Pandora's Box

Chapter Eight - The Other Truth

The trip back to Etansel was short and uneventful. However, Shiho knew that the two were avoiding the city like it was a plague. When they arrived there, it was already night time and Pokiehl was nowhere in sight, so Shinichi suggested staying overnight in the dead city. There was no one in it.

“You can use Shinku’s room,” Shinichi said to Shiho. “Heiji will use his old room. His house is right next to ours, after all.”

“I thought you two share a bed,” Shiho remarked calmly, and Shinichi replied with a sarcastic ‘ha ha’ before he led her to their house and rooms. “Oh. She’s a neat freak?” she commented, looking at how orderly everything was in the room.

“We haven’t been here in a long time, though, so dust off the things you’d like to use first,” Shinichi said simply, staring into Shinku’s room. The room only had a bed, a wardrobe, and a small end table where a framed picture was. It was drawn by their parents and it was a picture of the three of them when they were still little. Only then that Shinichi realized Shinku was standing closer to Heiji than him in the picture, and he felt really bad for taking Heiji away from her.

“Stop that,” Shiho said as she frowned. “They’re together now, aren’t they?”

“Yeah,” Shinichi said as he sighed. “Alright, I’ll be in the next room then. If you need anything, just tell me.”

“Sure,” Shiho agreed, then Shinichi walked out, and into his own room, which was more or less the same as Shinku’s. However, the picture on his desk was one of Shinku standing on the giant ruby on the second floor of the city. A lot of other children were playing there as well, and on closer inspection, he noticed that there was the child Kaito there, staring straight at him, who drew the picture at that time.

“Hm... I wonder if he knows Shinku...”

Deciding that thinking of such things wouldn’t help him in any way, he prepared himself to go to bed. He went to his bathroom to wash his hands and feet, and when he returned, Kid was standing in his room, his back to the open window and his cape was billowing slightly at the gentle breeze.

“Phantom Thief Kid,” Shinichi called as he stood across the room, his back against the bedroom door. “What are you doing here?”

Kid lowered his top hat and held onto the edge, blocking the view of his face with his hand. “I have a question for you,” he asked as he spoke deeply. Shinichi noticed it, but didn’t comment on it. “Why did you leave your sister to be Clarius?”

“Would it have been better if it had been me?” Shinichi asked slowly, unsurely.

“You didn’t answer my question,” Kid retorted sharply, a hint of anger in his voice. “Don’t answer a question with a question.”

“I don’t know,” Shinichi said finally, sighing as he leaned back on the door behind him. “I never knew she let herself be chosen as the next Clarius. I never knew a war broke out against the Deathbringer. I never knew how the war ended. All I know was that Hattori let it slip and we came back for her, announcing her dead so Chris couldn’t use her anymore.”

“You didn’t know about the war?” Kid asked again, his voice shaking in surprise and doubt. “It was the greatest war in the history of the Jumi clan. How could you not know?”

“They never let me know,” Shinichi said, shaking his head. “Even to this day I still don’t know the details of the war. They refuse to tell me whenever I ask.”

Kid fell silent at that, his shoulders slumping slightly. Shinichi knew he shouldn’t feel that way, but he was sorry to see him like that.

“Did you do this because of me?” Shinichi asked. “Why are you doing this?”

Kid kept silent, then lowered his hat even more. “You don’t need to know,” he said sharply, and then he disappeared from the room, leaving the window still open. Shinichi rushed over to the window and saw a fleeting shadow passing over the full moon, and disappearing in the distance.

“Kid...”

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

“Morning Kudou,” Shiho greeted when she saw Shinichi walking out of his room. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

“Why, thank you for noticing,” Shinichi commented. “Kid came to my room last night.”

“I wouldn’t put him in the same category as ghosts, but I guess it’s close enough,” Shiho replied with a shrug. “What did he do then?”

“As I’m still living up to this second, no he didn’t take my core. He asked why I left Shinku in Etansel back then. Then he was gone. Just like that,” Shinichi answered. “You think he hates me for that?”

“If he does, he’ll have taken your core by now,” Shiho said easily. “Maybe some of the gory things he did to that leader of yours too.”

“How did you know?”

“Hakuba.”

“Oh, right,” Shinichi said as he nodded. “Alright, let’s go get Hattori and then we’re off to the second floor. Pokiehl might be there. We didn’t look in the upper floor yet, right?”

