Other A Farm in the Forest- Chapter 48 (5/26/2017)

Discussion in 'Fan Works' started by MagicallyClueless, May 3, 2016.

  1. MagicallyClueless

    MagicallyClueless Giant Laser Beams


    What a lonely night. Sebastian regretted not spending another night with Jade, though every night without Jade felt like that as of late. He tried to focus on his freelance work, but it proved difficult since he was so worried about Jade and the situation with Abigail. He checked his phone more than usual, but no messages came his way. He wished he had a proper excuse to text Jade himself... she needed a night alone, though. They all did, even if it wasn’t enjoyable. Sebastian did manage to finish a couple jobs, so at least his decision wasn’t a complete waste.

    But why did he feel so useless? His brain told him that he should stay out of their business, but his gut told him that there had to be a way he could help. Extremely tired, Sebastian decided to listen to neither and sleep away what he could.

    Saturday morning came, and one of his wishes had been fulfilled! As he checked his phone, the screen notified him of a text from Jade:

    JADE: I don’t think going to the mines today is a good idea. i’m sorry since we planned it and i was really looking forward to it, but... tell maru i’m sorry too, okay? let’s try again when things with abigail get sorted out.

    Sebastian sighed, but he was anything but surprised. “I was looking forward to it, too,” he softly mumbled to himself, typing out a response.

    SEBASTIAN: It’s alright, Jade. Did you sleep well?

    The text was immediately seen, and right after came a reply.

    JADE: not really to be honest...
    SEBASTIAN: That’s no good. You should take it easy today, or at least try to.
    JADE: i’d love to but i know i have to confront abigail today. i won’t forgive myself if i don’t. i don’t like things being awkward and i just want the situation to be cleared up
    SEBASTIAN: I understand
    JADE: thank you for asking by the way. i’m sorry again that we can’t really meet up. i was really excited, and i like seeing you get along with maru
    SEBASTIAN: There’s always another time, don’t worry about it. The mines will wait for us I’m sure.
    JADE: you’re the best
    JADE: um but

    SEBASTIAN: ?
    JADE: i haven’t been clingy or anything have i?? am i really around you that much?
    SEBASTIAN: I’d tell you if I was annoyed or felt smothered, I promise you that. We do hang out a lot, but it’s not like we’re massively affectionate in public. I think the worst we did was kiss in front of my mom at the fair, and she was telling us to
    JADE: you have a point there. ok i was just making sure
    JADE: i’m about to go shovel snow and toss some feed to the animals so i’ll talk to you later

    SEBASTIAN: Be safe
    JADE: you too with whatever you’re up to today <3


    That was the end of that, the raven-hair supposed. A lot of questions must have been running through Jade’s head, but that just gave Sebastian all the more reason to be there and support her. Sighing, he got up and got ready for the day to come. He had a feeling it’d be a long and grueling one.

    Sebastian skipped breakfast as he normally did, appearing in the kitchen for just a cup of coffee... or not. There was no coffee maker. He sighed to himself, forgetting it was at Jade’s house.

    Tea it was. While he didn’t prefer it as much, the tea was smooth and soothing for the throat, containing just enough sugar and caffeine to get him properly started for the day. Robin and Demetrius were in other parts of the house working, giving Sebastian the opportunity to approach Maru’s door and give it a gentle knock.

    “Hey,” he began just loud enough for his voice to pierce through the door.

    Maru didn’t respond for a few seconds, caught off guard by her sibling’s decision to even approach the door. “Coming in just a sec,” she answered. Sebastian heard some steps just on the other side, and then the door slowly opened, Maru peeking through the opening with soft and curious eyes.

    “I, uh... just wanted to let you know that Jade and I can’t go to the mines today. Your project will have to wait a bit.” He lowered his head. “Sorry.”

    It wasn’t good news, but Maru was relieved it wasn’t something worse. “Oh... it’s okay. Thank you for telling me. Did something come up?”

    A nod from the half-brother. “Yeah. Jade was looking forward to helping you. If the project can wait, we’ll definitely do it later.”

    “I would go to the mines myself, but... you know, monsters and all.” The novice inventor gave a saddened smile. “It’s a personal project, so I can wait. Are both of you okay?”

    “We’re fine, just some other stuff to take care of that can’t wait. In fact, I’m about to leave for that purpose. If Mom needs me, I’m in town.”

    Maru gently waved him off. “Alright, I’ll see you.”

    Sebastian returned the wave and walked away, going back to his room to grab his scarf, hat, and gloves before heading outside. The snow began falling yet again, so it continued to pile on the fields and pathways, also accumulating ice on the sidewalks and street lamps. Sebastian personally enjoyed the snowfall, but with the consistent cold, he hoped that the weather wouldn’t eventually prevent him from going outdoors. With a festival coming up, he felt the whole town hoped for the same outcome. Driving seemed too dangerous for the time being, so the raven-haired man traveled to his destination on foot.

    The situation with Abigail was between her and Jade, but Sebastian still wanted a dose of his own answers. For his girlfriend’s sake, he wanted to know why Abigail reacted in such a way and what the real issue was, for he had a feeling it wasn’t about Jade being ‘clingy’. His best opportunity to confront his gothic acquaintance came while Jade was busy, bringing him to Pierre’s general store right after opening time.

    Upon entering, Pierre was checking his store’s stock and putting fresh vegetables and fruits up for sale. He heard someone walk through the entrance, boasting a hearty “Welcome!” without knowing who arrived. Lifting his head for a brief moment, he saw it was Sebastian, and his excited demeanor diminished in an instant. “Ah, here to shop?” Pierre attempted to ask.

    “Actually, no. I’m looking for Abby. Is she here?” asked Sebastian, glancing at the many aisles of food and goods to appear less intrusive.

    “She just left,” sighed the store owner. “I don’t know where she went, since she ignored me when I asked her. I can’t be arsed to care about it right now.”

    Sebastian, though not on the best terms with Pierre, could agree with him there. “Thank you anyway. I’ll go try to find her. Have a good day,” mentioned the raven-hair, and then he was gone.

    The search for Abigail began with checking her usual hangout spots: the bridge near the shop, the library, the graveyard, the spot in front of the wizard's tower. She was nowhere to be found, and Sebastian left himself feeling disappointed and somewhat lost. Along the way back to Pierre's shop, he came across Sam walking to work. They both waved to each other, the taller one grinning while the shorter one awaited whatever banter was next.

    "Whoa, buddy, I haven't seen you up so early. I'm heading to work-- what are you up to?" eagerly asked the blond, clad in his employee uniform.

    "I'm actually, uh, looking for Abby today. Have you seen her?" he asked.

    "Hmm..." Sam put his hand to his chin as he tried to think. "Actually, my mom said she saw Abby head up towards your house. Maybe you two passed each other at the wrong time?"

    Sebastian tiredly exhaled in realization. "She wasn't going to my house. I think I have an idea of where she went, now. Thank you, Sam." He gave his best friend a pat on the arm before leaving.

    "Don't do anything stupid!" ecstatically yelled Sam. The raven-hair simply responded with a raised hand to signal he heard.

    He made his way to the last place he could possibly think of: the mines. Though she was afraid of whatever lurked down the mine elevator, it was the last place people would have thought to look. As he arrived, his suspicions were confirmed; Abigail had an old sword in hand and kicked around a stray rock near one of the stone walls. Her face was expressionless and she was unnaturally focused on the rock she was moving. Even when Sebastian entered, there was no indication she noticed or cared.

    Sebastian took a small breath to ready himself. "Abby," he started to get her attention.

    She stopped kicking the rock around and lifted her head, but didn't respond.

