Disclaimer-Sup guys, I do not own the Summon Night series, if I did this would be a game by now.
The End of the Age of Swords
Chapter 3: Stumbling Upon the Past
It was morning of another new day. Everyone back down in the basement, the morning looking out to be a just as lively one as per the usual. Anya sat at her work bench, Jin was snoring loudly on the couch, even Tyson was down today, rummaging through the fridge. By the furnace, Ryuk was explaining how to work it for their future crafts.
"Alright Alice that's about it." Ryuk finished, playing with a few odd knobs on the front of the furnace. Alice still looking at at, no doubt still seeing it as a complicated and overwhelming device. "So, yeah, leave the smithing to me, you just keep the fire going. I'll tell you how hot to make it and you'll start to get the hang of it yourself after a while.
Taking a deep breath, she nodded and clenched her hands excitably, still a bit of nervousness on her face. "Alright! Let's make a new gun to replace that one I broke."
Laughing at first, he held his hand up. "No no. Guns a still a bit out of your league, let's stick to making a sword first."
Confused, Alice looked over the great wolf fang that had been sitting against the furnace since the other day. "Huh? How come?"
He folded his arms, looking somewhat serious but still a carefree smile on his face. "Well for starters, I still have one gun left and I'm down my only sword. Second, we haven't really gone over the procedure for gun smithing, I bet you don't even know where the handle is." He said in a cocky manner, trying to get a rise out of her.
Pouting, she took a step closer. "I do too!"
Pretending to be surprised, he took his revolver out and spun it in his hand, turning the barrel toward him and having the grip face her. "Alright, grab it by the handle then." He said, hiding a smirk. Looking at the firearm, she grew a wry smile before reaching for the wooden handle. Just as she went to grab it, Ryuk spun the gun around again with his fingers, causing her to grab the barrel instead. "Oh, Alice, that isn't right at all. See, you aren't ready for this just yet."
Gasping at first, she stomped one of her feet. "No fair! You cheated!"
Ryuk let out a few chuckles. "Huh? What ever do'ya mean? I bet you couldn't grab the handle. I never said I'd hold the gun still for you." A smirk of superiority on his face.
Just as Alice began to complain about her master's trick, Tyson backed out of the kitchen area, apparently settling on a tall glass of water. "Well Ryuk, I'm impressed. You've held down a partner for two days. You must be going for a new record." He commented coldly, sitting down on the opposite end of the couch that Jin was sleeping on.
Both looking over at the older man, Alice looked him over, never seeming to get the chance until now. He wore worn dark brown chaps and black dress shoes. A white cotton long sleeve shirt with a dark blue dress vest, unbuttoned over it. Possibly a uniform from the bar above. His short light brown hair, slicked back. Taking a sip from his glass, she noticed his light blue eyes as he glanced over.
Frowning from Tyson's comment from earlier, Ryuk turned away, trying to ignore him. His lack of a response only seeming to interest Alice more. "He said something like that before. Just how many partners have you had master?"
Her pleading expression only causing him more distress. He kept looking away, not facing her directly. "Well, you see..." He stalled, a weak nervous chuckle escaping.
"You're lucky number thirteen." Anya brought up in a similar tone as Tyson. Not even facing them as she stayed focused with her rifle.
Alice became agape as she looked to her master. "T-T-Thirteen?" She shouted in disbelief causing Jin to wake up. A small string of drool ungracefully trialing down the side of his face as he quickly looked around the room from his abrupt wake up.
Ryuk's face heating up a bit, he tried to fan her off as he blushed lightly. "D-Don't worry about it. That's all in the past." Sweating slightly from her growing silence, he glanced over to the wolf fang. Walking over to it, he picked it up and gently tossed it in the air before catching it. "Now come on. I think it's time we made our first weapon together."
Still half asleep, Jin looked over at Tyson. "Wh- What time is it?" He slurred out, wiping the drool off his face with his sleeve.
Shaking his head, Tyson finished his glass of water and stood up. Starting to walk away he left his glass on the counter then headed for the stairs. "Time for you to start getting up earlier."
Smiling to himself, he searched through his cloak for his chunk of summonite. Holding it above him, he began the loose definition of his summoning chant and a large ball of light filled the room like before. After a few seconds, it faded and Sophia descended sitting on the back side of the couch.
Halfway done eating an apple, she took a fresh bite then looked around to discover her knew surroundings. Chewing the fruit in her mouth fast, she swallowed it with a loud gulp and cleared her throat. "Jin, what's going on? What do you need me for?"
Looking over up at her leisurely over his shoulders, he shot her a vacant look. "Wha'do'ya mean? I jus' wanted to spend some time with ya."
Her expression dropped as she slouched over in a sigh. "Do you realize what a hassle it is, being summoned back and forth like this on your whims?"
Laughing lightly at her discontent, he sat up and began shuffling toward the staircase. "If you wanna be of use that badly I do need something from upstairs."
Sitting up straight again, she hopped off the back end of the couch and placed down her half eaten apple on the counter before hovering over to him. "Hm? What do you need?" She asked, keeping a steady pace beside him as she floated.
"I dunno. But I'm sure that when I find somethin' I need, I'll know I need it." He announced in a joking manner that only seemed to taunt Sophia more.
Sighing deeply she dropped her head. "You're a real piece of work, you know that?" She asked as the two began heading up the stairs through the hallway. "Honestly, what would your wife think?"
Just as Ryuk heaved the great wolf fang onto the furnace, he almost dropped it and had to fumble to catch it off the side. Anya who was tinkering with her sniper with a screwdriver almost lost her grip and flung it across the room. Setting the fang back, Ryuk and Anya both turned at the same time and stared up at the stairway. "Jin has a wife?" The two shouted in unison.
Realizing her slip of the tongue, Sophia quickly gasped and covered her mouth with her hands. Jin caught off guard from the reaction of the two, slipped back and began heavily tumbling back down the stairs. Hitting the corner of the staircase with a loud thud, the railing catching him.
Immediately flying down to his aid, Sophia knelt down and helped him sit upright. "Jin! Are you alright?" The same worried expression from yesterday painted on her face again.
