Legend of the Jumi: Part III, Chapter 4 (both P/S Version)
by The Mana Priestess

PART III: PEARL (both P/S versions)

Chapter 4: Earth Painting: Lucky Clover

      Snow was dreaming. In his dream, soft white snow fell, fresh new snow of spring, falling upon green meadows, covering them in a pure, bright blanket that grew thicker and deeper until the green beneath was completely concealed from view. And he reflected how beautiful the snow-covered earth is; it was no longer turbulent, the confused streams of energy that rippled across its dark surface in the hot summer air, that brought chaos and disorder, were chilled and deadened, and nothing remained of the world but that lovely, orderly stillness of snow. The cold air swirled around him, freezing him to the core of his being, and then he suddenly realized that the snow was suffocating all life below it, that it was covering it purely and evenly without care or remorse, concealing all life beneath, a life that may be chaotic and disorderly but that had a force and meaning in its movement, a dark fire that engendered feelings instead of killing them in order to still them.
      And then he saw three rubies lying in the snow, two black rubies and one red; and the two black rubies became two dark eyes, and the snow upon which they lay became the white face of a girl, and the green of the meadow burst through the snow and became the girl's hair, and a the third ruby, as red as fire, became the girl's mouth; but the mouth was closed, the black eyes stared at nothing, the face was as white as death. And he knew the girl was dead; and then he realized that the girl looked like Emeralda.
      Then the wind changed and beat upon him with sudden violence, and a storm rose up around him, a hurricane of snow that almost blinded him; and amidst the madly swirling flakes he could see the ghostly figure of the dead girl rising to her feet, a grey phantasm. The figure strode towards him slowly through the white air; but even as it became clearer in view, it begun to change from the familiar vision of the girl that he knew, to transform into a different creature. Her skin became even whiter, a delicate, frozen, crystalline hue; her hair whipped around her, her tresses growing long and wild, and it was drained of its living hue until it became a ghostly blue; and then she opened her eyes and they were a deep, crystal violet, and without pupils; and he knew that they were unseeing, yet all-seeing.

      Snow shot upright in his bed, breathing quickly and trembling violently, sweat trickling down his skin.
      The darkness around him was complete and for several moments he could not see anything. The brief switch from the perfect whiteness of his dream to this darkness confused him, and his hand quested for something, anything to hold onto as a reassurance of reality. It found a blanket wrapping him. He tried to fling it away from himself, but as soon as he did, the sweat on his body became cold, and he realized that the temperature of the air around him was very low; and he had to retrieve the blanket and wrap it around himself again the best that he could to protect himself.
      Something finally stirred in the darkness; and now Snow's eyes became used to it a little, and he recognized the faint square of a window just above him.
      The faint stirring recurred, and then a voice spoke, a familiar voice, in tones of concern:
      "Snow, are you all right? You startled me."
      "It's nothing," he answered immediately, feeling a little ashamed of the commotion he made over a mere dream. "Just a nightmare, Emeralda. Go back to sleep."
      "I think you better go to sleep as soon as you can," she said, her tones becoming the usual matter-of-fact manner that he had grown to know so well. "Tomorrow we have to take the final trail to the peak of the mountain, where the Crystal Garden is, and you'll need all the strength you can master."
      He could see her form, grey in outline in the faint moonlight flowing through the window, crouching besides his bedroll.
      "Yes, I know," he answered, trying to sound as calm as he could. "Like I said, it was just a nightmare. Go back to sleep, Emeralda."
      Instead of answering, she extended her hand and placed it on his forehead. He was too surprised to avoid it, but he felt himself flushing with embarrasement, and was grateful that the darkness concealed this reaction. "What is it?" he asked.
      "Just checking your temperature," she answered calmly. "I thought that perhaps you would be feverish again, after all this journey."
      "I am not a little boy, Emeralda," Snow said fretfully, both humiliated and grateful at her concerned gesture. "I left my parents to escape exactly this treatment, you know."
      "Well, you need taking care of," Emeralda replied, not at all perturbed at his tone. "But, you're not very feverish after all; perhaps just a little. So it's all right."
      She rose to her feet and turned. "Good night," she said, over her shoulder. "I'm going back to sleep."
      Snow watched the grey outline of her form retreat to its own corner of the little mountain cabin. He curled himself back into his own blankets, his eyes wide-open, fixed on the darkness. It was not the fever that troubled him; though he would not admit it, one sensation lingered from the dream. His core felt strangely cold.

