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Aladdin watches as the strange person gulps down their water as if he has been stuck in the desert for a long time and only just come out. Once he is done, the person thanks them and introduces himself as Sin, a travelling entertainer.

Aladdin had just been talking to Morgiana, about what they were going to do whey they finally found Alibaba, when the fluttering of the rukh drew Aladdin’s attention to a nearby bush.

The bush rustled. There was a moan. Then a gaunt face covered with blood suddenly came out.

Needless to say, neither Aladdin nor Morgiana reacted well to the sight.

“You two are real lifesavers,” Sin says. “Some bandits took all my stuff, and I was left with this massive headache to deal with.”

“You were bleeding quite a lot,” Aladdin comments.

He doesn’t think ‘headache’ is quite the right word for it though.

“Ah, this?” Sin fingers the bandages around his forehead. “Don’t worry about it. It looks worse than it really is. I actually got this from falling down a tree.”

Aladdin blinks. It is Morgiana that asks, “What where you doing in a tree?”

“Honestly?” Sin shrugs. “I don’t know. Some old habits are hard to kick, I guess. I just can’t believe I forgot to take my stuff up with me.

“It certainly didn’t help though.” Sin sighs. “My head was already hurting from drinking last night. To add insult to injury, those bandits took all my water and remedies when they stole my stuff… It really is a good thing that you two showed up!”

Sin smiles at them brightly at that last statement. Neither Aladdin nor Morgiana know how to respond. It certainly cements Aladdin’s impression that Sin is a strange person.

“By the way,” Sin says, bright smile still in place, “I never even got my saviors’ names!”

Aladdin and Morgiana introduce themselves. Sin offers his home when he learns they are on their way to Balbdadd. He says it’s the least he can do for their helping him out. He even offers them a tour of the city when he learns they have never been to Balbadd before.

Aladdin looks to Morgiana after Sin makes his offer. Aladdin has already decided Sin is a strange person. He doesn’t think Sin is a bad one either.

Both Aladdin and Morgiana have saved a decent amount of money, but that still doesn’t mean they actually have a lot.

Morgiana nods, and they both happily agree.

Aladdin knows there is still much for him to learn. He honestly didn’t think a travelling entertainer could earn so much money though. His mouth hangs open when they finally arrive at Sin’s home.

“I’m also an investor,” Sin says with a grin. “Balbadd is one of the trading capitals of the world after all.”

Sin saunters forward towards the giant house. He is hardly near the door when a man suddenly barrels into him.

“Where have you been?!” the man cries as he latches onto Sin. “You left without a word, and you didn’t return this morning! Yamraiha’s magic tool wasn’t working either, so we couldn’t even get in contact with you!

“And what’s this?” The man suddenly notices the bandages around Sin’s head. “You got injured too?!”

Another man approaches the group at this time. He mutters something that sounds suspiciously like “No shame.” Aladdin can’t help but notice the second man looks a lot like Morgiana.

“Shut up!” the first man snaps. Then he immediately goes back to fussing over Sin.

The second man just looks indifferent at the response.

Sin shakes himself free from the first man and looks somewhere between exasperated and fond.

“Don’t worry about it,” he says. “It’s just a small bump. I’ll be fine. I only got a little careless, and my things got stolen.

“Ah,” Sin continues before the other man can say anything. “These two are Aladdin and Morgiana. They helped me after I got robbed. I’ve decided to let them stay with us while they’re visiting the city.”

It is only then that the man realizes Sin did not come back alone. His face reddens, and he immediately straightens himself up.

He coughs. Then he holds out a hand and tries to introduce himself coolly as Sharrkan.

A lady who is Sin’s housekeeper shows Aladdin and Morgiana to their room. She drops the linens she’s carrying when Aladdin asks her if she’s heard of Alibaba. What the lady says worries Aladdin, and he hopes Alibaba is okay. It seems they will be staying in Balbdadd for awhile. Morgiana can’t leave for the Dark continent either because of the Fog Troop.

The next day, Sin treats them to lunch, and Aladdin’s mouth waters at the sight. The restaurant Sin takes them is supposed to serve Balbdadd’s finest foods. Aladdin is quick to stuff his face from every plate. Sin asks about their plans once they’ve eaten their fill.

Morgiana tells him they are looking for a friend. She also brings up their worries about the Fog Troop.

“What about you Sin?” Aladdin asks, concerned. “Aren’t you worried that you’ll be robbed too?”

Sin leans back into his seat as he considers Aladdin’s words.

“Now there’s an idea,” Sin says. “The Fog Troop is causing me a bit of trouble as well. It would be convenient if they can just come to me instead.”

Neither of Sin’s two… Bodyguards? …Subordinates? …Aladdin isn’t quite sure what Sharrkan and Masrur’s relationship to Sin is. Sin just grinned and introduced them as his kids. Aladdin’s pretty sure both Sharrkan and Masrur are older than Sin by a few years.

Anyway, both looked unimpressed by Sin’s idea.

“I doubt they’ll come,” Sin eventually decides. “If they haven’t attacked my place before, they’ll hardly do so now. Their targets have also been quite political. I’m just a simple businessman and performer. I’m hardly their ideal target.”

Both Sharrkan and Masrur give Sin sideway looks. Aladdin thinks he is missing something.

