“Lei’ Igro! Lei’ Igro!” the familiar chorus of jeers rang from the group of children who gathered. They always followed Suzume and Lucci at a safe distance — far enough to run if they needed to, close enough for the words to still sting.
“Oooooh!” the black haired girl turned on them, her eyes flashing in fury and defense. Her face sweltered as she shook one fist at the group, “Go throw yourself off the Island you jerks!”
The kids simply jeered back, enjoying their game of childish torment. Most of their abuse was cast at Lucci, despite the fact that the silver-haired boy was far bigger than any of them. They discovered a long time ago that Lucci would stand and take their maltreatment, never uttering a word in retort.
Suzume, however, would not. Already, she was stalking towards them, pushing up the sleeve of her robe. She gave one last warning snarl, “If you don’t kiss-off, I’m going to throw you off the Island. We’ll see if you can really use those wings!”
Some of the kids gave her a boggled-eyed stare, seeing her seriousness. Instantly, the group began to break up, a number of them dashing off over the nearby rope bridge. For the most part, the other kids seemed to be more scared of Suzume than they were of Lucci, though it was probably because it was whispered that she was half Marked. Her black hair, black wings and black eyes told the story.
Though Ceiswyr was a beautiful place, the children of the city still acted like the children of the lands below — Cyngan or not. It was a hard place to fit in for a half-Marked girl and the boy who was foretold to become the Sygnus.
The Bane. The Darkstar.
Once they were gone, Suzume huffed and turned her gaze on Lucci, who stood watching her with detached silence. She knew the way he dealt with the endless abuse of the other children was by withdrawing and putting his mind somewhere else.
I wonder what he’s thinking about? I’d never be able to keep my temper the way that he does!
“It’s okay, Lucci,” Suzume told him, walking up and taking his hand. “They’re just being losers, like always.”
The silver haired boy blinked, coming around at her touch. Then he nodded, a rather absentminded nod, as if he wasn’t really sure what he was agreeing to.
More than a year had passed since Lucci first came to the city of Ceiswyr. Despite the cruelty of the other children and the occasional Esgyll attack, Suzume had never been happier in her life. She couldn’t remember much that happened in her life before coming to Ceiswyr, before she became dark haired and dark eyed. However, she was sure that she never had a best friend like Lucci.
A year had done strange things upon the Island – especially to him. Though little changed in Suzume, everything about the silver-haired boy became radically different. When he first came to Ceiswyr, Lucci was a young child, looking not much older than five years of age.
He was younger than me but… that wasn’t for very long.
Early on, they discovered how quickly Lucci was growing up. Over the matter of months, Suzume watched as her friend turned into a lanky and awkward adolescent, far taller than most of the adults that lived on the Islands. And the taller he grew, the more quiet and distant he became.
Now, Lucci often seemed lost to his own mind. His lucid-silver eyes wandered over the world as if he could hear and see things that others could not. As a young child, Lucci recounted facts, memories and information about the people of Ceiswyr — people he had never met before. Because this often left everyone disturbed, over time he stopped talking to other people.
Well, except for me. He’s never afraid to talk to me!
Some people muttered that all of it had to do with Lucci’s “Sygnus nature.” They whispered that because Zerom was “developing Lucci as a weapon,” that Zerom wanted the “creature” to “grow to its full power as quickly as possible.” Sometimes they murmured that Lucci should have been done away with when he was small and unthreatening, that Zemi and Zento had waited too long. That the Bane would be upon them once Lucci “recognized his true purpose.”
Do they think that we can’t hear them? Do they think that Lucci doesn’t know how they feel?
Suzume hated them all. She hated them for saying terrible things and for treating Lucci more like a monster than like a person. She made it her business to remain Lucci’s best friend and to defend him where he would not defend himself.
Because I know what kind of person he really is, and they don’t! They’ve never gone out cloud watching with him, or swinging by the lake. They don’t know how good he is at playing hide and seek. They probably don’t even know that his favorite color is blue and he loves Aunt SaRa’s fudge!
She knew from the very first time she met Lucci that he had wondrous powers. Powers that he had only used for kindness. He was the one who cured her light-weakened eyes so that she could see without needing to keep her eyes covered. It was when she met Lucci that Suzume became brave enough to speak, because she was no longer alone on the floating Islands. It took very little time for her to find her voice again and to begin to use it.
Why can’t anyone else see that he’s not bad?
It was especially difficult because as Lucci had gotten older, both Master TsuYa and Master ZenToYa disapproved of his presence on the Islands. In fact, there was one point when Master TsuYa objected to allowing Suzume and Lucci to remain friends, but that was quickly intercepted by Lord Zemi and Aunt SaRa.