Rubbing the side of his head, he groggily looked over at the two kids. "Why do ya all sound so surprised? Geez." He complained, trying to sit up only to be greeted with discomfort as he grabbed his left leg with both hands. Ryuk and Alice running over, Anya remained by her work bench.
Sophia began running a hand through her long hair. "Is it broken or just a sprain?" She asked, pulling his leg aside carefully as not to agitate it.
"It's gotta be a sprain. Can't be more than that." He commented massaging the area.
Removing his hands, Sophia held hers over it. A second later, a white warm glow emanated from it that shined over his leg. The glow faded and a moment later his leg did the same. "There, that healing spell should do it. Put some pressure on it. If it was just a sprain it should be all fine now."
Jin laughed grabbing the railing next to him as he stood up. "It was just a little fall. Ya worryin' too much." Just as he put some weight on it he slipped and fell back down firmly grabbing his leg again. "Yeow!"
Sighing, his guardian beast began rubbing her forehead. "You see? It was a minor break after all."
Shaking his head Jin tried to stand up again with resistance from Sophia and even Ryuk now. "No way, I'm tougher than that." He grunted before giving up on standing.
Sophia frowned crossing her arms. "I don't care how tough you think you are. A brakes a brake. You're not as young as you used to be anyway. You're in your thirties now, remember?"
Trying to brushing her off, Jin looked away. "I don't keep track about things like that. I just know I'm four years older than you." There was a slight pause before he turned back to her. "How old are ya, again?" He asked in a blunt tone.
She remained silent for a moment before picking up his leg by his ankle dainty, then slammed it back onto the flooring. After Jin let out a loud yelp, Sophia cleared her throat. "You see? It was broken." She restated, ignoring what she had just done.
"I'm still not buying it." Ryuk commented, crossing his arms and looking up at his master still resting on the staircase. The worry he held for him at first apparently wearing off. "Who'd marry you?" He joked, trying to lighten up the mood.
Sophia became deathly silent at this but Jin grew a sad smile. From the angle he was sitting and from where Ryuk was standing, it became hidden. "A woman with a lot of patience." He said in an unusually seldom tone that seemed to have been overlooked.
"No way." Ryuk continued trying to help the situation. "You never leave the town. How come you never go see her?"
The older man chuckled again, leaning back on the railings and gazing up at the ceiling. "I'm jus' far too busy. She lives too far away. In a small town called Coasteir. It's where we both grew up. As for why I never visit her. She hates me."
Reaching over for her master, Sophia lightly tugged on his cloak. "Jin, stop." She said bleakly yet received no anvil.
He let out a few more low chuckles. "As for why she's never come here, well, I guess you could say that's because she hasn't left our home in a very long time."
All of a sudden, Sophia pulled on his cloak roughly and lowered her head. "Jin, enough!" She shouted, turning the room silent again.
Reading the mood, Ryuk stopped with his questions and started heading back over for the furnace. Dragging Alice at first by the arm to get her to come with him. "C'mon Alice. Don't think that just cause Jin hurt himself again that you can get out of our crafting." He teased with a small forced smile.
The older duo now mostly isolated from the others, kept silent. Eventually taking in a deep breath, Jin reached up and awkwardly rubbed the side of his head. "Well, huh, guess I did cross the line back there. Sorry Sophie." He said in a serious tone that made Sophia jump up as she raised her head.
Struggling to help stand up again, he grunted as he tried holding on the railing behind him. Sophia seeing this, shifted over to him and helped him up into a stand. After doing so, she moved to his left and slung his arm over her shoulder to mitigate the pressure on his leg. Looking behind her she shouted for the others to hear. "Hey, I'm gonna take this big lug up to his room." She said, turning to them with a small but weak false smile.
As they struggled up the staircase slight bickering could be heard. When Sophia finally threatened to drop him he became quiet for a while and the two slowly faded out of earshot.
A short time passing, Ryuk discarded the unused sections of the tooth onto the ground next to the furnace. Hammering out the last imperfections to their weapon, he put the tool away and looked over the the blade for a second.
Wiping some sweat off her forehead, Alice let out a tired sigh. "Did we... Did it turn out okay?"
"We're not done yet." He said pulling the burning sword out of the furnace with a pair of metal tongs. Carefully, he held it over the trough of water. Slowly lowering it in, a large cloud of steam pouring into the air that surprised Alice to the point of almost falling over. A few moments passed and the steam degraded. As he put the metal tongs away, he saw Alice fidgeting over the trough. Trying to examine the sword, it's view of which was being distorted by the water's surface.
As he watched his new partner nervously try to look over they're first weapon he couldn't help but grow a smirk. "Okay Alice, that should be more than enough. Grab it."
Her eyes widened in shock as she looked back and forth from the sword and looking over to her master. "You mean with my hands?"
Faking a confused look, he shook his head. "No. Your teeth." He teased again with a smirk that became contrast to his guardian beast's expression. He laughed it off then reached into the trough himself. Checking the handle, he pulled it out and held it in front of Alice so she could clearly see it.
The blade was long and white of medium length. Sharp and small at the tip it became broader as it ran down to the base. This resembling a fang itself. At the handle, it hung over, eliminating the need for a blade guard. It was a singe edge sword, the front curved and deadly, while the back was rougher and more straight.
Done examining the sword, Alice looked up at her master, somewhat unsure. "Is it... half finished?" When he arched an eyebrow Alice traced her hand on the back. "This side flat."
Shaking his head, Ryuk pulled the blade in close and spun it by it's handle. Playing around with it while trying to get a feel for his new weapon's weight. "No Alice, I did that on purpose. I don't typically care for double edge swords. I find these much more..." He paused for a second, looking up into the corner of his eye for the right word. "...versatile." He came back with, smirking.
Alice thought about it as her eyes became focused back on the still spinning sword. As she was distracted, Ryuk stopped turning it and easily tapped her on the top of her head with the flat side to regain her attention. "My preferences aside, the crafting turned out fine. 'Feels sturdy. You did well for your first craft Alice."
