Certo's head throbbed as he steadily regained consciousness. It felt like he had been asleep with a migraine. With a low groan he opened his eyes only to see blackness. His head began to roll as vertigo overwhelmed him.
"Look, he's awake!" A voice exclaimed. The noise hurt Certo's ears and he ground his teeth in irritation. A sudden force yanked Certo off the ground and dangled his elongated body a few inches off the ground. He opened his mouth to let out an explosive roar but found his jaws bound tightly shut. All he managed was a muffled hiss, and the apes laughed.
"Nice try dragon. But your brother told us about your ability to control wind like him. So he took extra precautions so you wouldn't be able to escape us this time."
Certo growled as he tried to speak against the restraint of the makeshift muzzle. A leathery, clawed hand grabbed him around the neck and yanked him up. The blindfold was yanked off of Certo's face. The dark-eyed baboon snorted in his face and held him up higher.
"Good to see you're awake, lizard. You weren't much to take down, I have to tell you."
Certo glowered at the ape and tried to lash out at him with his claws only to find they had been bound to his body as well as his wings. The ape laughed and dropped him onto the ground. Certo's world spun and blurred for a moment as more apes began to gather around him.
"Your friend wasn't hard to take down either," The ape snickered.
"Friend?" Certo thought to himself. "Oh no! Not Crona!" His eyes widened when he realized that he had been unconscious for hours. How long had it been? How many hours? Or days even? The attack had no doubt commenced by now. But was it still going on? Had Neros invaded the city himself again?
The apes seemed to sense the black dragon's brooding thoughts and chuckled in spite of his state. "Aw, is the little dragon scared?" The biggest ape stepped aside and the others followed his lead. They cluster of apes parted to reveal a fallen lightning dragon across the field from them. Radiance's body was being scrounged over by several apes. His armor had been stripped and his bones were being pulled, picked and fought over by the barbarians.
Certo's heart suddenly felt like it weighed a ton inside his body. Tears began to fill his eyes at the sight of the murdered guard before him. Certo squeezed his eyes shut and looked away.
"Oh, what's the matter?" The big ape scoffed. "Don't like looking at dead things?" He and another ape grabbed Certo off the ground. The black dragon struggled to free himself but the apes held him fast. It took three more apes to restrain him enough so the leader could take hold of Certo's face in his clawed hand. "You're going to look and you're going to see what awaits you when the Master returns!"
He forced Certo's eyes open, making him stare at Radiance's body. Certo tried to avert his eyes, but everywhere he turned he could only see the snickering faces of the apes. His chin quivered as the tears welled up in his eyes and began streaming down his cheeks. His breathing became heavier as he struggled for air. Not from the apes holding him but the pain that was growing inside him. The feeling of helplessness of not being able to save an innocent. Someone who had been there to support him when others wouldn't. A life that was not yet ready to be extinguished.
Certo desperately tried to shut his eyes. The sight of Radiance's body began to blur before him and soon changed to his mother and father. Certo gasped hard at the visible memory before him. The two black dragons lay dead in their sleep, their skulls smashed in by the apes. The mirage shimmered and Certo could see his sister Stars and Ana, their bodies torn apart by the savages that had invaded their home. Certo did not realize his teeth chattering as the burning feeling intensified within his body.
The sudden cry of an ape grabbed the attention of the crowd. They turned to the apes who held Certo to see the leader yank his hand away. The flesh on his palm was searing as if it had been burned. The big ape stamped his hand into the dirt, trying to put out the burning feeling. A gasp of surprise swept through the group of baboons as they stared at Certo. His right eye was ablaze with crimson energy. His teeth rattled like a snake's tail and a roar resonated in his throat. The apes who held onto him tightened their grip and suddenly Certo's scars lit up. The energy that burned in his eye burst from his scars and burned the apes who restrained him. The baboons howled as their skin burned away.
The black dragon's muscles flexed, pressing his skin against the rope.
"You bastards!" Certo snarled, his voice becoming distorted by the energy. The ropes fell to the ground, their ends burning in the dirt.
The apes hooted and barked in alarm as they backed away from the black dragon. Waves of crimson energy began radiating out from Certo's feet, heating the ground beneath the apes' bare feet. The baboons started dancing wildly as the aura burned their feet and fur. Certo's growl was growing louder and the wind began to spiral around the campground.