    "You didn't come by on saloon night. What's up?" he asked.

    "Don't even pretend like you don't know," she answered, turning to face him. "Did Jade send you here?"

    Sebastian shook his head. "No, I came here by myself. I am worried for Jade, but I'm here to fulfill my own curiosity."

    Abigail dropped her sword and crossed her arms. "Is that so."

    The raven-hair walked up to Abigail, hands in his pockets. "Yep. So, tell me why you're acting this way."

    She sighed. "Why should I even talk to you? You never really cared about me to begin with."

    "That isn't true, Abby."

    "Then what is?" she retorted.

    He could already feel that it was going to be a hell of a talk. "Abby," he sighed once more, "I cared about you for a while, and even if we aren't close anymore, I still want to know you're doing alright."

    Abigail tried to keep her composure, but didn't answer.

    "Tell me. Is this about you and me? Is it really about Jade?"

    The amethyst-hair seemed very reluctant to respond. She bit her lip and appeared more upset than before. "I don't know," she eventually said.

    "What do you mean by that?" instantly asked Sebastian in reply. "I understand we never really got to talk things out before, and it just got awkward."

    "It did," Abigail muttered in agreement. "I... I'm over that, honestly. I don't really care anymore. It was my fault, and I accept that."

    "It was both of our faults for failing to come forward," he corrected.

    She grumbled something under her breath. "Listen, I'm sure you want to hear that some other girl likes you, but that's not the case. I don't have feelings for you."

    "Then what's the issue?" asked Sebastian, ignoring her extra remarks.

    "The issue... are you serious?" Abigail looked him in the eye, still somewhat calm but increasing in tension. "Maybe I don't care that we're not so close anymore, Sebby, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Jade's been avoiding me! Even when I tried so hard to not repeat my mistakes!"

    "Don't call me Sebby," Sebastian muttered nonchalantly.

    "Really? You care about that now?"

    He shrugged. "I don't think Jade has been avoiding you. You know she gets really busy with her farming job."

    Abigail seemed to be much restless than before and uncrossed her arms to clench her fists. "Ever since you two started dating, you don't go to saloon nights as much anymore."

    "We've only missed a couple, and I think they were for good reasons. We had just started the dating the previous day for one of them, and then Jade got really sick."

    "She barely gave a hello and a present on my birthday!" the irritated adventurer continued.

    "She was sick, I was surprised she even went out to give you anything to begin with," Sebastian responded.

    "I can't ever see her on the weekend, she is always busy or doing something-"

    "Game nights. We used to invite you to those, but you always found it boring and you didn't enjoy it." The raven-hair saw a bit of a pattern in Abigail's words, and felt like she was trying to find reasons to be angry. There still could have been more, but... he couldn’t see much more than that. “As for your texting, you should know that Jade goes to bed early and wakes up early. You tend to be somewhat of a night owl. The timing is unfortunate, but it’s not her fault... or yours.”

    "The few times I really got to hang out with her alone were before she started dating you. How has so much changed in such a small amount of time? It can’t be a coincidence.” She growled to herself. “Now I can only ever see her when she's with you or you and Sam," she angrily elaborated, "I even helped her try to confess to you!"

    Sebastian blinked in surprise. He wasn't aware of Abigail helping.

    "I feel like that was a mistake," she grumbled with a scowl. "She's changed, and not for the better, while you pretend to be all high and mighty through her influence,” she scoffed. “Don’t think no one’s noticed.”

    Sebastian's stiff face softened in an attempt to understand. "Abby... I think you're just trying to find reasons to be mad at her. You want to see her more, that's fine... why not just say that to her?"

    "Because I'll just get shrugged off again! That's what always happened."

    "What?"

    "Well, it sure as hell happened with you," she snapped.

    Sebastian took his hands out of his pockets and rubbed his temples. "Alright. So the stuff that happened with us is the origin after all." He slowly exhaled. "Abby, I'm sorry I didn't handle your affection the way I should have."

    "I told you already!! It isn't about you!" Abigail snapped. "It's Jade! I have feelings for her, not you!"

    They both went completely still and stared at each other in shock. Abigail realized what she said, regret planted on her expression. Sebastian still needed time to process the thought.

    Eventually, Abigail collapsed and leaned against the cave wall. Sebastian slowly followed her lead and plopped beside her.

    "... I know she's happy with you," Abigail softly muttered. "For a while, it made me happy. I didn't really mind. But it's just. The same damn thing all over again," she breathed in frustration.

    Sebastian watched her carefully. "... How long?" he asked.

    "Ugh." Abigail stared at the ceiling in thought. "I guess it was more of a fleeting crush at first, but we became friends pretty fast so it just went on from there. I thought we got along great..." She hugged her knees and rested her head on her legs. "But I know she is just nice. I doubt she even likes girls. And when she gained feelings for you, it was pretty obvious..."

    The raven-hair emitted another sigh. "I'm sorry."

    "I was never going to confess anyway. I thought it'd just go away." She frowned. "But she’s the only one who made me feel included. Now, though...” Another sigh. “I wish she looked at me the way she looks at you..."

    "Abby, listen..." Sebastian laced his fingers together and thought about what to say next with care. "Maybe she doesn't... feel that way... but, she does care about you. She's been worried about you ever since those texts happened. Do you think it's better if you two aren’t friends?"

    "I don't know," she answered again.

    "If it keeps going on like this, it'll..." Sebastian internally cursed himself for what he wanted to say. "Look, it got awkward with us because we never came forward and talked. I, kinda had feelings for you too, you know. For a long time after that I didn't really know how to feel about you."

    "If you're telling me to confess to her, I'm not going to do it. I don't want to impact her happiness like that. It'd just... it'd make it worse, for her."

    "At the very least, you should tell her why you've been frustrated. I'm sure she would apologize and try to make it right with you."

    Abigail looked at him for a moment, then shook her head. "That's what I'm afraid of."

    "Why?"

    "You really don't get it." She impatiently tapped her feet.

    Sebastian was quiet for a while, trying to think of how to reply. "Maybe I don't," he admitted.

    "You don't understand how lucky you are."

    "I try to."

    Abigail gritted her teeth. "You were the one to tell her I didn't like the mines, weren't you? That's not something I exactly want going around."

    "I only told her because she wanted to fight monsters with you," explained Sebastian.

    "Maybe I wanted to go..." Abigail glared at him. "Just because you are her boyfriend doesn't mean that you dictate who she hangs out with.”

    Sebastian sighed. "I get you're upset, but I told her that before we were dating. Also, Jade hangs out with whoever she wants to, and I do the same. It was her choice to not ask you." He took a deep breath. "Plus, I remember when we first came here together. I thought I was doing you a favor."

    "It's not your responsibility to decide, even if you saw how I acted!" Abigail yelled. "I'm scared, so what?! I can get better!"

    Sebastian tried his best to not get riled up. He found it difficult to truly understand Abigail, but he knew she was upset and never had the chance to really vent her frustrations. Instead, Sebastian kept his fighting thoughts to himself in an attempt to level with the adventurer. "Fine, I'm sorry, then," he mentioned.

    "Too late for that."

    Sebastian remained motionless. "I don't care if you hate me. I just want things settled with you and Jade."

    "I don't know why I ever liked you... and I don't understand what Jade sees in you." Abigail leaned against the wall again and stretched out her legs, kicking whatever dirt remained away.

    "Sometimes... neither do I," he muttered. "But, I love her. I try my best to be a person she deserves."

    Abigail's eyes widened. There was silence.

    "Prove it," she eventually said.

    "What?"

    "You’ve never said that about anyone before. Prove you love her." Abigail stood up and grabbed her sword. Sebastian instantly tensed when she picked up the blade, unsure of her intentions.

