That night Derrick could not sleep no matter what he tried.
Every time he closed his eyes, the image of the cow came back as vivid and fresh as if he were tearing it apart at that very moment. It made every inch of his human mind feel repulsed and terrified at the same time.
He and Rie had not talked a single word since the incident, and it was crystal clear she considered his attitude towards the event as a sign of weakness that could not be tolerated. If anything, her smugness only appeared to have become greater over the past few hours.
Not able to stay still any longer, he went outside into the night air.
Even though he had the muzzle still strapped on and his body was showing his level of stress with muscle cramps, the fresh breeze that blew on his face seemed enough to lift his mood even if by just a little bit.
Looking around, he remembered how well his eyes could see in the dark. He just took some random direction and began walking without trying to think about what he'd do if he encountered anyone. Most likely they'd not pay much attention to him since he was already wearing the whole set custom for a tamed dragon.
Bit by bit, Derrick began to take less and less notice of the trajectory of his steps, and instead was focusing on the stars above.
They shone, oblivious of his feelings, unaware and uncaring about anything that happened underneath. Like some sort of cosmic joke that had him as the punchline, they'd shine on.
Sighing to himself, the dragon lowered his head, and just a second too late to see the tree he was going to bump into.
With a loud crack, and a slight sizzling noise, the tree was bent over and the area where the dragon's snout touched was scorched with what leftover poison had been on his scales.
It was a young apple tree, seemingly planted there not too long ago. And now it was almost completely broken smack in the middle of its trunk, with plenty burn marks on a side, and probably not too far from being un-fixable.
<Shit.> he cursed, realizing someone would notice right away.
Quickly digging around the tree, he tried to move the dirt about to fix it as best he could. The ending result was a tree that was still somewhat crooked, but at least the top half was almost vertical, even though four feet shorter.
"You seem troubled for a dragon." the voice made Derrick jump and instinctively snarl as his whole body became tense. "Now, now, no need to get violent, I'm just an old frail man after all."
Indeed, the one speaking was old. He was a dwarf, with no hair whatsoever and a white beard that seemed like an inverted snow covered mountain peak. His skin was all wrinkly and dry, and his height wasn't even enough to actually see eye to eye with Derrick.
Even though the dragon could see and hear him speak, he could not sense any further proof of the old man actually being there.
"I've met other Silver Fangs before, and though you seem to be intent on gardening, I do believe that doing exercise is a very useful stress reliever for your species." his voice was perfectly calm. "There's a running track in that direction. And even though you need the keys to get inside, I think a dragon like yourself will find no such thing is needed."
Derrick looked in the direction the old man had pointed, and then turned back towards the elderly dwarf and inwardly gasped in surprise.
He was no longer there.
Derrick shook it off, not feeling like he should dwell in the subject and just go where the dwarf had suggested to go to. Though still somewhat cautiously. It took him three minutes, but eventually Derrick was in front of a seven foot tall metal fence that seemed almost fragile from his standing point.
For a second he looked at the dirt track at the other side, then decided to jump inside to see how far it went. The leap in on itself was so easy for him he barely believed he had done it.
Though the landing was a bit rougher than what he had expected, as he tripped and almost planted his face against the ground. And standing back up became a bit more of a chore than what he could have wanted, his limbs almost managing to tangle with one another.
Going through some minor stretching and limb-check once he had managed to stand back up, Derrick looked up and down the track. It was shaped more or less like a stretched egg, with more or less a mile or so in length and a fourth of that in its widest point. The whole thing was covered in dark brown sand, without as much as a sign of vegetation.
Starting with a gentle walk, Derrick began to get used to his limbs before he entered a trot.
Feeling the earth under his feet shift, crunch and move with his weight, the dragon sped up just enough to feel the faintest of breezes against his face, a short smile covered his face, his head lowering just a bit, the sound of his steps becoming the rhythmic beat of his heart.
A gallop came on its own, Derrick's head almost pulling the rest of the body forward as he continued to speed up little by little.
The first curve, and his whole body gently tilted to a side as his claws dug deeper into the sand to compensate for the shift in gravity, their beat against the ground giving him an extra push as he felt his breathing start to come out on huffs, each intake giving his whole body a burst of energy just an instant before his limbs would push him another dozen feet.
The instant his eyes saw the curve end and the straight line come into view, his head rose a foot or so higher than it had usually done just as his body kicked into overdrive and he sped up as fast as he could. The wind becoming a wall that pushed against his snout and eyes, its sound deafening all but the sound of his heart as it hammered against his ribs ten times with every step he took.
Thoughts and memories began to dissolve and dim, all that mattered was going faster, pulling his whole body just an inch further, to keep his body floating in the air just an instant more, to feel the wind hitting faster against his head.
His breath was like a steam engine. In, out, in, out, in, out. Every time he stepped his he'd draw air, and it would come out in a huff of effort as his claws readied to hit the ground again, and then he'd repeat the process all over again.
Every ounce of his weight got flung as the turn was taken so sharply any rider would have been thrown off no matter how well they would have held on. He was going so fast his claws actually skittered a bit against the unstable ground as he finished the curve in no more than a dozen steps.
His pace picked up and he sped even further than before, the muscles on his legs and even shoulders, hips and neck had started to ache softly, it was a good kind of ache, like something was being released from it.
More, faster, longer, sharper. Like trying to get as much juice from a piece of fruit, every step polished the movement, it squeezed another drop of speed from it, it made Derrick more familiar with every muscle, every bone, every nerve and every scale on his being.
He wasn't sure how long it took him, he had counted at least done the same curve a couple dozen times before he started to slow down, noticing how the light in the sky was turning the deep black into purple, orange, yellow and blue.
Each breath was a white cloud of fog against the cold morning air, each pant a heave of his large chest as more air than what any human could ever breath went in and out in just instants.
<How long have I been running?> he asked himself as he skipped over the fence before he became too tired, walking in the general direction he guessed to be where his bed should be. Every muscle on his body had been thoroughly spent. It was an oddly good kind of sensation. <Must've been hours.>
"Where have you been?" Rie greeted him the moment he found the cottage, she was leaning against the wall with a frown and her arms crossed.
Derrick felt his mood sour a bit. <Why do you care?> he mentally spat at her.
Her eyes narrowed further as the slightest hint of a snarl came to her face, though she didn't do anything else. "Very well." she replied as she turned around and headed towards her room. "Just don't wake me up next time you go to chase moonlight. Else you might get eaten."
<Chasing moonlight?> now it was Derrick's turn to frown at her words.
He shook it off, it wouldn't change anything anyway.
Curling up into a ball on the only place he could call a *bed*, he closed his eyes and snoozed off before he even realized it.