of me recognizes it wasn’t entirely education that led me to my actions. I may have mastered my instincts, but I am not free of them. I had thought I was, for the longest time, but I have learned to know better by now,” Zax said, his hand remaining on Vion’s shoulder.

For some reason, Noah felt as if he could almost hear Zax’s heart pounding. And the way his body adjusted the force he used ever so slightly, to not hurt her even the slightest. The way his magic flowed around her, almost as if instinctively shielding her.

“Your father was like this too. All of us are. But not you. You… you’re something so special that sometimes even knowing that I mustn't, I end up putting the weight of those expectations onto you,” Zax said, and then he smiled, as if reliving an old memory. “But when I see you like this… it is impossible not to see that you’re clearly your father’s daughter. And have the same troubles he did. He, too, was clumsy with words. It was your mother who taught him otherwise. That woman, she taught him how to love, and if he could be here, if he had been here, he would’ve shown you. But since he is not, I feel like I must in his stead,” Zax said, looking Vion in the eyes.

Vion looked back in a daze, her own body shaking ever so slightly.

“No matter how much you may loathe me, how much anger you may feel towards me, even if ever you were to for some reason to come to loathe me, know this, I will forever be your kin, and should you ever need me, should you ever call my name, I will be here, by your side, standing till my last breath. Because I am your kin, and you are mine. And nothing can take that away,” Zax said, and it almost felt like the mana around them vibrated just a little at his words.

Like the world had bound a new oath.

Vion stared at Zax, and then a tear dripped from her eye. Noah couldn’t describe the expression he saw on Vion’s face. But it was one that struck him in his heart.

So that’s what it’s like… to have a family.

Noah had almost forgotten what it felt like, since his mother’s death. But that wasn’t true, was it? No matter how much he ran from it, he was starting to grow attached. A part of him hated it, so very much that he often got the desire to simply vanish. It was kept at bay only by his constant distractions by a brand new world to keep him occupied with.

After all… the thought terrified him.

Vion wiped the tear from her eyes, before she gave Zax a nod. “I’ll remember that.”

Zax smiled, seemingly satisfied at that.

“We had not felt very convinced, when we had first left this child at the doors of the kingdom. But now, we think it has been the right choice. We are proud to see you grow, child. Go forth, and reclaim this land, and the legacy it has in store for you,” Quazithril said to Vion.

“I will,” Vion replied.

“Good. Now, before you head off, there are some children of ours who wish to say their farewells,” the ancient wyvern said and a moment later Noah saw Aurelia’s wyvern, Vyxirax, rushing over.

It was only on their way over here that Noah had found out that the wyvern had allowed her to name it. Given what Noah understood of the naming sequence, typically names and such were only accepted by people the wyvern saw as lifelong companions or personal friends that shared a deep bond.

They also often had multiple names because of this, which is something Noah had also only recently found out.

Vion’s wyvern flew in as well, brushing against the princess with affection. Though the two had been together for years so there was not as much intimacy. Just a silent conformation of the bond they shared.

He watched, with very mild jealousy, as Aurelia brushed the giant fire lizard-puppy, her lingering motes of ash mingling with the wyvern’s magic with some kind of resonance.

A second later, he saw his own wyvern companion, sitting nearby, not as willful or arrogant given that a full dragon and the matriarch were both present here, but it continued to pretend to not pay much attention to either, acting all nonchalant. Even though Noah could tell full well that this was as close as the wyvern got to sheer awe and respect at anything.

Before he went to give his own buddy a bunch of pets that it would as always ignore, pretending not to like them all the while Noah would not acknowledge the ever so slightly wagging tale, he had to admit to a little bit of jealousy and desire that was lingering in his heart.

He really wanted to bring it- bring her along. The wyvern and him, over the past three months, had definitely formed a bond. It was nothing like what he shared with Tony, where Tony was almost like a part of himself. But it was also nothing so frivolous that he didn’t admit to a pang of hurt at the thought of having to leave.

With those thoughts, Noah walked up to the nightshade, who ignored him, even as her tail began to move ever so slightly and he began to dish out his loads of pets and scratches.

“Hey there bud. Thanks for the great time together, it was a blast,” Noah said, before leaning in to give the wyvern a hug.

“I’ll come visit every so often, alright?” Noah said.

The wyvern paused in its enjoyment, and then, a second later it snorted before bumping its head into Noah’s body. A trail of blue flames flashed over its entire skin for just one second, as if to say, ‘you better’ before the aloof creature pulled itself back, shooing Noah away with one wing.

Noah smiled, watching the wyvern go, knowing that he’d be making trips here often to meet the darn thing for sure.

It was only after he’d had his goodbye, did Noah finally turn to face Zax.

The dragon stood, extending his hand towards the three of them. “Come, let us return to the kingdom. Your friends are waiting.”

One by one, all three of them held the dragon’s hand. Noah turned, taking one last look at the wyvern hive.

And then, with a flash of light, they were gone.

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