“The point is,” Sharrkan says, turning to Aladdin and Morgiana, “you don’t have to worry. If anything goes wrong, Masrur and I will take care of it right away.”

“It’s alright!” Aladdin immediately says. “We’re not afraid. Morgiana is tough, and I have Ugo with me!”

Aladdin proceeds to show them his friend. Ugo comes out, and it earns him stunned looks. Aladdin is used to the reaction by now. What he does not expect is for some one to identify him by it.

“You’re a Magi!” Sharrkan exclaims.

“Mister, you know what Magi are?” Aladdin asks, surprised. “I just learned it recently, and I’m still trying to understand it myself.”

“You don’t know?” Sharrkan looks stunned. “Sin—”

“I’ve met Magi before on my travels,” Sin cuts in. “the priestess of Reim is one of them. I met her at a party I performed at in the past.”

“Really?” Aladdin hadn’t known there were other Magi like him.

Sin tells Aladdin about the special connection between the Magi and the Rukh, and how Magi are able to use the rukh’s power. Aladdin is fascinated by the new information. He also finds Sin to be an even more mysterious and worldly person. Sin seems to be really famous too, if he met someone with such an important sounding title as the Priestess of Reim.

Sin later asks them what Alibaba looks like and promises to keep an eye out for him. Sin also promises Aladdin and Morgiana are welcome to stay at his home for as long as they need.

Morgiana later decides they cannot just sit around. She suggests they go out and look for the Fog Troop. They will question Alibaba if he really is their leader. If he’s not with them, they will take down the thieves and use the good will of the authorities to help them find Alibaba.

They wait until nightfall since that is when the thieves usually make their move. They also don’t want to worry Sin and the others, so they need to sneak out of the house.

Sharrkan waves at them while leaning by the gate.

“Sin knew you wouldn’t stay put,” Sharrkan says. “Come on, we already figured out the most likely places they’re targeting tonight. Sin and Masrur have already gone ahead to one of them. I’ll take you to the other.”

Sharrkan turns to leave. He stops. He turns to look back.

“Well?” he asks, “Aren’t you two coming?”

Aladdin and Morgiana shake themselves out of their stupor. They quickly follow after the man.

Aladdin thinks Sin is turning out to be an even more mysterious person. He asks Sharrkan who Sin really is while they wait. Sharrkan says Sin really is who he says he is.

“It’s just not the only thing,” Sharrkan admits. “But he says it’s better for you to figure it out for yourself.”

Aladdin doesn’t get to ponder the mystery for long because that’s when the Fog Troop finally attack. They learn Alibaba really is the leader of the Troop.

Morgiana doesn’t take Alibaba’s rejection so well. The next day, she tracks him down… and tosses him straight through the window into their room. They learn why Alibaba is leading the Fog Troop, and Aladdin promises they will help so Alibaba doesn’t have to save Balbdadd alone.

Then the Fog Troop attack to take back Alibaba. Aladdin realizes too late that they’ve brought danger into Sin’s home. Everything is chaotic. A side of the house is blown out. Aladdin thinks that was Masrur.

Everyone ends up outside in the yard. Sharrkan and Masrur stand guard in fronts of Sin. They don’t let anyone who attacks them anywhere near him.

Alibaba’s friend tries to pin Sharrkan down. He curses when his black fog dissipates under Sharrkan’s hands.

“Dammit!” He shouts at Sin, “How long are you just going to hide behind your men? You think you’re too good to deal with us by yourself?!”

“I can understand you wanting to take your leader back.” Sin asks, “But what reason do you have to attack me personally? If it’s simply for my home’s wealth you could have attacked this place long before I came back.”

“Don’t play me for a fool.” Cassim sneers. “We know exactly who you are, and you know exactly why we’re here!”

What Cassim says next makes everything click into place.

“You’re Sinbad of the Seven Seas Alliance!” he shouts. “And I’m not going to let some magician who sucks up to kings interfere in Balbdadd and get in the Fog Troop’s way!”

Oh, Aladdin thinks. He should have realized it sooner.

 

Chapter Text

Alibaba thought he had enough surprises for the week. He never expected to see Aladdin and Morgiana at a Fog Troop raid. Now he finds out the house they are staying at belongs to Sinbad.

Sinbad, who wrote Alibaba’s favourite childhood books, which inspired him to become a dungeon conqueror. Sinbad, who is standing before Alibaba right now and is currently the target of the Fog Troop. If what Cassim is saying is correct, Sinbad is after the Fog Troop as well.

“That’s interesting.” Sinbad tilts his head. “I’m not unknown in Balbdadd, but who could have given you such specific information?”

“That’s not something you need to know,” Cassim snaps. “Now are you going to hide behind your men all day or come out?”

Sinbad simply smiles and shrugs. “I suppose not. It’s obvious when I think about it.”

He looks at Alibaba. “Your friend does have a point though.” He steps out from behind his men, and he pulls the sword from the larger one’s waist at the same time. “You’re supposed to be the leader of the Fog Troop, aren’t you? It’s only appropriate for the leaders of the opposing groups to face off against each other.” Sinbad swings the sword and points it at Alibaba. “Let’s have a one-on-one to determine which side will win.”

Alibaba is stunned.

“Forget it,” Cassim immediately says. “Like we can just believe you won’t pull some dirty trick.”