Certo's crimson energy meshed with the wind, creating a brilliant, red tornado, boxing in the apes and preventing their escape. Overhead the sky and clouds turned red like blood. The apes began huddling together in fright, backing as far away from the black dragon as possible. The apes at the rear were pushed against the spiraling tower of energy. Their skin burned away as well, filling the air with the stench of their incinerating fur and flesh.
"You're all dead!" Certo growled, his eye and scars burning brighter by the second. The first baboon managed to stagger over to his giant bladed bone weapon before snatching it up in his good hand. With a mighty howl, he leaped into the air, preparing to strike down the young dragon. Certo turned on him with lightning speed, jaws opened wide. The roar that burst from his throat thundered across the sky as a beam of crimson shot from his mouth. The apes watched in horror as their leader hit the ground at the black dragon's feet; a hole was burned straight through his body.
"Your turn." The apes looked up to see the crimson eye staring right into them. Certo thrust his head forward, releasing another roar and a beam of energy. The apes scattered but not before several fell to the killing attack. Certo turned and fired again, killing several more apes, too slow to react in time.
By now, the apes were terrified. They began leaping over the black dragon's head and scurrying around the camp, hoping to make themselves harder to hit. Several apes braved the whirling tornado of energy and hurled themselves through the burning wall Certo had thrown up around the campground. They hit the ground on the opposite side, screaming in pain as their skin peeled away from their bones. Certo growled, noticing what they were doing.
"You aren't going anywhere," he muttered, lowering his head to the ground. The apes paused to see what was going on, hoping that the black dragon was giving up. Much to their dismay, Certo thrust his chest out, turning his head to the sky, releasing a tremendous roar. A tremor shook through the black dragon's body before an eruption of energy exploded from his body. The apes shrieked as they were engulfed by the blast. As the mushroom-shaped cloud rose into the sky, the black dragon took to the air, beating his wings hard as he headed for the city.
"I'm going to kill you, Neros!"
Another ape fell to the ground dead. Nitrus spun around, slashing with his tail blade as more apes pressed forward. The guards surrounding the city had not expected so many apes to attack at once. Several had been caught off guard almost instantly and were severely wounded. Nitrus and Kia struggled to hold off the invaders while the other guards continued to pull the wounded away from the battle ground. Kia's shoulder was still bleeding from the spearhead lodged in it, slowing her movements down significantly.
An ape leaped high onto her back, driving his dagger into her wing deltoids. The air guardian screamed and snatched the ape up in her jaws before shaking him savagely, tearing the filthy creature to shreds. Another ape was about to pounce on her when Nitrus swatted it out of the air, knocking it into a cluster of its comrades.
"Thanks!" Kia gasped, wavering slightly on her bad leg.
"Our work isn't done yet!" Nitrus snarled, ramming two more apes with his horns before turning to his fellow guardian. "Can you still fight?"
"Of course I can!" Kia inhaled deeply and blew a strong gust of air at Nitrus. The current banked around the ice guardian and into the two apes he had knocked to the ground, sending them tumbling backwards into a stone wall. "I just hope the little ones are okay."
"They have Cytros protecting them!" Nitrus kicked his hind leg, catching a charging ape in the face. "They should be fine."
"This is not good!" Amp called as he, Terra and Crona found themselves surrounded by the apes. The three young dragons had been separated from Cytros and his fellow guards right when the attack began. The fire guardian had ordered them to stay put while he and his sentries went to support the others at the perimeter. Shortly after they had disappeared into the city, the apes had broken through their lines.
"Stand tall!" Crona ordered. "They aren't that tough!"
"Hey, we've found her!" One of the apes hollered, pointing at Crona. "Get Neros and tell him we've found her!" A single ape hooted and turned to run back into the city. Crona's eyes widened as she realized what was going on. This was not just an attack, it was a plan to kidnap her.
The white dragoness backed up against her friends as the apes circled them, closing in the gap.
"Does this mean we can kill the other two?" A grizzly-looking apes growled, slobber dripping from his jowls.
"Amp..." Terra whimpered, pressing closer to him.
"They have to get through me first," Amp murmured reassuringly to her.
"That's what I'm afraid of," Terra replied.
"I don't see why not." The first ape shrugged. "They're not white. So we don't have to save them."
"Good. I hope they're screamers."
