I stared at the giant, no, djinn, before me. He continued to grin, looking very pleased with himself. Like he'd done something so awesome, bringing me here. I was exhausted, beat up, and pissed off. That grin made it all seem worse. I know Sensei would have told me to let my anger go, especially in the face of a more powerful opponent. That I should exercise caution, but…
I couldn't help it. Looking back, I know it probably wasn't the best idea, but, enough was enough. I'd been through what felt like hell and, due to the fact that this guy was the one who had spoken to me earlier, and the way he was at the end of the maze, I figured he was the cause of it. So, I snapped.
I grabbed the lid of the urn from where it had landed when it was blasted off, not too far from me, and chucked it at Salos as hard as I could. He frowned as it hit his bare chest and bounced off, looking more confused than anything. It made me angrier that it had no effect on him.
"What was that for?" he asked, like he honestly had no idea.
I clenched my free hand into a fist, holding my katana tightly in the other. I know I was glaring. The anger, while founded, had come on rather suddenly. I wasn't sure why. I've never been one to lose my temper quickly. But something about this whole situation, about him, made me see more red than I ever had.
"You…You're a fucking asshole!"
I couldn't help raising my voice. It echoed around the room for a moment before dissipating.
The djinn looked taken aback, though, whether it was because I'd insulted him or my cursing, I don't know. I felt myself shaking, both from anger and exhaustion. Seeing the look on my face, his expression crumpled.
I didn't know how he knew my name, but, I didn't really care at that point. I prided myself on being someone who can control their temper, however, this was too much. When he spoke, it set me off. I threw control out the window, not caring that he could probably squish me. Going through a number of life-threatening situations one right after the other seems to do that to someone.
"You took me from my home. You brought me to this fucked up place. I almost died! A lot! And you just sit there and smile like it's the best thing ever! Why?" this little rant had been building up inside for quite a while, and, once I started, I couldn't stop, "Is this some sort of game to you? Do blue giants like screwing people over? Answer me! Send me home! I was perfectly fine before you and your buddy decided I needed to be fucked with!"
My voice echoed once again, driven by how loudly I'd shouted at him. During my verbal abuse, his face had evened out. He looked at me expressionlessly for a long time. Long enough that the echoes faded. I stood there, breathing hard, staring back at him. I was pissed enough that I wanted to stick him with my sword. But, I wasn't actually sure I had the strength left to do so.
Suddenly, he moved, stepping over the table and the dais to stand directly in front of me. I moved back, sure I'd made him mad enough to kill me in retaliation. He knelt down, the force of a being his size moving about causing the floor to shake. He lowered his head until he was right above me, looming over me. I stiffened, wondering what he was doing. He continued to stare at me for a long moment, then, abruptly, he touched his forehead to mine.
It's really weird, having someone ten times your size trying to do something like that. I wasn't really sure what to make of it. I remained still, most of my face covered by his forehead. After a pause, he pulled back just a bit, and looked down at me, frowning again.
"It looks like your rukh retained a lot of your anger from those last few moments…" he muttered, looking me over, "And you don't remember anything. Not surprising…"
I knew my eyebrows must almost be touching. I was still pissed at this guy and here he was, muttering about more weird stuff. I opened my mouth to speak again, but was cut off when he touched my stomach with the tip of one finger, turned slightly sideways so that his long, talon-like nail missed me. He drew his fingertip lightly over the ugly scar on my belly, humming thoughtfully. I held back a shudder as that nail followed his touch. It was sharp enough that I thought he might be able to disembowel me if he wanted to.
"Still, you healed up nicely. I wasn't sure you were going to, since healing isn't really my forte," he withdrew his hand, allowing me to breathe easily again, "Though, since Ugo helped, I'm not really surprised by that either."
I knew that, if it could have, my frown would have deepened. This guy was giving me no answers. So far, I'd established that he and the other one knew me, I apparently didn't remember anything, and, if that scar was anything to go by, I'd been injured badly enough that I'd gone comatose and this guy had allegedly healed me.
The djinn, Salos, settled back into a sitting position, folding his legs. He propped his elbow on his leg and leaned his cheek against his fist. His green eyes remained trained on me.
"Now, then, you had some questions…Unfortunately, I am incapable of returning your memories. And I refuse to tell you what happened like it's some kind of fictional story. You need to remember for yourself," he looked thoughtful, "However, I will share the things you won't remember anyways. First of all…that place wasn't your home."
