The Lady the Boy and the Bartender
Laughter echoed throughout the empty room. It was late. Cremia and I were sharing a drink at the Latte`. I tried not to laugh but Cremia’s laughter was infectious. Soon I was rocking with laughter too and it was a long while before it finally subsided. “You’re not taking me seriously!” I accused. I tried to be serious but it’s hard not to smile when you laugh for that long. “I am!” Cremia insisted. “My favorite part was when the kid pulls out his fat wallet.” She said just before descending into a fit of giggles. I waited patiently for it to subside nursing my drink but more than that drinking in Cremia’s beauty. Man, she was gorgeous! This is what I liked. Just the two of us enjoying a late-night drink. There are a lot of things I loved about living in clock town but it was times like these I could never bear to part with. That’s why I knew that even in the face of a potential crisis there was no place I’d rather be.
The giggles finally stopped. Following my lead Cremia began sipping her chateau romani. “You done?” I asked. “Mmh-hmm.” she responded still sipping. “Trust me I know it sounds crazy but I’m telling you these guys were the real deal.” Cremia set down her mug. Leaning forward on her stool she rested her head in both of her hands. “It almost sounds like you were afraid of them.” She said. Why did everything she does have to be so adorable? It makes it difficult to think when you need to respond fast. In this case explain how a kid that was 12 years old tops and a fairy that could fit in my empty bottles could scare a grown man. “It’s not that I was afraid of them…” I began. Which was true. I was honestly quite enjoying their company once I wised up and was actually sorry to see them go when they did. “It’s more like…” I imagined the ghost of the boy sitting there as he had last night. Right next to where Cremia was sitting now. “They were… intimidating.” I finally said unable to find a word that would help preserve my dignity.
Cremia raised an eyebrow smirking. “More the boy than the fairy.” I added hurriedly though I knew it wasn’t really helping. “The way he carried himself was like a solider and I’m not talking about the fresh out of the academy guys that usually draw gate duty I mean he was like a true warrior. But it was his eyes that were most unnerving. When I tried to stare him down it was like trying to stare down a dragon. It was like the kid didn’t know how to feel fear.” “And what would you know about warriors and dragons Mr. Bartender?” Crimea teased. I let out a long deep sigh. She simply wasn’t going to let me win this one. “Would it kill you to cut me some slack every now and then?” I asked before taking a long drink. “I’m just teasing you Tal.” she said placing a gentle hand lightly on my arm. I pretended not to notice drinking deeper and tilting back my glass.
“Actually the boy kind of reminds me of our little Grasshopper.” Cremia said. I set my mug down. It was my turn to raise an eyebrow. “Grasshopper?” “I’m surprised you didn’t ask why I was so late tonight. Weren’t you worried about me at all?” Cremia asked. It was true she was very late. I was worried initially but once she arrived and there didn’t seem to be any problems, I assumed she was trying to avoid Madame Aroma. “Well, I know you can take care of yourself…” I said defensively staring into a corner across the room. “Uh-huh” she responded with a coy smile. “So, what does the boy with the fairy have to do with a grasshopper?” I asked pressing the subject. “Not an actual grasshopper.” Cremia corrected. “It’s more of a nickname. There was a boy that showed up at the ranch with a fairy yesterday” She continued. “He was dressed in green he had a sword and— “
“That’s him!” I interrupted loudly, too excited to contain my outburst. “No I don’t think it was” Crimea said. “But he matches the description exactly!” I insisted. “How often do you see an armed kid garbed in green running around with a fairy? It had to be him.” Cremia shook her head stubbornly. “No, it couldn’t have been the same person.” “What makes you so sure?” I demanded. “It’s a long story.” Cremia sighed. I leaned in exaggeratedly close until Cremia cracked a smile. “Fine.” She said at last. “But I’ll have to give you the condensed version it’s been a crazy couple of days.” “I’ll say.” I agreed.
“Let’s see… Cremia began. I guess I’ll start with the bolder.”
