Immortal Ascension Tower
SIDE STORY - SECOND ACT
Unlike our worlds where the skies have split in nine, the wondrous lands of old used to have just one heaven each.
A single canopy to house all celestial bodies. Gathered in one cycle of day and night were the same nine suns and moons that still inhabit our nine skies, and then one more; a tenth moon that shone ever brighter than our nine ever could.
In one of countless such lands, where nine suns and ten moons orbited in the sky, there lived a people of bright and good-natured individuals.
At the helm were kind and reliable Kings, ruling over subjects that were folk just as gentle. This all, because the world had been unbelievably generous to them, gifting them with more than enough resources to live well, and comfortably.
One day, strange beings came knocking at the doors of one kingdoms Capital.
Tall, incredibly so, and shy just as much.
They wore long, voluminous robes, tightly wrapped around their absurdly tall bodies. Not a single inch of skin on display. Under their hoods, even, most wore peculiar, stuffy masks. No matter how one would peer, their true appearance remained a mystery.
News of their coming arrived just before they did. In the morning, some farmers from the countryside had begun spreading the news of people as tall as houses heading west. As the sun came down and the procession stopped by the castle gates, the curious populace had long gathered to welcome them.
After all, the folk of this world did not even have the whims of nature to fear. They found in every brethren a companion to cherish, and it was no different even for these travelers who had appeared so abruptly.
It was no different for their King, the kindest of them all.
He immediately sent guides to escort a few of the hooded folks representatives through the city, up to the castle gates. There, he personally welcomed them into the palace, ushering them in without ado nor question.
Luck just had it, all the Kings from the many nations would usually gather on one particular day of the year: that had been the tradition for many centuries now. It just so happened to be coming up, so the Lords from the whole world had arrived early and had been resting in the guest rooms of the castle. Hearing of the latest developments, however, they couldn help their curiosity. They had quickly made for the throne room, wanting to take a closer look at the rumored foreigners.
The Royals of many nations wholeheartedly welcomed the weary travelers in.
Taken aback by this unexpected turn of events, the spokesperson of the hooded men hurried forward and greeted.
Before saying anything else, he made sure to reassure the kings and chancellors present: he and his companions meant no harm!
They merely sought some land to farm, and somewhere to live, however barren or small that may be, for however long the esteemed Lord could manage to spare them.
For you see, they were what little remained of a once glorious… ”Kingdom ”, from far away. However, complications forced their hand, and they had no other choice but to evacuate their homes.
Alas, their exodus had brought them here. It had taken them countless, long years of rough travels. Having led them all this while, their own King was currently unwell and very much tired. Out of options, they couldn help but hope the natives of this foreign land could spare them somewhere for them to crash. With all He had done to keep them safe, they all wished him a well-deserved rest…
No more needed to be said.
As soon as the request was heard, even, each King earnestly moved to help. Each pitched in somewhat to aid the weary travelers.
A couple of lords granted them land. Others gifted plentiful food and resources. Some, planned to look for some able-bodied volunteers to help the settlers get back on their feet.
However, just meeting the bare needs of their guests would never feel enough to them. As prime examples even among the benevolent and good-natured folk of that world, they would not, could not, stop there: without qualm, the lords had begun making long-term plans for the establishment of a brand-new nation! What this meant of course, the lords explained to the very much stunned spokesperson, was that he and his people would be very much welcome to stay even after their tired King was back on his feet.
No one would ever force them to leave.
Before the hooded men could even say anything, this and more had been arranged. Quills and papers flew, servants and ministers dashed in and out. The agitated spokesperson couldn even find the space to protest, that the nine suns had set, and the first moon rose: by then, a welcoming banquet had been set up before their eyes.
Countless tables formed a straight line that traversed the entire city, from the throne room to the city gates.
No chair could hold the weight of the gigantic guests, therefore blankets and cushions had been laid out by the side in place of seats, for them to attend to the dinner as comfortably as they could.
The crowd of tired and weary strangers had been patiently waiting all this while, just outside the city gates. Without exception, every one of them was invited to partake in the banquet. Even more, they found themselves the honored guests for the night. It was to the point that, when they initially refused so as not to impose, people would get up and gently made to drag them along. Their heavy bodies
shouldn have budged from that, but the atmosphere of that night would have been enough to move mountains. Before they realized it, more and more tall travelers found themselves snuggled amidst the cushions.
The whole castle and its populace moved amidst cheers, laughter, and folk songs. Soon the tables would be filled with homemade delicacies, still steaming, fresh off the ovens.
As the tall folk walked through the long roads and sat down in a daze, they were immediately surrounded by curious, yet caring and understanding people that demanded no explanation.
Other than the children, who were just a tad bit more inquisitive and whose sparkling eyes betrayed them, nobody even came as close as asking their guests to take off their disguises and reveal themselves.
Even as the hooded strangers were conflicted and were unsure whether they could take off their masks, the radiant natives of that land ate, drank, and partied by their side.
Some soon noticed their shy guests remained hesitant. Even those among them who looked the most famished would at most struggle to sneak just a few bites under their masks. And that, only when they were sure nobody was looking.
