“It felt more real in my dreams,” TsuYa murmured as the door to the chamber fell open to Zazo’s command.
There, stretching before him was the room of his nightmares, which was, much to his surprise, a place that was locked deep within the lower vaults. How TsuYa knew where to find it, he didn’t know. A presence drew him there, the same presence that haunted his dreams.
Now, the room spread before him, no longer a dream. The strange, humming mechanisms stood in the center of it all, just as they always did. The same tubes and globes. The switchboard of lights and buttons and readings.
The scent of decay and clinging death struck his senses, seeming more surreal now than in the haze of sleep. The floor crunched under his boots, sticky with dried dark liquid. The air was stale and almost too heavy to breathe. A familiar dread and tingling burn itched at the dark patch of skin on his chest.
It was only when Father peered into the room from over his shoulder that Tsu remembered that it wasn’t his dream and he wasn’t alone this time. A visible revulsion was written on the winged warrior’s face.
Zazo nudged him into the chamber from behind. -What’s the holdup? This is what we’ve been looking for.-
Biting his tongue against the protest that formed in his throat, TsuYa stumbled forward, one slow step at a time. His eyes finally fixed on the globe, a tightness gripping his chest in apprehension.
There’s no telling what’s inside that thing…
“Inside?” Father echoed, obviously picking up the apprehension in his thoughts.
“Father,” TsuYa shot him a disapproving look. If there was one thing he didn’t like, it was people prying into his thoughts, even his own father.
The winged man gave a sheepish look and rubbed the back of his head. “Sorry. Couldn’t help but catch that.”
-So the Sygnus-thing is inside the globe?- Zazo snuffed sharply at the strange mechanism in the center of the room.
“I think so,” TsuYa nodded slowly.
-Then we should break it open!- the she-wolf loped forward with an impending step.
“Wait, no!” Father reached up. “We don’t know if that might set off something. Or even kill whatever’s inside?”
-The point in finding the Sygnus is to kill it, is it not?- her ears perked forward, gaze deep and penetrating.
“Well…” his words were uncertain.
-This creature will bring the destruction of all that you know, ZenToYa. Don’t forget that.-
Father shook his head slowly. “I know you’re probably right, but Zemi didn’t tell us what we to do once we’ve found it. I don’t want to jump into something.”
-Bah!- Zazo shook her head out in disapproval. -You’re no fun.-
For a long moment, Father studied the control board with all of its switches and buttons and lights. A perplexed expression rose over his face, growing more and more uncertain the longer he looked.
“Could use NaDo right now,” he muttered to himself. Then he glanced over at Zazo, “Do you know how to open it?”
-We could break it?-
“Aside from breaking it?”
The winged man gave a long suffering sigh with an appealing look to his son.
Some good she is…
The she-wolf turned with a snuff at the Apprentice. -I heard that.-
“Well if you’d keep your nose where it belongs, you wouldn’t have,” TsuYa grimaced at her. Why he suddenly found himself gutsy enough to back-talk an Arweinydd, he didn’t know. It was just as surprising that she retorted right back.
-My nose is on my face, right where it belongs. Where else would it be?- Zazo’s tail swung back and forth, something akin to teasing.
Father glanced over at them with a frown, “So what should we do?”
Zazo paced around a few steps and finally stated, -Press the red button.-
“Red button?” the winged man squinted at the board, then back at the she-wolf. “Are you sure?”
-Do you want to stand around all day?-
-Then press the red button.-
“Alright,” Father grimaced, moving his finger to carefully hover over the button on the panel. Then with a quick jab, he clicked it, yanking back again as if afraid of being bitten.
A whooshing hiss suddenly rose around them, the silvery mists churning throughout the chamber as a stream of racing bubbles traced down the long tubes that fed into the globe. A cloud of froth began to pour from the surface of the globe and the clear capsule began folding back upon itself, slowly melting away from the top down.
“It’s opening,” TsuYa gaped, taking a step back.
Father glanced over at Zazo, “The red button… how did you know?”
-Easy,- she told him. -It says “release” underneath it.-
“Oh?” the winged man turned back to the control panel, eyes brushing over the strange runes that were scripted onto its surface. They didn’t make any more sense to him than they did to TsuYa.
-Be ready. The Sygnus is released.- Zazo’s warning brought their attention back to the globe.
TsuYa’s throat tightened to match the gripping feeling in his chest.
What’s going to happen now? If this really is a Sygnus, are we doomed? Or do the Arweinydd know something that we don’t?
The silver mists poured out of the center of the globe as it folded away to the furthest extent. Silence filled the room, only the haunting fingers chilling his skin as the mist brushed past him, swirling across his vision in eerie patterns.
