“Hey,” Inés said. She was sitting with Michael. “How many draconians survived?”
“I am the only one,” Michael answered.
“Then how did you know about that shelter?” Inés asked. “You couldn’t have been that old when they died.”
“I was not even hatched yet,” Michael stated. “I knew about the shelter as I know everything else about my people. We have a collective memory.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Inés asked.
Michael sighed. “As we are developing within our eggs, the knowledge and experiences of the prior generations are transmitted to us. After we hatch, those memories activate. We are temporarily immobilised as our brains process the information. After that, we become fully cognisant of everything our species knows. Everything they have ever known.”
Inés whistled. “Sure beats reading dusty old books.” She glanced at him. “So, why were you at the Academy? If you know everything that your fellows knew, then you should have known spells too, right?”
“There is a disconnect between knowing the theory of how something works, be it a spell or a combat technique and being able to competently execute it,” Michael said. “It is true that I knew how the spells I needed worked, in theory. It was, however, necessary for me to train my body to utilise that knowledge properly. Just as I am now doing with combat manoeuvres.”
Inés laughed. “Wow, I did not expect you to be this forward with me. I thought for sure you’d give me the run around by now.”
“You are bound to keep anything I share with you to yourself. Ergo, it is safe for me to answer your questions” Michael explained.
“Safe, huh?” Inés muttered. “Then tell me, what did happen to the draconians? Popular story says Apollo wiped them out, but your survival kind of ruins that. Plus, I kind of have trouble accepting the idea that the Gods are cruel enough to wipe out an entire species. Adults, children, ba… eggs.”
“It was, indeed, no immortal that slew my people,” Michael said. “But I will not make the error of telling you who did. Does that sate your curiosity?”
“Not quite,” Inés said. “I have two more questions. One, why would it be a mistake to tell me? And two, how did a mortal wipe out an entire species?”
Michael didn’t hesitate. “It would be an error because you would take it upon yourself to see the culprit punished. As to how, it was less difficult than you may imagine. My people were highly pacifistic. We also practised stringent population control. As to never have a higher populace than we could properly sustain. If that is all…”
“Wait a moment!” Inés demanded. “What would be wrong with me punishing the culprit? You do want justice, don’t you?”
Michael gazed out at the horizon. Inés waited to hear his answer, becoming more and more aware of the uncomfortable heat. She was starting to wonder if he was going to say anything when he started speaking again. His voice was quiet, thoughtful.
“It was against the draconians that his crimes were committed. It is by a draconian that they should be avenged. Besides, it is not justice I seek. It is vengeance.” His fist clenched. “His life, I will take. Everything he has built, I will disassemble. I will completely and utterly end him.”
“If you fail?”
“Then Illyana will reveal the truth,” Michael answered. He spread his wings. “Fare thee well. It is unlikely that we will meet again.” Before Inés could speak further, he was soaring.
She returned to the shelter shortly after. Serena was brushing Dusk. Sylvie had laid her bedroll out on top of one of the beds and was sleeping peacefully.
“H…” Serena glanced back at Sylvie. “How did it go,” she whispered.
“I won,” Inés said, keeping her voice low.
“Just like you thought, then,” Serena whispered.
“Not quite,” Inés stated. “He was better than I thought. It was actually an enjoyable match.”
“Oh, that’s good,” Serena said. “Will he be back soon?”
Inés shook her head. “He had to continue his own journey.” She glanced over at Sylvie. “Hey, let me teach you how to build a little shrine to ask for the safety of a wanderer.”
She and Serena gathered some materials and Inés rummaged through her bag for some incense. They lit it.
“And now,” Inés instructed. “We ask Athena to guide and safeguard him. So that he might complete his task and return safely.”
While Serena prayed, Inés watched the smoke. “May you find what you seek,” she muttered.