Sinbad lowers his sword. “Shouldn’t your leader be able to speak for himself? Or is hiding behind one’s subordinates only the privilege of royalty?”

Alibaba is stunned again.

“I know exactly who you are as well,” Sinbad says, “Alibaba the Wonder Man. It’s quite smart of you,” he comments, “taking the guise of a chivalrous and heroic thief. You can use the people’s ire against the king to your own benefit.” He smirks. “Being the third and bastard prince, you were hardly in line for the throne. Why not use the people’s anger to clear a path for you?”

Alibaba attacks before he before he even realizes what he’s doing. He is soundly beaten. Alibaba was completely outclassed. Sinbad did not even need to use magic to do it. All it took was a hand around his wrist, and Amon’s flames were cut off. Then a pommel in his gut, and Alibaba was down.

The larger of Sinbad’s men grabs Cassim when he tries to attack. More than half of the Fog Troop flee when Sinbad’s other man announces what their sentence will be.

“It seems the Fog Troop wasn’t much after all,” Sinbad comments. “Only those who were truly loyal to your cause have stayed. Luckily for you, your information is outdated.”

He gestures for his man to let go of Cassim.

“Because I want to join the Fog Troop too,” Sinbad declares.

There are various exclamations of shock and disbelief. Even Sinbad’s own men look incredulous at what he just said.

“That’s ridiculous,” Cassim growls. “Why should the likes of you even want to help us?”

Sinbad is unfazed.

“Because I also know what it’s like to live under a selfish and unjust rule,” he states.

“It frustrates you, doesn’t it? To have your pride and worth trampled by those in power. To be viewed as lesser – inferior – while everything you value is taken away. To know that those above care nothing about those below them, except as how it can benefit themselves.

“Those are feelings I know very well,” Sinbad says. “My home country of Parthevia was much the same. It saw its people as nothing but fodder and labour for its war.

“Year by year, the people’s livelihoods were taken from them, until even the tools of their trade were gone. Then they could no longer simply feed themselves. The age of conscription was dropped with every season, until the only men left were children and those that had escaped to banditry.

“The truth is I admire you for standing against the injustices you face. You people decided to fight despite the odds stacked against you.

“After I was forced to leave Parthevia, Balbdadd became a second home to me. How can I not want to help when I see its people are being treated the same? This time, I have more than enough connections and resources to help even without the Alliance.”

There is a heavy silence after Sinbad’s speech. Alibaba swallows.

“Alibaba,” Hassan asks, “how much is what Sinbad’s saying the truth?”

“Most of what I know are from his stories,” Alibaba replies. “But I’ve also heard some things while I was at the palace as well...”

It might as well have been a confirmation. Alibaba can feel the mood shift with how the Fog Troop regard Sinbad.

“Sin, this is crazy!” one of Sinbad’s men protests. “I can understand your feelings, but you already promised Ahbmad that you would defeat the Fog Troop!”

“About that,” Sinbad responds. “I’ve been giving it some thought. Technically, we would be violating the Alliance’s neutrality by defeating the Fog Troop for him.”

“And this somehow doesn’t?!” the man exclaims.

“Of course not,” Sinbad says easily. “Because you are not coming.”

The man is stunned speechless.

“And Masrur is not coming either,” Sinbad continues. “Actually, both of you are grounded until the house is repaired.”

Sinbad points at his home. One of its sides has been completely blown out.

“Showing off once in awhile is good and all, but this is just too much—And Sharrkan, you really should have known better than to goad Masrur while we were being attacked. I think Yam’s old workshop has been damaged too. Just how do you think she’ll react when she learns you were responsible?”

It’s a strange sight to see two full-grown men being lectured, especially when the two men in question are noticeably taller and more muscled their lecturer. Even stranger is the fact that it seems to be working. The one called Sharrkan looks flustered and embarrassed. Even the larger and stoic-looking Masrur seems uncomfortable and guilty at what he did.

Once he is done lecturing, Sinbad turns back to Alibaba.

“So," Sinbad asks, "what will you answer be?”

There really is only one answer Alibaba can give.

“Excellent,” Sinbad says, “there’s just one more thing.”

He spins around and points to a trio of men who just joined the Fog Troop today.

“You there! I would like my sword back, please! It’s kind of a family heirloom, you see…”

Alibaba’s plan is sped up. The next day, Sinbad brings him to the palace to talk to Ahbmad. Apparently, Sinbad gained a standing audience with the King even before creating the Alliance. Sinbad also spread word of the meeting so that there is a massive crowd gathered outside.

Things don’t turn out the way Alibaba hoped though. Ahbmad is completely dismissive of his people’s suffering and what is happening right outside the palace gates. Even worse, they find out Ahbmad has handed Balbdadd’s trading rights to Kou.

Alibaba returns to the Fog Troop base and learns Cassim and most of the upper cadre have disappeared. Aladdin attempts to cheer him up but telling the people who placed their hopes on him of his failure is still a bitter pill to swallow. He is unable to reassure everyone when they grow nervous about what will happen to them now.

“We simply lack information right now,” Sinbad says after dispersing the remaining Fog Troop members for the night. “We need to know more on Balbdadd’s relationship with Kou. I’ll get in touch with some contacts I know, and we’ll continue from there.”

