The Merchant of Aegea
Anubis didn’t know when Honoka would be back.
He kept waiting for her to suddenly slam open his house door, declaring that her existence was now present in his dull life. She would then proceed to berate him for every single last exploit she had heard from the townsfolk who lived nearby him. If he was lucky, he’d get a hug before she proceeded to violently slam him into the usually comfortable floorboards beneath him.
Then his mother would glance in at them from the kitchen as she pretended to read the latest paper he had written for his homeschooling. She’d greet her as they engaged in common house talk before Iliana left her to watch him, resuming her cooking.
He’d then proceed to be strangled in every wrestling hold possible, ones he didn’t even know existed. She hadn’t come from Ruonas for no reason, after all. Gladiation was the main magic there for the gods’ sakes.
Instead, he glanced wearily at the empty seat at the table, an extra plate left out for whenever she’d be back as he had for the last two months.
He was beginning to think she wouldn’t return.
He was worried. After all, this was the longest time she had been gone on a mission for an empire. Usually, she’d be back in two weeks.
Now it had been two months.
He’d kept listening to the village gossip as he walked by each day, eager to hear word of her presence.
But none came. It was almost as if she had disappeared off of the face of the planet. No longer existent among the living.
He hoped that wasn’t the case. He hadn’t heard from Liz for the last two years either. It seemed everyone was leaving him behind.
And why was everything happening in twos?
He didn’t know.
Maybe, she gave up on us, his mind suggested pessimistically, after all, you aren’t that important anyway.
That doesn’t make sense, his heart retaliated, she and Mom are good friends. She always stops by here. She lives here now.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you, his brain relented, giving up.
He believed she’d be back. He wanted to believe she’d be back. But now...
Well, it wasn’t as if he was in love with her or anything like that. Honoka was like an older sister to him along with his foster mother, his real one. He felt they were a family.
Hah, she doesn’t think so, his mind chimed.
Don’t talk back to me, he glanced off to the side, you’re my brain.
His brain didn’t have anything to say to that.
Bored, he watched as his mother walked to answer the door, talking to someone. She seemed highly concerned for some reason, perhaps the same.
BAM! Something clattered to the ground. He spun back around, on his feet.
Are those morons back again? He considered. Oh wait...
Yeah, they’re dead, his head inputted, bothered by his idiocy.
Thanks for staying quiet, brain.
Always here to help, it sassed.
“Is everything okay?” he ran over to his mother in worry.
The daily papers had clattered to the ground. Staring in surprise at them, he read the headlines before making his way towards the exhaustion-riddled figure before them.
′Jaialyian Crosses over Atlantis!′ It read in bold, on the front was a picture of his friend herself as she decimated twenty-five cannonballs in one blow.
He didn’t even know she could do that. Shocked, he clenched his fist at the name used to refer to her country.
Atlantis, a derogatory term for all who hailed from the highly respectable Jaialyn Empire. Aeiytia, however, didn’t respect them. The two were constantly at odds, eager to decimate each other with the simplest of reasons.
He had never before bothered to wonder how well exactly, Honoka had fared at sea. She had always seemed fine.
The paper, however, said otherwise.
Ripping his eyes from the magically printed material, he placed them at the now exhausted individual held in his mother’s hands in the doorway. Before him, was Honoka herself, looking as if she had been hit by a train, yet surprisingly uninjured. Outwardly anyways.
His mother took her inside, asking that he close the door. He did, somewhat dazedly.
“Spread out the bed,” Iliana Ilistaire ordered determinedly, a fire in her eyes.
“I’ll finish healing, Honoka.”
The process had taken five hours, after all, the Assist Arts wasn't really all that efficient. Not when compared to true magic anyways.
A sort of artificial kind of magic, it was scientifically created by the citizens of Xynes whom had gotten jealous that only the empires could wield magic. They named it The Arts, claiming that it was made to mimic that of the gods’ Arte, practically stealing their name.
The gods hadn’t called back and sued them for their plagiarism yet, so it just kind of remained there for centuries.
There were three types of The Arts, each with different sub-sections. There were; the Combat Arts, Strategy Arts and the Assist Arts. One could easily guess what they did.
There was a rumour that the laboratory in which they were originally developed in still existed to this day. It was a tourist attraction of sorts. People just sort of looked at it and laughed all day.
Like, hey remember when we didn’t have magic?
Neither do I! Then they would laugh it heartily off.
The descendants of the creator sure felt offended at the response, but who really cared? They had magic!
Needless to say, Xynes was now a magically filled place, with science now obsolete everywhere.
