Legend of the Jumi: Part III, Chapter 3 (Pearl Version)
by The Mana Priestess
PART III: PEARL (Pearl Version)
Dedicated to StarDragon. ;)
Chapter 3: Earth Painting: Glowing Blossoms
The month of May burst into scent and
flower with intense verve and hue. The earth painted herself like a vain woman,
girdling herself with multitude of sunny blossoms; and she danced with the soft
yellow of buttercups embroidering the green meadows of her dress, the starry
brightness of daisies shining in her eyes, the blood-red poppies staining her
lips, and the dark, fiery orange of sky-reaching sunflowers ornamenting her
head, boasting her beauty to the blue, watchful sky.
The figure of a young woman, twenty-five
years of age or so, stood inside this warm splash of color, her bright eyes
watching the azure flame of the skies over-arching the valley. She stood very
quietly, as if she was lost in a momentary meditation, and the soft breeze
played with the gold-trimmed edges of her knee-high, green dress. Her gloved
hand clenched momentarily, as if she was deliberating upon something; a
decision, perhaps, that she was unsure of. But then her fingers relaxed and a
faint smile played about her red mouth, as if she was reminiscing upon something
that she found particularly pleasing or particularly amusing. She passed her
hand over her hair, smoothing it into place, fixing the shortish chestnut
strands around her cheeks in a careless gesture. Finally, she spoke.
"I am sorry, Elazul," she said. "I would
like to see you again, but I have my own purposes to think of; and I cannot have
you intruding into them with your incessant questioning, your intrusive
evaluations and criticism; intrusive because they almost always ring true, and
make me too aware of what I don't like looking at in myself. They tell me that
you found peace at last. Let me do you this small favor, then, in repayment for
all the trouble that I caused you. Let me not disturb your repose for a little
She turned her head and
something flashed into her vision, like a calling sign, a summon; the orange
fire of a cluster of flowers growing near the side of the road. Then she
laughed, a merry sound that flowed through the hot spring air.
"You are vain, little flowers," she
said. "As vain as I! You shall be a fitting trademark for me, pretty ones."
She bent and plucked two particularly
large and glowing blossoms, and trimmed them of their broad, silky leaves. Then
she pinned the blossoms in her hair, one over each ear, securing them into the
thin tiara encircling her head.
she said, straightening. "We're all set now for our next conquest."
She cast a final, fleeting look towards
the dark form of the town nestled inside the green valley.
"And when we meet again, Elazul," she
said, "beware of the troublesome Sandra!"
The sun sunk a little in the thick
blue skies as afternoon approached, and the town was hushed a little, perhaps
because the heat became oppressive and suffocating that moment in the middle of
May. It was a day that smelled of the oncoming summer, hot and heavy and sleepy,
a day that made everyone's blood flow a little slower, turned even the most
practical of people into lethargic, silent dreamers.
The thin figure of a man was sitting
inside a small, shaded bar, hunched in the deeper shadows in the corner, perhaps
to escape the burning heat. The man was slightly bent over his drink, the hood
of his white cloak pulled over his head. Though his bony fingers were clutched
around his tall glass, he rarely seemed to partake of the drink; from inside the
shadows of his hood, strangely pale eyes watched the ongoing in the bar.
There were few other customers in the
bar that day; the only others besides the white-cloaked man being four men who
had been drinking steadily for some time, in an apparent comradie. The
barkeeper, a middle-aged man, stood at the counter arranging his bottles. He
glanced at his customers occasionally with seeming disapproval, but did not
address them directly, and upon their request for another bottle he obeyed,
setting it on the table silently and immediately returning to his occupation
behind the counter.
The drinks were
apparently beginning to have an effect on the men, and they spoke louder now, in
what seemed a budding argument.
telling you," said one, slapping his palm down on the table, "that it WAS her.
It was Sandra, I say. Green dress and orange flowers in her hair and everything.
So don't you suggest that I was drunk at the time."
His heated declaration was greeted with
"Don't make me laugh."
"Yeah. Few people actually seen the sly
little bitch, you know."
claim they did, of course."
turning red, gestured towards the bartender.
"He'll affirm it, I say!" he said, his
voice becoming louder. "He saw her once. Didn't you, bartender? You saw Sandra,
the jewel-thief, two weeks ago around the town."
The barkeeper glanced over his shoulder,
pausing for a moment in his arrangement of the glasses on the shelves; but any
reply that he might have prepared was cut off by the door pushing open.
