Over the next half hour, Sean had to withstand the company of Umbra's new companion, who in his estimation was either:
A psychotic stalker who had probably chased down the last man not because he had been a thief, but because he had rebuffed her advances.
A rather talented con artist who would probably enslave Umbra to Phirellian slavers and then sell his soul along with his organs after he died.
A personal punishment sent to him by God for sins he had committed through out his whole life.
And to be honest, he considered each possibility just as likely as the others.
She led Umbra by the arm, dragging him this way and that, without so much a care in the world. Occasionally she rose up to her tip toes to whisper something into the young warrior's ear. Sean could tell if the kid had understood it on how red the kid's face got. By the time they finally got to Selena's house, Umbra's face looked like it had more blood in it than the rest of his body combined.
Unsurprisingly, the broad seemed to live on the poorer side of town. Despite this, she brought them to a house that although slightly rundown, was still in pretty good condition. The roof was missing a few shingles here and there, but none of the paint was peeling or faded and the yard did seem to be in pretty good condition. Studying Selena's body, Sean doubted that she ever hurt for men willing to 'lend a little help'.
"Alright, we took you home," Sean said, not willing to go closer to the place then the sidewalk. "Nice to meet you, now have a nice life."
When Sean turned to leave, she bit her lip, but it wasn't until Umbra tried to untangle himself from her grasp that she finally spoke up. "But won't you come in? I'm sure my grandmother would love to meet you. It's not everyday that a shy, young girl like me gets rescued."
Sean snorted when she had started, and he nearly swallowed his cigarette when she referred to herself as 'shy'. In fact he was so busy trying not to choke that he didn't have time to say anything before Umbra took Selena up on her offer.
"I'd be glad to say hello!" Umbra said cheerfully, blissfully unaware of Sean's imagination choking him to death. "It's not like we have anything to do today anyway!" Sean's imagination was now taking time to kick Umbra's corpse as it lay bleeding from several stab wounds beneath him.
The interior of the house was much like the outside. Other than a thin layer of dust on much of the furniture, it was in very good shape. A thousand little baubles filled the shelves; the walls were covered with simple wallpaper that would've complimented the warm feeling of the house very well if it hadn't been crooked. The house smelled of apples and cinnamon mixed with a heavy odor of some type of smoke. Selena showed them to a small wooden table with a webbed table cloth on top, and then excused herself to get her grandmother.
Sean stared daggers at his young friend, but Umbra was oblivious of it. He leaned back in his chair comfortably and inhaled deeply. "Reminds me of home," he said with a smile. He turned his attention to Sean, still failing to note the gleam in the bounty hunter's eyes. "How 'bout you, Sean? What was your home like?"
Sean thought of the place he was living now, a single, one room apartment of simple greys and blues, its single bed, Vision Screen, couch, fridge, and nothing else. But he knew Umbra wasn't asking about that place. He was asking where Sean had grown up. He shrugged, trying not to shiver. "A bit different," he said, offering no more on the subject.
Umbra was about to open his mouth and press for more information when Selena showed up with an elderly woman in tow. The elderly woman had the same dark skin as Selena, but the physical similarities ended there. Her frizzy gray hair stuck out from her head in all directions, her facial features seemed almost lost in all the laughter wrinkles. Her hazel eyes were bloodshot, and once Sean caught a glance of the hookah gripped firmly in the old woman's grip, it became apparent as to why. Well, I guess that explains the smell of smoke, he thought to himself. She grinned widely at the sight of the visitors and sat down at the table.
Selena nearly leapt onto Umbra's lap and told her grandmother, "You see, granmama, these are the men who saved my purse! This is Umbra and…" she shot Sean a look, "his… friend, isn't he incredible?" She asked, twirling her arms around Umbra so there could be no question on who she thought was so incredible.
The grandmother looked up with a curious glance and asked, "Saved your purse? You set it on fire or something?"
Selena leaned forward and looked into her grandmother's eyes. Spotting what to Sean had been obvious, she shook her head and raised her hands to rub at her temples. Umbra, however, answered the question for her.
