Pandora's Box

Chapter Seven - Complicated Destiny

When the three arrived at the city of endless night, a group of fully-armored Imperial knights walked up to them. Heiji and Shiho instinctively stepped in front of Shinichi, and he wondered who the real woman in the group was. “This is just like what Kaito-kun said,” he thought to himself. “Even a girl protects me. I’m pathetic.”

“What do you want?” Heiji asked as he frowned, holding his sword up.

A loud voice came from behind the soldiers, angry and impatient. The speaker scolded the knights for relying on brute force and intimidation before stepping up to the three.

“Good afternoon, Kudou-san, Hattori-san,” Thoma greeted as he bowed at them. “I apologize for the rough treatment of my soldiers. Though, may I know who this is?” he asked, motioning at Shiho.

“This is Miyano Shiho-san,” Shinichi answered. “A warrior monk working for Gato’s Temple of Healing. Circumstances had made her another ally in our journey. Is there a problem in this city? Why are there so many knights here?”

“We’ve got news that there’s a siren living in this place,” Thoma said as he pursed his lips. “I told them to watch the front gate to see if the siren has just returned from somewhere while the rest looks all around town. I also told them to look out for the two of you because you are witnesses as well.”

“So you want us to testify whether the siren living here is the same one we saw in the images projected by the Blue Eye,” Shinichi concluded and Thoma nodded.

“It’s alright then. We’ll be staying at the inn, so if you ever find her, come find us there,” Shinichi said and Thoma excused himself. The knights let them pass and they went to the inn quickly.

Once they got a room at the inn, Heiji told the other two that he was going to go and warn the siren living in the town to beware of the soldiers. He had met the lamp-making siren while visiting Lumina before the wars broke out, and the pretty lamp Shinku loved was her work. He also said that most sirens know each other, so she’s bound to know who the one they saw was.

Shinichi agreed and said that sometimes the knights are rough and would not listen to others reasoning. They would catch her first and treat her badly before either them or Thoma set things straight and she would be released. He knew she didn’t deserve that, and so, together they set out to find the lamp maker, asking Shiho to watch their room. Shiho, on the other hand, was more than glad to because that would mean some quiet time for herself.

When they arrived at the secluded lamp shop, located at a far back of a back alley, Shinichi was surprised to see many lamps; hanging from the ceilings, the walls, and even some were littering the wooden floor. It reminded him of Kaito’s jewel store, only the objects they sell were different.

“Hattori-san,” the siren greeted with a smile as she looked up from her workbench. “Have you come to buy another lamp? How is the one you bought that time?”

“It’s still working great, Monique,” Heiji said as he smiled at the timid siren. “How’s your business doing lately?”

“Good,” Monique said as her smile widened. “The Dudbears seem to love my lamps and have become frequent customers. So, what brought you here this time?”

“Imperial knights are in this area, searching for a siren,” Heiji said grimly as he frowned. “There was an accident that caused a ship sinking near the Madora beach. A quick look at the Blue Eye showed that the reason for the accident was a siren, and they’re looking for you to see if you’re the one showed by the Blue Eye.”

“I never leave my lamp shop, except when I’m visiting Elle,” Monique said as she tapped her chin. “But don’t you think it’s a bit cruel to just put the blame on a singing siren? Sirens really don’t have the magical ability to cause a ship to suddenly sink because of their singing.”

“Exactly why we’re here,” Heiji said. “Hide from them. They’re bound to give up and move somewhere else.”

“I’ll try my best,” Monique said in agreement. “Is he a friend?” she asked as she stared at Shinichi.

“Used to be my Guardian,” Heiji answered. “We’re traveling Fa’Diel now, and our next stop just happened to be this city. Why do you ask?”

Monique chuckled. “I thought he’s more than a friend,” she said with a small smile. “He keeps giving off the vibe of a person in love. Trust me, years being with Gilbert that constantly lovestruck centaur had taught me how to sense such vibe.”

“Well, I suppose he is in love,” Heiji agreed, “but not with me. There’s someone else.”

“I see,” Monique said as she nodded thoughtfully. “What is your name, good sir?”

“Hm? Oh, I’m Kudou Shinichi,” Shinichi answered.

“I see. Kudou-san,” Monique said, her smile unfaltering. “You’ve chosen a good man.”

