Angry and fed up with life, seventeen year old Ghon sets out to try and find himself a better place on his checkerboard of life. But his life only gets stranger when he finds himself watching over a strange, foreign blue-haired boy from the market.
“I give up!” The vexation that was pulsing in my body made me shiver; I glared at the sticky, cloy smelling rag in my hand.
Concentrating hard, I imagined the rag dematerializing in my palm. I imagined it falling to bits with nothing left but a chalky pile that slipped between the creases of my fingers and fell from the palm of my hand to the table below.
When I opened my eyes, the raggedy cloth was in the same position, still dripping deep purple liquid onto the wooden surface beneath it. I sighed and put more fury into my circulating motions.
“Come out! Come out! Come out come out come out!” I yelled angrily.
When I lifted my hand, I saw that I had actually done more damage to the rag than I did the overall stain.
Upset at my defeat, I threw the rag to the ground and flung myself into a nearby chair.
I could hear the sound of heavy, booted footsteps making their way towards me; I chose to ignore them instead of acknowledging them. My pissy mood had caused my other emotions to chuck caring into the rubbish bin.
Soon after, a hard pain struck the back of my head; I howled in pain and rubbed the throbbing ache before turning my back to see who – or what – caused it.
Lucifer stood behind me; his eyebrows had gone down so low that his intense, caramel coloured eyes were nearly hidden.
“S-sorry papa!” I stood up instantly and bowed. Quickly, I scrambled to the floor and picked the rag back up.
When I stood, his stone cold eyes were locked on mine, “You see this stain won’t- I can’t get it to come out,” I stammered
Lucifer watched me for a moment, looked at the splotchy, green stain and reached for the rag. I held it out, he snatched it from my hand but did nothing with it.
“Ghon… honestly…. You’re seventeen boy, you’ll be turning eighteen mere months from now and look at what you’re fussing about! Men don’t let stains knock ‘em into a hissy fit! Men fight! Men are strong, brutal, crazy creatures! Not baby-carrying pansies!” he growled and shoved the rag into my chest with so much force that I fell to the floor.
“The restaurant’ll be opening soon and I don’t want my costumers to come in and see that” – he pointed to the stain – “on the thing where they consume their food. Be rid of it!”
When he turned his back to me, I stuck my tongue out at him and mumbled to myself, “damn old fart! Men don’t work in family restaurants! They explore and discover! And men who claim to be men aren’t overweight mouth shooters!”
In the end, I didn’t get the damnable stain out and by then costumers were rolling in and placing themselves at tables. So of course Lucifer pushed me aside and did the job himself – he got it out in less than a second… using only his saliva and thumb. Once Lucifer was done, and tired of looking at me, he sent me off to buy more kunai and huven.
(Kunai is a vegetable only grown in the Mineral Region. It grows underground and before it is washed and peeled, there is a thick layer of black skin that is blanketed in soft bristles that overlay it.)
(Huven is a large orange fish with randomly scattered pink scales that shimmer under glistening light. The fish is seasonal, and best harvested when they are found under the thick ice surface of the Ice Region.)
My eyes shifted from left to right, trying to spot an exotic foods stall was nearly impossible in the crowded, blusterous market area. I remembered a story my mother told me; my family went to the Region of the Green Jewel Leaf. She said that their market place was paved with pebbles and not sand and that there were shops and not stalls. Kasha, my mother, often said that if King Koupher would do something such as that, then our town wouldn’t be racked with violence and criminals.
I snorted at the thought that such a small change could do such a thing and continued to walk through the streets, pushing people aside as I went on.
“E-excuse me,” a tiny voice called from beneath me.
I glanced down, there was a tiny, blue haired boy with vibrant whitish-gray eyes staring up at me. His features were soft and feminine and his skin was milky white with little colour spotting his cheeks.
“Hello,” I said.
He smiled kindly at me, but from the look on his face, he was underestimating how carefully I was concentrating on his hand. Too many children in King Koupher’s kingdom were raised to pickpocket.
“Would you be so kind as to donate some of your pieces, sir?” he asked me sorrowfully, “I’m quite famished, and I haven’t a parent to return to.”
(Pieces are a form of currency in the VI Realm of Earth. Used to buy and sell items, food, creatures etc.)
I blinked. His appearance had made me suspicious of him, but his choice of words only made my suspicions worse. This boy was a foreigner, no doubt, but what would he be doing in such a dangerous place with no guardian?
When I asked him about it he seemed to be taken aback; without a word, he looked to the ground and walked away. Should I have followed him? Probably, but fire breathing Lucifer was at home waiting for me and his inventory.
I continued on, finally finding the exotic foods stall when night began to break. Orange light flooded through the clay buildings and onto the market; most of the shoppers had gone home already and I still had to buy the huven before I could even think of going home.
