“Whoa…,” Billy sighed when Vanilla finished her tale. He looked out giant bay windows in the living room at the never-ending ocean. Glacier-like chunks of ice dotted the horizon. There was no trace of the mountaintop Vanilla claimed they were on, but he trusted her implicitly. “This is that Earth? Those are all your tears?” Vanilla nodded.
“What happened to them?” Billy stood from the couch and wandered to the window.
“Your dad, everyone on the Earth.”
“Nothing,” Vanilla shrugged and stood from her seat to join Billy by the window. “They’re still down there stopped in time from the moment first moment I stopped it.” Billy noticed her shake her head slightly. “I can’t undo it. Whatever I did, it completely derailed time. Besides…,” Vanilla wrapped an arm around Billy and gave him a gentle hug. “…at least this way he won’t ever die.” Vanilla’s long white hair tickled Billy’s neck and it reminded him of a different sensation.
“Hey!” he said and looked up at her. “Time’s stopped here, right?” he asked; she nodded. “Why can’t I feel it?”
“I just told you I broke time,” she said with a smirk. Billy shook his head.
“Right. Sorry, what I meant was at the lake after I took that guy’s soul, -“
“Steven,” Vanilla reminded him.
“Yeah, Steven. After that, I could feel time. It feels like there’s sand everywhere. And when it’s stopped it feels like walking through a sandpaper hallway. THAT was new to me. But I didn’t remember until I couldn’t feel it here.”
“Great question, C’mon.” Vanilla wiggled her fingers at the air and opened a tall black portal. “We’re going to visit a dragon,” she added as she stepped into the portal and disappeared. Billy followed. He found himself drenched in sweat the moment he exited the portal on the other side. He stood at the shore of a giant molten lake. Its bright orange glow was almost blinding if he tried to look directly into the lava. He looked around.
Dozens of figures lined the beach. They were gathered in groups and it wasn’t until a red-skinned young girl in a one-piece bathing suit ran up to Vanilla that he realized where he was. The girl’s long orange hair flowed through the air like fire as she ran; her red, scaled skin shimmered in the sunlight. The bright golden light reflected off her in a way that reminded Billy of a ruby; the girl’s skin was almost crystalline. The girl was a dragon enjoying a day at the beach with her dragon family. Several of the group she came from waved in their direction.
“VANILLA!!” the girl screeched as she dashed across the dark black sand. The girl leaped off the sand at Vanilla but the air caught her. The red girl hovered in the air; stuck inches in front of the tall white-haired woman. Vanilla reached up and grabbed the girl’s tiny hand. She pulled the girl along the shore like a balloon until she was at the lava’s edge. She stayed out of the way and started time again. Billy watched the girl’s momentum carry her into the lava.
The girl surfaced spluttering molten rock and giggling. She wiped the liquid fire from her eyes and looked up at Vanilla.
“Who’s he?” she asked and gestured at Billy by rolling her eyes in his direction while treading lava.
“He needs to talk to Flutter,” Vanilla replied.
“And?” the girl shrugged, then she swam forward and walked out of the orange lake.
“And it won’t be the last time,” Vanilla said. “Billy, this is Ruby,” she finally gave a proper introduction, then looked at Billy. “If you ever want to know anything about a dragon, Ruby’s family is who you ask.” She produced a small white silk pouch and opened it. “Information is expensive but…,” Vanilla pulled several golden coins and a couple of large sapphires from the pouch. “Ruby charges significantly less than her older family members.” Vanilla dropped the coins and gems into the girl’s small, outstretched hand. “Where can we find Flutter?” Vanilla crossed her arms and asked formally.
“Inside!” The girl screeched then immediately popped the loot in her mouth and jumped back into the lava.
“That little sneak!” Vanilla cursed with a chuckle.
“Who’s Flutter?” Billy asked.
“According to Ruby’s family, and they know everything about dragons, Flutter is the strongest dragon they’ve ever seen.” Billy tilted his head at Vanilla and narrowed his eyes with a confused look.
“That sounds like someone we want to stay away from,” Billy said.
“We can’t, you need to talk to her,” Vanilla started walking up the beach.
“To use her as a benchmark. If you can stop her in time, you can stop Ballisea,” Vanilla said.