“Yeah,” Shiho confirmed. They then walked to the house beside theirs and knocked on the door loudly. Not long after, Heiji rushed out of his house, complaining about the banging. He also said that if they still had neighbors, they would’ve already complained about the noise they were making.

“Good thing we don’t, then?” Shiho asked with a smirk, and Shinichi laughed at that. He then smiled and thanked her, and Shiho simply accepted it. She knew that they were still bothered by the fact that the surviving Jumis could be counted with one hand, even though they tried their best to not show it, and every effort to make the situation better was appreciated.

“We should go to the place with giant crystals,” Shinichi said. “I just saw an old picture I made, and realized that Kaito was there. Maybe Pokiehl is there.”

Heiji and Shiho agreed wordlessly and they all went through the Sappho Gate towards the second level. It wasn’t hard to look for the place Shinichi meant, but when they got there, no one was there.

“Hey, don’t worry, we’ll find him,” Heiji said as he patted Shinichi’s shoulder. He hated seeing the disappointed look on Shinichi’s face. “He’s the last to be found, right? I’m sure the others would tell him we’re looking for him.”

Suddenly, a soft, classical music filled the place, and when the three turned around they saw a colorfully-dressed bird walking towards them carrying a music box.

“Pokiehl!”

Pokiehl laughed as he walked over. “Sorry, I got a bit sidetracked. Hm, so this is where you first met him, huh?” he asked as he looked around, then sat down on a big amethyst. “Nice place, by the way. At least I didn’t ruin my reputation of finding people instead of being found.”

Shinichi rolled his eyes but laughed at the comment. “Well, you’re here now. What story will you be telling us this time?”

“Come, come,” Pokiehl said as he motioned for the three to come over and sit down in front of him. “What kind of story teller tells a story to people who are standing and alarmed?”

They looked at each other, but then walked forward and sat down on the ground in front of Pokiehl, looking up at him expectantly. Pokiehl grinned, placing his music box down, and began pacing on the amethyst. “This is a story of war, revenge, and deceit,” he started. “A tragic story, indeed. However, will it have a happy ending? Or a sad ending?”

He paused, then looked at the three of them pointedly. “That is for you to find out. Now, let’s begin the story...”

A long time ago, there was a young sickly boy, born with an incurable disease. His parents abandoned him because of it, and he lived with a woman who took pity of him and took him in. All his life he spent inside his house, only able to watch others play outside with envy and anger, thinking why he couldn’t be like them.

One day, he saw a frail-looking person walking outside of his house. That person was carrying a sketchbook, and he wondered why he couldn’t be like her. He started going outside, although he didn’t join the others just yet. Then, he braved himself and asked her why she didn’t join the others. She said she was content with staying there and watching her twin and friend. She asked the question back to him, and he told her of the disease.

The girl happened to be a good healer, and she offered to heal him. She healed him to perfection, and they parted ways. She never knew his name, and they never met again afterwards. Secretly though, the boy was always watching her, promising himself to look after her and protect her, even if his life was on the line.

Because she had saved his life.

“Wh—“ Shinichi gaped at the story. “I... no...”

“Something wrong, Kudou?” Shiho asked as she lifted an eyebrow. Pokiehl’s music box had stopped playing and he paused to crank it up again.

“No, no, please do go on with the story,” Shinichi said quickly, and Pokiehl smiled.

“Alright, let’s get on with the story...”

As they grew up, she became more prominent among their tribe. She was promoted to a position of power, while he stayed back, practicing his swordsmanship as best as he could. When the war came to be, she was part of it, but he wasn’t, simply because he was too young.

The boy watched in disappointment and dread as the girl went to war with her protector. He had wanted to hold that position of being her protector, but he was too late. He wasn’t competent enough yet, and he didn’t want to endanger her in any way.

When the war was finished, their tribe wasn’t without casualty. Their tribe of healers had become more egoistic after the war and they didn’t want to give up their spirit to heal others. The girl, much to the boy’s horror, was one of the few who were still willing to heal, and she was quickly chosen to be the medic of their tribe.

Another war broke out, and he feared for the girl’s life. He knew the tribe wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice one person for the entire tribe, but he wasn’t prepared to do that. To him, she was more important than the tribe. Like the woman who had taken him in, she was very important to him. He got word that her protector had left with her twin, and promised himself that he would take the position of her protector this time without fail.

When the war ended, their tribe emerged victorious again, but the girl was rumored to be dead. She had exhausted her spirit to save the others. To make things worse, the woman who had taken him in was killed during a trip to another city to gather resources. She was a jeweler, one that had a good eye for beauty.

