Welcome to the Mummy Seeker; how can I...
The diminutive shopkeeper trailed off as he watched the patron enter the shop. The man swaggered in leisurely, humming a tune to himself. He adjusted his glasses and peered around the small shop with genuine interest. His appearance, with bohemian purple tunic and pulled-back hair, was not uncommon to the former Magic Academy student. His smile, however, was the odd thing about him; a mixture of smugness, nonchalance, and childlike wonder, it did not look like it would fit on anybodys face.
He wandered up to the counter, proffering a hand to the merchant. Hello, my name is Alex. I just opened a shop in Geo, not far from here.
I know where Geo is, the shopkeeper replied, somewhat insulted. Checking out the competition, are you?
Not quite, Alex said, happily stealing another look around the store. I have an affinity for jewels, and they say you sell minerals here.
Theyre right, but Im not a supplier.
Alex chuckled. No, Im actually looking for something more than jewels. I was told by the manager of a tavern that you met up with some Jumi a while ago.
The shopkeeper scratched his head. Yeah, but I dont sell Jumi.
Laughing heartily, Alex replied: No, of course you dont. I wanted to know where they were headed.
Oh, the store owner said, cocking an eyebrow. I couldnt tell you; they stayed here one night and left the next morning before I got up. If they told me where they were headed, I forgot.
The man took another step towards the counter. Too bad; theyre an interesting folk. He started to turn towards the door, but halted. Say, while Im here, how is the mineral business?
Its not too bad; I find a lot of what I need in the Ulkan Mines. There arent a lot of rare jewels there, though.
I see, Alex mused. Then, digging into a pocket, he raised a finger and asked: Say, have you ever seen one of these? He produced a large, grayish-black rock. It had been chipped in one corner, but was other wise not severely marred.
The shopkeeper looked it over, shot a glance at Alex, then glared at it again. Not too bad; what is it?
Mica, Alex pronounced triumphantly. I picked this one up near my shop. The student examined the piece a little more, then Alex slowly closed his fingers around it. You cant find a specimen like this just anywhere.
Shrugging, the little man said: Sure, but its not very valuable, is it?
Not really, but Im starting a collection of sorts. Its good to have a variety. He started towards the door again, saying: You have to travel a lot to get a good variety.
Yeah, the shopkeeper agreed, and waved half-heartedly as the man left his shop. Alex tossed the door open and paused, looking back with his eerie smile and giving the owner a nod, then closed the door behind himself slowly as he swaggered out.
The little man shivered a little. There definitely was something odd about that man, even beyond the discomforting smile he wore and the airy way he moved around the shop. His conversation darted about; there seemed to be no point to it. He didnt even buy anything. It made one wonder what kind of a business a person like that ran.
* * * * *
I know this is you first semester, but you have to pay attention or youll fall behind the other students.
The horned, gangly Mephianse stood out of his chair, folded his arms and stared Esmeralda down from across his desk. She clasped her hands behind her back and aimed her eyes at the floor. Im sorry, she said.
Dont apologize, the principal ordered impatiently. Just put more effort into your studies. Youll be lost when the rest of the class advances on to harder subjects.
Esmeralda nodded, and as he turned his back and wandered to a window in his cluttered office, she glared at him. In the silence, she scanned the cramped room, looking over the various trinkets and magical artifacts littering the shelves and cabinets of Mephianses chamber. He watched the campus outside for a while, then tossed a glance over his shoulder at her.
Im going to set you up with a tutor, he proposed. As long as youre going to be living on the campus, you may as well spend your extracurricular time catching up to your peers. He lumbered over to his desk, brushing a few papers to the floor and moving a small statue of a bearded, dwarf-like creature. He picked up a folder and handed it to her. Ive asked Professor Nunuzac to help you out; he holds his office hours in the library. He should be there right now.
Esmeralda took the folder and thumbed through it quickly, not really reading anything inside. She looked at the principal, and his face scrunched in thought before he continued:
Hes studied a little bit about your kind.
Her face seized up, and she forced herself not to glower at him. Mephianse cocked an eyebrow, and waved her out of his office. As she reached the doorway, he stopped her.
Somebody said a while back that there was a Jumi walking around the city. She had a diamond; thats your queen, right?
Esmeralda sighed and slowly turned her head at him, giving him the blankest expression she could forge.
Anyway, if another comes looking for her, you might want to join them. Who was that famous Knight, Rupert or--
Rubens, she corrected. Mephianse pointed at her in recognition, but Esmeralda had already left his sight. She stalked down the hallway, gripping the folder in her hand and clenching her mouth. It was bad enough that she had no idea where her comrades were, but the fact that the Academy wanted to get rid of her was an affront to her entire journey. It was an affront to the efforts made to get her there safely.
It was an affront to him.
She marched to the library, almost knocking over one of the younger students as she proceeded. Never stopping to excuse herself, she continued into the room and descended the staircase to the lower level of the library, having quickly recognized Professor Nunuzac. Looking for all the world like a floating throw rug, the circular object under Nunuzacs telepathic control gave no acknowledgement that it saw her. Years ago, according to the stories she heard, Nunuzac had been trapped in a alternate dimension. The legendary conjurer chose not to sever his ties to FaDiel, and possessed a fabric-like patchwork disk in an attempt to maintain a link to his alma mater, the Magic Academy. Although his abilities were severely limited by the absence of his original body, he was known to be a fiery lecturer, as long as students could put up with his demanding nature. Esmeralda walked up to the cubist face of Nunuzacs circle.
What do you want? it said impatiently.
Im one of the new students, she began.
Yes, Ive seen you in the back of the room, Nunuzac interrupted. You dont pay attention in class. You should move closer to the front; youre not getting any benefit from your lecturers otherwise.
She frowned. Okay, but I was sent here by Principal Mephianse. He thinks I need a tutor.
A small ripple ran down the circle. I suppose hes not sending you to me to ask whom I think would be a good tutor. She shook her head. It figures. This isnt the first time hes dumped problem students on me. As much as he might think its helping me, I know better. That self-centered, ambitious... Nunuzac trailed off after noticing the hurt look in Esmeraldas face. Whats you name?
Fine, the circle remarked, I suppose I could use an extra pair of hands around here. The young Jumi gave an uncomfortable smile, unsure as to whether he was trying to garner a laugh. Ill expect you to be here in the evenings to assist me with my research.
I live on campus, Esmeralda explained.
Fascinating, Nunuzac lied. I suppose youre going to tell me that youre a Jumi, too?
I figured you already knew, she replied flatly.
The circle rippled again. Dont get wise with me. Id just as soon not help you at all. Youre not going to have a fun time here, I can tell you that. Being a Jumi wont be an asset, either. You might want to watch out for others of your kind; you Jumi should stick together.
Her face became stiff again, but she found it easier not to betray any emotion to the cloth-like familiar of Nunuzac. A moment passed by silently, then the circle spoke again:
I have nothing for you to do today. Come back tomorrow.
Saying nothing, Esmeralda turned and left the library, climbing the stairs less roughly than she had descended them. She reached the main hall, still mulling over what the faculty had told her. She did not want to meet up with any other Jumi, not yet at least. She was going to finish her studies at the Academy first. There was no way she would waste the opportunity she had, and certainly no way she would waste the sacrifice made for her.
Besides, she did not want another Jumi looking after her. She could not think to take a Knight-- take another Knight-- so soon... no, at all. There was only one Jumi she could think of to protect her.
Legend of Mana Fanfic