Sinbad then rattles off a list of things that they can still do. Alibaba hardly pays attention, and it seems Sinbad is talking more to himself as he paces around the room. Alibaba only focuses again when Aladdin suddenly gets up.

He walks over to Sinbad and asks, “Sin, you’re a Magi aren’t you?”

Alibaba sputters. He looks over at Sinbad. Sinbad’s mouth is still open from being interrupted in mid-sentence. He closes it and blinks. Then he smiles at Aladdin.

“Took you long enough,” Sinbad says. “I was beginning to wonder when you would find out.”

Aladdin’s eyes widen and so does Alibaba’s own.

“It’s not something I normally advertise,” Sinbad continues. “Even if you’re a fellow Magi, we were still strangers at the beginning.”

“Is being a Magi really that big?” Alibaba asks.

“—I mean,” he tries to elaborate, “I know Aladdin is supposed to be a chooser of Kings, but it sounds so simple… Can it really be just that?”

“Baba told me that the Kouga had a Magi, and they built a great big empire hundreds of years ago,” Aladdin adds. “But it’s really hard to image something like that with the way everyone lives now.”

“I guess it can be difficult to understand the significance of it.” Sinbad ponders for a bit. “Maybe more recent examples can help.”

Sinbad starts with the Magi who raised the first dungeon and started it all. The first Magi only raises dungeons and does nothing else. But the conquering of those dungeons gave the Kou Empire the power it needed for its westward expansion. Now the Far East country has reached all the way to Balbdadd and is able to impose on its policies. From such a great distance, the Kou Empire has helped create the situation that Alibaba and his people are currently in.

The High Priestess of Reim originally had only one King Vessel—back during the formation of Reim. Even though things have changed recently, for the past two hundred years the Empire, has been going strong under only the Priestess’s protection.

Sinbad then talks about himself and the Seven Seas Alliance. Alibaba is surprised to learn that each member country’s ruler, or someone close to them, is a metal vessel user. Sinbad didn’t raise most of the dungeons that the users conquered. He only gathered together the small countries scattered across the continents into one alliance… and created a powerhouse that rivaled even Kou and Reim.

“In just a little over ten years the entire power structure of the world has changed. Rather than Choosers of Kings, Sorcerers of Creation is the more relevant title, because we truly are magicians that shape the world.

“Just the amount of magoi a Magi wields alone can make them valuable to any country,” Sinbad continues. “If they’re smart, they won’t directly threaten you. But any number of people may try to influence you to have you on their side. You must be careful and learn to avoid their deception.”

Aladdin looks down with a pensive expression on his face. His grasp on his staff tightens as well.

“It is really okay for me to have this power then?” Aladdin asks.

Sinbad’s expression softens. “I didn’t mean to scare you. That is something for you to decide for yourself. You’re still young. You should be allowed to travel freely and be able to see and learn many different things. You should come to your own answer on how to use your powers.”

Sinbad places a hand on top of Aladdin’s head. “So, no more taking out Ugo so casually, okay? I know he’s your friend, but it’s a pretty obvious indicator of who you are. I just want you to be careful.”

Aladdin looks a little stunned at the hand on his head. He looks up a Sinbad, confused and perplexed. Then Aladdin’s eyes widen, and he places his own hands on top of Sinbad’s.

“Sin,” Aladdin asks, a smile on his face. “Can I call you Big Brother?”

It is Sinbad’s turn to look caught off guard. He recovers quickly, and he returns the smile.

“Of course,” Sinbad replies.

They are interrupted when a Fog Troop member runs into the room. He informs them that the royal army is approaching.

It turns out to be Sahbmad, accompanied by General Barkak and his men, but the news he brings in no less disturbing. Ahbmad is planning to sell the citizens’ rights and turn Balbdadd into a slave exporting country. The agreement will be signed in five days and be sealed with marriage between Ahbmad and a Kou princess.

“Sinbad,” Sahbmad says, “are you really working with Alibaba now?”

“That’s right,” Sinbad replies, “though only as myself and not part of the Alliance.”

Sahbmad looks around nervously. “Is—is it possible for me to talk to you and Alibaba alone? I’ve already told everyone the most important thing. There—there’s just something personal that I think you two should hear… I… I know it sounds weak, but my legs won’t stop shaking. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to remain standing out here.”

Sinbad reassures Sahbmad that he is not weak, then arranges a room for them to talk inside the Fog Troop’s base. Sinbad asks for Aladdin and Morgiana to stand guard outside and promises to fill them in on what happens later.

Alibaba is surprised when General Barkak also stands outside. He was sure the General was going to follow Sahbmad into the room. Alibaba is not sure what it means with Sahbmad truly speaking to Sinbad and him alone.

“What did you want to tell us?” Sinbad asks once they are all seated inside.

Sahbmad still looks jittery and nervous when he says, “I knew the both of you had to know about this… as soon as I heard you helped Alibaba get an audience with Ahbmad.”

Sahbmad takes a deep breath to calm himself. He continues, “After the previous King passed away, and Ahbmad inherited the throne, the two of us discovered a letter in father’s desk. We didn’t understand all the details at the time – it spoke of Magis and Djinns and metal vessels – but we did understand the main contents of the letter. In it, father formally acknowledged Alibaba as his successor. It was addressed to Sinbad and was a petition for Balbdadd to join the Seven Seas Alliance. It also asked for Sinbad to support Alibaba when he ascended the throne.”

