Luana walks down the stairs and through the now aptly named mess hall to get to the dorm courtyard. It's quieter now. Chefs and workers went along with their day as if the food fight hours ago hadn't happened, though some workers whisper among themselves as Luana passes by their tables. The whispers still reach her ears despite her attempt to ignore them.
"Ohhh, is she going to the fair? Ugh, if Luana leaves, that means Lono goes back to fucking with the rest of us."
"...I wish the rumors about her were true...if she could sic demons and spirits on people, she could finally shut Lono's stupid mouth. Lono swears she saw her do weird shit before, but she is a pretty big liar. But god, part of me still wishes that Luana would go full on evil witch bitch on her-at this point, I just want someone to get rid of Lono.”
"Pshaw! There's no way Luana of all people can use mana. Only the royal family and people chosen by the spirits can do that. And let's be real-Luana's too plain and quiet to be either of those things. Anyway, be grateful she distracted Lono for a while, because shit is about to hit the fan once she's gone. Try to make yourself a hard target in the coming months."
"Ugh! I have GOT to put in my two weeks notice! Or maybe just pack my bags and storm the hell outta here! I don't want to deal with this anymore!"
After a heavy sigh from all three women, they end their gossip session. Luana rolls her eyes and walks out of the mess hall and to the courtyard.
Three large buildings tower over the courtyard, each similar in design. Half the size of a normal skyscraper and made of brick, the rectangular buildings stretch almost as long as the walls that encased the premises. Each of these buildings lies in the east, west, and north part of the premises, the south having a gargantuan wooden double door instead of a building. The women’s dorms lie in the west, the men's in the east, right across from where Luana now stood, and to the north is a dorm building for the dorm's staff, such as the chefs and janitorial workers.
Each building has paths to and from their doors, a straight concrete path to a square where they meet in the middle. From the middle square and to the south lay gargantuan wooden doors, the path to it being much longer and wider than the other three.
In the courtyard's middle square, four wooden benches lined against the wilting bushes. The bushes lay in elevated stone flower beds, which acted as small walls around the square. In the middle of the benches and flower bed walls stands a statue of a turtle. The statue hovers over the heads of the few maids enjoying the benches and the morning sun.
Plants decorate the sides of the concrete paths, making the dorms a tad more florid-however, they are far from healthy, as the petals from the flowers fell and formed little piles of color on the brown-green grass. Among the concrete paths, there were also paths made from cutting through the grass, creating patches of dirt on the brown-green grass of the courtyard.
When Luana headed towards the gargantuan wooden doors from the square in the middle, a procession of workers flooded the path alongside her from both dorms. The density of people increased by the second, as did the volume of their voices, making her ears flick back in annoyance.
The men that joined the procession from the men's dorms wear blue jumpsuits over various types of shirts. Some wear long sleeved shirts with dull colors, and others wear simple t-shirts. Most of the men wear thick, yellow gloves, though a few carried them instead. Many of the men had patches on their jumpsuits, very few having no patches at all.
The men's blue jumpsuits and the maid's puffy dresses create a sea of blue, black, and white as they march to the gate's outside. Within the procession that had now swallowed her, Luana could hear coughing and sneezing, juicy gossip, as well as angered mumbling about the day ahead.
Finally, the crowd of disgruntled workers reach the doors. As people pour out of the dorm walls, nearly knocking her over, she looks to her left and right, scanning the street for other cable car stops.
The cable car stop in front of the dorm is already crowded with some of her former coworkers, and the procession she was a part of added many more to it.
A few men swarm towards the bus sign to sit on the concrete sidewalk. Once they sit down, they speak a bit, pat each other's backs, and begin to nod off. A trio maids fight one another to sit on the singular bench the stop provided. After a few minutes of bickering, they compromised and sat on it together, though they sat hip to hip, clearly uncomfortable. Most workers, however, simply stand around and yap the minutes away, a few among them looking out for the cable car as they do so.
To her chagrin, Luana can't find another stop that isn't swarmed by people, so she joins her former coworkers, keeping a bit of a distance from the giant crowd around the sign.
In front of the stop lies a piece of the bustling city. Cars go to and fro, dwarfed by the buildings over their hoods. The buildings ranged from medium to sky-high, the sky-high ones more into the distance.
