The sky behind Lucci was filled with smoke, even though he knew that the fires in the city were doused. The air was thick with the smells of ashes and blood, and his mind was clouded with the pounding emotion that choked every inch of the city.
Lucci fled it all, running blindly into the night. He didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t know if there was Esgyll or Marked ahead or behind. He didn’t know if people would chase him, or if they were glad to see him leave. The only thing he knew was that he couldn’t stay there.
I didn’t do it!
Not with the words of Master ZenToYa’s accusations ringing sharply in his ears. Not with the memory of the pale, blood-streaked face of Aunt SaRa burned into his mind.
I didn’t hurt her!
The world reeled and jolted around him as the Mists twisted reality around and wove it into something frightening and haunted. The Spiral was a place where much blood spilled. His battle against the Esgyll roused those lost spirits, those murdered and slain with no justice to their unknown names. Relentlessly, They pursued him, their maddening howls filling his mind until there were no thoughts of his own left.
Only their memories. Memories of battles. Of death. Of loss. Of being forgotten.
Lucci felt himself stumbling… falling… landing on his hands and knees. The Mists swirled around him, predatory, feeding off of his weakness. Taunting him for thinking that he had the power to command the realms of the unliving.
LEAVE ME ALONE!
He clutched his head, hunched over in pain. His body felt so cold. His limbs were growing numb. He couldn’t feel his hands where they clamped over his ears. Everywhere the world was white with the consuming waves of Mist. Perhaps now, it came to claim him, as well.
From the depths of nothingness, a voice called his name. Reaching. Something reaching for him. Trying to pull him back from the suffocating white.
“Lucci-boy, what did you do? Why are you here?”
A hand on his shoulder. Solid, yet not. And strangely warm.
“Kaz,” Lucci choked, feeling his body shivering. “Kaz… I think I’m dying…”
“No, Lucci! Don’t talk that way!” the voice became somewhat frantic. “You must come back. You’re straying too far into the Mists!”
“I don’t know how to come back!” his voice came as a rasping hiss.
There was no breath left in his lungs. His vision blurred and shifted, the world growing dim around him. As his senses failed him, as the world of the living passed further and further from his reach, he felt something growing within. A haunted and dark power, the power that gave him the ability to destroy the beastly Esgyll back in the Spiral square.
It filled his mind with Their knowledge. Filled his body with Their strength. It became a part of him, until he didn’t know where They ended and he began. Until he was no longer what he was before.
A blinding silver flash filled his sight. The earth reeled under his palms as his senses cleared. Sharpening. Finding an understanding between the blurred lines of the two worlds. The living and the passed. The Mists churned as he slowly rose to his feet, eyes taking in the vision anew. Breathing in the battle-heavy air.
Kaz stood only a few feet away, a stricken look on his scruffy face. Something about him seemed different, too. More substantial. More real. Even Lucci wouldn’t have known that Kaz was a spirit on first glance.
“L-Lucci!” Kaz stammered a bit. He lifted a hand and pointed. “Wings!”
Lucci turned to look over his shoulder. Much to his surprise, he saw two great silver wings rising in an arch above his head. They felt almost weightless, which was the reason he didn’t know they were there before Kaz alerted him. How they appeared, he didn’t know.
Did I Awaken? Is that possible?
Kaz’s mouth was wide open, only one word escaping his lips, “Sygnus…”
Lucci stretched his wings, staring up at them in silent awe. They moved at his command, just like any other part of his body. But it was so unreal to him.
Does that mean that I’m…
The sense of wonder vanished instantly as he realized what wings signified to everyone else. To them, wings were an Awakening. Something to be celebrated. But for him, wings marked him as Sygnus now grown into his potential. With all the danger and catastrophe that a Sygnus brings.
I’m the Bane?
With that thought, panic filled him.
“Kaz!” Lucci’s eyes turned back to his friend, pleading for him to understand.
The spirit was with him from the very beginning, when the Mists first came. Though Lucci didn’t know who he was or why he was helping, the young Sygnus needed Kaz’s friendship more than anything else at that moment.
