Chapter 8: The Words Between the Lines
It had started raining again as the iron vessel that carried Irra troops, casted its shadow over the town and brought with its inquisitive platoon, the attention of the town’s neighbors. Many caravans had rolled in as the ship landed on the outskirts of town, and the people who were once happy to have whatever visitors they could get, shrunk as they poured in. With each new face was a lyril they could add to their pockets, but few people were willing to do business, and less than that was willing to see sympathetic faces. Meanwhile, Sakuya and the others could only silently walk away, as they were led to the Irra ship, and saw the sad faces that their exploits had failed to prevent. It was a day of victory, one of the troops had said before he let them aboard, but the looks they traded amongst themselves said otherwise, and said it loudly as children left without parents were led onto the ship as well. With a powerful sweep, the vessel’s propellers began to turn, and called Sakuya to the bay’s window as it jerked into the air. Below, Tasou was becoming more and more of a blur, but despite how much it escaped her vision, her regret didn’t fade away.
“Did I really save them?” Sakuya asked as Lloyd walked over and placed his hand on her shoulder. “I fought as hard as I could, and with Takeshi help I even defeated the man leading the charge, but did I really save them?” She asked again, as she turned to look back at him and saw the sad young girl whose life was forced to change.
“Of course you did.” Lloyd replied, drawing her eyes toward him. “Had you not gone to that village, had you not fought, things would have been a lot worse.” He assured her and violently, Sakuya shook her head.
“But things could have been better!” She exclaimed and the scholar winced in unintentional defeat. “If I had just thought things through then things would have been a lot better. All I had to do was go to the mayor and have him call the Court of Irra.” She murmured and Lloyd shook his head.
“But there’s no real reason he’d believe you. I doubt he knew that the Town Stealer attacked outside of the Geura - Bastion border.” Lloyd pleaded and again Sakuya violently shook her head.
“If I showed him my Irra badge he would have. It's a symbol of The Court's trust for me, a sign that I’m an outstanding individual. If I had just shown him my badge then…” She slammed her fist against the window, and cast her eyes upon the swooshing sea of green below.
“I’m… sorry.” Lloyd murmured, unable to think of anything else to cheer her up.
“If I hadn’t gotten attached, then this wouldn’t have happened.” She said as once more she turned to the scholar, and saw the fragile girl who sat in a cold world of her own.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“When I saw that little girl I saw myself. I saw a younger me, sitting and smiling happily with my parents as I inquisitively looked around, and when I saw that, I knew I needed to protect her, not just from the town stealer but from…” Sakuya stopped as the words she was about to mutter froze in her throat.
“From?” Lloyd questioned, and as she looked into his eyes, she wonder if she could answer.
“Herself…” Takeshi answered for her and again Sakuya turned away.
“When I was little I didn’t like to fight. My mom and dad taught me, but unlike my older brother, I didn’t want it to be my life. I didn’t want to be a bodyguard like my parents so while my brother got stronger, I was just a little girl who happened to know a slight degree.” The hands of the past twisted her as she began to recount a tale. “Then, one day while we were on vacation in Geura it happened. An assassin had been sent to kill my parents after my father thwarted a man’s attempt to erase his business partner repeatedly. It was a game for those assassins, but my parents stood victorious all until one spotted their weakness and wrapped their arms around my neck.” The hands of the past grasps Sakuya’s neck as she saw her past in the sea of green.
“Then your parents…” Lloyd gasped.
“They died because of me…” Sakuya murmured and Lloyd saw the picture of likeness get painted with Sakuya and Jasmine at its center. “If I had been like my older brother, than even if it was an assassin from that group, I could have at least escaped and given my parents a chance to fight, but instead I could only cry as they were forced to put their weapons down and the man from that group took their lives…” Finally, the hands of the past let go, but left their tight imprint on the body of her life.
“That group?” Lloyd tried to stay on topic, but failed at the might of scholar’s obligation.
“The Sullied Hand…” Sakuya response was cold and sharp as she gave her answer and Lloyd’s eyes widened. “After they passed Aeriane’s father took me and my brother in, and more than ever I tried to become stronger, not to be a bodyguard, but to stop them.” She went on, no longer in the grasp of the past, but the grasp of something else. “I suppose my actions in Tasou tell me why my brother received a recommendation but not myself.” She surmised and Lloyd patted her back.
“I don’t think that’s it at all Sakuya. You are perhaps still new to the leader position if your brother joined the court recently, so even if it’s only a painful victory I think you should accept and use it to grow as a leader.” He said and Sakuya looked at him, saw the sincerity in his eyes and shook her head.
“You’re right.” She smiled sheepishly and Lloyd smiled as well, happy that even he could do something. “Then I must reinforce my position, Lloyd, I would like to know more about your assignment and why it led to information about the town stealer.” Her expression hardened and Lloyd shook his head.
“It was supposed to be a simple research assignment. My mentor had asked me to look of information about magic metals so that he could have a weapon crafted from him and it was then that I began to notice something. I wasn’t sure where to start, so I figured I’d do research on well-known magical weapons. It was merely supposed to be that, read about the weapons and find out where people suspected the metals came from, and as I read more and more about those towns and villages, I realized a similarity. The names had eluded me at first, but one day it struck me, they were the villages that the Town Stealer had attacked.”
“Then the Town Stealer wasn’t just attacking to get cargo but to also find those metals?” Takeshi asked and Lloyd nodded with slight confidence.
“That’s important information, but I don’t get it. Why come to the court in Hokutaga and not the one where you lived.” Sakuya asked and Lloyd lowered his head.
“That’s where our story began. When I went there, I had told the person in charge what I found out and peculiarly they told me to tell my mentor. When I explained everything he asked me what I was going to do, and when I told him I was going to tell the Court of Irra, he turned a gun on me. One of the maids in his estate whom I had been dating came to my aid, knocking the gun aside before he could shoot me, and giving me a chance to escape, but after that, those assassins came after me.”
“Why, do you think he was in business with The Town Stealer?” Takeshi asked and Lloyd shook his head.
“I’m sure he’s not. He was born into a very wealthy family who owns a very lucrative business, so he wouldn’t need to do dealings with such a person, but in entirety, I’m not sure.” He elaborated.
“Well I can guess the Irra captain there was in leagues with your mentor, but I don’t understand why you came as far as Hokutaga.” Sakuya replied.
“I had to get far, far enough that my mentor’s eyes couldn’t see me, and Hokutaga is the only place that his business has no headquarters.” He answered and his bodyguards traded looks.
“It leaves you wondering why a man who has no business with the Town Stealer is so protective of his path.” Takeshi murmured.
“Why not just go there now instead stopping at our next stop?” Sakuya asked.
“Because I was too hasty, I have to finish my research before I can turn it over to The Court of Irra. Not just to stop the Town Stealer, but to stop whatever my mentor is up to.” He explained and finally Sakuya nodded.
“There are still a lot of questions I have but I guess I can’t turn to you for the answer. No matter what, we’ll get you to the court of Irra.” She said, and as a bell began to ring, Lloyd pulled a pocket watch out of his pocket.
“I do hope so.” He murmured as he stared ominously into it...