      Emeralda shielded her eyes against the brightness of the sun upon the snow-beaten path. Thankfully, the progression of spring into summer showed its marks even up here in the lonely cliffs of the peak, and the trip up the mountain was no more difficult than she and Snow had expected it would be.
      Their three months at the university town had been enjoyable. They registered as students, and, having paid their quarterly due with jewels converted into currency, they looked forward to having a pleasant spring. Once every two weeks or so they took a trip to the seaside, a day or two travel away, to visit Sapphire; and even Snow was relieved of his initial apprehension about Sapphire when he and Emeralda perceived how well she integrated into the little community of the inn. Emeralda herself, when her mind was not preoccupied with her new and rigorous course of study, sometimes missed her parents and three older sisters; but she knew that Snow, and especially Sapphire, were immeasurably happier in their current situation than they had been in the city, and she hoped that the search for them would be either not too industrious or unsuccessful. Since she knew that their families would never let them go silently, despite the letters of reassurance she sent to the city, she only hoped that the date of their finding would be delayed as much as possible.
      The trip to the mountain had been a long time in planning, and Snow and Emeralda took advantage of a two week break to finally embark upon it. They have been four days on the trail, and would be four days in returning. Emeralda was surprised to find herself enjoying their trip greatly. She took delight, at the lower altitudes, in the vision of the mountainside awakening into the warmth of spring, with hundreds of tiny flowers like drops of snow winking amid the verdant slopes. But the weather became bitter as they ascended, and they left the last habitation behind them many hours ago. The air turned pungent with frost in the vicinity of the peak, and she was thankful for her heavy coat and the scarf she could wrap around her face to shield it from the harsh winds.
      She did not dream of complaining. Snow was the one who ought have complained, and he did not; he closed his lips stubbornly and plowed on in the cruel weather, only turning petulant when she tried to express doubts about his ability to withstand it, or misgivings about his condition. He was especially crabby and difficult today about this matter; ashamed, she guessed, for his weakness of last night. But he also seemed strangely abstract at the same time, and made little conversation, his eyes fixed on the azure skies above the peak which they both toiled to reach. She did not hold it against him, because she knew that he was feeling perturbed at the prospect of finally meeting Crystalle, the Snow-faerie that froze his core when he was a small child; and she also guessed that he was perhaps mulling over last night's nightmare, which she was sure had to do with Crystalle. She therefore refrained from addressing him unnecessarily, and only uttered practical comments and suggestions regarding the direction of the trail itself.
      Snow knew this, and he was grateful for Emeralda's exemplary patience with him, grateful that she understood him so well and tolerated his weaknesses with such composure. I wonder if I even deserve such treatment from her, he reflected. But this is why I like Emeralda so much; she knows when to be patient with me, and when to be impatient, just as I deserve, and to never be too much of either.
      But how can I explain to her, Snow thought, his eyes simmering with a restless, dark fever, how can I explain to Emeralda why I felt such fear at the dream, how I felt such dread at the near vicinity of Crystalle? How can I tell her that I felt, and still feel, my core responding to her nearness, to her almost-tangible presence? How can I explain that what I fear the most is that I am wrong, and that Crystalle was not good and beneficial to me in that action of freezing the black ruby into an ice crystal; but that, instead, that my parents were right, and that Crystalle was a wayward, amoral creature, a fey creature that cared not about the evil she inflicted; that she indeed cursed me out of pure mischief, like any faerie; and that, because she is this way, I have entangled her, Emeralda, in my own stupid, naive need to find the truth, and led her into a deadly trap, into the hands of an evil creature?
      A panic seized him, and he suddenly halted in his track, ceased his incessant, weary battle against the cold atmosphere that threatened to freeze his body into submission, threatened to foil his determined mission— or perhaps determined to send a warning, stop him before it's too late, with its premonition of a cruel, icy hand. I must go back, he thought frantically, escape before it's too late, and take Emeralda with me, before something evil befalls her as well.
      But then he felt a warm touch of fingers curling around his own. Emeralda, holding his hand, pointed with her other hand upwards into the vast blue sky.
      "Look, Snow!" she said, sounding genuinely excited. "We made it. We finally reached the gates of the Crystal Garden!"

