Book 3 Chapter 51

The young Sygnus carried NaDo from the top of the stone structure, back to the waiting ship. Though none of them knew how to fly it, using the ship’s map feature, they could set a course to the place called Shellab 1.0, which was the home of the Tu Family.

KoGuRai sure knows how to make a diversion. Mortally wounding a person, just so he can escape.

It worked. Instead of chasing down KoGuRai, all of their thoughts were frantically focused on how to keep NaDo alive.

They chose to break up – LuShi took NaDo back to the Shellab. Zazo and TsuYa rode back to seek the help from JouKa’s healing power. They knew that the wounds made by KoGuRai’s blade would not easily heal by normal means.

It took some persuasion to rouse JouKa to leave the village. When she heard TsuYa’s story about how KoGuRai struck down yet another innocent person, she agreed to come.

It’s as if she’s personally taking responsibility for cleaning up all of KoGuRai’s messes.

So they all mounted up and rode, along with Oren, who proclaimed their need for a guide and protection, to the Shellab. There, they were greeted by the lady of the house, Maru, and ushered quickly inside.

It was only an hour ago that JouKa walked into the other room. The door was shut. No sounds were heard within. Nothing but tension and concern hung in the house. Zazo was restless and antsy during the wait and padded off through the doorway, leaving TsuYa alone to his thoughts.

It’s a shame something like this happened. They seem like pretty nice people. Friends of Dad’s, though I don’t remember anything about them. I heard they left Nefol when I was really young.

TsuYa pushed a strange white piece of meat into his mouth, chewing as he rested in the comfort of the couch. Despite the tragedy, Maru still provided the travelers with food and hospitality.

I guess it’s all wait and see from here. I don’t know who can heal him if JouKa can’t.

The slumped figure of LuShi sat in the far corner of the room. Every now and then, TsuYa glanced over, studying the changes in the young Sygnus. The warrior never approached him about it directly, though he really wished that he knew exactly what happened to LuShi in the time that he was gone.

He’s not talking much about anything, so I doubt he’ll volunteer information.

Though LuShi wasn’t outwardly unfriendly, he was far more silent than before. Even now, as TsuYa watched, he thought he could see a flicker of something strange… silver… almost ghostly… wavering around the Sygnus’ shoulders. With a blink it was gone, leaving him chilled, wishing he hadn’t seen it.

He’s suffering. That much is obvious. He really does care about these people.

The child of the Tu family sat next to LuShi, offering him various toys and distractions. Trying his best to cheer him up. Though LuShi made halfhearted attempts to respond to the boy, it didn’t take long before the child realized that his efforts were lost.

So he turned his attention elsewhere.

Before TsuYa knew it, a pair of little green eyes stalked him from the far arm of the couch. There was a sneaky quality to the look, as if the boy was playing out some grand ambush that the warrior’s keen hearing couldn’t detect. TsuYa just remained as he was, not responding as the child crept closer.

With the safety of self-assured stealth, the child inched forward. His interest turned towards TsuYa’s dark bladed scythe that leaned quietly against the wall beside the couch. He stared up in awe and fascination, the face of an innocent who had never seen a weapon, much less really knew what one was used for.

As the curious hand reached closer, TsuYa cracked one of his eyes open a slit. His voice was a little gruff as he intoned, “Hey kid. Whatcha doing?”

The boy gave a gasp and jumped, his hand springing back where it belonged, away from the scythe. Then he stared over at the warrior, uncertain if he was in trouble or not.

“That’s not a toy, you know,” the warrior warned quietly. “You could get hurt. The blade is sharp.”

The boy clutched the hem of his tunic, backing up. Large green eyes stared at him questioningly, as if he didn’t understand why the warrior was in possession of something that could hurt other people.

“What’s your name, kid?” TsuYa softened his tone a little, remembering what it was like for him when his father came up missing. He knew how it felt as a little boy to wait and wait and wait with concerned adult expressions floating everywhere above.

I just hope the kid’s situation turns out better than mine did.

The child looked down in response. His wings flitted slightly at the ends, a sign of his uncertainty.

“Hey, relax. You didn’t do anything wrong,” the warrior told him, sitting up and leaning forward slightly. Then he offered, “My name is TsuYa.”

“KiNa,” the boy answered in return.

“Your name’s KiNa?” he echoed.

The child nodded.

“It’s nice to meet you, KiNa,” he stuck his hand out, attempting his best friendly tone.