    "How?" he asked, getting up after her.

    "We fight!" she yelled. "Prove to me you'd truly do anything for her like I would, and maybe I can rest easy. My conscience will be cleared."

    "Wh- Abby, seriously?" He stared at the sword in shock. "You actually want to do this? This is ridiculous."

    Abigail nodded triumphantly. "I love Jade! I'd fight for her without a second thought. Prove you love her more than I do!"

    Sebastian was silent for a small moment, trying to sink in the whole situation. "Abby, you've been scared to go in the mines. You haven't practiced-"

    "Bullshit! Don't say what you don't know. Answer me, unless you think I'm right!" the purple-hair shouted, pointing her sword at Sebastian.

    "... You know what?" Sebastian glared at her and confidently nodded. "I'll get my sword,” he scowled.

    Abigail smirked. “Save it for tonight. 10PM, right here.”

    “So be it. You do realize if I lose, I’m not breaking up with her or anything like that? Something as petty as a sword fight does not define how I feel about Jade.”

    “Just be ready, Sebby.”

    He almost thought to correct her, but this time, decided against it. “Seeya,” he said, and then was off.


    ---


    Jade didn't really have the chance to talk to Abigail that freezing Saturday. Even though the young farmer's day was fulfilling due to the work she accomplished, it all felt like it was for naught when she arrived at Pierre's shop, only to be turned away by Abigail herself. She had knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Asking Pierre and Caroline of her whereabouts, they both answered that she should have been in her room. If she was there, she was ignoring her. Despite Jade's enthusiastic nature, she knew when to take a hint. In the end, she slipped a letter under Abigail's door for her to read later and left, defeated.

    She texted Sebastian later to detail her disappointment:

    JADE: I tried to get in contact with abigail but i think she doesn't want to see me still. ):
    JADE: I left a letter for her and hope things will be ok. needless to say tho i'm completely exhausted


    Jade checked her phone half an hour later, but Sebastian did not reply. Some more hours passed, and still nothing.

    JADE: Are you ok?? or busy?? sorry i've just been worried and idk
    JADE: Seb??? ):


    She checked the time. Middle of the afternoon... she supposed he took the day to continue the work he's been backed up on. "Please answer soon," the young farmer sighed. There was no reason for him to not ignore her on purpose... right? "I'm fine, we're fine," she told herself. "Just nerves." That negative feeling stirred and danced within her conscience. She didn't like the feeling, especially since it seemed so otherworldly.

    Jade decided to spend the rest of the day foraging and digging for new objects. Glancing at the many rivers and lakes throughout the valley, Jade had as much temptation to fish as she had fear for its risks. That same feeling formed in the pit of her stomach again, but she decided not to act on it. She found plenty of plants and vegetables to sell along with a few interesting artifacts. Extending her time out of the farm, she donated what artifacts she could to the museum and kept up with other townspeople, even offering to do simple errands for them. She needed to keep her mind busy, since whenever she didn't, she'd check her phone and just be disappointed at the lack of answers.

    As night fell, she returned to her farm. Everything was peaceful. No monsters wandered through the fences, the snowfall was beautiful and gentle, and it wasn't snowing so heavily that she had to shovel upon her return. The animals were also doing well, except for Butterscotch, who had been behaving strangely. Marnie wasn't at her store to diagnose, but at least Butterscotch was still eating. Jade did as well as she could have in that point of time, which was good enough until the shop opened, she supposed.

    Jade expected any sort of reply from Sebastian by then. One part of her wanted to go to his house and make sure he was okay, while the other part assured her that Sebastian was too busy to answer until after he was finished. After all, Sebastian always returned the texts, even if it took a little while. Jade told herself that multiple times so she would stop worrying, and eventually settled for bed after checking her phone one final time. In moments, she fell asleep, her muscles aching for rest.

    Ping!

    The sound of a text message caused Jade to wake. She groaned and reached for her phone, turning on the screen. She had only slept a few hours, according to the time, but the text... The text!

    Her eyes widened. It was Sebastian! Finally! She woke up a little more as she opened to see what the text was.

    SEBASTIAN: I'm sorry for not replying all day, but I had to take care of some very important things.

    She was never so happy to receive a text before that moment. Eagerly, she began texting back when she heard a knock on the door.

    SEBASTIAN: It's me

    Oh, wow. He arrived so late. Curiously, Jade got out of bed and stepped to the front door, cracking it open to make sure it was him. Seeing his silhouette, she opened the door fully as he shuffled inside, strangely without his jacket. Instead, he had a turtleneck on, but no gloves, no hat, no scarf... his extra clothes were all in his hand for some reason.

    "Seb?" asked Jade in concern. "What's up?"

    He did not answer, and instead stumbled forth to tightly hug her. Jade was tense at first, but relaxed when it was apparent he wasn't going to let go for a while. They took in the silence and breathed in an intimate moment with one another.

    In time, he let go of her and looked into her eyes. Something was different about him. He looked more... alive. Gently, he kissed her. "I'd like to sleep here with you," he muttered.

    She flushed up heavily and just stared at him, but he seemed too tired to reply and dropped his extra clothes onto the nearby couch. He disappeared into her room, where she stood, dumbfounded. Eventually, she followed him back to the bedroom and settled in her side to sleep. Sebastian had already flopped onto his stomach and hadn't moved an inch, even as Jade adjusted to get comfortable. She didn't get any answer yet, but she was happy Sebastian was safe, and ultimately, by her side.

    The next day finally fell upon the valley with clear blue skies and bright yellow sunshine, which managed to melt some of the remaining snow. Sebastian woke up without Jade at his side, though it didn’t come as a surprise to him when he saw the clock: 12 PM. Of course he overslept.

    Sebastian shuffled out of bed and fixed the sheets while half asleep. Without hesitation, he made his way to the kitchen where he started up his coffee maker. Finally, precious coffee. He heard the mewling of Jade’s cat nearby, which then walked to Sebastian’s side and rubbed his leg in greeting. Sebastian mumbled a ‘morning’ to Onyx and poured himself a well deserved mug of coffee when it was ready. His next destination was one of the windows that showed the majority of the farm. His face brightened seeing Jade exit her animal barn and watched her approach the house. She walked in and quickly closed the door behind her, shaking off the cold.

    “Whew. Still freezing.” She smiled to Sebastian. “Good morning... or, afternoon?”

    Sebastian casually sipped his coffee. “Whichever one is better to hear.”

    “So, are you going to explain what happened yesterday?” asked the farmer as she took off her winter coat. “I’m glad you’re alright, but I haven’t s-” She suddenly paused, noticing a lump under one of his sweater’s sleeves, the spot of which was sliced. The raven-hair noticed her line of sight and sighed, face cringing as Jade lifted his sleeve to investigate further.

    There was a bandage wrapped around his arm, the padding dyed a soft pink from what was presumably his blood. She stared at him in shock.

    “Sebastian, what is this?” Her nostrils flared. “If you tell me to be safe and stay in contact, I expect you to do the same!”

    He sighed. “I can explain.”

    “Then please explain!”

    Sebastian frowned. “It wasn’t from a monster in the mines or anything like that. I’m just... let’s sit down.” He paused his thought to go to the couch in Jade’s living room, setting his coffee down on a nearby end table. Jade followed him with crossed arms, plopping down and waiting for whatever story he was about to conjure. She didn’t seem to be in a happy mood. “... You have every right to be mad. I’m sorry, but I felt like I needed to do this. You deserve the story.”

    “Go ahead, then.” Jade calmed down a bit, waiting for him to continue.

    “I found Abby, and she and I, uh, got in a fight.”