Dropping he previous inquiries, she smiled and nodded at her master's praise. "Oh, right!"
Sheathing his sword away over his shoulder, he crossed his arms then looked back over at Anya. Who had which been working the entire time they were. "Say Anya, you ever hear of that town, Coasteir?"
Not bothering to stop working on her sniper, she responded without turning away. "The name sounds familiar. I think it's a town near the south shore of the continent. Why? What are you up to?" She said with a dull tone at the end. No doubt already figuring out what he intended.
Turning toward the terminal in the back of the room he gazed over the map that was on screen. "Oh, just curious." He remained silent as he skimmed over the map with his eyes before seeing a marker with the same name near the southern point of the map. "Well, look at that, there's a Deigleyan base around there." A smug look growing. "I'd better head to it and make sure everything's alright." Staring at him confused again, Alice tilted her head.
A sigh being heard from Anya's work bench, she huffed and got up. Walking over to the computer she didn't say a word as she plugged the computer into Zigbur. Typing away on the computer as Ryuk awaited with an intrigued look in his eye.
Putting the pieces together, Alice's shoulders sunk. "Master..." She said in a pleading tone that made him look away, knowing full well what she was getting at. "You're causing trouble again, aren't you?"
Sighing, he turned back with a smirk and rested eyes. "Not at all. I'm doing this for the safety of my country." A moment later he turned away again. "And if we happen to need to pop in at Coasteir for information or supplies then that can't be helped, can it?"
Her expression dropped again and Ryuk turned back to Anya right as she finished. She unplugged Zigbur and turned back around. "I'll be lending you Zigbur for the day. Please try to avoid doing anything that would inconvenience me." Glancing over her shoulder, she gave one last look at her mechanoid, who, at her attention perked up excitedly. "Oh, and don't break him." Zigbur jolting upright, the apparent thought of him being damaged while in another's care never fazing him until now.
Forcing a shocked expression, Ryuk pretended to be hurt. "Who? You mean me, little sister?" Ignoring him again, she walked back toward her workbench.
Zigbur wearily floated over to the vacant area by the training mats in the corner. Ryuk following behind it, Alice doing the same. This time she stood especially close to the mechanoid. Her master's comment about leaving things behind during Zigbur's teleportations clearly still apparent in her mind. This bringing a small smirk to his face. Flipping a switch in the back of the small robot, he buzzed and shook before a large sphere of light enveloped the three of them and disappeared moments later, leaving without a trace.
The three of them warped to the base of a grand and long curving ravine. The sides of the rock around them scaled high above that of an average house. Shrubbery growing on ends of the walls and near the ground. A small feeble stream treading at the throughout the base as it babbled in a pleasant tone. Just arriving, Ryuk took a quick look around but Alice seemed to examine every odd and end.
Crossing his arms, Ryuk took a long look down the ravine, noticing a few stray a ways down near the creak. "I've never been this far south before. I wonder if we'll be able to find any good materials here?"
"No please! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to trespass!" An weak old voice was heard echoing from down the ravine, opposite the end as the strays. Ryuk uncrossed his arms and headed for the source almost immediately. Alice and Zigbur following behind.
Concerned, Alice moved up as to walk next to her master. "What do you suppose is going on up ahead?"
His expression neutral at first, he smiled when he saw Alice beside him. "Well, I don't know yet. But whatever it is, we'll find out soon enough."
Making their way to a crossroads, two new pathways opened up in front of them. Unsure where the voice from earlier was coming from, they each looked around down a separate road. "I don't care if you didn't know ya old coot! This land belongs to the Deigleyan empire and we have been ordered to take care of anyone causing a disturbance!" A younger more gruff voice shouted, his echo coming from the left most path.
Motioning for the two to follow, Ryuk took the lead again. He hugged the wall as he crept along the side. Reaching a corner, he peered over the edge. The ravine ended just ahead, two Deigleyan soldiers blocking the way and an old man on his knees in front of them.
The old man wore simple clothing. Stained and torn he had a second layer of cloth that wrapped around his shoulders and hugged his torso. On the ground beside him, a basic wooden cane.
"P-Please! I'm sorry! I was just looking for a lost memento of mine. I didn't mean to trespass. I swear it!" Even while on his knees, his entire body shook. His hands clasped together in apology. The guards patience running thin, one reached for his rifle. "N-No please! Please! Oh Parista, holy spirit of the sword! Show your mercy onto me!"
Alice just now peaking over the side from beneath her master, blinked quickly looking up at her master. "Who's Parista?"
Narrowing his eyes, Ryuk stretched forward to get a better look of things."I've read he's supposed to be an ancient god. Said to be the protector of all craftknights. Or something like that." He quickly explained before dropping the subject.
Things looking grim, he took a step closer and Alice stood up. "Master? What are you doing?" She shouted in a whisper.
Reaching for his sword over his shoulder, he grew a smirk. "Isn't it obvious? Divine intervention." Taking a step out into the open, he pushed his weapon handle down into his coat to avoid suspicion. Once spotted, he ran up to the group rather and trying to be subtle. "G-Grandpa! There you are!" Reaching them he quickly grabbed the older man's arm and helped him upright.
The old man just as confused as the guards, Ryuk pulled him back toward Alice and Zigbur. Wearing a sheepish smile as he turned to the guards. "Thank you so much sirs!" He exclaimed in an innocently earnest tone that Alice had never heard from her master before. "My grandfather wandered off from our village this morning. Thank you so much for finding him."
The guards looked at each other, neither exactly sure how to address the new situation. "Yes, well uh... of course." The first stuttered out, unused to being so easily complimented.
"J-Just get outta here! The both of you!" The other shouted, clearly not in as swayed by flattery as the first. "We gotta job to do here. We're on duty!"
Bowing slightly, Ryuk thanked the two men again and began pushed the old man ahead of him. Leading him back behind the rock wall with Alice and Zigbur. Once turning the corner, the older man gasped lightly at Alice and the small floating mechanoid. Ryuk still pushing him much further away until they were further in and out of earshot. They kept going and decided to stop at the cross roads from earlier.