The child looked at the extended hand for a moment. Then back up at TsuYa’s face. His eyes paused, tracing the dark line of the Mark along his cheek with a questioning look. “You have an ouchy?”

“Hmm?” TsuYa paused, then realized what the boy meant. “Oh, yeah. Ouchy.”

“Does it hurt?” KiNa asked with a concerned face.

“Sometimes it does,” he replied honestly.

“You should get a healer to fix it,” the boy counseled. “Mommy said the healing lady was going to fix Daddy. You should ask her to fix you, too.”

TsuYa arched an eyebrow, entertaining the passing idea of telling the child that about the only thing JouKa would probably want to do is rearrange his nose. Permanently. But seeing as the kid was in the middle of family crisis, the warrior kept his mouth shut in that regard, and tried to focus on something more positive. Afterall, the child seemed to have a lot of confidence in the healing powers of the world.

“Your Mom’s right. Your Dad’s going to be just fine,” TsuYa said.

But this didn’t divert the child’s newly focused crusade. “What about you? Will you be fine?”

TsuYa opened his mouth, suddenly lost for words. When he finally managed to answer, his voice was squeaky to his ears, “Yeah. It’ll all work out.”

“Okay!” KiNa chirped, seeming content with the answer. Then he reached out and with little conservation, took a hold of the warrior’s coat sleeve with a tug. “Come over and meet Lucci. He’s my friend.”

TsuYa gave a slight smirk, “I’ve met LuShi already.”

“Oh? Is he your friend too?”

The warrior glanced across the room at the young Sygnus. He could feel the silver gaze lift just a little, focusing and waiting for the answer that would come. There was a little hope in the chilled depths of his eyes. Eyes that saw the world in blurred and tormented visions.

“Yeah,” TsuYa replied. “LuShi’s my friend.”

The silver head lifted just a bit, a motion of surprise. LuShi didn’t expect a positive response.

Taking him off guard might be just what I need to break the ice. I’ve got a lot to talk to the kid about, if he’ll even respond to me anymore.

TsuYa rose to his feet and allowed KiNa to pull him across the room. The opportunity unfolded better than he could hope for.

His dark eyes fluttered back and forth from the hunched figure in the corner to the long, black-draped sword at his side. The warrior did his best to cover the apprehension that gnawed in the back of his mind. All he could hope was that something of the child that had so eagerly trained under his guidance still remained.

“Hey, kid,” TsuYa greeted in the normal way. There was little to gain from estranging himself from the young Sygnus, no matter how nervous he really was.

“Master TsuYa,” LuShi lifted his head with a quiet and respectful voice, as if what he really needed was someone to treat him like nothing changed at all.

The kid’s more scared than we are.

“How are you doing? You hanging in there?”

“Yes, sir,” the head went down again.

TsuYa paused before continuing, his dark eyes focusing on KiNa for a moment. Then he fibbed as smoothly as one could to a pint-sized mind mage, “I think I hear your mom calling you. Don’t you?”

The boy blinked a few times, tilted his head, then frowned.

“You better go check,” the warrior advised quietly. “You know how moms are about things like that.”

KiNa must have known exactly what he meant, because the boy nodded and quickly scampered off down the hall.

With the child out of earshot, TsuYa crouched for a moment. Then sat down on the floor in front of the young Sygnus. He took a long, deep breath, “I mean how are you doing for real, LuShi?”

He glanced up, eyes calculating, studying the warrior that sat in front of him. Attempting to determine if he was ready to share the truth. Or if he would just be rejected like he always was. Then he turned the other way as if ashamed to admit, “I’m scared, Master TsuYa.”

“Scared of what?”

“Scared of this sword and what it was made to do. How it makes me feel.”

“What do you mean?” TsuYa furrowed his brow, tilting his head at where the sword lay, draped in the dark cloth. In a motion of curiosity, he reached his hand closer.

“No!” LuShi’s voice grew suddenly strong.

The warrior snatched his hand back, surprised at the unusual sharpness in the young Sygnus’ voice. He turned a puzzled stare towards LuShi, accenting it with the hint of a disapproving frown.

Go easy on the kid. Remember, he’s just been through a lot.

“I’m sorry,” LuShi murmured the instant he realized how he had sounded. “You… just… shouldn’t touch the sword.”

“Why not?” TsuYa frowned.

“Trust me, you wouldn’t like what it could do to you.”

The warning was enough to raise the hair on the back of TsuYa’s neck, “Ah, all right.”

