The whole thing reeked like one big set up, and it really put ZenToYa on edge.
Am I just expected to be used to this sort of thing by now?
After all, Zento’s whole life was shaped and steered in the direction that the Dreigiau felt was most beneficial to their world. From the moment that he stepped into Zemi’s cave, Zento was the chosen one – the one to carry out the plans, establish the great civilizations and teach the mystical powers of the unknown to his people. Ultimately, he became a legend.
But sometimes… just sometimes… I can’t help but wonder if Zemi has it as much under control as he’d like us all to believe.
The Dreigiau was right about a lot of things. Many blessings came to Zento’s life with the founding of Nefol. He fall in love with YuKai and together, they had two sons that he absolutely adored. Though balancing his roles of father and husband with the legendary name of ZenToYa wasn’t the easiest thing, he always believed he gave it his best shot.
I think I’ve done well enough for myself and the boys. Under the circumstances we’ve been given, at least.
Zemi was also dreadfully wrong about other things. The first Awakening, Zento’s own, was not embraced by the people of Nefol. Maybe it would have been different if Zento understood the transformation. Or maybe it was that the Council in Nefol was looking for any excuse they could find to knock Zento out of power, and would have never listened, no matter what.
Whatever the case, his life shattered into a million pieces, and the Dreigiau remained frustratingly passive about the whole deal. It wasn’t that Zemi was cruel, but he certainly didn’t comprehend the pain that Zento endured asan outcast to his own city.
I lost my home, my family, my position… my everything. I couldn’t even get near the Host Gate to seek Zemi’s guidance. If it wasn’t for Kudako and SaRa…
Things could have been done differently. That thought brought Zento up to that very moment.
Again, a lot of stuff going on. Very little that I’ve been told about. Zemi and I are gonna have words I get a hold of him.
Especially with Tsu’s fate on the line.
I’ve abandoned my boys once already for Zemi’s wild plans. I refuse to do it again.
Kudako urged Zento to trust Zemi’s wisdom. Still, it was hard to when he could sense so many ulterior motives in the mix.
“I swear, if this was a waste of my time… and a risk to Tsu…” he muttered to himself.
“Then what?” the familiar gritty voice sounded out behind him.
Zento swerved on one heel, “Zemi!”
As if having been summoned by Zento’s thoughts alone, the Dreigiau sat crouched on an overhanging stack of stone. How Zemi was there was not impossible, but unknown. Zento forgot that the Arweinydd could now move freely through their world.
“You have something to say to me, yes?” Zemi dropped lightly down to the ground, standing immeasurably tall. There was no hint about what the Dreigiau was thinking.
“How could you tell?” the winged man winced as the words came out more sarcastic sounding than he meant.
Zemi remained unmoved. As if he had expected hostility and was already well-armored against anything Zento might throw at him.
After a moment of peering at the Dreigiau, the winged man waved a hand forward. “Zemi, can I be blunt about this?”
“Go ahead, that’s why I’m here,” came the answer.
“I want to know exactly what you sent me out here to do,” Zento pointed sharply with one finger. “Not what you wanted me to think you were sending me to do. But what in the name of the Seven Universes that you had in your head when you ‘suggested’ to Kudako that we come out here.”
“In other words, spill it all?” Zemi gave him a droll look.
Zento crossed his arms, “You want to know something? The problem is that there shouldn’t be anything that needs spilling. It really bothers me to think that here I am, ZenToYa, supposed to be your so-called Champion and the builder of your civilization… yet you can’t tell me exactly what it is you’re sending me out to do.”
“There are many layers of things happening here, Zento,” the reply was careful and calm. “Some things began long before you were born, some even possibly at the beginning of an age in which none of us existed.”
“So you’re telling me that you’re flying by the seat of your pants?” he grumbled, spreading his hands at the Dreigiau.
“No. I’m telling you that you don’t know the whole story about why you don’t know the whole story,” Zemi gave a heavy sigh.
Zento was quiet for a moment before he faced the Dreigiau again, “Tell me this. Am I here to find a cure for Tsu? Or am I wasting his precious time doing something that has nothing to do with him?”
“I honestly believe that the cure for TsuYa can be found in the power of the creature that is contained in the center of the Spiral,” Zemi nodded slowly. “This is part of what I came here to tell you — whatever you do, you must capture this creature alive. If it expires before I have a chance to link with it, then both you and I have lost the very thing that we seek here.”
“Link with it?” the winged man squinted at the Dreigiau. “What are you planning to do with this thing?”