    “A fight?!”

    Sebastian watched his girlfriend with a frown, trying to think of how to best explain. What happened with Abigail, it... it was tough.



    He remembered the previous night, arriving at the mine entrance as he was instructed. He heard steps some ways behind him, but looking back, he noticed Abigail, her posture stiff and movement slow as if she knew a less-than-favorable fate. Patiently, he waited for her to approach, then gave a small wave in greeting. “Are you still sure you want to have a sword fight?”

    “With all the times you’re asking, it seems like you’re the one that’s not sure.” She smirked at him, portraying the fake confidence that Sebastian was accustomed to seeing.

    He sighed, unsurprised. “I’ve never fought another person with actual swords. We can’t just do sticks or whatever? I don’t want to hurt you on accident.”

    “You won’t hurt me, because I’m going to knock you down and show you what I’m made of!”

    Sebastian frowned. “What is this? Are you trying to prove something to yourself?” Foreseeing her refusal, the raven-haired man removed his precious hoodie, scarf, hat, and gloves.

    “Shut it.” Abigail raised her sword. “We’re fighting.”



    Jade settled more on the couch as she watched Sebastian. He stared at the floor in deep thought, then raised his head to look at the farmer. “I do admit I did some prodding... I wanted to know why Abby was acting that way towards you, and I know she wouldn’t tell you. I do talk about awkwardness with her a lot, but, truth is... I know her pretty well.” He sighed. “It’s probably one reason she stuck around with me and Sam so long. I didn’t like being around her anymore, but I did know how she was.”

    “I see...” The young farmer muttered to indicate her listening.

    “I eventually found her and we just talked about some stuff. I don’t think it’s right for me to repeat it,” he explained, taking his coffee again. He downed the rest of it and placed the empty mug back on the end table, giving himself another deep breath before continuing. “Things got kinda heated and, she waged that we would have a sword fight to settle it. I didn’t really want to at first, but... I think I needed to.”

    Jade frowned, brows furrowed in concern. “You could have been hurt a lot more! What about Abigail? Was she hurt?”

    Sebastian looked forward once more, recalling the moments of the fight.



    It lasted longer than he thought-- Abigail had been practicing her sword fighting, and she was enraged. Without hesitation, she brought down her blade, but Sebastian was much quicker and much more passive. Every strike was blocked, and every step she took forward was every step he took backward. She got angrier and angrier at each strike, but Sebastian could tell it wasn’t the fight that frustrated her.

    “I’ll prove you wrong!” she shouted, sweat appearing on her forehead. “I can get by on my own!”

    Sebastian did not respond and continued to defend himself with care.

    “I’m not going to make the same mistakes!” she yelled again.

    He glanced at her once before his attention went back to the swords.

    “I belong somewhere!” She screamed, catching Sebastian off guard with a devastating swipe. He had backed away in time, but had dropped his sword. Abigail suddenly froze. She stared at his arm and he looked down. Blood accumulated through a cut on his arm.

    “Shit,” he mumbled to himself, quickly bringing up his sleeve and clasping the cut with his hand. Abigail’s eyes filled up with tears, but Sebastian interrupted her before she could say anything: “It was an accident. I know, despite this fight, you didn’t intend to hurt me.”

    She immediately dropped her sword and fell to the ground, lying on her back to stare at the blackened ceiling. Only the soft orange light of nearby lanterns kept the top floor of the mines visible. Her tears could no longer be held in, and she silently cried.

    “Did the fight make you feel better?” asked Sebastian. His head tilted downwards to see her.

    For the longest time, Abigail didn’t really reply. She didn’t move, only staring at the cave’s rock formations, a million thoughts rushing through her head. She built up the strength to reply after many concentrated moments... “If Jade doesn’t accept me, then what am I doing here? What am I doing just following all of you around?”

    Sebastian softly exhaled and watched her for a moment. “Abby, Jade still values you as a friend.”

    “Just a friend won’t get me anywhere in this town. I’ve always been an outcast. I always will be.” Warm tears streamed down her face, but she showed no expression.

    “Then... find somewhere you do belong.” Sebastian frowned. “... I did have Sam, but it’s not like I was really... happy here, in Pelican Town.”

    “You weren’t?”

    “No. I was saving up money to move to Zuzu City,” he said. The cut started to sting, causing Sebastian to clasp tighter and unknowingly wince. “But... Well... I don’t want to leave anymore.”

    Abigail closed her eyes. “So you really do love her that much, huh?” she asked.

    Sebastian sat beside her. “I do,” he answered.

    More silence.

    “You’re a good fighter, Abby.” He smiled a little. “I’m impressed with how much you practiced. Maybe you will be able to go down the mines someday.”

    “... I’m sorry,” she breathed.

    “What?” Sebastian asked, confused.

    Abigail finally looked in his direction. “I... I realize how I’ve acted to you. It wasn’t fair. It’s not fair how I acted to Jade, either. I haven’t found my place here yet, and, it’s frustrating... I thought I could get somewhere with Jade, but...” she shook her head. “I ended up taking it out on everything.”

    It suddenly clicked for Sebastian. This fight. “... It’s okay,” he softly replied.

    “Maybe I just liked the idea of being with Jade more than Jade herself,” she sadly laughed. “I don’t think I’m ready for anything like that yet. Seeing you, I... I think what I feel is different. I don’t feel so strongly.”

    “It happens,” muttered Sebastian. “We’ve all felt that way about someone before.”

    “... Thanks.” She sadly laughed. “For letting me throw a tantrum.”

    “You have nothing to thank me for.” Sebastian stood up once more. “You should get some rest, Abby. I need to patch myself up.”

    The raven-hair walked to the mouth of the cave entrance and turned to watch her. Eventually, she nodded and got up, grabbing her sword. She walked out before Sebastian did, but paused at the other side of the opening. Quickly and gently, she gave him a hug, then continued walking. Sebastian watched her leave for a while, slowly breathed, and then turned to watch the lake for a few moments. After giving himself a moment, he finally began his trek towards the carpenter shop.



    “She wasn’t hurt,” Sebastian explained, pausing to give a moment of thought. “I originally thought I needed to fight her to prove myself, but the reality was... she was the one who needed to prove herself,” Sebastian explained in an attempt to word himself carefully. “But, it was good. I think she felt better in the end, and... I did some thinking, too.”

    “Yeah?” Jade tilted her head.

    He smiled. “Yeah. I do feel a bit bad for Abby, but... I think she made me realize how lucky I am.”

    “Lucky with what?”

    “Ugh, don’t make me say it. It’s so embarrassing.” He lightly shoved her on the side, causing her to laugh.

    “So, everything’s okay?” she asked.

    Sebastian nodded. “They should be. I hope Abby will approach you soon, but, for now, I’d give her time.”

    Just then, there was a knock at the door. The two lifted their heads from the sound, looking towards the front door. “Man, what timing,” Jade chuckled as she got up to approach the door. No one other than Abigail waited on the other side as she opened it.

    “Hi, Jadey,” Abigail began. Her expression wasn’t ecstatic, but she seemed at peace. “I just wanted to say sorry. I overreacted to you, and I hope we’re still friends.”

    The young farmer seemed taken aback by the notion that they wouldn’t be friends to begin with. “Of course we’re still friends. I was worried I upset you. I mean, I was a little cranky from the time you texted me, but I know we haven’t been hanging out very much. I’d like us to have those chances!” she beamed.

    Abigail welcomed such enthusiasm from Jade. She seemed to be more cheerful than some of her more sad instances; it made Abigail happy, too. “I’m sure we’ll hang out in time. Actually, um, I think I’m going to be more occupied so we may see each other less.”