Once the group was alone, the old man began rubbing one of his arms as he addressed the others. "Well now, I suppose I owe you my thanks young man." He cleared his throat, letting out a few laughs. "I must know though, I could be wrong, but, I see you have a summon creature in your company. Would that make you two..."
With the elder's hunch correct, Ryuk nodded. Growing a confident smirk, he stood up straight and held his shoulders back. He took a step forward. "You're right. I'm a craftknight."
Wearing a polite smile, Alice moved up to stand beside him. "He's still just an apprentice though." She added cheerfully.
His smirk flickering for a moment, his shoulders sunk briefly. "Yes Alice, thank you once again for the input." Playing with his bangs, he stood back up straight. Alice simply nodding again, not picking up on his sarcasm.
The old man let out a hearty laughter and then clasped his hands together. "Yes, yes. Splendid!" He clapped his hands together one more time before leaning back on his cane. His other hand behind him, helping keep his back straight. "You might find it hard to believe, but when I was young and handsome..." He took a short moment to push his balding hair back, most likely in a way he did when he was younger. "... I was a craftknight." In the end, he thrust his head back and let out an excited laughter.
Having a considerate smile on his face, Ryuk bowed to show his respect. "I see. You'll have to show me your moves some time." This causing the old man to laugh again.
Alice, while finding the conversation enjoyable, could only half force a smile. "Um, excuse me but, why were you being harassed by those soldiers?" She asked gaining both males attention.
"Why?" Ryuk questioned her confusion before looking away. "Because they're Deigleyans. It's their job to cause our people trouble."
The older man grew a likewise disposition and even looked away as well. "That's right!"
A bit off put by how similar his mindset was to the older man, he turned back forward. "Well yes, but, uh, maybe you should give us a little more information."
Scratching his wrinkled chin, the man closed his eyes. "Well, you see, I was walking through here to gather water for our village. The young ones always protest but I enjoy the exercise. On my way back, I realized I had dropped something very important to me."
The old man looked ready to continue but Ryuk cut him off. "Got it. Okay, We're in a hurry, so, I'll leave Zigbur over here to help you look for it." He offered, pointing to the small floating mechanoid with his thumb. The tiny transport unit beeping happily at the suggestion.
Shocked, his old eyes grew wide. "A-Are you sure? I-I mean, I couldn't ask for something li-."
Cutting him off again, Ryuk gave a gentle smile back. "Alright then, let's trade. I'll lend you Zigbur, and you point me in the direction to Coasteir. That should be fair, right?"
The old man's eyes widened again. "C-Coasteir? I see, does someone you know reside there?"
Shaking his head, he still wore his smile as he casually held his arms. "We know someone there, through someone. And we want to pay them a visit." Alice giving a short aside glance at the mention of we.
Beginning to look sentimental, he looked down and smiled sadly at his feet. "I see. You are a very respectful young man then." The others a bit confused, he looked back up to show a wide grin. "Well then young man, I won't be able to borrow this summon creature after all. The shortest way to Coasteir is through the other side of this ravine. The pathway littered with sturdy and frighteningly strong strays."
Turning around, Ryuk took a few steps back toward the way they came. "Not a problem at all. Let's go Alice." He ordered continuing to walk away. Alice ran over and joined him but left the man standing confused as Zigbur hovered around him.
"W-Wait! Young man! It's too dangerous to go on without a guardian beast." He shouted and took a hurried step closer but stopped when Ryuk turned back around.
Wearing his usual confident smirk with pride, he motioned at Alice beside him. "Wha'do'ya mean? She's right here."
The man was shocked once again but before he could say any more or protest further, Ryuk hurriedly walked off again, Alice shouting after him in a struggle to keep up. After a while, the man smiled to himself. A gleam of nostalgia in his eyes. "My my, that boy isn't at all like me when I was young after all."
Laying his leg flat, Jin sat up in his bed. He watched as Sophia floated around his room. Cleaning up any of his messes and tidying up where she could. His room looked almost identical to Ryuk's yet still was somehow twice as messy.
"Oh honesty Jin, what a pigsty!" Sophia complained but showed no sign of stopping. "You're a grown man. Learn to take care of yourself better."
Chuckling to himself he turned to look out the window. "Oh I'm an adult am I? I hadn't noticed with the way you and the children treat me." He commented with no real disdain in his voice.
Still cleaning, she flew about the room, straightening crooked dresser drawers and shutting half open dressers. "Once you start acting more mature and taking on a little more responsibility we'll talk Jin."
Simply smiling to himself, he began watching her again. He didn't stop until she ceased what she was doing and stared back at him. "You've changed so much since we first met when we were kids." He all of a sudden said, his smile still there.
Cocking an eyebrow, Sophie frowned at him. "Really now, how's that?" She asked in an annoyed almost childlike tone.
He grinned and laid back against his bed board. "I still remember the day you were first summoned here. You appeared in a ray a' light and gave me a thorough once over with your eyes. Right after, you pouted and looked away in disgust. What? This is so unfair! I wanted a cool and handsome craftkngiht to be my partner!" He joked, trying his best at a young woman's voice near the end.
Sophia's face turning scarlet, she flew over the room and forcefully shut his mouth closed with her hands. kneeling next to him in his bed as she kept her hold on his mouth firm. "S-S-Shut up! S-Shut up! Don't bring up stupid stuff from the past like that! That was over two decades ago!"
A moment of silence passed and Jin started mumbling. Rather than trying to break free of his partners grasp, he kept mumbling until she eventually unclamped her hands. Rocking his jaw to the sides he took a deep groggy breath. "It really has been over twenty years, hasn't it?"
Looking up at her master, she slowly nodded. "Yeah, well, you better be grateful. It wasn't easy looking after you for so long." She complained lightly, a small blush still on her face from before.
"Twenty years." Jin repeated to himself. "Twenty years of calling you over back and forth every morning an' night. Makin' you help clean up all my mistakes. An' most of all, helpin' keep me all together somehow." His spoke in an uncommon seriousness.
