|The Most Boring Story Ever Told
Author: Mieu-san PM
Tari's life has been boiled down to the simplicities: soup, his shop, one obnoxious assistant, and absolutely NEVER sticking his neck out. Unfortunately, seems like he hasn't done as good a job of becoming invisible as he thought. Slash.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Chapters: 5 - Words: 10,839 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 10 - Updated: 01-16-13 - Published: 04-10-12 - id: 3012486
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Warnings: Incomprehensible foreshadowing, dismissal of personal space, some cursing, Harker and Diere being themselves. Relatively more harmless than the previous chapter might lead you to believe.
Chapter Three: The Differences between Soup and Tea
"The only thing I wanted was a life without trouble." Tari stared forlornly at his hands. They were hidden under mounds of black cloth, like the rest of him. But he didn't mind. That was Tari—king of those who didn't mind and best soup chef in all of Umharal.
The ground underneath his feet was coming apart. There was no point in running any further, Tari remembered. The exits had already been cut off. And anyway, people who devoted their lives to peaceful existences weren't exactly champion sprinters.
"That's all," Tari insisted, a little defensively. The silence seemed to be prodding at him. Really? It asked. That's really all you ever wanted out of life? Even when you were Loupa's age? "I've done everything I'm supposed to. I don't stand out—I don't start fights. I do my job, I pay my rent, and I leave everyone else alone. This isn't fair."
Now the silence was smug. Tari had begun to slip through the ground now, sand swallowing him alive. He still couldn't be bothered to move. Didn't want to cause trouble.
It was night, he realized as his head sunk underneath the sand. He could see the moon.
"That's nice," said the moon.
He was shaken like a toddler's toy as he did, rattling around with the stones and the sand and the big heavy thing that had taken residence on top of him to keep him from moving. He fell. And fell. And fe—seriously, this was getting old. He could hit the bottom anytime now.
"G'way," Tari grunted, somehow with a lot less sand and a lot more air in his throat than he'd thought. "G'way. Stupid rocks."
"Not quite awake yet, I see."
Tari's eyes opened.
This would have been more comforting if what they opened to hadn't been unrelenting pitch black, the knowledge that there really was something preventing him from moving, and one hand clasped in what felt like iron. I'm dead? Tari wondered, more puzzled than truly horrified. I missed the bottom? Well, that's definitely a let-down.
Then again, Tari doubted that he'd been unpleasant enough in life to merit an afterlife with Harker's voice. "I can't believe you actually fainted."
I can't believe you actually kidnapped me off of the streets in broad daylight, Tari thought acidly. Seems that we're about even. Pause. Think. …Why can't I move?
Seizing its cue, the burden compressing Tari's lungs into his spine and effectively pinning down all his limbs dropped a muzzle on Tari's chest and panted dog breath into his face.
"Although, considering all those robes, I guess it's no wonder." Harker's voice was curious. "Don't you get hot under all that?"
Tari negotiated an agreement with his vocal cords; they'd ask Harker one question and then he'd let them take the day off for the rest of the evening. "…Why are we bouncing?"
"Oh, you've never been in a carriage before?"
Tari glowered into the darkness. Being a lord gave Harker the right to kidnap Tari, take his life on a whim, and buy a large quantity of things he didn't need. Tari did not see why nobility should excuse being annoying.
"Do not take offense at my haste," Harker implored from the other side of the rich person's moving, wheeled box. "I've wanted a tour guide for so long, and at last you have fallen into my hands." Literally. That tone of voice, Tari was sure, was specifically calculated to make perfectly sane men start contemplating murder.
Tari wasn't a tour guide. He left his shop on market days and when his apprentice was being an asshole. Beyond the doors of his kitchen, Umharal was as much of a mystery to Tari as it had been when he stumbled into its borders thirteen years ago.
As Tari glowered, the manacle holding his hand abruptly resolved itself into fingers-moving fingers. Harker. Turning Tari's hand over so it was palm-up. …Why? After a pause, Tari flinched, feeling Harker's fingers trailing along his. That tickles. Tari negotiated with his vocal cords some more. "…What are you doing?"
"Enjoying your company." Harker did it again, and this time his fingers slipped under Tari's sleeve. "Your hands are very soft, you know?"
When foreigners started commenting on the softness of your hands, that seemed like a good time to put years of hauling pots full of soup around to use. Tari muscles tensed and he felt Harker's do the same, locking their hands in place. And then—slowly—Tari was able to drag his arm back. When it slipped free of Harker entirely, he could feel the patronization all the way on his side of the carriage.
Tari dragged his sleeve down farther to emphasize his distaste. He was starting to see a little bit now—he could see Harker grinning. A mouth full of very, very white teeth. Not unsettling in the slightest.
Tari had never fainted before. That had been new.
"Instead, we can talk." It wasn't quite a command, but close enough to make Tari bristle. "Good conversation is what I live for."
Tari snorted. "I'm not talkative."
"Words!" Harker was gloating now. Excellent. "Are you sure?"
Tari narrowed his eyes at Harker's teeth. He. Was. Sure.
Harker leaned back too, alerting Tari to the fact that Harker had been leaning towards him. He hadn't been able to tell. Unsettled, Tari shivered and watched Harker's smile broaden at the sight. Not creepy at all, really. Tari wasn't bothered at all by his kidnapper smiling like he was planning to eat him.
Where was Loupa when Tari needed him?
"Your voice is lovely, brother Tari. When you spoke our tongue, I thought my heart would burst with delight."
Then go back to your country! "It is your tongue. Not mine."
"Stubborn," Harker sighed back. Diere looked up at Tari with soulful, worried eyes. Judging from how long they'd been travelling, Tari's slum was long gone.