The buildings in front of the dorm are less tall, but still tower over the heads of all on the ground. These buildings, as compared to the sky high metal giants farther away, are made of brick, lined with rusted pipes, and are adorned with graffiti. Electric poles line the sidewalk, and are also adorned with graffiti, though they also boasted posters and stickers as well. The concrete streets and sidewalks are rife with cracks, weeds growing out of them. However, the commuters, car rider and pedestrian both, go on with their day regardless. Some lanes of the streets had metal tracks of some sort wedged amidst the concrete. Though they look a little rusted, they still shine in the morning sun.
Right across from the street, two crosswalks ahead, lie a wooden arch entrance adorned with many quilted flags depicting food, drinks, and various clothing items. On top of the arc read "Kalani City Market."
After twenty minutes or so of waiting, a cable car arrives.
A sign drilled into on the car's top reads "Kalani Workforce Transit Service-By Workers, For Workers." The car is white on the top half, and a bright blue on the bottom half. Painted on its side is a mural of a giant turtle swimming through the ocean, with many sea angels following its trail of bubbles.
A tall, broad shouldered gripman walks out of the car, grunting a little with each step down the small stairs. Tan skinned like any other Keonian, he wore a coral blue uniform, complete with a blue hat with a black bill. The logo for the cable car service could be seen on his right chest pocket-a sun, on top of two clouds. Luana notices a few stains on his clothing, as well as a few tears, but avoids staring for too long lest he noticed her gaze.
"Have your IDs ready!" he shouts, his voice deep and hoarse. "No ID, no service-you know the rules!"
Some nod, some ignore him, and some look scared of him. Slowly but surely, the workers flash their ids at him and step on. The seats fill fast as most workers avoid the platforms and rails on the outside. Luana rolls her eyes as the seats fill, and resigns herself to the side platform as the line shortens.
The line is long, so many of the workers not yet on the cable car resort to chatter to make the line less of a drag. People began to form vague little bunches in line, keeping the shape of a line while still forming little groups. The murmurs of the crowd annoy Luana somewhat, as her ears picked up every small sound. She stuffs a bit of her thick hair into her ears to block out the sound some.
After doing so, however, she had found something that piqued her interest. Right in front of her, she noticed a peculiar young man. His hair was glistening in the sun and had a deep black color, and his clothes looked pristine compared to the patched up clothes of the other men.
A little curious, Luana taps the man's shoulder.
"Eh!? Who-what-oh! It's the witch...spirit? Demon? Girl that got fired! I've heard about you! Nice to meet ya."
Compared to everyone else, his skin shines in the morning sun, his smile rivals its rays, and his eyes boast a sparkle Luana hadn’t seen in a while.
Luana forces a smile and gets on with the conversation.
"Right...yes, but I'm no w...actually? Nevermind. Anyways...sorry to bother you. I wanted to ask…are you going to work or the fair?"
"Oh, uh...I'm going to work. Coronation prep month, we're makin' a stage for Princess Ahe in Keona Castle. So me and the boys are on it, yeah? As for the others, only a few are going to the fair from what I hear. I’m going this weekend with the boys when the crowds die down."
"'The boys'...I-I see. Your friends. So you are going, just not today."
"Yup. We're gonna hit the fair up and have a good ol' time. We're there mostly for the snacks and performances and foreign girls and all that junk."
"...No new job? ...I see...are you...new?"
"How'd you know?"
Luana stares at him. He laughs nervously.
"Sorry. Nevermind it," Luana says curly.
The boy nods and gives Luana a thumbs up.
"Nice to meet you! Good luck on the job hunt! You'll find something you're good at soon, I just know it-cleaning work is hard, so I don't blame you for not doing so well here. ...Y'know...okay, it might kinda suck to be the witch of Kalani Cleaning and Construction Services. But-and hear me out here-I kinda wish I could convince people I had storybook powers too. Like, I'd be able to go around saying, 'Bwahahahaha! I can summon the gods of the land and destroy you, the devilish Lono, in one fell swoop! Fear my wrath!'"
The man acts out his fantasy, pretending Luana is Lono as demonstration. He does a whole manner of motions with his hands, simulating the elements as best as he can with them. After doing so, he makes an animal maw with his hands in Luana's direction, finishing his charade with a fake explosion sound made with his mouth as he pretends to launch a ball of energy at her. Seeing this, the workers waiting turn and laugh at him.
