Make a First Impression.
Bookman had told him to go away for a few hours, since he had some business to attend alone. No, it didn't matter if he was the next Bookman, the people he was going to meet didn't care about children, and Bookman would tell him what he thought he should know.
Which was all fine for Shama, except for the part where there was little to nothing to do in this town, the sunset already washing the white stones of the buildings with orange and violet hues. He sighed, walking without really paying attention where he was going. He had memorized the town's map before they arrived along with their more recent history, so it wasn't really troublesome for him just to start walking, see if he could find something interesting to do.
That was when he heard the music and the people laughing and clapping.
Over the town's principal square, around twenty or thirty people had gathered and were laughing, music coming from the middle. Shama looked at it, just in time to see a teenager twisting in the air while doing a somersault, throwing tinsel and flowers as he did so. The people surrounding the street artists applauded. Shama looked around and finally found some boxes against a wall where he would be tall enough to see what was going on without having to push through the people.
Five people where performing by the fountain, that without counting a woman singing an English song and a man playing the violin. There was a blond woman dancing, twirling a ribbon around her, a tall, muscular man walking over his hands, a thinner man balancing himself with one hand over the man's leg, two teenagers doing the somersaults that had at first called Shama's attention and a young boy around eight standing on a ball, a huge grin on his face as he juggled with smaller, multicolored balls.
Just when the song was nearing its end, the performers all gathered over the middle, the little boy rolling off his ball and throwing the smaller ones up on the air. Shama caught one, blinking slowly, surprised even as the other people clapped and cheered, throwing coins. The boy and one of the teenagers held hats and smiled towards their audience, bowing and making a few more easy tricks for them as the last of the people gathered left, then helping to pick the rest of the coins.
Shama got down of the boxes he had been on and neared the kid who was now with the muscular man, the bright red ball on his hand.
"You dropped this."
The boy blinked huge blue eyes and then he grinned, picking up the ball with his left hand.
"Thank you! You're coming to the show tomorrow?"
He shrugged. "Dunno."
"You should ask your parents to come," the boy said, his smile happy and easy-going. "It'll be fun, promise!"
"I don't have parents."
He hadn't said it to be mean or to cause that look over the other boy's face. Shama had just stated a fact or what he supposed was a fact since, technically, he didn't have them. The woman and the man that had given birth to him could very well still be alive for all that he knew, but it wasn't as if they were his parents, right?
Still, the boy looked as if he deeply regretted having asked.
"Sorry," if Shama had thought his eyes were huge before, he had been thoroughly mistaken. "Didn't mean to."
"I don't have parents too,"
Just as Shama opened his mouth to correct the boy, the muscular man from before dropped near the kid, messing his hair even as the boy squealed, a fond look over his face.
"'Neither', Allen. And what am I, a magic trick?"
"No, no, Mana, 'm sorry!"
Shama blinked as the boy batted the hand away, still laughing. He heard one of the other performers say something about 'picking up another stray' just as the man looked at him, eyes dark but soft.
"Hey there. Are you lost?"
Oh. Shama shook his head quickly, realizing that the man had probably been hearing what the boy – his son? – had said and he thought he was an orphan.
"I live with my grandfather," It was an easy excuse that other people bought, so it was the one Shama used the most. At least it was the one that made sure that people wouldn't try to look further into things. And Shama was always a little amused that he was, technically, saying the truth about thing.
Mana's expression cleared after that. Allen, however, just looked at him with the same eager expression from before.
"Then, ask your grandfather to come! You both can come!"
Shama tried to think of Bookman in a circus and he could barely stifle a laugh, slapping a hand against his mouth.
"Um. Grandfather is really busy," he said instead, once he managed to be sure he wasn't going to laugh out loud.
Allen looked crestfallen for a moment before he cheered up again. "But you still can come!"
There was, really, no way to tell the boy that he wasn't sure if he was going to be the next day in the town, and even less to tell him that he doubted that going to a show by a circus troupe would count as part of what a bookman-in-training had to remember.
He shrugged, since that seemed a good answer. Mana smiled then, standing up, his hand still over Allen's head.
"Is your grandfather around? You shouldn't stray, you'll get him worried."
He shook his head again. "He's busy, so he told me to go and look around so I wouldn't get bored."
"Perfect!" Mana smiled as Allen took his hand, looking at him. "Allen and I are going to look around town for a while. You can come and do the same, if you want."
Shama shrugged. He knew that it wasn't, probably, the smartest idea to go with someone strange, but he knew he could outrun him and he knew where everywhere was in the town. And it wasn't as if he was carrying much money anyway.
However, he sort of knew that this man wasn't the type that would hurt or intimidate a kid. That came, partly, for the way that Allen beamed at him, mostly quiet other than asking about the place, Mana's voice warm as he answered what he could. Then, Allen turned towards him.
"Hey, what's your name?"
