“AsaaaaaHiiiiiiiii?” She heard a voice cry out her name. Then another voice echoed it.
The girl blinked awake at the sound, eyes blurring as the sunlight hit her full force. It took a long moment before she remembered where she was and what she was doing.
The memories of the night leapt into her mind. She heard a despairing call from the forest and left camp to meet it. There, she met Zemi who was, much to her surprise, very open with his troubles. They spent most of the rest of the night in silence, simply sitting side by side under the stars. Eventually, the wear and tear of the day made its mark on AsaHi and the girl fell asleep at the Arweinydd’s side.
But now Zemi was gone. AsaHi woke up alone, to the sounds of concerned voices calling her name. It was the others, who just finally realized she was missing. No doubt the Dreigiau must have had a hand in dulling their senses the night before if they were only just beginning to look for her now.
AsaHi got to her feet. A heavy red cloak was draped around her shoulders. Considering it was far too big to be something she would ever wear, it could be mistaken for a blanket.
Zemi’s cloak? He left it with me?
Not like the Arweinydd really needed an over-cloak. She doubted that Zemi even felt the heat or the cold like they did. Not to mention he could probably whip up a brand new cloak for himself out of thin air with a single stray thought.
But still, it’s sweet of him.
She could hear the sound of footsteps crunching on the dried leaves. The voice called again. This time, the girl recognized the sound.
“SoYa!?” she began to hop up and down, calling back across the glade. “SoYa! I’m over here!”
A flicker of white caught the corner of her eye. AsaHi froze, only her head swiveling around to stare up at the source of the motion. There was nothing… Nothing except for a pale white shimmer winging away in the sky.
Could it be?
The white Dragon, Zemi’s other form. The one that she had only seen once, back in the Host Gate, back when she didn’t believe such a thing could exist.
“Finally! There you are!”
Voices barked across the hillside, echoing back at her. The girl pulled her eyes away from the sky to peer down at the three men who were trudging up to meet her.
SoYa broke into a sprint at the sight of her. He was dressed down very plainly in a pair of slacks, his rumpled shirt hung open in a low v-shape across his chest, the throat laces untouched. As modest as he was, it was not like the Apprentice to have paid so little mind to his appearance. She couldn’t help but note that the long days out on the road had done a lot to improve his once pale and slender build.
“Are you okay?” SoYa’s voice was hoarse with emotion as he jogged the rest of the way up the hillside to meet her. Healer’s training kicked in as he began to look her over for any sign of injury, both hands clasping AsaHi’s shoulders gently.
“I’m fine,” the girl attempted to reassure him. She couldn’t help but stare a little, bemused and slightly embarrassed at her thoughts.
He nodded blankly in return. As his eyes met her, SoYa pulled up short, taking note of her reaction.
As if on cue, Zento appeared at his son’s side. He took one look at the odd exchange. Then a sly, smile colored his face as he gave a laugh, “You might just have a little of your father’s style in you yet, boy.”
“Let us plead with the heavens that he does not,” Kudako muttered. The Dragon fell in behind the two of them, standing at a distance.
SoYa gave a confused look, then turned back to AsaHi, “What happened? Where did you go? You had us all worried witless about you!”
“Speak for yourself,” Kudako grumbled.
“Come on, ‘Dako, you were running around like a Dragon with its head cut off,” Zento nudged the warrior.
“Only because if we lost Morh-AsaHi I would be reduced to having no head. Lord Zemi would see to it personally.”
AsaHi frowned, “I was fine.”
“Why did you wander off like that?” SoYa’s face was lined in concern.
The girl sucked softly on her bottom lip. Her mind darted back over all the information that Zemi shared with her the previous night. Somehow, she didn’t think it was a good idea to reveal these things to the rest of them. After all, if the Dreigiau wanted them all to know, he would have called everyone out for a talk.
“I… just needed to take a walk,” she lowered her eyes to the ground hoping that no one would catch the hint of dishonesty in her tone. “Then I got lost.”
“Lost, eh?” Zento’s eyes flickered sharply to the red cloak that hung around AsaHi’s shoulders with a knowing look.
“I… well…” the girl held her breath, body stiffening.
“Try not to let it happen again, okay?” Zento nodded slowly, dropping the subject, much to her surprise.
“Okay,” AsaHi agreed, expression growing grateful.
“Indeed. We agreed we were not going wandering off, remember? We’re coming close to the Passage,” Kudako added gruffly.
“The Passage? What’s that?” she blinked up.
“Hard to explain. You’ll have to see it for itself,” the Dragon replied.
“Is it dangerous?”
“To the wrong kind of people, yes. That’s why we need to stay together. Understand?”
AsaHi nodded, biting down on her lip.
If only they knew…
Her mind shifted back to the flight of the White Dragon. The broken tone in Zemi’s voice. The Dreigiau’s haunted, despairing eyes.
“Hey, we’ve got breakfast on the fire,” SoYa’s voice interrupted her thoughts, words soft and soothing. He had always been very good at sensing her concern.
Then again, he would be. He’s a Mind Mage…
The girl peered up into the Apprentice’s face. It was genuinely anxious and AsaHi suddenly felt guilty.
I’ve probably worried poor SoYa to death, and all I can do is think about Zemi. What’s wrong with me?
SoYa reached out with a half-hearted, shy motion. His face reflected a boyish look that reminded her of how things used to be, back before her encounter at the Host Gate. Back when things had been normal and the two of them had been happy together.
“Let’s go back,” AsaHi reached out and folded SoYa’s hand in her own, her words echoing the passing of thoughts.
A soft light shifted in the green depths of the Apprentice’s eyes. His expression was a mix between surprise and comfort. She felt a small tremor rush over SoYa’s body as he shook himself out to finally relax.
AsaHi gave him a hopeful smile.
“Yeah, let’s go back,” SoYa shyly smiled down at her in return.
The girl wasn’t certain what they’d find at the Passage, or even what was beyond in the Outterlands. As she thought back to Zemi the night before and looked at SoYa’s returning smile, AsaHi began to think that perhaps there was a purpose for her on this journey after all. Setting aside the thoughts, she decided to focus on the present, and the two of them walked hand in hand towards the camp.