I stared at him. I was pretty damn sure that, yeah, that place was my home. I had foster parents, a job, an awesome Sensei, a life. So, obviously, one of us was crazy and I was prone to believe it wasn't me.
Seeing the look on my face, he cocked a brow. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I scowled. Damn, I couldn't do that. Why could the giant blue asshole? He sighed, then.
"I'm not going to be able to tell you anything with you glaring at me like that."
Without warning, he reached out with his free hand, moving so quickly there was only a blur of blue before he was touching my forehead again.
With those words, a wave of calm suddenly rushed through me, drowning out the anger. I swayed dangerously. The adrenaline from my anger had been about the only thing keeping me on my feet. Without it, the exhaustion caught up with me, my trembling muscles and numerous injuries making it impossible to stand. My sword hung limply in my hand, then it slipped from my fingers. I fell to the side. Salos quickly caught me, gently lowering me to the ground instead of letting me fall. He smiled slightly.
"There, much better. I don't want you doing anything rash. Now, all you have to do is sit there and listen."
Once I was seated on the ground, slightly slumped, he withdrew his hand just a bit. Enough that, while his fingers were no longer wrapped around me, he was still touching me. I wanted to be mad at whatever need he felt to invade my personal space, but, whatever he had done had made it so that I didn't have the will to get riled up again. He began to gently stroke my back. I couldn't deny that it felt nice, especially when I was so sore. He smiled softly.
"This always did work best on you. You're like a cat, the way this calms you down," he chuckled, "Now then. I suppose I'll have to start at the beginning."
Though I was tired, I gave him my undivided attention. He was finally going to explain things.
"You see, a very long time ago, there was a big battle, one that we both participated in. We were both rather skilled in our prospective fields of magic. I used my life magic and you used your light in order to fight against a group of magicians who had rebelled against our friends and loved ones," his smile had faded and now a deep frown took over, "During that battle, you were badly injured," his eyes dropped to my stomach and grew a bit distant, "No one was sure if you would make it. I couldn't heal you. While all life magic has healing properties, my life magic focuses more on plant life than that of animals or people. I was…helpless. However, with the help of a few others, I managed to halt you on the brink of death. You were mostly gone, but, not quite. There was hope, at least."
His eyes moved to focus on a point far away as he apparently dug up some old memories.
"However, we failed in this aspect: your rukh separated from your weakened body. Though your body was sustained by magic, your rukh, your soul, what makes you who you are, was absent. It fluttered away to the place you called your home. We didn't give up, though. We brought your body here, to my dungeon, where it would be safe and you would be under my protection. Even when the others left or went to sleep in their own dungeons and it was just Ugo and I who used our power to help you, I continued to heal you while he searched for your rukh. Your body finished healing a few years ago, but, we still hadn't found you….I have waited so long, alone in this dungeon, for you to come back to me. When you finally did, I was so happy. I wanted to go and see you right away," he looked back at me, "But, while my power extends throughout the dungeon, I cannot leave this room. That is the deal that was agreed upon…"
I really had no clue what he was talking about. His story was fantastical to say the least. But, he wasn't finished.
"But, you," he was grinning again, "You did just what I expected you to. Captured my dungeon, fought your way here, and now," his grin widened, "We're back together. I wasn't happy that Ugo got to see you first, but, it couldn't be helped. I'm really grateful to him," he stopped stroking my back and moved to touch my cheek instead, "You're the sun to my flower, I can't thrive without you. Not really."
Now, I was very confused. He was talking like we were really close. The touchy-feely stuff on his part, the poetic name, the whole 'I waited for you' story. He sounded like some sort of former boyfriend.
"…Who are you?" I asked quietly.
Salos's face lit up and he gave a small laugh.
"I'm surprised you don't even remember that. Thamina, I'm your twin."
My mind blanked. The giant blue man was telling me that he was my twin.
I had been sixteen when I was taken in by my foster parents. I'd been found, comatose, with no indication of how I'd gotten to be that way. The ambulance had been called and I'd been taken to the hospital, where my foster mother worked as a nurse. She and my foster father, a childless couple, had taken pity on me and, when I woke from the coma, had taken the proper course of action in order to take me in. There had been an investigation to try and find any relatives I may have, but, nothing was ever found. I was alone. I couldn't remember anything before the hospital, aside from my name being Thamina. Amnesia was suspected to be the cause of that.
