Wow, this fic is... liked. Okay, got some new characters for you, the ever-amusing Dorin and the sweet but shy fairy,Erie! Have fun!
Sai's Point of View
The next day was day off for Shepu, and that meant Sai got a break, too. He celebrated it by sleeping until noon. When he finally woke up, he lay in bed and stared at the ceiling, thinking off the ball the night before. It had been an interesting night, he decided. After touring the galleries, he'd taken Shepu downstairs and introduced her to some of the other spellcasters. Angora, the Cosmo Queen, had especially adored her, cooing over how beautiful the girl's hair was. Angora seemed to consider the other 'casters family, having none of her own, and quickly designated Shepu as sort of a surrogate daughter, much to the poor youth's dismay. Shepu just wanted to be left alone.
It was when he took her to meet Exodia that things got interesting. The young girl tried her best to hide her fear, and she succeeded. Somehow, in the end, it was the Dark Sage she came away afraid of. Exodia had tried his best not to intimidate the girl, and although his rumbling laugh had initially startled her, he seemed to succeed. Ryu, on the other hand, pulled the girl into a hug right off the bat, laughing and talking loudly. Sai shook his head at the memory. Poor, timid Shepu was completely overwhelmed...
By the time they'd gotten home, Shepu was exhausted. Sai could hardly understand why. All they'd done was tour the galleries and talk to the other 'casters. She'd shown no desire to dance, and he hadn't any real desire to ask her to, although many of the other men seemed to be considering it. Really, Shepu's main activity seemed to be standing there looking exceptionally pretty while he did all the talking...
He mused over the events as he dressed casually for the day, content to wear a pair of deep violet jeans and a white tee shirt. He had no plans to go anywhere, so wearing his uniform would not be necessary. He ran a brush through his hair until it was straight, secured it in its half-ponytail, and headed downstairs in search of something to eat.
It was as he passed the library that he sensed something wasn't quite right. Frowning, he looked inside. A chair sat with its back to him, a tall red hat peeking over the top. Oh, Gods, no...
Shepu's Point Of View
"But I need somewhere to stay! Brother, you're the only one I have left to turn to!"
Shepu paused as she passed the library. There was an unfamiliar voice. She pressed her ear to the door, and listened.
"I know how you are, Dorin. If you have no where else to go, it's no one's fault but your own."
"But brother, it really isn't my fault this time!"
There was a heavy sigh. "Oh, all right. You can stay here."
"Thank you, brother."
The door opened then, and Shepu jumped back guiltily. Master Sai looked at her, startled.
"Well, now, what have we here."
Shepu peeked pasted her teacher. The speaker was a tall, dark-skinned man with ivory-colored hair and tattoos under his eyes. He wore an outfit similar to the one Master Sai wore for training, but where Master Sai wore deep violet, he wore red, with bold yellow trimming. Grey eyes studied her as intensely as she studied their owner. She shifted uncomfortably.
"Dorin, this is Shepu Nihamat, my apprentice. Shepu... This is my youngest brother. Dorin."
Sai nodded, and the man, Dorin, stepped forward. "Pleasure to meet you, little lady. I take it you're here to study?"
"She lives here," Master Sai said flippantly, causing his brother to choke, startled.
"Yes. And if you so much as lay a finger on her..." Master Sai's tone was menacing. "I will personally see to it that you're never allowed to set foot in this town again. I will not tolerate any of your... mishaps while you're living under my roof."
"Understood, brother." Dorin looked nervous, and Shepu blinked. Mishaps? What did Master Sai mean by mishaps?
Dorin's Point Of View
A fine welcome he'd received. Dorin sigh, tossing his duffel bag onto the golden bedspread. He looked around at the Egyptian motif. At least they hadn't screwed around with his room while he'd been gone. He flopped back on the bed, thinking. Damn... he is mad at you... Good thing he doesn't know why you ended up here... Dorin had a propensity for talking to himself. Rolling over onto his stomach, he looked at the light filtering in through the window onto the hardwood floors. But why the hell would he have his apprentice living with him? He's always been a firm believer that master-apprentice relationships should remain strictly platonic, if even that. A love affair goes against all his principles. And, she certainly looks old enough to fend for herself. It can't be something wrong in her head; brother would never pass his knowledge on to someone who was incapable of using it properly... There was a knock at the door, and he opened it to see a small, greenish maid with a tray of fruits. Bingo...
