“Oh, my. Oh, my. Oh, my,” NaDo repeated to himself over and over again.
The sunlight reflected sharply off of his glasses, making it hard to see the expression in his eyes. SoYa sensed the scientist’s crushing sadness as he learned about the death of his long-time friend.
When the invasion began on the Spiral, Zemi ordered NaDo to take his ship and return to his home in the Shellab. Whatever was happening with the Vision Stone, it seemed very important.
His wife, Maru, held his shoulder in a motion of comfort. Her sadness was harder to sense, but that was the way it was with other Athrylith. She murmured softly in his ear as NaDo reached up, pulling his glasses from their perch on his nose. Then he turned the other way and began to slowly pace.
“I told them both,” his voice wavered. “I warned those lugs that if they kept jumping down the Dragon’s throat, one day it would catch up with them. But they never listened.”
“NaDo,” Maru murmured at him as their young son appeared in the doorway, watching with wide, curious eyes.
“Blockheaded warriors! And they said I was crazy,” the scientist scrubbed his eyes with the back of his sleeve.
“NaDo,” she said again. Her voice took on a warning tone, “KiNa?”
The man paused in his pacing, turning to look down at his son. The freckled boy took that as his cue to slip out of the side room to see what all of the commotion was about.
“Daddy, what’s wrong?” the little hand reached out and took one of NaDo’s fingers in a reassuring way.
Unable to answer, the scientist rubbed his hands over his face as if to wipe away the emotion that was all too plain for his mind-sensitive son. Then he knelt down to the boy and gave him a long hug.
“KiNa, we’re going to take a trip,” NaDo told him in the most level voice he could manage.
“We are? To where?” the little boy perked up with big eyes.
“Well, now, I’m not so sure exactly,” the scientist tapped his chin. “But when we get there, you can give it a name. How would you like that?”
“Shellab 2.0!” KiNa chirruped without a second thought.
“That’s a great name, KiNa,” NaDo smiled faintly. Then he gave a wink, “But hows about we get there so you can see it first? It’s always better to give something a name after you’ve looked at it.”
“Okay!” the little boy nodded vigorously.
The scientist gave him a pat on the back, “Good. Now you better go grab your sleepy. You wouldn’t want to leave that here, now would you?”
KiNa shook his head and darted off into the other room.
Watching the interaction between the father and his young son left a lump in SoYa’s throat. With all that blurred the timeline between the present and the past, it was hard for him to remember if he and Father were ever that way.
“NaDo. Maru. I’m sorry for bringing you into this,” Zemi’s voice was hoarse from where he slumped back on the nearest chair.
“Nonsense, Lord Dragon,” the scientist quipped without a second thought.
“You might be able to hide here and weather out the storm. What about your little boy?” the Dreigiau asked.
“We are your people,” Maru said simply.
“That’s right. If what you told us about Lucci is true, then we have no choice but to be involved,” NaDo pursed his lips.
-You can’t bring him back,-Zazo snuffed. -So get it out of your head.-
“I could say the same of Zento’s black-winged boy. Yet, you carry him around for a reason, Lady Zazo,” he stuck his glasses back on his nose and gave them a quick shine.
-It’s different entirely.-
KiNa came toddling back through the door, dragging a long mauve colored blanket in his wake. Upon the sight of Zazo, he stopped, frozen still, staring up at her. Then with all the joy of a child, he rushed forward with upraised hands and the happiest exclamation ever.
“Doggie!” the little boy wrapped his arms around her foreleg.
“KiNa!” Maru made to step forward, a hint of worry on her furrowed brow. Zemi caught her arm with a slight fangy smile, keeping her from interfering.
-I am NOT a dog! I am a wolf! Ignorant Earthian!- Zazo nudged at the child with her nose, sending him sliding down her leg to the floor.
KiNa just laughed all the more, “BIG doggie!”
-BIG? What are you insinuating! What does that mean?-
“You seem to have a fan, Zazo,” Zemi smiled at her quietly.
-Yes well,- the She-Wolf snuffed and stuck her nose in the air. -The boy has good taste, doesn’t he?-
“Of course he does,” NaDo grinned. “He’s my son.”
-That’s all that needs to be said.-
The scientist just quipped, leaning back against the wall next to the Dreigiau. As much as they all appreciated the momentary release from the stress and the pain, business needed attending. Even NaDo had a business side when it was needed.
SoYa stepped closer with hesitation. Even though he had, in name, taken his father’s place as the leader of the Nefolians, he still wasn’t sure where the lines were when it came to acting the part with other people.
NaDo arched an eyebrow and gave a pointed look over the top of his glasses, “SoYa, come on over here.”
The Athrylith straightened a bit, then made his way slowly towards the two. “Yes, Master NaDo?”
“And stop with the Master stuff, boy,” the scientist gave his shoulder a slight shake. “Your father would never call me Master. You don’t need to, either.”
