I loved the new Tomb Raider. Loved it.
Since I have some sort of crossover sickness, this popped up pretty fast. It's planned out all the way to the end and for the first time will be told entirely from the perspective of outsiders - no Harry-thoughts at all. (Although primarily the story will be told through the lens of the game, it will be mostly the moments we don't see in it.)
I'm just slapping this up quickly. I have every intention of finishing this fic, although considering how behind I am in class… urgh.
The Last Tomb
Lightning split the sky, the ocean heaved and Yamamoto Taro prayed to as many gods as his old mind could think of as his medium-sized shimaihagi was lifted up and smashed down with enough force to rupture it. Perhaps he had already been extended heavenly kindness, for though the water swelled higher than the length of his boat it had yet to capsize him.
He clung to the side, squinting against the storm - and against hope - to try and find land. He knew he had been blown well clear of mainland Yamatai, but perhaps one of the smaller offshore islands..?
His boat creaked as another swell lifted it high. Briefly, he caught a glimpse of frothing water - all in a line. Something was there, for the waves to break against. And it was close!
His ro being long lost to the sea, he scrambled for the short toggle-style spear his brother swore upon when hunting the rare kajiki maguro or even the unlikely kujira. Taro himself rarely used it (and it's cleverly opening tip) for anything except fishing up the occasional slipped net but maybe if he could throw it hard enough, he might be able to anchor himself and weather the storm.
After a moment of thought, fighting to keep from capsizing, he untied the end of the spear's rope from the boat and re-tied it around his waist. It would take months to build a new boat if this one were lost - but his family would suffer much more if they lost fishing skills.
The water beneath him swelled again, the sky roared and Taro struggled to his knees. He focused. He lifted the spear. He prayed.
There was a sound, tiny and swallowed by rumbling thunder. The rope which had trailed the spear fell slack and Taro swallowed as he began to pull it back in for another throw. He wouldn't have long before the current sent him right past whatever it was, condemning him to death in the open sea.
The rope pulled taught.
Taro gripped it tightly, eyes wide and almost fell out of the boat as it was tugged savagely sideways. He fell to his belly, shifting his weight and reflexively bracing himself against the side. Should he try to pull himself and the boat in? Would that be more or less strain upon the flimsy hooked spear? He knew he couldn't risk letting the rope fall slack again, lest the toggle relax and fail.
Grimly, offering prayers to Ebisu, Ryūjin and even Suijin, he pulled. Hand over hand he reeled himself closer - for that must be what was happening for all that it felt like his boat was spinning further away.
Then, heartsick, he saw a flash of porcelain white. A hand.
A corpse. He had missed the outcrop and struck a fellow unfortunate fisherman instead. He hesitated, then continued reeling the poor man in. The extra weight would help keep his boat steady and if by some divine will he survived the storm and found a way home, he would be able to deliver some peace to the man's soul and his family.
The light was poor and the ocean continued to toy with his boat, but he would not be deterred. He could no longer see any sign of breaking water, but the body being dragged in - by his arm, it seemed - was small enough to perhaps be some father's son, or fisherman's apprentice. Young deaths at sea led to the most frightened and angry of ghosts. If he could at all help him, he must - for his village's sake as much as the boy's.
As the corpse came almost within reach the boat shifted, tilted, slid down a hill of water and… drifted serenely.
Taro gaped, feeling like a boy again himself as he stared around at the perfect circle of calm water in which his boat rested. Above and around him the storm continued to churn the ocean with rain and wind, but here… nothing.
Intuitively, he whirled back to the corpse he was hauling in, only to find wakame-green eyes staring up at him. He flinched back. Spirit? Ghost? Oh, Ebisu-sama, had he dragged in an Umibōzu?
The inhumanly green eyes blinked once, then one white hand closed over the edge of his boat.
Taro bit his lip fiercely, desperate not to make any sound for fear it might give the spirit cause to kill him. Then his eyes shifted to the spear he had thrown - the spear which remained lodged in the spirit's arm.
The spirit floated up out of the water, dripping copiously, and settled into the boat.
Where he continued to silently stare.
Almost panting with expectant fear, Taro glanced around again at the storm which no longer touched them before focusing on the expectant spirit before him.
Was he… should he… attempt to… remove the spear? Perhaps it wasn't an Umibōzu, but instead a fish spirit - perhaps a servant of Ryūjin-sama - and merely wanted him to repair the damage he had inflicted?
Gingerly, he edged closer. Unexpectedly, the boy-corpse-spirit smiled at him. It was a small thing, almost shy, and it soothed the edge of his fear just a little. One pale hand lifted a little and glowed. Taro froze, thoughts of soul-stealing flashing through his mind, but the glow merely condensed and floated upward like a lantern, shedding enough light that the flashes of lightning far above no longer registered.