The unexpected atmosphere causing Sophia to become uneasy. She fidgeted with her fingers and looked down at the bed the two were laying on. "It's not like I have a choice, right?" She choked out, a faint laughter trailing behind it.
"You've done enough for me." He said so straight that it caused Sophia to jump slightly and look up at him right after he said it. "If it's really that much of a burden. I won't summon you back anymore." He was looking up at the ceiling and his messy bangs covered his eyes. A stoic expression painted on his face.
Another small silence passed. "Jin." Sophia almost silently called out to him. He slowly looked down to see his partner balling a fist and squeezing the blanket with her hand. Before he could say anything else, Sophia pulled back one of her arms and gave her master a strong sucker punch on the side of his jaw. He was thrown to the side and fell awkwardly off the side of his bed, pulling most of the blanket with him.
Landing roughly on his leg, Jin slowly began rubbing it as he dealt with the new found pain in his jaw. Groaning as he did. Just as he sat up straight, Sophia crawled off the bed and on top of him. She grabbed his collar and pulled him in closer to her so that they're faces were inches apart. Staring through his displaced bangs, he saw deep tears from his partner, quickly trailing down her cheeks and and just as quickly being replaced by more. "Don't you ever, ever, EVER say something so stupid to me again! Do you understand?" She shouted hysterically.
Gulping, Jin held his hands up in surrender. "R-Right! Understood ma'am!"
The tears continued as she whimpered slightly. "If I had wanted to quit, I would've done so twenty years ago." She continued, still furious. "And you were right about something, it is a hassle being summoned here day in and day out!" Jin nodded vigorously, agreeing with everything he could in hopes of calming her down. She let go of his collar and dropped him heavily onto the floor. "So just stop that already. I'll just stay in this world from now on!"
Surprised, his expression fell as the two became still. Sophia sniffling occasionally as her tears slowed down. Growing a sad smile, Jin reached into his pocket and pulled out his small chunk of summonite. She looked at it and he easily tossed it across the room onto the floor. "Done." He replied, looking down so that his bangs covered his face again. His sad smile being the only thing visible.
Frowning, Sophia sat up but grabbed Jin's bangs as she did so. Still peeved. "You're a wreck. When was the last time you had a hair cut? I saw some scissors in here earlier. I'm cutting those dirty things off right now!"
Unable to get up, being pinned by his partner and still slowed by his healing leg, Jin could only squirm beneath her. "N-Now h-hold on! L-Let's not be hasty!"
Having marched through the ravine for a good half hour, Ryuk and Alice both felt they were reaching the exit. With the feral strays in the area being as strong as the old man said, he was more than happy with the materials he was finding. As well as the usefulness of his new sword.
"Two more up ahead." Ryuk called out. Pointing across the way toward a large lizard that crept on the ground, a large rusty anchor held over his shoulder as a weapon. A huge lobster beside it. It's body partially in the water bed.
Alice nodded awaiting any commands. Although since yesterday, she wasn't expecting to be called upon much. "Say, master. Why does everyone hate the Deigleyans so much?"
The lizard noticing them from across the canyon, heaved it's anchor into the air and rushed over to them. Alice expected Ryuk to hold off on answering her question, but answered right away.
"Why do we hate them? It's obvious." He took a moment to sidestep the creature's anchor which was hurled over the summon creature's shoulder and dug into the ground next to him. "They're a conquering county and ours is next on the list because of our resources." As he explained, he jumped closer and slashed away at the exposed lizard. Heavily weakening it as it staggered back a few steps. "What's so hard to wrap your head around?" He asked, jumping closer and performing an precise upward slash that caused the creature to let out a wail before collapsing backward, dead.
Alice gulped, pointing at the approaching lobster before answering. "Well, it's just. Those soldiers from before they didn't shoot at us, or anything like that." She said, rubbing her arm slightly.
The lobster rushing toward them, Ryuk easily jumped over and landed behind it. The summon creature changed it's sights toward Alice and she retracted herself, leaning her back against the rock wall. Before it could even open it's claw, Ryuk spun his sword upside down and stabbed it into the crustacean's exposed backside.
Taking a second, Ryuk fixed his hair then sheathed his sword. Dusting off his sleeves, he motioned for Alice to follow again. The two starting to head down the pathway again. "Of course they didn't shoot at us. We're not barbarians anymore. But shots have been fired before, and they'll be fired again." Glancing over his shoulder, he smirked. "And some of those shots will be fired by me."
His answer leaving Alice a little uncertain, Ryuk sighed. "Alright, I'll give you a quick refresher course." As he spoke he still kept a focused gaze ahead, keeping an eye out for any more feral summon creatures that may be lying in wait. "War changed with the invention of the gun. And the Deigleyans had a technological revolution, as Anya once put it. While once a poor country with few militaristic victories, suddenly became centralized and started conquering countries left and right. Not having any need for an army before, our country's had to rely on craftknights for defense."
Turning another corner, they were both hit by a ray of light. The opposite end of the ravine shining like the light at the end of the tunnel. Smiling at his partner, Ryuk bowed and held his hand out, giving her first passage toward the exit. "And there we have it, professor Ryuk's personal history lesson." She gave back a wry smirk before walking past him with Ryuk almost immediately catching up right beside her.
Exiting, the two were greeted by a vast field of long unruly yellow grasslands and wheat that went on seemingly forever. Even the most gentle of breezes causing all blades of grass to sway in line. The scent of the sea carried by the wind from somewhere out of view. A simple and small dirt path paved by travelers stretching forward off into the distance. A tranquil feeling emanated from it's barrenness.
Alice took a step toward the fields on their right and took a moment to take in everything. "It's so beautiful." A small gust of wind playing with the loose strands of her hair.
Ryuk however scowled while looking around. "There's a town out here somewhere?" Both looking ahead, noticed the road leading to a hill a little ways off in the distance. "I'd have to be right over that hill I guess." Shrugging it off, he put his hands in his pocket and started moving toward the hill. Taking one last look at the fields, Alice ran over to walk beside him.
As the two walked forward Alice would occasionally glance over at her master. He couldn't help but smile as they walked. "You noticed it, didn't you?"