    “Why is that?”

    “Adventuring is my passion, you know? I think it’s time I took that seriously. I...” Abigail laughed at herself. “I need to grow up, honestly. I’m unhappy here. I’m an outcast. I can’t just... expect that to change, even with you, the newest villager, here.”

    Jade’s face saddened from her words. “I don’t think you’re an outcast,” she mumbled.

    The purple-haired adventurer gazed at Jade, still smiling. “It’s okay. I think for a while I denied it, but I’ll be happier finding where I belong.” She pat Jade on her shoulders. “You belong here.”

    She chuckled a bit. “You think so?”

    “I know so,” Abigail confidently replied. “Anyways, I’m gonna be off now. I should probably finish up my college classes.”

    “Ah, good luck!” Jade enthusiastically replied. “So... we’re good?”

    The adventurer giggled, then hugged the farmer. “Yes, we’re good.”

    A sigh of relief from Jade. “I’m glad! Good luck with everything you’re set to do.”

    “Thank you.” Abigail grinned and waved as she started walking off. “Good luck with all your stuff, too!”

    “Thank you!” Jade shouted as the distance increased between them. When she was far enough away, Jade retreated back inside and joined Sebastian back on the couch.

    “Was that who I thought it was?” Sebastian asked, stretching out in his seat.

    She nodded and smiled. “Abigail seems a lot better. I’m happy for her, and glad it’s over now.”

    “Me too,” Sebastian sighed in agreement. “Now we just have to worry about the Festival of Ice tomorrow.”

    Jade’s expression suddenly dropped. She stared at Sebastian, eyes daring him to deny what he said. “... The what?”

    A long winter was ahead of them.



    Abigail was never a major character by any means in my story, but she still deserved some time in the spotlight and I wanted to address some issues that probably aren't focused on too much, such as Abigail's relationship with the others in town, the bros, and her own immaturity.
    Of course, my own interpretations may be different from others, but this is definitely how I wanted to show and develop her in my story. There are a lot of interesting, kinda sad, aspects of Abigail that tend to get ignored. I think she has the most insecurities of anybody, but pretends they aren't there. Relatable in an interesting way.

    Hopefully all of you enjoyed the chapter, and also hopefully the whole thing with Abigail didn't come out of nowhere. I did have some plans to address it before the last chapter but for a while it was always hard for me to find where she could go, which is hilarious, since that's kinda part of her character too.

    Anyways, thank you very much for reading! <3
     
    • Kid Absurdity

      Kid Absurdity Starship Captain

      I think the situation with Abigail doesn't come out of nowhere, it's subtle but it makes some sense once it gets vocalized - she's pinned her hopes unrealistically on Jade, she's trying to figure out what that means for her emotionally and in general, and she's struggling with it for lack of experience or people she feels she can go to without sword-fighting them first as a matter of honor. Some of the depth of writing in SDV is that everyone has insecurities, though I also find Abigail's pretty poignant.

      As I've hinted at in my own story, short of a miracle-farmer locking onto her, her future more than any of the bachelorettes seems certain to lie outside of Pelican Town to me.
       
      • MagicallyClueless

        MagicallyClueless Giant Laser Beams

        very nicely said! of course there's nothing wrong with seeing abigail as that quirky purple-haired character that likes spooky stuff, but i find her insecurities very interesting and it kinda sucks that in most things i've seen, her character hasn't really been explored beyond "i'm MAGICAL! :rofl:" which i'm not that interested in

        after writing it i also noticed (i end up noticing neat stuff AFTER i write them, i know u_u ) a pretty awesome parallel between sebastian and the chapter in which he vented his frustrations on a dummy, versus this chapter where he pretty much *is* the dummy for abigail to attack. i think it helps show how he mellowed out throughout the story and has personally matured, while abigail still has some way to go- but she's shown some improvement!

        i do agree about her future. she seems very proud on being "different" and being sort of a tomboy, fighting and exploring and all that neat, dark, spooky stuff. there's not much in pelican town for her in that case, and in my story i think she's finally realized it.
         
          ApertureGaming011 likes this.
        • MagicallyClueless

          MagicallyClueless Giant Laser Beams


          “Why does this town have so many festivals?! Do I have to do anything?? Will Mayor Lewis kill me??” Jade worriedly paced back and forth in her living room, while Sebastian curled up in a throw blanket and watched her from the couch.

          “Oh, calm down. It’s nothing you have to do. There’s like, snow men and ice sculptures and stuff. Mom is always excited to go because she gets to help with the sculptures. There’s also the...” Sebastian slowed his words, then glanced to Jade worriedly. “There is, uh, an ice fishing competition. Have you really fished... since... you know...?”

          The farmer stopped her pacing to look at her boyfriend. “No... I’ve been too nervous. I know I should get back to fishing since it’s good money, but...” Jade whined, then hugged herself. "It's hard to get back into the swing of things... I still have nightmares sometimes."

          Sebastian sighed. "That makes two of us," he muttered, getting up from the couch. He waddled over to her and opened the blanket to hold her and trap her in its warmth. "We can't stay afraid forever, or else it'll take control. Do you want to fish?"

          She buried her face in Sebastian's neck and wrapped her arms around his heated torso. "Yes, there's a lot I can do with fish. If I'll be ready for the fishing competition or not, I don't know, but... I want to try. Will you help me get back into it?"

          "Yes," he happily answered. "Maybe you could teach me someday, too."

          Jade smiled. "I'd like to do that!"

          When Sebastian got ready for the day, he and Jade ventured out into the freezing wonderland that was the Cindersap Forest. When the woods opened up to a clearing of the forest, Jade and Sebastian went to the bodies of water just below Marnie's ranch and Leah's cottage. Sebastian carried Jade's backpack for her, while she focused on carrying just her fishing pole, gear, and ice chest. The water was clear, shallow, and swarming with beautiful fish practically waiting to be caught. Occasionally, one or two would hop out of the water, then splash back under to continue swimming. For a moment, Jade was bewildered by the fish themselves, but then her attention went to the body of water and she froze completely.

          Slowly, the farmer felt an arm around her side. "It's okay," Sebastian muttered. "It's a beautiful day, no snow falling, and the water's shallow. It's like knee height." He took a deep breath. "This is a good spot to settle. How about we sit there?" Sebastian offered, pointing to a wooden bridge bare of snow.

          Jade eventually nodded and breathed at a slow pace. "Whew... Yes. You're right. Um, that's a good spot," she agreed, walking with him to the bridge.

          "So, you bought another fishing pole after all?" Sebastian asked for curiosity's sake.

          "Actually, no," she replied, loosening her death grip on the pole itself. "It's a gift from the Junimos..."

          "They must really like you," he lowly hummed. "Maybe they are saying you can do this, too."

          "I-I'll try," Jade answered, staring at the fishing pole in slight fear. She set up the hook and bait while her boyfriend carefully watched, the two of them exchanging gentle banter to distract from the nervousness of fishing.

          Getting started was difficult. Jade's hands shook after she cast the line into the water. She started to feel unnaturally cold, dropped the fishing pole, and began crying. Immediately, Sebastian rushed to hold her and assured her that they didn't have to fish. Sebastian retrieved the fishing line, but Jade was in so much trauma that he forgot to take the fishing gear with them. Almost as soon as they arrived, they left.

          Jade felt differently an hour later. She felt refreshed again and wanted to give it another go. Sebastian seemed reluctant, but eventually she was able to convince him. They returned to the same spot to try to fish once more.

