“Zemi,” KaiShi’s voice drifted up quietly from somewhere just behind the Dreigiau, “I think we need to talk.”
There was importance in the statement. An irrefutable solidity to her voice. Zemi recognized the sound when he heard it and knew it was best to allow whatever was about to happen follow through. He felt a prickling along the nape of his neck as his eyes gave the horizon one last pass. Then he turned to give the golden-haired woman his best attention.
“Sure, what’s on your mind?” he replied with a genuine smile.
A soft breeze blew between them, adding a gentle day-draft to the warmth of the early afternoon. Zemi came up to the Outlook to take a break from the lingering after-battle excitement of his Dragons. He needed to think about things. About the Spiral. About Zento. About Kudako. And especially about Aur.
“I’ve spoken at length with Zento,” she told him. The words should have been warning enough, even without the sharp violet eyes keeping watch over him intently. “From what I’ve seen over the past weeks, and the things that Zento has seen as well, we’ve come to the conclusion that you’re growing fond of AsaHi.”
His brow furrowed at the obviousness of the statement. He leaned back a moment before rising to his full height. “Of course I’m fond of AsaHi. Most everyone who knows her is.”
KaiShi gave a gentle sigh and shook her head, “Not that kind of fond, Zemi.”
“What kind of fond, then?”
There was a reluctance to the words as she placed them out on the table before him. But they came, clear and unwavering. Solid and factual. “Zemi, you’re falling in love with AsaHi.”
“What?” the Dreigiau’s eyebrows arched as far up as they could go.
“That’s what I thought,” she said quietly. “You didn’t even realize it, did you?”
Zemi just grappled with the idea that he hadn’t denied her statement from the outset. He gave a gruff snort, leaning forward to get a better view over the edge of the Outlook, “What makes you so sure of that?”
“I told you. Zento and I spoke and we–”
“Conspiracy,” Zemi grumbled. “Can’t trust anyone now days.”
“I’ve been watching you and AsaHi,” KaiShi simply continued pressing over the Dreigiau’s offhand-remarks. “It’s all classic — the way you favor her, the time you spend with her, the looks that you give her. Zemi, I’ve been around the Earthian block long enough. I know love when I see it.”
Zemi gave another mutter, rubbing at his nose with the back of one hand. He wasn’t really angry at the directness of her approach – KaiShi was always like that. It was part of the reason he chosen her to lead his Dragons, while Zento was chosen to lead the Cyngan.
However, this proposal came completely out of the blue. Though KaiShi could be trusted on the matter of good council any day of the week, the impossibility of the situation struck discord in his mind.
“It’s just the Drei’distau,” Zemi finally spoke, trying to shrug it off.
Afterall, one of his kind couldn’t fall in love with an Earthian. Befriend them, spend time with them, care about them – yes. However, Arweinydd didn’t fall in love.
“I don’t believe it that’s all there is to it,” the she shook her head vehemently. “Not for one second.”
“It’s not possible,” he informed her, echoing his thoughts. “My kind can’t manifest that sort of emotion.”
“Well, you ‘manifest’ plenty of other emotion. What’s the difference?” KaiShi pointed out.
“There is a difference,” Zemi glanced over at her. “Even your own people categorized love as an emotion all unto itself. Yes?”
KaiShi stated firmly, “Just because you can’t comprehend something, doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.”
“Even the Arweinydd have their rules,” Zemi grimaced.
“Oh, come on, Zemi! Since when did you ever play by anyone else’s rules?”
The Dreigiau took in a deep breath. He knew he couldn’t get out of that one. “That’s… true… I suppose.”
“Trust me on this one, Zemi,” KaiShi told him, seeing that he agreed with her on one thing. “This isn’t just the Drei’distau at work between you and her. You’re falling for her. So, get it out of your head that such an emotion is impossible for you to feel.”
He sat in a confusing swirl of thought, the facts of his origins in conflict with the determination of her voice. Surely, she was the servant and he was the Dreigiau. If there was one that knew about the Arweinydd, it was himself.
Though one couldn’t push aside the fact that even what the Arweinydd knew of their own kind was very little. Nowhere was it set in cosmic stone that Arweinydd were limited in emotion. If anything, Zemi proved that basic feeling and emotion could be developed through enough exposure to the Earthian kind.
But falling in love?
That would put some major complications into the already muddled mix. After all, the most devastating stories that the Earthians told were all about people who did stupid things all in the name of this emotion called love. Certainly he, Lord Zemi Dreigiau, would not allow himself to fall into such pitiful heart-set traps.
“You know something? It’s really a wonderful thing, falling in love,” KaiShi suddenly took on a whimsical tone, her head lifted towards the sky. “I know how you desire knowledge about the Earthians.”
She paused for a moment, letting the thought sink in.
“Love is the ultimate teacher in our world.”
“Is that so?” Zemi squinted a bit.
“Oh, yes. So don’t let it seem like I’m against you falling in love,” her words continued to assume that her stance was correct. Rather than dispute her, Zemi simply let her continue on, “I’d wish all the best for you if it were under better conditions.”
The Dreigiau could hear the shift in her voice. The turning point of the conversation. There was something more going on. He knew that he wouldn’t have to wait too long for it to come out. And he was right.
“Of all the girls out there for you to become fond of,” KaiShi gave a long sigh, “Why did you have to go and pick AsaHi?”
“What?” Zemi said, for the second time during the course of that conversation. For some odd reason, that had been the last thing he had been expecting to hear. Instantly he found himself balanced on the edge of curiosity and a strange sort of trepidation.
“Zemi… you don’t know anything about the Bonding Ceremonies of the Earthians, do you?” she asked gently.
He fished around in his mind for a moment before shaking his head. “Seems to be a familiar term. But I don’t know anything particular about it. No.”
