AsaHi was walking out in the gardens when she first felt it. Though she wasn’t magic-natured like a lot of the people around her and couldn’t always sense things that they could, there were certain things that she could feel. Usually, the things she sensed were directly associated to Dragons.
About 90% of the time, that Dragon was Zemi, just like AsaHi knew it was now.
I wonder what’s going on?
There was always something about the way he felt that set Zemi apart from the other Dragons. AsaHi never knew how exactly to explain it – it was as if there was something vast and overwhelmingly indefinite that resided within an outer design of a Dragon. Sometimes she thought that it was only because of this outer design that she could sense things about him at all, and usually the things she sensed were fragments.
Emotions that weren’t quite whole. Streams of communication that were almost thoughts, but not quite. And something deeper beyond, that was nameless and extraordinary in a beautiful and frightening way.
AsaHi crept quietly around the corner of the hedge and peered into an area that always reminded her of a courtyard. Though it was still part of the gardens, it was a little more open with small well-kept trees and rows of multicolored flowers blooming between. A small waterfall trickled into a tiny pool in the center of it all where the flickers of light under the surface of water spoke of fish.
Zemi Dreigiau sat crouching over the calm end of the pool, as if inspecting his reflection. Something about his pose abruptly reminded AsaHi of the first time she saw him on that morning long, long ago. When his eyes flickered up to see her, all likeness to her memory vanished. The Arweinydd had already changed immeasurably since those first days, and continued to as he grew to understand more about the Earthian people.
“Zemi?” her voice carried out over the trickle of water.
The concern and question in her voice must have been obvious because the Dreigiau motioned AsaHi forward with a wave. More and more lately, when she would come near, it felt as if Zemi would attempt to make himself appear as gentle as he could.
“Hi, AsaHi,” the Dreigiau said as he rose to greet her approach. “It’s a great day out, isn’t it?”
The girl crossed her arms knowing that anytime Zemi started out with small talk, something far bigger was going on underneath it all. She could sense the strange feeling about him that was part of his emotions before. She didn’t know what it meant, though.
“Yeah, it’s real nice,” AsaHi replied, playing along.
It was evident to them both that no one was fooled.
“Is everything okay?” he finally asked, leaning casually against the trunk of a nearby tree. The way the shadows fell over his face, the glitter of his eyes was alarming for a moment.
“I was going to ask you that,” the girl replied, holding her breath until the sensation of unease passed.
Zemi drew in a deep breath and frowned. She could tell by the curve of his mouth that he was weighing his options carefully. Whether he would tell her the truth or tell her what would make her more comfortable to hear.
A tiny pang crisscrossed over the surface of the air between them. It was nearly imperceptible. But AsaHi caught it. With a blink of her green eyes she could name it.
The girl’s chin lifted, peering up at the Arweinydd. It was one of the few times that she had sensed that emotion from him.
“Zemi,” AsaHi spoke softly, “What did you do?”
He gave a long, compliant sigh and murmured a string of words under his breath.
“I can’t hear you?”
“I said…” the Dreigiau repeated, raising his voice. “I’m not sure if you’ll understand.”
“I might not,” the girl replied walking a few steps closer before leaning down to pick up a small stone. With a flick of her wrist, she skipped it over the pool. “But, something’s bothering you, Zemi. You know you can’t hide it from me.”
He sighed again, standing silent and watching the final ripples vanish from the surface of the pool. Finally, when he spoke, she found herself not expecting the direction he was going in, “It’s about Lucci.”
“Okay,” AsaHi covered her surprise with a slow sound.
“You know how Zento’s been pressuring me to tell him when Zazo and TsuYa will bring Lucci home?” Zemi asked. The big lead up.
“Yes. I know. Why?”
“Well, the truth is, they’ve been out there so long because…” the Dreigiau shook his head. “This is going to sound crazy to you.”
“Zemi,” she chided.
“Because I’ve been helping Lucci run away from them,” Zemi finished, biting off the words quickly. His teal eyes rested on AsaHi’s face, watching for her reaction.
It was one of absolute astonishment.