          She lasted a little longer this time. Jade stayed relatively calm until the bait was taken by a fish. She instinctively let go of the fishing pole in horror, causing Sebastian to scramble after it. He reeled in the line, but the fish already escaped. Jade was in shock and spilling tears once more. They left again, Sebastian making the excuse of getting them some food. They took a break with a late lunch, but Jade wasn't finished trying. She wanted to go back-- she needed to go back. Her boyfriend, as worried as he was, saw that this was how she wanted to overcome her fear. She did better, so maybe it would work...

          They returned to the fishing spot again. The line was cast, Jade waited with determination planted in her expression, so focused that she didn't mutter a word.

          "Jade... Ferngill wasn't built in a day, we can do this slowly." Sebastian watched her worriedly, paying close attention to even the most subtle of clues. Her hands were still shaking, but her eyes were practically glued to the water. There weren't any trees around them, there was no storm, and most importantly, the water wasn't so deep.

          "It's irrational for me to be scared, so I need to get over whatever I have."

          "No it's not," Sebastian retorted. "It's okay to be scared after what happened."

          "I know it's okay," she replied. "But I don't want to be."

          There was no working his way out of this one. "Fine, then... but my point still stands. It's okay if we have to keep doing this after the festival."

          Jade shook her head. "I want to participate."

          "Yoba, you are stubborn as hell." He laughed a bit. "I see what my mother meant about me, now. I can't say I'm that much different when it comes to stuff like this... I respect that you're devoted," he explained, but then frowned. "Just don't get carried away. There's only so much you can do for yourself."

          Her focus broke when her eyes shifted to Sebastian. She smiled a little. "Thank you for worrying about me, Sebby," she murmured. He quickly averted his eyes as his cheeks flushed, but he didn't respond. Jade's smile turned into a chuckle. "I promise I won't get carried away... I wouldn't even do this if you weren't here beside me. I won't until I feel safe doing this on my own again, which probably won't be for a while. Let alone ever fishing at the lake by your house."

          "Honestly, I don't even go by the lake anymore except on the path to the mines," Sebastian mentioned, nervous. He brought out a stick of gum from his pocket, unwrapped it, and tossed it in his mouth. He offered a piece of gum to her in which she accepted and did the same. "I think anyone who went through that will stop going around that place," he mumbled while chewing.

          Jade thought for a moment and nodded in agreement. "Yeah... But, I do mean it. I'll be safe."

          "I'm glad." Sebastian warmly smiled to her, causing her to smile back.

          "... Um..." She sighed. "I didn't tell you why I freaked out at the bathhouse a while ago. I didn't want you to... worry about me so much."

          "What is it?" Sebastian asked with furrowed eyebrows. He tried to not sound aggressive, and instead took a more supportive tone.

          "After that whole incident, I've hallucinated a few times. Along with nightmares and these... surreal dreams... they all felt really weird, and important." Jade frowned. "I've... I'm... A lot has been getting to me. I haven't been feeling my best. It's like, every time I try to be happy, there's something, nagging at me, telling me something is horribly wrong. That this is a waste of time. I swear I can hear a voice. It feels heavy on my heart."

          Sebastian continued to listen, putting his hand over hers. He did not verbally respond, but he made sure to show his undivided attention.

          She seemed calmed by his interaction, ushering a smile from her lips. "I... Yoba, I sound crazy," she laughed. "But, I will say one thing... It's hard for me to ever have those nagging feelings when I'm with you. I don't want those feelings to take control, and I want to prove that they won't by getting over this silly fear of water. Water as shallow as this."

          Sebastian gently kissed her cheek. "Thank you for telling me," he muttered in response. "I understand it's not easy to say those things, and I’m.. you know." He nervously chuckled. "I haven't exactly made it easy. I do worry a lot. But I do have a lot of faith and trust in you. I'll always be by your side. We'll get through this together."

          "Aww," Jade lowly swooned, returning his kiss. "You're the squishiest."

          Sebastian's eyes widened in surprise, which then turned into utter despair. "Ugh, we just had a mushy talk and outdoors of all places," he groaned. "You're the worst."

          The young farmer broke out into a cackle. "No, you are!" she giggled, lightly shoving him. He shoved back, the two engaging in a small play fight. In their scuffle, Sebastian had accidentally pinned Jade on the bridge, her back against the flooring. They made powerful eye contact with each other, excited feelings of love and admiration apparent between their gentle giggles and laughter. For a brief moment, Sebastian surveyed the area to make sure they were alone, then leaned back down to grant Jade a deep, loving kiss.

          For a long moment, they held each other, obsessed with one another's warmth and touch. The first kiss gently ended but quickly followed by another from Jade, the two closing their eyes to take in a moment.

          Something rattled against the bridge, causing Sebastian to jump up nervously. Jade sat up in a hurry, looking around. "Oh! Fish! Fish!" she shouted, lunging for the fishing pole that struggled to jump off the bridge and into the water.

          "I forgot we were fishing," mumbled Sebastian under his breath as she took successful hold of the fishing pole and began reeling. The two brought their concentration on the splashing water, a small fish flapping this way and that to try to break free from the hook.

          "You're mine!" shouted Jade in an aggressive manner, furiously reeling, turning the pole, and letting go of the reel in strategic ways to bring the fish up to the bank. When the line was short enough, she lifted the fish out of the water. "Haha! Yes!!" she beamed, marveling in the glory of her small fish. It had a sleek, orangey-tan color and friendly (albeit beady) eyes. "I think it's a perch! I've never caught one before!" she yelled happily.

          "Congrats," Sebastian replied with a wide smile. "You did it! I'm proud of you."

          "Me too!" the farmer beamed once more. Immediately, she unhooked the fish and brought it back down to the water. It quickly swam away, allowing Jade the time to wiped her hand on her dry winter coat.

          Sebastian watched, confused. "You weren't going to keep it?" he asked.

          "Nah, I think I'm done fishing today."

          "Really?"

          "Yeah... I'm happy I was able to catch something. That was my main goal," she explained. She giggled and started to blush. "I think I'm a little too distracted right now, anyway."

          Sebastian instinctively flushed as well. "What?" he asked.

          Jade picked up all her fishing gear and straddled it in one arm, then grabbed Sebastian by the coat with the other arm to drag him. "Yup, we're going home." She gave him a sly look that only made him more flustered.

          "Th...That's not fair," he huffed, face more red. "You're terrible. Don't look at me like that."

          "Sebby?" she asked as if she was changing the subject.

          "Wh-what?"

          She tried her best to not laugh, and instead, blew a bubble with her chewing gum. "I've been, uh, waiting for you to notice that I-”

          His eyes lit up in realization and horror when he saw the bubble. “... Fuck!”

          She couldn’t hold in her laughter then. “I have the piece of gum you were chewing," she finished.

          “Don’t say it!” He desperately yelled. The poor thing was as red as a tomato at this point, never feeling more embarrassed in his life. He quietly breathed out steam as Jade giggled mercilessly, letting go of his collar to hold his hand. They went back to the farm, somehow closer than before.


          Some time was spent back at the farm, but when the two decided to continue their day together, they both left to make some money at the mines. Sebastian insisted the cut he received from Abigail was no big deal, so Jade allowed their mission as long as he was extra careful.

          However, when they arrived to the mines, something was amiss. A wooden fence blocked the entrance with a big white sign blaring ‘KEEP OUT’ in red painted letters. Sebastian and Jade exchanged confused glances, then back to the fence. A piece of paper had been taped to its ledge, which Sebastian took off and read.

          “Mines have been shut down due to oversaturation of monster spawns. The Adventurer’s Guild deemed the mines unsafe for other guild members and villagers- a professional team of hunters are on their way to fix the problem. Stay out until further instructed.” Sebastian lifted an eyebrow. “That’s so strange... I was here just yesterday.”