Anyway, it wasn’t until Iliana was finally done, that his mother gestured for him to come inside.
The ‘operation’ had taken place in his room, which Honoka normally roomed in with him when she was there. His mother had suggested that they add an extra addition to the house for her, but Honoka simply waved it off, not wanting to cause any trouble.
Now look at her; causing trouble, was his brain’s snide remark, trying to lighten the mood.
Honoka herself was spread out neatly on the lower bunk bed, peacefully sleeping under a blanket.
Obviously, she wasn’t dead, since she was breathing. His mother would have been crying instead of smiling anyway.
That... was a creepy image, he reprimanded himself, irritatedly.
You’re welcome, his conscience chimed.
He had to get rid of it, it was starting to talk to him after what he did.
His mother placed a hand on his shoulder gently, “She’ll be fine, Anubis. I made sure of it.”
“Yeah, I know,” he said aloud, “What happened to her anyway?”
He didn’t know where the newspaper had vanished to.
“According to what it said, it seems that she got caught up in some battle off the shores of Aeiytia. The Pharaoh was there,” she recalled in thought.
“The Pharaoh of Aeiytia was there?” he shrieked, deeply worried for her well-being.
He recalled the man standing boldly on the shoreline in the motion picture.
That was the Pharaoh? He thought. She should be dead!
He was happy that she wasn’t. In fact, he was overjoyed. It was just...
He had heard the rumours of the Aeiytian Pharaoh’s great strength. He was a Paladin, not one to be crossed. One would be lucky to so much as live if one fought him.
Or so, he had heard.
Iliana smiled ruefully, “Well that’s the only Pharaoh there is, isn’t it?”
“I know, Mom,” he noted the underlying tone of sarcasm, “But why would the Pharaoh be fighting Honoka?”
Iliana glanced at him thoughtfully, “Apparently it was some sort of territorial conflict. After all, Honoka shouldn’t be here in Sunaisei. She’s not supposed to be. It was a matter of time before they noticed, per say.”
“I see your point...”
Still, wasn’t that a bit harsh for the Pharaoh himself to appear?
“...but isn’t that a bit too much?”
“Some might think so but,” she bent down to face him, “The Pharaoh doesn’t. Never tell Pharaoh Amenophis what he should do, okay?”
She had bent down, he stared in surprise. This was a life lesson being taught here, he guessed.
Not like he’d ever meet the man himself, right?
“Okay,” he nodded all the same.
If Iliana Ilistaire went out of her way to tell someone not to do something to another, there was probably a high likelihood you’d meet the person in question.
He’d learned this the hard way.
Thoroughly satisfied that he had heeded her warning, his mother stood up, smiling gently.
“Now then,” she grinned, a twinkle in her eyes.
“How about we throw Honoka the welcome party she deserves, hmm?”
Said party looked awesome. It had taken them straight into the night to prepare for it. Almost everyone from the town was here to celebrate. Everyone except Dr. Rayyan Menkaura, of course.
He was the town’s doctor, who surprisingly did not live in the actual town, but near a bridge past it. The man hadn’t been seen anywhere in the town since he had gone to collect some shipments of medicine from the Aeiytia Empire.
Rumour had it, he was back and working on a monumental cure for some sort of newly discovered disease. It was precisely that it was a rumour that made it hard for Anubis to believe.
He hoped the polite man wasn’t dead, that would make things inconvenient for him if something finally went wrong.
Just kidding, he genuinely wanted to be sure he was alright. They lived in the Dark Age of Nervonia, after all. Incidents like those were everywhere. It was a milestone that the small town had been spared the hassle.
For now at least.
The plan was simple. They’d act like they were going about their lives, prepping furiously for the Maharajan. His mother would wait for her to wake up, engaging in conversation with her until she would leave to ‘get more tea’.
Knowing his friend, Honoka would eventually wonder why she is taking so long and head outside, finding no one in the house itself. That’s where he’d come in.
Anubis was pretty fast, maybe faster than the white blur of the seas; Honoka herself. He’d run by right then, leaving Honoka the chance to glimpse his braid as he moved by.
She’d end up chasing him to the town centre, making her wonder why so many people are getting ready for the Maharajan at this hour. Then, they’d flip into party mode. Thoroughly surprising her.
After all, she’d helped them all a lot. With such a close call like that, they’d want to let her know that at least they appreciated her.
The plan itself was practically foolproof.
Except that it depended on Honoka herself. She’d have to wake up, and though Iliana claimed it would take place likely within the hour, they really didn’t know when.
All the same, Anubis perched behind a particularly high bush outside the house property, waiting. It was ten forty-five now, and he’d been there since nine o’clock. He didn’t know what was going on inside the house.