“Sustain it,” the Arweinydd answered, pressing his lips together.
“Over the decades, I have watched its power significantly dwindle. I don’t think that it has much time left in this world. It’s a one-of-a-kind being. To lose it and the knowledge it holds about the ages that came before our own would be a great loss,” Zemi explained with a soft look. “I don’t want to kill it, Zento. I want to preserve it.”
“Then why don’t you go in and fight against it?” Zento frowned, planting his hands on his hips.
“Well, that wouldn’t fit the prophecies that the people of the Spiral have feared for so long, now would it?” the Dreigiau grinned.
There he goes joking again. There’s something more behind this. He’s not budging on it, though.
“And you think this creature can help cure Tsu?”
“Yes, I think so.” Zemi’s expression turned gently somber, “Do you really think I have so little care for your sons, Zento?”
“Do you really want to know what I think, Zemi?” The winged man didn’t pause. He just let it all out in a long breath of exasperation, “I think that you have no way to understand the concept of being a father, therefore you can’t even begin to understand what I’m going through right now. Jerking me around when Tsu’s life is in danger is notcool!”
“That was never what I intended,” the Dreigiau’s face fell somber at the stinging reproach.
Zento took a deep breath through his nose, working to regain his calm. He turned the focus back on Zemi and asked, “Then what do you intend?”
“Right now, I want to concentrate on filling all my promises.”
“What promises? To whom?”
“To you, to Kudako and to TsuYa,” he answered, his eyes spending a moment to survey the horizon. “As I said, there are a lot of things at work here. It goes very deep. Especially with Kudako – there are things that he must do for his own sake. So that he has a chance to finally move on.”
Zento’s eyes lowered. Remembering the stories that Kudako told of the Spiral, all accusation flooded out of him. He could see how these things matched up compared to the words and actions of the Dreigiau, and how Zemi was doing what he could to try to help them all.
“Zento, I understand why you are fighting for your family.” Zemi’s eyes glittered, as if he could sense the winged man’s struggle. There was a soothing gentleness in his words, “Maybe you’re right… I don’t know what it is like to be a father. But I do know how I would feel if anything should happen to you or your children. That might well be the closest I’ll ever get to it, but it’s something, yes?”
Strange warmth tingled throughout his body — a feeling Zento had felt long ago, when he was just a boy living in the Dreigiau’s cave, so young and so unaware of the bigness of it all. A boy only knowing that the strange Dragon Spirit watched over them. A boy wanting to believe that this otherworldly creature felt some sort of love for the two orphaned children it rescued from the snow.
Now he had grown to know Zemi better over the long years. To know that the Dreigiau did his best to take care of his people. That he tried to love despite the fact that love was a thing so foreign to the Arweinydd kind.
“Yes, Zemi,” Zento reassured him, trying to sound apologetic. “You’ve always been very good to SaRa and I. And that counts for a lot. I’m just… really scared for my sons…”
“Don’t be afraid,” Zemi’s voice reclaimed its usual strength once more. His hand stretched forward, an offering motion. “If you will let me, I will guide you through this.”
After a moment of thought, Zento reached out to meet Zemi’s hand with his own. A small white stone dropped into his palm. Familiar. Soothing to the touch. The Arfogaeth.
“What? How did you get this?” Zento stared at the stone in surprise. He pulled out the amulet that he kept hung around his neck, only to see that the spot where the stone should have been was indeed empty.
I could have sworn I had it! How is it in all this time I didn’t check?
“I thought you’d want it,” the Dreigiau grinned quietly. “Unless you consider yourself so good a warrior that you don’t need armor anymore.”
“No… no, I do. Especially if I’m going up against some time-backwards creature,” Zento grimaced, putting the stone in its place. “I don’t know how I managed to forget this.”
“You’ve been preoccupied with Tsu,” Zemi pointed out. “It happens to the best of us, sometimes.”
“Surely not to you?” his tone was jesting, but the Dreigiau didn’t seem to take it that way.
“Yes, even to me,” there was discouragement in his tone. Something so rare to see in Zemi that it left chills on the skin.
Searching for any bit of support he could give, Zento encouraged, “Guide me, then, Dreigiau. I’ll follow your lead.”
The Arweinydd’s demeanor perked up at the statement. He nodded slowly, a slight fangy grin spreading over his face. “Put your armor on, I’ll give the Dragons the signal… and we’ll get this party started.”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Zento nodded in return.