“How do you know?” the two asked suspiciously, and Monique laughed at their expression.

“His vibes are more similar to a woman in love,” Monique said simply, “and I could sense that he used to be such a troubled soul. He isn’t anymore, and that’s why I said he’s chosen a good man. Someone who could save you from hurting yourself and bring the best out of you is definitely a good person. That’s what I think.”

“Why do I feel as if everyone I meet has a love advice for me?” Shinichi asked as he frowned. “First Rosiotti, now you. I also have a feeling that Tote will speak of a similar topic.”

“You’re being paranoid,” Heiji said as he shrugged. “Well, that’s it, I suppose. We’re going back to the inn now. Take care of yourself, Monique.”

“Of course. Thank you for the warning, Hattori-san, Kudou-san,” Monique said as she smiled at them and waved when they were at the door. “Don’t forget, Kudou-san, that no matter what, you’ve chosen a good man. Don’t let circumstances sway your decision. It’s your heart that knows best, not your brain.”

Shinichi stared at her in confusion, but nodded and waved back at her.

The rest of the night was uneventful but noisy. They could hear the heavy footsteps of the Imperial knights even in their room and that was enough to keep them up. Deciding that they couldn’t sleep even if they tried with all the noise, they settled for just sitting on the floor and talking.

Shinichi wondered why Shiho was chosen by Selva to go with them on their journey. Clearly not everyone wanted to be involved with Jumis, because they had spread a belief that Jumi cores would bring bad luck and crying for a Jumi would turn a human to stone. This was why they didn’t want Jumis for their friends, for fear they would forget about it and cried if something bad was to happen to them.

Heiji said that since they had told her the story of their lives and the reason why they were traveling, it was only fair that she did the same and told them why.

“I was in a relationship with the Bloodstone Knight, or Hakuba, as you would call him,” Shiho answered simply, as if she had just said that the sky is blue, and the two nearly fainted in shock. “He took the Turqoise Guardian to be his Guardian because his parents asked him to. When she died, he fled to Gato and that’s where we met.”

“There were four of us. Mitsuhiko, Ayumi, Genta, and I. We were good friends ever since we were small. I, a warrior monk. Genta was a holy knight. Mitsuhiko was born with the blood of a demon in him, and Ayumi was the priestess of the temple who had just passed away.”

“Mitsuhiko and Genta both liked and cared for Ayumi. Even if they weren’t rivals of love, they were rivals for her sisterly affection. Genta’s hatred towards Mitsuhiko grew as Ayumi grew closer to him. One day, they confronted each other in the Ulkan Mines, and were both thrown down into the Underworld.”

“Mitsuhiko had taken away Ayumi’s elemental powers, the thing that kept her locked away in the temple, in hopes of setting her free. However, it had a side effect that no one expected—she aged so rapidly that by the time she was twenty six, she looked seventy six instead.”

“Genta’s hatred towards him were fueled even more, and the climax of their story was when Mitsuhiko tried to resurrect the legendary dragon Lucemia to destroy Fa’Diel. Sometimes in that ten year span since the incident in the mines and the recent incident and their passing away, Hakuba came to Gato to seek refuge. Both of us were seeking refuge from unwanted conflicts, and we supported each other during those harsh times.”

“So you two came to love each other afterwards?” Shinichi asked.

“More or less,” Shiho said with a shrug. “He always said he wanted to be reunited with his Guardian because it was his call of duty, as mine was to protect Ayumi the priestess. I thought of meeting her in the Underworld, but thought better of it. It would be better if we’re not to meet again.”

“Why not?”

“Because it would be hard on all of them. I’m sure they’re kept at separate rooms and not allowed to meet each other so they won’t cause any more problems,” Shiho started, “maybe except for Ayumi and Mitsuhiko. Who knows. Still, she thought of me as a sister, and it was hard for her to pass on and leave me here, in the world of the living. Seeing her would only make her even more guilty.”

“I see,” Shinichi mumbled as he nodded thoughtfully. “You are a very nice person, Miyano-san. I’m sure Hakuba-san came to care for you also because he’s been looking for a knight to fight alongside him, and not someone to protect.”

A small smile appeared on Shiho’s face. “I’m sure.”