A sword swung at Amp's head. Crona halted time and rammed the ape in the face. The baboon fell away and Amp blinked curiously. He had been expecting a strike but suddenly the white dragoness had appeared in front of him.
"Pay attention, you two!" She snapped over her shoulder.
"Amp!" Terra screamed. The lightning guardian turned to see a blade coming down on top of him. Just before he was hit, Terra froze the ape where he stood with a burst of ice. Amp and Terra stood stupefied by her sudden reaction. Another ape reached out to grab Terra when Amp lurched forward, biting down on the barbarian's wrist and sending a surge of electricity through his body. The ape convulsed as its insides fried before falling dead at the young guardian's feet.
"Stand down!" A voice from above shouted angrily.
"Oh, no." Crona thought to herself. All eyes looked up as a pale white dragon glided down from the sky before landing on a cushion of air in the street.
Terra and Amp looked at the ruby-eyed dragon curiously. "Certo?"
Neros looked at them in disgust at first. But then a smile spread across his face. "No. Sorry. I'm not."
"You sure?" Amp raised a brow. "You look exactly like him. I mean, besides your coloration and all."
"Amp! Shut up!" Crona snarled, taking a stand in front of the two younger dragon. The lightning guardian's eyes widened by the dragoness' sudden hostility.
"Good to see you again." Neros smirked. "I'm sure you know why I'm here."
"It wasn't hard to figure out," Crona growled.
"Then why don't you be a good girl and come quietly."
"Crona, what's going on?" Terra asked, the fear was very apparent in her voice.
"Terra, not now!" Crona hissed, not breaking her eyes from Neros's.
"I tell you what, Crona," Neros said, starting to slowly circle the three dragons. "If you just come quietly, I promise I'll spare their disgusting lives."
Crona narrowed her blue eyes at him. "Forgive me if I'm not entirely trusting of your words. But if you want me..." Time stopped where it was and Crona took the chance she had. With a powerful kick of her hind legs, she barreled through the apes before turning around to unfreeze time. "You're going to have to catch me, Neros!"
The albino dragon shook his head. In the blink of an eye the dragoness had been only a few feet from him, and now she was breaking through his troops and getting away.
"After her!" He roared, shaking the ground. "I want that dragoness!"
The apes hooted and howled, before turning to pursue their prey. Neros spread his wings and leaped into the air. A sudden force struck him from the side as Amp rammed him in the ribs. The albino rolled gracefully and landed on his feet, facing the young guardian.
"You're not going anywhere, pal!" Amp growled. "I don't know who you are, but you aren't any friend of Crona's and therefore aren't any friend of mine!"
Neros chuckled. "Well I'm no Certo. But you'll find that out soon enough." Neros lunged for Amp. The lightning dragon whirled around, catching the black dragon in the side of the head with the flat of his tail blade. Neros staggered a few steps before Amp rammed him in the chest with his horns. Neros slid back but refused to fall to the younger dragon.
"Is that all you have?" Neros sneered.
"Hardly!" Amp shouted. A roar burst from his throat as a bolt of lightning shot from his mouth. Neros side-stepped the bolt as it struck a nearby pavilion, destroying the wall of stone. The black dragon whistled, in a mocking tone.
"Not bad kid. Too bad you can't hit a target right in front of you."
"I missed on purpose!" Amp snarled and thrust his head forward. Neros folded his wings in front of him as another bolt burst from Amp's jaws. The bolt of lightning bounced off a barrier of convexity and struck another pavilion.
"What in the world?" Terra and Amp's eyes grew wide. Neros smiled from behind his barrier, before lowering it.
"Pretty nifty trick huh?" I was going to show Certo this back when... Oh, what am I telling you for?" Neros kicked hard against the stone beneath his feet and head-butted Amp. The lightning dragon staggered back as stars and spots filled his vision. Neros spun, intending on ending Amp's life with his tail blade.
"No!" Terra screamed, lurching forward, and tackling Neros to the ground. The albino dragon's tail blade struck Amp, glancing off one of his horns.
"You want some too?" Neros snarled and slashed Terra across the face. The ice dragoness screamed as she hit the ground. Neros got to his feet and stood over her, pressing his claws into her neck.
"Get your paws off her!" Amp pounced on Neros from the side and bit down on his neck. Neros snarled menacingly and grabbed the yellow dragon's hind leg in his jaws. He bit down hard and Amp stifled a scream, but held onto his opponent none the less. Neros clenched his jaws tighter and a loud snap caused Amp to release his grip.