SoYa managed a weak smile.
“So,” NaDo leaned forward. “What’s the plan, Lord Dragon?”
“I thought you had something to show me,” Zemi suggested.
“Oh, I do. I do. But you know what they say — age before beauty!” the scientist quipped.
Zemi paused, mulling that thought for a moment, but he didn’t seem to get it.
“Nevermind,” NaDo said. “Just go ahead.”
“At the moment, all I know is we are supposed to go to the Vision Stone and that something about the properties of the stone is supposed to be able to open a path into the Ways themselves,” the Dreigiau explained.
“A path into the Ways,” the winged man repeated slowly. “A path into the Ways… that does explain a lot.”
“Why, what is the Vision Stone?” SoYa asked.
“We don’t exactly know. Maru and I have been studying it for many years now, but it makes sense to know that it has transportational properties,” NaDo rubbed his chin. “So who exactly told you all of this, Lord Dragon?”
“Uhh,” Zemi took in a deep breath. “Long story. Let’s just worry about that later. I suppose my question to you is, do you think it is possible? Can we rig something quickly, if so?”
“Do you really think that Lucci will follow you here?” Maru’s face grew uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry,” the Dreigiau told her with a hint of remorse. “I’m really afraid that he will.”
“Has anyone even tried to…”
“Reason with him?” Zemi finished.
“I don’t think that he knows or understands his own actions at this point. Zeromus has done something to him,” the Dreigiau spoke gravely.
She didn’t answer. She just looked down at her feet. NaDo gave her shoulder a slight squeeze, then he turned the conversation back on track.
“So we are going to the Vision Stone.”
“Actually, most of them are probably already there,” Zemi replied. “I ordered the soldiers to lead the evacuation to the Vision Stone’s site. There wasn’t much reason in stopping them all here, so I told them to go ahead without us.”
“I see, just as well,” NaDo nodded slowly.
“So, you had a breakthrough you wanted to tell me about?”
“Funny you should ask,” the scientist grinned widely. “You’ve shed a lot of light on the situation, Lord Dragon. I think things are falling into place.”
“Oh really? Like what?” Zemi humored him.
“I created a new device that allows us to send various frequencies of magical energies into the core of the Stone. Maru and I had some interesting results, especially when KiNa is the one who activates the energy bank,” NaDo leaned back on his heels, peering across the room to where his son was tugging on the She-Wolf’s fur.
“What do you mean?” the Dreigiau leaned forward.
“I’m not sure. KiNa’s still so young. His focus is sporadic, so we haven’t been able to test anything for an extended period of time,” he answered with a grim look. “But in our last session, Maru and I both saw it… it was like looking into a picture of another world entirely. Now that you tell me the Stone has connections to the Ways, we may have witnessed the gateway into another place completely.”
“You are sure about this?” Zemi asked, appearing more and more curious.
“I can’t be sure of anything, Lord Dragon. I can only tell you what we experienced, and that I had no explanation for it,” NaDo told him. “I wouldn’t rule anything out yet.”
“Do you think that KiNa could activate this again?”
“Possibly. We only saw it for a moment. It’ll take a lot more than just KiNa to open a rift into the Ways, if that’s what you’re thinking,” he frowned.
“A possibility is better than no possibility,” Zemi slowly pushed himself to his feet.
“You’re sure this is okay?” SoYa asked with a worried frown. “Shouldn’t we see if this is something KiNa wants to do?”
NaDo smiled widely, “Of course it is. He’s a Tu. And what do Tus do best?”
“Break things!” KiNa answered his father’s call from across the room.
“What? Break things?” the scientist gave a pouty, put-out face. Then he playfully reached down, chasing after the giggling little boy. “You get back here, KiNa!”
The two of them raced around the floor for a short time before NaDo scooped up his son. Maru just sighed and shook her head, murmuring, “What a time. What a time…”
As they approached the Dreigiau, Zemi looked down at father and son, his voice slightly rumbly, “Hello, KiNa.”
“Hi!” the boy answered looking up quizzically.
“Do you know who I am?”
“Lord Dragon,” KiNa told him with a frown, as if wondering why the strange tall man didn’t remember his own name.
“That’s right,” Zemi smiled.
“Lord Dragon needs your help, KiNa. You think you can do him a favor?” NaDo asked.
The boy pondered for a moment, peering at the Arweinydd. Then he stuck out his hand with a big thumbs-up.
“Alright!” his father laughed. “Let’s go show Lord Dragon your trick with the Vision Stone. Okay?”
KiNa nodded, “Then can we take a trip, Daddy?”
“You betcha,” NaDo smiled and kissed his son on the forehead.
There was something quiet and sad behind the smile. The little boy was too excited to notice. He quickly wiggled out of his father’s arms, snagged his sleepy blanket, rushed over to tug on his mother’s hand, and lead the way out of the Shellab.