Kaz blinked at Lucci slowly, the tips of his long ears quivering.
“Don’t run away!” the young Sygnus begged.
“I… don’t think I could if I wanted to,” the Spirit answered spreading his hands. “We’re connected, I believe.”
“Do you… want to run away?”
“Not really,” Kaz answered. “Do you?”
Lucci looked back at the blot of smoke on the horizon. He didn’t realize how far away from the Spiral he ran.
“I can’t go back there,” the young Sygnus said, voice cracking. “They think I did something terrible to Aunt SaRa. And I didn’t! If they see my wings, if they see I’ve become Sygnus, then nothing I can say will make them believe that I’m innocent.”
“Do you really think so?” Kaz looked concerned. “Not even your friends?”
Lucci shook his head. Though his senses were clear, his thoughts and memories were still muddled. “I don’t know who my friends are anymore. I don’t know about anyone except for you and Suzume.”
“Then maybe we should go back and try to talk to Suzume. She might be able to talk to Zeni… or Zemi… or…”
“No!” the young Sygnus snapped, more than he meant to. Pausing, he looked down with an apologetic face. “Sorry… I… I’m not sure if I want them to know about this. Especially the Arweinydd.”
“Because they’ll be threatened by a Sygnus. I don’t know if even Lord Zemi will accept me back like this,” Lucci hung his head slowly. Fear and solitude began to well up in his chest as he realized what he was losing.
“Do you really believe that?” Kaz asked with a soft voice.
The young Sygnus shook his head again and began to walk, heading away from the Spiral.
“Lucci?” the spirit called after him. Then he followed.
“What are you doing?” Lucci murmured under his breath.
“I’m coming with you,” Kaz answered.
“I have to,” he shrugged, falling in step beside the young Sygnus. “It’s your power that gives me a form here. Without you, it’s back to the Mist I go!”
Lucci sucked on his bottom lip thoughtfully, “I guess that’s true.”
“Then that means I’m invited,” Kaz’s voice was cheerfully hopeful.
It almost made Lucci smile, just a little. “Yes, you can be invited.”
“Wonderful!” the spirit exclaimed, doing a little dance right on the spot.
“You’re just doing that to try and cheer me up, aren’t you?”
“Is it working?” Kaz asked with an arched eyebrow and a warm grin.
Not wanting to hurt the spirit’s feelings, Lucci gave a short nod.
“There you go! I see that smile! It’s going to be like old times, Lucci. Back when we used to travel together!” Kaz told him, shaking the young Sygnus’ shoulder around a bit. “We can have some fun. See the sights, and then maybe when people have had some time to get their wits about them, we can figure out how to straighten out this situation.”
Lucci glanced over quickly, “Do you think we can? Even if I have wings?”
“I believe that anything is possible, Lucci-boy. So let’s not give up,” the spirit answered.
The young Sygnus just blinked at him thoughtfully.
“Sure, Kaz,” Lucci smiled a little more.
“So, where are we going?” Kaz asked, folding his hands behind his head.
“I haven’t thought about it yet, but…” the young Sygnus stopped, peering out from between the thinning trees.
There before him stretched the wide yawning mouth of the Dragon’s Cleft. It was silent there now, with the Marked armies having moved on and no Spiral warriors in sight. The fog lifted from within the crevice, no longer shadowy as it was the last time that Lucci saw it.
That’s when a thought came to him.
Lucci looked at the Cleft. Then he looked back at his wings. Then he looked at the Cleft again. And he looked down at his sword.
There was nothing keeping him from making his way across the Cleft now. Not with wings. Not with his sword in hand. And with the Marked army moved into the Spiral and beyond, Zerom might be alone somewhere in the depths of Nefol.
There would not be a better time to try to strike at him than now.
And if I go in and defeat Zerom, then, maybe, people will like me. Even if I do have wings.
Lucci’s hand tightened on the grip of his blade. His eyes narrowed slowly as he glanced over at Kaz. “We’re going to the Inner Realms. Back to Nefol.”