By the time they had finished telling their stories, the footsteps of the knights were long gone, so they went to bed. The next morning, they checked out from the inn and headed towards Lake Kilma.

The place was serene and Shiho found that she liked it even better than Gato’s waterfall. The path was winding and confusing, but not to the Jumi pair since they had been there a couple of times already. They finally reached a cliff overlooking the lake, and saw an old tortoise standing there, watching the clouds moving.

“Hello, child,” Tote greeted before they even spoke up, then turned to look at them. “Oh ho, I heard the faeries chattering on about you two in the jungle. Is your friend alright now?”

“Yes, he is,” Shinichi said. “Did you know why we came here?”

“Of course,” Tote said as he chuckled and walked over. “The faeries couldn’t keep a secret. Spending a day listening to them speak would make you gain more knowledge than sitting and watching the happenings of this world like Gaeus did. They’re everywhere, you see.”

“Yes, I see,” Shinichi said with a chuckle. “But they’re vicious towards us. Anyway, how have you been doing, Tote?”

“Oh, I’ve been well,” Tote said as he nodded his head thoughtfully. “I know your problems, but I can’t offer you any more advice than had been given. Rosiotti was right. What I know has been said by them. Only Selva and Pokiehl can tell you more.”

“That’s alright,” Shinichi said. “We’ve come here to pay you a visit. Have the faeries been giving you trouble lately?”

“No, not really,” Tote said with a small smile. “By the way, you have beautiful accesories, child. Did you choose them yourselves?” he asked, touching the staff pendant and flower hairpin that Shinichi wore.

“No, they were gifted to me,” Shinichi said. “Why?”

“You know, this staff looks just like the Jumi staff,” Tote said thoughtfully, tracing the lines of the staff as well as the various cut gems put in it. “And that flower, that is a sapphire flower. How fitting.”

“Sapphire flower, hm?” Shinichi mumbled.

“The staff was made with precision,” Tote started, “with caution and care. It was made with the intention of self-use, and no intention of making another of it. The flower, on the other hand, is made with confusion. The lines are rougher than the staff. The maker of this pin was having a great internal struggle during the time of making.”

“Well, I suppose that is correct,” Shinichi said with a sigh. “He spent years looking after a girl, then suddenly he felt as if he should be looking out for me. I would be having an internal conflict too if I were him.”

Tote chuckled as he sat back. “Child, not everything is what it seems. The internal conflict you’re going through is because of what you think, not what you know. He thinks, but he doesn’t know.”

“What does that mean?” Shinichi asked as he frowned, confused as well.

“You too. You think, but you don’t know,” Tote said as he laughed. “What you see or hear might not be the truth. Your eyes, your ears, your brain, they receive information and process them, but only your inner heart knows whether it is true or not. Before he met you, he has never questioned what his brain had processed. Now, he is doubting himself.”

“How do I know if something’s true or not?”

“Only you can tell, child,” Tote said as he sighed. “Everyone has a different feeling. You might feel a nudge of some sorts, or an uneasy feeling, or anything. For each person it’s different, but it’s there. Seek it. Calm yourself down and get in touch with your inner self. Listen to it.”

Shinichi smiled at that. “Well, it seems that you’re not completely out of advices to give me.”

Tote laughed. “I’m glad you find it useful, child.”

“It is. Very much so, Tote,” Shinichi said as he bowed at the old turtle. “We’ll be heading back to Gato now, then. Be careful with the faeries. Don’t let them mess around too much.”

“I try,” Tote said as he chuckled, then waved at the three. “See you all.”

“See you.”

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

After a bit of traveling, the three finally made their way back to Gato. It was peaceful as ever, although when they arrived it was already nightfall. Quickly making their way to the inn, they were quite surprised to find Kaito in the lobby, fiddling with a rose-shaped pendant with many small cut rubies adorning it.

“Kaito,” Shinichi called as he walked over to him while the two booked a room. “Were you waiting for us?”

“Oh, Shin-chan,” Kaito said as he looked up. “Well, yes, but I haven’t been here for long. Anyway, since you wanted to give something to your sister, here.”