The lightning guardian was hurled into a wall before Terra jumped in again. The young ice dragoness blew a cloud of jagged ice particles into Neros's face. The black dragon bellowed angrily and staggered back. Terra struck Neros across the snout with her talons before clawing at his side as he wobbled blindly.
"Terra, move!" The grey dragoness jumped out of the way as a blast of water struck Neros in the side. The force was enough to knock the wind out of him and slam him into another pavilion.
As the albino lay in the street, coughing on the water that had engulfed him, Terra turned to see Cryus coming towards them.
"Thanks for the help." Terra breathed a sigh of relief.
"Any time." The water guardian nodded, moving to help Amp up on his broken hind leg. "I see Certo's color changed." The blue dragon narrowed his eyes at Neros who was shaking the water from his body. "This seems to fit his personality much more."
"It's not Certo." Terra shook her head, taking up position on Amp's opposite side.
Cryus shot the dragoness a quick glance before turning back to the black dragon. "He's not? But they look exactly alike. I mean, besides the coloration and all."
"He tried to go after Crona," Amp wheezed. "He sent the apes after her."
Hearing the dragoness' name caused a fire to burn within Cryus's heart. "Terra! Freeze him!"
Without missing a beat, Terra blew a cloud of ice, freezing Neros to the ground. After making sure Terra could support Amp, Cryus walked over to the albino. "Alright pal, what do you think you're doing with Crona? She is not yours for the taking." A growl bubbled in his throat as he readied another hydro-blast should the pale dragon reply with something other than what he wanted.
Neros only laughed. "That's for me to know, and you to keep guessing about." The dragon's body began to generate convexity and purple bolts of lightning crackled around him.
"What the...!" Cryus jumped backwards, his eyes wide in surprise.
Neros continued to chuckle mockingly. "You all seem to know Certo quite well around here. Or at least you think you do."
"Wh-what do you mean?" Cryus squeaked, taking another cautious step backwards.
With a gruff snort, and a quick flex of his muscles, Neros shattered the ice that held him prisoner. The young dragons' gasped in shock. In a flash, the albino knocked Cryus on his back and dug his claws into his shoulders, pinning him to the ground.
"Cryus!" Amp tried to move but collapsed on his hind leg.
Neros ignored the lightning dragon and brought his snout to Cryus's. "The difference between me and my brother is..." In a lightning fast strike, Neros whipped his tail blade around, slashing Cryus across his right eye. The water guardian screamed and turned away from the deadly blade. Neros smiled wickedly and laughed. "I'm nastier."
"Get off of him!" Amp fired another bolt of lightning, and again Neros formed a barrier of convexity.
An earth-shaking roar came from behind and Neros whirled around as an earth missile hit his violet force field. The strength of the impact knocked the air dragon off of Cryus, who rolled onto his belly, clutching at his bleeding eye.
"You are not welcome here, feral!" Tectonica growled as she and Volcanus emerged from behind a pavilion.
Neros lowered his barrier and got to his feet. "More?" He looked around the crowd of dragons closing in on him. Cryus lay where he fell, but Amp and Terra were ready for more. "So eager to die now, are we?"
"Young Certo, if you wish to have your life terminated, then we will have no other choice but to comply with your request," Volcanus hissed, lowering his head towards the ground.
Neros rolled his eyes. "Now why does everyone keep saying that?"
"We will not tolerate you harming innocent dragons in our city," Volcanus continued, ignoring the albino's comment.
Neros leered at the fire guardian. "There are no innocents among dragons. I'll be the one to make sure you all die, and rid this world of your wretched presence."
"You may try!" Volcanus roared and breathed a wave of fire at Neros. The young dragon flapped his wings, sending the blue flames back into the fire guardian's face. Volcanus bellowed angrily and rubbed his eyes as Tectonica fired another earth missile. Neros leaped into the air, but the sudden upheaval of earth knocked him off balance. Amp and Terra combined their breath attacks, sending a charged cloud of ice into the air. Neros felt the particles numb his skin and soon the sensation became overwhelming.
The albino dragon snarled fiercely and beat his tingling wings to blow the particles away. Tectonica fired another earth bullet, nearly clipping the air dragon's wing. Neros spun around and inhaled deeply. Just as he released a sonic roar, Volcanus belched out another fire ball. The fireball exploded and shook the city. Embers and ash blew across the pavilions, blinding the guardians for several minutes.