          Jade shrugged. “Maybe it was good we didn’t go do Maru’s errand... this sucks, though. How often does this happen?”

          The raven-hair shook his head, then returned the paper to the fence’s ledge. “I’ve never seen this before, not while I’ve lived here. I been here since I was a kid, too... I hope no one was hurt.”

          “Me too...” Jade stood on her tip toes to see if anyone was actually in the mines. It looked empty as usual, except a giant cover had been placed on the ladder going down. Sebastian’s phone began ringing, causing him to lift a finger to Jade as he turned away and answered.

          “Hello?” Sebastian asked. “... Just outside the mines- I’m outside of it, mother! I saw the sign.” He sighed in irritation. “... I was at Jade’s.” His foot began to tap. “... None of your business, mother.”

          Jade silently giggled, which made him shoot a glare at her. His face was flushing, embarrassed again.

          “... Mothe- mom, please slow down. Mom!” He sighed even louder. “Yes, we can come visit-” Sebastian put his hand on the speaker part of the phone and looked back to Jade. “Mom wants help delivering some furniture out of town, do you want to come along?”

          The young farmer grinned and crossed her arms. “Yes, I’d love to help.”

          Sebastian nodded and put his ear back to the phone. “We’ll help-” he started, but then pulled the phone away from his head again. Jade could hear Robin’s excited chattering from the other end, even though she couldn’t make out what she was saying. Eventually, he returned to speak on the phone. “Mother, you’re going to make me go deaf.” He paused. “Yes, I was sassing you.” Some more silence on his end, but he took his phone off his ear and gave Jade a deadpan stare. Robin seemed to be on some sort of rant. The young farmer tried to supress her giggles. After about a minute or so, he tried to speak again. “I understand, mother,” he muttered. He flushed a little again, and turned back away from Jade. In a very quiet voice, he mumbled. “I love you too,” he said, then hung up.

          “Awwww!!”

          “Don’t you even dare say anything about this. I swear you and my mom will be the death of me,” he grunted, tossing his hood over his head.

          Jade giggled some more. “You have a beanie on, why do you need the hood?”

          “I’m extra cold. Shut up.” He pulled the strings of his hood to cover more of his face.

          Her giggles transformed into a cackle. “I love it when you’re so flustered. It’s cute,” she mentioned cheerfully. “Come on, Grumpy. Let’s go help your mom.” Jade decided to give him some space and walk ahead, which had him waddle behind as another flustered mess.


          The mountains grew quiet again, even as the sun began to set. A robed figure wandered to the mines entrance and then stood there, waiting. Marlon exit the guild building some ways away and gave a respectful nod in greeting as he approached in a limp.

          A breath of exhaustion came from the older, silver-bearded man. “We ain’t what we used to be,” muttered Marlon. “Can’t calm the monsters if we don’t know what’s going on with them.”

          “I’ve only seen one type that’s aggravated the monsters like this,” replied the Wizard. “I will look more into it.”

          “Can we still hold the festival?” asked Marlon.

          “We’ll just keep an eye out. Maybe we will find out some more clues to this phenomenon.”

          Marlon nodded thoughtfully. “We’ll be prepared. I’ll warn Linus.”

          “I am sure he has felt it already. See if he has any new information.” the Wizard tilted his hat. “Goodnight.”

          The mysterious figure faded away like magic. Marlon watched him leave, then put his focus back to the mines. Slowly, he nodded to himself. The guild leader limped away to converse with an old friend.



          HOO BOY i have been able to write a lot and I'M EXCITED WHOOHOO

          this chapter and the next few ones are average length and typically don't have too much going on, but they're still pretty essential for the story and hopefully they are enjoyable!

          what's nice about these chapters is that they aren't necessarily filler but they are the "in-betweens" on developing characters for the next big thing. it's a little weird to write but in the end they end up being just as important as the big event chapters. plus, some fluff in there. fluff everywhere. fluff in your FACE

          anyhoo, hope you liked. stay tuned for the next ones to come.
           
          • Kid Absurdity

            Kid Absurdity Starship Captain

            I'm intrigued, because while you've always hinted at subtle spooks around the mines, it was a very slow buildup to it and I'm pretty stoked to see what you do. Your recent chapters have been pulling out some surprises, so it's exciting!
             
              MagicallyClueless likes this.
            • MagicallyClueless

              MagicallyClueless Giant Laser Beams


              The Festival of Ice in concept proved to be both exciting and terrifying for Jade. She looked out her window that morning to see a bright, beautiful day with lightly drizzling snowfall, and couldn’t help but imagine all the fun with piles of snow, snowmen, snow sculptures, snowballs at Sebastian’s face... Yes! She absolutely had to go!

              Jade eagerly dressed for the outdoors and zoomed to her animals to check on how they were doing. She fed all of them, but paid special attention to Butterscotch, whose behavior still seemed odd. She cursed Marnie under her breath for not being available on a festival day, but Butterscotch was still eating and being very sweet. Her other rabbits, Bullet and Plague, still acted their usual, and the chickens, Mayo and Gloria, laid impressively large eggs for consumption. All seemed well as Jade harvested what goods she needed to, then left them snuggled in the security of the walk-in coop.

              Time seemed to pass so slow when she didn’t have Sebastian around. After their errands with Robin the previous night, Sebastian decided to stay in the truck when Jade had been dropped off at her farm. Jade partly felt that Sebastian wanted to join her another night, but he would have been faced with dozens of teasing comments from his mother- too many to handle. The young farmer didn’t blame him of course, since Robin was excessively snoopy and wanted to know how their relationship fared too much to be necessary. The carpenter had nothing to worry about in regards to Jade and Sebastian, though she could have learned to ease up on her curiosity.

              When it was time to leave, Jade gathered her fishing gear and nervously began her walk down to the clearing below her farm, where the ice festival was to be held. She could already see ice sculptures on the horizon as she walked, one the figure of the mermaid, another of a mascot, and the last of some kind of castle. One of the villagers, Leah, chipped away at the mermaid, putting her final touches on its scales, while Robin excitedly hammered in more details of the ice castle. Walking forward, she saw more of the villagers spread throughout the field, conversing in front of randomly placed igloos and standing around a small frozen lake. Before exploring to other reaches, she ventured to Robin for a hearty hello.

              "Robin, good morning!" beamed the young farmer, then allowed herself to marvel at Robin's creation. "This sculpture is lovely. You have a remarkable craft."

              "Please, please, hon," Robin snorted, "call me Mom."

              Jade laughed. "You know Sebastian would freak out if I ever did that."

              "I know, but he freaks out about everything anyway." Robin cackled. "Oh! Thank you for the sculpture compliments. Leah is helping out too! Talented girl. I hope you enjoy your first ice festival. It's one of my favorites, if only because I get to build and break stuff."

              "Haha, I can see that," agreed Jade. "I'll try to have a good time, thank you!" She was about to walk away, but Robin reached out to her.

              "Wait a sec, hon."

              "Hm?" Jade turned back to her.

              "Do you know when Sebby's birthday is?" she asked.

              Jade's face suddenly blanked. She can't believe she never even thought to ask him before... he knew her birthday, but she had no idea what his was! He never even brought it up, oh no... the gift she was working on wasn't even perfect yet! She had so much to do still! A big letter to write! A cute outfit! Jade clasped her head in terror as she tried to assess the damage of the situation, but Robin laughed it off instead. "Wh-what? What's funny?" she asked with accusation.

              "You, silly!" she chuckled. "Don't worry, hon. Sebby probably avoided telling you anything... he's so weird about his birthday!" Robin huffed. "But, let's keep it a secret. His birthday is just two days from now: Wednesday, the 10th. I talked with Maru and Sam already and we'd like to throw him a little surprise party."