The newly-arrived customer was an
uncommonly handsome young man with dark hair. He was clad in what seemed to be
his work clothes, plain grey and stained with sooty marks of fireside labor; and
though he cleaned his face and hands, he was obviously coming directly from his
work. The four men at the table paused in their conversation and watched him as
he walked towards the counter, with what seemed to be an unfriendly silence.
Deprived of their argument for a moment, they proceeded to drain the bottle
given to them by the bartender. The figure at the corner table watched the young
man as well.
The young man paid no
attention to any of them. He reached the counter and, addressing the bartender,
requested two bottles of beer.
barkeeper regarded the young man with an expression far friendlier than he
showed any of his present customers. "Nothing for you?" he asked
The young man responded
with a slight smile. "No, thank you. My employer sent me on a a little mission,
a break from work, so to speak."
bartender nodded. "I already know the type that he particularly likes. Hold on;
I'll fetch it from the cellar."
was a short silence after the bartender departed through a side-door. Then one
of the four men at the table spoke. "Hey, I know why you looked familiar. It's
the new smithy-boy."
"Of course it is,"
another man said, a smile, not particularly pleasant, curling his mouth. "Didn't
you recognize the pretty face of the new smithy's boy?"
The young man glanced over his shoulder
briefly, but he said nothing in response, and the gaze he flickered towards the
men was uninterested.
"Nothing for the
smithy's boy, I see," said another man.
The men, as in agreement, now joined the
parade of taunts.
"The smithy's boy
"Too good for drinking,
or not man enough?"
"With that pretty
face of his, I'm surprised his father didn't think that he was a girl."
"He must have, and so he forbade him to
The young man's shoulders seemed
to hunch a little, his mouth became somewhat grim. But he kept his eyes on the
The bartender had returned by
now, and he heard the last few remarks. A slight frown creased his brow, and his
eye flickered towards the young man. But he said nothing, and he set the two
bottles on the counter.
"There you go,"
he said. "Are you sure you don't want anything yourself?"
Before the young man could reply, one of
the men at the table called out, "Of course he won't! I forbid him from having a
drink, like his daddy said."
right," the young man said calmly, in response to the barkeeper's look. "I don't
care about the opinion of some drunken idiots."
"Drunken idiots, he says," echoed one of
the men with an unpleasant tone.
four men rose to their feet now.
he thinks himself too good to talk to us," said one.
"Hey, smithy's boy. You think you're too
"We're not the ones taking care
of some strange woman," put one of the men in.
"Oh yeah," said another, with a sneer.
"Isn't he the one taking care of that crazy girl?"
"One who talks to spirits."
"Yeah; just last week, I saw her walking
in the town square, talking to spirits."
"Hey, smithy's boy, why don't you take
better care of your woman?"
wander around town like that."
the crazy woman's lover, or just her nursemaid?"
"You know," the young man said to the
bartender, "I'd like to have a drink after all."
The bartender glanced at him uneasily,
noticing the grim look in the young man's eyes; but he obeyed without comment,
filling a glass and handing it to the young man.
The four men, meanwhile, advanced
towards the counter and stood in a close semi-circle around the young man.
"He's not taking good enough care of his
woman," said one.
"So she's looking for
other forms of consolation," put in another.
"Hey, smithy's boy, tell your pretty
woman that I'm ready and willing, if she's looking for a real man, instead of a
"Tell her I'll be there
tonight," put in the first man. The other men laughed.
The young man turned around slowly,
finally facing the men. He was holding the glass in his hand.
"Don't worry," he said. "I'll take care
Before the men could respond, he
leapt forward all at once, dashing the drink in his hand into the face of one of
the men. The man fell back, trying to wipe the stinging alcohol out of his eyes,
but the young man's fist, landing a powerful blow just beneath his jaw, sent him
reeling backwards into the table behind him. The table overturned, crashing to
the ground with the man.
The young man
had already turned towards the second man. He ducked, avoiding a punch, and
crashed his fist into the man's midsection, just below the heart. The man
doubled over, deprived of breath, and was knocked to the floor with a swift
The two remaining men, acting in
unison, attempted to catch the young man between them; but they had just
consumed a vast amount of alcohol, and their opponent was in much better
possession of his senses and balance. He managed to avoid them quite easily and
immediately turned and punched one of the man squarely in the face. The man
retreated, crying out, and covered his bloody nose with one hand. The young man
delivered a a hard kick to the man's knee, causing him to lose his balance. He
The last man was the one
who told Elazul he would visit Pearl on that night. He showed Elazul the knife
in his hand.