While it was quite possible that I did have family from before and we'd just never found them, I found it highly unlikely that Salos was among them. After all, he wasn't even human. I remembered my antlers, claw-like nails, and heightened senses then. Was I even human?
Still, I couldn't help being incredulous.
"What?' I asked, voicing my confusion.
Salos grinned once more. He snapped his fingers and, suddenly, a large, silver mirror zoomed from a corner of the room. I realized that the seemingly worthless objects had taken on the glittering, shining casts of gold and silver. Gems also laid within the piles of treasures, giving color to the metallic scene. I hadn't really noticed, being focused on Salos.
The mirror came to an abrupt halt floating above me, at about my face level if I'd been standing. Salos delicately took my hand between his thumb and forefinger and tugged me to my feet. I frowned at him, wondering what the hell he was doing now. Once he had positioned me in front of the mirror, he laid out on his stomach, lowering his head so that his face was next to the reflective surface. Though his head was much larger than the mirror, I was able to see the comparison. He cocked his head, smiling and fluttering his lashes.
"See? We look so very similar."
Deciding to humor him, I looked in the mirror then glanced at the djinn next to it. I was going to blow him off, but, I realized that he was right. We did look very similar. Eerily similar. From the shape of the jaw to the slant of our eyes. If his hair was a lighter blue and his eyes were a pale gold, as mine were now, we really would look like twins. Even with his blue skin.
He watched me keenly, taking in the look on my face. His smile widened into a grin again, baring a set of straight, white teeth.
"You see it, but you don't remember…hmmm, I wonder if you will once I truly become your djinn."
I looked up at him. I was still confused, but, for whatever reason, that put me at easy. I felt I could trust Salos, even if what he'd said seemed far-fetched.
He nodded, propping his elbow on the floor and pressing his cheek to his fist.
"Mhm. You see, originally, like many of the others', the entrance to my dungeon was placed in the human world. Many brave souls entered," his grin turned to a somewhat dark smirk, "But none survived. Once one goes into a dungeon, they must either complete it, or die. No one could complete mine," he chuckled, "I'll admit to being a bit biased, though. I didn't want to belong to any of those humans. I wanted to be with you," his smirk lightened, "You got through it because, even though you don't remember, on a subconscious level, you instinctively remember how I think," he tapped his temple, "You had an unfair advantage, my sun, even though you didn't know it."
I thought about that for a moment. I had no way of knowing if it was true. I decided to take his word for it.
"But that still doesn't explain how you're my djinn."
Salos moved both hands under his chin, smiling, and began to absently kick his feet in the air.
"When someone captures a dungeon, they are rewarded with all the valuables from the treasure room, as well as the power of the djinn who resides within. You are the one who captured my dungeon. Therefore, you are now my master."
I took a moment to let this digest. I'd gotten to the place where the mental 'shit Mina isn't dealing with right now' folder had been turned into the 'shit Mina is giving up on dealing with and just accepting' folder. I'd captured a dungeon and, now, apparently was stupid rich and had a djinn…who was also my brother.
"And…you wanted to be my djinn?"
He nodded happily.
"Of course. You see, twins of our race share a special bond. We have a strong connection mentally, physically, and spiritually. We're two parts of one whole. Without you, I'd only be half, and vice-versa," he cocked his head, "Tell me, have you ever felt inexplicably lonely?"
I thought about that. I suppose I had always been a bit of a loner. I got along better with older adults than my peers and, even though I needed interaction, I didn't really favor it. But, I'd chalked it up to simply being introverted.
Could he be telling the truth…?
Best not to think about that part. Trying to take in everything at once was sure to give me a headache. I gave a nod in response to his question before asking my own.
"So…because of this…twin bond, you wanted to be my djinn. Now that you are…what does that mean?"
Salos gave a Cheshire cat smile.
"It means that I'll take up residence within a metal vessel, something metal that you own, something that's meaningful to you and that you've had for a long time. Then, when needed, you'll be able to call upon my power," he chuckled, "I doubt you'll have any difficulty with that."
I nodded slowly. I was beginning to understand a bit. However, I still wasn't sure how much of this was real and how much was fantasy. Or if maybe he was high and I shouldn't believe anything he told me. The latter seemed unlikely, though. I would just have to wait for him to prove it was real.