"Hey! Keep the goddamn line movin'!" the gripman yells as attention turns away from him. The line continues onward.
"...And other fun shit like that. Yeah, it sucks to be talked about, but everyone left you alone except Lono, right? So yeah, it sounds cool to be considered a witch or whatever. Oh, I know! Maybe you should get into illusions-Lono was really convinced by whatever tricks you did on the job. You can join a circus or something! I can see it now- 'Come one come all, and gaze upon the master of spirit charming, uhhh...whatever your name is!' And then you do all of these plant growing and levitation tricks that Lono's screamed about for months now. People will really think you're calling on the wind spirits like an ancient shaman-if you can convince Lono and a good chunk of the dorm folks, you can definitely fool a big 'ol crowd! Oh man, that sounds so fun...I wish I had known you before you were fired, you could teach me a thing or two, ahahaha!"
"Ahahahaha...perhaps. The name is Luana, by the way."
"Goodness. He's just a ball of energy, isn't he? Whatever-it's good to know that only Lono lives and dies by me being a 'witch'...and honestly...would circus work be that bad? Maybe he has a point..."
"Uh, you okay?"
Realizing she is deep in thought, her eyes bearing into his, she shakes her head and gives him a sheepish smile. He grins back.
The line finally reaches him, and he flashes his ID at the gripman. He uses brute force to make his way into the cart, prompting many of his coworkers to verbalize their annoyances and even hit him on his way in. Seeing this, she shudders a bit.
"Yep. Another day on the side or back. Whatever. The wind feels nice when you're on the side platforms anyway."
She flashes her ID at the gripman, who then yells loudly, startling her. Immediately, she covers her ears and closes her eyes.
The gripman's stern voice cuts through the air, and in response, all conversations stop, even the ones on the cable car.
"You aren't a dorm resident! Get out of line, freeloader!"
The gripman looks straight at Luana, eye contact and all. She gulps and looks down at her chest. She grips her ID, and holds it up to him.
"E-excuse me, sir, I think you're mistaken, I'm still a-"
The gripman shakes his head. "Not you. You," the gripman points behind her.
She follows his finger, looking behind her. There stood a young boy.
The boy looks around age twelve. His hair is cut strangely-not a single strand seemed to be the same length, and it fans out in every which direction. His tan pants and tan shirt is rife with holes, and he was barefoot. He wears a flat cap with many patches in it, though the patches began to unravel and stick out every which way.
"Please, I need to get to the fair! I'll pay you back...when I uh...when I get a job! If you take me there, I'll walk the way back. Just let me on for once!"
"If you don't scramble on somewhere I'm calling the police! This cable car is for Kalani City's workforce only, if you haven't gotten it into your pea sized brain yet. Beg at another cable car service, though if you can't pay a measly two ieho, they'll reject you too! You're gonna have to walk, and that's final, twerp!"
"NO! I can't do that. The last time I tried, I...please, just this year. One time, and I'll leave you alone!"
"You persistent bastard! You're holding up my goddamn schedule with this nonsense!"
"Yeah, that's right, I'm a bastard! And I need a job! I can't walk all the way to the fair. I've tried asking all of the businesses at the market for a chance-none of them want a stinky kid like me working at their store. I HAVE to go, sir. Everything depends on this one trip!"
"Well, don't we all have problems? Look kid, I'm about to be late for the next stop if you don't scram. Keep this up, and I'll make you go away myself."
The boy's tone changes to desperation. Luana's heart sinks as she watches the boy take off his hat and beg even more. The workers around her whisper amongst each other as they watch.
"I don't think there's any way I can get him on if he isn't a worker...but this is..."
"Please, the other cars won't take me...if you could just-"
"No! I'm not gonna just break the law for you. Find another way.”
The boy backs his feet on dusty sidewalk like a bull and charges straight towards the door of the car. Dust rises into the air, causing workers to cough and complain. Luana dodges to the left of the car's door to avoid getting caught in the boy's charge. The boy makes it onto the first step, but as soon as his left foot graces the car's floor, the gripman slugs him right in the stomach.
The boy's body is launched back onto the sidewalk, and he curls up into a ball, his arms around his stomach.
