“I’ll be leaving town tomorrow morning,” Jal'tai told him, his voice strangely hoarse.
It took a moment for those words to sink into Solonn’s mind. When they did, he was somewhat at a loss for how to react. He’d known for quite a while that Jal’tai had planned to leave Convergence once he was no longer its leader…but Solonn hadn’t expected that he would leave quite so soon after stepping down from office.
“After I leave, this will be your home, of course,” Jal’tai went on. “I’ll help you move in tomorrow. It won’t be any real trouble for me – I’ve decided to leave much of what’s here to you, so it’s not as though I’ll really have much in the way of moving myself out to bother with.”
Somewhat overwhelmed, Solonn merely sat silently, seemingly unable to respond to what Jal’tai was saying. The way things were unfolding was strangely difficult for him to quite get his head around…after years spent in preparation for the life he was only just entering, everything suddenly seemed to be happening so fast…
“Are you alright, my boy?” Jal’tai asked concernedly.
“…I’m fine,” Solonn responded after a pause. He hesitated again, then said, “Part of me does kind of wish I’d known when you were leaving a little further in advance, though…”
Jal’tai smiled sadly. “I would certainly have told you, had I been sure of it myself.” He sighed. “I’ll admit that I’d been procrastinating over the matter for longer than I really should have. I’ve been…quite reluctant to leave my city,” he all but whispered. “In the end, I knew that if I didn’t simply go, then I might not be able to bring myself to do it...hence the last minute decision. I’m terribly sorry if this inconveniences you in any way…”
“No…no, it’s not a problem at all,” Solonn assured him quickly. It was very plain to see that the decision to leave Convergence behind had been a supremely difficult one for Jal’tai; though the Human mirage the former mayor wore revealed only moderate sadness, Solonn strongly suspected that the Dragon behind that façade was on the verge of tears. He did not want to let the Latios feel even remotely guilty for springing this news on him on such short notice; Solonn was rather sorry for even mentioning that the lack of advance warning had bothered him. He also did not have the heart to question why the Latios found it necessary to leave, though he certainly did wonder. Knowing as he did how having a resolution questioned can shake it apart, Solonn mindfully kept that question to himself.
Jal’tai held Solonn’s gaze with a look of faint relief, then gave an earnest, albeit weary smile, grateful for the former Glalie’s understanding. The Human at his side would never realize just how much of his unspoken compassion was recognized by the Latios, having been kept ignorant of the Dragon’s Psychic qualities ever since having his memory rewritten. But, it was recognized indeed, and greatly appreciated.
“Oh, look at me,” Jal’tai said then, still sounding a bit constrained, “glooming up your nice party like that, shame on me! Come on,” he suggested in a slightly brighter tone as he stood, "why don’t we go mingle a bit more?”
Though still somewhat concerned for Jal’tai, knowing that the matter of his departure surely must still be weighing upon him, Solonn nonetheless humored the Latios’s pretense of revivified mirth. Throughout the remainder of that evening and well into the night, he chatted with the guests, took in the music, and accepted the gifts that the attendees had brought for him, and he allowed himself to enjoy it all, or at least to appear to do so. All the while, however, the better part of his mind was preoccupied with thoughts of what was soon to befall both himself and the Latios who had preceded him…what one would gain, and what the other would lose.
* * *
The August sun shone brightly, bearing down on Convergence from high in the sky. It was just before noon, but to Solonn it felt like it could have been almost any daylight hour; he had not slept the night before.
He stood there in front of the mansion that was soon to be his own, distantly staring at the lone moving truck that was parked at the end of the driveway, and the plain, nondescript black car parked behind it. A pair of movers made trips back and forth between the truck and the house, taking a few of Solonn’s things from the truck, then returning to it with a few of Jal’tai’s things. It was not long at all before the job was done completely; Solonn did not own terribly many possessions, and there were very few of Jal’tai’s that the Dragon had not opted to leave behind.
Shortly after the last of Solonn’s possessions were brought into the mansion, Jal’tai emerged wordlessly alongside the movers. He stopped beside Solonn, remaining silent for moments on end, staring pensively into the sky.
“My Goddess…how I’m going to miss this place,” he finally whispered.
Solonn said nothing in response, casting a somber gaze downward. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a very faint shimmering; when he looked toward its source, he saw that Jal’tai had resumed his true form.
“I’ve taken the veil off of your eyes only,” Jal’tai assured Solonn before any concerns could be raised about his decision to drop the mirage. “This is most likely the last we will ever see of one another…I want your final memories of me to be as I truly am.”
He laid his taloned hands upon Solonn’s shoulders and sighed heavily. His scarlet eyes shone with unshed tears as he held the Human’s gaze, and slowly, a warm, broad smile curved across his face. “You’ve come such a long way from the day when I first met you,” he said wistfully. “You have made me so very proud, my dear boy, prouder than I’ve ever been of anyone in my entire life. I know in my heart that you’ll take good care of my city…that you’ll serve and guide it with as much love and devotion as I always did…”
At these words, the Latios could hold back his tears no longer. In a sudden motion, he wrapped his arms around Solonn in a long embrace. Solonn closed his eyes, feeling his own tears escape from them as he held on to the silently weeping Dragon.
“I will miss my city,” Jal’tai breathed, “but I will miss you even more.”
“I’ll miss you, too,” Solonn responded truthfully, realizing now more than ever just how much he would miss the Latios once he was gone.
At length, Jal’tai finally let go of Solonn, drifting slowly back from him. There was sorrow shining plainly through his features…but there was also pride, and it shone brighter still. “Take care, my boy,” he said softly. “You are the heart of this city now.”
Solonn nodded in acknowledgement. “You take care, too,” he said, his voice brittle.
Jal’tai smiled at him. “Farewell,” he said.
“Farewell,” Solonn returned.
The Latios turned slowly, reluctantly away. He glided silently over the driveway, stopping to hover above the black car, invisible to all but Solonn, as a Human mirage was seen to enter the vehicle by all others present at the scene. The engines of the two vehicles hummed to life, and they began to move out. Jal’tai gave one last, wistful look behind, and then followed them away.
Through tears, Solonn watched Jal’tai vanish into the horizon. His predecessor, his mentor…and his closest friend had just left his life, most likely never to return. With Jal’tai gone, Convergence had truly fallen into Solonn’s hands, and he felt the weight of that burden more than ever now that he carried it alone. As he turned away and entered his new home, he could not help but disagree with some of Jal’tai’s parting words. Solonn was now the leader of this city. But he knew that, in truth, Jal’tai would always be its heart.