“I don’t believe you!” TsuYa complained, shoving her clothes into the open sack on the bed.
“No! It’s you I don’t believe!” JouKa retorted, jerking the clothing back out of the sack.
It was the third time that this particular set of attire juggled between the two. Disgruntled glares exchanged along with high voices and higher irritation.
“You’re not staying here, and that’s final!” TsuYa snapped in return.
He didn’t fully agree with the idea of the Migration, but he accepted that it was going to happen no matter what he thought. Though TsuYa didn’t want her to know, he was worried about JouKa — she was brash and always acted like she had something to prove. It was better for her to go somewhere safe than to expose her to inevitable battle.
Of course, she didn’t agree with his assessment. He didn’t expect her to, but he hoped she’d at least listen to calm reasoning. As always, it wasn’t long before his temper sparked and JouKa became impossibly stubborn about the whole thing.
“Who do ya think ya be, tellin’ me where I kin stay an’ where I kin go?” the winged girl shook a fist in his face.
“Look, this is for your own good.”
“My own good? Or jus’ somethin’ that’ll give ya peace ‘o mind?”
“This isn’t about me, JouKa! This is about everyone,” he huffed sharply. “Lord Zemi’s command is that all noncombatant citizens of Ceiswyr be evacuated to Wyndor.”
“Exactly why I’m stayin’!” she flipped a straying lock of white hair over her shoulder, nose pointing away from him. “I kin fight jus’ fine!”
“Arrg… I knew you were going to say that!”
“Then why’re ya wastin’ yer time tryin’ to talk me outta it?” she chided him. “Could it be that yer actually worried fer me?”
“Give me a break,” he snorted. “If you’re stupid enough to stay when everyone’s telling you to get out, you deserve to be Esgyll food!”
JouKa fell silent for a moment, brow furrowed. Then she murmured in a gentler tone that she had only just recently adopted from time to time, “Ya don’t mean that, TsuYa.”
He breathed in deeply, nostrils widening for a moment before he turned to her again. “No. I don’t. But you’re just being so difficult, and there’s a lot going on as it is. Why can’t you just do what you’re supposed to do?”
She eyed him with purpose as she asked, “Why don’t ya evacuate wit’ the rest of ‘em?”
“Why would I?”
“Because it’s my job to stay here and fight. I have to defend the Islands along with everyone else who is here to do the same thing,” he answered her patiently.
“It’s because you wanna stay ‘ere and defend yer ‘ome, right?”
“Well…” TsuYa found he had to stop and think that statement over. It wasn’t like Ceiswyr was really his home – Nefol and the School would always be that place for him. However, the Islands were a refuge for himself and a number of others, and that was something he didn’t want to lose to Zeromus’ forces. “I guess you can say that.”
“Well, then, that’s what I wanna do, too,” JouKa jutted her chin out at him, both hands planted solidly on her hips. “Is it wrong for me to wanna fight jus cuz I’m a girl?”
“Is this what it’s about?” he rolled his eyes.
“You tell me,” she retorted.
“This is about keeping you and everyone else safe when the battle starts,” TsuYa shook his head. “War is war, and you don’t need to be caught up in the middle of it!”
“I kin fight!” JouKa repeated again.
TsuYa just gave a long, frustrated sigh. JouKa mirrored his expression, now crossing her arms in front of her chest.
“There’s nothing I can say to make you change your mind?” he finally murmured, giving it one last shot.
“I thought not,” he grimaced, walking towards the door. After the heated discussion, TsuYa felt the need for some fresh air and a walk. “Well, if you get yourself killed out there, it’s not my problem. I tried to stop you.”
He left it at that. Trite words that he didn’t really mean and a heavy closing of the door. Something inside of him told him that he was being stupid about the whole thing.
What if something happened and that was the last time I ever see her?
TsuYa shook his head and scowled.
Then it really would be her fault. She needs to head out with the Migration like the rest of them.
The Migration was the name for the undertaking, the mass-evacuation of the city of Ceiswyr. Though TsuYa felt that it was the right thing to be doing for the non battle-ready people, he couldn’t help but feel much like JouKa about the whole thing.
It sucks. Zeromus shouldn’t have us on the run like this. We shouldn’t have to evacuate our city.
He kicked his way up the grassy hillside, plucking a stray weed between his fingers.
I mean, we’ve got the Trine on our side! What gives? Why can’t the three of them manage against their own brother Arweinydd?
The question was unsettling. But the answer that rose to mind was even more so.
Does the Chaos really give Zeromus that much more power? Has Zemi been bluffing and not telling us how serious it really is?
TsuYa’s dark eyes slid out over the land below as he crested the hill. Somehow, he found that taking a walk didn’t exactly help to alleviate all of his feelings about the Migration. In fact, the scene that spread out before him only made the situation all the more real.