"Neros!" A sudden furious voice shouted. A strong wind blew the dust and ash away, allowing the guardians to finally breathe. The dragons opened their eyes to look up at the blood-red sky.
"When did that happen?" Amp gasped, noticing the frightening color for the first time.
"I don't know." Terra shook her head.
The guardians turned their attention when they heard the flapping of wings. Certo and Crona landed in the street; the black dragon looking around fiercely. It was then they noticed that Neros had vanished.
"After her! I want that dragoness!" Neros shouted as the apes chased after Crona. The white dragoness took off as fast as her legs could carry her. The apes were far faster than she was on the ground; but that did not matter. She needed to get them away from Terra and Amp. The apes barked and howled excitedly as they chased the dragoness down streets and alleyways.
An ape lunged for Crona from a rooftop. The dragoness stopped time, ran past him, released her hold and kept going. The apes trampled over him, not giving a second glance to their comrade who had landed face first into the stone street.
Just ahead was an open courtyard.
"Perfect," Crona thought to herself. She kicked on the speed and rushed straight for it. The instant she entered the open space, she froze the apes in time and took off down an alley on her right, before ducking behind a pavilion. She released her hold on time and the excited howls of the apes turned to confusion and puzzlement. The smelly barbarians entered the courtyard, scratching their heads curiously.
"She vanished!" One of them exclaimed.
"That's impossible, you idiot! Dragons don't just vanish into thin air."
"Then where did she go?"
"I have no clue!"
"Maybe she used that time travel ability the Master was talking about."
Crona's heart nearly stopped. "He told them!" She gasped to herself. Now she was cursing herself for having said anything to Neros. She looked up at the sky to see nothing but crimson. "What in the world?" She squinted up at the clouds. Their appearance seemed familiar. "Where have I seen that before?"
"Spread out! Track her down! She has to have left a trail somewhere!" The apes began sweeping the courtyard, sniffing noisily about. Crona peeked around the side of the pavilion she was hiding behind to see one ape heading in her direction. The baboon had picked up her scent but was showing little interest in where it led to. Crona ducked back around the corner and held her breath, hoping that he would not find her.
A low breeze blew across the courtyard and quickly picked up into a strong whirlwind. A sudden bark in surprise and a shriek of pain grabbed the apes attention. Crona turned to see the ape looking back over his shoulder as a wave of red energy swept across the courtyard.
"How did you get away!?" An ape bellowed. A split second later his shriek reached Crona's ears. The ape that had been so close to finding her grabbed his sword and rushed out of the alley. Crona crept out from her hiding place and slipped down the alley as the howls and barks of the fight continued. A bloody carcass hit the roof above her and dropped to the ground. Crona screamed, jumping back in surprise. The ape's body had a hole blown through it. Its stinking flesh sizzled, making Crona curl her lip in utter revulsion.
Suddenly a beam of crimson energy cut across her view and another cry filled the air. Crona stepped over the body and poked her head out of the alleyway. What she saw made her mouth fall open.
In the middle of the courtyard, Certo stared down the apes. Several bodies lay around him, smoldering, from what, Crona could not tell. The black dragon's body was sizzling with hot energy as the crimson light emanated from his bad eye and scars across his body. "Dear ancestors!" Crona whispered to herself.
Two apes lunged for the black dragon. Certo leaped up between them, as they hit the ground where they had stood a second before. The black dragon reared his head back and fired a ball of crimson energy. The blast exploded, sending apes flying in all directions. The barbarians lucky enough to still be standing were on the attack again. An ape with a scythe on a chain swung his weapon at the black dragon's head.
"Certo!" Crona cried. The black dragon turned slowly as time began to slow down. Crona burst from hiding, and shot across the courtyard like a white rocket, knocking the scythe away with her talons. Certo blinked to see the white dragoness suddenly appear from out of nowhere. The ape yanked his weapon back and began spinning it as the rest of his fellow savages got to their feet.
"What are you doing here?" Certo growled, his eyes mad with hatred.
