“Dragons on the horizon!” a voice called from the hall outside of TsuYa’s door. “Lord Zemi is coming!”
A great stirring followed the sound of the call, the Cyngan all in a flurry to rush from the compound and greet the Dreigiau’s return. The dim halls that were usually still and calm suddenly sprung to glistening life with surprising vitality. There was even the sound of joyful singing somewhere off in the distance.
All the better for me to just stay put.
TsuYa scowled at the commotion outside his door. His bandaged chin was propped on top of his folded arms. His elbows perched where he leaned idly against the smooth curve of the windowsill. Though he had little interest in getting caught up in the trivial-mindedness of the winged people’s welcome, TsuYa couldn’t keep his dark eyes from straying with expectation at the cloud-dappled sky. The thought that perhaps he’d get a glimpse of the Dragons flying in kept him there.
Father… finally… you’ve come back.
He felt a twinge of hope for the first time since arriving on the floating lands. TsuYa had no doubt that Father would return with an answer to everything… to the terrible dreams… the patch on his skin… and now the gashes on his cheek.
But what will he say when he sees this?
After the appearance of the slashes on his face, TsuYa had no choice but to offer up some sort of explanation to Aunt SaRa and JouKa. Though he didn’t tell him the whole of the story – there were far too many things about his dreams that he did not understand well enough to speak of – he did tell them his nightmarish experiences.
And what did they do about it?
TsuYa’s greatest concern was that upon discovering his dark secret, Aunt SaRa would have ordered him retained… locked up… confined. It was the logical thing to do – no one knew what he was tainted with or what the outcome would be.
I could very well be a danger to each and every person on this Island. Yet…
Aunt SaRa only mothered him with growing concern and affection, easing his fears by assuring him that Father and Lord Zemi would return home with answers soon. No confinement. No mistrust. Simply a set of bandages to bind up the wounds on his cheek.
Sometimes… I really just don’t get her.
Of course, there was the initial shock in reaction to his story, and JouKa seemed take it far less calmly than Aunt SaRa did. The winged girl even attempted to deny the truth of his story at first, until he pointed out the darkened patch of skin and the gashes on his face.
Though, I guess that’s to be expected.
In the end, Aunt SaRa had made JouKa promise to keep TsuYa’s secret just among the three of them. From that point out, one of the two women were almost always present to keep watch over him. If there were any strange behavior or signs that he was phasing out into another one of his dreams, they were there to act on the situation right away.
Which means… I never get any time to myself now. What a bother.
TsuYa shifted his position with a deep huff, the motion causing the gashes along his cheek to ache again, a sharp stinging burn. Though a few days passed since the wounds were inflicted in his dream, they seemed just as fresh and painful as they were the very first day. Aunt SaRa did all she could to treat and dress the wounds, but they remained wide open and burning, oozing a sickly black liquid that was neither blood nor puss. All that they could do was keep it covered, and to change the bandages, which was far more often than TsuYa liked.
But maybe, now that Father is coming home, I won’t have to worry about it much longer.
It was a small hope, but it was all he had left to hold on to. If anyone could find a way to help him, it would be Father.
“TsuYa!” the door slid open without warning. JouKa stood on the other side, dashing the hair out of her face with a ruffled expression. “What are ya doin’?”
He sat up with a disgruntled look on his face, “What does it look like I’m doing?”
“Not getting’ ready to to see Lord Zemi’s arrival, that’s fer sure!” she chided him sharply, arms spreading in exasperation. A few steps carried her across the room to where he sat. Then one hand planted on her hip, the customary look of disapproval on her face.
She certainly doesn’t treat me any nicer now that she knows. I guess that’s a bit too much to hope for.
“It’s a mess out there. I’m in no rush to get caught up in the crowds,” TsuYa informed her, crossing his arms and leaning back.
“Give me a break,” JouKa huffed, wagging a finger at his nose. “It’s yer Father comin’ ‘ome too? Ya wanta see ‘im, now don’t ya?”
“Of course I do.”
“Then get offa ya lazy tail and get out ‘ere!” she grabbed him by the sleeve and gave a jerk.
“Hey, watch the robe!” he grumbled at her, partially to cover up the fact that he was complying with her demands. Getting to his feet, he brushed a hand through his bangs, ignoring the sharp sting of his cheek as he did.
“We can’t ‘elp much ‘ow ya look right now. Let’s jus get goin’!” JouKa scolded, though there was a playful tone to her words. She knew he took a lot of pride in his well-groomed looks. And she knew all the best times to mock him about it, too.
His scowl was covered up by her crusade out the door. TsuYa was left little choice but to follow her out into the hall and to do what he could to dodge the masses of white winged people who were thronging out of the compound to the grassy hillsides beyond.
