Sacred Planet Xai
‘The Thief Yamato’
The man zipped up his coat and walked out the door.
The air was a little crisp, being next to the ocean and all, but he didn’t mind. He held the door open as another couple entered the pub, letting it shut behind them. As he walked east towards the smell of fish and salt, the sounds of gulls reaching his ears, he sighed to himself.
I haven’t seen the ocean for a long time… It will be nice to see it again.
“Care to join me?” the man stopped at a dark alley where shadows loomed despite it being early in the afternoon. The wind tussled with his shoulder-length hair as a figure stepped out from between the two buildings.
It was a woman who matched his six foot three easily. The wind tried to play with her short blonde hair, but found it difficult to move anything but the bangs. She had a brown apron-dress with a Magenta turtle-neck under it. Black socks climbed loosely past her ankles and a pair of dusty Mary Jane’s. A basket full of green apples hung over her right arm. Red rectangular sunglasses covered the color of her eyes.
“I would love to!”
The man sighed, and continued down the sidewalk. “Nice outfit.”
“What? I have to fit in with the general populous, don’t I?”
“It sounds odd to hear you say that.”
She chuckled lightly as they crossed the street. “You’re not exactly wearing your normal attire either, Tri.”
“Speak a little louder, I’m not sure the entire population heard you,” he hissed.
Her chuckles evolved into full laughter, a pair of fangs showing themselves. “Who cares! It’s not like no one has ever seen your true face before! Oh, that’s right,” she covered her mouth at that ‘slip-up’. “No one ever has! Where’d you stow your mask, by the way?”
“I’m going to kill you one day,” he muttered. The ocean was now in full view, the wharf welcoming the two newcomers.
“Promise?” The woman smirked at Tri’s glare as he sat down on the edge of a dock.
“I doubt anyone could do it.”
“You never know until you try,” the blonde took a seat beside him, munching happily on an apple. The water lapped at the dock as fishermen and sailors moved about their business. Tri looked out to the horizon until the woman brought him out of his thoughts.
“It was nice of you to give her that book,” she said quietly, tossing the apple core into the ocean.
“Galiwren would have wanted it this way, I suppose.”
The blonde fell silent, something like remorse drifting through her eyes.
“Hmm,” Tri watched the core bob up and down, contemplating her silence and understanding it fully. “Even if I hadn’t, something tells me you would have stolen it and plopped it in the young Mage’s lap.”
The woman smirked, coming out of her spell. “You know me too well.”
“Hardly. But I do know you possessed a certain enchanter a day ago…”
“I’m sure he’s going to be happy when he wakes up tomorrow to find his spell card gone.”
“Bah. It’s going to better use.”
“Better use? As in conning people in arm-wrestling tournaments?” Tri cocked an eyebrow.
“Uh… Eventual better usage.”
The two sat there for some time, looking out at the water in silence. Ships came and went, men and woman passed the duo who sat without any comprehension of time nor care of it. Finally, as the last rays of sun broke over the water, the green-eyed man got up from his seat, heading down the dock leaving his companion to sit alone.
A small gasp escaped my mouth. “You’re a Mage?”
Tamahashi looked at me with his cool blue eyes. They were filled with shame, but a defiant one. He was ashamed. “Is it so hard to believe?”
He choked a laugh. “You’re a Mage, aren’t you? You shouldn’t be surprised.”
I regained my posture. “Yes, but I am a thief. Not a prince.”
The prince avoided my eyes, and made his settle on the stone railing. “That’s right. So your peers will not object to your race.”
He was right. Ohlo was a human, and one quarter elf. Ohlo didn’t scorn me for being fully Mage.
He continued. “But how would my own peers react? Not too well...”
My face softened at his discontent. The prince had a very valid point...
“I had a friend, who’s father was a Duke, governing one of Diamentes districts. His son too was a Mage. We knew each other’s secret. Finally, he could bear it no longer. He told his father. He no longer wished to cast illusions to cover his ears from his entire family.”
So that’s why his parents can’t see those ears… “What happened?”
Tamahashi smiled weakly. “His father was outraged, that a Mage had been born to him. I suppose the family had some ancient Mage blood, like mine. He ordered his wife and other children to swear it to secrecy, and all in his palace who knew. Penalty of death. His son was chained to a wall with a damn collar for the last three years of his life. ....A collar..” He spat the words, and if they were bitter to say.
“He’s dead.” I phrased it more as a statement than a question. I knew already.