Luana feels clammy from shock. She stares at the boy for a while, and her heart begins to beat a little faster at the sight.
Her gaze and racing thoughts are interrupted by the gripman's voice. When she faces him, she begins to shake slightly.
"...Just for clarification, let me see your ID one last time," he says sternly, staring at Luana.
"Oh, y-yes sir, I...um...
After struggling to grip it from fear, she finally grasps it and holds it up to the gripman, putting it close to his face.
"...I can see just fine, ma'am," he says with a huff.
Luana nods and hops on the streetcar's side platform near the back, looking away from the driver's seat and her former coworkers.
The gripman steps into the cable car after the last few people get on silently. As he walks on, he groans and rubs his back on his way to the grip. He wraps his hand around the top of the grip, and then looks at the traveling servants inside. They all stare back at him, not a single person saying a word as he scans the seats with his eyes. Luana continues to face away from him and the car's inside, instead staring at the boy on the sidewalk.
After a few seconds, he nods and smiles to himself, facing forward and getting to work. The passengers release a deep breath when he turns away, a collective sigh blowing away the tension of the boy's disturbance.
As the car began to move, Luana kept her eyes on the boy, who still hadn't moved since he was punched.
She inhales sharply seeing this, and a sickness forms from within her stomach.
The car is speeding up, though it feels like an eternity. She keeps her eyes glued on the boy, now feeling nauseous at the back of her throat. Once the car caught a decent momentum, however, the boy did move a bit, and then staggered to his feet. Luana exhales in relief, the sickness within her going away. Though she is now at ease, she continues to watch the boy.
As the car takes off and goes down the road, she notices that the boy is now staring directly at her.
She waves at him, but in turn she gets a glare, his face twisting with unfathomable anger. Luana stops waving at the boy, and simply stares back at him with the most neutral expression she could muster.
Right before the hill the car goes down eclipses the road behind beyond it, Luana sees a black cat cross the street and jump on his shoulder. The boy's face shifts from anger to confusion to joy as he greets the cat. He grabs the cat and twirls around with it, lifting it high in the air, and then places it on the ground. The boy now looks joyful as he talks to the cat and pets it, which comforts Luana immensely.
However, upon further inspection, she couldn't help but notice that the now, the cat was staring directly at her, not heeding him at all as he continued speaking to and petting it. Again, all she could do is hold the gaze until the car finally goes down the hill, the pair finally being disappearing from Luana's sight.
Chatter breaks out in the car, but the wind made from the car's speed filtered out the various conversations. Though Luana did get a few snippets of conversation here and there, she is able to block out most of it, enjoying a somewhat quiet ride to the heart of the city for a small while. And yet, even on the tranquil ride into the city, she couldn't stop thinking about the boy.
"...I could've done more...maybe lied about him being my brother. But...ugh. I'm a goddamn coward."
Unfortunately, the quiet was short lived, only lasting a mere ten minutes or so. Laughter spreads throughout the car, making her ears shoot up under her hair. Annoyed yet curious, she looks back into the car.
Iokepa, the man Luana had spoken to earlier, is standing up in the middle of the car with another man. The two stumble around, struggling to stay in place thanks to the car's movement. The men are flexing their muscles at one another, doing pose after pose while stumbling around.
Some people bark at them to sit down, but most of the passengers giggle and clap as the pair go on with their charade. The gripman yells at the two to shut up and sit down, but they carry on with their rigamarole, fueled by the laughter of the many over the chagrin of the few.
Iokepa is smiling from ear to ear. Though he kept stumbling from the car's movement, he held onto a pole to keep his balance and deliver his short monologue.
He coughs to clear his voice, and recites his monologue, fresh off of his mind.
"Ahem-alright big boy, since you obviously want a fight, then a fight you shall get! En garde, fiend! I will make it to the heart of the city, for therein lies my salvation after a life on the streets!"
The other man, who is wearing a dingy off white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and dirty jeans made of denim, responded to the chipper man's lines.
"Oh yeah? You think a small fry like you stands a chance against me eh? Come at me, streetrat! I'll tear you to pieces! Grrragh!"
Luana looks on in horror, realizing what they were acting out. She bites her lip and clenches her fists as she looks at the scene.