Slowly, Alice nodded. "Yeah. You got a cut earlier from one of the lizards."
As she said this, Ryuk brought one hand into his duster and started rubbing his side slowly. "It's a small cut. It'll heal in a day or two. Nothing serious." When she kept staring at him he went back to his casual walking demeanor. "Why bring that up? Can you heal it?"
Opening her mouth at first, she stopped and looked down slowly, shaking her head. "I can't do anything like what Sophia did this morning. I'm still not even really sure how I do enchantments. I don't wanna try anything much harder than that just yet."
Letting out a little laughter Ryuk shrugged his shoulders. "Gotta try it sometime." He said trying to ease her.
"Not yet." Alice came back with a surprisingly adamantly tone.
Quickly reading the mood, he reached over with his right hand and flicked the side of her head with his middle finger. She let out a quiet squeak before turning to him and rubbing the side of her face that he hit. An unamused expression painted on her face. "It's fine. It's not like I'm accustomed to relying on others for much anyway." He bragged in an oddly bittersweet emphasis, still looking straight ahead.
She was about to question what he meant but Ryuk suddenly stopped walking. Looking ahead again she saw that the two had made their way to the base of the large hill that now towered over them.
Without saying anything more, Ryuk started up the steep hill with Alice struggling to keep up. Noticing this, he slowed down his pace but still kept the lead. Looking up, she saw Ryuk smirking down at her before leaving her behind and dashing for the top as if taunting her to catch up. Feeling worked up, she started running ahead to reach him.
Getting to the top, she huffed a bit then looked up at Ryuk to see his face wrenched in shock. Surprised she looked over and quickly became the same. Down over the hill in front of them was a grass less strip of dirt that went on for the length of a small village. But rather than a bustling village full of people or talkative town square there was a large outstretched graveyard. Hundred of graves laying undisturbed.
Gasping, Alice looked over to her master. "W-What is all this?"
Ryuk kept motionless as he stared at all the graves. "As for why she's never come here, well, I guess you could say that's because she hasn't left our home in a very long time." He spoke, repeating what Jin had said about his wife this morning.
Alice didn't quite understand but after a few moments realized what he was getting at and gasped again. "Master, you don't mean...?"
Gritting his teeth, Ryuk bowed his head and clenched his hands in fists. "Dammit Jin."
It had been quiet on the way back, neither exactly sure how to talk about what they had discovered. Making it all the way back to the fork in the ravine in silence.
"Please! Have mercy! I was only looking for my lost trinket! Please spare me!" The old man's voice echoed down from the other end of the ravine. Looking over down the path where they first found the two soldiers, Zigbur emerged and was pointing down the pathway very worriedly.
Alice looked to her master in distraught but Ryuk was still as stoic as he had been their entire way here. He didn't even budge at the voice of the distressed elder. Instead, he let out a slightly annoyed huff. "I highly doubt a regular apology would work twice in a row." He said blatantly as he took off his duster. Removing his sword and sheathe from over his shoulder, he handed it to Alice along with his gun holster. Before putting his duster back on, Ryuk knelt down and quickly stretched his legs. "Hold onto these for a moment. I'll be right back." He ordered running a hand through his hair. She nodded, albeit confused. Taking a runners position on the ground, he all of a sudden vaulted forward and down the curving pathway of the canyon and out of sight.
A few seconds passed, Alice speechless as she held her master's belongings. A moment later, Ryuk's voice resurfaced as an echo. "WHA- WATCH OUT!" He shouted very awkwardly before a loud thud could be heard. Slight groaning audible before speaking again. "I'm so so sorry! I was just looking for my grandpa when- GRANDPA! There you are! We told you not to wander off again!" His voice said in a very childlike scolding manner.
A couple more groans from other men were starting to be heard. "What the...?" One man said. Alice recognizing it instantly as one of the soldiers on guard from earlier. "Huh? You again?" He started shouting. "What did I tell you last time? Get outta here, NOW! If I see either of you two again I'm shooting! You understand?"
Several apologies later, Ryuk came back to the fork, pulling the old man by the wrist like a lost child. His expressionless face from before, replaced with a moderately proud and content smirk. Letting go of the old man, he shrugged his duster off and held a hand forward for his things. "There. Problem solved." He said, now with a grin.
Alice couldn't hold back the laughs anymore. Suppressing them into bursts of giggles she handed back her masters things. "You're surprisingly two-faced master."
His eyes narrowed for a moment as he equipped his weapons back on. "I've just become good at acting the fool." His mood seeming lifted, Alice smiled and he did the same turning back to the old man.
"You shouldn't go near those soldiers anymore, I don't think I could get you outta there again." He said, adjusting his coat back on properly.
Rubbing the back of his head, the old man looked down at the ground. "Ah, yes." He let out a sad laugh then nodded. "Thank you. I am very grateful."
When he stayed looking a little embarrassed, Alice asked him a question. "Say, mister, what is this trinket that's so important to you?"
Smiling sadly now down at the ground he took a deep breath and held his hands behind his back. "It's something very important to me. It's a watch that belonged to a very respectable craftknight that is no longer with us I'm afraid. It's a keepsake that was meant to be passed down to the youngest son as per tradition." His sad smile never wavering as he spoke or continued on. "It's the only thing I have left from Coasteir."
Ryuk's eyes widened subtly at this and Alice gasped. She opened her mouth ready to ask something when Ryuk cut her off immediately. "I don't care how precious a memento is. Your life if more important. Now promise me you won't come over here anymore. It's too dangerous." He said firmly. The childlike innocence he faked earlier seeming all gone now.
Nodding again the old man chuckled, able to find the silliness of being told off by a child. "Yes, I understand."
Once he agreed, Ryuk's draconian air faded instantly and he smiled. "Good. In that case, you can have this back then." Reaching into his coat pocket he pulled out a silver pocket watch and tossed it to the elder.
Catching it, the old man and Alice shared a gasp. "This is...! This is my watch!" He furiously began looking it over. Examining ever inch of his memorable token.
"Alright then. Time to head back Alice." He said still smiling as he turned away from the others.