Alibaba is stunned at the revelation. Sinbad closes his eyes, deep in thought.

“So that’s what King Rashid had planned…” Sinbad eventually says.

Alibaba looks and Sinbad with wide eyes. Sinbad returns the stare with a fond expression.

“I once offered King Rashid membership into the Alliances,” he says. “…And the opportunity to gain a metal vessel.

“He turned me down.” Sinbad shrugs and looks amused. “It seems King Rashid was waiting for you all along.”

“It was Barkak that told me who you really were,” Sahbmad says while Alibaba continues to be left speechless, “…after I finally confided in him about the letter…”

“It most likely would have worked,” Sinbad comments, turning his attention back to Sahbmad. “Alibaba would have faced may protests at court even if he was favoured by the King. If Alibaba had acted as the lynch pin to Balbdadd’s membership into the Alliance – but more importantly, if he had proven himself more worthy than Ahbmad by conquering a dungeon and gaining a metal vessel – Alibaba would have gathered more than enough political clout to secure his place as King Rashid’s successor and stand against any opposition.”

The full weight of what happened that night hits Alibaba. He originally turned down King Rashid’s offer of the throne because he did not want to create dissidence in the court. Alibaba thought he had been doing the right thing at that time, but it turns out he played an even greater role in plunging Balbdadd into its current situation than he thought.

“Will that not work anymore?” Sahbmad asks worriedly.

Sinbad shakes his head and says, “The Alliance is a politically neutral entity. To interfere now would break that neutrality.” He pauses, then he looks at Sahbmad questioningly. “Sahbmad… you do realize what you are doing by telling me all this, right?”

Sahbmad slowly shakes his head. Alibaba’s momentary relief and disappointment in himself is replaced by confusion. Alibaba isn’t quite sure he understands what Sinbad means either.

Sinbad sighs and then asks, “I assume the letter was destroyed?”

Sahbmad nods. “Ahbmad immediately ripped it apart after he understood what the contents meant. I don’t think anybody but us knew about the letter either. It was unsigned, and there was not royal seal on it.”

“Neither the Alliance nor I, as a representative of the Alliance, can do anything unless we are formally invited,” Sinbad restates. “The letter would have been good justification for us to act.

“The situation now is completely different.” Sinbad explains,” The plan would have only worked had King Rashid petitioned for Balbdadd to join the Alliance during his reign. Alibaba would have also needed to gain the metal vessel while he was part of the palace.

“But now… Ahbmad has no regard for Alibaba, and the royal court is already firmly on Ahbmad’s side. Alibaba has also established himself as the leader of a group that has been antagonized the government and the nobility.

“Unless…” Sinbad looks and both Alibaba and Sahbmad in the eye. “You two decide to stage a coup d’état.”

Alibaba takes in a sharp breath. Sahbmad stutters in shock, “A coup d’état?!”

“Sahbmad,” Sinbad asks, “what did you think you were doing when you came here? Leaking information to the Fog Troop is already sedition. And now you are telling us King Rashid’s true successor is meant to be someone else.”

“You can’t be serious,” Alibaba protests. “Me? I—I can’t become King!”

“Why not?” Sinbad questions. He frowns. “Alibaba, I can understand how you are feeling with your failed negotiation. Believe me, I too know what failure feels like, but you cannot let that bring you down when so many people are depending on you.”

Sinbad’s voice softens. “I know the news that you have just learned must not have helped. I’m sure King Rashid understood when you turned him down. He knew better than anyone the burden of rulership. And he did not disagree with your decision, did he not?”

Alibaba looks down. “I guess that’s true…”

“But you now know what the path you should be taking,” Sinbad says. “And it’s not too late. If you become King and petition to join the Alliance, we will be able to help you in dealing with Kou. Sahbmad, Morgiana and all the citizens of Balbdadd believe in you. You still ended up meeting a Magi and gained a metal vessel. If that is not destiny, then I don’t know what is.”

“But…” Alibaba still has his doubts. He looks down and wonders. Even if the one saying it is Sinbad, can this really be the path that they should take? Will this really solve their problems with Kou?

“It will be on the nose,” Sinbad admits. “And it will still depend on how the Kou Empire reacts. At the very least, it will delay the signing ceremony.”

“Then, aren’t you putting your Alliance at risk? Are you really willing to do that much?”

“I am,” Sinbad says firmly. “And I’m sure the members of the Alliance will agree with my decision. Balbdadd is still a fellow neutral country and an important trading partner of the Alliance.

“More than that, King Rashid was an important mentor who taught me everything I first knew about business and trade.” He smiles. “On the day-to-day basis, the Seven Seas Alliance is still a mercantile agreement. It’s honestly safe to say the Alliance would not have existed as it is today without King Rashid having tutored me. I’ll gladly honor his final wish if you become King.”

Rather than make him feel more assured, Alibaba only feels even less confident. Alibaba can’t help but feel everybody’s faith in him is misplaced. Nothing he has done so far has been the right choice. Alibaba can see the disappointment in Sinbad's eyes when he is unable to respond.