Fifteen minutes later, Dorin had his answers. Marjorie proved just as easy to talk to as ever, and as she left, he sat back to muse over what he had learned. So, the girl can't take care of herself after all. You'd hardly tell, to look at her. She's a pretty little thing... No. You heard what brother said. This one's off limits. If you were to end up harming her, you'd be a dead man for sure...
Shepu's Point of View
Shepu wandered a while, lost in thought. The newcomer didn't bother her at all; she didn't plan to have anything to do with him anyway. It was Master Sai that she was nervous about now. In all her years of knowing him, she'd never seen him act as he did with his brother. She walked out into the garden, sat down on a little stone bench, and thought about Master Sai and his brother. They looked nothing alike. Perhaps they were only brothers by half. Or maybe one of them was adopted...
Sai's Point of View
Exasperated, Sai shut himself up in the library. Dorin was a menace. Things blew up when he was around. People got hurt. It wasn't always Dorin's fault exactly, but damn it, he always had something to do with it. So why was he here now? What had his brother done this time? And why now, of all times? Why now, when Shepu had scarcely arrived, did Dorin show up on the doorstep?
He could see her from the window. She sat out in the garden, looking about her as though unable to decide what to examine first. A bit of the old spark, the old curiosity seemed to have returned. Maybe it was less of her being to focused and more of just being bored that drove the girl to her studies. After all, it had been years since she's had a new environment to occupy her time.
He remembered the day he'd brought her here. Rumors had been circulating about magic in the mortal realm, a child with incredible potential. It had been years since they'd found a mage in the mortal realm. After a few weeks, it was decided that the girl, for the child was, indeed, female, would be brought to the Shadow Realm. Sai was picked for the job.
It was not his first time in the mortal realm, but the town was nevertheless unfamiliar to him. Still, he waited on a corner until he saw the bus the girl was reported to ride. A group of children got off, and walked about a block before one boy reached over and gave a sandy-haired boy with glasses a violent shove. A ripple ran through the crowd of youths, and a few others started to taunt and tease while the bully began to hit his prey. It was at this time that the last child stepped off the bus.
The child was a girl, and although she was reported to be only nine, she seemed to sparkle with an otherworldly radiance. This was the one! That glow meant that she had the magic! Sai was about to approach her when her face darkened; she had seen the bullying going on, and decidedly did not like it. Clenching small fists at her sides, she walked resolutely over to the circle of children, shoving through them. The group fell silent, the bully stopped beating on the child with glasses and stared at her.
"What do you think you're doing?"
The child's voice was surprisingly sharp, but it was the sharpness of righteous fury. Sai decided to wait and see what happened.
"Get out of the way, Nihamut."
"Leave him alone."
The bully, a full eight inches taller than the girl at least, glared at her, but the children around him backed away. The boy reached out, shoving the child aside. She fell to the ground. A slight gasp filtered through the crowd of children. The girl stood up, brushed herself off, and spoke.
"You've been hurting my classmates ever since you came to this school. I won't allow it any more."
The boy snorted. "And what are you going to do about it, little girl?"
"I'm going to stop you."
She was on him with unnatural speed. Driving her elbow into his stomach, she brought the taller boy to his knees. His eyes widened in surprise as he rubbed his stomach. "You little..."
Sai watched, amused, as the bully lunged for the little girl. She easily evaded his grasp, then turned and kicked him in the shin. By this time, the other children were starting to cheer for the girl, sending the boy into a rage. He swung back an arm to punch...
And suddenly flew backwards as the girl extended an arm towards him. The other children clapped and yelled; to them, it had seemed as though she'd punched him. But Sai had seen something entirely different. When the little female raised her hand, a burst of energy had flown forth, sending the boy flying. The girl had never touched her persecutor at all.
The boy in the glasses got up and thanked the girl, smiling brightly and assuring her that she'd really saved his life this time. The girl shook her head and told him he needed to stand up for himself more. He hugged her, thanked her again, and went on his way. Slowly, the rest of the children left as well, and the girl stood there alone a moment before heading off by herself. Sai followed her to a house a block or so away. A man waited on the front porch.
The girl winced and started up the walk. When she reached the man, he glared down at her, and then growled, "Get your useless little ass inside right now, young lady." The girl nodded meekly and hurried indoors, the man, supposedly her father, following.