I realized that, in order to do that, he would need a metal vessel. Something close to me…I looked over and found my sword. It might work. To me, it was a symbol of hard earned titles and honors and the commitment it took to excel in anything. I reached down and picked up the sword.
"Will this do?"
Salos looked at it appraisingly, reaching out to give it a tap with one of his long nails.
"Hm, I think so. This should work just fine."
"Alright. So, you'll dwell in this…and then I can go home?"
Salos stilled, his expression going almost blank. His eyes saddened, then, his eyelids dropped over them slightly, as though he was in pain.
"I'm sorry, Mina, but, that wasn't your real home," he murmured, "Even if Ugo and I tried to send you back, I don't think we could. After all, you're not of that world. Your rukh and your body are anchored here…to try and send you back is probably impossible, and, if an attempt was made, it might kill you. No, when I dwell in your sword, you and I, and all of this treasure, will be sent to the human world that's connected to this one. We'll probably never return here, either."
His words hit me like a hammer blow. I felt myself sink to my knees again, eyes on the floor. I think, somewhere in the back of my mind, I had realized this. But, to hear it said out loud was devastating. I was a loner, yes, but I loved my foster parents and they had loved me. They had gotten me on my feet, despite my amnesia. They had introduced me to Sensei.
Sensei was the one I respected most. He'd taught me so many valuable things. How to be confident and strong, but disciplined and respectful. How to fight. How to wield a sword and staff. His teachings had saved my life numerous times in this dungeon.
There were others I knew, coworkers, fellow students, neighbors, who I would miss. But none were so important as my foster parents and Sensei. I felt tears well in my eyes before spilling over and dripping to the ground.
A large, blue finger gently slipped under my chin and lifted my head. Salos watched me with a pained expression, however, it was more like seeing me crying was hurting him more than that he himself was in pain. His lips were pursed and his eyes tight. He carefully used a thumb to dab the spilled tears away. He then took to gently stroking my hair with one finger, waiting until I had worked through my sadness.
It took a surprisingly short amount of time. I'd never been one to cry a lot, though. I said goodbye to those closest to me, tucking them away so that I wouldn't forget them. While I wouldn't see them again, I knew that they were alive and well, and that gave me peace. Finally, I took a deep breath and looked up at Salos.
Meeting his gaze, I suddenly and inexplicably felt the oddest sensation. I felt empathy mixed with jealousy spill into my mind. I knew these weren't my own emotions, though. My eyes widened in surprise.
Salos gave me a tight smile and the emotions tapered to a small thread rather than the stream they had been. Then, they disappeared altogether.
"Sorry. I envy those who you were so close to…I've never liked sharing you, my sun…"
With that, he withdrew his hand and stood, rising to his full, towering height. He dusted himself off before looking down at me, a smile again taking over his expression. He gave no explanation for the emotions I had felt. Instead, he simply moved on.
"Are you ready?" he asked.
I stood as well, wincing at my injuries and soreness.
"I…think so," I replied, picking up my bag from where it had fallen, "Though…I don't like the idea of going to this new place alone."
That was enough to send my stomach into knots. From what Salos had said, I had inferred that the human world wasn't like this…dungeon. Still, I had no idea what it would be like.
"We've already established that you won't be alone. I'll be with you. Don't worry. Even if they decided to make a move against you, we won't have to worry."
I wasn't sure who 'they' was, so, I assumed it was the humans.
The djinn suddenly made a small 'ah!', snapping his fingers.
"I almost forgot. Stupid of me."
He turned back to the table on the dais and gingerly lifted the gold staff from it. The orb at the top, as big as both my fists pressed together, flared green when he touched it. He knelt to give it to me.
"Here. This is ours, well, yours now."
I hesitantly reached out and took it. For a moment, as we both touched it, green and yellow whirled and danced within the orb. Then, Salos released it and yellow took over.
"You must not let that be taken from you. It was a very important gift from our ruler."
I nodded in understanding. Don't let the staff go. Got it.
The djinn tapped his chin thoughtfully, looking around the treasure room. He murmured to himself, seeming to run through a mental checklist.
"Alright, explained things, gave you the Staff…." he looked at me and nodded once, grinning, "I think we're ready."
He folded his arms. Then, with a great rush and a blast of wind, he seemed to deflate, zooming towards my katana. I watched in amazement as he disappeared into it. As soon as he was gone, an eight pointed star appeared on the blade.
"Holy shit…" I muttered.
He'd really done it.
This was really real.