Songs of Failure
The next day, Jin and the other members of the troupe regrouped for breakfast. After last night, Jin was sent back to his room and had his dinner delivered there too. It was too late to eat dinner with his other pals as he was informed that they ate dinner earlier than him already. After Carsus words, he thought he was going to have to eat with the king as well, though it turns out that he was sent away as the king personally ordered people to prepare Jins own food in his room.
On the dining table, Fei munched on green leaves as she looked towards Jin. She shoved another fork of salad in her mouth before asking, ”Big bro Jin! Where have you been last night? You missed all the food man, it was a feast! ”
Another voice chided in. ”Yeah, where have you been? There was so much food we couldn finish it all. ” It was Rheb.
Leyya was last. She said with a soft voice, ”We wanted to take some to you but we didn know where you were. When we asked, they already said that they had your own food prepared for you. ”
”Yeah, yeah! So where were you really? What kind of important task were you given to be taken away from us, huh? ” Fei raised her fork in an attempt to know the answer.
Jin gave her a small smile. ”Oh, its nothing important. The king just wanted me to give him a personal performance. ”
Leyya and Fei were flabbergasted. Seraphine, whose seat was near enough to hear their conversation, also looked shocked. Her spoon filled with soup stopped halfway and fell into her bowl.
Rheb, with an evil grin, just stared at Jin. ”But thats not all there is to it, is it? ”
Jin had a calm expression on his face, relaxedly spreading some butter on his bread. ”Maybe, maybe not. Who knows? ”
Rheb whined. ”Oh, you evil. You definitely did it! You did it! Oh my gosh Jin, with a king!? ”
I can never. He mumbled.
Fei seemed to get it and grew even more shocked. ”Big bro Jin you- no way… ”
Leyya just looked between the two then glanced at Dormund, who sat next to her. Dormund shook his head. He didn understand either.
”I didn sleep in his chambers though, I was sent back for dinner in my own room. ” He chewed a portion of his toast and swallowed it.
Fei still had a shocked look as she stared at Jin. ”Still…thats an achievement in its own right. I can believe you managed to sleep with a king. ”
He shrugged. ”I was hungry. ”
”Anyway, I don know what to say. Congratulations I guess. Now you can put it up in your achievements. ” Rheb teased slightly.
”Thanks. I don think last night was the last time hed call for me, though. ”
Rheb rolled his eyes at Jin and covered Feis ears in a mocking manner. Fei slapped Rhebs hands away with irritation.
With that, Jin and the others quickly finished their breakfast while talking about other trivial matters that had happened once he left to entertain the king. Apparently, they were even given a tour of some parts of the castle right after they had dinner.
By the time they were finished eating, a few of the group members decided to leave the palace and explore the capital city, whereas others stayed behind to rest.
Jin was one of the people who opted to leave the castle and explore, together with Rheb and Fei. Rheb and Fei were considered to be his closest companions, though the duo had the reputation of stirring up trouble within the group most of the time. Jin was always amused by their antics.
They walked amongst the merchant district, the street that had the most things to offer. There were coffee houses, tea houses, bars, inns, and restaurants. The shops and stalls displayed their own specialty of goods and wares.
Since it was still in the middle of the festival celebration, there were a lot more things to see. Roads were decorated with white cloth hanging by the roofs of different structures, and other forms of entertainment were opened. There were game stalls, street performers, and events.
Fei, the youngest of the trio, was easily swayed by the festive mood. She went straight for the game stalls and eventually dragged the two older brothers behind. The game stalls had a variety of activities that contained cards, hoops, balls, coins, and other trinket-y playthings.
Jin walked past a stall that offered card games and saw two men stare at their own deck with manic concentration. Beside them were stacks of silver coins. Jin tentatively avoided the booth and raised a brow.
Fei dragged them in front of a booth that required throwing and precision. It was a booth with a simple design and even simpler dynamics: at the back of the booth were three cup-like containers. Each runthrough will provide the player with three pebbles, and the player will have to shoot each pebble into the cups. The more pebbles successfully shot, the better the reward. It sounded easy, but the cups were the size of literal drinking cups, and each pebble was the size of half a thumb. The distance between the front of the booth to the back wasn too near, either.