"Not so fast, pretty boy,"
he said. "I'll make you less pretty yet, if you come any closer."
The young man made no response, but
advanced. The man retreated and then, with a cry, leapt at the young man.
Eyes flashing coldly, the young man
brought his other hand around, the hand still holding the wine glass, and drove
it into the side of the man's head. The glass broke, sharp edges tearing at the
man's skin. Blood streamed down, and the man screamed, the grip on his knife
slackening. The young man caught it. Then his arm shot out and he closed his
fingers around the man's neck.
hands tore at his neck, and he gagged, suffocating because of the iron grip
locked around his neck. Blood streamed from the cuts on his forehead, dripping
onto the young man's hand, staining the grey sleeve red. The young man, smiling
grimly, tightened his fingers a little.
"Now, listen you all," he said,
retaining the deadly grip on the man's neck, and speaking quietly above the
man's choked gasps. "If I see any of you anywhere near my house— anywhere near
HER— I'll kill you all, one by one."
released the man. The man fell to the ground, reeling and gulping air, his hands
around his neck, where the red marks of fingers could be seen. The young man
straightened, surveying the four men. They were slowly rising to their feet,
eyeing him with hostility.
thirsting for more?" asked the young man, the slight smile still bending his
The men glanced at each other,
but made no answer. The young man threw the knife in his hand to the floor, at
the feet of its owner, with a contemptuous gesture.
"You're right about one thing," he said.
"I not am very much like my father. His punishment for your stupid insults would
have been much less pleasant than mine. Now, get out of here."
He turned his back to the men, and leant
against the counter again. The bartender, who had observed the scene in silence,
marked that the smile had vanished from the young man's lips, and that the grim
look returned to his eyes. The men avoided looking at each other; one by one,
they filed and straggled out of the bar, nursing their various injuries. The
figure in the corner watched them as they passed by, a mirthless smile pulling
its thin lips.
The young man's face was
still lowered over the counter, when the bartender's voice sounded. "Very
protective of her, are you?"
"It's all right," said the man
kindly. "They got what they deserved, in my opinion. They should be doing
something else than sit here and make stupid arguments like whether they saw
that jewel-thief." He indicated the young man's sleeve with his finger. "You
would probably want this washed," he told him.
The young man looked at his bloodstained
fingers and sleeve edge, but said nothing for a moment. The barkeeper handed him
a clean towel, dipping it in water first. The young man cleaned his hands of the
blood. Then he turned around. "Thanks," he said flatly, his voice tired. "But
all I did is cause a mess in here." He straightened the overturned table and
chairs, then picked the two bottles, and after thanking the barkeeper again
begun to make his way towards the door; but then the man's voice, speaking
musingly, reached his ear. "I wonder, though, whether Sandra was really here a
few days ago. I saw her once, you know."
At this, the young man's aspect
underwent a sudden change. His paused in his tracks, then swerved around sharply
and, with three wide steps, he was near the bartender again, his blue eyes
searching intently, a troubled light in them. "Sandra," he said. "You said you
saw a woman named Sandra?"
nodded. "Yes, her name is Sandra."
did you see her?" The question was quick. "What did she look like?"
The bartender seemed surprised,
narrowing his eyes. "Well, I'll tell you," he answered. "But first settle down
and have something to drink. I really do think you need it. You sadly wasted the
The young man straightened,
seeming to flush a little, and said, "Yes, please tell me. I need to... to know
what she looked like." He obeyed the bartender, settling himself in a nearby
chair. He looked down, fingers clutched on his knee tensely, but he listened
with attention as the bartender took a glass and begun to polish it, and in the
process spoke with a meditative tone.
"Well, Sandra is, if you don't know, the
partner of the famous bandit-leader, the Fox. Seems like she saved his life
once, a few years ago, and then she joined his crew and become one of them
herself. It's strange, for they say she actually used to be a nun— nun at the
great shrine— I suppose this explains how she saved the life of the Fox. But she
became as good as any of them, even better. They say she and the Fox are
lovers—" at this the young man looked quickly up, but he did not seem surprised,
and he made no comment. "I'm not quite sure if that's true, however."
"I saw her a few weeks ago," the
bartender continued, uncorking the wine bottle and pouring a little of the ruby
liquid into the polished glass. "Just for a moment, which is more than others
can claim, for she comes and goes as quickly as light. She was a good-looking
woman—very fetching, with pretty features, white skin and chestnut hair. She
wore a green dress, and what a fine figure she had; rather taller than the
average woman, and very slender and trim." He rounded the counter and came over
to the young man's table, settling the drink in front of him. The young man took
it without comment, but drank nothing, listening instead with his fingers
clutching around the stem of the glass.