Slowly relaxing, as nothing bad happened, Taro inspected the spirit with new eyes. He was strange-looking with his more rounded, fish-like eyes. Although, round in shape though they were, he had never seen a fish's eye with such green colouring. His face, in contrast, was narrower than Taro's own, his cheekbones higher. His brow was more prominent than a normal boy's and it gave his gaze a feeling of power, or perhaps intensity. His chin was blunter than any Taro had seen before. In fact, putting together the shape of his face and the ball of light still floating above them, he wondered if he had somehow stumbled over a powerful kitsune, lost at sea.
Edging closer again, he reached for the arm from which still protruded his fishing spear. The spirit let him, frowning only lightly as Taro made quick work of the knot holding the crooked piece of bronze in place, before pulling the spear out swiftly.
The boy hissed, his right hand slapping over the wound immediately after. He seemed, impossibly, to become even whiter in the face. After a moment, his shaking hand retreated into his clothing - a strange sort of shapeless kimono - only to emerge with a thin, rounded stick. A series of quick taps and some unintelligible sounds and the wound was clean of blood, half-closed over and swiftly bandaged in cloth that sprung from nowhere.
Taro gaped. His daughter and grandson would laugh at him if they saw it, but he just could not help it! Such magic he had barely heard of, even in the wildest of tales! Surely this was a kitsune, or… or..
Could it be? He thought, gulping as his eyes flickered from the magical stick to fish-round eyes. Perhaps he had hauled aboard more than a mere spirit. Perhaps… perhaps this was a powerful kami of the ocean, above and beyond a kitsune and - like the sea - infinitely less predictable.
"Du yu s'piik' n'ish'?" The being seemed to ask him, intonation only slightly less unfamiliar than whatever language he spoke. He seemed to be asking a question and Taro barely caught himself before he replied verbally. (He was still at sea, after all. It was difficult to shake the risk of the corpse-pale boy turning out to be a Umibōzu after all.) He shook his head slowly and lifted one hand in apology. The spirit sighed, shoulders slumping slightly. His lifted his hand again, magical stick laid flat on his palm. Taro watched, secretly excited to see more magic despite a healthy curl of nervousness in his guts.
"P'oint' mi 'and'" The boy spoke again, a strange rolling sound accompanying his bitten-off mora.
The magical stick spun once before stopping. Glancing down then around, the spirit smiled again - another small expression - before flicking the stick here and there as he muttered to himself.
Before his dumbfounded eyes, Taro's boat and nets repaired themselves. The boat itself turned around as smoothly as the stick had spun and began to move swiftly over the water as though pulled along by giant fish.
(He carefully checked to see if this was the case, but could see nothing through the black water.)
Looking up, he caught the spirit eyeing him. Then, with a wide swish of his arm, a stream of tai leapt from the water and into his boat, where they flopped for only a moment before stilling. He gaped again. At the spirit's - no, kami's - rough chuckle, he lifted his awed gaze.
"Ii-naf'?" The being questioned. Not knowing what he was being asked, Taro tried to guess. The mound of fish was large, though not as large as his boat could hold. It filled the space between Taro and the spirit and if the boat weren't on such unnaturally still water (the bubble of calm sea and gentle breeze followed the boat as it moved) there would be a risk of some falling back into the ocean.
Was he asking if it were enough fish?
Hesitantly, respectfully, he nodded. With both hands clasped before him, he bowed as much as he could whilst sitting, expressing his thanks and hoping that was what he'd been asked.
The boy sat back, seemingly satisfied. Taro's eyes slid from the fish to the stick still in his hand and back again.
In the stories, he held a fishing rod, but… the fish had come. He had repaired his boat. Saved his life. Had round eyes.
"E-Ebisu-sama?" He asked shakily. The boy turned at his words (at his name?) and tilted his head gently in query, smiling that little smile again.
Oh Kami. Had he truly one of the Seven Gods on his humble little boat? He was young, but… such magic. He could probably look like anything. Or, or perhaps this was one of Ebisu-sama's kin? Either way, he kept his eyes respectfully averted as much as he could until his boat was pushing steadily up onto the sand of his home village, stopping well out of the tide line.
Taro scrambled to his feet, stepping out of the boat and onto wet sand as squinted through the rain to see the bobbing yellow light of a lantern coming rapidly towards him. Judging by the voice, it was his daughter - no doubt frantic with worry when he didn't make it home before the storm and keeping an eye out for him. She must have seen Ebisu-sama's ball of light - it was very bright, after all.
