“I don’t understand,” TsuYa’s tone was low with distress.
“I know you don’t,” was Father’s only answer.
“Then why are you leaving? We’ve only just found each other again!” he argued.
“Because sometimes you have to do things in life that really don’t make much sense.”
SoYa bit his lip in silence.
TsuYa’s eyes flashed.
That’s not a good enough explanation…
And Father knew it.
The last touches of twilight color shifted across the white wall from the tall rounded windows. Because TsuYa still was not allowed to leave the confines of his bed, SoYa spent most of the late afternoon sitting with his brother and talking. Despite the strangeness of the situation, that day felt more like old times to TsuYa than it had in many years. However, the cheer was instantly drained from the room upon the arrival of their father and the news he bore.
He’s leaving… he’s leaving me behind… again.
“It’s because of me, isn’t it?” TsuYa asked with a hint of bitterness. One fist balled the blanket between his fingers.
“It’s because I’m ‘sick’.”
“Tsu, that’s just not true,” Father held up one hand. “I don’t want to hear that out of y–”
“Do you think I don’t know what’s happening to me… the risk of allowing me to stay here?” his eyes grew distant. Darker. Haunted.
“Maybe,” Father approached the conversation from a different angle. His face was stern though his words were gentle, “But that doesn’t mean we’re giving up.”
“Yeah, Tsu,” SoYa finally chimed in. “We’re not going to sit here and do nothing. I mean, if I were the one in trouble, you’d do it for me, wouldn’t you?”
“Well… of course I would… but…”
“We’ll only be gone a little while. You can handle that, right?” Father added quickly. “We’ve got Kudako to help make it a quick journey. He seems pretty certain that we’ll find something in the Outterlands.”
“What if you don’t?” TsuYa frowned.
“But if you don’t?”
“We will,” Father repeated. “I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Not when it’s something for you.”
TsuYa closed his mouth with a click.
“Okay?” the winged man pressed.
“Okay,” he answered grudgingly.
Why so soon? After you’ve been gone so long… I’ve hardly talked to you. And you’re leaving us again.
“I’ll make it all better again, Tsu,” Father reached a hand out, placing it gently on TsuYa’s shoulder. “I give you my word.”
“You don’t have to promise me anything…”
“I just did. So live with it.”
Their eyes met and held. TsuYa struggled to secure the gaze. To not break away. To be strong enough not to flinch. But he couldn’t.
Something about Father is different now, and it’s not just the wings.
ZenToYa was now the leader in Ceiswyr, second in command under Zemi Dreigiau. This in itself wasn’t too unusual — Father had once been a founder and leader of Nefol as well. It was by his hand that the people first learned the ways of magic and battle. Days of glory and power graced all who lived under the banner of the city back when the city was under Father’s control.
But then, one day, ZenToYa vanished.
TsuYa could remember the day that Aunt SaRa took SoYa and himself aside. He could remember every detail of the room — the way the light capered on the dust motes… the musty, well-used book scent… the peaceful silence that the room always held. It was Father’s favorite room, his library. It was there that she told them that the Council pronounced their father dead. TsuYa remembered staring at the shimmering dust motes for a very long time afterwards. Things were never the same since.
No one had a straight story about what happened to Father. Some speculated he died in battle. Some said that he died defending the borders from the Outterlanders. Others said that Lord Zemi had finally called him away to become one of his Dragons. But no matter the story, it was always one of honor and glory. TsuYa never thought to question it. He was young and too overwhelmed with sorrow.
Now, as he peered up at his Father’s altered form, a million questions flickered through his mind. They bubbled in his chest, stinging the inside of his throat. As much as he wanted to speak, his voice was lost.
Every question started with ‘why’. He just couldn’t make sense of what happened. The purpose behind everything. What was going to happen. And as much as he hated to admit it, the unknown left him afraid.
Father could always sense the hidden things. Maybe it had something to do with what changed him. Or maybe it was just that obvious. But one way or another, the winged man sat down, his body tense as if readying for battle.
“Ask,” he offered.
One word that held the power of thousands. Both SoYa and TsuYa’s eyes were upon him. Neither could so much as blink. The room dripped with silence as their minds struggled to form words from the confusion.
“You’re not dead?” SoYa finally spluttered.
Leave it to SoYa to state the obvious…
“No. I’m not.”
At least it’s a start.
“Have you been here in this city all this time?” he continued.
“No. This city has only existed for a handful of passes.”
“Then, what happened? Why did you leave? Where did you go?”
When the questions came, they came all at once.
“Do you want the truth?” Father leaned back slowly. His expression was as serious as it could get.
SoYa nodded slowly. TsuYa joined him.
“Awakened?” TsuYa echoed.
“You see these wings? It’s the mark of people who have Awakened,” Father explained slowly.
“How?” TsuYa asked.
“It simply happens. When you are ready and Zemi responds to your spirit, you will Awaken. You grip the truth of your inner power and become one with your real potential.”
