Barbara the Dragon Maiden: I haven’t grown taller, but why are my clothes turning smaller...
Ursula the Dragon Maiden: The wizards said we’re too far away from home,
Ursula the Dragon Maiden: so we cannot ask our parents to send us clothes anymore.
Agatha the Dragon Maiden: My clothes still fit. Do you need me to lend you some?
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: ... No, it’s okay. Thanks.
In fact, Agatha’s trousers only reached her knees. Barbara had no choice but to ask the wizards for an old long robe to wear as a dress.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: The lower hem is still too short...
Dracospirits of Ethereal Dragons: Whoosh...
Barbara did not hate leaving her legs bare for they had been like this since they were small, but the Dracospirits of wind circling around her since childhood hadn’t grown with her as they were still winding around her legs.
They only stayed away when Barbara asked them to with a spell. They were always blowing out wind to detect and confirm the existence of Barbara nearby, just like a little child grabbing others’ clothes and not willing to take their hands off.
She was later taught by the wizards that her soul and the Dracospirits of Ethereal Dragons were bound together. They gathered around Barbara as they could only absorb the elements through her.
Wizard: Extract the elements from the nature.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: ‘Huh? It’s easier than anticipated?’
Barbara gathered the elements according to the method taught by the wizards, but the Earth elements did not take a form or shape. Instead, they were absorbed by the magic ball. Barbara had long been connected with its power, but she had regarded it as a kind of protection only instead of really harnessing its power. At that moment, the elements flowed into her body through her palms. The power of the ancient wood within the ball burst out, with the ringlike wooden flakes growing and transforming themselves into a staff.
The Dracospirits flew around Barbara excitedly, while she said disappointedly:
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: You’re here just for these, right?
Barbara held the staff high, with the Dracospirits encircling the rays of light joyfully. Although she was grumbling in her heart, she had to admit that she loved this glittering moment, and she loved to hear the calls of the satisfied Dracospirits...
Glimmering on the sea of flowers, the sunlight illuminated the beautiful flower elves. The plump baby honeymons waltzed in a circle around the flower elves who were going to bloom. The flower elves stood straight to receive the bright sunlight and slowly opened their buds. The howls of emerald wolves echoed with the croaks of the honeymons. All creatures in the mountain sang a song of life in chorus to call the power of elements in nature...
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: Haha!
Karis the Taoist: Argh -
Something giant was flying in the sky and blocked the sunlight. The lunar elves in shadow raised their heads to see an ascetic holding a maiden with scales in his hand. They were floating in mid air, with green light circling around them in the shape of a baby dragon.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: It’s the opportune moment!
Ascetic: ... Please! Land quickly!
The two landed beside the flower elves. The ascetic sat down with her legs lame, while the demi-dragon maiden pointed her staff to the elves.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: Your Earth elements, I’ll take them!
Barbara had been dreaming of the past. Sometimes she dreamt of Byakhee, and other times, she would see her memories.
Ascetic: Sir, something seems to be happening over there?
The Taoist nodded. Crossing his legs, he sat on the stone and did not make any movement. His disciple climbed up a tree and cast a spell on a seal by using her finger to tap her forehead, so her line of sight could pass through the trees and reach the stricken farmstead.
Ascetic: The houses are burning there! Sir -
Taoist: Go there and save the running girl.
The ascetic took the order and left.
The Taoist kept sitting in meditation. Listening to the sound of wind, he felt everything in the forest and obtained power from nature. The camp of the wizards was ravaged by a surge of rage using the power of the Primordial Dragon. Even though they had a numerical advantage, they were consumed by fear as their lives were going to be destroyed together with the tents. There were three people struggling among them. One was trying hard to suppress the rage of the invader; one was risking his life to protect his companions; and one was running away from the fire and chaos when she ran into the Taoist’s disciple.
Taoist: Wind, what have you prepared for us this time?
The ascetic returned with the maiden supported in her hands. The maiden looked at the Taoist alertly with a tired face and wind circling around her. The Taoist knew that it was no pure wind. He snatched her wooden magic ball with bare hands. The maiden screamed but was soon calmed down by the power which was instilled into the ball by the Taoist.