He talked animatedly, using his hands the whole time, as if describing an event that one had to have been at to fully appreciate. "No, we saved it from a purse snatcher. I heard someone cry out for help and deciding to do my best to help someone in need, I chased after the culprit! Using all my speed and agility, I managed to…" one cough from Sean and the look in his eyes warned Umbra to cut out the bullshit and just hurry it up. Shoulders slightly slumped, Umbra quietly finished with, "And then we caught the guy."
Sean: to Selena Wait, what do you mean, 'not now'?
Selena: No, granmama, I don't think that's needed this time!
Grandmother: Psh, girl, psh. When is it not needed? takes a toke and blows the smoke out So then what did you do with the purse snatcher, young man?
Umbra: Well… uh, Sean knocked him out.
Grandmother: How violent! Selena, watch out for that hooligan!
Sean: The guy had just stolen your granddaughter's purse.
Grandmother: Keep quiet, hooligan. turns to Umbra And then what did you do, young man?
Selena: Oh yes! Tell her how we met, mi amoroso! clutches at Umbra once again, just for emphasis
Umbra: Well… uh… gee… What did happen after that?
Selena: What!? You don't even remember our first meeting!? Estupido! whacks Umbra
Sean: And she called me violent…
Grandmother: We would've skinned the monster back in our days… Kept his fur and skin as a memory to pass onto those that would follow our steps in the positions of the tribe. But now they just let them go… I hope you guys at least took him to the police.
Sean: Oh crap!
Umbra: to Selena I'm sorry, Selena… I didn't know this kind of thing meant that much to you. Forgive me?
Selena: You truly are sorry? Oh of course I will forgive you! Oh, now I know it is meant to be! (or something…)
Sean: We forgot to drop that guy off at the Police Station!!! Shit!
Grandmother: Watch your tongue, hooligan. Oh well, he's probably already escaped, so why don't we celebrate our new company? takes another hit off the hookah
Umbra: sniffs the air Hey, that smells like the stuff Arkhel used to smoke!
Grandmother: Ah, whoever he is, he has good taste. Who'd he buy the Domin herb from?
Sean: Domin herb!? Are you nuts?
Grandmother: No… I'm human. whispers loudly This hooligan can't see too well, can he? giggles How many fingers am I holding up?
Sean: grinding his teeth Three.
Grandmother: Ah, so he doesn't have bad eyesight. I guess that means he's just stupid.
Umbra: completely oblivious that Sean was just shot down No, Arkhel used to grow his own. Or rather, he had me grow it for him.
Grandmother: Oh!!! A man of very good tastes indeed!
Sean: YOU GREW IT!? DON'T YOU KNOW THAT DEALERS DECREASE THE POTENCY DUE TO THE STRENGTH OF PURE DOMIN HERB!?!?!?
Umbra: just grinning Arkhel always said I did a good job.
Sean: Well, actually, this might explain a few things about you, Umbra…
Grandmother: How many times do I have to tell you to keep quiet, hooligan? Back in my day you would've gotten the boot so fast… Not like your fine young friend here.
Umbra: Please stop saying that… He might hurt me later.
Grandmother: I knew he was a violent little hooligan the instant I set eyes on him. Well don't you worry, you sweet young man. If he causes you any trouble, any trouble at all, just put me on the phone with him and I'll straighten him right up.
Sean: Well, alright. Nice to meet you, but we gotta go. We have plenty of things to do and not much time to do it.
Grandmother: No, no, not yet. We haven't even done the vision ceremony yet!
Umbra: Why didn't you ever say anything about having stuff to do when we were just cruising through the city, Sean?
Selena: No, granmama! I don't think they will… appreciate your vision ceremony.
Sean: Umbra, you idiot…
Umbra: Vision ceremony? Sounds neat, what do we do?
Grandmother: Excellent! So it is decided! All you have to do is take a hit off the hookah and blow it into this bag of kinta. Then tell me what visions you see and upend the bag, so all the kinta fall out onto the table. The spirits will tell me what it all means…
Sean: No thanks.