"I told you before," Crona said, turning to look at him over her shoulder. "I'm here to have your back." Certo stared at her for a moment before Crona's eyes widened. "Duck!" On instinct the black dragon lowered his head. Crona watched as a sword swung over Certo's head before vaulting off his back and latching onto the ape's face. The beast howled as she tore at his eyes before springing off of him. The moment she hit the ground, another ape lunged for her. Certo roared, firing another burst of red energy. The ape shrieked as his arm carrying the weapon burned away. Crona turned as the scythe-wielding ape hurled his chained weapon at Certo again. The white dragoness reached out and pulled Certo's head down as the blade shot over his head, impaling an ape on his right. Crona leaped over Certo's back as the black dragon turned and unleashed a wide beam of energy at the ape and his nearby comrades.
Crona struck the next ape across the face, before landing and striking another in the kneecap with her long talons. The apes crumbled to the ground. A moment later, Certo pounced on both of them, driving his tail blade into the gut of one while crushing the other's throat in his jaws. He turned his head as another howl cut across the courtyard. Crona wrenched an ape's arm from its socket, dislocating it and rendering it useless. The last three apes dove in and dog-piled her.
"Crona!" Certo yelled. A sudden crack from above caught his attention.
High in the air, Crona stared down at the apes. Her eyes glazed over as she concentrated on the world around her. She could see and feel how strong the blue mist was in this city. Down below, the apes looked at one another in confusion. Crona narrowed her eyes as she concentrated harder. A moment later a yellow spark jumped out from the mist and Crona extended a paw towards it. The apes and Certo stared up at her as a charged bolt of lightning gathered in talons. It took only a second for her to gather the energy she needed. With a fierce cry and a deafening crack, she released the bolt of lightning from her paw. The electric energy struck the apes, engulfing them and sending a shock wave through the courtyard. The blast caught Certo by surprise, knocking him head over heals.
The black dragon coughed as dust choked his lungs. He flapped his wing and cleared the courtyard of the suffocating debris. Crona glided down to him and looked rather guilty.
"I'm sorry about that," She apologized. "It's been a while since I had to use that attack."
Certo coughed a couple more times before looking up at her. His scars had stopped glowing but his bad eye continued to blaze with energy.
"You can use lightning?" He choked slightly.
Crona sighed and nodded. "I can do a lot more than you ever imagined."
Certo shook his head and got to his feet. "Thank you."
"What?" Crona looked at him curiously and cocked her head slightly.
"For having my back." Certo bobbed his head, staring her in the eyes.
"You're welcome." Crona nodded with a faint smile. "I said I would and I meant it."
"But don't think that this means I've completely forgiven you for what you did before." Certo growled, narrowing his eyes at her. "It's going to be a while before I can completely trust you again."
Crona sighed again, sadly this time. "I understand. And I deserve it."
"Darn right you do," Certo grumbled under his breath. "Where are the others? Is everyone okay?"
Crona's eyes widened as she remembered. "Oh my gosh! Where's Neros?"
Certo's eyes widened and his scars blazed alive again with energy. "You lost track of him?"
"I thought he was chasing me!" Crona shook her head frantically. "I was trying to get him away from Amp and Terra!"
"We have to find them!" Certo snarled. His warped voice frightened Crona, but she could not argue.
Just then an explosion rumbled from across the city. The two dragons turned to see blue fire billow into the air along with a cloud of dust and ash.
"Come on!" Crona shouted, taking off before Certo and taking to the sky. Certo sprang after her and beat his wings hard as they flew towards the explosion. The blast had covered a large area of the pavilions in a cloud of debris. "Certo, clear out that mess! We need to be able to see!" Crona ordered.
"Gladly," Certo growled. He beat his wings hard. The gust began to blow the cloud away, making the streets visible once again. "Neros!" Certo roared furiously. He flew higher to get a better view of the area. Down below, he spotted Amp, Terra and Cryus alongside Volcanus and Tectonica. The dragons all looked up at him; Amp and Terra's mouths fell open at the sight of the glowing black dragon. Certo searched frantically for a sign of the albino black dragon. Certo could feel his blood boiling even more and the energy emanating from his body intensified. In the distance he could hear the sounds of dragons fighting off the apes, but the noise was beginning to die down. "Damn it!" Certo fumed, his body crackling with red lightning.
The black dragon turned to see Crona already down on the ground beside Amp and Terra. Certo drifted down to them and the guardians gave him a disgusted look.
"What do you think you're doing here?" Tectonica growled.
Certo paid her no attention as he walked over to join Crona. He could see Amp's hind leg was busted at the knee joint. The teeth marks were deep but the young dragon tried to play it off as Certo would have done.