      Like lucid ice, like crystalline jewels, the gates glittered in the strong sun of high noon. The two young Jumi stood before it in awe, arrested by the glimpse of the crystal garden spreading beyond it, a vast array of clear ice carved into delicate figurines in the semblance of trees and flowers, arrested into their form by the deep, eternal chill of the mountain's peak. But the gates were locked to visitors, barred not by their own delicate physical substance but by a strong barrier of faerie runes. Emeralda, placing her fingers on the silvery handles, withdrew them at once.
      "It's so cold it burns!" she exclaimed, blowing warm breath on her aching fingertips. "I don't think we can pass, Snow."
      Snow, peering intently into the garden, made a gesture of resignation with his hand, and turned towards Emeralda. "Well, then, we have nothing more to do here," he said abruptly. "Let's go, Emeralda."
      Even as he spoke, he already turned towards the downsloping path; but Emeralda did not move. Snow, throwing a quick glance over his shoulder, paused and stood with his back to her. Even with his back turned he knew that she was gazing at him with that direct, searching look of hers, that she used when people did something that she disliked or disapproved of. But the question she asked of him was spoken in an even tone, one that neither condemned nor approved.
      "Are you sure, Snow?"
      "Yes," he answered rigidly, without turning around, so she would not see his perturbed expression. "I don't think that we can enter, and I don't want to find out what they do to intruders."
      For a moment, Emeralda made no answer; and Snow waited to see what she'll say. Does she understand his fear, did she perceive it, and does she think him a coward for it? But I don't care, he thought, setting his teeth stubbornly though he flushed with shame at the same time. I have decided that I won't put her into this danger; and this is the perfect way to do it.
      Then Emeralda advanced and, rounding him, came to stand directly before him. He looked down, avoiding her eyes; but he had already caught a glimpse of her face, and could see that she was serious, but also that her expression was not the disapproving or inquiring one that he expected to see.
      "It's all right, Snow," she said, with a quiet voice. "I'm scared too, you see. It's all right to be afraid."
      He said nothing, his eyes on the white ground before him. Emeralda reached out with her hand and laced her fingers around his cold hand. "And yet," she added, with a peculiarly gravity, an almost solemn voice, "at the same time I feel a sense of... of excitement, I suppose, at this new venture we are about to face. It's all right to be afraid of this feeling. Without doing something new and unknown, Snow, we'll all just freeze in place and stall, and then life would be extremely stale. This is why I like to study, and discover new things; but it's all the same to me, if the exploration is mental or physical. I've never been to a real adventure, and I know you haven't been either. But you're about to find out the truth about yourself, Snow. You shouldn't be afraid of it."
      Snow finally looked up, and Emeralda, gazing into his face, could see that he was not watching her. He was looking beyond her shoulder, his eyes fixed on something, as if entranced. She turned her head in search of what he was looking at.
      The crystal gate had swung open, and just beyond it, in the middle of the garden courtyard, stood Crystalle the faerie.