Shinichi stared at the flower closely. It was beautiful, like a real rose but made out of ruby. The metal framework was cleverly hidden by the rubies, and he found himself slightly envious of it. Maybe Kaito would choose her instead of him after all. They look the same but she was female, and just like what he said to Heiji, it was always better to be with a female.

But Shinku was already with Heiji.

“Do you like my sister?” Shinichi asked as he accepted the pendant and studied the flower closely, then looked up at Kaito who looked back at him questioningly. “Do you like her?”

“Why do you ask?” Kaito asked, frowning in confusion.

“It’s beautiful,” Shinichi said. “As expected from a master jeweler, hm?”

“I never knew you’re such an insecure person, Shin-chan,” Kaito said calmly. “Not everyone I care for is a romantic interest, okay? I care for you. You care for your family. Why shouldn’t I care for your family too?”

“I’m sorry,” Shinichi mumbled as he pocketed the pendant. “It’s beautiful. I’m sure she’ll love it.”

“That side of yours still needs some work,” Kaito said with a sigh. “Anyway, I’m heading back to Geo now. My business here is finished.”

“You only came to give this?” Shinichi asked as he frowned. “I... hm... okay then. I’ll see you around.”

Kaito stopped and turned to look at Shinichi. “What do you want me to do, Shin-chan?”

“Do whatever you want to do.”

“What do you want me to do?”

Shinichi paused. Looking up at Kaito, he knew that he wouldn’t give up until he gave an answer. Thinking back to the time when he was still little, he faintly remembered the times when he would always let his family do whatever they want and he would simply tag along. They never did come around to do what he wanted to do, but it was because he never told them.

“Stay,” Shinichi mumbled softly. “I want you to stay by me.”

“I am staying, Shin-chan,” Kaito whispered back. “I’m not leaving you for anything. This is only temporary, until everything has settled down and I no longer need to open my store in Geo full time. I love you.”

Halfway through Kaito’s speech, Shinichi was preparing himself to interrupt, but the three words at the end rendered him speechless. They were spoken so deeply, full of emotions and affection that for a split second, he felt like a girl.

“I... I love you too,” Shinichi mumbled softly, refusing to look at Kaito’s eyes. He grasped the jeweler’s cloak tightly and sighed. “No matter what, I will believe in you. So don’t betray me.”

“No. No more,” Kaito said softly, pulling Shinichi into a tight hug. “What is in the past is in the past. Will you let me make amends?”

“I still don’t understand,” Shinichi said as he shook his head. “What wrong have you done, Kaito?”

“You will find out soon,” Kaito said, and for the first time since they met, Shinichi heard Kaito’s voice shaking. “And when you do, please find it in your heart to forgive me, believe me, and still love me... please.”

“I—“

“I can’t live without you, Shin-chan,” Kaito said, burying his face in Shinichi’s hair. “You are the light in this terrible, terrible world. You saved me and helped me get back on track. No wonder you’re still able to cry, even after the war.”

“Were you there? In the wars?” Shinichi asked as he patted Kaito’s back slowly, consolingly.

“No, I was too young to participate in wars,” Kaito answered. “Were you?”

“I was during the war of the faeries, but not the one against Deathbringer,” Shinichi answered. “That’s alright. Sometimes, it’s best not to be there. The mental scar might never be healed. Take Hattori as example. He has retired from being my Knight and refuses to take anyone else as an official Guardian.”

“He was your Knight?” Kaito asked, surprise and confusion evident in his tone. “I thought... oh, anyway, I need to go back to my store now. I’ll see you soon, Shin-chan.”

“Okay,” Shinichi agreed. “I’ll hold you against your words.”

“Of course,” Kaito said as he nodded in agreement. He leaned forward and placed a quick kiss on Shinichi’s lips. “Good night. Sweet dreams.”

Heiji and Shiho had watched the entire exchange with raised eyebrows, but they didn’t comment on it, even as they were walking to their rooms, Shinichi with a bright, flushed face and Heiji with a teasing smile on his face. That night, Shinichi dreamed of a crying Kaito, and wondered what it meant.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Heiji, Shinichi and Shiho were tidying up the Dreamweaving Room, the room of meditation for the priestess of the temple, as requested by the other nuns. Not many dared to go in there, and since Shiho was a close friend of the priestess’, they thought of giving the task to her. She, consequently, dragged the two guys with her.