Dragons lounged among the grass and spattering of trees, large wings folded, bodies resting flat on the ground. All around them, winged people wandered, checking and rechecking the large containers strapped across the creatures’ backs. Inside of the structures, they stacked packs and bags, the belongings of the Cyngan who were about to make the flight across to Wyndor.
This is really happening. We’re evacuating the final stronghold of the Inner Realms.
TsuYa felt a quiet sigh rise up in his throat, a mixture of emotion churning through him. Zeromus’ capture of Nefol and the School was something that he’d not quite come to terms with. The image of the tilted Spire and the dark, churning cloudbanks consuming his home had burned itself into the back of his mind. Though he never spoke about it, he felt the weight of the loss deeply.
If we lose Ceiswyr, too, then all of the Inner Realms will belong to Zeromus. How did things ever get so screwed up?
As melancholy crept up on him, TsuYa sat down on the top of the hillside, watching the Dragons and people in their preparations. He leaned back on both palms while breathing in the cold air, his mind tossing about from thought to thought. All of it pointed back to one feeling.
How can we ever fix things back the way they were before this?
“I know what you mean, Tsu,” the voice of his brother came from somewhere behind him.
TsuYa’s face twisted in a scowl for a moment before he grumbled, “What did I tell you about using your mind-suck powers on me?”
“Sorry,” SoYa sounded abashed. “I just came to tell you that supper is ready, and that Aunt SaRa’s done packing now.”
She’s leaving. You might as well say what you mean.
TsuYa glowered down at his feet.
“You want me to leave you alone?” his brother asked in a sad voice.
“Nah,” he waved his hand once. “Do whatever you want.”
The Athrylith sat next to TsuYa on the hilltop. There, SoYa began to pick at the tiny white flowers that were scattered among the blades of grass.
It’s so odd to think of him as being a mind mage.
His brother was a confusing juxtaposition. In the time that passed since the fall of Nefol, SoYa had changed so much. It was obvious to everyone that the Athrylith was growing into his position as the eldest son of ZenToYa and a skilled mind mage.
Yet at the same time, he’s still just as big a doof as ever.
When things got under serious pressure, SoYa’s first instinct was to fall back in defense rather than hold his ground and fight. It was no surprise that the Migration was his idea.
SoYa leaned forward, “It’s the right thing to do, Tsu. I know you don’t agree with it, but it’s important to keep them safe.”
“You don’t think we’re going to be able to hold the Islands, do you?” TsuYa peered over at his brother with a grim frown.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen when the Esgyll come back.”
“But evacuating means you don’t think we can protect them…”
SoYa shook his head, “That’s not true. It’s just being careful, Tsu. I don’t want anyone getting hurt. And as I said, we don’t know what’s going to happen. We may win and everything will be fine, but there’s a chance we may not.”
TsuYa scowled and spat off to the side. “What kind of thinking is that?”
“I guess I’m not much of a warrior… not compared to you,” SoYa leaned back, staring quietly up at the clouds.
“Shaddap. That’s not what I said,” he snuffed back.
“I know. But it’s true,” the Athrylith shrugged.
“Doesn’t matter. We all just do what we gotta do,” the young warrior shrugged back with an almost identical motion.
SoYa glanced over, “Sometimes I wish I could face things like you do.”
TsuYa felt a momentary surprise rush over him. He breathed the words in deeply through his nose, mulling over the right response to the statement. He still went with the first thing that came to his mind, “No you don’t…”
“Yeah I do,” the Athrylith laced his fingers together, hooking them around his bent knee before giving his brother a soft smile. “You always seem so calm.”
“It’s not calm,” the young warrior shook his head.
Why would SoYa ever want to be anything like me?
“Then what do you call it?” SoYa asked with a furrowed brow.
“Dunno… It’s just my way of getting through, I guess,” TsuYa answered. “You’re best to stick to what works for you. There’s only room for one cynic of my caliber in this family.”
SoYa gave a warm, quiet laugh. Then he reached out and squeezed his brother’s shoulder in an affectionate way. “I know you miss Nefol and the way things were. We gotta keep moving forward, Tsu. There might be some light ahead of us that we just don’t see yet, but we won’t know if we keep looking behind us.”
“Don’t hold your breath,” TsuYa murmured, half joking.
“I knew you’d say that,” the Athrylith teased softly.
“Of course you did, mindsucker.”
SoYa laughed as he rose and brushed his pants off. “Come on. The food’s getting cold on the counter. We really should say goodbye to Aunt SaRa before she leaves.”
“Yeah.” Still, TsuYa sat there for a moment before pushing himself to his feet, as if putting off the goodbye would delay the inevitable.