From inside the house came the sound of a male voice, yelling. Sai winced. The girl was undoubtedly the target of the curses. The man had the aura of one who was extremely violent. But while the girl was inside, there was nothing he could do about it but wait. He sat outside, under a tree. Presently, there came the sound of a door slamming.
Sai jumped slightly as an upstairs window opened. The girl appeared, looking behind her, and then climbed out onto the roof of the front porch. There was a look of fear on her face as she sat down. Sai thought a moment, then quickly scrambled up the tree, and onto the roof.
She had looked at him in surprise, but not fear. The magic from within her shimmered on the air, visible, he knew, only to him. Two bright pink spots adorned her cheeks, the only truly visible sign that something was not quite right. She stared at him.
"You've come to take me away..."
"Yes, I have. How did you know?"
"I had a dream that you would come."
The child had clear green eyes, open and honest, and Sai frowned to see that one was swelling shut. She'd taken no blows in her fight, and there had been no bruises on her before the fight, which meant only one thing. The man in the house was the one who had hit her. He knelt down next to her, touching the bruise that was already forming. "Will you come with me?"
"Will I ever see my father again?"
"No, you will not."
"Then I'll come."
It had saddened him to think that the child was so abused, so mistreated that leaving her father forever did not bother her, but was instead an idea quite welcomed by her. He frowned. "Would you like to say goodbye to your mother, or any brothers or sisters?"
She looked away. "Mama's dead, and I'm an only child."
He nodded. "Pack your bags, little one. Pack your bags, and I'll take you home."
She'd slipped back into her room, and a few moments later he heard the sound of things being moved about. The girl climbed back out the window carrying a backpack. "You're going to take care of me, right?"
She'd chewed her fingernail a moment. "My name is Shepu," she said at last.
"Yes, I know."
Sai paused thoughtfully. It occurred to him that he never did find out just what happened to the girl's mother. There was so much he'd never thought to ask, and he'd been training her for almost half her life.
Maybe it was time...
Shepu's Point of View
Shepu jumped. She'd been so lost in thought that she hadn't heard anyone coming. She looked up at the man. "Yes, Master Sai?"
He studied her a moment, and she felt a shiver run along her spine as he sat down next to her. "We don't really know each other at all, do we," he said softly. "All these years we've trained together, it never even occurred to me that you were from a different world."
"Shepu... I was wondering... How did your mother die?"
The question, and the memories, hit her like a sack full of bricks, and she turned away so he wouldn't see the tears in her eyes. "It was all his fault..."
"She... she was pregnant... they'd just found out it was a boy..." Shepu shook herself. "Mama and Papa wanted to go out to celebrate because Papa had always wanted a boy, and they took me with them. We went out to dinner, and Papa had too much to drink. He wasn't a heavy drinker, not then, anyway. I guess he couldn't handle it... Everyone was so happy. When we were driving home, Mama said that the baby wasn't his. She was only joking, though. He knew she was only joking! They loved each other too much! He... he..." She choked. It was painful, too painful...
"I'm here, Shepu. It's all right."
"He laughed at her. He laughed, and he turned, and he said, "Now, now, that's not funny," and he wasn't looking where he was going... We were in the mountains... and the car went over the cliff..." She couldn't hold the tears back any longer. "When I came to... I saw Papa... kneeling over Mama... and Mama was dead... and the baby was dead... I still remember. I still remember how Mama looked. Her eyes were blank, just... away. And the blood was everywhere. Her head... her head was cut like a melon. And Papa looked at her, and looked at her, and then he threw back his head, and he screamed..."
Strong arms wrapped around her shoulders, and she leaned into her teacher. "He always resented me after that... he resented the fact that I had lived, while Mama and his unborn son had died. He started drinking a lot. He got violent. One day, he threw a bottle at me. It hit me in the head. It cut me. He laughed. He laughed at me because it made me bleed. He said... he said I looked just like Mama... after the wreck... He told me it was all my fault... He said if I had just died, they could have lived... it was the only time after she died... that I ever heard him laugh..." She took a shaky breath. "Every night, I prayed that someone, somewhere could take my pain away. And then... you came..."
Sai's Point of View
He'd never had any idea.
He knew her father was abusive, but he'd never known how much she'd really suffered. Sai looked down at the golden head rested on his shoulder. "When I first saw you, you fought another child. You used your powers. When did you learn you could do that?"
