Zarik looked down at his hand, then at the door he’d touched. An interesting feeling, both abstract yet undeniable. He lingered. Names occurred in his mind yet again, though different names and only two:
Sybil, child of Knowledge, supported by Time.
Loque, child of Dragons, supported by Swamps.
Zarik lifted his hand off the door. He severed the connection as soon as their names had been exchanged. Considering how the people woven into the death-feeling door had reacted, he didn’t think whoever these names were… they would be any help to him. They weren't Alistair.
Two more doors remained unidentified, as well. Though he felt assured in his theory as to who the names in the doors were - trapped phantoms lost inside - his curiosity led him to discover for himself that Alistair was not among them. He walked along the outer wall. Zarik listened as an ithecal followed the gilded guardian, Number None, with a spattering of questions.
Along the way, he caught sight of another man stealing the fiery eyes of a mage - who Zarik almost considered might be Arlo, due to the hat he wore, but heard a different name mentioned: Cervantez.
The lizardman had reasonable questions, which Zarik listened to along with the exchange of answers. As he reached the next outer door… he passed it by to follow the ithecal’s investigation about them: the Eternals. Zarik’s ice-blue eyes narrowed. Number None’s answers were hardly satisfying, but then the ithecal didn’t ask the questions that bothered Zarik the most either. The scaly stranger seemed more concerned with the hone runes on his wrist and the straight-forward task at hand.
The blond biqaj stopped walking. He crossed his arms. He scoffed, the sound muffled by his mask, as he watched the ithecal depart through a gateway portal. Number None kept walking, even during the announcement. Zarik tapped his fingers against his bicep. He stood motionless, back against the outer wall, in a moment of thought.
Another of the group - Hector - left through a gateway, followed by the announcement. Zarik surveyed the corridor. The youthful man walked to the door set on the right of the Door of Death, across from the Door of Souls. He blatantly reached out, pressed the flat of his palm against the wood, then identified it like the others. Zarik closed his eyes for a trill, then as soon as he’d felt it and gathered the names, he released the connection. None of the names were the singular name he sought.
Zarik strode to the last outer door he’d yet to identify – across from the first-touched door – and he did the exact same procedure. This time, he felt certain the names had to be people who’d gotten mixed in with the wood upon creation of the structure. Perhaps their bones had gotten in the grain or their entire bodies or even their souls.
The initial shock and sorrow at the separation from his lover abated. Instead, Zarik felt frustrated. Confusion brewed in him. His spark still danced at the idea of entering the gateway obviously meant for him.
Despite the desire to pioneer forward, he also felt such a thing would be the easiest course of action. All it took was a few literal straight-forward steps through a portal. Zarik had gone through ruptured portals many times with Alistair already. He didn’t fear the gateway, however warily he considered it. Though he had no idea what could await him on the other side, it proved more challenging to remain and adapt to the corridor rather than flee through a potential exit. He looked at the only known source of such a disorienting situation: Number None.
Zarik weaved around a few of the other mages, ignored any attempts to converse, then fell into step right beside Number None. He didn’t say anything, but he surveyed the gilded humanoid. His irises warmed from the cold ice-blue of focus to the hue of his curiosity: amber. The youthful man folded his hands at his lower back and remained silent. He waited for a couple more people to step through their gateways while he followed alongside the guardian's circuit.
Once they had, after their announcements, he quickened his pace. He moved directly in front of Number None. Zarik walked backwards, staying in front of the gilded man now that he knew the speed of his gait well enough to do so. He stared at the inorganic eye sockets and then asked, “Can you see me?”
“Yes, of course,” answered Number None.
“Of course,” he repeated in monotone, the phrase muffled by his facemask. He skipped slightly, keeping in front of Number None. Zarik flipped his bangs to the side. Curious about a thought he’d had before while observing the ithecal’s escorted walk with the guardian, he asked, “How many circles around have you walked since you arrived?”
“4,204,817,625. Give or take.”