Angry at himself for being unable to protect those who really mattered, the boy traveled out of his village. He dreamed of continuing what his adoptive mother did. On the way, however, he chanced upon a quaint, secluded house, where the girl he thought was dead lay, weakened but very much alive.

Confused and angry at the same time, he wondered what he could do. What could save her? That was then, that a person who saw the inner struggle in his heart, came to offer him a solution. Get for him the blood of his tribespeople, and he would save the girl.

He went on to become a jeweler, before he finally decided that he would give it a try. He would rather know that he tried, rather than not try at all, although his attempt might end up in a failure. After all, he never liked the people of his tribe. They were too egoistical and self-pitying.

“I got a feeling that I’ve heard this story somewhere,” Shiho commented as she shook her head. “Well, this is getting rather complicated, isn’t it?”

Pokiehl chuckled as he cranked up his music box yet again. “Well, it’s going to get even more complicated soon. Aren’t I famous for those complicated stories?”

“I suppose,” Heiji said with a shrug, then glanced over at Shinichi who was silent the entire time Pokiehl narrated the story, seemingly deep in thought.

“Shall I continue the story?” Pokiehl asked as he placed his music box back down. “Now, where were we... ah yes...”

The little boy grew to become a strong, independent man. His dream of protecting the girl who saved her stayed with him, completely taking control of his mind. There was only one reason why he killed without mercy—to save the girl who had saved him. He would damn his conscience to the deepest pit of hell if he needed to for her sake.

One day, by a twist of fate, he came across the girl’s twin—the one who had left her alone to suffer while snatching her protector away. His first thought was to add his blood to the ones he had shed, but he found that he didn’t have the heart to. He knew the girl would definitely be saddened if her twin was to die, but there was something more. Something that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

He then decided on befriending the boy to find out the reason why he had left with her protector, but spending time with him made him like the boy more than the girl. It confused him. It frustrated him. It depressed him. Was his dedication to his lifesaver that shallow? Were the murders he committed all for naught?

He had no one to share his troubles with ever since his adoptive mother died. The boy was a listener, he knew that much. Without hesitation, he told the boy of his troubles, knowing that the boy was oblivious to the true story of his life. He found solace in the boy, but it caused him even more confusion and frustration.

When all hope was seemingly lost to him, the boy once again came as a beacon of light. He offered his help to consult wise men, who were in charge of keeping their world at balance. His encounter with one of the wise men had opened his eyes to the possibility that he was mistaken—that he didn’t know the answer yet. The fact that the boy was as good a healer as the girl who saved his life confused him even more.

He braved himself to admit that he had betrayed their tribe. He had murdered those the boy wished to keep alive, and it made him feel bad. It made him feel as if he was taking advantage of the boy. He didn’t want any more of it, but at the same time he didn’t know if he could get out of this web he had created for himself.

He tried all that he could to make amends and prove to the boy that he sincerely wanted to help him. He had fallen for the boy. His mind couldn’t come up with a reason why, but his heart told him so. They were connected even before they officially met for the first time, during their quests to save the girl. They had been connected, because he had sworn his life to protect him.

He was the little girl who saved him years ago, but the two of them remained oblivious of the fact. They continued to lead their own lives, not knowing that their destinies had been intertwined by Fate herself, never meant to be unwound to become separate.

He decided that he would confront the one who had offered him the solution. He wanted to know why he gave him such false promise. He wanted to know... if he had really done an unforgivable sin against his tribe.

“Is that the end of the story?” Shiho asked as she frowned. “Don’t you know something else?”

Pokiehl laughed and cranked his music box a little. “Well, there are some finishing lines. I don’t know if you want to hear it or not, but I suppose you should. Here goes...”

The man wouldn’t answer his questions, and so, following the wise man’s advice, he sought out the source of his confusion—the girl who was the medic of their tribe. And then, surer that he had made a mistake by following the suspicious man’s advice, he came back to confront him again, only to get the biggest surprise of his life. The man he had trusted, turned out to be the very same person who had caused his misery.

In his depression, he thought of killing himself as some sort of retribution. However, one thing stopped him—his promise to the boy.

“So, will he kill himself?” Shiho asked.

“That depends,” Pokiehl said calmly as he shut his music box. “It all depends on you, Chosen One. You make the decisions, you decide where this events will turn towards. Don’t forget that we didn’t choose you randomly. You are chosen by the Mana Goddess and us six Wisdoms.”