      Snow immediately recognized her from his dream. Human-like, she was yet not quite human. She was swathed in pale, gauzy clothes, silvery and white and mist-grey; her long hair floated around her face like drifting blue mist, hundreds of tiny crystals shining across it, making it seem as if it was covered in a net of shimmering raindrops. Her face was delicate, the skin as pale as death, and the large eyes were as rich and as dark as the heart of the ocean. Her body floated a little above the frozen ground with the power of her magic, sheltering her bare feet.
      There was only one difference between the Crystalle of Snow's dream and the Crystalle that now stood before him; a tiny difference, but it seemed to tear the curtain of the dream apart from the reality. Crystalle had pupils, like any human person; Crystalle could see. And the violet eyes saw right through Snow, right into his soul, into his white core, and they glimpsed the black flame that burned inside, smothered beneath the frozen whiteness, but still potent, still destructive.
      And Crystalle spoke to Snow; not with words, but into his mind, her words a gentle, cool, rippling stream.
      "So you came back, Black Ruby; came back to discover the truth."
      Snow went down on one knee and bowed his head, feeling it was the proper gesture before this majestic and beautiful faerie. Besides him, Emeralda, silent but listening, followed suit.
      "Yes, Lady Crystalle," he answered. "I wish to know the truth about my core."
      "Very well," she answered. "But beware; the truth isn't always what we think it may be. Like the little Emerald at your side told you, you are about to hear something new, something that you are afraid of, and may rightly be so."
      "It's true that I'm afraid of the truth, Lady Crystalle," Snow answered. "Just like Emeralda said; but I cannot live with the false story. I need to know what my fate will be. Lady Crystalle, all my life I heard one story about my past, that my parents told me, and the rest of the Jumi believed; that you cursed me. And I refused to believe it, and created my own story, and said that you blessed me, saved my life. But I don't know which story is true; it could be that both of them are false. I must know the true story, whatever it may be, instead of living in a fabricated past."
      "Well said," answered the Snow-faerie. "Listen well, Jumi of the Black Ruby, to my reason of freezing your core.
      "The Jumi no longer recall it, because the last Black Ruby had existed before any currently living Jumi had been born; but I've lived on this earth for thousands of years, and I can still recall what a Black Ruby was like who could not control the cruel, dark fire of his black jewel.
      "When your parents brought you I could instantly see that your core was damaged, and that its fire was burning out of control. But I could also tell that you could have survived the onslaught of the Ruby fire; physically, you would have survived the fever and lived. But you may have not withstood the mental ravages it could have inflicted on you.
      "A Black Ruby, even when it's whole and perfect, has special energies that require a great exercise of mental will. The last Black Ruby, ancestor of your family, was a honorable man who used his great powers for good intentions. He was strong and powerful, but not cruel. But not all men are like him; and I knew a Black Ruby who lived thousands of years ago, whose core had been flawed from birth, who was a cruel man; a man who used his jewel's power for ill, and inflicted much hurt upon many innocent lives until finally the fire of his gem drove him insane and caused him to destroy himself. This, young Jumi boy, is the dark side of the power of Jumi cores. A gravely flawed or corrupted Jumi core, instead of being used for healing, may be used instead to kill, to draw energy unto itself instead of exerting it to heal others.
      "Your parents did not come here by coincidence. I knew that a Black Ruby had been born, and I knew that his core was damaged; and it was my will that drew them here, even as they thought that they came out of their own volition."
      Snow, who had listened to Crystalle's speech in silence with his head bowed, now intervened. He raised his head, fixed his grey eyes on the Snow Faerie.
      "Then... then all you did was not really for me," he said quickly, and a little breathlessly. "Not for me at all."
      "Correct," answered Crystalle. "What I did was neither a curse nor a blessing to you, or out of any concern for you, Jumi of the Black Ruby. I was merely acting to shield others from the damage you might cause."
      "What you did," said Snow, his voice edging with a hint of anger now, "is a presumption; presuming to decide my fate. Without waiting to see what the outcome might be, knowing fully well that I will survive my illness and live, you devalued my jewel and abated an illness that might have lasted only a short time; to substitute it with an illness that constitutes a life-long, permanent infliction."
      "Jumi of the Black Ruby," answered Crystalle, and her ethereal, rippling voice was cool and clear, had neither a hint of anger or remorse, "I was deciding your fate, as you said, instead of giving you a chance. And, furthermore, know this: I hold your fate in my hand still. If I decide that you constitute a danger to others, I will do all that I may in my power to destroy you. My people have suffered too, you see, from the Black Ruby."
      "But how could you decide... how could you do this without knowing anything about me?" asked Snow, his voice trembling with rippling fury. "You inflicted this on me without giving me a chance to prove myself. I will have you know, Lady Crystalle, that I do not have an intention of hurting anyone, either now or in the future."
      "And yet how quickly you anger, Black Ruby, despite your frozen crystal core," answered the faerie's cool, sweet voice.
      Snow opened his mouth to reply; but then he looked down quickly, bit his lip, and was silent.
      "I admit to what you accused me of," continued Crystalle. "And yet I still gave you a chance. A chance to see if you may be able to control the fire of the Black Ruby as you grow older, out of your own power of will. Tell me, Snow: do you feel able to control it? If you say that you do, I will give you a chance to release your core from the spell held over it."
      Snow's head bowed further. He glanced at Emeralda, but she was looking down, refusing to meet his gaze, refusing to participate in the decision. He was alone in deciding his fate.
      But then he recalled the dream. Holding his head up, looking straight into the fathomless depths of the faerie's violet eyes, he said: "Lady Crystalle, you sent me a dream; and the dream made me realized something. I realized that it is fire and energy that bring life and change, for both good and for ill. You yourself live so long, for thousands of years, that time for you is nothing, and even us long-lived Jumi are but a fleeting moment in your eternity; and you cannot perceive that you may not arrest time, can not chain it in place for creatures like us, who live in a different way than you do. And I cannot live my life this way either, Lady Crystalle. This is why I am dying; you've arrested the very life essence of my core. I need this energy and essence to grow, or my body will eventually be unable to sustain itself on its meager energy, and I will die. Please release me, Lady Crystalle; and I will prove to you that I am worthy of your trust."
      For a long time there was silence, then the faerie's voice said, "Well-put, Black Ruby. I shall do as your request; but I will not be the one deciding when the chains of the spell on your core will break. It is you who will make a choice, when you know, in your soul, that you are strong enough for the Black Ruby's power. Make this decision carefully, Jumi of Crystal Snow, because if you fail I will haunt you for the remainder of your life, until I will be able to kill you. Leave this garden; with this warning, and my blessing."
      She moved her dark eyes and they rested on Emeralda.
      "Little Lucky Clover," she said, "you know better than anyone how to take care of the Black Ruby. You shall carry his blessing."
      A bright wind flowed through the garden, and the form of the Snow faerie dissipated into mist. A moment later the two young Jumi found themselves standing outside the crystal garden. And the gate was locked.