Grandmother: Afraid of the future are we?
Sean: Nothing of the sort. I just know that this is going to be fake, so I'm not interested.
Grandmother: I know you're stupid, even for a hooligan, but try and keep up. How can you know it's fake if you've never seen it done?
Sean: There is no way to foretell the future when all the instruments are nothing more than drugs and sticks.
Grandmother: Kinta, repeat after me, kinta. Plus you left out one important ingredient. The spirits!
Sean: To this date no one has shown any hard-core evidence supporting the idea or theory of a soul by any definition.
Grandmother: What about penna-ectoplasm you little hooligan?
Sean: Karmic energy, it has nothing of anyone's memories, emotions, thoughts or anything. It's merely energy.
Grandmother: If you're so smart, than explain to me why no one has shown evidence disproving the theory of a soul? Huh? What, no answer? That's right, I thought so! sticks out tongue
Sean: That still doesn't change the fact that I'm not participating in this ceremony.
Grandmother: Ah, yes… I see.
Sean: See what?
Grandmother: You're name. Some people need the guidance of spirits for me to learn their spirit name, but I can tell your's just by looking at you.
Grandmother: Running Wolf. Tell me, Running Wolf, if you are not afraid, and then why not do it? Why not prove yourself? Why not prove that it is fake?
Sean: I have no need to prove anything to you.
Grandmother: No? Then prove it to yourself.
Sean: … Fine.
Umbra: I want to go first! Can I?
Grandmother: Of course, honey, of course. Here ya go! Enjoy.
Umbra: Cool, so what do I do first?
Grandmother: First off, arrange the kinta anyway you want before putting them in the bag.
Umbra: doing it So when does a spirit react?
Grandmother: Oh… this is quite amazing! It seems a spirit started reacting the instant your hand touched the kinta! Wow, that's neat! Really neat…
Umbra: Umm… Really?
Grandmother: Really, Grinning Bird!
Umbra: Grinning Bird?
Grandmother: That's your spirit name, alright. It most certainly is.
Umbra: So… what's that… mean, uh, exactly? You know, the whole spirit thing with the kintas?
Grandmother: See, Running Wolf? He can say it! You should try to be more like Grinning Bird here. He's good stuff.
Umbra: Umm… the spirit thing?
Selena: Some people would call it a guardian angel, guapo. I can think of no one more deserving!
Umbra: So that's good, right?
Grandmother: Eh… ya never can tell. Could be an evil bloodsucking vampire for all ya know. But anyways, continue the ceremony Grinning Bird!
Umbra: Oh, right! puts kinta in the bag, then takes a toke off the hookah, proceeds to blow the smoke into the bag with the kinta
Grandmother: Not bad for a beginner! Selena, get poor Grinning Bird here a drink of water before he coughs up a lung, ok?
Selena: Oh, here, here. Drink, drink.
Umbra would have replied, however he found himself chugging down the water too fast to say much more than 'brwbp'. After he set the glass down he felt a wave of pleasurable dizziness whirl through him, it spread to the top of his head and condensed there, giving him a strange wonderful muddle-headed feeling. He looked over the table at () and started wondering how exactly she could be that far away.
"This is some pretty good stuff!" He yelled at her so she could hear him all the way across the football field of a table. He jumped as soon as the words left his lips. When had his voice gotten so loud? The whole thing seemed very humorous to Umbra all of a sudden, and he started laughing uncontrollably.
"Looks like Brother Grinning Bird is having a good time," () said, while rocking back in her wooden chair. She grabbed the kinta bag and started swirling it around in a slow circle while smoke issued from the hole where Umbra had blown the smoke into the bag.
Sean watched Umbra in a slightly disgusted interest. The kid was staring at his hand, waving the fingers back and forth and laughing every couple of seconds. After a few seconds, Sean decided to risk communication, "How ya feeling, kid?"
"Look, Sean, look! Fingers!!!"
"Umbra? You all there, kid?"
Umbra just started staring at his hands once again, it took him about a minute before he finally jumped and replied to Sean's question. Well, sort of replied to Sean's question, at least.
