Chapter 25: The Visit (2)
The students began to disperse. Some of them trailed to the blacksmith’s direction and the weapon stores, others went to shops of curious objects like books and collector’s items, while some vanished straight to the pub just a few meters away from the town square, and still, some are just contented to just walk around.
But the real town is still further inside. This place is far different from there; the noisy marketplace, the messy plaza and the muddy downtown. I need to walk at least a few minutes before I get there. I’m sure Lucas is there. I can’t help get fidgety. I’m here. We’re so close now. Just a little bit more and I can see him again.
I looked at the two with me. Victoria separated from us earlier; meanwhile, Gin and Ethan said that they needed to go somewhere. That left me with Luna and Cain. I feel like they planned it.
We entered the shop where most of the student went. It’s a shop of exotic animals and some of them were mutated. They chose this place where we wouldn’t be that noticeable because of the large number of students around.
The two became busy looking at the animals in small cages and in the glass aquarium. Luna was holding my arm so I couldn’t get away. I sighed internally. I need to get out, away from their sight.
Few minutes had already passed but we’re still on the same getup. Right now, we’re at a shop of bizarre plants. Luna was the one who took us there. The shopkeeper greeted us instantly when we entered but soon stopped when he saw me.
My body tensed. I know him. He is one of those selling medical herbs in town where Lucas and I usually buy the medicine for his mother. Wait a moment— is he working here now? His brows were furrowed as if thinking where he had seen me. I stared at him disbelievingly. Can’t he recognize me? How did that happen? I saw him almost every week back then and he even called me my whole name.
“Uhm, I think what I needed is at the next shop.” Luna pulled me out from the shop immediately. Cain silently followed. She breathed out when we got out.
“That was close. Did you see his eyes?” She shook her head. “It’s good that he didn’t immediately recognize you because of how you look now.”
Then it hit me. I’m no longer the same as before. I’m not the Shia with muddy clothes, coarse hair, dirty face and wearing tattered things. I wanted to curse myself. I felt lost, like I’m losing my whole self. I don’t even have any idea where I belong anymore.
We kept walking until we got out from town square. We noticed the cluster of people in a wide part of the entrance near a fountain. Luna looked at me wondering and invited us to go there. When we got closer, I realized what’s the commotion about− street performers. They come here every Friday because they know the students from Titan are here.
Various clusters of students encircled each performer. There were who played several musical instruments, some performed psychic tricks, while others were taming poisonous insects and many other things. But one immediately got my attention, an old man in the corner performing bending tricks. He was trying to bend a steelpipe to turn it to another shape he wanted but it looked like it’s hard for him to do so. The audience became impatient waiting for him.
“Nothing is happening,” one of them complained.
“I thought you could make it smaller like a stone.”
“What’s taking it too long?”
I watched him. He really looked ancient. His face was almost full of wrinkles and I also noticed those white hairs under his aged hat. His hands were also trembling in front of the steelpipe. And from the almost broken suitcase before him, some coins were placed there together with the steels that he already made into different small shapes.
I definitely know him. I often saw him in town. I remember when we were young; Lucas and I were very amazed by him. He would put his hand before an object and it would change shapes. He could bend steel or make rocks soft. But that was a long time ago and he’s already too old. I didn’t know that he was still performing. Back in the few months, whenever I’d see him in town, he would only be in his favorite spot in the plaza and was just watching the children play there. Sometimes I even saw him giving foods or coins but I didn’t know that he was still doing this.
“Lolo Arthur.” (Lolo = Grandpa)
I couldn’t help but muttered his name. It was only a whisper and even the person with me didn’t hear it but the old man looked at my direction. I don’t know how it happened but he stared at me and then, he smiled.
“What are we wasting our time here for?”
“Let’s just go.” Some students who were about to leave kicked the suitcase of the old man. It tipped over and the coins inside spilled out to the paved ground.
I almost ran towards the old man and stood myself between him and the students. I pointed down the suitcase.
“Pick it up,” I ordered them.
We immediately got the attention of the rest of the other students there. I glared at him and his companions when they didn’t immediately follow.
“I said pick it up!” I almost yelled.
My blood was boiling. If they only knew how much I’m keeping myself from hurting them right now; my hands were shaking so much.
Why are they doing this? They don’t even know what this old man in front of them had been through before.
He was elbowed by his companion that seemed to say to just follow. I looked at the rest of their group. They avoided my gaze but started to pick and gather the old man’s things and coins. The man who kicked the suitcase followed suit. He’s obviously unwilling and kept on glaring at me while moving.
But they can’t do anything right? They will follow me whether they like it or not; because I’m part of that group. They have a high respect for every member of my fucking group. Even higher than those who really deserve respect.
They arranged the suitcase in its position earlier but I noticed that it became more damaged. But I just can’t have them fix it or have any of them who had mechanical ability to repair it. We were not allowed to use our ability outside of school.
“Say sorry,” I commanded again.
Their sour faces became more visible. I noticed that a lot of people were watching us now. I even heard Luna’s worried voice telling me to calm down.
“Say sorry. Damn it!”
They jumped on my scream and quickly said sorry one by one to the old man. I shifted to the side so they can face the old man while two of them even bowed while apologizing.
I breathed deeply. “Try doing such thing again.” I warned them.
(ED: Though she said ‘to do it again’, it actually meant the opposite. Nasty.)
They looked at each other before they hurriedly fled away from my sight. Even the guy who kicked the suitcase didn’t give me a second glance.
“Are you okay?” I politely asked the old man.
He gave me a comforting smile; a smile that reminded me so much of my childhood. I realized from it how much I’d changed and how much time had passed.
I froze. My ears almost went deaf because of what I heard. He recognized me. I indistinctively lifted my eyes to the people around us. I saw confusion on their faces when they heard him called me.
“Yes, you are right. That’s my name.” (politely)
He smiled and looked into my eyes.
“I heard your name from them.” He looked at the students closest to us.
“Thank you, hija.”
I don’t know why but I feel much worse then. I know that he knows me. I saw in his eyes that he recognized me even before I got near him. He knew I’m that dirty child he used to entertain with his tricks before. He knew it was me but he chose not to admit and even covered up for me. Why? Did he have an idea about my situation?
I wanted to hug him. I wanted to tell him that it’s me, the Shia Sheridan from town.
I wanted to talk more to this old man before me; let him know. But I couldn’t and I shouldn’t. I understand that it will be a big trouble if I insist on what I want.
Instead, I just nodded. “It’s nothing. I just did what is right.”
I handed him his suitcase while I silently shove the money Miss Aura gave me inside. That’s the allowance given to me for the Town’s day, to buy whatever I want from this town today.
“You’re still the same as before.” He whispered when he reached his suitcase. This time no one heard him.
“Just like your friend.”
My hands went cold at what he said. “Do you know where Lucas is?” I asked in a cautious voice. From the corner of my eyes, I saw Luna and Cain approaching us.
The old man noticed the urgency in my voice so he answered me directly, “Hija, he’s not in Hesperia anymore.”
TL note: Hija – read as ‘ii-ha’ means my child/ daughter; the counterpart of hija is hijo (ii-ho) which means my child/son. Both are usually used to those much younger than the speaker.
ED: Those two are from Old Spanish. Many words used in the Philippines are Spanish descent. シ