AsaHi was laughing easily, curled in the giant coils of the big crimson Dragon’s tail. Brunswik, she had said his name was. And though SoYa had been somewhat shy of approaching most of the Dragons in Wyndor, the Apprentice had early discovered that this particular Dragon was actually really easy to talk with.
He reminds me of that one guy I used to know… what was his name…? The big guy… the one that was strong enough to lift twice his weight but couldn’t spell his name right no matter how many times he tried. Nice guy, though.
Brunswik was friendly enough despite his vast size. And of all the Dragons in Wyndor, he was the most apt to spend time there in the Great Chamber. Besides KaiShi, who had really done a lot to help make SoYa feel at home.
At the moment, he and AsaHi were relieved from their duty of looking after the strange man, Aur. Father had come and shooed them off, probably taking that time to make his long-awaited conversation.
A conversation with a creature that came from the Time Before. Who is now stuck in Earthian form. How much more can happen around here?
SoYa tried to take it all in stride. Like AsaHi seemed to be able to.
AsaHi who could sit in the tail coil of a Dragon that was nearly half the height of a Nefol castle without alarm. She was cheerfully sticking little white flowers in Brunswik’s thick black mane. And the great beast sat placidly, letting her do so. As if he was absolutely enraptured with the whole thing.
All the Dragons seem to like AsaHi…
He knew it was the truth. They were kind to him, of course. But they adored AsaHi. There was a difference – a big difference.
Maybe I should try harder to make friends. AsaHi always tells me it’s easy… but then, it’s always been so easy for her.
SoYa just shook his head and remained content with watching. Watching was fine, too. He was convinced that one learned more about the world that way. But that was just his own loose theory.
“SoYa…?” a soft voice said from behind.
The Apprentice turned, peering over his shoulder, wondering who would be interested in calling his name. He could see KaiShi, standing under the archway leading to the Outlook.
“Hello, Lady KaiShi?” the Apprentice rose to greet her.
“Zemi wishes to speak to you,” she told him. There was a faint quiver in her voice.
“Are you sure he’s not busy?” SoYa asked.
He had meant to take an audience with the Dreigiau to tell him about what he had seen in the Passage. About the illusionary image of TsuYa. But he never had a chance to make the discussion come about before the battle at the Spiral occurred. Lord Zemi and all the Dragons had flown out leaving SoYa to sit on his anxiety.
I wish talking to Lord Dragon was as easy as talking with Brunswik.
“He has requested that you come to talk to him,” KaiShi replied. Again, there was a tension to her voice that made him wonder.
AsaHi was watching their exchange. When SoYa took in a deep breath, trying to gather his courage, she gave him an encouraging smile.
“I’ll be right back,” the Apprentice told her as he strode across the black-glass floor towards where KaiShi waited.
He didn’t know why the hairs on the back of his neck had begun to rise the closer he came to the arched doorway. Just shoving it off as his nerves getting the better of him, SoYa swallowed down uncertainty and strode past KaiShi.
“You’re coming in with me, right?” he peered at her, appealing.
“I’ll stay by the door,” she told him with a nod. “Zemi wants to talk to you privately. But I’ll be right here, okay?”
“Well… I guess…” It wasn’t really okay. He wanted her there next to him. Physically. But what else could he do?
KaiShi stood just outside the archway, something about her golden eyes was deeply intense. And though she might have wanted to come off as encouraging, SoYa couldn’t help but continue to get the feeling that something was troubling her.
I can do this…
SoYa stepped out upon the bare white rock. He flexed his hands, open and shut once, working out the tension in his arms.
I’ve talked to Lord Zemi before…
He ran his tongue over his lips, taking first one step. Then another. Making his way across the shelf of the Outlook, into the crisp afternoon air.
And he’s scared me senseless every time I have…
The Dreigiau’s crimson robed form was crouched at the far ledge. Sitting, knees to his chest, arms wrapped around his legs. Eyes fixed on the horizon line.
Not yet having learned how to put up a false public face, Lord Zemi was an open book that SoYa could read instantly: Confusion. Sorrow. Struggle. Anger.
He wanted to ask it aloud. But his voice failed him. His steps failed him. SoYa remained standing, halfway across the stone, peering at the unusual sight before him. Dreigiau in dilemma.