Feis eyes shone and looked at Rheb. Rheb, caught in the middle of yawning and scratching his neck, stared back. ”What? You don want me to pay for your game, do you? ”
After a hard kick to the shin, Rheb paid for one game.
Jin watched from the sidelines as Fei drew her elbow up and throw with mediocre strength. The pebble hit the frontboard of the wooden table that the cups were on. It bounced away.
She tried again, drawing her arms into an arc, and threw. The pebble this time hit the surface of the table, near a cup, but it still didn go in. Fei frowned.
On her final throw, Fei took some time to aim before controlling her strength and shooting the pebble. The pebble flew in the air, a perfect shot. However, this time, a rat from behind the curtains scurried up the table and knocked the cup that Fei was aiming for. The rat ran away.
”Hey mister! Did you see that? That wasn fair! ” Feis eyebrows were furrowed as she complained to the stall owner. ”A rat came by to knock the cup I was aiming for! You gotta give me another chance! ”
The owner just repressed a smile and said smugly, ”No can do. You paid for three shots, and Im only giving you three shots. Pay up if you want another chance. ”
Fei heard this and huffed. ”Well thats not fair! ”
”So is life. ” The stall owner retorted.
Jin watched this and frowned. Rheb also looked disgruntled at the stall owners attitude as he was about to step in. ”Hey, look here mister- ”
Before he could say anything else, Jins hand blocked Rheb from going any further. His face had a slight touch of dislike. ”Ill pay for another game. ”
Rheb looked at Jin incredulously and the owner just smirked in satisfaction. He gave Jin three pebbles.
Jin drew his hand back and casually threw. The first pebble landed in the cup perfectly.
Then, following that, two more successive shots were made as the pebbles landed in the exact same cup. All of them went in.
This time, it was the stall owners turn to frown. Fei and Rheb just looked at Jin, shocked, before Fei happily gave him a thumbs up. Rheb nodded his head and patted Jins back with reverence.
Choosing a prize, Fei skipped forward with a new lip tint while Jin and Rheb followed in tow.
Rheb grumbled while following Fei in front, ”We played a game just for you to win a new lip tint? At least get something valuable for the job like new jewelry. Doesn have to even be real. Just needs to look good. ”
Fei stopped walking and looked back at Rheb uncaringly. ”What do you mean, not part of the job? Lip tint like this is used for a person to look good. In our job, we need to look good, so who says this thing is useless huh? ” She rolled her eyes. Then, she looked back at Rheb and continued with a sly smile, ”I can even lend it to you if you want? Maybe after you use it someone might finally be interested in you. ”
Rheb scoffed and just continued to walk forward with his hands behind his head. Jin just laughed slightly and shook his head.
The trio continued walking and stopped by to look at other trinkets and stalls. They bought some food along the way, tasting the different delicacies of the Middle East. In the middle of their adventure, Rheb complained about being tired of walking and suggested that they go and take a rest. Fei complained that he was an old man, but Rheb ignored all complaints and hauled them along into a nearby pub.
The moment they stepped into the pub, the smell of food and brandy hit their noses. Fei scrunched her own nose.
The pubs ambience consisted of dim yellow lights and dark brown hues. Shadows were casted on the corners that were not illuminated well. There was relaxed chatter, with some occasional hoots from the drunkards.
”Ah, this is where I belong. ” Rheb sat by the bars countertop and ordered some brandy.
”Together with the old men and drunkards, yeah, thats for sure. ” Fei murmured sarcastically before sitting down next to Rheb and ordering her own pint. Jin followed suit and sat on the other side of Rheb, ordering a pint as well.
The three of them enjoyed their drinks after walking around for almost half a day. The coolness of the brandy countered the hours of walking and the time they had spent under the sun.
Rheb nudged Jin. ”Hey, what do you think of that man over there? ”
Jin turned his head and followed Rhebs line of sight. The man Rheb was pointing to sat on the last seat of the barstool, next to the wall. He was huddled in the corner. The mans appearance was considered to be quite handsome.