“Lord Zemi?” TsuYa breathed. “Is it true that he’s here?”
“Yes, he is. I know you haven’t had a chance to meet him yet, but he protected you from the darkness that would have taken you,” Father sounded somewhat apologetic. “Know that just because he isn’t here doesn’t mean you aren’t important to him.”
“I understand. I’m… honored?” TsuYa paused, returning to the original discussion. “How long ago did you Awaken?”
“You can pin-point that as well as I can,” Father answered with a frown
“When you ‘died’?” his voice was very somber.
No one spoke again for a long time. Each of them seemed to be gathering their thoughts.
SoYa was the first to break the silence, “The Council told us you were dead.”
“That’s because they didn’t want anyone to know what really happened,” Father leaned back on the stool.
TsuYa’s face grew dark. “They lied to us on purpose?”
“Because they tried to kill me, and almost succeeded.”
“Kill you! Why?” the younger brother grated, fists balling the blankets again.
“Tsu, what do you think their first reaction was? Some of the Council saw me transform… Awaken… before their very eyes,” Father’s face grew grim. “No one had any idea what was happening to me. No one had ever Awakened before.”
“But still!” TsuYa’s face was contorted. “Kill you?”
“For all they knew, I had transformed into some sort of Bane,” he seemed to try to offer what logic he could. Even if the logic was weak.
“But… but… couldn’t they tell?” he spluttered.
“What did they actually do to you?” SoYa seemed to be struggling just as much as his brother was.
“They hunted me down and made it so I could never return to Nefol,” Father’s voice grew sad. “They told everyone that I had died in some glorious manner so that my name would continue to be held in honor for the sake of the School. But in truth, I was on the run from them for years.”
“Did they ever catch you?”
Father gave one of his famous smirks, “Nope.”
“And no one else knew you were still alive?”
“A few did.”
“Like Aunt SaRa?” SoYa offered.
“Whaaat? Aunt SaRa knew? Why didn’t she tell us?” TsuYa blinked sharply.
“Because I told her not to,” he admitted.
“The less people who were aware of the truth, the better,” Father said. “If the Council found that SaRa held such knowledge, her life could have been in danger.”
SoYa waved one hand in the air as if trying to find the most delicate way to ask his next question, “But, Aunt SaRa… she’s Awaken too?”
“Yes. She has been for many years.”
“How did she hide it?”
“With a bit of practice, we can put away our wings for a short time. But in SaRa’s case, she needed to hide them for much longer,” Father’s eyes fell upon SoYa heavily. “I helped her do that with a mind illusion.”
TsuYa grew pale.
Mind illusion?! But that’s the power of…
“Father… you are… an Athrylith, too?” TsuYa’s eyes were wide and unblinking.
The winged man shrugged, “I suppose you could say that. I’ve dabbled a little bit in every sphere, even mind magics. Is that so awful, Tsu?”
SoYa’s mouth had dropped wide open. He obviously didn’t consider that there was another Athrylith other than himself.
Neither did I. I never knew that Father could…
“Well, is it?” he prodded, one eyebrow arching.
“Ah… ah… I… don’t know?”
“Do you honestly believe everything that everyone else tells you?” Father’s lips pressed into a firm, slender line.
“What do you mean?”
“Because the whole world says that Athrylith are evil, you believe it?”
“Well,” TsuYa peered nervously between the two of them. “Mind magic is dangerous.”
“In the wrong hands maybe,” Father nodded. “Is it any more dangerous than someone taking a fifty foot pillar of fire and lighting it under your feet?”
“Er, well…” TsuYa grimaced.
“Not much control in either situation,” Father shrugged. He looked far too cheerful for the conversation at hand. “Besides, mind magic has a lot of good uses, too.”
“Adept sensitivity of thoughts and emotions, for one. If the power is used correctly they are a people who are truly in touch with the spirit of other people. Just like your brother is,” Father lifted one hand and waved to indicate SoYa.
SoYa didn’t look overly thrilled to be pointed out. Still, there was something behind his eyes that seemed somewhat relieved to know that he was not alone.
“I see,” TsuYa answered thoughtfully.
“So, yes. Your Aunt was concealed under a mind illusion so that she could stay in Nefol and keep an eye on you boys. It was always my plan that she’d bring you two here to Ceiswyr one day, when you were ready,” he frowned softly. “Sadly enough, this was not the way I had wanted it to happen.”
“It’s not your fault, Tsu. Sometimes things happen that are far beyond our control. This is one of those times.”
“But still, what I did…”
“No. It happened. Now all we can do is work to find a solution. Yes?”
TsuYa peered down at where one of his hands was tracing the line along the hem of his vest. Then he nodded slowly, “If you say so.”
“I say so,” Father answered softly, words warm and encouraging. “And if I say so, then that’s the final word. Right?”
TsuYa peered up slowly, a pale smile touching his lips. Placing a hand on both of his sons’ shoulders, Father gave his own silent half smile.