"W-Wait!" Both The old man and Alice shouted.
Clearing his throat, the elder stepped closer. "Young man, how? How did you find this? I've looked all over for it since this morning." A wide smile of gratitude on his face.
Smirking over his shoulder briefly, he looked away again. "Oh that? I pick-pocketed it from one of those guards."
"P-Please explain!" Alice begged stepping closer as well. The amount of curiosity in her voice causing Ryuk to snicker lightly.
He ran a hand through his hair again before addressing them properly. "When I stumbled into the two guards just now, I noticed the watch in one's back pocket. Seeing as how you kept going on about your lost memento, I figured that had to be it." Looking away his kind smile became a sly smirk. "And hey, if I was wrong, a free watch."
Staring stunned, the old man began chuckling again. The chuckling continued and eventually became a hearty laughter, he even threw his head back a bit. "Young man you are by far the strangest craftknight I have ever met. One of a kind!" He laughed again before calming down. Looking over Ryuk his eyes stopped at the revolver hidden just inside his coat. "I see you use those things as well. That's quite rare for a craftknight, even in this day and age."
Shaking his head, Ryuk unholstered his revolver and began spinning it around his index finger. "I don't see it that way. Just the opposite in fact." He started with his usual smirk. "It's a day and age of innovation. I'm not abandoning tradition, I'm forging a new one." Done, he stopped twirling his gun and holstered it back at his side.
Silent, the old slowly grew a proud smile. "Young man, I wish to thank you for all you've done for me this day. And I won't take no as an option." Holding his hands up Ryuk tried to decline but the elder only inched closer. Grabbing his wrist, he placed the watch in his hand.
Both Alice and Ryuk equally surprised, the young craftknight shook his head. "No, please. This isn't necessary. I couldn't. It means so much to y-" He stopped when the old man started speaking.
"This watch was to be passed on the the next generation of craftknight." He started, speaking in a wise and stern voice. "One who could understand what it really meant to be a knight and how they should act. While a bit unorthodox, I think you hold these two traits more than anyone I've met in a long time. So please, while you forge your own path in this world, please keep this with you. Let it be a reminder of what being a craftknight truly means." His proud smile never fading as he explained.
Looking down at the simple silver pocket watch, Ryuk slowly smiled. Nodding his head he slipped the watch into his coat and agreed. "It'll be an honor to carry such a torch."
Thanking the two one last time, the old man hobbled down the right fork path. Both Alice and Ryuk watching him until he was out of sight. They're spirits lifted from before, Zigbur hovered over to them. Floating in between them, Ryuk flipped a few switches on his back and the tiny mechanoid started lighting up. "5... 4... 3... 2..." He started in countdown. A light engulfed them and just as they came, vanished in a white light, leaving not a trace behind.
A white light reentering the inn basement. It faded and the group reappeared right where they left earlier that morning.
Ryuk out in front, he was standing tall and holding his arms. "...1." Taking a second he looked around and frowned. "Aw. I was off by a second." He admitted, a small amount of disappointment in his voice. Zigbur floating to his master across the room.
Still sitting at her work bench, Anya never stopped fiddling with her gun. She swapped screwdrivers and glanced over her shoulder. "Finally back I see. Find out what you were looking for?"
Alice gulped but before she could say anything, Ryuk stepped in front of her. He shrugged and dropped his arms to his sides. "Nothing really. We never did get to speak with Jin's wife." He spoke smoothly without skipping a beat.
Sticking her nose up, Anya turned back to her gun. "So basically, you just wasted a day then?"
Laughing lightly, Ryuk smiled and turned away. "I wouldn't go that far." He said pulling out his watch for a moment and looking it over. "I got this nice silver watch out of it." After, he put it back in his coat. Alice giving him a weary look before playing with her skirt.
Looking over her shoulder, Anya arched an eyebrow. "And how did you stumble upon that?"
Ryuk wearing his prideful smile turned fully to her. "I stole it." He said short and pleasantly. Alice becoming distraught at his explanation.
Rolling her eyes, Anya turned back around. "Wonderful." She replied sarcastically.
Just then, The door from up the stairs opened and slammed shortly after. Loud steps coming down the stairs revealed their owner to be Jin. His messy top-knot shortened drastically. His bangs cleaned up. Even his peach fuzz was shaved off. Sophia floating right behind.
Alice was surprised but Ryuk only smirked. "Oh, hey Sophia. Where's Jin?" His smirk growing wider at the end.
"Ha ha." Jin acknowledged, leaning his elbows on the stairs railing overlooking the rest of the basement. Sophia floating down over by the kitchen area. Alice noticing this, walked past Ryuk and headed over to her.
Still staring up at his master, Ryuk walked a bit closer. "So Jin, why the sudden interest in your appearance?"
Jin sighed gazing over at his guardian beast. "Sophie over here gave me a quick shower an' shave. Not as seductive as it sounds."
Sophia rested her head elegantly on one of her hands as she turned to Ryuk with a wide smile on her face. "I stripped him naked then kicked him into the bathhouse." She admitted with a playful expression. This earning several laughs out of Ryuk and a long sigh from Anya.
Jin's face heating up a bit, he glanced away and rubbed the side of his chin. "Yep Sophie, thanks fer sharin' that with the children."
Still working away in the corner of the room, Anya started shaking her head. Still keeping her back to the others. "Sometimes I wonder which of us are the children."
Making her way over Sophia, Alice got her attention with a shy wave. "Um, Sophia?" Shifting her gaze, Sophia stood up straight to address Alice properly. This only seeming to unsettle her more. "Well, uh, since you have so much more experience than me..." Beginning to trail off, Alice took a deep breath. "I wanted to know if you'd give me a few pointers on using spells." She admitted, still a little halfhearted.
Growing a gentle smile, The older guardian beast tried to ease her by resting her hand on her shoulder. "You don't need to push yourself. Everything comes naturally in time."
Beginning to walk away, Alice bit her lip. "Please wait!" Sophia turned a little started and even Ryuk now turned to the two. "I want, I want to be of use. I want to be someone who can be depended on." She said far more confidently than before. Her eyes staring determinately up at the older women.