Zarik stepped to the side. He paused, watched as Number None walked past, then scratched the back of his head. So, he was keeping track, though. He hurried to backwards-walk in front of the guardian again, so he could look directly at him. “I-is that actually a number, Mister None? It’s so much! I don’t think I’ve ever heard a number as high as that before. Won’t you stop walking for a bit and talk with me?”
“I can’t stop walking. But I can talk.”
“Oh, why can’t you stop?” asked Zarik.
“I was created to do this and only this,” said None.
“I see,” murmured Zarik. He held a hand at his mask. His fingertips scratched at the leather lining in consideration to lower it. “Have you ever tried not to, though? Maybe you could if you tried. Unless… you do not have a mind of your own?”
“I... do not know how. But it is rather rude to say I don’t have a mind. I am one of the first minds, thank you very much.”
“S-sorry,” apologized Zarik. He hurried his steps with a skip since he’d slowed. “I don’t know much. I only wish to understand, but Mister None, you are- are- uhm… one of the first minds? Yet you don’t know how to simply stop walking?” As if to illustrate his point, Zarik took a step to the side and stopped walking entirely. He sighed and watched as the gilded guardian continued the path.
Here he stayed while Number None's circuit revolved around the corridor. He crossed his arms. In his wait, he glanced at the other people. There were fewer of them than when they'd arrived. He glanced at the fiery-eyed man, surveyed the markings of magic on him, then brought his attention back to the gilded guardian once None returned to the spot.
Zarik fell into stride with him again and said, “I want to say sorry again, Sir None. I didn’t mean to insult you before. Everything here seems so strange to me, and I don’t understand why… why any of it. It seems you’re only doing what you’re meant to do, and I’m sure you’re doing a fine job at it. So, sorry.”
"It is okay, you're a young Pure. Mistakes will be made."
The blond sighed. He adjusted his posture with his back straight, chest out, and hands folded behind him while they walked together. He asked, “If we were already chosen by… them, then why do we have to prove ourselves?”
Number None looked at Zarik with his 'eyes' locked onto the man, but his path remained unchanging, "So that you can become strong enough."
Zarik caught sight of the look, and he returned the 'gaze'. The irises of his eyes changed from the amber shade of curiosity to a topaz yellow pigment flecked with mossy green. He stared at None, silent. He allowed others to speak with the host without interruption, if they wished to. Eventually, he lowered his gaze to the floor. Zarik escorted the path, reticent in mood, until the pair completed a full circuit of relative quiet.
“Sir None, could I speak with the Eternals before my Trial?” he asked in a soft voice.
For the briefest of moments, Number None paused in his motion. Then he continued again, "I don't think that is possible."
“Oh…” Zarik noticed the pause in their walk, as he paused as well, then followed alongside the guardian as they continued. He gently inquired, “Are you able to speak with them?”
"I've tried. Sometimes I can hear them. But it isn't like it used to be, from before. Their voices are lost. All mixed up. It used to just be one voice, strong and true."
Zarik considered the other man’s words for a few steps. He ran a hand over his forehead, then rubbed his thumb against his temple. He said in a rhetorical tone, “They used to be one? None… Do you know who created you? Was it them?”
And while no change came over his physical face, it could be felt that Number None was smiling, "Yes, they were perfect as one, as all things are. And yes, they created me, when they were one. I remember the exact moment I existed for the first time. My most special memory."
Zarik felt None’s smile and it caused the biqaj to also smile. His lips couldn’t be seen as the expression hid beneath his black leather facemask, but it showed in the affable shape of his sunlit-colored eyes. “Will you share such a memory with me? I-if you wanted to wait until the others are in their Trials… or now. I’d like to hear.”
Number None didn't stop walking, but he did extend a hand. "Bridge us with your pure magic, and I can."
Zarik looked at the hand. He hesitated, though he remained walking apace with None. The young mage said, “Bridge? I don’t know how…”
He took a short breath, then nodded. His curiosity, the sincerity of his interest, led the Transmuter. He placed his gloved hand to hold the guardian’s hand as he assumed that was what None had intended. A light amount of ether flowed from his palm, into None, repeating the procedure he used for identity to do so. “Like this?”