Chapter 9 – Journey Part 8 – Companion
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A vortex of molten heat permeated the ground from the sky, chipping and nicking nearby surfaces with lashes of wind. The area below, once populated by several men, now left unrecognizable as a partially molten crater. Looking at the impact of his breath, Xavier curiously examined the vicinity - below him, the crater was spun into a semi-molten vortex, with nicks in the nearby ground as if it were slashed by thousands of blades.

'Huh... again?'
Noticing yet another different effect to his breath, he momentarily got lost in his thoughts. When comparing the damage to his past breath attacks, it compares most similarly to the bug nest incident but still different. Noting this, Xavier decided to keep this question in the back of his mind to investigate at a later point; there are just too many things he didn't understand about his world. Sighing at his current inability to acquire information, Xavier looked to his surroundings, still hearing the screams and crying of multiple individuals.

As he flew around to investigate, he found several women tied up, all crying. Several surviving men who appeared to be from the same earlier group appeared to be apart, each committing unspeakable acts, dragging up the indignant rage from earlier from his former humanity. As these individuals were separated, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to study other methodologies, for his future safety.

Finding the first man focused intently on the crying woman ahead, Xavier flew behind the man, opening his mouth over his neck. Chomping down with a crunch, the man's spinal cord was severed as his body collapsed to the ground. Getting his first taste of real hu- er, no, close combat, he chewed several times before spitting out the remarkably bland meat and bone. Glancing into the eyes of the nearby woman, he could see her terror, pulling with all the force her body could muster against her bindings. Rolling his eyes, Xavier reached over to the woman as she pulled back squeezing her eyes shut in utter terror. Upon getting in reach of her bindings, Xavier quickly clawed through them as the woman began to sob and wail.

At the deepest levels of his heart, he began to question why he is decided to try to help these people only to be rewarded by their terrified expressions. In his memories, he knew he was doing what he would then have believed just. He knew this, so why does it feel so wrong now?

Feeling uncomfortable with his changes, he felt a growing need for someone to talk to, a friend, a companion... Someone that can help keep him centered, someone that can notice if he starts to disappear. Yes, that was it, he felt as though his old self was being devoured by the dragon, his memories seem safe but his morals...

'Why do my old morals matter anyway? This isn't Earth, following my old morals exactly will just get me killed. But I need to keep some of it, it is tied to my sense of self, I don't want to stop being me, I don't want to die.'

While facing his internal dilemma, Xavier reached a second surviving man who was in a similar circumstance to the first. Wanting to try something, he broke off his teeth which regrew in his last attempt to heal himself. Seconds after planting the regrown tooth in the ground, a deformed Spartoi pulled itself from the ground collapsing on the spot and grabbing the man's attention. Seeing the malformed skeleton, the bandit immediately grabbed his Axe warily surveying the area.

Well above the man, Xavier looked down at the Spartoi as he quickly regenerated the missing tooth. Seeing that things didn't quite go the way he expected, he flattened his wings against his body and rolled into a ball over the man. 'Cannonball!' With this, the only thought going through his head as he plummeted the 12 meters to the top of the man's head where a harsh impact sent him tumbling over. After rolling several times, Xavier saw the man on the ground dizzily attempting to sit up.

'How..? How is he alive?' Xavier considered the force of that impact, though he is still fairly small for a Dragon, everything he knows about human biology tells him that, at the very least, he shouldn't be conscious anymore. With these details in mind, it's starting to become clear how unreliable his past knowledge has become here. While filing things away in his mind, he took to the sky with a staggering gait before slashing his claws through the man's bones like butter, freeing yet another woman in the process.

Considering his current body size and the effects of the cannonball, it quickly became clear that Xavier's most reliable weapons outside his breath were his claws and teeth for now. Feeling a greater degree of safety when dealing with humans, Xavier took to the sky and quickly dealt with the remaining men with little effort, each time being rewarded with a look of absolute horror from the nearby woman.

As he was prepared to leave the nearby women to do as they please, Xavier's attention was drawn to a nearby cage. A fairly large, black house cat with its eyes covered by its paws lay cowering inside the cage, splattered with blood. Seeing this poor cat in a similar situation to himself just days earlier, Xavier immediately felt an unexpected connection with this creature, immediately flying over to free it. Quickly cutting through the wooden material of the cage, he saw the cat open her amethyst eyes which immediately wandered to examine the area. Seeing the curiosity in its eyes, he watched it for several seconds before their eyes met and some unintelligible sounds that had no business coming from a cat exited its mouth as he suffered a heavy impact.

Suddenly on his back with a cat rubbing against his chin, Xavier was dumbfounded as the cat began to lick his face. Sure he liked animals, but this was kind of ridiculous. Though fed up with the cat's actions, he didn't want to hurt it and decided his best option was to scare it off.

"Get off!" he roared.

Hearing this, instead of running, the cat took a single step away from him and let out a series of unusual sounds. Hearing these sounds, his eyes went wide when he realized one set sounded similar to what the elven had spoken before. In his surprise, he could not help but exclaim

"Seriously?! A talking cat?"

