The wild lands unfolded for Suzume like a tapestry, stretching as far as she could see. The sloped shoulders of the mountains sported a mantle of early summer green, passing into the haze of blue and purple as the peaks vanished on the horizon. Behind her, a cavern’s mouth yawned in tranquility that sifted from the wavering lights below. She could hear the melodic chirp of a lone bird that had somehow found its way to the height of this overlook.
The mountain home of the Dragons felt so mystical and full of adventure. Secrets and shadows waited to be discovered at every twist and turn. Though the caverns were crafted for Dragon-sized creatures, many smaller rooms were also crafted there, living quarters that fit the winged people. It felt as Lord Zemi had somehow foreseen the Migration, even back when Wyndor was founded.
The sound of the wayward bird sounded louder to her for a moment, pulling the girl from her thoughts.
Suzume wrung her hands in the hem of her robe with a frown. She knew she shouldn’t place the blame for what happened to the Islands on Lord Zemi. He was sad enough that they were being attacked by the one who had once been his own brother.
She may have had a brother once, too. It was hard to remember, but she felt as if she had some sort of family, at least. As much as she tried, it was so hard to remember anything before the chaotic magic uttered in the heart of Nefol changed her forever.
Suzume didn’t completely understand all that happened to her, but she felt that she was no longer the simple girl she had once been. She wasn’t even like any of the other Awakened, either.
I’m not sure what I am…
The girl craned her neck back, peering at the sky. Then she thought of Lucci.
…except for lonely.
She didn’t know how many days had passed since the Migration left the Islands. Though she finally stopped counting, she knew it was a lot. Months, maybe. The weeks felt like eternities within themselves, wrapped in the heaviness of worried waiting.
Will we ever be able to go back home again?
The wind fluttered the tips of her wings and played through the strands of her hair, but even that had a forlorn sound to it. The only company she had was the chirping of the tiny white bird that seemed just as lonely as she.
“I wonder what he’s doing right now,” Suzume peered at the bird, chancing conversation.
At first, it felt silly to talk to the unknowing creature. Then she noticed that there was something intelligent in the tilt of the bird’s head as the single dark eye focused on her. As if it was really listening.
“I’ve gotten letters from him. He has the worst handwriting,” the girl continued with a wrinkled nose face, “I was so happy that he sent something to me. That he didn’t forget about me. I guess everything they’re doing is getting ready for the battle.”
As time passed, the news that Lucci shared had shifted from the cheerful banter that she was used to hearing. It was news of war. Of his long, tedious training sessions with – of all the most unlikely people – TsuYa. Of choosing his first weapon and learning how to work ground patrol. Of the fortification of the compounds and sealing off the furthest-reaching islands.
Gone was the talk of sunshine and fudge. Of the color of sunset clouds and the marvel of the silken petals of the flowers. Instead, his letters slowly grew to sound more and more like the grim-faced adults. She couldn’t help by worry that the next time she saw Lucci, he’d be so different that she couldn’t recognize him anymore. Lucci always changed so fast, but now he changed to the rhythms of war.
The only thing that consoled her was his insistence at the end of each of his letters. Once the battle was over with and Zeromus was defeated, he would find her. That they would be together again. For just a moment, he would sound like the Lucci she remembered. The last few lines were what she would hold on to, along with the tiny flower he gave her back when they parted. The promise of what would come.
“We’re going to win the battle,” Suzume murmured out loud, wrapping her arms around her knees and laying her chin on top. “Zeromus can’t beat us.”
~You seem certain of this.~
A voice sounded. It was distant, as if carried on the wind, yet so close that it appeared to be within her mind.
“He can’t! Lucci promised to see me after we… win…” the girl swallowed, turning to peer behind her with a questioning face. She drew in a startled breath as she found that she was alone on the overlook. “Hello? Is someone there?”
~Yes, I am.~
The voice sounded again, still as mysterious as the first time. In awkward silence, Suzume’s dark eyes swung back and forth over the vacant stone. Then, her gaze fell on the shape of the small white bird perched just above her.
“Did you…?” The girl opened her mouth, dumbfounded. Then shook her head, “No… that can’t be right. Birds don’t–”
~Talk?~ came a chirruped reply from the bird. Almost cheerful sounding.
“Ahhhh!” Suzume leapt to her feet with a short cry of shock, causing the bird to fluff its feathers in surprise.
~Don’t be alarmed! No harm is meant!~
The girl was already halfway to the cavern mouth before she stopped, casting a wary glance back over her shoulder. Her voice wavered as she tried to clear her head, wondering what could cause such a strange illusion. “Wh-what are you?”
~I’m not a what,~ the bird replied, pruning quietly at its feathered shirt.
~I am a who. I am forming identity.~
Suzume furrowed her brow in confusion. Groping for a direction to take the conversation, she found herself clutching the hem of her robe again. “Who… are you?”
