"What exactly happened grandma? Everything was completely normal for a second, yet before we could react, the sky darkened and that repulsive aura descended upon us..." I said with a serious expression.
Me, Immy, Sidus, Ynos, and little Essie were sitting around grandmother outside of the cave with solemn expressions. Father was still resting, while Ayona was out about exploring the mountain since she did not have the chance to do so ever since we came back.
"Then father fell from the sky..." Added Immy with a frown, Sidus nodding by her side while Ynos and Essie remained silent.
Looking at us, grandmother's face lightened with a gentle smile, she didn't answer immediately but instead raised her head to glance at the now orange cloudy sky. The sun was setting on the horizon, a gentle breeze tickled our scales as we sat there waiting for her patiently.
"Beautiful," She muttered to herself with a nostalgic smile.
After a while, grandmother finally lowered her gaze and glanced at us one after the other. Her eyes ultimately came to rest on mine. "Do you remember your naming ceremony little Aether?" She suddenly asked causing me to frown.
Memories of that floating pillar above the large staircase, alongside my first real contact with the cosmic mana, and the enchanting scene of colorful planets resurfaced in my mind. Along with it were the unpleasant memories of the Shades, my first time seeing them, and the death of a brave little brown dragon who stood with a defiant expression in his final moments.
"Yes, I remember..." I answered.
"Back then, a youngster did not make it,"
"En, a brown dragon," I replied with a nod.
"You see, that little dragon's guardian is a member of the elders' council,"
"I think I remember grandfather and the others call him old Neyo?" I asked hesitantly.
"Indeed, you see old Neyo was rather unfortunate. That little brown dragon was very talented, he had the potential of surpassing him, yet he still failed, do you know why?" She asked causing me to shake my head with a puzzled expression.
"I'm not sure, I just remember grandfather telling me to watch closely, as that was the fall of a genius?"
Letting out a long sigh, grandmother nodded before replying, "Yes, he was truly a genius, perhaps not on par with you haha," She chuckled before a sad expression overtook her face, "Nonetheless, a smart brave little fellow,"
I remained silent as I waited for her to continue speaking, "That little dragon was the fourth generation to fail the naming ceremony from old Neyo's household. Truly, a shame..."
Hearing that, my eyes lit up as I remembered something I forgot to ask a long time ago, "About that, grandma, I also remember hearing them talk about last cycle's tragedy?" I questioned.
"Hah, the previous batch of youngsters before you, were annihilated in the naming ceremony, none of them survived, including your eldest sister..." She said with a sad sigh.
"Eldest sister?!" Sidus, who was silent all this time jumped to his feet and asked with a shocked expression.
"We had another sister?" Added Ynos with wide-open eyes.
I was also stunned to hear that, it turns out I was not the eldest. Grandmother slowly nodded before continuing, "She was a red dragoness with a fiery temper, her control over the flames was even better than that of your father, sadly, she also failed to pass the naming ceremony..."
Hearing that, I gulped nervously, 'Just how dangerous was the naming ceremony?!' I inwardly wondered. I truly did not believe it to be so much, except when I saw the Shades, and even back then, I thought it was because Brown was simply unlucky. 'Just what exactly is the naming ceremony?'
"You see, the stronger the name, the higher the pressure one faces when climbing the stairs. Yet, besides the pressure, one faces another threat, and that is the Shades," Said grandma as she glanced at us all one after the other.
"Strong names, can alert the Shades, they can sense the danger coming from the potential younglings, hence why they attempt to get rid of them before they can grow stronger," She explained.
"But grandma...If it is like that, why doesn't the King stop them...?" Innocently asked Essie with a nervous expression.
Shaking her head, grandmother replied, "Never question the King little one, things are more complicated than they seem,"
Essie didn't seem to understand what she meant, yet she still nodded anyways. I on the other hand frowned as I recalled grandfather saying the exact same thing, 'Is it really okay to not question the King at all? I mean, it's young Dragons that are dying, why can't we do anything about it?' Although I thought about that, I still remained silent and waited for my grandmother to continue speaking.
"The last generation before you little ones was exceptionally strong. All of the elder families had strong representatives capable of surpassing us old fellows, yet perhaps because that, calamity striked, and the Shades made their move...No one survived...That's the tragedy of the last cycle," Solemnly said grandmother.
A heavy silence descended as no one spoke a word, after a while, Immy was the one to break it as she asked with a grave tone, "Is that why there are few Dragons with pillars of existence?"
Glancing at her, grandmother smiled before answering, "You are a smart little one. Indeed, I don't know if the King has blessed our family, or if this is a curse of sorts, but for some reason, three of the four pillars of existence appeared amongst us,"
Grandmother then turned her gaze towards me and spoke with a warm tone, "Since little Aether has passed the naming ceremony, you all are spared from it. He could be considered as a shield that protected you from potential danger, had he failed, the second eldest would have taken his place, and so on,"
Everyone then turned to look at me with a mixture of expressions, Essie swiftly hopped on top of my head and snuggled closer between my horns. "The reason the pillars of existence are extremely rare is the fact that none of them survive past their naming ceremony. Little Aether was blessed by the Cosmic mana, which might have shielded him from the prying gaze of the Shades, enabling him to easily pass the test. He was lucky," She said with a warm smile as she gazed at me.
I didn't know how to react hearing all of this, my heart sank in my chest as I recalled everything, I was too cocky. Although I never thought too much about it, I always felt myself to be 'special', I didn't admit it, but it felt great to be praised as a genius by my family, it felt great to be depended on by my little siblings.
But I never quite understood the seriousness of it all, just how close I really was to death. And hearing grandmother call me lucky, and how countless so-called 'special' dragons passed away before me, made me think, 'I really am just lucky...'