As I approached the fish stall, I could see a skinny, dark haired man in a well tailored shirt packing wrapped packages into a large, silk bag.
“Hello lad!” the man greeted me cheerfully.
“Hi,” I bent over to scan the large sections – no huven – and glanced up at the thin man, “Do you have any huven left?”
He eyed the bag of kunai in my arm; a sly grin danced onto his face,
“Hows about you and I make a trade?” he asked happily.
I straightened myself so that I was standing tall and not crouching, “Can’t I just pay you extra?” I asked.
The man shook his head, “Sorry lad. I gots a family to be feedin’ at home, y’know. And you have a mighty big bag o’ kunai there, whilst I gots a mighty big family – one wife, nine kids; I’ll give you five of me finest huven, I was savin’ ‘em for myself but I’m willing to negotiate.” he smiled.
It was then that a realized how angry I was for letting Lucifer send me out to do his chores, because this situation was only setting me up for a night of lecturing.
A full bag of kunai and no huven or five huven and no kunai. Which one would drop me down deeper into the pits of Lucifer’s ever-growing aggravation? How I wish I knew.
“You know,” the man interrupted, “huven are seasonal, they don’t come ‘round too often.” His left eye brow raised and his smile remained confident and determined.
I sighed, “Pull them out; I’m inspecting them all before I take any.”
“Ten pieces for inspections.”
“You want to inspect them right? Well I want something in return for my courtesy.”
I twitched, “But I’m giving you all of my kunai for them!”
He leaned forwards, “I only play fair boy.”
Mutely, I dug my free hand into my pocket and pulled out a handful of change, shifting through; I sorted out ten coins and handed each one over hesitantly.
The man pulled out the fish, and as he had said, each one was in top shape. Glimmering scales, bright orange, large, fat and – somewhat – fresh.
He watched me with his conniving smile, “So what’ll it be then?”
“Fine, I’ll trade” I huffed.
While walking home, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the tiny, blue haired boy from earlier, he was wondering from stall to stall. Curious, I followed him. By the time he had hit the last stall; his tiny bag was filled with food and other trinkets. I watched him go into the old, abandoned townhouse at the end of market’s trail.
I found myself wondering whether or not I should knock on the door or just barge in or walk home and pretend as is I had seen nothing. After finally deciding, I walked to the door, inhaled, exhaled and pushed it open.
When I entered, I saw the little boy staring at me wide-eyed.
“I- don’t worry, I’m not here to hurt you. I just… is this your home?” I asked cautiously.
He shook his head; I continued,
“Then why are you here?”
The boy looked at the floorboards, “I have no other place of which I may return to, sir.”
I walked over to him and he moved away, “Please, just leave me alone!”
Moving slower this time, I tried to approach him once more; he panicked and swung at me with his fist, but missed miserably. I tried to grab his wrist but he swerved around me and kneed me in the back. I fell to the floor and on my hands and knees and like a defeated foe, I surrendered. Though I could have gone on a lot longer, I had to tell myself I was dealing with a child and violence was going to get me nowhere.
“You leave me alone! I-I am happy and content on my own! There is no need for me to be surrounded!” he croaked.
I could see the shimmer of water on his eyelashes, he was crying. I’d frightened him more than I had helped him.
I didn’t move, didn’t speak, didn’t do anything as he watched me with an uncomfortably intense gaze. His fists were balled up so tightly they were white as ash.
“Are you calm?” I asked, “I was only trying to help… you have to understand, this place is insanely dangerous.”
“I can manage it!”
“You can manage prostitutes coming in with drunken costumers and drug dealers with deadly weapons? How about crazed gang members beating on their victims while you hide helplessly in a somewhat-dark corner, huh? Or-”
“STOP! … stop. I understand. I will take my leave,” he was emotionless while I watched him scuttle over to his bag and pick it up from the floor.
I stood up and chased after him; grabbing my huven before pushing through the door and spotting him not to far ahead of me.
When I caught up to him, he turned and growled at me through ungrateful eyes, “What? What is it you want, sir?”
I was getting sick of him calling me that, the idea that a child such as him was so formal was odd to me.
“My name is Ghon, not sir,” I said flatly,
He narrowed his eyes, “I have no need for your name.”
“I don’t really care whether or not you’ll use it or not, but I’d prefer if you wouldn’t call me sir, understand?”
He looked away from me and nodded, “what is it you want with me?”
“I want you to not sleep in the streets. I want you to come with me to my uncle’s Inn, he will let you stay there at discount, you’ll be safe until you’re ready to leave.”
He turned away from me and began to walk away, “I won’t.” he argued stubbornly.
I let him march off – but with me following behind at a safe enough distance. There was something about him that made me feel that it was my duty to watch over him. Almost like the relationship between a mother dragon and her hatchling.