"Her eyes," he prompted. "What color
were her eyes?"
The bartender was
thoughtful, straining his memory. "They were dark," he finally answered. "But
I've seen her for such a fleeting moment, I'm not quite sure."
The young man maintained his silence,
and the barkeeper continued. "There are many stories about Sandra. Some time ago
she and Fox embarked upon some pretty crazy exploits that made Sandra instantly
famous. The most notorious of them is that one in which Sandra arranged to rob
Kristie's Palace of Arts in the university out of its entire stock of antiques.
When morning came Kristie's servants found almost nothing in the palace except a
few statues; how the thieves managed to get beyond the complex security system
is anyone's guess. Kristie, of course, raised a huge racket about it, for even
though most of her items are so exclusive and famous that most people would have
had a hard time selling them on the market, she was still pretty upset, as you
may guess. But on the very next morning she found all her stock back in the
palace, with a note inscribed as following: "Dear Madam: this was done as a bet
between Fox and myself, and everything is returned to the last item. If you need
anything, just call me. No hard feelings!" Sighed by Sandra. From that day on
Sandra and Kristie became friends, and they work according to a kind of a mutual
bargain to aid each other. Sandra brings to Kristie any antiques and rare
commodities she finds in her exploits, and Kristie's servants are always at
Sandra's disposal if she needs any special work to be done." The barkeeper
chuckled. "After this one, there's almost nobody who doesn't know about Sandra.
But there's plenty of new rumors about her lately; rumors that have to do with
The young man looked up.
"What?" he asked, rather sharply. "What are they saying?"
The barkeeper shrugged, his brow
creasing. "Well, I'm not sure. But Sandra's name had been somehow linked to the
Jumi, as if she's been looking for Jumi herself. They say that she's looking for
a special jewel, the most bright and beautiful jewel; what else may they mean
besides a Jumi core?"
The young man
said, a little unsteadily, "They... they are saying that Sandra is looking for a
Jumi core? But that's..."
He halted just
in time, averting his eyes quickly before the barkeeper's look of surprised
inquiry, and the expression in his downturned countenance was a mixture of
simmering, unspoken feelings. After a brief pause he suddenly rose to his feet.
"Thank you," he said abruptly, "for all your help. This is all I wished to
know." He turned around and made way towards the door.
After the young man left the bar, the
white-cloaked figure sitting in the corner rose to its feet and approached the
bartender. It lay a few coins on the counter and said, in a peculiarly
unpleasant, soft voice: "Bartender. Does this young man know Sandra?"
The bartender looked the figure over,
his eyebrows coming together. "I'm not sure. He never spoke of her before, but
he does seem to take an uncommon interest in her. Why are you asking this?"
"No reason," answered the figure, its
bloodless lips curling into a thin smile. "It's just that Sandra is an...
acquaintance of mine, so to speak. And I take a great interest in her
The bartender stared at the
man; but before he had a chance to reply, the figure turned around and left the
Pearl drifted inside the hot May
evening, wading gently through the wafting heat trapped between the houses,
inside the warm blue shadows. The heat swallowed all voices, and the orange of
the lanterns hung at door-posts burned without noise. The woman's long hair lost
its color, turning as blue as the shadows of the town, and in her white gown she
looked like an ethereal phantasm, moving inside a rippling haze that blurred her
world until forms had no meaning for her.
She walked in a hazy dream, saw and
perceived nothing around her; all she could see was the vision of the bright
forms beckoning to her from a distance, burning like white flames inside the
empty blue world, leading her towards her destiny, their silent fire promising
her truth, an answer, an end to the uncertain mist of her existence.
Something held her now, arrested her.
She halted gently, like flowing water, unresisting. There was a whisper of
voices around her, and the burning forms in the distance wavered suddenly, like
streams of white fire on a curtain of blue flame. The whispers intensified,
consolidated into one word...
Pearl... Pearl... Pearl.
She now perceived the hazy shadows
crawling around her, glowing faintly through the blue fire, but they were grey
and unsubstantial and lacked meaning for her. She continued on, drifting past
But then she noticed that the
bright forms in the distance had vanished. She could no longer see them. And the
heat sunk slowly around her, engulfing her.
The world turned dark, and Pearl was
left empty and alone. She slid to her knees, shuddering. The mist intensified,
the grey forms consolidated around her in the sweltering heat, sought her with
Pearl covered her face
with her hands.