It was because the word was spoken so casually that it held so much weight. The girl froze, only her dark eyes blinking as she faced the tiny white bird. The bird, in return, regarded her calmly with a strange sparkle in is beady eyes.
Of course, Lord Zemi’s sister. She takes the form of a white bird! Why didn’t I realize that?
Though Suzume had peeked into the Assemblies where the Trine met, she had never been up close. The girl had gotten a look at the great white wolf Zazo from time to time, but the younger sister, Zeni, was not nearly as evident on first glance.
“Why are you here?” the girl found herself fumbling for words.
Why she was nervous around this Arweinydd, she didn’t know. She was never afraid of Lord Zemi. Something about this creature seemed much further removed from the nature of people as she knew it, far more alien and unknown than Zemi had ever felt.
~I am watching over the chosen.~
“The chosen?” she asked, voice quavering to her ears.
~Yes. Those who are chosen by the Trine. Those such as you.~ Zeni tilted her head and flicked the fan of her tail before taking a short hop forward.
“Why are we chosen?” Suzume spread her hands slowly, taking a few cautious steps forward.
~Because you are loved by my brother.~
Something about that statement felt wrong to her. But she couldn’t understand why. “Then you only watch over us because of Lord Zemi? Not because you are concerned, too?”
The bird flitted closer, landing on a nearby rock. ~Maybe.~
“Maybe? I don’t understand?” the girl took a step back so that she could look up at the Arweinydd.
~I find Earthians to be… cute. Well, some of them.~ Zeni’s little eyes appeared as she poked her head around the stone in an almost comical manner, despite the seriousness of her tone.
Suzume blinked again, digesting the thought.
~They make good companions. At least, that is what Zemi seems to think.~
“What do you think?”
Zeni tilted her head as if in thought, seeming unoffended. ~I must study them more before I decide.~
“Is that why you’re here, talking to me?” the girl swallowed, not too keen on the thought that she was being studied.
~No. I was drawn here because I sensed a deep emotion,~ the bird flirted her wings and gave a small side-hop.
“From me?” she pointed to herself.
~I would assume the emotion belongs to you. You are the only one that is here. And you come here frequently,~ came the matter of fact reply.
Suzume found herself shifting her weight nervously from one foot to the other. She wondered what it meant that Zeni knew these things. “Then, you’ve been watching me?”
~From time to time. I enjoy watching the world from this peak. I notice that you visit this place by yourself often, and that there is great emotion when you are here. It is a curious thing. I wish to inquire the meaning of the feeling?~
“The meaning?” she echoed, puzzled.
~The cause? You speak of the boy Sygnus. Your feelings arise from being separated from him, am I correct?~
Suzume nodded, even more puzzled. Arweinydd were supposed to be creatures of great knowledge and power. Yet, here was one of the Trine, asking her, a simple girl, to define the meaning behind common emotion.
“Lucci is my best friend. I really miss him and that makes me feel sad. He was the only real friend I ever had when I lived on the Islands,” she picked her words slowly, trying to explain. It was harder to do than it first seemed. “I’m also scared because he’ll be going into a battle. He could get hurt.”
~Though he is a boy, he is a Sygnus,~ Zeni informed her as if that said everything that needed to be known.
“I don’t understand,” her quiet frown accented the question.
~He is a Sygnus. He will not be easily hurt. You do not need to fear.~ The reply was accompanied with a gentle churrup.
It feels like… she’s trying to cheer me up?
The girl’s dark eyes blinked up, reflecting the ethereal white glow that clung to the bird’s feathers. Because it was so faint, she didn’t notice the shimmer on first glance.
Is that possible?
If Zeni could pick up the passage of thoughts, she didn’t show it. Instead, the tiny bird hopped nearer until she was perched on a rock that brought her down to eye level with Suzume.
~I have a curiosity that you may be able to answer.~
It was a question and statement rolled into one that caught the girl completely off guard. “Uhn… okay?”
~I asked Zemi about it, but he couldn’t answer me well. I think maybe an Earthian would understand better. Things such as this seem to hover on your thoughts quite a bit.~
“I’m not sure if I can help, but I’ll try,” Suzume settled down on the flat white rock, peering at the Arweinydd expectantly. She had no idea what things she knew that one of the Trine didn’t.
~I wish to understand the concept of a “friend.” You speak of the boy Sygnus as your friend. But I do not grasp the meaning behind this relationship.~
“Oh..?” once more, the girl responded with surprise.
Suzume leaned back, bracing herself on her palms in thought. As she did, the tiny white bird hopped closer, flitting over to land on the girl’s knee.
The sharper edge of loneliness faded as the girl frowned with a furrowed brow, trying her best to define something that came as second nature to herself. When she was certain she had some sort of explanation, Suzume took in a deep breath and began, “Well…”