“SoYa,” Lord Zemi’s voice was strong, deep. Firm. “Come here.”
Something about it made SoYa’s whole body stiffen. And he suddenly wondered what he might have done wrong. Swallowing down his fear, the Apprentice made his way closer to the Dreigiau.
“Sit,” the Arweinydd instructed, motioning to the ground next to him.
Eager to comply, SoYa quickly assumed a cross-legged position. He fought to hide the shivers that rushed over him.
Lord Zemi remained staring out at the skyline, eyes tracing the flight of birds that swung across the distant clouds. The silence was thick and uncomfortable between them.
Finally working up his courage, SoYa peered over, offering his concern, “Lord Zemi… is there something wrong?”
When the Dreigiau began to talk, it was somewhat broken. Very throaty. “You know… you’d think that being an Arweinydd, I would have seen it all. Or at least be able to foresee things better than I have.”
Having no idea what he was talking about, SoYa could only offer, “I’m sorry?”
“Yes,” Lord Zemi replied.
The Apprentice sat there, lost. Not knowing what else to say, he simply allowed the Dreigiau his time to speak.
“Arweinydd aren’t supposed to be able to fall in love,” Lord Zemi said simply. He lifted a hand and looked at it before putting it back down again. “But I suppose most believe that Arweinydd aren’t supposed to feel anything at all.”
SoYa nodded, trying to help the conversation along in his own silent way.
The Dreigiau turned his head, a glint of spite in his eyes, “I found out that AsaHi is your Promised. Is that correct?”
The Apprentice’s mouth fell open, “Ah… yes. That’s right?”
The Arweinydd’s fist balled, gripping the front of his robe so tightly that it threatened a tear. A snarl twisted his face, sharp white fangs showing at the corners of his mouth. But something behind his eyes fought, his gaze ripping away from the Apprentice’s face, falling back on the horizon.
“What if I were to tell you,” the Dreigiau said finally. “That I’ve fallen in love with AsaHi?”
SoYa froze, locked in the power of terrible fear. Unable to say anything. Unable to move. He could only stare at the Arweinydd in wide-eyed shock, and wonder how much longer he had left to live.
Lord Zemi had fallen silent, fighting to remain calm. But there was anger there. Anger at the terrible twist of fate. Perhaps even anger that one mere Earthian stood between him and what he wanted.
When the Dreigiau turned back to him, his eyes smoldered. SoYa could almost sense the writhing of thought in Lord Zemi’s mind: Things like this should not happen… The child of ZenToYa, whom the Arweinydd would have claimed to be like his own son… a mere Apprentice becoming an unworthy rival.
“Do you love AsaHi?” Lord Zemi asked.
SoYa spoke the words slowly, with measure. Knowing they would mean his doom. “More than my own life.”
“Is that so?” Something shifted in the glow of the Dreigiau’s eyes. Something stirring deeply. SoYa was startled to see it was perhaps… respect?
The Apprentice lifted his chin just a little, his own frightened green eyes meeting the vast gaze, “Yes.”
As if the power of the single courageous word was too much, the Dreigiau turned away. The anger vanished and only something broken remained. “Forgive me, SoYa.”
The Apprentice let out a long breath, wondering if the danger was past.
“I needed to know that you would remain firm in your feelings for AsaHi, even in the face of fear,” there was a hint of pain in his voice. “I had to make sure you’d take care of her for me. And now, you have my word that I will honor your Promise to her.”
SoYa could not help but feel a mixture of shock and pity. For this otherworld creature, this Arweinydd, had discovered what it meant to feel love as the Earthians did… only to find that love denied.And though he could have easily obtained what he wanted, the Dreigiau had chosen honor over desire.
“Lord Zemi… I…” the Apprentice was too stunned, too overwhelmed with the virtue before him. There was so much he wanted to say, but nothing came out.
The Arweinydd peered over, then gently placed one palm on his head. ”SoYa… Just call me ‘Zemi’, okay?”
“Zemi..?” the Apprentice echoed dumbly.
The Dreigiau pushed himself to his feet and nodded slowly. Then without another word, he strode away from the Outlook, back into the arched doors of Wyndor.
Still absolutely overwhelmed, all SoYa could do was peer out at the passing clouds.