Hearing this, Ryuk's eyes widened. His own words from earlier echoing in his head. It's fine. It's not like I'm accustomed to relying on others anyway.
Seeing her resolve, Sophia warmly smiled. "Okay okay. I'll give you a little lesson. Pay close attention okay." Enjoying the scene, Ryuk decided to sit down on the armrest of the couch and watch the two, sitting in on the lesson.
Pulling out a kitchen knife from a draw, Sophia laid it down in the center of the counter. "Now here's a trick I learned to help me perform enchantments I wasn't very good at. She filled a small glass with water then poured it delicately over the knife. "Now you see, if you douse something in water, it makes it easier to perform enchantments on. Think of the water as a conductor. It allows mana to be distributed more easily." During her explanation she saw Alice staring adamantly at the knife. "Now this is just a demonstration mind you. No craftknight would ever go marching into battle with kitchenware."
Jin making his way over, wore his typical grin. "I dunno 'bout that. You see, I read this one story a long time ago..."
The evening eventually quieted down which left Ryuk and Jin the only ones still left in the basement. Jin lounging on the couch and Ryuk taking inventory near the furnace.
Having had enough of the silence, Jin leaned back in the couch and looked up at the ceiling. "So Ryuk, you and Alice working well together?"
Rummaging through the assorted materials. He dumped all of it at the base of the furnace. "She's trying her best. Naive as her best may be, but still. The main problem is her spell list. Which as of now, consists of only fire enchantments." He commented while separating chunks of sandstone from the rest.
Slouching over, Jin shifted in the couch so that he rested his head on one arm rest and held his feet up on the other. "Well Ryuk, as her partner, it's your job now to turn her weaknesses inta' strengths." He lectured with a yawn. His eyelids slowly shutting over his sage green eyes. "So? Anything good?"
Done sorting the materials he'd scavenged Ryuk dusted his hands together. "Nothing much. Just some sandstone, rusty metal, and a silver pocket watch." He listed in a amusing manner.
"Silver pocket watch? Where do you collect your materials?" He said opening one of his eyes and glancing over at his young pupil.
Putting his hands in his pockets, Ryuk kept his back to Jin. "Oh you know..." He paused as the cheerfulness drained from his voice. "...just north of the southern tip, near Coasteir."
Silent, Jin slowly sat up and held his hands in between his knees. He waited a moment before speaking up. "You saw it, I take it then?"
Nodding, Ryuk stayed still. "I don't get it." He spoke up before turning around. "I've heard you joke about the Deigleyans before but you've never really insulted them. Heck, I don't think I've ever even seen you actually angry before. How can someone who's lost so much not blame the people responsible?"
Wearing a sad smile almost proudly at this point Jin stood up. "Now that's just not true Ryuk. I blame myself every day." He said before walking away when Ryuk called out to him again.
"Jin! Wait!" Jin never turned back around but Ryuk almost felt the need to turn away anyway. "What... What happened? How does something like that even happen?"
Letting out a deep sigh, Jin started gazing back up at the ceiling again. "What always happens Ryuk. Proud adults making stupid decisions. It was the first and worst tragedy of the Deigleyain invasion." He was speaking clearly, no sign of farce or hesitation. "They occupied the town, which caused tension. The towns people assembled, which caused shouting. Both sides became timid of each other, so one side attacked the other. The craftknights attacked with their weapons and the Deigleyains fought back in retaliation, which caused all that bloodshed. So they scrapped the entire village and replaced it with a graveyard. I was lucky enough to not be present during this event. One of the few lucky ones."
Lowering his head, Ryuk started balling a fist. "How can you, after all that, blame yourself?"
Still keeping his back to his apprentice, Jin started heading for the stairs. "Because Ryuk, it's far to easy to push the blame on other people."
Stepping forward, the adolescent knight slammed a clenched fist against the side of the couch. "Stop right there. You don't get to do that. You don't get to flip a switch and stop pretending to be something you're not. You don't have that luxury! You don't and neither do I. That's what I learned from you. That's what you taught me." His eyes somewhat pleading.
Turning away, Jin continued up the stairs. "Goodnight, Ryuk." Was all he said before he left his apprentice there.
Gently opening his room door, it let out a loud creak. Waking Alice, she looked up from her bed and Ryuk smiled down at her. "Sorry, didn't mean to disturb you." She smiled back before shaking her head. Resting it back against her pillow.
Walking over to his bed, He undid his boots and kicked them off his feet. Letting out an exhausted huff, he laid in his bed. Leaning on his side, he stared at the blank wall in front of him and left Alice facing his back.
"Master?" Alice called out, just loud enough for Ryuk to hear.
He didn't budge, but still answered. "What's wrong Alice?" His face expressionless.
Adjusting herself in between the sheets, she looked around the room. "Why did you lie to Anya? About Jin's wife." She asked, still fidgeting.
His face still hidden, he didn't show the slightest sign of guilt or worry. "I didn't lie to her. I said we didn't get to talk to his wife. Which we didn't." Knowing that wouldn't satisfy her, he continued. "Besides, if Jin didn't tell us, then he's not over it yet. Just let the guy grieve in his own way."
"Master?" Alice whispered again, just loud enough to be audible.
Taking a moment, he answered her. "Yes, Alice?"
She smiled pulling in her blanket. "You really respect master Jin, don't you?"
Staring emotionless at the wall, Ryuk slowly shut his eyes. He let his body relax and sighed to himself. "Yeah, I guess I do."
Sophie vs Sophia:
I just wanna clarify the name thing now to avoid later confusion. Her real name is Sophia (So - fee - ah) However, Jin calls her Sophie (So - fee) Same amount of letters, but one syllable shorter. It has a dual effect. One, it shows the two are close if he's calling her by a nickname. Two, it helps paint the picture of his lazy characteristics.
Next chapter will be the last of the introductory chapters where I introduce the cast. After that, it's full on adventure, baby!
See you later and as always, Read, Review, and Enjoy!
- TEAS Chapter 4: A Thinking Man's Soldier -