Taoist: Don’t worry. I’m here to help you upon the request of the woods.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: You... don’t look like a druid.
Taoist: I’m a Taoist, not a priest.
: We obtained power from the forest and listened to its requests.
Taoist: You can say, we’re mercenaries hired by nature.
The Taoist laughed and took the maiden away together with the ascetic. Looking back, the maiden saw the camp buried in the trees already.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: I’m... free?
Stroking them gently, the breeze whirled around them in a strange way, as if it wanted to say something.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: Yes, I can find something to feed you with at last...
Barbara could feel herself running, running around a large stone. She was running slower and slower, not because she was reducing her speed, but because the stone was becoming larger and larger. So Barbara quickened her steps, with rustling sounds echoing around.
???: The wind is my body and my power,
???: But my consciousness and my essence lie in the sounds of howling.
Karis the Zombie Maker: ‘Bar - ’
???: The power is growing stronger.
???: When it can emit its own sound, I will leave.
When she stayed away from the stone, her mind started to clear and she realized she was in a dream. The noise in her ears was drawing her back into reality, but she still wanted to linger in dreams as she did not want to leave the woods which was once her body, and the wind which was once her power...
???: But I must leave now...
???: From now on, the world belongs to itself, uncontrolled by anyone.
Karis the Zombie Maker: ‘ - Help - ’
???: I’ll relay this message to the wind,
???: This realm shall last forever; the howling wind shall be immortal.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: The howling wind shall be immortal...
Karis the Zombie Maker: ‘Barbara!’
Karis the Zombie Maker: Oh blessed! You finally wake up!
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: You’re... Karis?
Karis the Zombie Maker: Come and help! We’ll talk later!
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: You were a crybaby in the past,
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: but now you’ve grown up in the twinkling of an eye...
Karis the Zombie Maker: Twinkling?
Karis the Zombie Maker: You’ve fallen asleep for fifty years!
Karis the Zombie Maker: Even longer than my mentor expected!
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: Fifty years? You still look quite young!
Karis the Zombie Maker: You -
Barbara stretched, while the Dracospirits which had been guarding her rushed to her joyfully. They then drifted away after Barbara cast them out with her staff. At first glance, the forest was as green as before. But after several deep slumbers, Barbara could gradually see the changes of the passing years. The power of dragons changed the life cycle of the Dragon Spiritor. Withered woods, growing trees, dead friends, aging people... Time and tide did not wait for her. Only Dracospirits and the clothes attached with magic stayed by her side.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: What about that old Taoist? And your mother? Where are they?
Karis the Zombie Maker: They’re all dead.
The Dracospirits immediately halted for they could sense Barbara’s emotions. They remained quiet and waited for her orders.
The power of Dragon Spiritors did not mean they needed no sleep. Instead, they had longer sleep than anyone else. In the past, the wizards had always avoided talking about dates and years, and they covered half of their faces with the robes so that their age could not be observed so easily. They concealed the truth so as to prevent the Dragon Spiritors from having misgivings about their own changes.
But sometimes, as their awakening time might differ from one another, they would be separated from their companions. The wizards would make up a reason saying that it was because they had to undergo an individual training. However, the Dragon Spiritors could gradually realize the reason behind the fact that they could have nights without any sleep continuously was because they had been having more sleep than everyone else.
Karis the Zombie Maker: My great-mentor spent his remaining years peacefully in a village.
Karis the Zombie Maker: My mentor died in battle when trying to subdue monsters.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: ... It’s such a pity that I couldn’t bid them a farewell.
Karis the Zombie Maker: If you didn’t happen to wake, we would not have had the chance.
Since meeting Karis’ great-mentor, Barbara had been looking for the clues to find the Heavenly Kingdom and Byakhee with the Taoists. Together, they had been searching for a land of pneuma as well, so as to share the elemental power there. Every time when Barbara sunk in sleep, the Taoist would set a magic barrier to protect her from disturbances. Barbara thought that the grown-up Karis would also journey with her to search for the trail of Ethereal Dragons, like the Taoists before. However, after staying with her for a few days, Karis bid farewell to Barbara in a morning.