”Do you think hes gay? ”
Jin studied the man and shook his head with certainty. ”I don think so. ”
Suddenly, Rheb stood up from his seat. ”Well, now he is. ”
Jin choked on his drink as he watched his friend swagger away. Fei, who was listening to their conversation, burst out laughing and started hooting after him. ”Go big bro, take one home for the team! Maybe youd want to borrow my lip tint before you go for the catch, hey! ”
Jin watched Rheb talk to the man in the corner, and he didn know whether to laugh or cry. Feis shoulders shook from repressed laughter that bubbled up every once in a while. They watched as their friend conversed with the man before breaking out into a grin and trapping him against the wall with one hand.
Finally, Jin couldn take it and hollered out with a smile. ”Hey, don bully the young chap, aye Rheb! ”
The next second, the man who was trapped against the wall in his seat leaned forward towards Rheb. Both Fei and Jin couldn see what was happening clearly. In the next second, Rheb retrieved his hand with a satisfied smile. He said something to the man before turning around and trudging back to the duo.
”How was it? ” Jin greeted the returning Rheb with a sly smile.
”He said he wasn interested in men. ”
”Then why were you smiling, huh? ” Fei asked from her seat.
”He said he was willing to try it. ” Rheb smiled back smugly, ”I asked him to meet a couple days later and he agreed. Well be strolling through town first, then improvise the plan afterwards. ”
”Eyyyy, thats big bro Rheb for you. Shouldn we celebrate that you actually caught one?
” Fei patted Rhebs back as he sat back down on his stool.
”To be honest, you
e more like a fisherman. You gotta take tips from big bro Jin. Look at him. Hes a fisher of men. ”
Rheb looked at Jin and cast a mock glare. ”Man, you gotta stop and leave some of us single dogs fishes. You have enough of them to open your own stall and breakeven twice over. ”
Jin shot a smirk at Rheb from the corner of his eyes and took a sip of his drink. ”I don need to steal your fishes. Why would I, when the ones coming to me are more high quality than yours? ”
Rheb and Fei started to complain once more at Jins lack of shame.
Fei pouted. ”Im so cute, but nobodys looking at me. Im part of Reynas dance group, for sardsticks sake. When will someone notice me? ” She sighed as she took one last swig of her pint.
”Heh, maybe its because you still look like a little girl. ” Rheb looked down on Fei. ”Grow a couple inches taller, maybe then youd have some form of chance. ” He hid the curve of his mouth behind his glass.
Fei tsked at Rheb. Jin patted Feis head.
e still a growing girl. Don rush things. Someone will come soon enough. ”
With that, all three of them took their time in finishing their drinks and chatting. Though, between the three of them, Rheb and Fei took turns at roasting each other and getting on one anothers nerves. Jin watched on from the sidelines, contentedly observing and fanning the flames every once in a while. Sometimes, his shameless words earned him hits and complaints from his two buddies, but the atmosphere between them was good.
By the time they finished their drinks, the sun had started to set. It was getting late and they still had a performance to make once they returned to the castle. They didn drink too much, so they were in a relatively good condition to walk back.
Jin walked back to the castle with Rheb and Fei. The crowd was as dense as ever with the oncoming nightlife of the districts. The sky started to set in the horizon as pink and purple hues invited themselves in the sky.
The entire scenery was beautiful, so the trio walked slowly to enjoy the scene. Its not everyday they got to settle down in a kingdom with a festival happening in town. Streetlights and lamps loomed over the group of three, painting them in a warm yellow glow.
Jin was talking to Rheb as Fei walked ahead in front of them. They were talking about how nice it would be to settle down in a place like this if they were to do so one day in the future. Although, it was all hypothetical, and the two of them only talked about it lightly as a passing statement.
Suddenly, from the corner of his eyes, he spotted something familiar. Jin paused mid-sentence, and his feet halted along. Rheb stopped as well and turned to look at Jin with a questioning look. Fei, who seemed to notice Jin stopped talking, also looked back to see him with a strange expression.
Jin thought he saw something familiar, but he wasn too sure if what he saw was correct. He felt an urge to go and check it out. He gazed back at the duo, who was waiting for him to say something. ”You guys…go ahead. Theres something I need to check out. Ill follow along afterwards. ”
Rheb raised a brow. ”You sure? We can just go with you if you want. I don mind. ”
Fei nodded her head. ”Yeah, well follow along. I don think itll make a difference if we stop by to see what you want first. Though we better hurry, the performance will be starting soon. ”
Jin shook his head. He didn feel right, and he thought it was strange. ”No. You guys go along. Ill meet you guys back at the castle. ”
Fei looked at Jin unsurely, but then dragged Rheb with her at the end. ”Alright then, well see you there. You better hurry! ”
Jin stared at his friends departing backs before he went in the direction he last saw the strange symbol. There was a man wearing peculiar clothes, and he was carrying a sword that had a familiar insignia. The image poked at Jins thoughts as he tried to catch up with the man.
