Because something about you called to me.
Lord Zemi’s words to AsaHi echoed in SoYa’s mind. He pondered them and scoured them for their true meaning. Try as he might, he just couldn’t figure out why a single statement could make him feel so uncomfortable.
That and the fact that Lord Zemi let AsaHi scold him like that.
He was struggling. His whole concept of Zemi Dreigiau was set by the School in Nefol long ago. However, Lord Zemi turned out to be nothing like what he was taught.
SoYa reasoned, trying to convince himself that it was a good thing. Lord Zemi seemed friendly and curious about the Earthians. He even admitted to taking on Earthian form simply because he was interested in learning about them. Though intimidating on first sight, the Dreigiau had an easy-going way of relating to people, which made him quick to warm up to.
As if one could actually like an Arweinydd.
I mean, it’s not like you can be friends with something like Zemi Dreigiau. He’s supposed to be… I dunno… served, respected and honored.
SoYa ran his fingers through his curly hair watching as the rest of the group file in under the wide arc of Dof-Ystafell — that was the name of this garden-like place.
The Apprentice’s eyes fell on the blue-haired man, the Dragon Servant of Lord Zemi. KudakoRe was a legendary name, once the most dangerous man who had ever walked the Inner Realms. Yet, after pledging his allegiance to Zemi Dreigiau, something had changed within him.
Though Kudako was his father’s close friend ever since SoYa could remember, he didn’t know a whole lot about him. The Dragon was always distantly kind, but rarely spoke to the Apprentice. Not too many people knew who the man was in his previous life. Nor did they know that he was now a Dragon in Earthian form.
I haven’t seen Kudako since long before Father disappeared.
It was all very strange. Seeing Father sitting next to Kudako was an impossibility come true. As much as SoYa wanted to be happy about it — after all, why shouldn’t he be happy to know his father was alive — his confusion dimmed the joy. Especially with the darkened image of TsuYa now burned into his mind.
We don’t have much time.
To his utter surprise, his words were echoed by Lord Zemi’s husky voice.
“We don’t have much time,” the Dreigiau nodded firmly. “So let’s get on with this.”
Aunt SaRa walked forward and sat placidly on the other side of Kudako, nudging him in the side. “Come on, you’re going to hurt your back doing all that kneeling.”
Kudako grunted softly.
“You’re not as young as you used to be,” she prodded cheerfully.
The Dragon scowled slowly, “Does it show?”
“Just a little.”
Of course, it didn’t really. He was a Dragon, and Dragons never aged in appearance. But the wide smirk on Aunt SaRa’s face was enough to keep SoYa from saying so. It was obvious that she was happy to see Kudako again. SoYa tried to hide his thoughtful expression as Kudako placidly lowered himself to sit cross-legged instead.
AsaHi had been inching her way up the steps one at a time throughout the whole exchange. It seemed from the way she spoke to Lord Zemi that the two of them spent a significant amount of time together. From what SoYa deciphered, she had no idea who the Dreigiau was during that time.
She seemed a bit more relaxed now that she had made her say at the Arweinydd. Finally reaching the top of the steps, she watched the three who were already sitting there.
“Well?” the Dreigiau peered at her with a good natured grin. “Are you going to join us?”
AsaHi wrung her hands behind her back, looking uncertain. “I don’t know. There’s not a lot I can do to help.”
“You’d be surprised,” he answered curtly.
The girl sucked on her bottom lip in thought. Her eyes traced over the expression on the Arweinydd’s face for a long time before she continued to approach. Without a further word, she sat down next to Father, folding her hands in her lap attentively.
Then the Dreigiau turned to SoYa. The Apprentice felt a shiver ripple through his whole body.
“What about you? Are you going to join us, too?”
SoYa swallowed, trying to put on a brave face. “That’s what I came here for, My Lord.”
“Good. Glad to hear it,” Lord Zemi waved a hand slowly out to the group before him. “Why not take a seat?”
His head was still woozy from the impossibility of the situation. It felt as if at any moment he should wake up from the strange, intangible dream that he was living in. But he didn’t. Instead, he sat down next to Aunt SaRa and peered up at the Arweinydd with a quiet look.
“There now, we’re all together. Who would have thunk it?” Lord Zemi grinned quickly.
Silence passed over them. Thoughts, questions and curiosities whirled over their faces as they sat waiting for what would come next. The Arweinydd remained silent, leaning back with a pensive gaze at the birds that winged lazily overhead. Finally, after some time, his gravelly voice rose around them in a slow, measured cadence, “Once upon a time, there was an accident.”
