Author: Nuclear Eggs PM
A thieving orphan, Luka never thought she would be anyone particularly special, but when she runs into a mysterious and haughty runaway from the Crypton Tower, she gets thrown into an unexpected journey. Miku/LukaRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Fantasy - Miku H. & Luka M. - Chapters: 17 - Words: 58,231 - Reviews: 127 - Favs: 59 - Follows: 35 - Updated: 07-15-12 - Published: 06-30-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8271684
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"It's been two months..." Lily said, quietly, as the three of them ate their dinner in the inn room. Her eyes glanced at Miku, who was, as always, resolutely sitting by the window as she ate.
"Two months since what?" Miku asked, still staring out the window.
Yukari looked down at the food, Lily looking at her next. The elf didn't seem very communicative, however, and said nothing, only looking helplessly at Lily. She didn't want to be the one to break the news.
"Two months since..." Lily rubbed her nose. "Two months since we left Laguar."
Lily really didn't want to be the one to say it, but she did anyways, the words forming uneasily, slowly, uncomfortably in her mouth. "I...don't think Luka is...coming."
"Wait, Lily," said Yukari, quickly. "That's going a bit too far."
"Luka is coming," said Miku, her voice resolute, brooking no argument.
Lily sighed. "What makes you so sure of that? It's been two months. Laguar is a week's walk from Calverac. Look...I don't think Luka is coming."
"She is!" For the first time, Miku turned away from the window and glared at Lily. "She is coming! Maybe she just got lost-"
"It's a straight road from Laguar to here," said Lily, flatly. "No chance of getting lost on that. Look...those two we left her with...Meiko and that other guy...they looked like they were capable fighters. I'm not saying for sure that she is, but it's very probable that Luka is-"
"She's not dead!" Miku interrupted. "She can't be! She promised to protect me. She won't die!"
Lily took a deep breath. "I didn't say that she's dead. I think she's captured. Meiko said that she wasn't sent to kill us, but to capture us. Odds are, Luka's locked up in a base somewhere."
"Oh," Yukari said, eyes widening. "Then...if that's the case, we-"
"In a base?" Miku whispered, looking down at her plate of food, half-uneaten. "Where?"
Lily sighed. "I don't know. Anyways, we came here to find the Broker, right? If he really does know everything...then maybe, he might know where Luka is too."
Miku was on her feet in an instant after putting her food aside, and without saying anything she strode over to the door and started putting on her shoes.
Miku hadn't wanted to admit it to herself for a long while, but it was inescapable now - some trouble has come to Luka. Two months was a six weeks longer wait than anyone had been expecting, and despite Luka's brave words at the time of her stand against Meiko and Kaito, Miku was becoming increasingly certain that Luka's fighting skills weren't enough to live up to those words. And Miku was beginning to recognize that there was some part of her that...that needed Luka there, for her to feel really whole, to feel really safe. Even though Luka's fighting skills weren't much, Miku always felt safe and secure around the girl, and the thought of Luka in some danger was one that was almost physically painful to Miku.
"Idiot..." Miku cursed as she walked through the streets of Calverac, glancing around for anyone who looked like they might know the Broker. No such luck - the only people she saw on the streets at this time of day were rather normal, unassuming-looking people, a few families too. The air was sweet with the scent of candy, storefronts bright and festive, and Miku spent a long time wandering Calverac, until finally her search yielded up something. Her tired eyes spotted, in the perpetually gathered crowd of people around the river, a shifty, hungry-looking girl reach out for an unsuspecting woman's purse.
Immediately Miku's hand was out and she grabbed her by the shoulder. The girl stiffened, but made no sound, and slowly turned to face Miku. She had eyes the color of chocolate and black hair tied in ragged pigtails. She was young, Miku thought. No more than ten.
Surprisingly, the girl smiled at Miku, guilelessly. "Yes, ma'am?"
"You were about to steal that woman's money, weren't you?" Miku asked, dully. More corruption in the Lower World...it even affected children. Even though Luka too was a thief back in Marlon...Miku frowned at that. Someone like Luka shouldn't ever have to be reduced to the position of a street rat thief.