---

A day later, Alibaba runs back to the Fog Troop base and begs Sinbad to teach him how to use his metal vessel.

---

Alibaba really manages to surprise Sinbad. A King Vessel that does not want to be King, Alibaba choses to abolish the monarchy and create a republic instead. Sinbad is further impressed when Alibaba brazenly asks for Kou to forget all the agreements made between them and the previous king.

The Kou princess huffs, but she eventually leaves when Sinbad backs up Alibaba’s claims. Alibaba announces his plans to the citizens, and the changes are met with roaring approval from the people.

The cheers are quickly silenced when Alibaba’s friend finally makes his appearance. He is quick to remind everyone of their loss and the lives they will never get back because of the king’s rule. Violence breaks out, and black rukh bursts into the sky. Sinbad pulls out Yamraiha’s magic tool and calls for Sharrkan and Masrur to come meet him at the palace.

Alibaba goes to confront his friend. Sinbad is eventually forced leave the Dark Djinn created afterwards to him, Aladdin, and Morgiana. The Dark Djinn is obviously receiving a power boost from all the black rukh. Sinbad, along with Sharrkan and Masrur, go out to quell as much of the violence in the city as they can.

Sharrkan and Masrur make sure people are moved out of harms way. Then Sinbad uses sound magic to knock everyone out. The children eventually succeed in defeating the Dark Djinn, but Alibaba’s friend still dies from the aftereffect of fusing with the dark metal vessel. Ugo’s seal also disappears after the Djinn expended all its magoi on restraining its dark foe.

Sinbad tracks the banker and cuts him down, but the damage has already been done. Kou warships appear off Balbdadd’s coast the next day.

Sinbad sees the children’s faces fall even lower. He thinks they have done more than enough. It is time for the adults to step in. The children deserve a break.

Isla Sindria is quite beautiful this time of the year.

 

Chapter Text

They are only given two weeks to be depressed before someone barges into their room. The lady is Pipirika, Aladdin later learns. She is a giant compared to Aladdin and easily tosses him and Alibaba out of the house. Alibaba tries to get angry at her, but he freezes when the lady makes a scary face. She tells them everyone on the island has to earn their keep. If they don’t work, they will not be getting any food. The lady gives them a list of tasks to do and tells them not to come back until they are finished.

Isla Sindria, Aladdin learns, is a small island part of an archipelago located all the way down in the uncharted Southern seas. There is only one modest settlement, comprised mostly of workers from Sinbad’s company and their families. The Southern seas hold many exotic goods never seen on the continents – fish, and fruits, and strange-looking plants are only some of the examples. Sinbad’s business is based on the producing and exporting of these goods. Pipirika and her husband Mystras manage the day-to-day operations of the business. They also act as mayors for the settlement when Sin is away.

Aladdin hasn’t met Pipirika’s husband yet. Mystras left before they arrived to meet Sinbad in Kou. Aladdin wonders what kind of man could be married to such a lady, and he shivers at the thought.

Aladdin meets Jafar, Vitel, and Mahad. They are the settlement’s schoolteachers and look after the children when their parents are at work. Aladdin thinks they are pretty normal at first. Then they are attacked by a giant sea creature while out on a school trip. One of the kids Aladdin was tasked to look after falls overboard when the ship rocks. Aladdin tries to rescue the boy, but he also gets swept into the water. The sea creature sees them and turns its attention away from the ship.

Mahad appears out of nowhere and punches the creature away. He is caught by red strings before he falls into the water. Arms suddenly appear and pull Aladdin and the boy back onboard. Aladdin blinks when the arms shorten, and it’s revealed they belong to Vitel. Jafar fusses over the boy and makes sure he is okay. Then he turns to Aladdin and proceeds to swear up a storm.

Aladdin is suitably cowed by Jafar’s lecturing. It turns out, Aladdin never needed to get involved. He only made things worse when he tried to help. The schoolteachers – who Aladdin is beginning to suspect are more than just schoolteachers – are more than used to handling these things. This is proven when the sea creature appears again, and Jafar binds it with his strings before electrocuting it.

Aladdin wasn’t hurt when he was attacked, so he doesn’t get to meet Yamraiha, the island’s doctor. Aladdin is a little disappointed. Yamraiha is also a magician. He’s told she likes to experiment and can disappear for weeks. It’s normal for people to only get a glimpse of her. There are frequently strange sounds that come from her house, and sometimes Aladdin thinks it may be a good thing that he hasn’t met her yet.

There is also Pisti, who Aladdin initially thought was the strange one. She’s even older than Alibaba but looks Aladdin’s age. She says she’s from Artemyra and rides on a giant bird. She also says she left her country to learn more about the world and meet some men.

Aladdin likes working with Pisti the most. He gets to fly and see all sorts of things when they patrol around the islands. But even when it’s just helping with a harvest, every task feels more fun than work. Liam and Rosa are always patient in teaching Aladdin when he makes a mistake. Kil is stern but fair, and he is the first person to praise Aladdin when he does something right. Everyone is so kind and honest in what they do. Aladdin can feel the mood lifting in Alibaba’s spirit as well. There is a certain energy and gusto Aladdin has never felt anywhere else before. For such a small and isolated place out in the sea, the settlement really feels like a great big warm and happy home.