The Apprentice peered up, along with everyone else. Their eyes fixed upon the Arweinydd in curiosity.
Seeing that he had their attention, Lord Zemi continued, “Not just any accident, mind you. It was a Mistake. Mistake with a capital ‘M’.”
SoYa wrinkled his brow, remembering that NaDo told him a similar thing.
The Dreigiau’s eyes alighted upon each of them in turn, “This current existence is made up of Seven Universes. Can’t count them all on one hand, but you can count them on two. Seven. Complete. Whole. Perfect. Until the Mistake. That was when one of the Seven almost died.”
“The death of a whole Universe? What sort of Mistake could have caused that?” Naturally, AsaHi was the first to speak up.
“That isn’t something I can answer, I’m afraid. I was there, but not there, to know it. I can only speculate,” he tilted his head slowly in thought. “It was pride, perhaps? Ignorance even? Yeah… Those Who Came Before could be ignorant. Even moreso, I think.”
Kudako’s mouth became a thin, firm line.
“Moreso because they should have known better. Because they existed,” the Arweinydd’s voice began to rumble, growing in agitation. His hands lifted before them, gesturing widely at the immensity of the concept. “Their civilizations created. They destroyed. They swayed to the flow of Chaos and Creation in a way that was theirs and theirs alone. They should have known better.”
“What exactly did they do?” Father asked quietly. His face was solemn and calculating.
Lord Zemi suddenly looked regretful. “It has many names amongst my kind, but I like to keep it simple and call it the Mistake. It was a funny thing, that Mistake. A work of mass Chaos that was Created. Irony is such a cruel thing, yes?”
SoYa’s mind reeled as he wondered if he was the only one struggling to make sense of the unfolding story. A story that no other Earthian had ever been gifted to know, told from the mouth of an Arweinydd.
“And what came after that Mistake was nothing. It was a universe that no longer held its spirit,” the Dreigiau frowned, trying to explain in the best way he knew how. “The motion of life came to the edge of death. Those Who Came Before no longer were. But what they did not know was Those Who Were Yet To Be had survived.”
“You’re speaking in circles again, Zemi,” Aunt SaRa chided him softly.
“Maybe. But for good reason. I want you all to understand where I come from. Who I am, and what you’re up against. The only way to do that is to start at the beginning,” he gave her a soft look. “Don’t you agree?”
“But,” AsaHi’s voice was strained. “What does this have to do with you? If you weren’t aware during the Mistake, if everything almost died, why are we here? Why are you here? I don’t understand.”
“Ah, me?” Lord Zemi lifted a finger with a soft grin. “I almost did not exist. But during the destruction of Those Who Came Before, there was a place where Those Who Were Yet To Be waited. We slept. Our light was dim. Our awareness did not yet exist. We lay dormant, shrouded and unmoving. Unliving. Ungrowing.”
“How did you get here if you were asleep?” she pondered.
“It was only by beyond chance that something did happen. It might have been a leftover ripple from the final aftermath of the Mistake. I don’t know exactly how,” his face also pondered as he chose his words. “But the Light That Was Me was cast away, thrown off from the place where we slept.”
“So poetic,” Father rolled his eyes.
“Naturally,” the Dreigiau gave a fangy grin.
“Then what happened?” AsaHi leaned forward, her face a picture of absolute interest. Her eyes never left Lord Zemi’s face.
He peered at her with his own tilted head, seeming somewhat surprised at the warmth of the reception of his story. Then he continued, still grasping to find the right words to explain the unexplainable.
“Well, the Light That Was Me drifted,” he stated simply. “It drifted for time without measure. It drifted, unknowing, until the day that the fringes of Light touched something. It was the first something that it ever knew. That something was a Living World. Or, at least, it had been at one time.”
“Our world?” her knuckles had grown white, grasping her knees tightly.
“Yes,” the Dreigiau replied. “It was a world that held the potential to live again, as it had before the Mistake. The Light That Was Me was drawn to the Living World and something began to happen. After much time, the world breathed. When the world breathed, I Awoke.”
SoYa swallowed, thoughts shying away the last statement. It was obvious that Lord Zemi was a powerful being, but the fact that the essence of life on their world was linked to his own being was something unnerving to consider.
Even AsaHi fell silent.
Either Lord Zemi did not recognize their reaction or he did not care. His words continued on, the story unfolding further.
“When I Awoke, I found myself alone. I didn’t know about Those Who Were Yet To Be. I did not know about Those Who Came Before. I only knew of myself and of the Living World. And because it was warm, and I was alone,” a soft smile flickered over his face, “I chose to watch it.”