“I have a really bad feeling about this,” Heiji said. “If that guy even thought of killing himself as retribution, then it’s pretty bad. We have to find him.”

“He really is Kid then,” Shinichi mumbled to himself. “No wonder he tried to hide his face and mask his voice when he confronted me yesterday... and that also explained why he kept apologizing.”

“Shinichi...” Heiji said as he frowned. “What’s wrong? You’re not thinking of not forgiving him, right?”

“Selva said that I have to remember what others told me in moments of doubt,” Shinichi continued. “If what Olbohn said is true, then he’s clearly hesitating in taking the last two cores he needed for that man, whoever it is, to ‘save’ Shinku.”

“So that means those two cores are yours,” Shiho concluded as she nodded thoughtfully.

“Tote and Monique both said that sometimes, it’s not what’s logical that is correct,” Shinichi said. “I won’t let him kill himself. If he keeps his promise, I will keep my promise as well—to forgive him and trust him no matter what.”

“Clearly he’s been struggling much more than you,” Shiho said as she sighed. “Maybe this is the ultimate test that Rosiotti was talking about. You know, how you would react towards his seemingly betrayal and how he would make amends.”

“Then, he must be looking for Shinku,” Shinichi deducted. “After all, the thefts started because he accidentally came across her in the box. He must be the mystery visitor that we’ve been talking about. Is that right, Pokiehl?”

Pokiehl looked up at them, then laughed. “Well, find out for yourself, Chosen One. I don’t answer questions. I only tell stories. I hope my story is entertaining enough for you. Now I shall take my leave.”

With that said, Pokiehl left with his music box. Shinichi and Heiji could only sigh.

“So what are we going to do now?” Shiho asked. “We have to look for the man, but we don’t know where he is. He’s probably someplace that Kid had made his base.”

“There are so many places we haven’t gone to,” Heiji replied. “But this is an urgent matter. We can’t be going around the world leisurely while searching for them. He might kill himself if we don’t make it on time. If he doesn’t make it on time,” he added, motioning at Shinichi.

“That won’t be necessary,” a feminine voice cut them off, and the three turned to look at Aoko who was walking towards them. “Hm, I see you’ve gotten a new addition to your team. Who is this lady?”

“This is Miyano Shiho, ex-warrior monk of the Temple of Healing,” Shinichi said as he introduced Shiho to Aoko. “Also the lover of Hakuba, the Bloodstone Knight.”

Aoko’s eyes widened slightly. “Oh. I’m sorry for your loss,” she said as she pursed her lips. “I’m here with some information you might be interested in.”

“You’ve pinpointed the location of Kid’s base?” Heiji asked as he lifted an eyebrow.

“Exactly,” Aoko said, almost proudly. “See, I’ve marked off the places that he’d done a theft in. Everywhere in the world has been touched by him, but then, do you remember something?”

“What is it?”

“There’s a place that will never be visited,” Aoko said. “The reason why Kid could do his only brutal murder.”

“The Clarius chamber!” Shinichi and Heiji exclaimed at the same time. Why hadn’t they thought of it?

“Exactly,” Aoko said as she nodded. “By the way, Kid sent us another notecard. It was strange, though, because it only told us that you are here in this city. It’s as if he wanted me to find you and tell you where he might be, right?”

“Indeed,” Shiho agreed. “So he’s taking the initiative to put an end to this thing.”

“Then we have to hurry,” Shinichi said as he gripped his sword tighter. “From Pokiehl’s story, and what Gaeus said... I fear for the worst.”

“What is it?” Shiho asked as she frowned.

“You fear for the worst...” Heiji mumbled. “Isn’t that what Hakuba said we have to go through? Before we could find Crimson?”

Shinichi fell silent. “That’s... right. Maybe... hopefully... this time, we’ll really find Crimson.”

“So what is this worst that you’re fearing?” Shiho asked, getting slightly impatient.

“I can’t explain now,” Shinichi said. “We have to go to the Clarius chamber, and quick. You’ll see what I mean once we’re there. I promise. Just don’t be too surprised.”

“That’s not very reassuring.”

“I’m in need of reassurance myself,” Shinichi retorted. “Anyway, let’s go.”

The three turned to look at Aoko who simply nodded. “I understand. Good luck, all of you. I’ll be waiting for the good news.”

Shinichi’s lips twitched upwards slightly at that. “Thank you, Nakamori-san. I’ll be sure to tell you of the good news as soon as I could.”

And the three rushed up to the Clarius chamber.


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