"After the wreck... once, when Papa tried to hit me, I tried to push him away... and he went backwards. I learned that if I tried, I could back people away like that."
"So you used it for defense."
"Yeah... There were lots of bullies at my old school. Before that, I had to fight them off with my hands. So I got hurt more. This way, I could protect myself better. And that meant I could protect my friends, too."
"Ah. And your spots?"
"Yes, under your eyes. How long have they been there?"
"Not sure. I've always had them, I think."
"Oh." They sat in silence a while before Shepu spoke.
"My turn," she said.
"You've asked me questions, now I get to ask you."
"Why were you so angry at your brother?"
Sai sighed. Oh, where to begin. "I guess you could say Dorin is the black sheep in my family. Everything he does, he does wrong. He doesn't even have to be doing anything at all, and he still does it wrong. I don't know if he's careless or just stupid, but the man is disaster incarnate!" Shepu giggled. "It's not funny! I can't count how many times we've had to bail him out!"
"My family. I have three brothers and a sister. At least, that was the count last time I checked. And every one of us had a different father."
"Yes. We don't have the same fidelity rules here that they do where you came from."
"So your mother just sleeps with anyone she wants?"
Sai grinned ruefully. She's an absolute slut by human standards, he wanted to say, but he wasn't sure how Shepu would take that. "That's the polite way to put it."
Shepu looked thoughtful. "How old are you?"
"Do you really want to know the answer to that?"
"Forty-three next month."
His apprentice choked. "No way! You look way to young to be that old!"
Sai shrugged, but inwardly the word 'old' was ringing in his head. He was old? "Mages age differently. It'll happen to you, too. You'll just... stop. Well, I shouldn't say stop exactly, it's more like slowing down."
"So, when I'm your age, I'll still look young?"
"You won't just look young, you'll be young. We'll live a long time. It's in our nature."
"But I'm not from here..."
Sai looked down at her. "That doesn't make you any less one of us, Shepu. Not at all."
They spent the rest of the afternoon in pleasant conversation. Sai found himself telling stories about himself and his family; once he started it was hard to stop, as each new revelation led to yet another tale that begged to be told. He told her about places he'd seen and people he'd met, and she seemed to be thoroughly enjoying herself. She laughed when he told her about his best friend Lance, who had spent most of their school years flipping skirts, and ooh'ed and aah'ed when he told her about dragons and giants that he'd fought. He found himself exaggerating a little during those tellings in particular, but he shrugged it off, telling himself that she'd never know the difference.
As they talked, the fairies in the garden seemed to take no notice of them save for one, a little blue Key Mace that not only seemed to be listening, but was slowly working its way closer to them. Keeping one eye on it as he talked, Sai saw the little fairy perch behind a flower, only to move on a few minutes later until it reached one slightly closer. Sai raised an eyebrow. Of all the fairies, Key Maces, or at least the blue variety, were by far the most timid. Sai hadn't even been aware that there was one in the garden. Nevertheless, there it was, inching closer, and closer.
"Shepu," he said softly, "Look to your left."
The girl turned, and gasped slightly at the sight of the tiny fairy. "So little," she breathed. The fairy backed away slightly, tiny eyes wide. "Master Sai, I've never seen one of these before. What is it?"
"It's a Key Mace," he said softly. "They're usually very shy. It's rare to see one this close up. You'd best sit very still, or you might scare it."
Shepu nodded slowly, almost eye to eye with the tiny creature. "Hello," she said softly. The Key Mace darted down behind a leaf, then peeked up at Shepu timidly. It made a soft, chittering sort of noise. Shepu blinked. "Is that how they talk?"
"It is," Sai said softly. "She's saying hello back to you."
Shepu's eyes lit up. "You can understand it? Her?" She spoke in whispers, and Sai saw her slowly raise her hand. "Come here, little one. I won't hurt you."
The fairy seemed to be considering. Shepu held her hand to it, palm up, and waited with baited breath as the tiny creature moved towards her slowly. It landed on the tip of her finger...
"Sai, where did you move my books to?"
And the fairy was gone. Sai watched Shepu's face fall before turning, with a sigh, to his brother. "They're up on the third floor. I had to move them to make room for new ones."
"Where on the third floor?"