“Yeah don’t ask me how it got there but there was a boulder completely blocking off milk road. One of the Clock Town carpenters was working on breaking it. He said it would take a few days at least. I was really worried it wouldn’t be cleared in time to make my delivery but the next thing I know the carpenters knocking on the front door telling me the ways been cleared. He said a goron showed up out of the blue and blasted the thing with a really powerful bomb then walked off.” “Which carpenter was it? I asked.” The Boss carpenter was blind as a kee. I’d believe he would mistake a pre-teen kid for a towering muscular goron. “It was one of the quintuplets” Crimea answered shattering my theory.
She continued. “Naturally I wanted to thank the nice goron so I rode out to the entrance and actually rode out a good way but never found him. By the time I got back to the ranch I found Romani playing with Grasshopper.”
“Grasshopper the kid?”
“Yes Grasshopper the kid. Anyway, I thought it was a little strange that I hadn’t passed him on my way out but after watching them for a little bit the boy seemed to be harmless and Romani seemed to really be having fun for the 1st time in a while. Even the wild tempered horse we found wandering around seemed to have taken a liking to him. So, I decided to just let them play. I had more than enough work to do anyway. When I saw he was still around near dinner time I told Romani she should invite him to dinner. It wasn’t till dinner that I actually noticed the fairy for the 1st time. They didn’t really say much though considering Romani was there chattering away anyone else getting a word in is an accomplishment.”
I smirked inwardly knowing Crimea can be a regular chatterbox too once she gets going. “I didn’t mind though .” She went on. “It was kind of refreshing to have a lively dinner for a change, and I went the whole day without hearing about, Them.” Cremia rolled her eyes. “Who’s them?” I asked. She said it like I should know. “You know, Romani’s cow stealing ghosts.” “I thought they were supposed to be aliens.” I said confused. “Ghost, Aliens, a hybrid of the two, whatever!” Crimea said impatiently. “It’s the word she uses for them.” Crimea groaned to herself realizing what she’d just said. “Do you know how annoying that can get? Cremia asked.
“Romani has to keep training so They won’t get our cows!” Cremia said in a perfect Romani imitation.
“That’s just Grog and Mamamu Yan, they wouldn’t do that.”
No but They would!
I snickered at Cremia’s impression of a conversation with her sister, thinking this would make a pretty good comedy routine, but apparently Cremia wasn’t trying to be funny. She glared at me for laughing at her misery. I converted the laugh into a clearing of my throat and washed it down with a drink.
“Anyway,” Crimea said after a bit, giving me some time to correct my behavior. “Hopefully I’ll never have to hear about Them again. This morning Romani informed me that she and Grasshopper took care of Them for good.” “Mmmm.” I knew that I was walking a thin line but I wasn’t yet convinced that this Grasshopper wasn’t the same boy in the bar last night. “Maybe… he could have done something…?” I tested. Cremia rolled her eyes again impatiently. “Seriously Tal? You’re as bad as Romani.”Cremia accused. “I’m just saying you are a bit of a skeptic.” I countered. “He could have done…. something…”
“Like what?” Cremia demanded. “Fight off an invasion of cow stealing alien ghosts? I probably just slept through the whole thing right?”
“Well umm… I…” I wasn’t sure what to say to that.
Cremia stared at me almost a minute waiting for me to respond but I couldn’t think of what to say. She sighed. “I know the only reason you’re saying that is because you still think Grasshopper is the boy from yesterday.” Cremia said. I nodded. “Well,” Cremia continued. “I believe that this kid could be a master swordsman. He might be a musical marvel. Maybe he’s the richest person in town, maybe he even has enough clout to barge into the mayor’s office in the middle of a meeting and demand an audience, but answers this,” Cremia challenged leaning in. “Do you believe he could fly?” “Wha what?” I stammered. “The only way the boy could have been at my ranch and your bar last night is if he could sprout wings and soar through the sky.”
