Book 2 Chapter 24

“Alright, how’s that feel?” ZenToYa asked as the blue healing glow faded from the edge of his fingertips. He drew his hands back away from the creature’s leg.

A pair of bright golden eyes shown down at him from the face of the young, green Dragon. Shaking out his dark mane, the youthful voice replied quirkily, “You still got it in you, OleMan.”

Zento grinned, leaning back against the white stone wall of the overhanging cave with a casual air. “Glad to know I haven’t lost my touch.”

Purk was possibly the youngest of the Dragons in Wyndor. Though Zento never pressured Zemi to talk about who the Dragons had once been and why they were chosen for their tasks there, it was not hard to figure out the young Green’s special talents. Once you got past all the flack-mouthing, of course.

“So what happened?” Zento asked, teasingly putting a finger to his bottom lip. A single mock-critical glance was all it took. “I thought you never went down in battle.”

Finned ears rose to the challenge as a wide Dragon-grin crossed the creature’s maw. “Give me a break,OleMan.I just got knocked by a bit of ricocheting fire. That’s all.”

“Suuure,” the winged man waved one hand in return. “That’s what they all say.”

Known for a quick and clever mind, in life the young green Dragon might have eventually become one of the best battle tacticians of his homeland. Zento didn’t know what happened to him to bring him into Zemi’s service at such a young age.

“Hey, it’s true! Blame it on Brunswik’s bad aim,” Purk snorted and glanced the other way. “Don’t know why we bother dragging him into such a delicate operation to begin with. He just bungles everything up!”

‘Purk’ was originally a nickname, just a jest that happened to stick. That much Zento did know about him. The winged man could also sense that a lot of the green’s light verbal animosity was mostly for show — nothing more than a perpetual teenager wanting to play the part of the know-it-all-punk.

Despite that, Zento couldn’t help but extend his own naturally fatherly tendencies towards the young Dragon. For the long time that he was unable to have contact with his own sons, Purk had often unknowingly served Zento as an outlet for his misplaced longings.

“Now, then,” Zento chided softly. “Brunswik does what he can. Just like the rest of us.”

“Yeah well, it was my battle plan that pulled down the defenses of the Spiral,” Purk bragged, nostrils flaring wide with pride.

“I don’t doubt that it was,” the winged man replied in all seriousness.

“I heard you kicked a lot of tail, too, Ole Man,” the green’s fangy grin returned as the Dragon stuck his nose straight into Zento’s face. One snuff sent the silvery-white hair scattering over the warrior’s brow.

“What do you mean by that?” Zento arched one eyebrow, rearranging the misplaced hair.

“Only that you took down Aur – the Creature from the Time Before!”

“I wouldn’t exactly say that,” the warrior grimaced deeply.

The Dragons seemed to have little thought about the situation that happened in the Spiral besides the idea that victory was won in Zemi’s name. To them, the war towers were brought down and the enemy scattered. Aur was captured and the day belonged to the Dragons.

“ZenToYa,” Purk flicked his tail with an incredulous tone, “Since when have you ever been modest?”

Zento responded with a shrug and thoughtful silence.

Seeing that he wasn’t going to get much more of an answer than that, Purk shook his mane out. “You fret yourself too much, man.”

“You’re probably right,” the warrior nodded in agreement. “Just comes with the territory.”

If I don’t, who will?

There was a familiar shifting sound of Dragon scale and claw-upon-stone from down the narrow corridor that led to the white-walled caves. Purk turned with a careless rustle of his wings, making a bit of room as a second, larger Dragon shape filled the mouth of the cave.

“Lady KaiShi?” Zento could pick out the features of the slender golden muzzle even before he had a chance to get a good look. Though, perhaps it was easier to identify her mostly because he had been expecting her to find him, just like she always did when he visited in the Dragon Realms.

“Zento,” the Lady Dragon’s eyes fell upon him softly for a long, hazy moment. Then she seem to realize that they were not alone and offered the green a greeting as well. “Purk? What are you doing here? Were you wounded in the skirmish?”

“Bah,” Purk snorted in response, shifting his once-afflicted paw back as if to block it from her all-knowing gaze. “Wounded? Hardly a scratch. Not even worth calling a wound.”

“I see,” a quiet croon-purr colored her voice, “I heard that it was quite a victory in the Spiral. Congratulations.”