      Emeralda gazed at it thoughtfully for a few moments; then she turned to Snow.
      "She seems to know everything," she noted, a rare edge of genuine wonder in her voice.
      "About me, certainly," responded Snow, a little moodily.
      "She also knew about the lucky clover," Emeralda said.
      Snow, whose mind still dwelled on Crystalle's revelations, asked with an absent voice, "What do you mean?"
      Emeralda put her fingers on Snow's shoulder, shaking him slightly. "You don't know, Snow? I have three sisters!"
      Snow now begun to pay attention. "I know you have three sisters," he answered flatly. "And I know it's unusual. But what does that signify?"
      "You don't know?" asked Emeralda, a little surprised. "Well, perhaps you may not. As you know, Snow, Jumi usually have only one or two children, because they share a part of their core's essence with the new child's core, and creating more than two children puts a great strain on a Jumi's core. Well, when my mother had my two eldest sisters, no-one was surprised. When my third sister arrived, they all noted how rare it was. And when I arrived, they all marveled, because there hadn't been a Jumi family with four children for hundreds of years. And since we are four Emeralds, they begun to call us the Lucky Clover. And this is what Crystalle named me."
      "I see," Snow remarked. A trifle morbidly, he added, "If she knew this, perhaps I really should be afraid of her coming to hunt me down if I choose ill; just as she promised."
      "Oh, I trust you to choose well," Emeralda said, matter-of-fact. "There's no reason why you shouldn't."
      Snow made no answer for a moment; but then he said, "You'll help me, though, won't you, Emeralda? To choose rightly, I mean. Even Crystalle said you will," he added, a trifle defensive, in case Emeralda thought him absurd.
      She gave him a smile now. "As I said, Snow, I think you'll choose well."
      He looked down, silent again; but then he said, to turn the subject, "It seems that I really was very isolated because of my condition. I didn't even know about those little social details that most aristocratic Jumi children know about; I didn't know about the Lucky Clover."
      "Well, now you do," Emeralda said dismissively. "It's not as if all those trifle social details are important anyway. And besides," she added with a slight frown, "I'm not sure that my parents are really so lucky to have four daughters."
      "I think it's lucky they had four daughters," Snow said quickly. "If they didn't there wouldn't be you, Emeralda."
      "Well, if you put it that way," Emeralda conceded. "You wouldn't think of it if you listen to my mother, though. All I hear nowadays is how worried she is that she won't be able to be pair us all off when we're of age, because of the scarcity of high-born young men our age. But I don't care about that part, anyway," she added flatly.
      "I see," Snow replied, his cheeks turning a self-conscious red.
      Emeralda gave him another smile. "At any rate," she concluded, "I'd rather stay with you than have any knight guarding me."
      Snow wasn't quite sure if he should take this remark as a compliment or not; but Emeralda's confident little hand stole into his own, and he blushed harder.
      "That's good," he answered.