As if hearing his thoughts, the light abruptly winked out and left the world much darker. Intermittent flashes of lightning showed his daughter's stumbling journey as she ran into his arms, as well as his son-in-law and grandson coming out of the village behind her.
"Tousan! I'm so glad you're alright!" Akiko wept into his shoulder. Under the shelter of the night, he held her tightly in turn. He was just as grateful as she - for both his own sake and his family's - to have returned alive.
"Maa, Akiko. This old man is still fishing." Gently, he disentangled her just as Jun and little Kei made it to them. Kei immediately wrapped himself around his knees as Jun slipped his arm around his wife without a word, though the relief in his expression spoke volumes.
"You came back safe and with a great catch!" Kei enthused into his leg, little face peering past him to the boat. "How did you pull the boat up so high? I wasn't here to help!"
He grinned a little in reflex at the idea of Kei's 'help', but it stilled quickly as he remembered just how it had been done.
He turned, half-expecting the spirit-boy to be gone but no - standing in the boat, now being rained on with his protective weather bubble gone along with the floating light - Ebisu-sama was barely perceptible at the edge of the weak lantern's reach.
"I was rescued." He said slowly, half bowing reflexively to the shadowed form. "I-. That is. Ebisu-sama?"
The boy didn't react. Not even a twitch. Frowning, Akiko clapped her hands sharply before repeating "Ebisu-sama!" Taro wanted to scold her for being rude, but it seemed to work. Slowly, the form stepped out of the boat and into the weak light - revealing his plainly inhuman face. Kei gasped and quickly hid behind his father's legs. Jun's grip on his wife tightened but Akiko - as always - was already charging ahead of him and her father both.
She stepped forward and bowed deeply.
"Thank you, Ebisu-sama, for saving my father."
Curious green eyes flickered between all three adults. Standing, Taro could see that the boy was only slightly shorter than them - if he were human, he'd likely be just shy of adulthood. Although he didn't reply to Akiko's thanks, he did incline his head and shoulders in a slight bow - more than his daughter deserved in return, from a being of his status.
Again, he wondered if he was misunderstanding who - and what - the boy was. For now, however, Ebisu or perhaps Ebisu's son(?) seemed most likely. He had appeared as a corpse in the water, had saved Taro's life and livelihood both, used a stick for magic deeds and summoned a haul of red snapper into the boat. Really, who else could he be?
"Jun, bring the fish home." He instructed his son, who nodded and obeyed - though he circled carefully around Ebisu as he went. In his absence, Kei lingered behind his mother. His shyness was a fleeting blessing.
"Ebisu-sama," Taro began, pleased when no clap was needed this time to get his attention. "If you wish to stay, please, come home with us. We would be honoured by your presence."
Strange green eyes just looked at him. Taro wondered if his own speech was as unintelligible to the kami as the kami's was to him. He gestured with one hand, turning and bowing slightly to indicate what he was trying to offer.
Looking around - at the lantern, at his family, out into the stormy sea - Ebisu swallowed, then nodded. He smiled, still a little shy but now touched with sadness, and followed the three of them home.
From what I understand, the origin of Queen Himiko was some time during the Yayoi period (around 300BC) and until I unearth enough Tomb Raider specific history to place the story more specifically, I am starting there.
It will be hundreds of years before Japan and the West 'discover' each other, so Harry's Caucasian features - being so very different to Chinese or Korean - are considered inhuman rather than foreign.
Translations, as accurate as my research can manage:
(Why do I use Japanese words at all? I can't emphasise enough how big a cultural and language gap there is between Taro and 'the boy'. To help us as readers, I tried to pepper his thoughts with 'authentic' notions and sounds. I have no idea how sophisticated the vocabulary and education of these people would be (in my culture? Not very. In an Asian one? Not sure.), so please forgive and educate me if you spot some words or concepts that are too unrealistic or incorrectly used.)
shimaihagi - an ancient type of flat-bottomed boat intended for close-by sea fishing. They can be varying sizes and tend to have one very long 'oar' (ro) at the back which provides forward momentum.
kajiki maguro - swordfish
Kujira - whale
Ebisu, Ryūjin, Suijin: Gods of Fishermen/Ocean/Water, respectively. I don't know if they were all around at the same time, but near as I can tell the 'main' one (and one of the only purely-Japanese gods) that Yamamoto would normally pay respect to would be Ebisu.
Wakame - green, edible seaweed.
Umibōzu - a sort of sea spirit of variable origin who would either capsize boats or drown anyone who spoke to it.
Kitsune - fox spirit, pretty infamous for shapeshifting, magic and trickery although there are a lot of positive interpretations too.
Mora - (as far as I can tell) equivalent to 'syllable'.
Tousan - Father (informal/familiar)