"Ya know, Sean, I think hands are my favorite body part of all. Just look at them, you could stare at 'em forever and never know all the little lines the go criss-cross over them! It's like… cool, and stuff!" Umbra then started to entertain himself by waving both hands in front of his face at the same time.
"Just how long exactly is he going to be like this?" Sean asked, staring at the old seer woman.
She laughed once and stopped her chanting to reply, "Who knows? But he hasn't passed out yet, so that's always a good sign."
Sean sighed; he had a bad feeling about this. "How long does it normally last?"
The grandmother shrugged, "On people who've never had it before? Oh, about thirty hours. Give or take a few, of course."
This time Sean groaned. I think I'll probably be fine, he thought to himself, but having to deal with the kid like this for a damn day or two? You've got to be kidding me… This was not looking good.
Selena's grandmother finally had gotten Umbra's attention away from his fingers and onto her old brown eyes. She spoke in a soft melodic quality that fit well with Umbra's half-closed eyelids. "Now, relax, Grinning Bird. Relax. Close your eyes and open the one that sees beyond this world. Tell me what sights you see in your mind's eye and I will translate them with the aide of the kinta, then we shall check to see if any spirits wish to come into contact with you."
For awhile it appeared that Umbra had fallen asleep and lost interest with the rest of the Vision Ceremony. However, after a few moments, he finally spoke up. His voice had none of the goofy confusion of before, it was light almost mystic, "I see a Wind of Fire racing towards me, and it spins around me warming me to every inch of my being, however after awhile it flies away again. While it is away, a warm rain suddenly comes into being. It too gives off drenching warmth. Both the Wind and the Rain are special, but if I face both at once, it will be too much to handle."
The grandmother looked down at the kinta, frowned to herself and then nodded at Umbra to keep going. After looking up she realized that he still had his eyes closed and said, "Anything else, Grinning Bird?"
"Uh… yeah, here comes another one… It's a big block of ice. On one side there is a dark abyss so deep that even the light can't escape from it. On the other, a white light. The ice is trying to slide toward the light but the darkness keeps it sucking it back. Finally the ice decides to break itself so that at least part of it may go into the light. While it's breaking, a small sliver of ice breaks free from both pieces and fails to fall in either the light or the darkness. I can't see where it falls, but I know it's not gone…"
This time the grandmother looked from Umbra to the kinta and over and over again. "Are you sure that's what you see?" She asked somewhat bewilderedly.
"Yup," Umbra replied simply, lounging in his chair, eyes still closed.
"Well, ok…" the grandmother said, "anything else in that strange head of yours?"
"You betcha," Umbra said in that voice that made him sound more asleep than anything else.
Fight with Sharik
Winning Over of Yoshi
Death of both him and Shynn
(start Sean's part)
"Ah, yours has been a much longer path than it first appears, hasn't it, Running Wolf?"
"The name's Sean, remember, not Running Wolf. And that's a rather vague start, wouldn't you say?"
Madam Luna sniffed. "So cynical, though I guess the years would do that to a person. Tell me, Running Wolf, how many years exactly has it been? You look only in your early thirties, but the weight you carry with you is three times of that. How many years since your feet first fled towards freedom?"
It was that word and the smoke that made him say the next words, at least that's what he told himself later when replaying the memory to himself later. "Sixty years," he whispered.
"Oh how you hunger for that dream, don't you? That sweet-"
"I have achieved it! I'm as free as the next man." Sean regained his composure, leaned back and put his feet up on the table.
Madam Luna leaned back and almost chuckled slightly to herself. "How silly of me," she said, wiping at her brow with a small handkerchief she had somehow aquired, "teasing a wolf. They never tame, you see. Which is why you first tried to get rid of your shackles, wasn't it? They couldn't break you."
Sean stood up. "I'm leaving. I've had more than enough of this."
