“Grandma, grandma!” a little girl, Ana, shouts and hugs the woman who smiles and sits in a red chair.
“Hello dearie,” she brushes the child’s long, dark hair.
“Could you tell us a story grandma?” she runs to a group of five other six year-olds and sits them in front of the aged woman.
She brushes a hand through her sleek, black hair and reaches a finger up to play with a Chinese symbol meaning “magic” that hung from a chain. “Well, alright.” she starts, focusing on two younger children, each different genders. “I have a very special story today,” she smiles as the children’s faces light up.
The adult woman watches as the party in the background gets louder and more crowded, which seemed to distract the woman’s thoughts. So she leads the group of youngsters outside by where the Japanese ocean gently touched the sand. The adult escorts them to a nearby boulder where she proper herself up first, assisting the boys and girls up until everyone was comfortable.
“Go Granny!” Ana’s seven year-old friend says, sounding antsy.
“I’m only fifty-nine, dearie.” she reminds him, pointing a finger towards him and focuses. “Forty four years ago, a girl named Rumi an-“
“Grandma, you’re name is Rumi!” Ana squeals, forcing the grandma to nod.
“Forty four years ago, a girl named Rumi and her best friend Seito had the adventure of a lifetime. It all started the day after Rumi’s fifteenth birthday…”
Forty four years ago.
“Chika, Cheiko, Rumi!” Seito’s deep voice calls after me and my friends as we laugh and run further into the woods.
Thump! And I fall to the ground, kicking the log after I’d tripped.
“Are you okay?” Chika turns to me, laughing as she talks.
“Mhm.” I assure her and watch as she picks a piece of wet grass from her dark skin and looks to her twin sister, Cheiko who played with her curly hair.
Chika and Cheiko moved to Naio, Japan shortly after their small town in Africa was invaded by a group of dragons. I remember years ago when we’d just became friends, that Chika would tell me stories of how frightening, but incredibly fascinating it was. She would depict what they looked like for me, instantly making me smile whenever she would. The head dragon had had jade green scales and a golden stripe in the middle of his head to the bottom of his tail, probably hinting him as the leader; and the rest a deep blue. She’d say that the lead dragon named Verago had befriended her along with the others of his colony, but her family thought that her and her sister’s lives would still be in danger so they moved anyway.
“Where are you gu-?” I hear the familiar thud, taking me away from my thoughts. A dark-haired head pokes up happily, “Found ya.” he says and smirks.
Standing up, I help Seito until he is on top of himself and wait for Chika and Cheiko to get back from wherever the ventured off to.
“I think we’re on the top of the mountain,” I say and inhale.
“Chika?” I turn away from Seito and shout.
“We’ll be right back, just looking at something!” Cheiko responds, her voice sounding smooth, differing from Chika’s who sounded higher pitched.
“Are you okay?” Seito asks, picking out a leaf from my dark bangs that swooped above my left brow.
“Perfectly fine…” I say slowly as our matching brown eyes meet.
It’s like the whole world silenced for a moment. Like nothing else mattered. He leans forward towards me and ever so lightly, our lips met. But a moment after they had, Chika screamed and all the noises of the wilderness around us became crystal clear.
I pull away and wait for another shriek to alarm me, wondering if the first one had just been a figment of my imagination. I guess it wasn’t because before I knew it, Seito had grabbed my hand and we were running through the very emerald forest searching for the source.
But that sound, that terrible, petrifying sound hit me like a sudden wave: taking me aback.
It was the cry of a baby. It was wailing, shattering my ear drums, possibly even poking at my sanity which seemed to be disappearing at this very moment.
I grab Chika and Cheiko’s hand and pull them away from it.
It sat there in the ivy-covered ground, begging us to go near it, to hush it and nurture it before my father, the King of Naio, and his knights would come after us, in search of us. We stood twenty steps away from it, paralyzed. It was very disrespectful to handle a child whom was not yours. It could often be taken the wrong way, and being the Princess of Naio, I had great expectations that even I knew I wouldn’t achieve. Such as: saving all of Naio or gaining magical powers that apparently existed. I was never one to believe in magic.
“Cheiko!” Chika shouts after her twin as she breaks away from me and runs to the infant.
Chika looks back to me and grimaces. “Cheiko…stop. You don’t know if this is a trick or something. What if it’s cursed? Or what if it’s a demon!?” Chika shrieks, suddenly making me giggle. And laughing was not fit for this. “What’s so funny? Hmm?” she leans towards me and points to Cheiko who was advancing towards the baby in a brainwashed or zombie type way.
“You don’t actually believe that, do you? It’s a baby, not a demon. Nothing’s going to happen. Besides, I don’t believe in the supernatural.” I explain and wait for her response, but instead, she sighs angrily and turns away, slowly walking towards Cheiko.
Cheiko reaches her ebony hands down to the thing and picks it up, curling it in her arms and hushing it. But unexpectedly, Cheiko screeches and falls to the ground.
“What’s happening!?” Chika says and watches as the baby grabs the collar of Cheiko’s dress.
I stood, in complete shock as I heard her bones cracking. Each one making us more and more scared and teary.
I throw Seito’s arm away from me and rush to Cheiko’s side, without even knowing.