“If that’s what you call it,” Father grunted quickly.
“I didn’t know that Arweinydd grow in power and change based upon their connections to Living Worlds,” Lord Zemispread his hands with an innocent expression. “I didn’t realize it, in fact, until I discovered the secrets of creation and ‘Esgor-ar. I didn’t know that it was because I spent time watching the Living World that I began to transform.”
AsaHi’s cheeks grew more and more pale.
“I was me by then,” Lord Zemi grinned, thumbing a finger back at his own chest. “No longer simply a Light without awareness. I had become an Arweinydd.”
“So what happened to the others?” Aunt SaRa leaned back on her palms, crossing her ankles in front of her.
“Now, we’re getting into the point I want to make,” the Dreigiau nodded. “I don’t know when I discovered the sleeping place of Those Who Were Yet To Be. They were nothing but Lights then. Lights without awareness. But the moment I came to them, much to my surprise, it was as I woke them.”
SoYa’s mouth became a little ‘o’ shape. “How come we never see them?”
“I tried to tell them about the wonderful Living Worlds that I found. But they didn’t want to listen,” Lord Zemi turned his eyes towards the Apprentice. He wrinkled his nose in distaste. “Most weren’t interested in the Living World and the people who existed there. No matter what I said to them, they only wanted to remain as they were.”
SoYa peered up into the Dreigiau’s eyes somberly. Somehow there was pain within those words that he could not quite touch, a struggle that was long held on the Arweinydd’s shoulders.
“Eventually, I left them.”
“Why?” AsaHi’s face lifted again, sadness behind her eyes.
Lord Zemi’s expression softened as well, meeting the girl’s gaze with his own. “My soul longed for the Earthian peoples and creatures, the ones that strove to grow and learn. The ones that were more like me than even the Arweinydd were.”
She blinked up at him in silence.
“The more the Earthians developed, the more that I became. Until one day, understanding came to me unlike any other. I discovered the secret of Making.”
“‘Esgor-ar…” Kudako hissed softly, looking at his own hands. “The Making of the Dragons, like myself.”
“Yes, ‘Esgor-ar,” the Dreigiau nodded slowly. “I united my spirit with the creatures of the Living World through this. For the first time, I was more than aware. I was Feeling.”
SoYa could feel the shivers still rippling down his spine, “The others of your kind don’t feel?”
“For the most part, no. Not the way Earthians do, at least.” Lord Zemi stated, “That is why it’s dangerous that we’re up against one.”
Kudako blanched, “We are up against what?”
“Another Arweinydd,” Zento frowned.
AsaHi squeaked, “What? Why?”
“I’m not sure yet,” Lord Zemi lowered his eyes again. “Of the other Arweinydd I have spent time with, there were three that I called my siblings. Of course, they aren’t really my siblings since my kind cannot be related by blood. I simply thought it was an interesting concept of the Earthian people and chose to adopt it.”
“And what of these siblings of yours?” Kudako’s face was hard.
“There are my two sisters — Zazo and little Zeni. And there is my brother, Zerom.”
SoYa jerked his head upwards, mind shifting back to the encounter he had at the Host Gate with the Sparrow.
“When AsaHi came to the Host Gate, something happened that wasn’t supposed to,” Lord Zemi dropped his gaze on AsaHi. “The seal between my world and your world cracked, allowing me to reach through to this side.”
AsaHi covered her mouth, “I didn’t know.”
“I know you didn’t,” the Dreigiau told her softly. “There were good things that happened because of that. For one, I can take on a physical form.”
“But there are bad things too?” SoYa felt his voice creak.
Lord Zemi leveled his gaze on the Apprentice. “Zerom. My brother.”
“He was the one who attempted to take TsuYa,” Aunt SaRa’s face was sharp.
The Apprentice drew in a hissing breath. His mind flickered back to the image of his brother floating in the rage of darkness.
“And the Marked creatures that attacked us on the ground, that would be his power, as well,” Kudako pressed his lips together even more tightly.
“Yes,” the Dreigiau nodded. He lifted one hand to indicate the tiny dark-haired girl who was playing in the flowers, “And young Suzume, as well. Luckily for her, not enough of the taint embedded itself into her before I was able to remove it.”
“And TsuYa?” AsaHi’s voice was breathless.
“He… was not so lucky.” Zemi looked away. “That’s why I’ve called you all here today and told you these things. This may not be easy, but I want to find a cure for TsuYa. Whatever Zerom is trying to do with Nefol and the Ghost Clan… I plan to fight him. But I’m going to need your help.”