“How is it that you can make an Earthian into a Dragon and have no clue about a very common ritual like that?” she chided him. Just a bit. There as a hint of pity in her words, as if she was approaching something sad and wasn’t sure how to say it.
“Maybe because I’ve only been able to associate with people for a very short amount of time now,” Zemi chided back. “It’s not as if I’ve had a chance to learn much culture, you know?”
“Oh, Zemi,” she sighed. Her eyes turned the other way.
He read her hesitance and offered her a leeway into the topic. “It’s okay, KaiShi. Just tell me what I need to know. It seems to be important, yes?”
“Yes,” she took a deep breath, then began, “You have an idea of what the Earthian concept of a ‘promise’ is, don’t you?”
“Of course. It means that you tell someone that you’re going to do something, and you follow through with it. Correct?” Zemi was trying to figure out what that had to do with AsaHi. And with being supposedly in love.
“That’s pretty close,” she nodded. “Well, in our culture, when a young man and young woman are both in love with each other, they can choose to become something called Promised.”
“As in a state of being promised?”
“To each other,” KaiShi tried to explain further. “It means that they will be true to each other. They will honor the love that the other feels for them. And they promise not to betray the person by falsely loving someone else.”
“That would mean that they belong to each other?” Zemi perked up, thinking of the possibilities of such a concept.
AsaHi could be his Drei’distau… and his Drei’distau only.
“Somewhat,” she nodded. “Once they spend time together as Promised and they know that they wish to be with that person for the rest of their life, they make a vow to Bond themselves to each other in love. That’s what is known as the Bonding Ceremony.”
“Sometimes you Earthians really do come up with the most fascinating concepts,” the Dreigiau churred under his breath, his mind calculating. For if he could claim AsaHi, then certainly he would be able to fight back against the Chaos.
“Yes, well,” KaiShi swallowed. She was pausing again.
“Well?” he peered over at her, curiously.
“Zemi, I know you’re not going to be happy about this,” she began, voice gentle. “But you do know that AsaHi is already Promised to someone else, don’t you?”
The entire world fell silent around him. So silent, he could hear the distant stars singing beyond the pale blue of the sky overhead. A song of deep, sudden lament. Of something that might have been wonderful gone terribly wrong.
He could feel his face whitening. Was he growing pale? Could he, the Dreigiau do that? Through the depth of the silence, the sound of his heartbeat thumped rapidly within his ears. His palms were clammy when he clasped them together. Though he tried to smile, it crossed his face as a grimace of sharp pain.
“What… do you mean?” his voice was hoarse and gravely. Somewhere between a choke and a growl. Somewhere between grief and fury — balanced on the edge of Chaos.
“AsaHi is Promised to someone else,” she repeated. Quietly. Firmly. There was no question as to what she said this time.
“But she can’t be!” he objected as if his words alone could will his desires into being.
She couldn’t belong to someone else — that was simply too stupid to believe. AsaHi was meant to be his Drei’distau! Why else would things happen this way?
“Zemi, she was Promised long before you met her in the cave,” KaiShi tried to reason with him, sensing the danger in his voice.
“AsaHi should belong to me!” he balled his fists, clutching the front of his robes. His fangs glimmered wickedly as his lip curled fiercely.
She flinched back, a look of alarm on her face. “Belong? Oh, Zemi, no! It doesn’t work that way! You can’t own a person!”
“Who is it?” he leapt suddenly to his feet. “Who does AsaHi belong to!?”
KaiShi took a choking breath in. Alarm had shifted into anxiety and fear.
Zemi choked down the panic, trying to hold on to anything he could. He could feel himself – almost see himself slipping… slipping… the influence of Chaos reaching for him. If he couldn’t have AsaHi… how could he possibly fight back against the darkness that threatened to consume him?
“Please… no… don’t be this way, Zemi,” she whispered.
“Who!” he demanded again, voice almost spiraling up into a roar.
“It’s SoYa!” the words came in a rasping gasp, her head wrenching the other way. As if she couldn’t bear to look at the Dreigiau any longer. As if even she could sense the taint of the Chaos seeping into his soul.
“SoYa?!” Zemi echoed in an incredulous tone. His slitted eyes shot towards the arch of doorway. Towards the Great Chamber, where the Apprentice would most certainly be found. “SoYa!?”
“Zemi, I know what you’re thinking. But you can’t!” she was almost begging now.
“Tell SoYa to come to me,” the Dreigiau commanded.
“You have to remember that being a Promised means that AsaHi loves SoYa, too!” she was throwing all the facts at him in desperation. Though she was right, he didn’t want to hear it.
He was the Dreigiau, after all. Who could tell Lord Zemi Dreigiau what he could and could not do?
“Bring him here!” Zemi ordered again.
“Only on one condition,” KaiShi suddenly snapped back.
The Dreigiau found himself strangely subdued at her turn of demands. It had always been that way with him – Zemi was impressed by people who would stand up to him. Finding a core of calmness once more, he answered, “What?”
“Before I bring him here, I want you to think about what I’ve said. Think about it real hard,” she said.
He furrowed one brow in question.
“Think about SoYa — one of your own Apprentices! Think about Zento. Think about AsaHi. And consider what your actions can do to everyone else around you,” KaiShi’s voice was grave.
Zemi found himself surrounded by silence again.
“The hard part of interacting with an Earthian world is that disappointment is real. You can’t always fill every desire, every feeling, every whim that you have. And everything you do has a consequence, Zemi,” she rose to her feet, peering down on him. “The more powerful you are, the larger the consequences will be.”
KaiShi then turned, making her way into the Great Chamber. Leaving the Dreigiau to his thoughts. Leaving him to his silence.
And Zemi discovered within that stillness the faint, uncharacteristic shattering of what seemed to be his heart.