At least Lord Zemi likes him…
Lord Zemi took the boy in and raised him by the ways of the people of Ceiswyr. Lucci held a deep adoration for Lord Zemi, with the Dreigiau as close as a father figure as could be. The Arweinydd worked to teach the boy the ways of the Earthians as well as one of his kind could. There appeared to be a strange sort of understanding between them due to their unusual natures.
Lord Zemi was doing everything within his power to prove the old stories of the Sygnus were wrong. Despite that, he couldn’t keep his own people from holding on to the legends and viewing Lucci with fear and disapproval.
“Lucci?” Suzume tugged at his hand again, trying to recapture his attention.
Finally, the molten silver eyes focused on her face. A quite smile rose over his features, as if the whole incident with the other children hadn’t happened. “Do you think Aunt SaRa will have fudge?”
She sighed, “Is your stomach all you can ever think about?”
“If it has to do with fudge, yes,” Lucci’s grin broadened, becoming teasing in his reserved way.
“Well, I guess it is getting late,” she gazed up into the sky, judging. Then she turned and craned her head back to look into his face, “It’s probably a good time to see if there’s something to eat.”
“I knew you’d see it my way!”
“I did not! I decided for myself,” she nudged him lightly.
“You just want the fudge, too. Admit it,” Lucci play-bickered.
“You eat so much of it, you’re going to turn into a big fudge!” she retorted.
They did this all the time, but never really meant it, of course. Neither of them were anywhere as good as Master TsuYa at being mockingly disdainful, but watching him and JouKa go at it day after day gave them an example to follow.
“Yes you will! Then what are you going to do?” she teased.
“Dunno… I suppose eating myself is out of the question,” Lucci noted.
“You’d taste bad,” Suzume added.
“I would not…?”
She giggled and started running. That was the cue for the chase to begin. The two of them raced up over the hills, Lucci’s long legs always keeping him just one pace behind Suzume. He was polite enough to let her win almost every time. But today was one of his off days.
“Ahh-hah!” he reached out, catching her. Off they went in a spiraling roll that left them scattered, laughing on the grass.
It took a moment for Suzume to catch her breath, leaning her head back against his chest. Her spirits were high, heart overflowing with the pleasure of his company. She didn’t need to see him to feel his smile. It lit the hillside, the shifting mists of the day swirling in quiet patterns around where they lay in the grass.
“You two, what are you doing?” a voice drifted down on them from the overlooking hill.
They both lifted their heads, peering up at the serene face of Aunt SaRa.
“We were coming for fudge,” Lucci answered with an honest expression.
“I bet you were,” she replied with a knowing half-smile. Then she eyed them with a serious expression, “I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Did you forget what tonight was?”
“Tonight?” Lucci asked, looking puzzled.
Suzume glanced over at him and shrugged, just as confused. Then she turned to shrug to Aunt SaRa to doubly confirm it.
“Just as I expected,” the winged woman gave a sigh. “Tonight is the Assembly, remember?”
“Assembly?” Suzume gaped as it suddenly dawned on her. She quickly got to her feet and saw Lucci do the same. “Oh no! That’s tonight?”
“Yes, it is.”
Lucci wrinkled his nose in distaste, “Do we really have to go to it? It’s usually just a bunch of grownups arguing about things.”
“That’s pretty accurate,” Aunt SaRa nodded. “But, yes. Zemi says that you need to be there tonight. I think some important things will be discussed.”
A lump rose in Suzume’s throat as she began to put two and two together. One hand reached out, clutching the winged woman’s robe, “Aunt SaRa, you won’t let them send Lucci away, will you?”
“What?” she stared down in surprise. “Where would you get an idea like that, child?”
“Why else do they want Lucci to come to the meeting?” the girl replied in consternation.
“Maybe Zemi wants Lucci to take part in the meeting like the rest of the grownups. Lucci may have ideas to help us out, too,” Aunt SaRa noted. “He is getting old enough to be acknowledged at the Assembly, now.”
Lucci gave an awkward, sheepish face. He was always uncomfortable when this sort of talk came up, “Well…”
“See there,” Aunt SaRa tugged at the hem of one of his sleeves with a critical eye, “You’re already outgrowing this shirt, too. Pretty soon we’ll have to borrow Zemi’s clothes to fit you.”
He looked down at his sleeves and grimaced. Suzume was looking, too. When he saw her curiosity, Lucci quickly hid his arms behind his back.
“Well, see what you can find that looks somewhat nice for tonight,” she gave them a slow smile, thumbing a smudge of dirt off of the boy’s chin. “The both of you. And when you show me you are all cleaned up, there might just be fudge.”
“Okay!” Lucci perked up cheerfully, needing no other urging. Turning to Suzume with a grin he challenged, “Race you!”
And he was off, long-legged strides carrying him like a young Rhawn over the hills. The girl gave a howl of injustice and chased after him, their shadows intermingling and stretching long across the grass.