I grab the babies arm and begin to shake it, disturbing it from its astounding weight gain. But it sat there, as if nothing was happening, continuing to crush her body until it was flattened.
“Get off!” I shout loudly and kick the baby, grabbing my foot afterwards at its metal-feeling body.
“Rumi…” Chika says slowly, “It’s okay. We’re too late.” I’d never heard her with this tone. Something so dark and different from her usual sound. It was horrific, terrifying, and even dangerous.
“No,” I gulp for air and pick up the thing, suddenly feeling an adrenaline rush kick in.
“Rumi!” Seito screams as I throw the infant as far away as possible.
I watch it until it lands, and when it did, it was a fully stoned mountain shrine lantern.
“Grandma?” Ana asks and brushes her hair with her fingers.
“Yes my dear?” the woman’s thoughts zap away from the story.
“How did Cheiky die from the baby?” she asks, pronouncing the name wrong.
“Because my dear, Konak Jiji’s are very malevolent little creatures: it will depict itself as a baby crawling around on the mountains, which is where they were, and it will pick out a victim and start crying. By natural human instincts, Cheiko went to help the monster, but after you pick one up, they become tremendously heavy. And it is said that when you pick one up you become paralyzed, so it is near impossible to drop it. And after that, they will turn to stone, crushing the person until there’s hardly anything left. But in this case, it’s different. Since Rumi had thrown the fiend away, something good is about to come. But, my dear, you’ll just have to keep listening.” she elucidates and ends with a smile.
“Go on, Rumster!” Ana’s antsy friend speaks up once more with a humorous sentence.
Forty Four Years Ago.
* * *
“She’s fine,” the doctor turns off the small flashlight and walks out of the room after receiving a “Thank you,” from my father.
“I’m so ashamed of you,” he spat to me as the curtain closed.
“But, dad, we didn’t do anything. It was some kind of monster!” I look to my side, seeing Chika and Seito nodding.
“I don’t think you hurt Cheiko, but roaming around the mountains without a guard? That was very unintelligent of you, Rumi.” he sighs, “As the princess of Naio, I expected you to be a little more cautious.” he says and walks away, frowning.
“Rumi…” Seito says slowly and puts a hand to my shoulder, rubbing it gently, “It’s not your fault. That brute could’ve killed us all if it weren’t for you,” his rough hand reaches for my right one that I left hanging on the small bed in the hospital room.
* * *
Fumbling with the small jelly beans in front of me, I stare at Chika as she sits quietly.
“Chika, I’m really sorry. I hope you can forgive me.” her head cocks up and she smiles sadly.
“It’s not your fault. I could never blame you Rumi. You’re my best friend. I just can’t believe she’s…” she gulps and rubs her eyes.
“Have a jelly,” I say and hold one out: suddenly noticing a tingling feeling in between my two pinched fingers.
I begin to giggle uncontrollably, “What is that?!” Seito silences my chuckles.
“That jellybean is moving!” Chika beams a half smile.
I unleash two more yeah-right laughs, furrow my brows and turn to the yellow, ovular object that was moving.
“Hi!” it chirps and brushes itself off with its little yellow limbs.
“Excuse me?” my eyes grew wide, “How did you come to life? Am I dreaming?” I ask incredulously.
“You have animation powers. If you survive from a Konak Jiji, which you did, you’ll be rewarded with magical gifts.” it says and swings away from my finger.
“Wait, come back!” I stand up and follow it until it was out of my reach.
I gaze as it crawls into a crack and throws its tiny hand out and waves goodbye. I growl and go back to my chair.
“You have powers, Rumi!” Chika says in a happy disbelief.
“This is not good…” I say and look to my hands.
“Why is that bad, Grandma?” Ana asks with a spark in her eye.
“Because, dearie: shortly after she discovered her power, she began to gain more. Such as, she could heal people with diseases or wounds before they would die. So after her father, King Kazuki, found out he assigned her to be the healer during their wars, so they’d practically be invincible. Meaning that none of the soldiers of Naio would ever die. Oh, and, one thing that came good of this was that Father gave her a necklace that had a Japanese symbol for magic on it. I loved that necklace…” the grandma says and waits for any more questions.
“What do you mean I?” Ana says in bafflement.
“Excuse me, little girl,” a man in an army green suit waits for Ana to move.
Ana runs to her mother’s side as the grandmother observes the partygoers. They group in cliques with their children’s hands hanging from their own and wait for the silence to break.
“What do you want?” Rumi asks and stands proudly.
“We know your secret. You’re the daughter of King Kazuki, the one with the magical powers. The one who we never lost to because you healed everyone.” the man spills all of the things she wanted to keep in a story.
“Grandma?” Ana chirps.
“Yes, dear, ‘tis true. I’m Rumi, daughter of Airi and Kazuki.” smiles pass throughout the room as the people remember the hero.
“So, what we’ve come to here to say is…” he pauses for a second as Seito comes to Rumi’s side, putting a hand around her shoulder for comfort: afraid what the man might say. “Thank you.” the man says happily and pats my shoulder, bows his head, and makes his exit.
* * *
Sometimes life is like a Konak Jiji. It will wait for the most innocent and kindhearted of people to come along, and then it attacks. But if you survive through its storm, good things may come. Just remember that you can find magic in the darkest of things.
- Me. :)