I was dumbfounded. I’d been so convinced of my assumption I hadn’t even bothered to apply logic. Could the kid really have spent the entire day at Romani Ranch then raced over to my bar last night? It wasn’t probable but it wasn’t completely impossible.
“What time-“ I began but Cremia cut me off.
“You said he came in late last night and left just at the stroke of midnight? Well I passed Grasshopper right before I went to bed at 1:00 A.M. and I checked in on him sleeping in the guest room around 6:30. A.M. when I got up.” She leaned back slightly in her chair crossing her arms over her chest. “So what do you have to say about that?” she asked smiling smugly. I deflated slightly. There was no way the kid could have had dinner with Cremia and Romani, raced over to my bar then appeared back at Romani Ranch the same night. There just wasn’t enough time. “I guess… I guess you’re right.” I admitted. “Really? I am?” Creamia asked batting her eyes at me. I love it when she does that.
“Refill?” I asked gesturing to her empty mug. “Just half please.” she said handing it to me. I refilled both our mugs, Crimea’s only half way and handed it back. “Thanks.” She said taking a swig from her fresh drink right away. “You still haven’t told me why you were late though.” I pointed out. “Oh right.” Cremia said setting down her mug. “Let’s see…Ok so this morning I told Grasshopper I would be heading into town if he needed a ride and the pair accepted. I thought Romani was going to beg to come and throw a fit like she always does, but she didn’t give me any trouble at all. I think Grasshopper is a really good influence on her.” She added thoughtfully. “Anyway at 6:00 P.M. the wagon was loaded up. Grasshopper and his fairy friend were on board and we set off for Clock Town.”
Cremia giggled. “Thinking back, I feel like I spent half the trip just venting to him.” Cremia confessed with a touch of embarrassment. “There’s just been so much going on lately. It felt really good to get it off my chest and Grasshopper was a great listener. But just when it seemed like it would be a nice smooth trip, I see someone set up a roadblock. Which meant the only road to clock town would be a detour through ugly country.”
“Wait! Does that mean the Gormon brothers did this!?” I cried.
“Them or one of their thugs.” Cremia said dryly. “Trust me it gets worse. I was getting a really bad feeling.” She continued. “I told Grasshopper to get his bow ready. I’d seen him shoot earlier. He’s quite a marksman.”
No surprise there I thought to myself.
“I figured if we ran into some trouble, he could scare them of with his bow. Cremia went on. I still wasn’t expecting we’d actually be attacked by bandits.”
“What!?!” I exclaimed horrified. “Are you ok!?!” “Ha ha! Now you’re worried?” Cremia asked playfully. “Well, I’m obviously fine now.” She laughed. “Cremia I’m so sorry I didn’t know!” I started. But Cremia waved a hand dismissively. “I’m fine! I’m fine!” She insisted. Cremia took another drink before she continued. “No sooner had Grasshopper moved to the back did a couple of masked men with demonic glowing green eyes come riding out of nowhere. I put us into full gallop but with a wagon there was no chance of outrunning the masked men. They were gaining fast. I was afraid that Grasshopper might get scared or start panicking. I was the adult. I couldn’t let him see that I was scared. I had to say something reassuring to him. But when I looked back, he was calmly knotting an arrow and his hands were steady even with the bumpy road.”
“A minute later I heard the twang of an arrow being loosed. And a few seconds later there was another one. I thought gosh this kid is a pro! I definitely felt better about having Grasshopper watching my back so I could focus on getting us out of there as fast as possible. I don’t know if there were more of them than I expected but, Grasshopper kept firing arrows but there stilled seemed to be following us. I just kept thinking go faster we can make it. Go faster! Then I heard the fairy exclaim what are you doing!? I chanced a glace back. It looked like Grasshopper had put his bow away. My heart sank. It’s not like he had unlimited arrows. I kept pushing to go faster. I didn’t hear anything coming from the back. When I was able to, I looked back again. The masked men were still following us… but they weren’t trying to attack us anymore. And there was Grasshopper just staring down at them from the back of the wagon. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was like the bandits had lost the will the fight.” Cremia said.