"Stop," she said. "Stop
following me! Stop telling me your stories of death. Leave me alone!"
She combed her trembling fingers
frantically through her long hair, down her face.
"I do not wish to remember," she
whispered. "I do not wish to know."
was sitting thus for what seemed a long time, the slow, humid night streaming
around her. Then a hand touched her arm, a firm grasp, a living touch, and a
voice spoke her name, asked her a question; but the words seemed blurred,
indistinct. She shook a little but said nothing.
The voice spoke again; but she remained
sitting, not responding. Then she sensed that someone was near her, kneeling at
her side, peering into her face. She raised her eyes, and the figure seemed a
faint shadow inside the blue night, and she could see nothing beyond.
"Please leave me alone," she said.
"Leave me alone. I do not know who you are."
But the figure uttered her name again,
and its fingers touched her face; and then it seemed like a curtain of haze tore
before her eyes, and she could see distinct forms again. And then she knew that
it was the young knight that had once rescued her, who had known her in the past
she could not, was afraid to recall; and she leant forward, her forehead
touching his shoulder, seeking the only support she had ever known, seeking that
reassuring, living touch and presence. His arms encircled her, and he said,
"Pearl, you must not leave the house like this anymore. You promised me."
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I... I
She recalled his name now:
Elazul. She kept forgetting it, then recalling it, then forgetting it again...
like she did everything else. But every time she felt lost, every time she
forgot, he always came and found her, and reminded her of the living world
And as she rose to her feet and
followed him though the warm, quiet streets of the town, Pearl sensed a great
dread overcoming her. She suddenly feared, she knew not why, that one day he
would forget her as she forgot him; that he would forget to return her to the
world, and then she'll be left to wander amid the grey phantasms, seeking the
ever-retreating, silent white forms that called to her, seeking futilely until
she became one of the grey phantasms herself.
"I won't let you leave me," she
whispered. "You can never leave me. I won't let you ever leave me, Elazul."
Another memory visited Elazul, a
memory flooded with light.
He had taken
Pearl to the woods on that day, and they walked through the soft sunlight,
inside the green spring, inside a forest full of drifting leaves and dotted with
a million tiny white flowers like stars descended to earth. There was a large
lake in the middle of the forest, whose waters were a profound, clear, beautiful
violet; and the waters reflected the trees and the sky, looking like a living
painting drawn in liquid colors upon glass.
Pearl had been fascinated by this
vision, and Elazul watched her as she sat at the side of the lake, her own white
form joining the picture inside the violet waters. For a moment she became part
of that dreamlike world, herself a creature of the forest, her golden hair a
ripple of sunlight, her gown a multitude of drifting white flowers, her form
shimmering and merging into the green and violet and white of the forest. It was
a beautiful vision, a peaceful image amid the chaos of his life.
And somehow Elazul knew that, with the
mention of Sandra's name, the repose had been abruptly cut short, the liquid
painting upon the glass shattered with a brutal blow.
As quickly as it begun, his brief
interim of peace has ended.
Comment: Yes, I couldn't resist writing up the dead-common stereotyped
situation, "silent and stern handsome young man punishes punks". Well, a least
Elazul's character fitted it well.
"Earth Painting" is the memorable Jungle music. For some reason I always
associated it with Sandra, even though she NEVER showed up in the Jungle. Must
be because the tune is very upbeat, and because the Jungle is so green.
I think everyone should recognize Lake Kilma...
Someone mentioned the impression given of the Jumi city and its particular
atmosphere. I was really trying to create a little of the haunting feeling of
the Jumi city theme, "Sparkling City of Ruin", though I probably made it more
sinister, while the melody was actually very melancholy, lyrical and nostalgic.
I suppose that it's because the city serves a different function in this story.
In a way, I suppose I can say that it becomes almost a character of its own; so
its jewels are like eyes that 'follow' and 'judge' Elazul; it kills its own
denizens, the Jumi, at the same time that it protects them; and it even changes
Alexandra against her will. A city as 'a character' is always an interesting
aspect of a story; for example, Tiphares and the slums in the manga 'Battle
Angel Alita', or Midgar and the slums of FF7; these cities are almost like
characters on their own, and thus very memorable in their particular stories. I
was not trying to consciously create a character in the city, but the Jumi city
had so much potential, with its particular setup and the story of the race
inhibiting it, that I think that it was inevitable that it would turn out
seeming this way a little.
Now that you know this, take this poll: Themes in LoJ.