"Oh, I don't know, ask Yuzuke. She was in charge of moving them." Sai waved a dismissive hand at his brother. "Anyway, they're up there somewhere. I don't expect them to take over my library again, either."
Dorin's Point Of View
It was so hard to be respectful of his elder brother sometimes.
Dorin did what he was told. He spoke to Yuzuke, and then made his way up to the third floor, home of the unused ballroom and several extra bedrooms. He entered the third door to his left and started digging through boxes until he found the lost books. He started to drag the box to the door, and then stopped and looked around him. It had been years since he'd last come up to the third floor, or the attic beyond. And as Sai didn't seem to care what he did as long as it kept Dorin out of his unusually long purple hair, well, what harm could come in exploring a bit. He shoved the box into the hallway, and looked at the doors beyond. Yes, it was a perfect way to keep out of trouble. And he could stew over what a rule-monger Sai was while he was at it...
Shepu's Point of View
She really wanted to find that fairy. In fact, Shepu couldn't remember ever wanting anything as much as she wanted to find that fairy. She worked her way along the roses, scattering hundreds of Dancing Fairies, but no Key Mace. She searched until she was called in for dinner at twilight, and promised herself that she'd look again after dinner, but by then it was too dark. So Shepu did what Shepu did best lately, aside from studying. She sulked. She sulked her way through the dessert, and sulked as she looked over her books for studies the next day, and she sulked some more as Marjorie led her in to take a bath. She settled into the strawberry bubbles, pondered over the topsy-turvy past few days, and sulked some more. In fact, by the time she was done with her bath, she had successfully sulked herself into a right bad mood. So it was only natural that, as she entered the hallway, she should find herself crashing into none other than the source of her sulkiness. Dorin.
Dorin's Point Of View
At first, Dorin wasn't sure what he had collided with. He'd found scads of his old things upstairs, and was trying to carry several boxes back to his room at once. He had them stacked high enough that he couldn't really see what was in front of him. So naturally the crash came as a complete surprise. Dorin blinked as he sat up, boxes strewn about, their contents spilling all over the floor. Who in the world had left the bathroom door open? And then, from somewhere beneath him, came a very annoyed, "Excuse me!"
Dorin scrambled to his feet. Sure enough, a very disgruntled Shepu was sprawled out where he had landed. She glowered up at him, and Dorin had the distinct impression that she would have killed him if she were capable. Sweating slightly, he offered her his hand, but she stood on her own. "Did you know," she said, "That you seem to have an innate ability for ruining good days?" Dorin blinked. Had he done something that he didn't know about? He frowned to himself as the girl stormed off, tempted to tell her that the belt on her fluffy white bathrobe was askew. But in a rare moment of insight, he kept his mouth shut. After all, if Shepu was anything like her, he would certainly be the one to come out the worse. He sighed. Almost like being back home again. And she didn't even ask to help pick up the boxes...
Shepu's Point of View
What had ever possessed Master Sai to let that moron in his house, Shepu wondered as she wound her way back to her bedroom. After all, her teacher was right, Dorin was definitely a hazard. Scowling, she pushed open her door and went into her room. And then all her anger disappeared with a glance at the window.
The little blue Key Mace was peeping in at her.
Overjoyed, Shepu ran over and opened the window. "Hello," she cried in a hushed whisper, "I had hoped you would come back! I'm sorry if that buffoon scared you, I really am! Are you going to stay?"
The fairy blinked up at her with wide, wide eyes before tentatively fluttering in the window. Shepu watched it, her, exhilarated, as the little creature hovered over the window seat. "You're so tiny," she breathed, "The tiniest thing I've ever seen. I must seem so very big to you..." she knelt down and extended her hand, just as she had that afternoon in the garden. "Will you trust me? Please?"
The fairy landed in the palm of her hand.
Poor, poor Dorin. I really pitty this guy. Now, I have something to say. A lot of you are probably going to assume he's evil because he's red. He's not. He's just... very unfortunate. And unlucky. Very, very unlucky.
Chapter three was tough to write because a very small bit of it came from my past. When I was small, the same age Shepu was, I would get in fights with the bullies from my school. I was smaller than most of them, but had the advantage of speed- nothing like hers, but enough to hold my own. Also, this chapter was sort of angsty. I don't usually do angst unless I'm severly depressed. Hence the whole crashing outside of the bathroom. I had to cheer myself up.Now, review please!