The medieval kingdom of Yuisa stood above a river of molten lava on a lush mesa. The area was rich in precious metals and a unique material they called hatuye. The exact location was never revealed, but stories abound.
According to legend, the word hatuye derives from the language of an advanced culture in an archipelago of islands rich in gold. The visitor saw the material and marveled at its versatility. Once the visitor settled in the only inn, the king himself offered a tour of their central fortified city.
“We don’t let a lot of visitors pass the gates,” said the king.
“I’ve brought gold, a lot of gold, and I’m willing to give all my gold to get my hands on more of this material, hatuye,” the visitor said, holding a small device the innkeeper gave him to open his room door.
“We don’t trade with outsiders. It’s been the rule for a millennium now,” responded the king.
The visitor grew impatient and desperate. There was something addictive about this material. At first glance, it could be mistaken for shiny metal. Malleable when pressured lightly, but seemingly impervious to impact or cuts.
“How do you even separate it? I’ve tried to cut it many times, and it never penetrates or even dent the surface. Even with my steel knife!” the visitor marveled at the rectangular block, the size of a slice of bread. He would bend it slowly and watch it go back to its original shape without any external mechanism. The words “Yuisa Luisa’s Inn” appeared every time he held it, but disappeared once he stopped touching it.
“This material you call, hatuye, has characteristics and uses your world isn’t ready to understand. Lend me your ear for a few minutes, and perhaps we can find a way to satisfy your curiosity,” his voice never changed tone; it had a certain rhythm that unnerved the visitor. “Perhaps we can even forgo the tour altogether and focus on your pursuit of honor.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s simple, really,” the king said, waving a maiden to bring him some food.
“Will we need more ore?” a young woman sat next to the king and spoke to him in earnest, without any formality.
“Daughter, we have a visitor, would you mind telling your mother that I won’t be giving a tour after all,” the maiden dropped a large pint of a frothy alcoholic beverage and a plate of something that looked like corn.
“After all this, maybe I could stay a little longer and take that tour after all,” the visitor grabbed one of the pints and started to drink.
“It may not be necessary, we’ll see,” the king took a sip of the drink and grabbed a large ear of the corn-like food with his bare hands. “Please, eat.”
The visitor ate and drank and laughed at the endless tales of blunder the king enjoyed to tell. After a few minutes, the visitor froze. It took the visitor a minute to realize there wasn’t anyone else in the hall. Everyone left abruptly and without the visitor noticing.
“Where are all the people?” the visitor waited for the right moment to interrupt the king.
“They’re gathering the ore, of course,” the king waved his hand, but the maiden never appeared. “Might as well stop now, and get it done.”
“For the Pursuit of Honor ceremony, of course,” the king finished his drink, straightened his tunic, and told the visitor to follow him.
The fortified city of Yuisa glimmered like nothing the visitor had ever seen. The streets were made of the magical material. Lines appeared and reappeared underneath them, guiding them towards a grand concert hall with a forge in the middle of the stage. Hundreds of citizens of Yuisa were eagerly awaiting their arrival.
“What is going on?” the visitor stopped, hesitated to continue, and looked back towards the main gate.
“Do you remember how you arrived at Yuisa? It wasn’t by choice or by chance. This place, it comes to you, when it needs to,” said the king, summoning everyone on the audience to look back at them.
“I looked for this place. What is the Pursuit of Honor ceremony?”
“You didn’t look for this place. You won’t know what the ceremony is about until you join me on stage. Everyone is waiting,” the king lifted the hood of his tunic and a glowing crown of light seeped through the fabric.
The visitor weighed the options and decided to join the king. The princess ran towards the king and whispered a message from the queen. The visitor looked puzzled but nonetheless climbed on stage.
“This should be enough people, father,” the princess said this loud enough to reverberated across the hall.
“Once again, welcome visitor. Yuisa has chosen you, and you have chosen the Pursuit of Honor,” the king extended his arms, and the people in the audience reached inside their chest to grab a small ember that quickly turned into a small pebble of ore. They dropped it under the seat in front of them, and the ore rolled down towards the stage. “Visitor, you must reach deep inside your conscience and find what you want to make.”
“Hello, everyone. Unfortunately, I’m not a blacksmith. I’m an explorer,” the visitor looked at the massive forge that drew on the river of lava below to heat a shinny liquid metal in an iron bowl.
The king picked an ore from the edge of the stage and gave it to the visitor. “You don’t need to be a blacksmith. You can make anything you want, just drop this ore in the bowl and think about what you want to make.”
The visitor once again hesitated. “If it’s the Pursuit of Honor, I’m assuming you’d want me to build an honorable weapon?”
“If you’d like,” the king said in the same soothing melodic voice from before. The audience reacted as if they were watching a gripping play.
“Or, should I be honest with all of you? I didn’t look for this place. I have no idea how I made it to the gates. I’m speaking a language I don’t recognize, but I instinctively know. I see all these impossible things, and I cannot understand this challenge,” the visitor’s elevated voice echoed beyond the hall to the streets.
“The Pursuit of Honor isn’t a challenge or a race, it’s a journey,” said the king, making the audience gasp in excitement.
“Will my fate be sealed if I make the wrong thing?”
“There’s no way to know until you make something,” said the king, putting his hand at the edge of the scalding iron bowl.
The visitor tossed the ore in the bowl and flinched, expecting an explosion. The king then reached deep inside the bowl to take out an ornate gold globe. The audience clapped as if something fantastic happened. The globe hovered above the king’s hand, and the audience gasped in wonder. The visitor admired it in awe.
“What does the ball do?” asked the princess to the visitor.
“I wanted to make something that would guide me in my journeys. I expected a map, not a ball like the moon,” said the visitor, examining it closer. The exquisite carvings on the globe revealed several kingdoms the visitor didn’t know existed.
“This is true to your honor, thank you.”
The globe’s power resided inside. Once the visitor had a chance to touch it, the world peeled open like an orange, revealing small, realistic sculptures of landscapes begging to be discovered.
“This is incredible, I need to go to these places,” said the visitor holding the square device made of the material he didn’t care about anymore. The king grabbed and tossed it in the forge.
“From now on, the material will be known as hatuye. Thank you. Words help us understand your kind. Now you must go,” the king handed the visitors two dark wood oars and closed the globe by waving his hand above it. The king gave the globe to the princess, and the visitor stood there, motionless and confused.
“What is this for?” said the visitor.
“To row back to shore,” said the princess, gently helping him sit on a canoe.
“Wait,” the visitor tried to stand up, but instead looked back to find an endless sea. Looking ahead revealed the faraway shores of one of the places the visitor saw on the globe. The moon sat larger than ever above the distant mountains. “I see now, my pursuit of honor has just begun.”
200 Short Stories
As part of a existential crisis I’m embarking on a project to publish 200 short pieces of fiction. If you’re interested in my progress check out my bookshelf tracker:https://seriouslyirrelevant.blog/200-short-story-tracker/
This is 15 out of 200.