Chapter 10


Chapter 10: Tea

With the loss of two of our horses, it took us a lot longer to reach the Phaloan safe house. It was in a place I’d least expected it to be. Norio took us into some long abandoned mines where their safe house stood in the dark depths. It was a small shack; it couldn’t really be called a house in any sense of the word. I’d started sneezing the moment we entered the mines, and it didn’t seem like I’d stop any time soon. My sister had her hand on my shoulder trying to comfort me as Norio unlocked the door to the humble house.

Nyah – I’ve never seen your allergies so bad before. Are you going to be alright?

I nodded and sneezed again. Norio pushed the door open before looking back at me and shaking his head.

Norio – I’ll make you some tea that will calm your allergies. Come on, quickly.

Nyah and I walked inside a little faster and he closed the door behind us. I looked around the small wooden shack confused, as there was nothing inside but cobwebs, dust, and a few rusty mining tools. Norio had two small orbs of light floating around us so that we could see.

Malaika – This is it? Achoo!

I sniffled, failing to stiffle my sneeze. Norio walked towards the back of the shack and crouched down to the floor in one particular spot, his back facing us. We watched as he laid both of his palms flat against the floor before a soft, orange light began to shine from beneath his hands. The outline of a small compartment door was revealed and the orange light faded. Norio pulled the compartment door up from the floor before standing up again. He looked back at us raising his left eyebrow at us questioningly.

Norio – Well? Come on then so I can get you two sorted…

He said nonchalantly. Nyah and I spared a glance at each other before approaching the mysterious staircase. Norio’s light magic went ahead of us slowly down the steps until we came to what looked like a cafe. Norio sent his orbs of light in opposite directions of the room and all of the lanterns were lit shortly after. The walls were made of cobble stone and the floors were wooden. There were five tables in all, each had three chairs around them. The table sets were beautifully hand carved from redwood. Back home our father had redwood furniture in our garden and it was my favorite, I’d always recognize redwood when I saw it.

The tables each had a round, glass vase centerpiece with half burned candles in them, nothing else was special about them. I looked over to my left to see a bar and a small cooking area. Towards the back There was another door. Suddenly the compartment door closed making my jump and soon after sneeze. I heard Norio and my sister laugh. I looked back at them unamused.

Norio – I should’ve gave you some warning, forgive me.

I sniffled and crossed my arms over my chest.

Norio – I’ll show you two the sleeping quarters and the bath. While you two get settled I’ll make some tea that will stop that sneeze of yours.

Malaika – Thank you. (sniffles)…

Nyah – Thank you.

Norio gave us a humble nod before going to open the door second door in the back of the cafe area. He held his hand up and created another orb of light. The light magic did just as it had in the cafe and went to light the lanterns in the room. After Norio showed us the room with ten beds and the bathing room just off from the sleeping quarters, he left us alone to make tea. I let my sister take a bath first, I wanted some time alone to think. I offered to help her get water but we’d discovered that the Phaloan’s had a well in the bathroom. With the help of some fire magic, the wooden tub became the perfect hot spring.

Some time went by and my sister came back into the room. She was wearing the thin slip dress she’d had on under her royal robes since we were now without spare clothing. When our horses fell into the depths of the earth, so did our bags. Nyah chose a bed next to mine, not far from the door leading to the cafe, two beds away. She looked over at me with a sweet smile and I returned hers. I was sitting up in bed with my arms wrapped around my knees.

Nyah – You haven’t gone to get your tea yet? I expect he’s made it by now.

Malaika – Achoo! (sniffles) I know, I’m going. I just needed some time to myself is all.

Nyah nodded then, still smiling.

Malaika – What?

Nyah – I know you little sister. When something is bothering you, it’s the only thing you can think about. I don’t need Zola’s abilities to know it’s about Norio.

I frowned and put my finger to my lips to quite her.

Malaika – Keep your voice down will you? Sheesh… I can’t ask him anything, he pretty much made us swear we wouldn’t bring it up. I’m not even sure what to say to him after that. To be honest, I don’t think I can be alone with him anymore without it feeling awkward.

Nyah – I’m sure it’s strange for him too. He said he didn’t intend to reveal that part of himself to us after all. Just try not to make things any more awkward than they already are. We DO have to travel together.

I knew she was only trying to comfort me but that didn’t help at all. In fact, I felt worse knowing we’d be traveling together having this awkward air between us. For now, there was nothing I could do but suck it up and just keep my feelings to myself. I sighed and nodded before I got out of bed and left the room. When I went into the cafe, I saw Norio sitting at one of the tables close to the bar with a single tea cup and a small, iron tea pot. He looked up at me then curiously. I sat down in a chair across from him and he gently pushed the tea cup towards me. I looked down into the dark blue cup to see some herbs in it, I could smell peppermint but I wasn’t sure what the others were.

Norio – You didn’t take a bath? It took you so long to come out here I was sure you were taking a long bath, or something was wrong.

He said as he picked up the tea pot and poured the hot water over the leaves. He sat the pot of hot water back down closer to his side and sat there with his arms crossed. I looked up at him, doing my best to meet his eyes. It was quite an effort.

Malaika – Everything’s fine, don’t worry. Achoo! (sniffles)

Norio smiled at me.

Norio – That sneeze tells a different tale. That tea has Nettle, peppermint, and rasberry leaves in it; all of which are said to be natural allergy remedies. Drink up.

Malaika – Thank you…This safe house is really something. I wasn’t expecting there to be much here.

Norio – It was a lot of hard work but it was needed. The Phaloa don’t ever stay in one place too long but when we do, we want to have all the comforts of an inn. Considering our line of work, we need a place to relax that’s hidden.

I nodded before taking hold of the tea cup handle and lifting the cup to my lips. I softly blew on it a few times before taking a careful sip. It was still hot enough to warm my lips and tongue just short of discomfort but I could drink it. It was absolutely bitter and all I could taste was the mint. I frowned a little before setting the cup back down on the table.

Norio – Did you think it would taste like your favorite sweeties?

Malaika – No, but nothing close to what it actually tastes like. I don’t mean to complain…I’m extremely grateful.

Norio shook his head.

Norio – I’m just teasing you Maliaka, trying to lighten the mood. You’re acting very timid with me, not like you were before.

I kept my eyes on my tea as if I’d see something interesting in the steaming liquid.

Norio – Malaika,

I slightly flinched when he said my name, as if I’d touched an open flame. I slowly looked up at him and he was leaning forward on the table, staring at me with great intensity.

Malaika – Y-Yes?

Norio – …I need to go track down that bounty hunter. I’ll only be out for a few hours so don’t go outside for any reason. The door will be sealed with magic and only a Phaloan can break the spell.

My nervous jitters died and was replaced with something close to embarassment and anger. I’d thought he was going to say something completely different…I must’ve been glaring at him because he leaned back from the table and began giving me a cautious look.

Norio – Did I say something wrong?

Malaika – No, it’s nothing. Be carefull…

I said to him before picking up my tea and taking a sip. Norio got up from the table and I didn’t watch him as he collected his weapons before leaving. There was a lot I could’ve said, even asked but my pride and stubborness wouldn’t allow it. This mysterious man was starting to get under my skin and in the worst way. I knew not how to handle this situation as I’d never experienced this before. I felt…Something. Did Norio feel like this about me? I don’t think I could ever ask him, not until I could figure out just what it was I felt for him. At the moment, there was a lot of different things I felt. I was hoping one of these things didn’t get in the way of my journey to save my sister…