The two clash in the middle of the streetcar, fake fighting. They lay gentle punches on each other's face, chest, and stomach, but after a mere two minutes of acting, the pair fall over and begin to wrestle. The streetcar's passengers howl with laughter, some going as far as to throw money at the two or cheer for a side.
The gripman tries to yell over them as he works the front levers, but the laughter drowned out his loud, deep, stern voice, especially when people began to clap and stomp at the hilarity.
Luana could only frown at the display. Her stomach boils in anger. The tips of her fingers began to feel hot, as did her face, mostly in her cheeks.
Upon feeling the sensation within her, she turns away from the wrestling and looks back at the scenery behind the car as it went on, trying to focus on the wind's gentle whispers rather than the cacophonous cackling of her former coworkers.
As the sound of the wind soothes her anger, the sensation within dies down, and Luana returns to calmness.
And yet, despite her return to calmness, she still feels a fire within her, deep in her stomach. For a good part of the ride, all she could think of was the boy and the punch he'd received. The heat within her rose and fell like an ebb and flow, until suddenly, the fire within died out, and in its place, a new sensation rose from her stomach and to her head.
Luana could feel an idea form in her head, so much so that it hurt her head some. Looking at the buildings, people, and cars as the cable car zoomed through the city, the idea became crystal clear, and she smiled to herself.
"...I can bring the fair to him, in my own way. The wind has my back, I know it does."
The cable car stops by many locations on its way to the heart of the city. It stops by many villas, affluent neighborhoods, large constructions that were works in progress, and finally, the very heart of the city, a large, circular plaza, a ten mile long distance from the front castle's gates. As the city's heart, it was only fitting that it also holds the heart of the fair.
The car approaches the stop right in front of the plaza's wooden arch entrance, slowing down to line up with it. The sidewalk, benches, and street next to the signpost for the cable car is already surrounded by a gargantuan crowd of workers from around the city, who had all come to the fair over the many hours. Upon seeing the cable car, the crowd began to move towards it en masse, stumbling over each other to get a seat.
The gripman yells at the crowd, going as far as to push some people away as the swarm flows towards him. Luana jumps off and pushes her way through the crowd, covering her ears as she did so.
As she pushed through the crowd, it began to thin out, and music from around the world blared in the distance. She uncovers her ears, and instead cusps them to hear the music better, making sure the tips of them are still hidden beneath her hair. A few of the tunes made her smile a bit, especially the ones where she could hear the joy in their voices as they sang.
Behind her, two maids also made their way towards the gates, giggling and chatting amongst one another.
"Sucks to work today," one of the maid girls giggles. "More jobs for us, hehehe!"
Luana turns around and gazes at the two for a moment.
"Hmmmm. I hope the Tovera booth hasn't been raided to hell and back already."
An image of the boy comes to mind. She shakes her head and exhales sharply.
"Ah...right. The wind. I'll hit the Tovera booth, make some rounds at the other ones, and call on the wind when I see something he may be able to do...though I don't know him well enough to really guage that. Maybe I'll just pick out child friendly jobs...do those even exist?"
After pushing through the second procession she has been in today, Luana finally makes it to the arched plaza entrance. She pauses to take in her surroundings.
The wooden arch entrance is adorned with the flags of many countries. Etched into the arch were the words "Kaimana Plaza." Beyond the arches is a large, circular, limestone plaza, with fountain statues of imposing figures donning large crowns lining the perimeter. At arch's sides, two Keonian soldiers, clad in coral blue, golden accented shirts, golden seashell-shaped shoulderpads, and nautilus shaped helmets stood steadfast, their eyes scanning all who walk in as they held onto their rifles tightly at attention. Seeing the two men, Luana began to feel self conscious, and made sure her ears were covered as much as they could be. She takes a deep breath and walks into the arched entrance, exhaling once she reaches the other side.
The event is overwhelmingly colorful and overwhelmingly loud, so much so that Luana stuffed some of her thick hair into her sharp ears. There are hundreds of stalls, each decorated to the brim to grab as much attention as possible. While many are wedged between the fountain statues, some were wedged into more questionable places, not an ounce of space being wasted. Every corner of the fair had something to offer.