Tari felt very tired of this game. "…Lord Harker, tell me what you want."
Harker didn't say anything for a moment. "You leave your manners at the shop, hm?" Tari exhaled roughly, biting back a reply that would prove the lord's point. Harker murmured, "Though you always look like you've tasted something foul when you spit out pretty words for your customers."
"Do not," muttered Tari, because he didn't. Or at least he didn't think that he did. At any rate, Harker was being very annoying and deserved to have someone disagree with him.
"The look on your face when you go back into the kitchen," Harker persisted, "Is one of utter relief. Like a traveler who has found his destination."
Then Harker went silent—but his silence had a sword's edge of waiting. It prodded a reluctant reply out of his captive. "I like my job," Tari muttered, expecting Harker to disagree with another annoying analogy about travelling. Harker's eyes shined in the dark.
Tari tried and failed not to look unsettled by this answer. "Your job," he finally grumbled with a wave of one of his hands. "What is it."
Harker chuckled at this. "Abrupt, aren't you, eslaeya?"
Tari replied without thinking. "Shut up."
Harker laughed, light as air. And after a moment, when he wasn't condemned to death for his insolence, Tari felt his heart begin to beat again. And then he smiled—slowly. Something wound tight in him began to loosen.
The first thing Harker said when he caught his breath was, "Well first, I'm not a lord. But I like you calling me that, so don't feel any compulsion to stop."
Tari blinked a few times. His voice was blank because… yes, Harker was. He was a citizen. That didn't happen in Umharal without titles galore. "…Oh?"
"I'm a merchant," Harker explained.
Which still didn't make sense.
Tari's lack of comprehension must have been obvious because Harker went on, "…with some measure of affluence."
Tari frowned faintly. "You can buy citizenship?"
"Of course not," Harker said at once, and Tari hissed when he realized Harker was right in front of him, close enough that he could feel the heat of his breath. He tried to scramble back, but the hound had him pinned. Harker's voice was like the rumblings of a mountain—just before a landslide carried you away. Run away! "That would be absolutely illegal." Tari felt Harker lean back with every molecule of air that slid down his throat. Harker's teeth shined. "…I just happen to have done so."
Tari's voice had gone ahead and taken that holiday.
Before Tari could process what in the name of Igmara that had been about, the carriage stopped moving. Tari went blind again. Someone had opened the door and whoever it was, Tari and his helplessly searing eyes hated them.
He felt Harker's arm around his shoulders, guiding him forward in stumbling steps. Harker's voice was right at his ear, which was uncomfortably close to Tari's neck—instinct was telling him to run before a lion bit out his throat. Tari tried very hard not to shiver.
"What would you like?" Asked Harker. Tari smelled everything from roasting vegetables to frying meats to syrup around him in one dizzying aromatic traffic jam.
"Soup," Tari said automatically. He kicked himself immediately afterwards. No, Tari, stop encouraging the demented foreigner! Harker sighed into his ear, which sent a jolt down to Tari's stomach. It stayed there too, circling and waiting for another opportunity to shock him.
Tari inhaled again, looking for an appealing alternative. It came in the form of Harker asking, "How about tea?"
By the time Tari's vision came back, he was sitting across from Harker, listening to the cleanest human being he'd ever seen listing off tea prices that Tari considered unforgivable. And Harker appeared to be ordering one of everything, to Tari's growing dismay. Harker also had a hand on his and Diere (who Harker had sweet-talked the exceptionally clean gentleman into allowing inside) had his muzzle in Tari's lap. Tari stayed put.
"So," Harker said brightly as soon as the inhumanly clean creature had gone. Tari's hand was starting to sweat and plead for its freedom. "Why is it that you only eat soups, Tari?"
Tari raised an eyebrow in response. Look around you. Does this look like a soup shop?
Harker snorted. "Tea is a drink, you know."
Tari narrowed his eyes. Details.
"Fine," Harker sighed, nevertheless looking slightly amused by whatever it was that amused merchants who paid illegally for citizenship. "Don't answer me. I'll explain why I brought you here."
Nice of you to get that.
"I've just ordered this establishment's finest teas," Harker said with a tone of pride, rather than the tone of a man who has just frittered away his life's savings. "I like them all, but mine is hardly a refined pallet. So I'll be relying on your expertise." Diere was growling a bit again. Tari tried to seem less alarmed than he was. "Try them and tell me what is the best Umharal has to offer."
Were all Iosians like this? Tari couldn't remember. "Er."
"Here they come," Harker said. And Tari sort of forgot about what they were talking about.
Tari's eyes rolled back in his head a little as he sipped the first one. Harker's lips quirked into a smile just visible over his own cup. "Good?"
Tari didn't answer. He let his eyes close on the second sip. "Pick that one," he commanded Harker. Harker wasn't a lord. Tari could command him if he wanted to.
Harker laughed around his second sip. "Shouldn't you try the others first?"
"Zaida yara," Tari muttered. "You're trying to kill me."
Harker laughed again, and maybe it was the tea, but Tari felt something warm starting to grow inside of him.
A/N: Write another chapter, they said. It will be easy, they said. Liars. Gonna keep updating anyway. As always, those who provide useful critiques will find themselves rewarded.
eslaeya- an Iosian term for someone endearingly bumbling (here, Harker is teasing Tari for being tactless). Think 'goofball', but more applicable to older people.
Igmara- An Umhai deity that Tari invokes regularly in spite of the fact that very few people worship Igmara, god of lizards and thieves.
Zaida yara- Umhai for 'good grief' when faced with an impossible situation. It translates directly to 'a thousand gods', and it gets is basic meaning from the fact that Umharal has over a thousand gods, making it impossible to recognize and worship them all, much like Tari doesn't think he has it in him to try all the teas.