The girl frowned. "I'm hungry. That woman has more money than she needs, anyways. I'm only relieving her of the extra burden!" The girl then smiled, again, that foolish friendly smile.
Miku sighed. "Well...do whatever you want. I just want to know, where is the fairy market?"
The girl's expression changed, subtly, some strange feeling passing through those brown eyes. She stared suspiciously at Miku, her fool's grin dropping away. "Ah. Why do you want to know?"
"Someone...someone important to me...is trapped somewhere," said Miku, her heart pounding at the thought of Luka, locked up in some cell. "I was thinking that maybe...the Broker knows where she is. People say he knows everything."
The girl frowned. "Hm...well, the Broker doesn't give information for free. And I don't either! I'll take you to see him, if you buy me an apple fritter from the baker's."
Miku uneasily put a hand to her coinpurse. Lily had given her some spending money and Miku thought she had enough. And at any rate, finding out more about Luka was worth any amount of money.
"Okay," said Miku, finally. "I'll buy you an apple fritter. First, tell me where the Broker is."
The girl shook her head. "No! First the fritter, then the information! I'm not stupid, you might run away after I tell you where he is."
Miku sighed. She had no idea how trustworthy the girl was. "Okay. Fine. Show me where the baker's is."
The girl's face instantly split into a happy grin at that. "Okay!" she cried, nodding enthusiastically, and immediately set off at a run, disappearing into the crowd. Panicked, Miku quickly ran after her, following her bobbing head as she dashed through the crowd. The girl seemed incredibly energetic despite her skinniness and after a few minutes she stopped in front of a heavy stone building, the windows slightly open. The smell of freshly baking bread wafted out and Miku felt her stomach growl too, despite herself. She glanced over at the girl, whose face was bright as she stared at the building. She looked so innocent.
"Here it is!" the girl said, proudly. "The bakery! Remember, I want an apple fritter!"
"You're not coming inside?" Miku asked. The girl was rooted right outside the store.
"No," the girl said, shaking her head. "The baker doesn't like me. I stole from him too many times."
Miku shrugged, walked in the bakery. The baker was a rotund, red-faced man, business like. There weren't many apple fritters left, but Miku bought one anyways for a few coins and walked out, looking around for the girl. Almost immediately she felt the apple fritter get snatched out of her hands, and startled Miku stared at the contently eating girl.
"This is so good..." the girl said, smiling lazily as she ate.
Miku scowled at her. "Whatever. Where's the Broker?"
"Awh, calm down, ma'am," the girl said, waving her hand as she ate. "I'll take you to him soon."
Miku's eyebrow twitched. She didn't have the time to waste sitting around with this kid. She had to rescue Luka. Luka tried to protect her so many times, so now it was Miku's turn to protect Luka. "I don't have time! I have to save my friend!"
The girl sighed. "Is this really urgent?"
"Okay," the girl said, munching on her apple fritter. "Follow me."
"Geez, why'd she go run out by herself?" Lily complained as she stomped through the city, Yukari looking around next to her.
"She's worried about Luka," said Yukari.
Lily frowned. "I understand that, but you'd think she would be rational, take the time to make a plan...not dash out on some wild goose chase. We don't even know where to begin, to find the Broker."
"Hey," said Yukari, her ears pricking, "is that her?" she pointed and Lily looked. There was a teal-haired girl, following a ragged-looking kid. Both of them looked rather shifty.
"Uh..." Lily squinted. "Is it?"
"Who else has hair that color?" said Yukari, excitedly, running over to the two before Lily could stop her. "Miku! Is that you?"
The girl turned and Lily noted with vague relief that it was indeed Miku. Yukari was an enthusiastic girl, eager to learn more about the world of humans, but sometimes her earnestness seemed like it could get her into trouble.
"Yukari," said Miku, looking rather surprised. The ragged-looking kid glanced at Yukari, curiously. "I found a lead on the Broker."
"Ah, you did? That's great!" Yukari enthused. "Who's this?" she looked over at the kid and smiled at her. "What's your name?"