Silence hung between them for a while. It was awkward, not knowing how to start a conversation again, since neither of them were really the most outgoing of socialites.

“So… is… that the thing you came here looking for?” TsuYa eventually tried to wander his way back into LuShi’s good graces. “The sword, I mean.”

“I didn’t know what I was looking for,” the young Sygnus answered cryptically. “This was just the thing I found.”

The warrior pursed his lips. “What do you plan on doing now that you have it?”

“I have to go back. I have to destroy Zeromus,” he answered quietly.

Another chill rushed over TsuYa’s body. The way that LuShi spoke was so sure, lacking even the slightest bit of doubt. He spoke about defeating an Arweinydd without thought.

“Do you really think this sword can do something like that?”

“I think so,” LuShi nodded slowly. “That’s what it was made to do a long time ago.”

“I guess I don’t blame you then,” TsuYa leaned back, trying hard to remain casual about the whole thing. But it wasn’t easy. Not with the talk of weapons of ultimate destruction.

Before the conversation could fall any further, the curtain to the adjoining room folded back, revealing an exhausted JouKa. She was supported on either side between Aur and Oren.

The warrior got to his feet, rushed over to the couch on the far end of the room where he was sitting, and cleared it quickly. “Here. Bring her here.”

They walked the winged girl over and carefully placed her on the cushioned couch. Maru followed the group, carrying an extra blanket as she came. Between all of them, they managed to settle the worn out healer comfortably, leaving her to rest. JouKa fell into a deep sleep almost the moment she curled up.

“Is she going to be alright?” TsuYa asked.

“I’d wager so,” Maru replied. “She just wore herself out.”

“Your husband’s wounds were quite grave,” Aur nodded slowly. “We are lucky that JouKa is as skilled as she is.”

LuShi lifted his head slowly, his voice carrying across the room. He winced as if not meaning to have called so much attention to himself, “Then, is Master NaDo…”

“It’s hard to say within this span of time,” Oren leaned back with a grim look. “But she did a pretty solid job in cleaning up most of the gashes. The life threatening stuff has been taken care of.”

“He’s going to live?” LuShi let out a long breath of relief.

“I’d say he has a very good chance,” Aur answered. “However, his wing may be torn beyond repair.”

A tiny gasp came from behind the curtain where KiNa was staring at the group of grownups. His green eyes were wide with shock and dismay. “Does that mean Daddy won’t ever fly again?”

It was obvious that the child was too young to realize how close his father came to death. No one had the time to sit down and explain it.

“We have to wait and see, KiNa,” his mother answered, putting her hands out. The little boy scampered over and was caught up in her embrace. “He still has time to heal before we can–”

“I’ll be just fine,” NaDo’s voice announced his presence with enthusiasm. Though he hobbled through the curtain with the aid of a walking stick, his tone was still sure and cheerful. Hopeful. Enduring.

“Master NaDo!” LuShi was on his feet instantly, rushing across the room to the winged man. “You’re okay! I’m so glad!”

“Yes, yes, I’m fine. Just as I said,” he waved the concern away with a gentle motion. He couldn’t avoid the tremulous hug that the young Sygnus wrapped him in. He laughed with a warm sound. “Lucci?”

“I was worried!”

“Well, there’s nothing to worry about,” NaDo grinned, patting the young man on the back. “It takes more than that to put a Tu down and out!”

LuShi grinned in return. Everything about his demeanor changed from the slumpy form in the corner that TsuYa just attempted conversation with. Everything was now open, as if hope was contagious.

“Did you get what you were looking for?” the winged man asked out of the blue.

“I… think so,” LuShi answered, his tone becoming a bit more grim.

“Good,” NaDo glanced up with a sure glimmer in his green eyes. “Then we need to talk about what we’re going to do to get the Current Skipper ready, so we can board up and get you back to the Inner Realms.”

“Mr. NaDo, you are not going anywhere until you’ve had some rest and healing,” Maru said firmly, her lips pursed together. “Besides, it would be rude for you to fly off without thanking the healer.”

“I didn’t mean right this second, dear?” he blanched.

But from the way his wife talked, it seemed as if he was well known for flying off on whims.

“I know you didn’t,” she patted his cheek lightly. Then she smiled up, a grateful light in her eyes. “We must at least give a proper thank-you supper to our guests. And a good night’s sleep.”

“Ma’am,” TsuYa found himself speaking, realizing how long it was since he had either good supper or good bed, “That sounds wonderful.”