A chill went up my spine as I remembered being stared down by the kid last night. There was no doubt Grasshopper and the boy were one and the same. I couldn’t explain how but I knew without a doubt it was true. Cremia wouldn’t believe without proof so I decided I would keep my belief to myself as Cremia continued her story.
“Just a few minutes later we arrived in Termina field and the bandits broke off. We were safe. I set us into a trot and continued all the way to the east gate of clock town without saying anything but my heart was still beating crazy fast.” Cremia said putting a hand to her chest.
“We arrived and I climbed down from the wagon. I watched Grasshopper hop out of the back with his fairy. He looked completely unfazed by the event. I just watched him for a minute. It seemed the fairy was saying something to him though I couldn’t her what. And I was thinking to myself wow this kid is so… cool!” Cremia exclaimed.
“Cool?” I asked not certain why I was so bothered to hear Cremia praising the boy like that.
“Yeah!” Cremia replied enthusiastically oblivious to my insecurities. “We could have been mugged or worse but Grasshopper was calm and collected the whole time and he wasn’t faking it like I was. He handled himself like a real man! He was just so… cool!” She said again.
Hm. I responded picking up my mug with intent to obscure my face by taking a long drink. But Cremia wasn’t finished yet.
“I felt like I should give him something ya know for all his hard work. I was all set to give him a Romani mask but just by chance I noticed he already had one.”
Odd… I thought still drinking.
Cremia continued. “I had to give him something so though I know it wasn’t much I just gave him a big hug.”
It took everything in me not to spit out my mouth full of Chateau Romani though that did include an audible joking sound. Going off the kid’s height a quick mental calculation concluded that a hug from Cremia would put the kids face snuggly in her breasts. I could have turned as green as the kid’s clothes from envy.
“You gave him a hug?” I asked with unsuccessful restraint. Cremia mistook the meaning of my tone. “Yeah, I know, I wish I had something more…” she said propping her head up with her arm once again and starring into Totto’s corner where the boy had performed last night. We were both quiet for a bit as Cremia thought and I fumed.
“It was kind of strange though.” Cremia said almost absently. “What?!” I snarled. If the boy had tried anything funny with Cremia I’d punch his lights out I didn’t care how tough he seemed. “I held him for a good while…” Crème began which did nothing to help my mood. “But… he didn’t hug me back…”
“What?” I asked genuine puzzlement finding its way through my irrational animosity. “I thought I must have embarrassed him.” Cremia went on. “But when I let him go, he smiled. Then just like that he started jogging away. I called after him to see where he was off to. The fairy answered we’re off to Ikana and flew after him. Grasshopper waited for his fairy friend to catch up while waving an enthusiastic goodbye then he was off again with his fairy tailing closely behind.”
Ikana? My mouth went dry. Even someone as skeptical as Cremia knows to avoid Ikana like the plague. That place is cursed; Haunted by death, shrouded in decay and some seriously bad juju, with a rich history written in blood and regret. It’s a haunt for demons, wraiths, ghouls, and the likes. What business could the kid have in a place like that especially at night? “And after that you came here?” I asked. Cremia nodded still staring into Toto’s corner.
I could tell Cremia was finding the words for what she was thinking so I gave her a minuet to sort them out. “I felt really sad when Grasshopper left.” Cremia said at last, not breaking her far off gaze. “I feel like… Grasshopper isn’t used to being thanked.” A sort of heaviness entered the room at her final words.
“Why would you say that?” I asked. But the gears were already turning, even before Cremia gave her answer.
“He spent the better part of two days at the ranch helping with animals, cutting the grass, helping Ronani with her bow, and pretty much lending a hand to everyone even Grog and Mamaua Yan in any way he could. And he never asked for a thing. More than that I don’t think he was expecting anything.”