Sin finally returns from Kou. Everyone goes down to the port to greet him. There are two noticeable faces in the crowd that Aladdin does not recognize. Ships have been coming and going with the latest harvest, and Aladdin thinks they must have come on one of them. One is a giant much like Piprika, and Aladdin thinks he may be the brother she mentioned. The other man is dressed in scaled armor, and he stands with his posture stiff the entire time. The giant seems friendly enough with the other man though, giving a burst of hearty laughter at one point and patting him on the back.

Sin steps off the boat and he’s immediately swept up in the crowd. Sharrkan is the one to come over and greet them. He must have noticed where Aladdin was looking.

“That’s Hinahoho and Drakon,” Sharrkan explains. “Hinahoho’s the big one. They’ve both known Sin the longest, though Drakon was first. Actually, it may not look like it, but Drakon and Sin are the same age.”

“Really!?” Aladdin exclaims. The difference between Pisti’s real age and how she looked is already big enough. Sin’s just seems way too drastic to be real.

“That’s something I’ve been wondering as well,” Alibaba says. “He looks like he’s not much older than me, but the first dungeon was conquered fifteen years ago. It would have been physically impossible for Sinbad to conquer it if he is only as old as he looks now.”

“So, when Sin called you his kids?” Aladdin asks.

“Ah, that…” Sharrkan shrugs and looks embarrassed. “…I suppose it’s kind of true that Sin raised me after helping me out of a difficult spot. The same would apply to Masrur and Yamraiha too.”

“Didn’t Sin say the Priestess of Reim has been around for over two hundred years?” Alibaba suddenly asks. “She’s a Magi as well…” His eyes suddenly narrow at Aladdin. “…You’re not hiding something from us, now are you?”

“There’s nothing, really!” Aladdin immediately says. At least he doesn’t think so?

Another thought then pops into Aladdin’s head.

“Does that mean I should be calling him Uncle?” he asks.

---

Alibaba squeals when he later finds out Hinahoho is one of the characters from his favourite book, and Aladdin’s suspicions are proven right when he learns the schoolteachers were assassins the past.

---

Sinbad informs Alibaba about Kou’s agreement for Balbdadd’s self rule. Alibaba asks Sinbad to train him so he can become stronger. He wants to prevent the disaster in Balbdadd from happening ever again. Aladdin and Morgiana join him in his decision. Sinbad agrees that they need to get stronger. Morgiana already has Masrur. Sinbad suggests Yamraiha and Sharrkan to Aladdin and Alibaba.

 “Eh? Uncle Sin, you’re not going to be teaching us?” Aladdin asks.

“It’s not that I won’t help,” Sinbad explains, “but these two are much more qualified than me. First and foremost, a Magi is a Magician, and Yamraiha is a genius who even taught me for a while. I’m also only passable with a sword, but Sharrkan is a master who also owns a metal vessel.”

“You’re a metal vessel user too?” Alibaba turns to the other in surprise.

Sharrkan smirks. “Impressed, aren’t you?” He puffs out his chest. “I’m the conqueror of the 41st Dungeon, Focalor!”

“But…” Aladdin frowns. “…Ugo never reacted to his metal vessel.”

Sinbad blinks. “Is that how you’ve been detecting metal vessel users?”

Aladdin nods, and Sinbad replies, “Well, I guess that can be the first thing I teach you. Magi are naturally able to detect metal vessels.”

For Morgiana, Sinbad suggests she become part of Alibaba’s household. Morgiana agrees, and she chooses her old metal shackles to be her household vessel. Sinbad sends it off the smithery to be forged into something new. There is nothing that can be done for Alibaba’s broken sword though, so Sinbad gifts him with one that has equal and deeper meaning.

“King Rashid gave this to me,” Sinbad says when he presents the sword. “…at a time when I was trying to forge my path anew. May it encourage you and guide you as it did for me.”

Alibaba bows and accepts the blade solemnly. The children are eager to get started on their training.

“Not today,” Sinbad responds, as a worker comes in. He informs them a rampaging moray is heading straight for the island. Sinbad spotted the creature earlier on the ship.

“Perfect timing,” Sinbad says. “Why don’t your teachers show you what they can do first.”

The children are suitably impressed by Yamraiha, Sharrkan, and Masrur’s display. Sinbad sends them off to enjoy the night’s celebration. Then he takes the opportunity to slip away.

It’s a little strange to see everyone so happy. Sinbad is never around for Mahrajan at this time of the year. He goes to find Drakon now that they can have a moment alone. Sinbad was surprised to see him on the island and wonders at his presence.

“I head about what happened in Balbdadd,” Drakon says when Sinbad finds him. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to make it, so I thought it’s only fair I visited you for once.”

There is a pause. Then Drakon continues, “Masrur told me the details of what happened.”

“Of course, he would choose to be talkative about something like that…” Sinbad mutters. “You really didn’t have to come. Doesn’t Ceylan still need you?”

“Emperor Ceylan is growing to be a strong and capable ruler.” Drakon smiles. “He can handle the Empire for a little while without me.”

“Don’t be so cheeky,” Sinbad says, even though he is also amused. He tries to look more somber. “…You know what I mean.”