Father slowly crept forward, his wings folded back and hand hovering over his sheathed weapon. Carefully, his eyes probed the mists, searching to find what secret peril the globe held. As he stepped up to the structure, a thrill of shock rushed over him.
“Father, what is it?” TsuYa found his voice nothing more than a rasping whisper.
The winged man said nothing. Instead, he reached up and unclasped the cloak that hung around his shoulders. Then stooping down, cloak within his hands, he gave a soft, uncertain murmur. “Tsu…”
TsuYa drew closer, peering around his father’s shoulder into the bottom half of the globe. His eyes widened as his eyes fell upon what looked to be…
A young boy, no more than four or five years old, lay cupped in the misty crescent of the globe. His skin was pale to the point of near radiance, his hair wispy, the color of molten silver. He didn’t stir as Father wrapped the soft blue cloak around his thin body.
-This is the big, terrible Sygnus-thing?- Zazo looked somewhat disappointed. -It figures… leave it to Zemi to overreact.-
A shiver still rippled over TsuYa’s body as he peered down at the child. The flicker of sound rose to him. A name. And he found himself speaking, “LuShi.”
“What?” Father turned with a quizzical look.
“That’s… his… name…” the Apprentice said quietly. Then he added, “I heard it in my dream.”
-”The Bane”? Oh, how pleasant.- Zazo gave a wolfish grimace. -I say do away with it. Save us all the grief that it’s going to cause.-
TsuYa’s eyes instantly flicked up to his father’s face. There was uncertainty there. And reluctance. It was easy to understand why.
If this kid really will destroy everything… then maybe Zazo is right… we should stop this before it starts.
LuShi made a quiet little sound, peaceful as he curled up within Father’s blue cloak. The mists alighted around him, giving him an air of illumination, the tiny face full of unknowing innocence.
But he’s just a little… kid…
Even TsuYa felt himself choke as he gazed down at the sleeping child. A pang of struggle rippled through his body, the same uncertainty that mirrored in his father’s stance. He knew there would be no death in that room that day.
Face awash with ambivalence, Father reached down and lifted the little boy from the shifting mists. His eyes were heavy with indecision, a choice that he was unable to make. But there was one thing that was certain.
“We can’t leave this child here, Sygnus or not. As long as Zerom has this boy in his grasp, he will be used against us,” the winged man spoke as he wrapped the child deeper within his cloak, away from the biting cold that would greet them in the outside world. Then clasping LuShi to his chest, he turned and nodded.
Just as TsuYa began to grimace, a shiver ran over the entire chamber. Something deep under his feet began to moan, shifting the ground where he stood and nearly dragging him to his knees. With a startled exclamation, he found himself knocked against the side of the mechanism.
Zazo’s ears flattened back. -That’s not good.-
“What is it?” Father’s eyes rose, peering up in concern.
-The boys are going at it.- she informed them.
As the whole Spire began to shake, trembles of stone and cloth breaking free from above, TsuYa didn’t need a definition on who “the boys” might be.
Zemi and Zerom are fighting?
-We can’t stay here.-
“Let’s go!” Father was already moving towards the exit, double time. He held the boy tightly to his chest as he ran, eyes sharp on the ground ahead of him.
TsuYa followed, clutching the weight of his scythe over one shoulder. He could feel a heavy weariness falling over his body — the result of the battles earlier in the day. His footsteps were leaden as he struggled to keep up with the pace of the winged man ahead. And something in his chest had begun to burn…
“Aurhg!” the Apprentice suddenly choked, doubling over as pain spiked through every limb.
“Tsu!” Father turned on his heel.
But Zazo would have nothing of it. –Keep moving, ZenToYa! Don’t turn back! The Sygnus can’t remain here!-
“Father!” TsuYa croaked, his voice cracking.
The feeling. He knew it. It was the mind of Zerom closing in on him.
He’s found me!
“I’m not leaving Tsu!” the winged man protested sharply.
-I’ll take care of TsuYa. You have to keep going!- her fangs snapped sharply, in a no-nonsense snarl.
The pain increased, pulsing over the Apprentice’s entire body. Through the fog that rose in his head, he heard himself saying, “Father… go… you’ve got to go!”
-Trust me, ZenToYa!- Zazo prodded.
With a broken sound, Father staggered back a step. Then he turned on his heel and leapt off through the halls.
TsuYa’s eyes misted over, the image blurring and fading away. The sound of the crumbling Spire rained down around him. The torture of Zerom’s Chaos ripped through him, scorching his skin like a cold flame. As he slumped over in the darkness, his last thoughts questioned if he would ever see his father again.