Tamahashi once again looked at me defiantly. “He’s isn’t dead.”
What are you saying...?
The cool breeze moved Tamahashi’s hair back to its hiding position. The sounds of laughter and chatter from the Ballroom came back to ear, as did the sound of the symphony and feet dancing. It had all been drowned out by the intensity of our conversation. But it was not meant to last.
“So, Yamato,” Ohlo stepped out onto the balcony, breaking the silent noise. “Who’s your friend?”
I was about to make some excuse when I saw the look in his eyes. Those once sparkling orbs were filled with a seriousness that scared me to wit’s end.
He smiled, though it seemed forced. “No matter. Have you ever seen such a sight, Prince Tamahashi? The stars look so heavenly from this plain...”
Tamahashi must have been thinking what odd friends I had. But I was quickly surveying this scene. Something was...
What is it...?
His mask was on crooked, and I could see a bruise forming below his eye. A trickle of blood formed at the corned of his young mouth, barely visible. The curtain behind him was moving, almost as if by the wind. ...Almost...
...who’s your friend?....
But he already knew it was Tamahashi..
...such a sight, Prince Tamahashi?...
He’s staling for time...
...such a sight...
He wants me to look at him, see the signs.
...The stars look so heavenly from this plain...
Plain? Of Existence? Heavenly? ...Heaven?
....He’s not expecting to live past tonight.
I stared at Ohlo, moving closer to Tamahashi’s side. “What powers do you have?” I whispered.
“What?” Good, he didn’t break eye contact with Ohlo.
“Just answer me.”
“Uh, plants. I can manipulate them.”
There was a courtyard below the balcony, with flowers, bushes, and grass... He looks like a sharp thinker.... I hope he is.
I wrapped and arm around his midsection and whispered, “Cats always land on their feet.”
His eyes widened, realizing what I planned to do. He gave a little gulp, and I could already hear the foliage shifting below. Dang, he’s good...
“Now you’ve got it,” Ohlo smiled. Only this time, he smiled ‘farewell’.
As if by cue, two men flung out from the curtain, with crossbows ready. An arrow shot through Ohlo, and I didn’t wait a second more to hurl myself and the Prince of Diamentes over the balcony.
From above, the men cursed, and I heard the lifeless thump of my partner’s body hitting the balcony’s marble floor. I closed my eyes, waiting for the smash of pavement on my own body. It never came, and I am thankful.
“Come on!” Tamahashi elbowed me, and I realized I had been hanging on to him for dear life. I cautiously opened on green eye than the other. We had landed on a big rose. He manipulated a cooshy rose for us to fall on! ...Interesting, but it works.
I had little time to dwell on it, because as soon as we were up and running, the arrows came again. This time in full volleys.
I didn’t know which of us they were aiming for, but I didn't care, ok? We ran out of the courtyard, and into a hedge maze. I’ve never run so fast in my life, the images of Ohlo’s death chasing me more than the long-range arrows at our heels. Ohlo’s last words, that horrid look on his face. The fact I hadn’t even tried to save him. The fact I couldn’t save him, and we both knew it.
“Stop, Yamato,” Tamahashi slowed before me, once we were well into the maze. I bent over, my breathing ragged. “We should be safe here, I’m the only one who knows how to get through it all the way.”
We were in what I assumed was the center of the maze. Statues of the deities stared down at us from the moonlight. I settled against the woman of Fate and Destiny, sliding to the pebble earth. I didn’t want to get up.
“He’s dead,” I wrapped my arms around my knees. “Ohlo...”
“I... I’m sorry,” Tamahashi settled beside me. “It wasn’t in vain. We’re still alive, remember?”
“I don’t care.” And I really didn’t.
“Don’t say that,” Tamahashi took off the cat ears and flung them into the tall bushes.
I didn’t feel like arguing. “Who were those guys? I don’t think they were any rival thieves...”
Tamahashi sighed. “They were Royal Guards.”
I turned to face him. “What!?”
He nodded grimly. “I recognized their uniforms.”
I turned away and held my head. “But... why would they...?”
The prince avoided my gaze. “I think I might have an answer...”
I turned to him, my eyes wide, waiting for the explanation that had killed my best friend.
He swallowed before beginning. “This whole party, this ball... It’s nothing but a sham,” he held up a finger for me to hold my anxious questions. “The diamond is a fake, any jeweler can see that. Father- the king -thought it would be the perfect opportunity to lure the best thieves, and capture them. Before the party even began, he caught some of the best known thieves, not only from Diamente, but Picas as well.”
