The voice echoed within his mind. Everything was fuzzy. Growing darker. So hard to breathe. So hard to see. So hard to respond.
He knew the sound of the voice. It was the same voice that came to him so long ago. The voice that led him to safety from the snow that claimed the rest of his family. The voice that took him in, gave him warmth and food and shelter. That raised him as a child, taught him as he grew, and created a Champion from a wild-spirited orphan.
There was the sense of shrinking worry and terrified wonder. Disbelief.
-Zento! You’re bleeding! You’re hurt!-
You are ever the master of the obvious, Zem…
He attempted a mental chuckle. It was so difficult. So difficult to form thoughts, now.
-I’ll come! Please, just stay with me! I’ll fix everything!-
A soft, warm light began to spread, glowing between the faltering cracks of his eyelids. Though his vision was failing, Zento could feel the comforting presence of the Arweinydd. His Guide. His Patron.
Zemi, there are some things in life we cannot fix.
-I can fix this! I’ve done it before. All you have to do is agree to become a Dra…-
A struggling revulsion rose up in Zento’s chest. The tightness ached and caused him to wheeze.
Zemi, no! What have I told you before? I don’t want this.
– I can’t sit here and watch you die! I can bring you back and you can be a Dragon. I’ll give you a person form. Would that really be so bad? You could be with…- a pause, then -…your family.-
If he could shake his head, he would. They discussed it over and over and over again. Every time, Zento’s answer was the same. He would not escape his death by becoming one of Zemi’s Dragons. That’s just not what he wanted to happen.
I made my choice already. I stick by that.
-What about SoYa and AsaHi?-
It was so difficult. The Dreigiau’s voice was choked with grief and frustration, the closest thing to a plead that Zento had ever heard. No matter how hard it was, Zento knew he had to stand his ground.
I know that things are strained between you and SoYa. I know how you feel about AsaHi. Please… please, take care of my boy. He’s all that’s left. Things will become much more difficult for him, too.
-I… I will. I promise you, Zento.-
Waves of light-headedness were making it harder for him to focus. His thoughts were blurring into the gentle light.
Protect… the people. Evacuate. You must… get them away from… LuShi. He’s… not going to stop… until he destroys everyone.
There was a long pause before the answer came, -I’m so sorry, Zento. I should have listened to you. I wanted so much to give Lucci a chance… but I never imagined… things would turn out this terrible. I never imagined that he would do… something… like this…-
It’s… not your fault…
-It is my fault. You warned me but I wanted to believe.-
You wanted to believe the best in people, Zento interrupted quickly. And I hope you always do. It was your dreams… your hopes… your imagination that gave us Nefol to begin with. It still exists, in your heart, Zemi. Don’t let Zeromus take that away.
The light was reeling around him, filling his senses until it became all that he knew.
-Zento, stay with me! We can get a healer in here… just… just don’t die!-
No matter… what happens… you must… protect our people.
The warmth cradled him, offering comfort while seeking comfort in return. A last choked breath caught in Zento’s throat. Thoughts and sound became garbled, then insignificant, as the last sensations of pain and fear washed away from his broken body. The pulse of the living world shifted around him, the light growing brighter and brighter until there was peace and nothing else.