It was then. A young man covered his eyes with one hand, keeping them closed as he passed a dish, a fork, and a sharp knife to the imposing stranger to his side. He then smugly ”looked ” at their tall neighbor, with his other hand confidently on his hip, as if he had figured out the answer to a riddle. Like so, he motioned them with his chin: hurry and eat, else itll grow cold! I won peek!
A youth two tables over tied a cloth in front of her eyes, giggling as she struggled to stand up while keeping her plateful of food balanced. She then snuggled in between two hooded travelers twice her size and handed her fork, knife, and plate over: before the two could react, they found themselves hand-feeding the blindfolded girl.
Soon, they noticed…
How the plate was very, very, very full.
How a proud grin was the only thing not covered underneath the very, very, very thick cloth. How she was chewing very, very, very slowly.
Just enough time for them both to sneak a bite of their own in between.
Alas, the hooded folk were finally moved to tears. After such a show of baseless trust and kindness, they simply couldn bear to don disguises any longer! After all their hardships, and long lives of conflict, distrust, and cold-bloodedness, they found themselves desperate to partake in that warmth.
The voluminous robes immediately were as if drenched in a storm; freezing-cold, incomparably heavy on their shoulders, and even heavier on their hearts. Only the masks were blazing-hot, and perhaps it was just their faces that were burning up from bouts of embarrassment and mortification.
Not a single word, nor even a glance, and yet they all stood up in unison.
The cloaks! The darned cloaks! They let those heavy, incredibly heavy cloaks finally slide off their body, and crash onto the ground!
Those robes, as light as feather, fluttered gently on their way down, landing without a sound.
Then, as one, they all tore away the burning masks like they were ridding themselves of their greatest shame!
Like freed of a burden, they finally could bask in that brightness, that warmth.
To the surprise and delight of the natives, they revealed themselves: these people with unimaginably tall bodies also had mighty physiques, with sculpted muscles adorned in the most exquisite scales, foreheads crowned by the most vibrant horns, and piercing vertical pupils, shaped like blazing embers, and encased in irises of molten gold. Refined talons and sharp teeth gleamed, reflecting the ten moonlights, and even more brightly shone the utmost honor of their race, the breathtaking Long-Huo gem encased in their chests, which each of them sported with indescribable pride.
The gemstones of dragonfire glistened silently, almost as if dignity given shape. They were unmistakable across the many worlds, and as such the hooded travelers could only be…
Without missing a beat, thrilled shrieks rang out among the children and youths. The partys atmosphere immediately shot through the roof, as countless people cheered and whistled at once.
Before the dragon folk knew it, their draconic eyes reflected the large servings of delicious food that they had hesitated to feast upon just earlier, as well as tall glasses being filled to the brim with the tastiest brews: without missing a beat, the natives had pushed their best delicacies before their guests and were hurrying them to sit back down, eat their fill, and enjoy the evening that couldn be more eventful and magical!
At this time, the dragonmen and dragonwomen indeed all sat down while trembling. The lot of them were as tall as a two-story building, and yet even those prideful giants had red eyes as they ate, and to calm down could only take many a deep breath in between each bite, moved to tears. It was only after they settled that the banquet truly began.
Of course, at the beginning of it, the interactions between the two sides were still rather awkward. However, as the night got brighter and brighter, with the ten moons shining overhead, soon even the stoic, tribal dragonkin were swept along by the atmosphere.
Laughter and the sound of partying quickly filled the city. Younglings of the two races played together without a care in the world, embracing both cultures wholeheartedly with the purity of a childs
accepting mind. The elderly also chatted, both among themselves and with the youths, and shared perspectives on very much different late years.
The vibrant and valorous young men of the dragonkin habitually attempted to start up a few squabbles here and there. They boasted of their battle achievements and habitually teased the young farmers, artisans, and laborers for their lack of fighting experience. However, even their hot blood couldn help but cool down eventually, influenced by the inborn benevolence and tolerance of the other party. Before they knew it, the topics had shifted from battles and weapons to the arts, good food and drinks, to the harshness of parents, and of course, to the troubles of love and friendship.
Similarly, the ladies shared their very different lives growing up. Many native females of the bright folk got to hold weapons and also experienced walking around with ”dresses ” of plate armor. On the other hand, the draconic females got to try out less efficient, more elaborate hairstyles, decorated their scales and painted their nails, some even discovering an interest in weaving or a budding passion for cooking. On the other hand, they found a common ground gossiping about love, rumors about popular celebrities of either race, or the hardships of a family.
What surprised the young dragonkin the most, however, had to be the forwardness and open mindedness of the native youths when it came to relationships. An acceptance for a Love past logic and efficiency. After all, the young dragons had been brought up with the materialistic values of finding a ”mate ” at the twilight of their lives. Instead, they were enlightened with the ideas of a lover or companion to spice up their youths, enjoy their middle age, and explore their later years with.
In particular, many among them were initially at a loss when they realized that the culture of this land welcomed things like dating and parting, marrying and divorcing, or even same-sex relationships: they put love and prosperity above all and tried their hardest to accept others happiness, even if understanding might be difficult or take long.