“You’ve been doing what?” She ran a hundred of things back and forth through her mind, trying to figure out why. But in the end, the Arweinydd’s reasoning left her dumbfounded. The girl stopped her initial outburst, gathered her thoughts and began to pick her words carefully, “I don’t think I understand. Why would you do something like that, Zemi?”
“Because he may be the only one who can end this war,” the Dreigiau replied with a somber look.
“You’re talking about those items from the Time Before, aren’t you, Zemi? The things Aur told us about?” AsaHi asked. Then she turned her head, thinking back for a moment. “Lucci knows about them, too. Doesn’t he?”
“Yes. How did you know?” it was Zemi’s turn to be surprised.
Not wanting to explain everything she saw on the day of the last meeting, the girl shook her head, “Just a good guess.”
“You’re right,” the Dreigiau nodded. “Lucci does know about the items, but more importantly, seems to know where to go to find them.”
“So that’s why he ran away?” AsaHi pursed her lips.
“Yes. I believe so. He’s looking for a way to defeat Zeromus, too. I don’t think we should stop him, AsaHi,” Zemi peered at her with a meaningful intensity.
She shook her head, “Zemi, don’t you think it’s dangerous to let him go out there all by himself? The place is swarming with Zeromus’ Marked and who knows what else! He may be this Sygnus-in-the-making you’re so worried about. But first and foremost, he’s still just a boy!”
The Arweinydd drooped a little. “You sound like Zento. I thought you had more faith in Lucci than that.”
“Of course I have faith in Lucci!” she protested. “But a lot of things could go wrong.”
Zemi lifted up his hands, motioning for her to let him speak. “I know. That’s why I sent capable guardians with him.”
“You mean TsuYa and Zazo?”
“Yes. Aur and JouKa have joined them as well,” he told her.
“I thought you sent them out there to bring Lucci back?” AsaHi tilted her head with a frown.
“Well, that’s where things start to get a little sticky,” Zemi gave a sheepish look.
“Sticky?” she sucked in a breath between her teeth with a long disapproving face. “Zemiiiii… what did you do?”
“I…” the Dreigiau looked the other way, “I sent them out with the idea that they were going to bring Lucci back to the Islands. I always intended for them to help him instead. I just knew that if I said that from the outset, Zento would pitch a fit, and TsuYa may not have agreed to going. So, I let them think they were chasing Lucci while I helped him to stay ahead of them they got to the place where I wanted them all to meet up.”
“Where was that?”
“It’s called the Cynosure and was rumored to have been built in the Time Before,” Zemi explained. “Basically, it’s a place where many rifts come together and allows you to travel all over the world almost instantaneously.”
AsaHi’s mouth opened at the thought of such a thing. “But, why would they need to go to the Cynosure?”
“Because, the place that Lucci needs to go is outside the Inner Realms. Any other means of travel, even Dragon, wouldn’t take him there as quickly as he’d need.”
“So right now, they have all traveled beyond the Inner Realms. Beyond my reach of influence,” Zemi told her somberly.
“Do they know that they’re supposed to be helping Lucci now?”
“Yes. Now they know, and chose to go of their own will. I made sure to send a good group with him. He should be safe enough,” the Dreigiau arched an eyebrow, studying her reaction to the whole story, and hoping to find some hint of approval.
AsaHi could only sigh and run her fingers through her hair. What was done was done. Maybe Zemi was far more knowledgeable than she was on these matters. That didn’t change the fact that he had manipulated the situation and led people to believe one thing while doing another.
“You don’t approve,” Zemi looked disappointed.
“I don’t know how I feel,” AsaHi told him truthfully.
For a while, he watched the circling of fish reflect under the surface of the water. Then the Arweinydd shook his head, admitting through bared fangs, “I don’t want to send Lucci, or anyone, out there into this situation. Until I can find a better answer, all that I have left is to watch my brother destroy everything that I care about. One by one. Until it’s all gone. He’s already taken Nefol. Then the Inner Realms. He’s not going to stop with this, AsaHi.”
He’s always hurting so much. I wish I could take him back to the days when he was free…
“AsaHi,” his gravely voice sounded in her ears. “You do. Thank you.”
He didn’t say anything more. And neither did she.