The green hungrily responded to the offered compliment, “Naturally! Lord Zemi told me to get the job done. That’s what I do.”

“There’s no doubt in that,” she gave him a kindly, but humoring look. Then with a flip of her mane, she intoned, “I’m sorry to interrupt here, but I need to speak with Zento about some pressing matters.”

“Already figured you’d say that,” Purk gave a sly wink, followed by a suggestive grin. “It’s always pressing matters when you want to talk to the Ole Man all alooone!”

“Purk!” Zento coughed and waved both hands at the green’s backside. “Don’t make a nuisance of yourself.”

“But that’s what I’m good at!”

“We can see that,” the winged man continued to shoo him from the room, good naturedly.

Slipping out the door, the young Dragon couldn’t seem to bring himself to leave without at least one more jab on his way out. A teasing warble floated back to them, followed by a laugh, “Aloooone….”

After a moment of silence, KaiShi finally gave a quiet sound. “Incorrigible.”

Zento grinned lightly, “Dragon or not, boys will be boys.”

“It seems so,” she turned slowly soft expression gazing down at the warrior. When she spoke again, it was with a change of voice. Kindly. “It’s good to know that you returned from the battle safely, ZenToYa. I heard rumors that you fought against some very powerful foes…”

“Were you worried about me?” he teased gently in return, eyebrows arched as he brought himself a few steps closer.

“With you, one can only worry,” finned ears perked forward, eyes twinkling in mischief as KaiShi arched her graceful neck down to regard him more closely.

“Good point,” Zento agreed, one hand reaching out to stroke the golden forelock.

Something about the golden Dragon’s presence always brought him comfort and shelter against the storms of his mind. There was rarely a time when visiting the Dragon Realms that they did not become locked in conversation. And feeling the way that he did now, Zento was deeply grateful for the chance to confide in KaiShi’s welcoming reassurance.

It was like coming home to an old friend every time the two of them sat down. Though the two of them had known each other for a very long time, Zento knew very little about who KaiShi was before she became leader of Zemi’s Dragon Servants. In fact, though he heard that the golden Dragon was one of the few that actually possessed the ability to take on a person-form, Zento ever actually saw it.

Not that he’d ever ask to see it – despite all curiosity. It was just bad manners. And one didn’t want to get on the bad side of Dragons… much less women Dragons.

“How have you been?” KaiShi asked, settling down with her tail curled about the two of them. It was a common way for Dragons to converse with people, it seemed.

“Tired… and stressed,” Zento answered, truthfully. She was one of those people that deserved more than a ‘I’m fine, how are you’ answer. He propped himself against her tail, relaxing against the feeling of the silky hide and soft flow of mane, letting out a long breath. “Things in the Spiral were not pretty. Even though we won the battle there, I’m not sure what will become of the situation. But most of all, I’m just worried about…”

“TsuYa?” she finished for him.

“Yes, how did you know?”

“I’ve talked with SoYa. He told me of the things that were happening in Ceiswyr,” KaiShi said with a flick of her ear.

“Yes, of course. SoYa,” Zento rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. He should have realized that in all the time his son spent there in the Dragon Realms that KaiShi would introduced herself.

“Actually, that is what I hope to talk to you about, Zento.” The golden Dragon spoke gently, like one who didn’t want to add more pain to a situation, “I know you have a lot to think about with TsuYa. However, there is another situation at hand that may be just as troublesome for your eldest son.”

The winged man lifted his head with a glance of deep concern. “SoYa? Why, what’s wrong with him? Is there a hold-over from the illness that inflicted him in the Cleft?”

“No… no… nothing like that. His health has recovered… that is not what I am concerned for,” KaiShi shook her head quickly.

“Then, what’s wrong?” he puzzled, running things through his mind.

She took a deep breath, pausing for a short moment, gathering her words for a proper approach. Zento watched, and braced himself.

“While you’ve been fighting in the Spiral, I’ve been watching a situation unfold here that is most concerning,” KaiShi chose the direct method, as she always did. “Do you realize that Lord Zemi is falling in love with the girl that is Promised to your eldest son… and that the girl, AsaHi, may have feelings in return?”

Not at all what Zento was expecting, the warrior found himself unable to do much more than stand and stare. His mind skipped circles in attempt to catch up, giving him no chance to redeem himself before the Lady Dragon.

