Posted on December 04 2020 by Alison Brunyee
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I glared at the small wooden bird peeking out of its hidey-hole. One of Akisin’s creations which no matter how hard I tried; I just couldn’t seem to part with. I had no doubt that she would stroll through the door one day, and demand her half of the profits. And I was ready, every last rupee accounted for. There would be no repeat of the battle I had endured with her sorry excuse for book keeping.
That is when she does come back from wherever she went.
The bell jingled.
“Ah, good morning, Ms Mila,” I said brightly.
“Oh, thank the Goddesses, I’ve an invitation and I simply must have a mask to go with this gown.”
“So, there is to be another masquerade ball?”
More and more, I found customers to be like the masks I sold. Some, you could read immediately, such as Ms Mila here, who attended a lot of social functions by the local aristocracy.
“Indeed, and it must be a full-face mask,” she insisted, “you know how self-conscious I am about my double chin. Please, help me, Happy Mask Salesman.”
“Have faith Ms Mila, you have a very pretty chin and the Bauta style will suit you well.”
She tittered at the compliment and flicked out her bright pink fan. “You charmer.”
We took the obligatory gander at some of the masks in stock. Ms Mila cooed over the gold and silver leaf details, stroked the glass beads, ruffled the ribbon ties and admired the lace trims. But finding a specific mask in the exact shade of her rose gown would be highly unlikely. I had already resigned myself to the fact that I would be busy in the workshop this evening.
“No, no, I’m afraid none of these are quite what I am looking for,” she concluded and swerved away from the masks displayed on the left.
No surprises there, I thought as the bell jingled again.
“I hate to be a bother but, it must be absolutely perfect.”
“I completely understand.”
“Yes, my husband can be ever so… wolf!”
“Ever so wolf?”
“W-w-w-wolf,” she repeated. The woman backed away from me until her heels thumped against the wall.
Slowly, I turned around and was met by a large, black and white husky. It barked at Ms Mila, wagging its tail.
“Shoo, shoo, I say and leave me be.” Cornered, she started swishing her fan around.
The husky growled and snapped at her.
“Getaway, you stupid-”
“Please stop yelling,” I said, “that isn’t going to help.” But then the dog clamped its jaws over her fan and tore it away. As the husky shook its head from side to side turquoise rhinestones flew around the store and more insults followed.
“Filthy, savage beast, just look what you’ve done.”
“How dare you.” Two piercing green eyes set into the unmistakable shape of a dragon’s head towered over Ms Mila. She squeaked with fright and pressed even further into the corner. The dragon spoke again, “Kilton is not filthy or savage. He had a bath this morning and he won’t eat you. Eating rubbish gives him a bad stomach.”
Kilton gave a short bark in agreement.
“Excuse me.” I tried to remain civil, even though this dragon… person had shown no such courtesy. “Strictly dogs are not allowed in my shop, lovely as he is. And as you can see, intentionally or unintentionally, Kilton is frightening one of my customers. I must insist he waits outside.”
The dragon stalked over to me. “You the owner?”
They paused and looked me up and down for a moment. I could have sworn the dragon’s shoulders were shaking, but I became quite distracted by the stunning headdress of red, orange and gold feathers that streamed down their back.
I’ve never seen a mask like that before, I thought. How marvelous.
“Come on, Kilton, you’ll have to stay out there for a bit.”
The husky dropped the fan he’d been chewing and whimpered as he shuffled out the door.
Immediately, Ms Mila scrambled on all fours to retrieve her precious possession and struggled to open it out again. The punctured concertina had teeth marks throughout and the rhinestones that had survived hung on by a thread. She tried to force it shut only for the handle to snap off. “It’s ruined,” she wailed.
“There, there, I am sure it can be mended,” I said, offering a fresh handkerchief.
The aristocrat wobbled to her feet. “I must go for a lie-down.”
“Yes, that sounds like a grand idea.”
“I feel quite peculiar.”
“I am most sorry to hear that.” I pat her hand.
“You will ensure my mask is ready, won’t you?”
“Of course, have no fear, it shall be done.”
She poked her head out from the shop doorway and flinched.
Kilton lay on the floor, nose hidden between two paws but his wagging tail hinted this was all for show and could switch at any moment.
Ms Mila latched onto my arm.
A quick search of my pockets revealed a treat I normally reserved for the terriers that liked to nip at my heels. “Here you go.” I laughed at Kilton as he devoured the crumbly biscuit and Ms Mila made good her escape.
Back inside, the dragon awaited with both hands firmly planted on hips.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
Again, the dragon’s shoulders shook, clearly laughing at me. Such boorish behaviour, I had half a mind to refuse them service at all. But then I desperately wanted to ask about their mask. What was it made from? Where could such lovely feathers be found? And how did they manage to get the eyes to sparkle like that?