Finally, his mother walked outside, glancing around and she lifted her dress slightly off of the ground.
That was the signal; it was go time.
His mother vanished around the corner as he waited anxiously, ready to take off. Soon enough, a small white blob appeared from the doorway, curiously peeping her head out. She stepped outside.
Anubis took off, making sure his braid was very visible amongst the dim moonlight.
“Is that Anubis?” Honoka muttered in confusion, “Anubis! Wait!”
Footsteps bounded after him.
Anubis too, turned the corner, getting lost amidst the group of people who were bundling in anticipation, trying to act busy.
"She’s right behind me!” he hissed.
They panicked slightly.
“Anubis!” the silverette finally stepped out into the ‘festival light’.
Confused, she walked around, searching for him.
“That’s odd...” she muttered fairly loudly.
He thought he got caught.
“...Why are so many people here?” she looked on in surprise, “Is the Maharajan that soon?”
Phew, he nodded at the rest, glancing discreetly at him.
“Surprise!” the townsfolk yelled happily.
Honoka looked scared out of her wits.
“Welcome back!” they all greeted, a banner dropping down overhead as the lights turned on, revealing an array of food and drinks.
“W... what?” the poor girl was confused.
Saving her from her peril, he stepped out from behind the tables.
“Anubis!” Honoka yelled delightedly, tackling him into a hug.
“Where were you?” she nuzzled him happily as he tried to laugh her off.
“Right here,” he’d smile dashingly.
This... is what he thought would happen.
What really happened was:
“Anubis!” the silverette seemingly yelled delightedly, tackling him in a hug.
“Where were you?” she then proceeded to violently pummel the Niflheim out of him.
Funny how contrasting that was.
“Right here!” he finally managed to say as she ceased her abuse.
“Uhuh... What is all this anyway?” she stared suspiciously at the townsfolk eagerly cheering drinks around her.
“Mom wanted to throw you a party for your return,” he rubbed his arm in slight pain, “These guys,” he gestured to the happy people around them, “agreed. So we threw you a welcome party.”
“Didn’t think you’d actually punch me though,” he laughed nervously.
“Oh,” she enunciated.
Honoka stared at him critically, “I still feel you did something though.”
“Ahaha,” he rubbed his neck sheepishly, thinking back to that night.
“What he says is true,” Iliana finally stepped out from behind some people, approaching them.
“You’ve done so much for this town, and for me and Anubis,” Anubis smiled innocently, “We wanted to thank you for all you’ve done,” she ruffled her head affectionately.
“I didn’t do anything...” she trailed off.
"Are you kidding?” his neighbor, Kanaan yelled drunkenly, “You’ve done a lot for the villa!” she hiccuped.
“That’s right!” Hazm piped in, equally as drunk.
“You guys...” Anubis stared at them, “...how are you that drunk already?”
“Who knows?” Hazm laughed.
“Whoopee!” his sister grinned.
“You guys,” Honoka smiled happily.
It looked like some of the stress of being attacked had vanished right off of her.
“Thank you,” she bowed gratefully, standing tall once more.
“Now let’s get this party started,” Anubis cheered, holding up some punch.
The town cheered.
The party itself was exciting. From hearing folks singing songs happily under the moonlight to the dancing and playing games, it was an enjoyable experience. Anubis savoured the moment as he was being cheerfully noogied by Honoka, who was talking to some townsfolk. He didn’t want it to end.
But unexpectedly, it did.
Iliana clutched her throat silently, choking out some punch as the cup dropped to the ground, spilling juice everywhere.
Trembling, she tried to say something to her son, taking a few steps towards the duo, who hadn’t yet noticed. She raised her hand worriedly.
“A... Anubis...” she tested the word on her lips, immediately they spun around, sensing her peril.
“Iliana!” Honoka screamed in fear, running towards her, pushing Anubis off to the ground.
“B... Bring... An... u... bis...”
Anubis dared not waste time getting up, crawling over swiftly in horror, “Mom? What’s wrong?” tears came to his eyes.
“Someone get a doctor!”
“There’s only one doctor! He’s not back yet!”
Samir punched a stall in anger.
Iliana smiled ruefully, a horrid look on the normally peaceful soul. Her eyes slightly closed, limply.
“What did I tell you...
...about using your powers?”
And then she collapsed to the ground.
The sound of a horse-drawn cart pulled closer, tearing through the shock-filled gathering. It halted before them.
“Get on,” a white haired girl stared down at him from the steering section.
Her eyes were a piercing whitish-silver colour.
“I’ll take you three to the doctor.”