Some booth owners sold clothing from their country, hanging them up on racks and laying them out for women passing by. Others performed music from their country, with a box, basket, or booth filled to the brim with odd looking instruments. Food booths were also sprawled around the fair, selling the usual fair snacks as well as food from where they came from. There was much entertainment to be found, and they caught the attention of many-but Luana noticed that many people in various uniforms were at the job booths, which were dotted amongst the entertainment.
Cooks, maids, construction workers, fisherman, and farmers all sitting at the chairs the booths provided, talking to recruiters. A few among them had small children sitting near them on the ground, on their laps as they spoke, or running around nearby with other children, splashing water on one another.
Straight ahead, beyond the plaza and the buildings that surround it, is a castle, standing serene over the city's heart. It is miles and miles away from the plaza, but so grand that it was still hard to ignore. Though it was beige in color, the giant red, yellow, blue, and orange coral that encased the castle's perimeter from the moat around it made it stand out all the same. The castle's front looks relatively normal, though it was still intricately designed. Even from where Luana stood, many windows could be seen, as well as the outside part of the castle’s upper floor hallways. However, behind the normal front, a giant stained glass turtle shell encased the castle's middle and back parts in the place of a normal ceiling. The shell was so large it dwarfed the castle's front, and made the castle look like a hulking turtle.
Luana, having had enough of looking around at the arched gates, began to walk around aimlessly in awe of the balloons, confetti, musical performances, and clothing she saw. Clowns perfectly balance themselves on balls, dancers gracefully jump to and fro with ribbons, and in the distance, she could spot caped men and women flying around in the air, leaving a trail of light behind them. Some of them had large, brimmed hats, and others had coned shaped ones. They were clad in red, green, white, and blue capes, each mage in the air donning a specific color with a certain design.
"...Are those...? It's gotta be...wow, I see why Lono was smitten with them..."
As she looked at the mages in the air on the other side of the fair, the smell of food fill her nostrils, and her attention was diverted.
"Oh, what a great smell!"
Sniffing the air rapidly as she drifts through the chattering crows and street performers, she follows the smells of popcorn, fairy floss, foreign meats, and foreign sweets, which leads her to the right of the arched entrance. She could now smell the oil of fried goods, as well as the fragrant delights of tea and cocoa. Excited, she picks up her speed, the loud noises and many colors of the fair no longer detering her, and finds a stall filled with savory and sweet treats alike. She made sure to study each one.
Upon a quick scan, Luana could see fried sweets with sugar sprinkled on top, white chewy cakes similar to the dessert at the dorms, soups made from broths Luana has never smelled before, and sea creatures she's never seen cooked and turned into skewers…it enticed her greatly, and it took all of her restraint to not buy a few snacks.
"Oh...I really want to see the mages already, but I am still a little hungry from this morning…I didn’t get tons of food because of the fight, so...I might as well pig out some..."
"E-excuse me, ma'am?"
"Oh, yes dear?"
A middle aged woman clad in a blue silken shirt and white cotton shorts greets her from behind a gorgeous red and golden stall. She wore a white apron over her outfit, but Luana could see the golden embroidery of the shirt on the neck collar and her short sleeves.
As for the stall, Luana could make heads nor tails of the odd golden words on the red wooden sign above the woman, but the calligraphy was beautiful all the same. The stall's desk and sign both had a golden geometric design on them on the perimeter.
"Um...may I have two of those little...spheres with white powder on them?"
"Oh, the donuts? Of course! It's a mere two ieho each," the woman replied with a smile.
She takes out her small, blue and yellow butterfly shaped wallet from her pocket and gives the woman two rectangular bills. On the bills was a mural of a turtle in the sea, surrounded by sea creatures. In the middle was a large man's portrait, who wore a crown of conch shells and a serious expression.
The woman takes the bills, smiles, grabs two of the treats with her gloved hands, and places them into a small paper bag, which was red and also had geometric patterns on it.
Luana walks away from the stall and immediately takes one out and bites into the donuts.
"Oh wow! These are better than any dorm dessert! Those three would love these."
Now invigorated, she walks around the fair with intent, looking into the air for more mages. As she does so, she bites into the second sphere shaped donut, and is hit with the sweetness of sugar as well as a berry jelly filling.
"Oh, this is just delicious!"
After savoring the bite and swallowing it, she felt a hot sensation in her fingers and throughout her head. Her hair began to rise off of her back and into the air, until it was floating every which way as if she were in water.