Mana messed Allen's hair again.
"Manners, Allen. Though by now you already know our names, don't you?"
He nodded. "I'm Shama."
Mana offered his free hand and, after a few moments he took it in a handshake.
"I'm Mana , nice to meet you."
"And Allen !" The boy beamed, apparently trying to please his – most likely – adoptive father. It worked, too, because Mana laughed, shaking his head.
"And Allen, too. Say, Shama, are you hungry? Yes, Allen, I know you are."
"Not really...?" Shama shrugged again.
Mana looked at him a moment, a curious look upon his face before he smiled again.
"Okay. You two wait here, I'll go and get us something for dinner."
Mana had just gone inside the town's bakery when Allen turned towards him, cocking his head to the side.
"You don't talk much, do you?"
"I talk what's needed," Shama replied. "Why?"
"Dunno you seem. Upset?"
Upset? He frowned. "I'm not upset." There just wasn't a point in acting with someone he was, most likely, never ever going to see again and who wasn't going to even figure as a name in the world's history.
Allen shrugged, extending his arms as he walked as in a very small, straight line. Shama caught a glimpse of red skin when his sleeve pulled up, just where his glove didn't cover him. Allen didn't seem to notice he looked at his arm, because instead he looked at his face, where his fringe barely covered his eyepatch.
"What happened to your eye?"
According to Bookman, an explosion when he had been two years old had burnt the pupil. It was one of the few things that he didn't actually remember.
"I fell down when I was little," he looked towards Allen's arm. "You?"
Allen touched his arm, hunching a little, as if his arm was embarrassing or painful or both. "Was born with it."
"But you can use it."
Allen nodded. "It's just bad. It doesn't hurt or anything, and Mana says that my arm is me so I shouldn't feel sorry."
"So it's not that big deal, right?"
Allen shrugged , quiet for a moment, then he smiled again.
"You're coming to the show tomorrow then, Shama?"
"I dunno, I'll ask but I'm not sure. I think grandfather and I are leaving soon."
"Leaving? I thought you lived here!"
And that would have been because he walked without having to look twice. Shama shook his head.
"We're just here because of grandfather's research. Once he's done, we're leaving."
"What does your grandfather research?" Both kids looked up as Mana got close, holding a bag in his arms, already handing Allen a cinnamon roll.
Shama was surprised when Mana also handed him one, surprised enough that he actually took it. It took him a few seconds, and both Mana and Allen looking at him before he remembered the question.
"History things, I think," that was also part of what he said, when needed. He was in the right age where he could play oblivious about what it was and no one wondered. "We travel a lot because of it."
"You must have seen a lot of interesting things, then," Mana smiled. Allen mumbled something, mouth full of bread, and his father laughed again. "What Allen meant to say is that we travel a lot, too."
Allen finally swallowed, eyes earnest. "So! Even if you do go, we'll see each other again!"
He wondered if Allen had any idea how big the world actually was, or how many chances there were of ever being in the same place at the same time ever again. Shama took a small bite of his roll and then he looked at the quickly darkening sky.
"I need to go," he muttered. "Grandfather will get worried if I don't hurry."
It was kind of scary that he couldn't read Mana's expression even as the man smiled and nodded.
"We'll walk you, if you want."
He shook his head. "Thank you, it's okay. It's really close to here. I... thank you for the roll. Goodbye."
Before he could go, Allen held his hand with both of his. Shama saw that his eyes were very bright, even if he wasn't crying. He looked certain, his face as serious as a seven-or-eight years old knew how to make it.
"We'll see each other again. You promise too, right?"
Shama was unsure why it was important. It wasn't as if he or the kid would actually remember each other. He was sure that in a week or less, the kid will have forgotten his name. After a moment, however, he shrugged. The chances of them meeting again were minimal; even if he promised, there wouldn't be any consequences.
Allen smiled, so happy that Shama was left again with the feeling that he didn't understand humans at all. Even so, as Allen waved him goodbye from Mana's shoulders, shouting that he should go to the show and bring his grandfather if he still was there, even when Shama raised one hand, the other one still holding the roll before he twisted left and then right down two streets from where they had been, he felt strangely content. It was ridiculous that he felt like that for something so ephemeral as a children's promise, but he did.
When he got back to their room, Bookman was already packing their few belongings.
"We'll be leaving in the morning," Bookman said. Shama got inside, closed the door and left the cinnamon roll on the table. Then, Bookman looked at him. "Your name will be Eliraz from now on."
He formed the syllables of his new name and mouthed them as he helped Bookman pack, asking about where they were going. Bookman gave him a map and the boy committed a few minutes to memorize the new city, answering his teacher's interrogation about the place and what he knows of it, dropping out every other useless information that Shama might have gathered.
And if with that name there was a promise made, well.
There was no harm done for Eliraz anyway.
Eliraz: My God is my secret