Micael Chapter 5
Geo was by far the busiest town they had visited; children ran through the streets, pulling beleaguered mothers and fathers around the various malls and plazas. Merchants hollered from open carts and out of small shops littered throughout the three main avenues of the city. Had it not been for Geos worldwide reputation as the home of the Magic Academy, one would quickly assume that its primary attraction was commerce.
The two Jumi wandered among the citys sandstone buildings for hours among the eclectic blend of townsfolk. Short, robed, elf-like sorcerers wandered about, taking time off between their classes at the Academy. The colleges teaching staff itself featured a slew of interesting characters, from a woman who was clearly half-reptile to a wraith-like figure wrapped up like a mummy. A few odd, clearly non-human creatures littered the streets, including several beings shaped like man-sized teapots, hopping about and speaking as if they were alive. Micael and Esmeralda drew their share of stares from the populace as well; many people kept their eyes on the pair, from those who studied their unique clothing to those who could identify them as Jumi. Few of the trailing eyes registered with Micael. The sun was nearing the horizon before the two decided that they could not find any Jumi. They had asked several of the Academys students, assuming that they would know best how to identify a Jumi. Nobody offered any help. Most of them sounded too busy to help, and few of them gave much attention at all to the pairs conundrum.
Esmeralda, still wrapped in Micaels cloak, began wandering down the eastern branch of the city. Her companion nearly lost her as he pushed through a swarm of children to catch up. He grabbed her arm as soon as he could, as she was not aware that he had fallen so far behind.
Lets not get separated, he said. There are a lot of people here.
Sorry, she replied absently as she stopped in the middle of the road. Frowning in thought, she mused, We havent checked every building down this way, have we?
Im not sure, Micael answered.
Well, maybe we should split up for a little while. Its getting late, and wed better find something out soon; we dont have anything to go on yet.
The male Jumi looked around, furrowing his brow. Maybe theyre not here.
Or maybe theyve all holed up in an inn down this way, Esmeralda suggested. Theyd probably all stay together.
Micael hesitated. Okay; you go in there, and Ill check this store here. Ill come find you.
Esmeralda nodded, and proceeded towards an open-door café tucked away between some larger, more imposing edifices. Micael headed into a shop, decorated sparingly on the outside. When he entered, he saw very little inside to suggest what the shop sold; only a few tables peppered the modest apartment. None of the owners ware had yet been placed for viewing, but a fair amount of crates sat on each other in piles in the back of the chamber. The only impressive item in the building was a large, ornate box immediately to Micaels right. Made up with inlayed gems, pearls, and gold, the object looked like an immense jewelry box, big enough to hold a person. As it was the only eye-catching thing in the shop, Micael found himself staring at it until the store owner emerged from the back room.
Im sorry; I didnt hear you come in, he said. The bespectacled young man wore a modest purple tunic and had his long hair pulled back behind his head. As he approached Micael and proffered his hand, the Jumi cringed slightly at the notion that there was something oddly familiar about this person. Im Alex. What can I do for you?
Hello, Micael drew out. I was on my way through the city and was wondering if you might have seen any Jumi come by here.
I know what Jumi are; I didnt think there were any in the city, or the area. Alex seemed to trail off in thought until he peered at Micaels core and snapped to attention. Oh, I see; youre a Jumi!
Micael flashed a look to his core. Y-yes.
So youre looking for other Jumi, Alex mused, folding his arms and sounding impressed by this.
Taking the subtlest step backwards, the Jumi forced a smile. We got separated a while ago. Im hoping to reunite with them.
The shopkeeper nodded. Were you? he said, more in confirmation than in question.
Micael folded his arms and darted his ayes around the small apartment. He felt like he should be covering up his core, but he was not wearing his cloak, and he would have to hold his arms uncomfortably high in order to conceal it. Alex kept his eyes on him, staring with an approving smile. So, have you seen any? Micael blurted.
With an apologetic twist to his smirk, the bespectacled merchant slowly shook his head, never prying his eyes from Micael. Sorry, no; I had no idea there were any Jumi in the area.
Again Micael stepped backwards. Okay... thanks anyway. As he retreated from the shop, the Jumi kept a suspicious eye on the shopkeeper. Once he passed the plane of the doorway, he spun around and nearly ran to the café where Esmeralda had gone. He tripped on the porch of the building, and had to hop a couple times to regain his balance. Forcing himself to stop, he bent down and clutched his knees, taking a deep breath so as to compose himself. All the staring of the world could not compare to what that Alex did.
Clearing his throat as he entered the café, he ran a hand through the back of his hair and quickly found his companion sitting at a table by herself. He trotted up to her as calmly as he could, planting himself on the bench just across from where Esmeralda sat, still wrapped up in his cloak. She tossed him a relieved smile as soon as she saw him.
Everything got quiet when I came in, she whispered, leaning in towards him. Micael snuck a few glances around him; it was quiet, and a few pairs of eyes still aimed at them. He had not noticed them on his way in. He actually felt a little like Alex was still watching him.