Eventually, the stranger hooked both thumbs either side of the dragon’s head and pulled it off in one swift motion.
“Hi Ronri,” the young woman said, “been a long time.” She placed the dragon mask under one arm and circled me. “Gosh, you’ve shot up, least a foot on me. Short back and sides, hmm, smart enough for a shop keeper I suppose.” She tugged at the hem of my shirt. “Never pegged you for purple though, always black trousers and crisp white shirts as I remember. I like what you’ve done with the place; Happy Mask Shop, cute name. Did you make all these? I bet that took ages, so where’s Akisin? I’d like to meet everyone actually; you’ve talked about them so much I feel like I know them already.”
She continued to chatter non-stop, eyebrows waggling with enthusiasm. Her tanned face could have been an inspiration for a hundred masks, with all sorts of wonderful expressions that appeared and disappeared in rapid succession.
“Wanna a honey candy?” She offered me a crumpled paper bag.
“Oh, thank you,” I said, pulling out an orange ball. “Now, please don’t think me rude, miss.”
“Miss?” The woman seemed amused by the title. “Seriously Ronri, you don’t have to be so formal around me.” She popped a sweet in her mouth. “Yeah, got to admit, you’ve done well for yourself. I’m jealous, my wagon can only hold so much stock. I’m constantly unloading and reloading it takes forever to get back on the road.”
Between her garbled words and sucking of inner cheeks, I was reminded why Father had said speaking and eating were not to be performed at the same time.
“Boxes are pretty heavy too.” She grabbed my hand and planted it firmly onto a toned bicep. “Feel that? I’ve got arms of steel now.”
“Miss, please.” I jerked away. “It is not appropriate for a man to touch a lady in such a manner when they have only just met.”
“Only just met?” She burst out laughing. “We used to have baths together! Don’t you remember?”
My cheeks flushed. “Miss, I strongly suspect you have me confused with someone else.”
“Well, that’s rude, I came all this way to see you. Guru-Guru’s right, the Interloper War must have knocked you for six. That King Hyrule has a lot to answer for.”
Guru-Guru, I should have known…
“Have you lost your memory? I can’t believe you joined the army and put yourself in danger like that.” Her green eyes narrowed, the same shade as the dragon’s. “You never mentioned any of it to me, why? You think battles and monsters scare me? I’ve fought off more than my fair share of robbers I can tell you. Kilton helps of course, and wearing this.” She tapped the dragon mask. “Soon as they see a woman merchant thinks it gives them the right to take a pop. It’s hard enough negotiating, you know, to make an actual profit?”
When does she draw breath? I thought.
“You mentioned Guru-Guru, how do you know him?”
“Geez, he’s the one who sent me the letter about how you nearly died.” She pushed past me.
A letter? I squinted at the woman, a tangle of brown dreadlocks and a mustard yellow poncho. She looked back at me and grinned.
“You actually kept the Hero’s Mask? That’s sweet, Ronri.”
She pointed at the turquoise mask with painted suns around the eye sockets, which had received many quizzical stares since opening, but quickly forgotten when customers spotted the more elaborate designs in the store. The fact she had chosen this mask and knew its name proved there could be no doubt. “Yasei?”
“Ding, ding! Well done, for a smart guy it sure took you a while to join the dots there.”
A huge sigh of relief followed. “I am sorry, it is just I have not seen you for years, and you have changed so much.”
Yasei shrugged. “I don’t think so, just get to travel and do what I want now.” She placed the dragon mask on the counter and smirked. “Can an old friend give you a hug, or is it inappropriate?”
Her hugs had always been intense and this one was no different. I had been ten when I left Kawaranai and she had called me an insensitive moron. Her head rested on my heart and although the warmth was pleasant, I felt a new awkwardness that I did not expect. I let go and stepped away from her.
“So, what are your plans while you are here?”
“Hmm, hadn’t really given it much thought,” she admitted. “How about… you give me a tour of Castle Town?”
“Well, you’re not exactly busy, are you?”
A quick glance around the store proved her statement to be true. I smiled and snatched up the key from behind the counter. I was not in the habit of taking time off, but then again, this would not be the first time my plans had completely changed because of Yasei Muryō.
Featured art: Alison Brunyee via Canva.com
Alison Brunyee is an Original Content Editor for Zelda Dungeon. She likes reading manga and collecting Japanese wind chimes. Her favorite Zelda game is Ocarina of Time. For a bit of escapism during this tough time, check out more fan fiction from her alter writing ego – Otwl. Stay safe x