Drakon’s expression turns solemn as well. “Ceylan was young when it happened. He never saw that things that we—no… that you did at that time. My one regret is that in fulfilling Serendine’s wish I have not been able to support you the way I’ve wanted to these past years. Given what has happened to Balbdadd… the least I can do is make sure you do not spend the day alone.”

Sinbad sighs, but he looks at Drakon fondly. “You shouldn’t sell yourself short,” Sinbad says. “Like you said, Ceylan is becoming a strong and capable ruler. That wouldn’t have happened without you. You have done nothing less than continuously support me by keeping the peace in Parthevia.”

The two of them spend the anniversary climbing the tallest mountain of the islands. They find a ledge with a good view and sit to watch the sunset.

“It really has been more than ten years, hasn’t it?” Sinbad asks.

“It has…” Drakon replies.

Sinbad chuckles humorlessly. “Look at us, commiserating like old men.”

Drakon’s response is to squeeze Sinbad’s hand tighter.

The children do well enough with their new schedule, but there is an incident during the first week of their lessons. Everyone is immediately alerted by the sudden gathering of the rukh, so thick that even the non-magicians can see it.

“What happened?” Sinbad asks as soon as he finds Yamraiha. She is standing over an unconscious Aladdin.

“I don’t know!” Yamraiha says. “We just took a break. We were only discussing some magical theory!”

Sinbad grabs Aladdin’s hand to take a closer look. He is instantly repelled.

“Someone is transporting Aladdin’s consciousness to somewhere else,” Sinbad says. They all watch as the rukh form a great white bird and fly off.

Aladdin doesn’t regain consciousness until the next day. When he does, Sinbad senses a change has come about him. Alibaba asks Aladdin if he’s alright.

“I was just saying good-bye to Ugo,” Aladdin says. The sad look in his eyes prevents everyone from asking more question.

A month passes, and Drakon returns to Parthevia. The Kou prince arrives and creates a headache with an overzealous proposal. Alibaba, Aladdin, and Morgiana’s training stalls. Sinbad does not appreciate the suggestion that Sharrkan makes, but he accepts that it is the best choice if he wants to see the children continue to grow. Sinbad is not surprised by what happens as soon as he asks them to clear Zagan’s dungeon.

“Please allow me to accompany them!” Hakuryuu begs. “With this you should have no problems, right? I’ll even leave whatever testament you want to make sure whatever happens falls on me!”

“Are you sure it’s alright?” Sharrkan asks after Sinbad lets all four children go. “Hakuryuu is still the prince of a hostile country after all.”

“It’s better than the alternative,” Sinbad says. “He has the same eyes as Serendine...”

Sinbad sends Sharrkan along with Yamraiha and Masrur after the children. Those four are bound to attract attention from the organization.

Sinbad is right. The children are attacked inside of the dungeon, but they manage to come out on top in the end. Their teachers effectively deal with the ambushers that are waiting outside, and Sinbad welcomes them all back with another celebration.

What Sinbad does not expect is for one of Al Thamen’s agents to infiltrate the island by possessing Hakuryuu’s arm. The agent creates copies of himself and attacks indiscriminately. They reform when cut down. One charges directly at Sharrkan. Sinbad realizes the plan too late when it is slashed apart. He only has enough time to get between it and Sharrkan. The curse lands on Sinbad.

“How lucky of me,” the remaining copy says. “I get to invite a King and a Magi to Fall.”

Sharrkan apologizes profusely for his carelessness. Sinbad waves it off. It is better that it’s him. Alibaba also got cursed. Sinbad stays long enough to make sure that he is stable. Then Sinbad goes to activate Yamraiha’s teleportation circle.

“Hey,” Sinbad greets. There is a stunned look on the Al Thamen agent’s face.

“Did you really think you could get away with attacking my kids?”

Alibaba is still under the effects of the curse when Sinbad returns. Aladdin reveals his new power as he saves his friend. Sinbad watches Aladdin and ponders even more about his origins. There are only supposed to be three Magi in the world after all…

The Musta’shim princess dies. The dark metal vessels turn out to be from Magnostadt. Aladdin decides he wants visits the country. Yamraiha is completely supportive of the decision, but Sinbad cannot be happy with Aladdin’s choice.

“Are you sure?” Sinbad asks when it’s just the two of them. “I agree with Yamraiha that the academy could teach you invaluable things. But given our discovery, it could be dangerous.”

Aladdin nods. He looks determined. “I know, but I want to see what happened to Dunya’s home for myself. You told me I should be allowed to freely travel and make my own judgments on what to do with my power.”

Sinbad smiles. “That I did…” He resigns. “But I still can’t help but worry.”

“Uncle,” Aladdin asks, “have you ever been to Magnostadt before?”

“Once… years ago, I met their leader Mogamett.” Sinbad mulls as he replies, “…I found him to be a man of good intentions, but I did not agree with him on several things.”

“The discrimination laws?” Aladdin asks.

“Among other things…” Sinbad ruffles Aladdin’s hair. “…But as you said, you need to discover things for yourself. Just be careful when you’re there, okay?”

“I will,” Aladdin says. “Thanks for everything you’re done for us, Uncle Sin.”

“You don’t have to thank me.” Sinbad smiles. “I’m glad that I could help.”

Then Sinbad thinks it over.

“…Well, there is one thing you can do for me.”

“What is it?” Aladdin asks.

“…Please go back to calling me Big Brother.”