Off to the side, Cryus staggered to his feet, still clutching his right eye with his paw. "Stay with them." Crona said, indicating she was talking about Terra and Amp. She moved closer to Cryus and helped hoist him off the ground and support his shoulder. "Are you alright?" She asked sincerely.
"My eye..." Cryus groaned. "I can't see."
"Let me see," Crona whispered, trying to calm the guardian down. He sounded like he was on the verge of hysterics. Cryus reluctantly removed his paw for Crona to see. His eye was squeezed shut but Crona could see the laceration clearly. It was deep and would leave a scar for sure. "It doesn't look like it damaged your eye directly," Crona reported, assessing the wound. "But you're going to have to keep it closed for a while while it heals."
"Are you two alright?" Certo asked, looking Terra in the eye as she supported her mate.
"We'll be alright," she nodded. "What about you?" She looked him over as his scars began to return to normal.
"I'd rather worry about you two," Certo growled, looking at Amp. "You tried to fight Neros, didn't you?"
"Yeah." Amp nodded. "He's a lot tougher than he looks."
"You shouldn't have done that," Certo growled. "He would have killed you if your fellow guardians hadn't shown up."
"I am talking to you!" Tectonica snarled, grabbing Certo with her talons.
"Get lost!" Certo snapped at her, swatting her massive paw away.
"Why, you insolent little feral brat!" The earth guardian bellowed and snapped at the black dragon. Certo whirled on her in a flash, slashing her across the snout with his claws. Tectonica recoiled, hissing furiously.
"That is quite enough, all of you!" Volcanus shouted, his voice echoing across the city. Every head turned to look at him except Certo and Tectonica who continued to stare each other down. The earth dragoness glared at the black dragon with tears in her eyes from the stinging marks on her snout. "Young dragon, that means you too!" Volcanus growled, something he rarely felt the need to do. Certo ignored him and kept his blazing eye on Tectonica. "Young dragon, you will look at me when I am addressing you!" Volcanus snarled.
"Come on, Crona," Certo muttered. "Let's get Amp and Terra home." He walked over to Amp as his body returned to normal. Amp gave a surprised grunt as Certo hoisted him over his back.
"I'll catch up to you," Crona replied, helping support Cryus.
Certo glanced at her over his shoulder for a moment before shrugging. "Whatever." He and Terra began to leave when an angry bellow came from behind them.
"You will not show such disrespect to a guardian and elder dragon!" Volcanus shouted, jumping in front of the black dragon as he started to lead the way towards Terra's home. Certo moved to walk around the elder, infuriating the blue dragon even more. Volcanus raised a paw to strike Certo, not even caring that a wounded Amp lay draped over his back. Certo stopped as his eye began to burn bright again. Just as Volcanus swung his paw, Cytros appeared out of nowhere with Nitrus, Kia and several guards. The captain of the guard stepped in, placing his muscular foreleg in front of Certo, taking the strike to his armored limb. Volcanus and the other dragons looked at him in surprise.
"Captain," Volcanus gasped, somewhat startled by the younger male's presence. "I'm glad you're here." Volcanus turned his fiery-orange eyes on Certo and curled his lip. "I want that black dragon arrested."
Cytros was surprised at first by the order, but only gave Certo a quick glance.
"On what charges, sir?" He asked, appearing cool and collected.
Volcanus stared at Cytros, surprised that he would even question his order in the first place. "Well for starters, he has been held responsible for the destruction of our sacred academy. Secondly, he's brought not one, but two attacks from vicious outsiders who have slain several of our kind, and wounded several others." Volcanus turned to look at Cryus who leaned on Crona for support. The water guardian clutched at his face as the pain began to overwhelm him once again.
"Damn him!" Cryus snarled. "Damn that feral!"
"Cryus, that's enough!" Crona snapped. "Now is not the time. Just be glad you're alive."
"Oh, I'll kill him the next time I see him," Cryus growled. "I swear I will."
"You won't be the one to kill him," Certo growled. "Because that is going to be my job."
Cryus looked at him with his good eye. "You! This is all your fault!"
"Cryus!" Crona snapped again, more harshly this time.