"Zee-we-us-we a Taw-king cat?" The cat almost instantly responded with an imitation. Though her pronunciation was imperfect, he could clearly understand her. Though he had considered attempting the pronunciation of her words, earlier attempts while traveling proved it would take a lot of practice. With a newfound hope in communication, he continued to speak to her, hearing improvements in pronunciation each time before realizing it really has no context for the words. Feeling slightly saddened, he saw the cat go to the group of women nearby as he proceeded to slowly fly away, entirely disheartened as if his hope had been completely shattered.

After flying for several minutes, he turned around to give one final glance at the caravan of women before noticing he had a tail, or would it be second tail? The cat was following him! Excited, he decided to try something, pointing to himself, he said "Dragon" and "Cat" while pointing to it. Recognizing that it understood the meaning, he continued trying to teach it his language while returning to camp.

====

As the young black dragon pointed to a nearby tree and made a sound, Pursia made her efforts to copy him. Surprisingly, she noted that it was unlikely the language she was learning had been the legendary draconic; several syllables and tones were more verbose than expected, directing the majority of the effort to the lips and tongue rather than the supposed throaty language of the Dragons. Though the language lacked any common base to the ones she knew, the syllables were clearly within her pronounceable range allowing her to pick it up quicker than she had hoped. Where had such a young dragon had learned such an obscure language?

Suddenly stopping amidst their journey, she looked to the small dragon who suddenly had its eyes opened wide before it landed began to dimly glow. She watched as the small dragon changed, wings retracting into its back and body as he was replaced by the form of a small baby. Valiantly she struggled to hold back her urges before, after only 5 seconds...

"Awwww, cutie pie!"

She suddenly tackled him again, nuzzling him. She realized he must be emitting a high degree of some form of mana constantly, as she had become keenly aware of her losses of control around him. High mana concentrations have a similar effect on Cait Sidhe to what Catnip does to normal cats.

After a fair amount of time, the dragon-turned-infant gently pushed her back with a clear happy expression on his face. 'Well that's good, at least he's not getting mad' While thinking this, she heard him say what sounded like two words before transforming again, into an older, yet still young form and saying another new word with a previous word. At this point, he took a series of forms and she generally understood what he was doing. From human baby to human boy to human man, he then took the form of a human girl for a moment before collapsing in agony, returning to his young dragon form. After a period of heavy breathing, he said a word that seemed to mean gender. At this point, Pursia pointed to herself, saying 3 words

"Girl Cat, Pursia."
"Baby Dragon Boy, Xavier."

Happy that her simple introduction taught her the name of her savior, she bowed gently as they continued their journey with him continuing to take additional forms and saying their names. While distracted on their trip, she was suddenly assaulted by a one-armed skeleton and let out a scream, hoping for the young dragon to rescue her once more.

===
'So her name is Pursia, huh? We're finally making some small progress communicating!'

Reveling in the excitement of finally communicating, simple though it was, Xavier failed to notice as they passed the perimeter into his camp. Suddenly, he heard Pursia scream and immediately turned around to shout.

"Stop!"

Armand immediately stopped his attack, but poor shaking Pursia immediately charged at the nearest tree, climbing into its branches. Preparing to climb the tree, Xavier looked for footholds before he remembered he could fly and returned to his natural form.

Flying into the tree, Xavier commanded Armand to stay at a distance as he tried to comfort Pursia, realizing the difficulty when language isn't shared. Getting close while saying "Don't worry, it's safe. He won't hurt you, you're safe" and repeatedly emphasizing the word safe, he began to nuzzle the cat with his nose, trying to cheer her up.

After several minutes, his efforts to comfort the Pursia had appeared to improve circumstances greatly, she finally spoke in a slightly quivering voice.

"Dragon kill men, safe women?"

"Oh, you're asking why I saved them? Why... Because the men were doing bad things."

Pursia still lay there, looking at him, not yet fully able to understand his words but notably calmer than earlier. As a heavy breath of air left her, she started to climb down while staying cautious of Armand. He spent several minutes ordering the skeleton to perform before she felt comfortable around him.

With her finally comfortable, he told the skeleton to treat her as a friend before having it escort them back to camp. Reaching camp, Xavier quickly collapsed, immediately falling back into his dreams next to the fire.
===
She had to trust the young dragon, trust Xavier. These skeletons appear to serve him but they're terrifying. After seeing him give the skeleton several orders, she learned several new words and tried ordering it herself. After giving the skeleton several commands, she felt comfortable enough to continue traveling, apparently escorted the rest of the way by her very own nightmare.

Traveling a short distance from where they encountered the skeleton, they reached an area with a small fire built and several amenities scattered around. Seeing Xavier slowly drift over a certain pile of blankets, she was surprised to see him immediately drop and close his eyes.

"He really is just a baby, isn't he? Just what has this poor kid had to go through, all alone?" Asking this question to the void, she decides to curl up and sleep as well.

You know, I actually had a bunch more I wanted to pack into this chapter, but this felt like a perfect ending point.

Currently, because of the language struggles between them, I'm having to shift PoV pretty frequently to understand each character, but I'm planning to make it less frequent once they can properly communicate. I like Pursia as a character, but I will be the first to admit having to jump points of view like this is a bit rough. She's learning remarkably fast, so I hope we'll see that sooner rather than later!
What do you guys think about all the Pursia PoV shifts? Too much?

Next Chapter he should FINALLY get to that nearby village, you know, the one that was crossed off the map? I think you've got a general idea what's going on there by now, though.

I can't believe this village has been delayed so long already xD I really thought I could get it in this chapter.

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