Comment: Tra la la... "Memories of Running" and Feig Snowfields, anyone? Every game has its version of 'a snow tune' and this one's the very best I've heard. In fact, it reminds me of Crystalle in a snowstorm, and you can think of it playing in the background to Snow's dream.

In the original story of Snow, Snow-White, who was a friend of Crystalle's, died, and his shattered core became the crystal garden. But, hey, I couldn't do that to Emeralda and Snow, and I'm not going to. As said, though, the Black Ruby story is my own invention, and you can see how its concept actually ends up tying with Black Pearl and HER core powers.

Since the Jumi in this story reproduce biologically, I thought this would be an explanation as to why there isn't a Jumi population explosion; i.e. usually Jumi have only 1-2 children, thus their population either remains constant or otherwise diminishes.

I didn't do the part about Emeralda finding the cores of her sisters in the university. Since I never did the sisters as actual characters, it would have been superfluous (and wouldn't fit into the story anyway!). Even if I had done it so, the fact is that it just didn't provide as much food for story as her interaction with Snow. I'm only wondering how creative her parents had to get in finding names for four daughters based on 'Emerald'.

Snow & Emmy proved to be a surprisingly popular pair, which pleased me much, since they are a non-game pair (Snow having been dead in the game or something like it). Very likely they are liked because they are a younger pair, and much more 'innocent' compared to the other relationships, which involve, in this story at least, sophisticated and rather corrupted adults. As someone correctly pointed out to me once, no-one can feel really sorry for adult characters like Black Pearl, Sandra, Diana or even Rubens, who know exactly what they are doing and, in a certain way, pay for their actions, good or ill. This is also probably why Elazul, who is a little younger and less sophisticated, is a little more sympathetic than the above persons (in general, that is, as it varies according to which character a reader prefers). In fact, this story IS about Elazul growing up, or growing older.

Since I have been asked about the mute characters a few times, I thought that you might be interested in MY version of the mutes, and I hope it will satisfy you, because they will not appear in the LoJ story.

Male Mute: His name is Darrel. He is a large-bodied, good-natured young man, deeply interested in philosophical treatises and the history of the world. He spends much of his time on research and studying, and in his garden, because even though he is incredibly strong, he is essentially a man who believes in peaceful solutions and in being At One With Nature. He is generally shy around the ladies, and even though he likes Pearl, he is careful not to show it openly. This is because Elazul tends to get a little aggressive at any such suspicion, and Darrel is afraid that any overt skirmish between them might cause him to accidentally break the young hothead in half.

Female Mute: Her name is Maya. She is perky & cute & and some suspect that she consumes too much sugar. One of her hobbies is uprooting big trees with her bare hands, a fact which greatly grieves Darrel. Since she tends to throw anything that comes into her hands around when she loses her temper, almost everyone are very friendly and courteous with her.

(The sprites/mutes in Legend of Mana were obscenely strong.)

Chapter 5a