“Ah, so you’ve found your way to the Outlook, have you?” the gentle, melodic voice came from somewhere behind.
SoYa peered back over his shoulder, realizing that someone was following him. He wasn’t startled by the Lady Dragon’s sudden appearance — there was something about the kindly woman was too serene to startle anyone.
“Yes, Ma’am,” the Apprentice answered quickly. “Is it wrong for me to be out here?”
“No, not at all,” KaiShi smiled a golden smile. “I come here quite a bit myself. It’s the best view of the mountains over, don’t you think?”
“I haven’t had a chance to look around that much, but it seems very beautiful here,” SoYa felt a strange sensation tickling the back of his mind as she drew near. The Lady Dragon had a basket under one arm and an alarmingly pleasant smells rose from within, making his stomach gurgle, much to his embarrassment.
It only made KaiShi smile all the more, “It seems I’ve come at a good time.”
“Yes, Ma’am, you certainly have,” SoYa smiled back, trying hard to relax. There was still a bit of jitter in his relations with the Dragons, despite having been in Wyndor for a number of days already.
Has it been three… or four days? A week? It’s really hard to tell. Time feels so strange in this place.
Not that time mattered to the Dragons. If they were anything like Kudako, none of them ever aged.
KaiShi pulled a small blanket from over her shoulder and unfolded it over the quiet white rock. “I was always amazed at how warm it was here. Being so high up, with snow everywhere else, you’d think it would be freezing. But it’s not. The Outlook always seems to be the perfect temperature, no matter what season it is.”
“Lord Zemi probably had something to do with it,” SoYa suggested, trying to sneak a look into the basket.
She paused in the middle of folding down her robes, “Do you still refer to him as ‘Lord’? I’d thought he’d stopped you from doing that by now.”
When he didn’t answer, she left the question and turned her attention to the basket. Her slender hands reached inside and pulled out a small, rounded package, wrapped in a papery napkin. Cupping it within both of her hands, KaiShi lifted it, offering the first one to SoYa.
He gave a pleasant sound as he reached to retrieve it from her, his fingers closing around the still-warm wrap. Instantly, the scent filled his senses and SoYa found himself swept up in a wave of powerful nostalgia.
“Hot-roll!” he exclaimed, embarrassed again at the sudden childishness that colored his voice. “Oh, wow… these are my favorites! I haven’t had one in forever!”
“I’m glad,” she said simply, smiling as she watched him.
SoYa already pulled the paper wrapping, biting into the bread and cheese. The thin crust was browned to a soft perfection. The meat and cheese that mingled inside were an unusual combination to his tastes. But it was good. Very, very good.
He tried to tell her so, but his mouth was too full.
She only laughed, “I’ve made a full batch of these, and they’re not going anywhere, I promise.”
A flush rose in his cheeks as SoYa realized how he must have seemed to the Lady Dragon. For that passing moment, he forgot who she was – the leader of Zemi’s Dragon Servants. And for just that moment, he had the fleeting sense of comfort and home, though he didn’t know why.
Maybe because something about her is familiar.
SoYa paused to ponder the sudden thought as it rippled through his mind. Before that, he hadn’t even considered such a speculation. But now that it had been formally stated, he couldn’t shrug the thought off.
“We used to have these all the time when we were kids,” he finally ventured to talk after slowing down his wolfing pace. “Father used to say that there was a hot-roll for every occasion. I guess it was because you could put anything inside of them and it could still taste good!”
“Ah, your father,” her eyes peered at him intently. “How’s the old rascal?”
For some reason, the question didn’t surprise him. It seemed like the Dragons all knew quite a bit about himself and AsaHi. Not to mention that Father had always talked about his time and adventures with the Dragons when he had been younger.
Maybe she’s an old friend of Father’s that I saw visiting once? Like Kudako used to from time to time?
“He’s doing pretty good, considering everything that’s been going on lately,” SoYa answered, remembering to swallow before attempting to speak. “I hope we’re not going to worry him when he finds we’re missing.”