"No! Not this time Crona!" Cryus stepped away from her, still holding his face in his paw. "It was one thing to start a fight with me before, but when you actually decide to hurt me, then that's where I draw the line! I'm going to make you pay for what you did to my eye!" Crona was dumbstruck as she stared at the blue water dragon. All of a sudden she felt her own temper flare up and her talons dug into the street.
"You see, Captain?" Volcanus explained, looking back at Cytros. "You've heard it from another guardian that this dragon has deliberately gone and attacked him on more than one occasion."
Cytros looked down at Certo. "Is that true Certo?"
"No," Certo shook his head before fixing his eyes on the water guardian. "Though if he really wants to then I can more than comply with his request."
"Certo!" Crona scolded.
Cryus snarled angrily at the black dragon. "You're the cause for everything bad that goes on around here! It's all because of you!"
"That's quite enough, both of you." Volcanus scolded, looking at Certo, without giving the water guardian a second glance.
"Certo, take Ampus and Terra to my home," Nitrus ordered, seeing that the situation was going to quickly escalate out of control soon.
Certo stared hard at him, before the glow in his eyes faded away. The black dragon walked past the ice guardian as the guards separated, giving him room.
"Not so fast, Nitrus," Volcanus interrupted. "The dragon is under arrest! Or did you not hear?"
"I heard." Nitrus nodded. "And I am having him escort my daughter and son-in-law to the safety of my home. If you have anything to say, then we shall discuss it at the next meeting."
Before the fire guardian could reply, Nitrus turned to Cytros. "Captain, let's go. We have work to do."
"Yes, sir!" Cytros saluted with a wing, before following the ice dragon back towards the perimeter of the city, discussing new watch tactics for the coming evening. Behind them, Crona left Cryus and followed along closely, hoping to catch up to Terra, Amp and Certo.
Volcanus watched as they marched away with a frown on his face. Tectonica walked back to his side and glared as the procession disappeared into the city.
"I think that feral has cast some sort of spell upon them," She growled. "Judging by that eye of his."
"I would doubt your words any other day," Volcanus muttered, narrowing his eyes as he remembered the look Certo had given them. "But as of now, I'm inclined to agree with your hypothesis."
"What in the great blue blazes happened here?" Neros gasped as he and the remaining apes looked around their demolished campground. The earth was charred black and all around the impact crater. The crater itself was burned to a glossy polish.
"M-Master..." A raspy voice called from the trees. The battle group turned to see several of their fellow apes stagger out from the trees at the edge of the forest. All were battered, burned and bleeding. Their scorched fur stuck to their open wounds and the stench of their torched flesh hung heavily in the air.
Neros's eyes widened in shock at their mutilated state.
"What happened here?" He gasped, still shocked at what he was seeing.
"We... We're sorry Master. "But... your brother... you see... he got... um... away," The ape wheezed.
"He what!?" Neros fumed, his tail blade raising high in the air. He lunged for the ape and knocked him to the ground with ease. The baboon soon found the albino's tail blade at his throat, quivering with eager anticipation for his blood to be spilled across the ground. "How is that possible? I had ordered him tied, gagged, and bound so he could not escape at all! So how is it that you buffoons ended up letting him get away!" His ruby eyes fixed on the other battle-scarred apes. "Did one of you release him?" The apes quickly shook their heads. "Then how!?" Neros demanded. "Unless one of you is lying, in which case, I'll have to kill all of you!"
"No! Master! Please!" The wounded apes fell to their knees, bowing deeply and praying for forgiveness. "He... your brother... he used this great power! He freed himself! We had nothing to do with it!"
Neros squinted at the ape. "Explain yourself."
"It.. it happened so fast!" The ape shook his head as he tried to remember. "It was this power that seemed to burn everything it touched."
"Or touched it," Another of the wounded apes remarked, extending his burned hands towards the young dragon, for him to see.
Neros inspected the burn closely. It still puzzled him how his twin had managed to escape. But now he became filled with more curiosity than spite. He stepped away from the apes and looked towards the remainder of the attack force. "Gather any survivors. We're going to be heading back."
"Yes Master!" The apes went about helping along the wounded survivors from Certo's escape.
The albino black dragon watched as more wounded were gathered from the surrounding forest. He looked down at the scorched earth beneath his feet, then to the burned leaves of the trees. Something did not sit right in his stomach. He had half the mind to go back and hunt down his brother personally. But launching an attack twice in one day with severely crippled forces would have been a fool's error.
"I suppose I'll have to look into this matter more personally another day."