“Got in, yes. I know. It only means you were more skilled, not invisible. Anyway, for it to all look authentic, Father had my mother and I dress up with him and the guests. My mother was reluctant, but he charmed her into it, like always. I went along with it, only because if I didn’t it would mean more time to study.”
“That still doesn’t explain why they attacked you.”
“I’m getting to that. I was to wear some ridiculous outfit, a robin of some sort. So I would match my parents, and,” he added with a grimace, “look suitable for the guests that had single daughters.”
“But you didn’t...” It was starting to make sense.
“No. Instead, I wore the cat outfit my sister made for me before she left for college. A cat, the animal that catches and kills the birds. My father was furious, and he stormed away, before even alerting the guards to the change. My mother tried to get me to switch outfits, but it was too late. The first of our guests were arriving, and that would be even more inappropriate.”
“I still can’t believe the guards would make such a mistake...”
Tamahashi shrugged. “It was dark out on the balcony. They didn’t know exactly what you and.... and your friend looked like. They may have thought he was a tag-along, and... that’s why they killed him so carelessly. If it hadn’t been for me...”
This boy, this prince, this Mage... He seemed sincere enough, and truly sorry. Ohlo had always said such people were hard to find. He also said that he knew he wouldn’t live a long life. That just comes with the job description.
“...he might still be alive,” Tamahashi finished.
“He’s not dead, just free,” I looked into the prince’s shocked eyes. “Death is a fate much more appealing to a thief than jail. I know this.”
He looked as if he was about to say something when the voices reached us.
“Prince! Where are you!?”
They sounded panicked, probably the guards who made such a grave mistake. At least someone told them of their error, and we weren’t being hunted. Well, at least Tamahashi wasn’t.
The person in question turned to me. “Quickly! You must run!”
I stood up, ready for action, if need be. “It’s a maze, and I’ll get lost. Besides, they should pay for Ohlo.”
As I started to march towards the voices, a hand grabbed my wrist. “Don’t be foolish! They most likely know who you are, Yamato! Leave their fates to my father and I!”
“I can’t run and I’m sick of hiding,” I shook his hand off.
He grabbed me one last time, stubborn as ever. “If you don’t run, I’m turning myself in with you.”
“...What are you saying?”
Tamahashi raised his hand, and slowly, steadily the hedges seemed to move their branches and leaves, so a b-line of holes was made. At the end, my excellent eye-sight told me the moat was there. All it was afterwards was a quick swim, and I’d be home free.
The prince looked me dead on, even though I could sense he was worn out from using his magic. “You fight and I tell my father I did all this.”
I know I shouldn’t care. I met him, what? An hour ago? And he’s the reason Ohlo was--
He’s the reason you’re both not dead. You have Ohlo and Tamahashi to thank for saving your hide.
Just what are you implying!?
Easy. You owe them big time. And how do you repay? For Ohlo, you go on with life, like he would have wanted you to. And for your newest friend, you do as he says. Save yourself. And save him in the process.
The voice did have a point...
(Note form Present-Day-Yamato: I do not recommend listening to the voices in your head all the time....)
“Fine,” I growled. I jumped through the first hole, but turned back to my new... my new friend. “But I won’t forget this.”
I’m not sure if I meant that as a ‘thank you’ or an ‘I’ll be back, punk’ type of thing. But I do know this:
I realized the look of shame Tamahashi had earlier that night was not because he was a Mage. It was because he was a Mage, and he hadn’t told anyone. But I think after I left, a little of that look went away.
Oh yeah, one more thing.
The night I returned...
Ohlo’s lucky crystal was sitting on his bed stand.
I yawned. “What is it, Siya?”
I heard her shift around in the wooden bed five feet from mine. “Can I tell you something?”
I stared at the ceiling of out little inn room. Man I was lucky Siya won a lot of cash during her fights. “Sure.”
“I sent a message to Enu today.”
“I told her I didn’t want the job Tamahashi gave me...”
“Yeah... It’d be better off with one of her people.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I’m not responsible enough.”
“Well, I can’t sleep standing up...”
“You know what I mean...”
“....How did you know?”
“The bed creaked when you shifted your weight. You do that when you lie.”
“I do not...”
“Fine... I did it because I want to be free of restraints.”
“A traveler, you mean.” Like me...
“Does... that make me a bad person?”
“....Of course not.”