As they were finishing up, a wooden doll-like creature floated down from the ceiling, moving to the left and right slightly as he chuckled. “Hello, child. How has your trip to see the other Wisdoms been?”

“Selva!” Shinichi exclaimed as he nearly dropped the vase he was holding. He quickly put it down on the desk and walked over to Selva, followed by Heiji and Shiho. “The trip was alright. It was good meeting up with them again after a long while.”

“Good,” Selva said as he nodded. “So I assume you’ve already known what you need to know first. I will now read the scroll of prophecy to you, and the rest, you can ask Pokiehl.”

Selva took out a small scroll from his pocket and unrolled it. It wasn’t long, because the script was small. He hummed as he read the ancient letters, and then looked at the three. “This is the scroll of prophecy written by Anuella the Artificer, the only Wisdom who has ceased to exist. It is written in here, that to save the Mana tree, the embodiment of the goddess of love, three types of love have to be established.”

“What kind of loves are they?” Shinichi wondered.

“The first, communal love. The love for your community; for your fellows. This has been established the day all Jumis lost the ability to cry, yet you two didn’t. The next one is familial love. This one, also, has been established. Your love for your sister that drives you to find Crimson has been noted by the Mana goddess.”

“And what’s the last one?”

“Romantic love,” Selva answered. “The love of two people who complete and help each other. It seems that I came at a rather opportune time, because the Mana goddess told me that it has been established. Last night, to be exact.”

Heiji snorted and hid his laughter behind his fist while Shiho rolled her eyes. Shinichi flushed brightly and shook his head. “Okay, so what next? I mean, it’s not our job to save the Mana tree, is it?”

“I don’t know yet,” Selva said as he shrugged easily. “She might decide that you’ll fit the role well. Who knows. But currently, no, that isn’t part of your responsibility.”

“Alright, so what else does the prophecy say?”

Selva unrolled the scroll a bit more. “According to her prophecy on the Jumi race, this is supposed to happen. During the reign of the Ruby, a tragedy will fall upon the Jumi race. So her being Clarius is already predestined.”

“What should we do about the tragedy then?” Heiji queried.

“She said Sapphire will put an end to it,” Selva read out. “Only you can decide whether this chapter in the history of Fa’Diel will end with a happy ending or not. You have the power to do it, child. Be careful with your decisions.”

“It’s an open-ended destiny?” Shinichi asked in surprise. “But why? How could that happen?”

“Pokiehl will tell you,” Selva said as he rolled up the scroll of prophecy again. “Just remember that every decision you make aligns you to one of the endings. Don’t make the wrong choice.”

“No pressure there, Kudou,” Shiho said with a teasing smirk, but then shook her head. “Don’t worry. I know you’ve made the right choices thus far. You won’t suddenly fail.”

“Thank you,” Shinichi said with a small smile. “It’s good to know that someone believes in you.”

“And that’s why you trust that Kuroba guy?” Shiho asked, frowning a bit.

“Well,” Shinichi started, “I trust a lot of people because I know they don’t want to hurt others if they could help it. Kaito seems to be struggling a lot too.”

Selva chuckled. “Well, I sure hope your faith isn’t misplaced, child. When in doubt, remember what others have said before making your decision. Don’t trust your brain only to make judgments.”

“I’ll be sure to remember that,” Shinichi said as he nodded. “Thank you Selva.”

“You’re welcome, child,” Selva said as he nodded.

“Where should we wait for Pokiehl?” Shinichi asked. “Did you meet him?”

“Go to where you first met that person,” Selva said. “Pokiehl is waiting for you there. My job here is finished. I’ll see you around, child. Don’t forget, make wise decisions.”

Selva then disappeared from the room with teleportation magic, leaving the three be.

“The first time you met him?” Heiji asked. “Does that mean the store down there?”

Shinichi thought for a moment, his brows furrowed in thought. It wouldn’t be Pokiehl if he gave such simple riddles; he knew at least that much. That meant the place wasn’t the item store down there, but where could it be then?

“He was your Knight? I thought...”

“Oh!” Shinichi exclaimed as realization dawned upon him. “I know where he is. Come on, let’s go.”

“Where are we going?” Heiji asked curiously. “Not the item store down there?”

“No, we’re going back to Etansel.”


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