Needless to say, it was a rather mind-opening first, especially for a race bound and repressed by traditions of yesteryears, born and shaped just to survive in a world of merciless battlefields.
That magical night, many friendships were formed.
Dragonkin would usually look for rivals even more excitedly than they would for loved ones, but before the gentle nature of the natives, the dragonmen and dragonwomen could only shake their heads in defeat and settle for relationships not as dictated by competition as what they were used to.
Rumors have it even love blossomed… and amongst them, some even more ”first ” first loves than they would already usually be.
Alas, as their days passed in bliss, it was not just a few of the Dragonkin that were entertaining the thought of requesting their direct superiors permission to live on in this wonderful place, among those amazing people, even after all had been taken care of.
Eventually, when the time came to leave a few days later, the dragonkin spokesperson walked up to the crowd of Kings and revealed shocking news: their Lord had long since been made aware of the
happenings these last few nights, and wished to reassure them that, the moment He recovered, He would pay back this great debt many times over.
Such was the pride and majesty of a Dragon.
Only second to their resentment and wrath, a dragonkins grace would never let favors offered in times of peril be bygones!
With that said, the representative of the dragonkin, a legendary warrior among the dragonkin who had the most vibrant golden scales and the Long-Huo gem that glowed the brightest under their Lord, lead the crowd of reluctant dragons in an orderly march out of the city. As they passed, its citizens cheered from the windows and gathered in the streets to wish them goodbyes and a safe journey.
At this moment, it was easy to see the truths when it came to the rumors, as many youths and even elderly of the strikingly different races would leave the city hand in hand.
When it came to dragonkin, their natural prideful disposition prevented them from displaying affection but, despite their ice-cold exterior, they all made vows to visit and ”help out to repay the debt ”, or made requests for their other half to come and check out the newly-established, yet-to-be-named, Kingdom of dragons when all had been figured out, so as to ”pay back what was given, in full ”.
Amused, the radiant natives promised back to definitely ”come hang out ” soon.
As time flowed unceasingly, first autumn and then winter came and passed: finally, on the first day of spring, the populace was stunned to find a floating castle soaring above them, blocking out the suns at their zeniths.
Without saying a word, a black-scaled beast as long as a mountain range coiled from the depths of the gargantuan fortress, scrutinizing below with pupils ablaze and a prideful gaze.
Those majestic eyes eventually narrowed solemnly, and the scaled beast performed the deepest of bows towards the people of the capital.
The beast did not budge for a full day.
Only on the midday of the next day did He pridefully lift his head again. Below, He saw the streets were flooded with people who had noticed and were pointing at him, cheering and yelling at those nearby to look up: the ”funny, sleeping dragon ” had woken up!
Then, they all waved, greeting excitedly at this gargantuan leviathan. For this being that had witnessed countless brave heroes lose strength in their legs at the mere sight of Him, a welcoming this sincere was beyond rare a sight even among kin and descendants.
The Pride ingrained into his bones from birth prevented Him from returning a smile of his own. The Black Dragon King could only blink his blazing eyes in salute, before peering off into the distance and directing the floating castle elsewhere, half-dejectedly: way back when, He had vowed to make things right, repaying the generosity that the natives of this land had granted his subjects, back in full!
After having shown his thankfulness by bowing his head for the first time, He had meant to find a way, a gift that would be worthy of his debt.
Alas, only now did He realize that, to such a bright people, that derived happiness from the very vicissitudes of life, such a gift did not exist. If anything could ever come close, the only thing He could and should do, then it would be…
Weeks later, the Black Dragon King was moving his flying fortress above the clouds.
He spared a glance to the lands below, where young dragonkin and natives lived together in an awkward, yet unshakable harmony: his dignified self would only rest when a debt had been repaid and then some more. And as such, even though He could be said to have fulfilled his side, Hed promised himself to look over this blessed land.
Deep within, He felt compelled to protect this ethereal place: He would make sure to preserve it from outside interference for as long as his powerful body let him!
As for whether the utopia below him could ever collapse on its own, He knew better than anyone that it simply wasn possible.
In but a few months, even the prideful, hot-blooded, battle-hungry dragons had been tamed by the even more overbearing sincerity and unwavering kindness of this place and its inhabitants.
Such a Bright people, mused the Black Dragon King.
Personally, He was curious as to what the union of such distinctly different races could produce. As the King of dragonkin, Lord of the race, He naturally was the one who held control over that.
Not too long ago, He had finally given his Blessing, and as such, it was merely a matter of time before new life would come to be.
And indeed, as his draconic eyes swept the lands, they eventually came to a sudden, delighted stop.
There, five strong talons and five slender fingers met, one wider one smaller. Gently, they were stroking a belly.
And underneath the gentleness concealing their hope, nervousness, and, warmer than all, love, the flickering of a ”Flame ” met the Black Dragon Kings gaze.
The blaze that, for now, was only visible to him, quivered and danced in that loving cradle, reflecting that unmistakable vibrance in the delighted eyes of the prideful Dragon.
And at that time, however prideful He might be, he still couldn stop himself from smiling.
End of the OPENING ACT
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