The kid slowly chewed on her apple fritter. Her brown eyes seemed strangely calculating as they looked at Yukari, and Lily felt a chill run down her spine. Those eyes looked like the eyes of an experienced conman. "My name's Yuki Kaai!" the kid said, pointing at herself and smiling widely at Yukari. "So you're Yukari? You're an elf? Hey, that's really neat! I've never seen an elf before!"
"Yes, she's an elf," Lily said, quickly merging into the group. She stared at Yuki. Wide brown eyes, a friendly grin, dark hair swept up behind her head in pigtails. She was painfully thin, dressed in rags. Most likely another street rat. Lily frowned a little, the thought reminding her of Luka, who was probably locked up in some dingy cell, being tortured. "So. Where's the Broker?"
Yuki looked at Miku. "Well," she said, slowly. "You two need to pay a price too, like she did, before I can take you there. I know!" she brightened up. "I want some candied fruit! Buy me some and I'll take you all there!"
"Do I look like I have the money to waste on such things?" Lily growled. "Take us to the Broker-"
"Lily!" Yukari admonished. "Don't be so mean. She's only a child!" Lilac eyes turned reproachfully towards Lily. "Look at her! She's so thin...she's probably starving! We can spare some money to buy some fruit for her!"
"Candied fruit is expensive..." Lily mumbled.
Yuki glanced at Yukari, and then at Lily, her brown eyes calculating again before they returned to a more innocent-looking expression. She weakly toddled over and tugged at Yukari's shirt.
"Please?" she whimpered. "I'm so hungry and I haven't eaten candied fruit since I was seven...I'd really appreciate it if you bought me some, miss!"
Miku stared at Yuki. "But...we need to find the Broker-"
"Where do they sell candied fruit?" Yukari asked Yuki.
Yuki pulled a painful smile to her face. "Y-you'd really buy me some?"
Lily's eyebrow twitched. She wondered if, in her youth, Luka was also so blatantly manipulative. Somehow she could see the pink-haired girl take advantage of her looks in return for food or money. Still, Lily supposed, it wasn't like Yuki or Luka had any choice. They weren't on the streets because they wanted to be.
"Yes, I will!" Yukari said, smiling at Yuki. "Take us to a store that sells them, okay?"
"Alright!" Yuki cheered. "Follow me!" She dashed down the road, Yukari nimbly following her. After a resigned glance at each other, Lily and Miku followed them.
"The Broker changes locations a lot," said Yuki, happily clinging to Yukari as she munched on her candied fruits. Yukari had purchased her a sizable amount and the girl was having trouble carrying it all, but she managed well enough. After Yukari bought her so many, however, Yuki was practically inseparable from her. "But I think I know where he is now!"
"Why is it that only shifty looking people like you know where he is?" asked Lily.
Yuki shrugged. "I don't know! Lots of people know who he is, but he likes sending messages through people who have nothing to lose, so I guess that's why."
It was a surprisingly well-worded statement from a ten year old's mouth and Lily stared at her, suspiciously looking to see if Yuki had her hands in Yukari's coin pouch, but the kid seemed content with her fritters and fruit. As they walked Lily was discomforted to see that they were going into seedier and seedier areas, the buildings falling into rapid disrepair, the fetid stench of waste thick in the air, skinny people dressed in rags sitting against buildings, talking to each other, before slowly conversation tapered off and they stared nakedly at the intruders.
Miku, to Lily's surprise, didn't give off any sense of discomfort in these new surroundings, glancing about as though she was used to these sorts of places...but that was impossible, given that she was from the Tower. Maybe she had spent a good while living with Luka before the soldiers razed Marlon. There was no way Luka lived in an area that was well-to-do after all.
Yuki happily tripped down the road before stopping in front of a ramshackle old house, a cabin of dark wood. It looked rickety, as though it was about to collapse in on itself in a heap. Lily eyed the door. It looked as though it was rotting. The windows were boarded up and no light could be seen from the inside. The roof was flat, made of boards laid over the top of the domicile.
"This is it!" Yuki declared as she pointed. "This is where the Broker lives!"
"I don't think going in here is a good idea..." Lily said, before noticing Yukari and Miku entering the cabin. "W-wait! I think we should talk about it first, or-"
Yuki gave Lily a dour look. "Eh, too scared to go in a house? Guess you're just a coward in the end."