The man entered a few narrow walkways, twisting and turning between stalls and walls, when he suddenly disappeared in a secluded alleyway. Jin was following the man silently from a distance but then lost track of him at the end. He pursed his lips. As he followed the man, he studied the insignia that dangled from the swords tassel. He was a little certain that the insignia followed a similar pattern to ones that he knew. A wary feeling emerged from Jin.
Having lost the person he was following, Jin now focused on heading back. Perhaps he was wrong. Even if it was what he thought, the chances of it happening were still pretty slim, right? The probability of two people meeting in a large city was pretty small. Jin shook his head to rid himself of the thought.
While he was busy drowning in his contemplations, he suddenly bumped into a certain person. He blinked, woken up from his stupor, and rubbed his nose. He looked up and was ready to apologize to the person he stumbled into, but the person had an unpleasant expression on his face as he looked for the person who bumped into him.
The person was a middle-aged man with a beer belly poking out of his clothes. He reeked of alcohol.
On the other side, there was another man, slightly younger this time, with long black hair and a golden mask. It seemed like the beer-bellied man was in the middle of confronting the man with the mask. Jin didn have time to butt into other peoples business, so he opted to just apologize and be on his way. He wasted a bit of time following the man earlier so he needed to hurry up and get back to his group. As a result, he didn have the time to study the masked mans clothes.
”Apologies. ” Jin gave a curt expression of regret before preparing to walk away. However, before he could get away, the beer-bellied man shouted loudly while grabbing his arm. ”Hey, whats this! You bump into someone and just offer an apology? Wheres the compensation? ”
Jin glanced at the old man, who looked to be quite drunk, and pulled his wrist away from the mans grasp. The man had calluses on his hands, though quite faded. He seemed to be someone who wielded a weapon before.
Jins furrowed eyebrows carried a hint of annoyance.
The man took one more glance at Jin and revealed an ugly grin. ”Hey, look at that. It seems we have caught quite a looker. Sleep with me and Ill forget what you just did to me. ”
Jin looked disgustedly at the middle-aged man and felt irritated. ”Sir, please let me go. I already apologized and I don have time for this. Just let me pass. ”
The man just reached out to grab Jin one more time. Jin looked at the mans greasy hands with distaste and deflected it to the side. Taking this as a form of defiance, the man angrily slurred ”Why you little bitch- ” He lunged one more time at Jin, while Jin just dodged and kicked him to the floor. He scratched his head and muttered, I really don have the time for this.
If he just left, he doesn mind what might happen to the masked man. Perhaps before, he would have some semblance of heroic spirit, but for now, he couldn give a shit. He doesn like being involved in other peoples business. However, this middle-aged trash might come and chase after him if he ran. He figured it would be bothersome if it were to continue, so he wanted to end it here.
The man got up from the floor, this time furious. He lifted his arm, swinging at Jin; gone was the leery look from his face. Jin scrunched his nose and unlocked the arm that was directed at him by jabbing at the crook of his elbow. Swiftly, his other hand shot at the mans chin with his palm—just below his jaw. Everything flowed cleanly and smoothly.
The person fell to the floor once more from imbalance. He cursed.
The second time he stood up, he brandished a weapon from somewhere in his clothes. It was a small, worn-out pocket knife. Jin frowned. Things just weren going as planned for him today.
The man rushed towards him with clumsy steps, but Jin ignored it and nimbly aimed at the mans solar plexus. All that was left was a swish of hair that was left as an afterimage.
The man with the mask stood on the side, watching everything with a glint in his eyes.
”Hopefully you don get up anymore. ” Jin dusted off his pants and looked down at the man on the floor, clutching his stomach. The knife was kicked away somewhere.
Jin sighed and decisively turned around to leave, forgetting the existence of the masked man. He rushed to the castle. Hopefully he wasn late.
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