He narrowed his eyes at a table full of Academy students, watching and whispering among themselves. Besides them, no table had more than one occupant, although a couple of the tables closest to the cashiers desk were holding a sparse conversation with the cafés owner. Have you found anything out? he said, turning back to Esmeralda and mirroring her hunched posture.
The owner hasnt seen any of us, she started quietly, Except for a woman carrying a huge diamond.
Micael cocked an eyebrow. What does that have to do with anything?
Apparently, she had it around her neck.
He narrowed his eyes in thought. Wait... you mean you think that was Diana?
Well, there arent a lot of huge diamonds floating around, the female Jumi shrugged. Its the closest thing we have to a lead.
Yeah, Micael agreed. That creepy shopkeeper wasnt any help.
Doesnt matter, he dismissed. Anyway, if it was Diana, why would she be here alone? Where was Rubens?
They might have been doing just what were doing; breaking up to cover more ground. This is a big city. It would be her job to gather all of us together, right?
But even if they are all together, they might not still be here.
Well, apparently this diamond lady came by just yesterday.
Slowly sitting up, Micael thought aloud: So we could probably catch up to her if we knew which way she went. Esmeralda smiled. Quickly rising, the male Jumi stooped his head towards the front doorway and assessed the lateness of the day, then turned back to Esmeralda and leaned in again, telling her, Wed better hurry and find somebody who can tell us more. He spun back around to leave and ran right into a small figure moving towards him. The young student fell backwards, tripping on his own robe. Shocked, the Jumi bent down and offered his hand. Are you okay?
The student flashed a perturbed look at Micael and stood up by himself. I came by to say that youre going about this the wrong way.
The Jumi exchanged a look, and Esmeralda glanced towards the table from which the student came. Not looking at all like he was enjoying the conversation, the student continued:
We saw the diamond lady last night; she was all alone. She snuck into Kristies Palace; used one of the side walls.
Why did she do that? Micael queried.
She got a death threat; somebody left her a note. She probably went there to hide. Kristies has terrible security, but its the biggest place in the city, and easy to hide in. Ill bet shes still there; you could go find her tonight while everyones asleep.
Micael frowned. Youre not serious. You want us to break into somebodys palace to find a lady who might be there and who might be who were looking for?
Its the only lead youve got, the youth replied. Beside, the letter mentioned a core.
Both of the Jumi suppressed gasps of shock and tossed a more urgent look between themselves; Micael almost said something, but stopped himself. How do you know all this?
She got the letter right outside the café, the student explained, pointing towards the porch of the building. She read it to the cashier. A couple of us followed her after she left.
The pair eyed the owner of the café, a round, teapot-shaped creature, not unlike several that they had seen bustling about the streets earlier. Micael looked at it, looked back at the youth, then absently thanked the student and marched up to the front desk.
You said you saw a lady with a diamond here yesterday, he said, resting an insistent elbow on the counter. Did she read you a letter?
Leaning back a little at the Jumis forwardness, the creature stopped to think. Aye, she ad a note wif her. Read it to the lot of us.
Micael tapped the counter a few times, staring down the teapot. Its squinting eyes and hollow voice betrayed little emotion, and he could not figure out if it really was alive, much less lying to him. He glanced back at Esmeralda, and she gave him a shrug. The student had left the building with his friends while Micael was grilling the café owner.
The teapot knocked a stout, wing-like limb against the counter. Maybe she saw the appraiser. Did you ask him?
Who is the appraiser?
Alex, the teapot answered, Next door. Just moved in the other day, he did.
The Jumi swallowed, paling slightly. No, I asked him already, he responded weakly. Thanks. And he left with a wave, beckoning to Esmeralda. As they exited, Micael led his companion by the arm, stopping on the porch. He nodded towards the shop he had visited and said, Thats Alex.
Youre sure he didnt see this diamond lady? Esmeralda asked.
No, Im sure; he knows about Jumi, so he would have known it if he saw Diana.
The Emerald Jumi frowned. So what should we do, then?
We could wait until tomorrow and go to this Kristies Palace when the owner is awake, Micael replied. He started to walk back towards the center of the town, but stopped when he realized that Esmeralda had not left the porch. As the setting sun was providing insufficient light, he could not discern her expression. Whats the matter?
Do you feel like somebody is watching? she asked, her voice quivering a little.
Micael looked around; the crowd had thinned out considerably in the last half an hour, and the few people who still walked the street seemed more interested in their own affairs than in staring at the Jumi. Still, the more he thought about it
A sharp thud split the air between the two of them, and a cloud of dust in the road quickly alerted the Jumi to an object that had planted itself one pace in front of Micael. His first instinct was to find the source of the attack, but the primary sources-- the roofs of the surrounding buildings-- gave up nothing. Whoever had thrown the object was no longer visible. He knelt down and picked it up; it was a letter, wrapped in a thick parchment envelope. Opening the envelope produced a card, sized just to fit its wrapping. It was too dark to read, so Micael kept it in his hand and beckoned Esmeralda to follow.