That did it. Lily glared at Yuki. "I am not a coward. I'm simply a logical person who likes thinking before I act on wild cockeyed impulses."
Yuki ate her fruit and calmly stared at Lily with liquid brown eyes before Lily, scowling, stomped into the cabin. As she entered, she noticed how there was nothing inside - it was completely bare of furniture. Miku and Yukari were standing around, looking confused. Wooden walls, wooden floor, the sound of the river outside.
"Hey...where's the Broker?" asked Miku, slowly.
Yuki walked in and closed the door behind them, an impish grin on her face. "Tricked you!" she crowed. "This is actually a slaver cabin!"
"What?" Yukari gasped, staring at Yuki, purple eyes wide and deeply hurt. It obviously never crossed her mind that someone as innocent-looking as Yuki could have betrayed them. "R-really? But...but why?"
Yuki coughed into her fist. "Um...I was just kidding...the Broker is here," she walked over to the center of the room and knocked on the floor, three times. A portion of the floor swung down on smoothly oiled hinges, revealing a flimsy rope ladder leading down into darkness.
Miku eyed it. It looked so frayed she doubted that it could even hold one person, let alone three. "Is this reliable?"
"Damn kid!" Lily swore. "That joke wasn't funny in the least!"
"I thought it'd be funny," said Yuki, her eyes downcast, "but Miss Yukari looked so scared it wasn't funny anymore. But your face was really great!" she pointed at Lily and started laughing. "You looked like some kind of monster! Anyways, it's safe! I took lots of people here before."
Lily scowled. She had about enough of the kid. "Alright, fine. Thanks for taking us here." She went over to the ladder and hesitantly placed a foot on the top rung. It supported her weight well enough. She started to go down it. The darkness grew larger the deeper she went, so dark that she couldn't see the ladder anymore, had to rely on her sense of touch. It felt like forever until she finally felt her feet on hard floor. Dropping to a crouch Lily passed a hand over it - felt like stone. She stood back and waited. After a few minutes, Miku and Yukari landed on the ground.
"Ah, the kid's not coming?" Lily asked.
Yukari shook her head. "No, she's not."
Miku had already started walking, and groaning Lily and Yukari ran to catch up with her.
After a long walk through what seemed like a dank, empty dungeon, the three found themselves in a vast circular room, lit by flickering torches bolted to the stone walls. There were many people here, of all classes - some rich, some poor, some the gray area of adventurers, all hungry for some tidbit of knowledge the Broker would give them. Lily even recognized the Duke of Northridge in the fray, as well as the famous head of the mages' guild. They were standing about in seemingly disorganized chaos, drinking from provided glasses of wine by silent servants dressed in elegant livery. It was a strange mix of high and low society.
Miku was looking around impatiently, and Yukari was practically ogling the room. Lily numbly took a glass of proffered wine and looked around. There was no one who looked particularly like the Broker, and people were clumped together, talking to each other, as though they were at a social club. Lily had no idea where to even begin looking for the Broker in the crowd.
Yukari however had no such compunctions. She walked right up to a nearby manservant and bestowed a dazzling smile upon him. "Excuse me! We're looking for the Broker. Do you know where he is?"
The manservant cleared his throat. "My apologies, ma'am. The Broker is currently occupied in a meeting. Please wait."
"Aw..." Yukari's ears drooped. "Okay...thank you for the help." She returned to Miku and Lily, face dejected. "The Broker's busy now."
"So what do we do? Take a number and wait?" Lily looked around. "From the looks of it, it'll take hours for him to even see us."
Miku was looking around, obviously impatient. "We don't have time for this...Luka...who knows what's happening with Luka?" her face was downcast. "We need to save her..."
Yukari put a comforting hand on Miku's back, and the three of them waited, during which Yukari wandered around and talked with the people there, a natural social butterfly it seemed. Miku was mostly quiet, her teal eyes darting around the room, as if Luka was hidden in a nook or cranny somewhere, her posture and demeanor deeply impatient. Lily only drank the wine.
It seemed like it took eternity for a manservant to walk up to them and quickly bow. "The Broker is ready to see you three now."