Despite himself, TsuYa’s breath caught in his throat with a thrill of awe. By the time the two of them wove their way through the front doors, the Dragons were already overhead, making slow looping passes above the Islands. He could make out three Dragons in total – two which shown crimson-bronze in the sunlight. The largest of the three, a great white Dragon, could only be Lord Zemi.
“Awesome, aren’t they?” JouKa’s eyes were fixed on the cloud-dappled skies above, a distant moment of bliss on her face. For all of her grouchiness about being stuck up there on the Islands, there still seemed a part of her that responded to Lord Zemi’s presence the same way that the other Cyngan did.
TsuYa didn’t reply. He simply watched as the Dragons made a final tilted swoop towards the large clearing in the rainbow-hued meadow not too far away. His eyes strained to make out the dark figures that rode astride the huge beasts, suddenly finding himself excited at the thought of seeing Father again.
And SoYa, too… I wonder how SoYa did out there on the journey?
The crowd was filled with cheers and enthusiasm as the Dragons skimmed over the top of the compound, kicking up leaves and stray blades of grass. Out of respect, no one stepped closer to the clearing, giving the great creatures more than enough room to make a landing.
Never bound by what everyone else did, TsuYa pushed his way forward, weaving through white feathers, happy faces and waving exclamations. His eyes were fixed upon the Dragons, trying to make out the shapes of the riders. Hoping to see those whom he suddenly realized he had missed quite a bit.
“TsuYa! Where are ya goin’? You can’t do that!” JouKa exclaimed, one hand trying to catch him back by the robe. In the middle of the excitement, she was jostled back the other way, unable to catch up with the wayward Apprentice before he broke away from the rest of the crowd.
That’s when he found himself free, away from the other pressing bodies, just the rising majesty of the landed Dragons in the soft meadow before him. His long white hair streamed behind him from wind from the huge wings churned up. His feet carried him forward with little heed to the voices behind him or the beasts before him.
That’s when he heard his name called.
His head jerked up as a familiar face strode from behind one of the Dragons. His eyes caught the gaze of his brother and froze for a moment. “SoYa!?”
SoYa’s face broke out into a wide, joyful grin as he rushed forward. Just behind him, AsaHi appeared, giving a happy squeal and waving excitedly while repeating TsuYa’s name over and over again.
Before TsuYa knew what was happening, SoYa had reached him and caught him up in a brotherly hug. “Tsu! I’m so relieved! You’re alright!”
“Y-yeah?” TsuYa nodded, a hint of smile crossing his own face as the two of them drew away. That’s when he was able to get a good look at his brother.
It wasn’t the sort of change-feeling one gets from someone that they had been separated from for a while. It was a real change.
Something about the way that SoYa held himself spoke of confidence that had never been there before. Something within his eyes was more knowing, more aware. Even the clasp of his hand on TsuYa’s shoulder was more sure and bold. The feeling he gave was far stronger, his presence felt somewhat like…
SoYa just remained grinning in his typical, unassuming way. If he sensed anything that TsuYa was thinking — and being a mind-sucker, TsuYa didn’t put it past him — SoYa didn’t let on.
There was a sudden wrinkle upon SoYa’s brow, the question coming out of the blue, “Tsu… what happened to your face?”
“Uruuhm…” TsuYa cast around desperately for an excuse. But he was saved by the call of another voice.
The two brothers turned to see their father approaching. The winged man’s face was brilliant with a calm, radiant joy as he extended his hands to his youngest son.
Something within TsuYa’s spirit rose and leapt at the mere sight. He found himself calling back, embarrassingly boyish in return, “Father!”
But Father was already there, catching TsuYa up in his second hug of the day. Though the Apprentice would have usually shrugged off such public displays, right now he just didn’t care. He didn’t even care that they were being overshadowed by the watching figures of the great Dragons… or that there was a tall, dark-haired stranger observing the reunion not too far away… or that all of Ceiswyr was their audience.
A rare spark of hope and happiness snuck up on him in the arrival of his family.
When Father finally pulled away, holding TsuYa by the shoulders at arm’s length, a sudden quizzical expression covered the winged man’s face. “Tsu… what happened?”
TsuYa coughed with a slight grimace. “Uruhm… this… isn’t exactly the best place to talk about it, Father.”
“Alright, then,” Father put his grin back on, then faced the waiting crowds that had gathered in welcoming.
Both hands raised, wings unfurled wide, ZenToYa greeted the people of the Dreigiau upon his return to Ceiswyr. And just behind, the Dragons trumpeted the joyful reunion to the brilliant azure skies.