She was still standing where she had stopped, motionless. Micael approached her, placing a hand on her shoulder. Are you okay? he asked.
What is that? she whispered.
He glanced at the letter. I cant read it; well have to go inside someplace.
What if its a note like Diana got?
Now, wait; were not even sure if shes... he trailed off, mulling over what she had just said. He looked at the letter, then looked back around the rooftops. Taking a deep breath, he pronounced: Lets find Kristies Palace.
Micael started off down the road, but only made a couple of steps before noticing that Esmeralda had still not moved. He stopped and turned back to her; she was clutching the cloak around her shoulder with one hand and holding her other hand out to him. He walked back and took her hand, receiving a tight squeeze when he did so. The pair continued on together.
It took a bit of prying to get a passerby to reveal where the palace in question was, and soon the Jumi were headed towards the northern end of the city. As they proceeded in a brisk jog, they encountered fewer and fewer citizens, and Micael seriously considered whether he still felt staring eyes from somewhere nearby, as Esmeralda claimed. Sooner than they expected, but later than they hoped, the Jumi found Kristies Palace at the end of the north-running avenue of the city.
It was undoubtedly the abode of a wealthy person, and lived up to the moniker palace. High, polished stone walls blocked the view of most of the place, but it was clear from the elaborate roofing and multiple towers dotting the property that whoever Kristie was, she knew how to design a testament to lavishness. Micael chose the eastern side of the fortification to try and enter, and the pair hastily picked out a tree that looked close enough to use to scale into the property. Micael had Esmeralda wait while he climbed the tree and checked to see if he could find the observer she swore was around; not finding anybody only slightly eased his mind. He called her up and ushered her down the limb that stretched the closest to the wall.
She shimmied down the trees limb and swung over to the wall, straddling it as she waiting for Micael to follow. He did so, and as he jumped onto the fortification his right-hand sword clattered against the wall. Micael cringed at the sound, and Esmeralda mirrored his expression. Cocking an eyebrow, he dropped off of the wall, landing gingerly in a patch of flowers. He waved for her to follow, and she carefully swung her leg over to the inside of the wall, then grasped the top of the fort and dropped, dangling by her hands for a moment. She tried to get a view of the ground beneath her, so as to judge the distance, but before that happened she felt a pair of hands at her hips. Micael had braced her, whispering for her to jump. She let go, and they both tumbled backwards a few steps before Micael regained his balance and lowered her awkwardly to the ground.
Quietly, the pair crept up to the main building. Although a pair of booths near the front of the property were occupied by a couple of loudly snoring guards, the Jumi neither saw nor heard anything to suggest that anybody was stationed around the back of the palace, so they headed that way. A single, eight-foot wooden door led to the back of the palace, but was obviously locked.
Micael drew his right-side blade with his left hand and aimed it at the lock of the door. Esmeralda stepped back and quietly warned him to be careful, and he concentrated hard as he tried to focus through the darkness to find the keyhole. He gripped the weapon in both hands, squinting his eyes and twisting his mouth. He could barely see the keyhole, and positioning his black sword to puncture it was all the more difficult. Wishing that there was an easier way to pick the lock, he tensed his hands, staring down the keyhole as if doing so might spontaneously destroy it.
Suddenly, the sword jarred with a spark of energy, and a small explosion burst through the lock of the door. Micael jumped back, dropping the weapon. It landed clumsily on the stone walkway that lead to the back door, and Esmeralda jumped herself at the clanging sound. Creaking lazily, the door began to swing open. Micael flashed a look to his companion, and she returned a knowing frown, retrieving the blade and pointing to the etching of the black creature on it. Micael took the sword and studied the carving before sheathing it carefully; his arms felt numb, and the wound on his left arm ached noticeably more.
They entered the palace slowly, scanning everything around themselves. A few torches burned contentedly in gilded holders along the walls of the hallway that stretched before them. Although wide, the hall was littered with statues and various pieces of art: paintings, woodcarvings, and decorated tableware sitting on elaborate tables and assorted pieces of furniture. The Jumi followed the hallway, ignoring the slew of branching halls on both sides. They soon entered a large, marble-floored chamber boasting a large, velvet-cushioned couch in the middle and lined with six immense statues-- depicting an assortment of heroic-looking figures in majestic poses-- and enough light to keep them all illuminated. Staring in awe at the artwork, the pair remained in place for a while before Esmeralda nudged Micael in the back.
The letter, she reminded.
He snapped to attention and retrieved the envelope from underneath his tunic, then removed the card from inside. Had it not been for the sudden and unmistakable sound of footsteps coming from the back hall, he might have given her a chance to read the inscription:
Jumi who wander around aimlessly find themselves in trouble very quickly. The night quickly consumes them.
Legend of Mana Fanfic