Karis the Zombie Maker: Barbara, I’ve found the way to enter the Kunlun Kingdom.
Karis the Zombie Maker: I may leave the realm of man for quite a long period of time...
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: That’s great! Isn’t it the holy land that you’ve been looking for?
Karis the Zombie Maker: But that means we can never meet again.
Barbara, who was a head taller than Karis, gently patted the hat of Karis, while Karis’ eyes suddenly turned tearful.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: You’ve grown to be so tall now. Can’t you take care of yourself?
Barbara held Karis in her arms. Karis hugged Barbara tight in return, just like the time when Karis was just a child. If Karis hadn’t been a Taoist, she must have died, turning into dry bones and natural fertilizer for the land like withered woods.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: You’re so thin, just like your mom.
Karis gave a map marked with the land of pneuma to Barbara before her departure, telling her to follow the markings to go there to feed the Dracospirits. On the journey, Barbara followed Byakhee’s voice and the markings on the map. However, the land of pneuma near to Byakhee was occupied by monsters.
The monstrous giant toad led its followers to prey on the spirits in the forest. Unexpectedly, Barbara discovered that the group of toad had the same origin of power as her. After investigation, Barbara found out that the toad was also a disciple of Byakhee. Barbara had no way to exterminate this group of “vermin”, so she could just expel the toad to another part of the forest. Barbara did not chase after it, because she had already arrived at the place where Byakhee was sleeping, and she was ready to meet her only relative.
Byakhee the Immortal Howler: ‘Whoosh——’
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: It’s you who’ve protected me?
Enchanter: Little girl, lie down quietly. This is none of your your business.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: Byakhee is not your plaything!
Enchanter: Little girl, Byakhee is just a mistake.
Because of a series of toil, Barbara was going to sink in a deep sleep again. She was expecting that she could once again dream of Byakhee this time, and it would sing out the howls of immortality... But when she fell asleep, what was awaiting her was endless memory——
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: You sloth!
Barbara kicked a stone pillar as a kind of complaint. She could sense obviously that Byakhee was under the pillar. But no matter how loud she yelled, the giant dragon still ignored her. In this ruin which was covered with thick vines, numerous Dracospirits summoned by Barbara were flying in the air, messing with the wind.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: Wake up, now! Go and discipline your followers!
Bending down, Barbara shouted towards the soil.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: I know you’re here! The squally dragon!
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: That brute almost ate everything in the forest!
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: The Dracospirits couldn’t have a bite! They’re dying of hunger!
Barbara could see a figure emerging under her feet. Looking back, she saw the Dracospirits behind were gathering in the rays of light, and the curling wind was combining with the trees to transform into a giant dragon. Barbara, who listened to the joyful cries of the Dracospirits and looked at their transformation into the Squally Ethereal Dragon, was dumbfounded.
When the dragon was sticking out its long tongue to lick her body, Barbara finally came to herself. She screamed and waved her staff, pushing the dragon away with the wind of elements. Of course she knew that it was Byakhee’s avatar. But no matter how an intimate friend it was, Barbara was still disconcerted by this sudden action. When the dragon was feeling disappointed about her unfamiliarity, Barbara said stubbornly:
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: You’re so impolite! I’m a noble descendant of Sarmatians.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: How can I let you lick me as you wish!
Barbara took a large step forward. Surrounded by the Byakhee’s consciousness, she climbed onto its back and gripped the wood on it.
Barbara the Dragon Maiden: ‘Right, I’m the last of the clan...’
Staying with Byakhee in the Ruins of Casilda, Barbara collected elements for the Dracospirits. She finally understood the reason why the Elder Gods had left the realm of man. It gave up its gathered power, leaving the wind in the realm of man, so that the howls of immortality could strengthen all by themselves. Therefore, people could only summon its image but not its godship within. Hugging the wind in the dragon’s sleep, Barbara dedicated herself to the forest, in order to prevent the wind from fading away in the troubled times.