“You didn’t know of this, Athrylith?” her chiding was gentle, yet stern.

“I… sorta knew. I mean, I had an idea that Zemi was attracted to AsaHi. But I thought it was just passing fancy on his part… or just the effect of Drei’distau?” With that though, he turned a hopeful look up, “Are you sure that’s not what it is, KaiShi? The girl tends to attract all Dragons because of her abilities. Maybe Zemi’s simply responding to this.”

“I think it is more than that, Zento.” Everything in her voice spoke plain: that SoYa was his son and he should not be overlooking such important happenings as this. “I’ve watched them together. I’ve seen the signs.”

“But how? I mean… Zemi’s kind can’t really fall in love the way Earthians can, right?”

“I don’t know,” KaiShi peered over at him. “But when it’s love, it will find its way. Even the mighty of our world fall when stricken by emotion. Could you not say the same for yourself, the Mighty ZenToYa?”

He gave a soft, sad laugh. “Yes, well, Kudako always said I had a foolish, soft heart when it came to matters of love.”

“Perhaps. But, then, so may your son,” she flicked the tip of her tail slowly. “And I am concerned for many things… namely… the things that Zemi doesn’t seem to know or realize.”

“What do you mean?” There was a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He already knew the answer to his question. Still, there was something in him that wanted to hear someone else’s take on the situation.

“I don’t think that Zemi even realizes the gravity of what he feels,” KaiShi informed him. “He doesn’t know what love is, Zento. He’s simply acting on instinct. He feels this attraction and is following it. He doesn’t know that AsaHi is Promised to SoYa. And when he figures out the whole of it all… I fear his reaction.”

Zento’s face grew grim. “I see…”

“Not only does he feel this emotion that is foreign to him, something that even us Earthians have trouble dealing with at the best of times, but then…” she lowered her head, “He has to be told that the one that he desires is already taken. Despite the fact, I believe, AsaHi may be beginning to returning the feeling.”

“Are you certain?” the winged man choked on the thought.

“From what I’ve seen, I would say yes.”

“AsaHi wouldn’t do something like that to SoYa. She’s a good girl,” he found himself protesting defensively. He just couldn’t believe something like this was happening.

“Sometimes, we feel things that no one can explain or control,” KaiShi responded with a soft sigh. “I don’t think AsaHi means for this to happen. I’ve seen her acting just as devoted to SoYa in her time here, as well. I believe that the poor child is caught in the middle of a very troublesome emotional mess.”

“Especially considering someone like Zemi is involved,” Zento drooped a bit, leaning more heavily against the Dragon’s tail as the full implication of the situation dawned on him. “Oh… man… what do I do?”

“Zento,” her voice was soft, a feeling of warm breath against his cheek as she drew closer to him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring more trouble to your heart. But it was important.”

“Yes,” he ran his hands over his face, trying to regain his composure. “I understand.”

“And you aren’t alone in facing this,” KaiShi prompted.

Zento paused for a moment as the statement drew up around him. Then he glanced up at her, “What do you mean?”

“Let me help you and SoYa,” the golden Dragon replied quickly to his question.

“KaiShi, you don’t need to be getting into this mess…”

“I’ve already chosen to become involved by coming here to talk to you, Zento. As the leader of Lord Zemi’s Dragons, I do have some responsibility in things that would have such a big impact on us as this,” she interjected.

“Yes, but…”

“Besides, you are too close to the situation, Zento,” the Dragon shifted arguments. “You are Zemi’s Champion as well as SoYa’s father. It is important that you don’t get yourself drawn apart in this. I have a feeling that both Zemi and SoYa are going to need your council before it is all over.”

Zento fell silent at the logic. Then he asked, “What do you suggest?”

“Let me approach Zemi. Let me see what I can do to help him understand,” KaiShi coaxed softly.

The warmth of her breath was at his cheek again. Zento felt himself giving way to the pure sympathy of the Dragon’s request with an attempted jest, “Are you suggesting I’d only botch it?”

“Never send a man in on a mission of love… nothing good ever came of that,” she rivaled his hint with a tease of her own.

Zento gave a strained chuckle. “You’re probably right, KaiShi.”

“Of course,” the golden Dragon curled her tail tighter about the two of them, a gesture of comfort. “Just let me see what I can do with that impossible Dreigiau.”