“I wouldn’t be concerned about that,” the Lady Dragon told him. “I believe Islay was sent to relay the message that you were brought safely here.”
“That’s good to know,” the Apprentice gave a sigh of relief.
“And what of your brother?” KaiShi inquired, offering him another roll.
“Tsu? Well he’s doing f–” SoYa froze, caught up in the Lady Dragon’s gaze.
He had almost said “fine”. Almost. But something about the way she was watching him made him second-guess offering her the easy, fictitious answer. Tsu wasn’t fine. And that was the thing that scared SoYa the most.
The silence fell around his shoulders. Awkward. It was pretty obvious to them both that he had almost lied to her, and he wondered if he lost respect in her eyes because of it.
When KaiShi finally spoke again, it was in a kindly tone, “I know your brother has fallen ill. I know he’s being cared for in Ceiswyr while you and your father look for a way to help him.”
SoYa let out a deep breath, “Lord Zemi probably told you?”
“I do need to keep on top of things.”
“Yes, of course,” he couldn’t look her in the eye.
“Sometimes untruths are spoken… not to harm… but because there’s a deep, unconscious desire to make that hope come true,” her musical voice was soothing. Not angry. Not even disappointed.
As if she somehow understood.
“You must love your brother very much,” KaiShi said.
“I do!” SoYa heard his voice crack slightly. He peered up, almost childlike, pain scrawled across his face. “I’m so scared that we’re going to lose him.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because I saw…” the Apprentice’s words faded on his tongue. The image that haunted his memory since the trip through the Passage rose once again to his mind. So far, he hadn’t told anyone about it.
SoYa’s gaze fell on the Lady Dragon where she sat, hands folded in her lap, face warm and inviting. There was concern in her eyes that made him want to believe in her.
He drew in a deep breath, and very slowly, he started talking. He told her about AsaHi’s adventure to the Host Gate and about all the things that started to happen in Nefol. About the darkness that had taken Tsu and how everyone in the School found out about the Athrylith.
Once SoYa began to speak, he found it easier and easier to do. KaiShi was a quiet and dedicated listener, her face mirroring just the right responses, offering just the right encouragement. Though the story was deep and involved, the Apprentice found himself finally detailing the encounter in the Passage and the fear of what he saw.
Then, he fell silent, having nothing more to say. All the words drained out of him, leaving him feeling strangely tired, as if he had just run a very long distance. But there was another feeling there, too. One of peaceful release.
“SoYa,” KaiShi finally spoke, voice full of gentle lament. One hand trailed up, touching his cheek gently, the prints of her fingers tingling. “I’m sorry that you bear such a heavy burden. There’s so much that you try to do on your own, but there’s only a certain amount that any one person can manage.”
“I’ve done no good,” SoYa shook his head. “See, even now I’m here, whining to you about what I saw, and not doing a thing to help Father find a cure for Tsu.”
“There are other ways of helping, SoYa. Even if they are indirect,” she replied.
“Your vision, for instance. I don’t think it was a mere illusion of the mind that you should dismiss,” KaiShi pursed her lips.
“What do you mean?”
“Athrylith don’t have visions without a purpose,” she told him. “Not with the detail you described. I believe it’s something important, SoYa. And I think we need to tell Zemi.”
“Really?” he swallowed. “You don’t think it means that we’re too late, do you?”
“Truthfully, I can’t tell you what it means,” her violet eyes met his. “But I feel it’s very important that we bring this to someone who might be able to find out.”
SoYa looked down at his feet thoughtfully. Then he blinked up, “Maybe you’re right. We should tell Lord Zemi.”
“You mean, you should tell him.”
“This is your vision, after all. Not mine,” she pointed out.
SoYa swallowed deeply, shakey at the thought of approaching the Dreigiau alone. “Will you… come with me, at the least?”
KaiShi peered at the Apprentice for a moment. Then she nodded gently, “Of course.”