Madam Luna sighed to herself. "I expected more from you. Running Wolf, you've faced so many things, you who let nothing get between you and your human right to live as you chose, you who have overcome so much, is finally going to fold when he is about to get the truth. You are afraid, Running Wolf, you hide behind your cynicism and your skeptic pessimism, because you suddenly realize you're in a game where all the cards have been laid on the table. And there's more than a few things in your deck you don't want anyone to see."
Sean snorted. "I'm still leaving."
"Have I been wrong yet?"
Madam Luna smiled the way only a very old, very stoned woman could smile. "Then sit down and shut up, my boy. You owe yourself that much and you know it."
Sean would later tell himself that he sat down in the chair just so that the old woman wouldn't start a scene. He'd felt like humoring her, that had been all.
"And well, since you are so afraid of it, let's get down to it. There's a lot of blood in your past, Running Wolf. Lots of it. And you know what else? I know that isn't what bothers you. You could care less about that blood, those corpses strewn behind you, because they were either trying to shackle you again or were a stepping stone to your freedom. However you are afraid of how people would react to that once they got to know you. You've never let anyone this far in yet, have you?"
Sean mumbled a no.
"Don't worry, dear, in awhile you will. You'll have to get over that fear too, I'm afraid."
"What do you mean?"
Madam Luna blew out a ring of smoke before continuing. "I've seen it. The man with the flying silver ship. A young wolf. He offered you trust, but there was none to be found there. He tried to sell you back into the shackles, didn't he, Running Wolf?"
"But he was only the first of many. After awhile you became an island, separating yourself from people through a sea of apathy, constant analyzing, and well," Madam Luna shrugged, "just being plain rude."
Sean leaned forward and put his head in his hands. "This has got to be a joke."
"This is no light matter, Running Wolf. What I'm telling you is that the quest you forsake has been fulfilled, quite by accident as it would seem."
Sean would later swear that the chills he felt going across the back of his neck had been the result of a draft. The house was old, he'd been lucky he didn't get the flu. "What do you mean?"
Madam Luna sighed once more. "Tell me Running Wolf, sixty years you've been running, ask yourself, what do you have to show for it?"
Sean would later compliment himself on his response, "Freedom is enough. My choices are freedom or death, I made my mind up about that a long time ago."
"Be glad that you're a Wolf, my boy, or otherwise I'd be hitting you upside the head with my thimble by now. You don't seem to be listening. The truth of the matter is, you've been living for the sake of living. Sixty years of running and nothing to show for it but the clothes on your back and the ship you use to continue the run.
"But these things can change, you see? As I said before, you have achieved your forsaken quest. The dream that the man with the silver ship and the others destroyed. You have found someone worthy of your trust."
Sean laughed, "Wait a minute, Umbra? Now I know this is a joke, the kid's a-"
"He may be a fool," the old woman interjected, shooting him a dirty look. "But Grinning Bird would already do more for you than anyone you've ever met before. Should you begin to trust in him in return, you will find a man that would take a bullet for without a second thought."
"Oh great, just what I need. A walking human shield. No thanks."
"His journey is still beginning, Running Wolf, he will prove more useful to you than you think. And not only must you think of the warmth you've craved for so long finally being within your grasp, but also realize things from his eyes."
"And how are things from his eyes? Dare I ask…"
"If you left him now, his memory of you will be much like your memory of the man with the silver ship, only instead it will be a wolf gnawing at his legs to get rid of his shackles flying on a giant raven that will have abandoned him.
"He needs you, Running Wolf, as much as you need him. You can make sure that the Grinning Bird does not fly smiling obliviously into the many traps in the universe and he can teach you the one thing you don't know how to do. To simply be a human. Not a Wolf constantly on the run from the hunters behind it."
"So what, I'm supposed to believe that Umbra is supposed to somehow 'magically' keep me safe or hidden or something?"
Madam Luna smiled and shook her head. "Afraid not. Grinning Bird, while a great person, is not that great a person. However, he is the first member of your pack, Running Wolf. Not something to be sniffed at lightly. If you keep him around, you may find youself in the middle of a pack before you know it, a pack willing to all fight and die for your freedom. True freedom, not this queer mockery that you claim to be so proud of."