I though back to last night how the kid had hop off his stool and went directly to Toto, as if he had a natural ability to discern a person’s distress and solve it.
“Well...” I started. “He did get a meal and a place to sleep.” But Cremia shook her head forcing her to break her gaze with Toto’s corner. “Trinkets and basic hospitality aren’t the same as showing someone you truly appreciate them.” Cremia countered. “I wonder what kind of life Grasshopper has been living?” Cremia continued. “For a boy his age to know how to handle bandits but be uncertain about how to respond to a hug? Because I’m really starting to think that’s the case. He sensed my good intentions but he wasn’t sure how to respond in that situation.”
I thought about what Cremia was saying and a cascade of guilt rolled over me. I was rude to the kid and the fairy, even overcharged them for the drink and they responded like it was normal. On top of that the kid helped my most faithful customer, treated us to a stellar performance, and left me the biggest tip of my life. I didn’t even thank him. It was the fairy that thanked me for my services. I started to get a tight feeling in my throat that persisted after a few failed attempts to clear it.
Cremia finished her drink and set it back on the counter. She stared down into the empty mug. “You know earlier today Romani was saying we should let Grasshopper live with us at the ranch. I laughed at the time, you know how Romani is, she’ll say anything that pops into her head. But honesty…” She looked me right in the eyes. “I think I’d really like that.” I could tell there was no lapse in her conviction. I nodded slowly. Honestly, I could understand. There was something quite remarkable about that kid. The pair was only here briefly but they completely changed the atmosphere. In truth I was greatly anticipating there return tomorrow, which the fairy referred to as (The 3rd day).
“Sorry.” Cremia said smiling shyly. “I guess I kind of talked your ear off huh?” “No, its fine!” I said quickly. “Besides I asked. I’m just glad you’re alright.” Cremia nodded thinking again. “So, Grasshopper and your mystery boy from last night might be different people but they could be connected… You think maybe there both Boomers?” She asked. That brought a smile back to my face. “I think you mean Bombers.” I chuckled. “And no, I think he’s too old for that group. Besides there’s a pretty distinct difference between fighting bandits and helping old ladies to cross the street.” I added. “I guess you’re right.” Cremia agreed absently. “Really? I am?” I asked blinking my eyes in rapid succession, cheaply mimicking her earlier display. “Oh, shut up!” She snapped back. But I could tell she was a hair away from bursting into laughter again.
“O well…” Cremia said standing up and stretching. “I guess I’d better be going.” She was right. It was now more early morning than it was late night. Still, I find no matter how long Cremia stays I always have a sinking feeling when she leaves. I guess there’s no cure for it. “Are you sure you don’t want to just stay somewhere in town?” I asked. “Yeah. The sun will be up soon I doubt anyone would try something after that, besides; there are a few things I want to take care of tomorrow.” I walked with her to the door. “Well, I hope it’s not too strenuous I advise. They say tomorrow could be our last day…” I kind of trailed off. It was mostly supposed to be a bit of a joke but now it didn’t seem quite so amusing.
“And what about you? Do you think it will fall?” Cremia asked. I got the weirdest feeling of déjà vu just then. Wasn’t that what the fairy had asked me word for word? Did the fairy ask Cremia that same question earlier tonight? I wondered. Or maybe Cremia asked the fairy and the fairy asked me the same way? My mind started spiraling I snapped back to reality but if anything, that made my head spin faster. Cremia and I were huddled in the doorway mere inches apart. She was staring up at me waiting for any answer. “I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.” I managed. Cremia nodded. “Guess so. Goodnight Tal.” She walked out into the empty streets. Watching her long hair sway like a pendulum the sinking feeling intensified. Say something. I urged myself. Tell her. “....Goodnight!” I called after her. She turned back waving, giving me one last dazzling smile before continuing on her way. I punched the door frame lightly, cursing my lack of courage. Tomorrow. I assured myself. Tomorrow is another day.