              Jade nervously scratched her head. "I-I got it, but um... if he's not the type to tell people his birthday, do you think he'd be happy about a surprise party?"

              The carpenter simply grinned. "Usually, no. But, you're here now. I think we could celebrate his birthday at your house. What do you think?"

              The young farmer shuffled her feet in the snow. "I can't think of anything specific to do..."

              "We'll handle it for the most part, but you'll have a big role in it! I'll tell you the details tomorrow and we'll get everything set up.."

              "Alright, but... Seb comes to my house all the time, and often without announcing himself. How can we keep him from coming over when we're setting up a surprise?"

              Robin made the most confident cackle Jade has ever heard. "I got it under control! As do you, specifically. We never get to do anything fun for his birthday, but we have the perfect plan now, especially with your involvement. Look forward to some news tomorrow," she winked. "Now, go on!" Robin beamed, giving Jade a light shove. "Go have fun!"

              Jade's eyes sparkled in inspiration. She bowed fully to the carpenter. "Yes ma'am! Thank you Robmom!"

              "Close!" Robin laughed as she returned to the sculpture. Jade continued her exploration of the festival, heading to the icy lake next. She saw an area full of fishing gear, so she decided to put her equipment down and survey the area of competition itself. Lewis and Marnie seemed to be discussing something, not noticing her presence. Jade tried to not think much about fishing itself, and wanted to handle it when it was time.

              The necessities aside, Jade ventured to the snowmen next. She got to see adorable creations by Penny and Jas, the pitiful amalgamation that was the blacksmith's snowman, made only recognizable through Emily's gracious help, and of course, Abigail's snow-goon, only lightly criticized by Pierre. Regardless, everyone seemed to be having a great time. Jade would have liked to build a snowman, but she didn't see anyone she could build with...

              At least everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. The young farmer often forgot how full the town was, so seeing all the people, though slightly intimidating, warmed her heart. She smiled seeing Alex conversing happily. He shouted something to Penny, which she giggled and responded, and he returned to talking to a few other people. Jade couldn’t recognize them... one of them was Shane, she thought. The other two she hardly saw in town... possibly co-workers? She wanted to say hello, but didn’t want to interrupt. Alex’s cheerfulness was important to her regardless. Jade continued onwards...

              Ah-ha. On the other side of the frozen lake, she saw her target. Sebastian was leisurely talking to his dear best friend with his back towards Jade's direction. Sam didn't seem to notice her from the distance, which made it perfect. Jade slowly sneaked forward and shoveled some snow with her hand. As she stealthily made her way to the boys, she crushed the snow into a ball and aimed carefully. "Don't fail me now," she muttered under her breath. She extended her arm backward, keeping a specific eye to Sebastian, then lunged the snowball forward.

              A perfectly round snowball pelted his back, causing him to stumble forward with a shortage of breath. Sam stood there in shock, but instantly burst into laughter when he saw the culprit just some feet behind. Sebastian stood up straight and slowly turned, absolutely enraged.

              "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, that was an accident," Jade started with an exaggerated, breathy tone. "Sebbyyyy! How are you?!"

              He said nothing at first. Instead, he dipped one of his hands into the snow and slowly constructed a snowball of his own. "Not well," he nonchalantly replied. "I'm about to mourn the death of my girlfriend."

              Jade laughed and ran away as he stepped forward with a snowball in hand. Sebastian's enraged face quickly turned into one of amusement, cursing when his snowball missed the elusive target. "Dammit. Sam, help me chase her down."

              Sam watched while being filled with laughter. "Are you sure this isn't your battle, dude?" he asked between his chuckles. "The look on your face! Ahahahaha! I can't ever get tired of it-" Sam's fanfare had been cut rather short by a snowball hitting his face and exploding into tiny flakes. Jade cackled aloud in the distance, while Sebastian tried to hold in his laughter. "Okay, I'll help you. It's go time," he gasped. "You MESSED with the hair, Jade! You are on my LIST!" Sam pointed furiously to the ground and stomped one of his feet.

              "Catch me, loser!" shouted Jade excitedly. Suddenly, she had not one, but two people chasing after her. They tried with all their might to hit her with a snowball, but she was just too full of energy. They chased each other around the edge of the festival bounds to not bother the others, but unfortunately for Jade, a pile of snow happened to be in her way. She tripped over the soft and snowy structure, accidentally crushing it and collapsing.

              "Ha! Caught you red handed!" Sam beamed, tossing one of his snowballs in the air and catching it. "What're we gonna do with the culprit?"

              "Hmmm..." Sebastian slowly contemplated as he saw his girlfriend sit up, still trapped in her own destruction. "Snowballs are not enough. She must suffer the consequences."

              "Ahh! Noooo!" Jade cackled, bracing herself when the two shoveled up snow with both of their arms. They threw it all on Jade, half-burying her in a cubby of snow she tripped over. Sam was sure to also toss some of the snow in her hair, for good measure.

              "Okay, she's suffered enough." Sebastian laughed and extended his arm to help her up. Jade grabbed his hand and he pulled her upwards and out of the snow. She stepped out of the pile of snow and dusted off what ice still stuck to her person. As soon as she could, she hugged Sebastian in greeting.

              "I got you good, didn't I?" she asked, chuckling.

              "Hardy har. Yes. Okay. You're like five years old, I get it." Sebastian replied with a smile, and didn't seem to mind the physical contact in the slightest.

              "It's okay, because Seb is six," laughed Sam. "Good official start to the festival!" he confidently concluded.

              The three continued their banter with each other, enjoying their time spent. Truthfully, there wasn't too much to do at the Festival of Ice other than goofing around. Luckily for Sam and Jade, they were experts in goofing off, just as Sebastian was an expert in pretending he didn't like doing the same. Time passed by quickly due to their interactions with each other and they were able to see the festival in full before the fishing competition. Jade saw some rather rare sights: Demetrius smiling to the trio, Linus being in closer proximity to the rest of the group, and the Wizard of all people surveying the festival. Everyone seemingly enjoyed themselves all the way to the climax of the festival: the fishing competition.

              When Mayor Lewis called the contestants to the lake, Jade grew jittery and nervous. "Do you think I can do this?" she muttered weakly to Sebastian.

              "Well, you caught only one fish yesterday, but... you caught a fish. Don't push yourself. Just try to have fun." He smiled. "I'll be watching."

              Jade sighed in relief, and looked both ways before giving him a small kiss. "Thank you, I need it." With that, she approached the ice lake again and gathered her fishing gear.

              "Rules are simple!" shouted Lewis as the contestants approached their corresponding fishing holes. Jade noticed Pam, Willy, and Elliott taking a part in the contest as well... she expected Willy, but not really the other two. Either way, it'd be a tough match. "The one who catches the most fish wins! Now get ready... Set... Fish!" Lewis blew a whistle for the four to begin. Jade fumbled at first with casting her line, but eventually she did, later than everyone else.

              The villagers all watched in fascination. Willy already pulled in a fish. Elliott. Pam next. Jade's hands were shaking.

              A tug on the line! Jade instantly began reeling and pulled in her first fish. It was a small gray chub. She glanced over to where Sebastian was, then smiled when she saw he gave her a thumbs up. Quickly, she tossed the fish into a bin beside the fishing hole and resumed.

              Hands were still trembling. She began to feel unnaturally cold. “Seb’s here,” she whispered to herself. He was there. She had nothing to worry about. She could hear the swimming of giant fish, the scrape from its scales. Subconsciously, Jade grabbed her hair with one hand. It was only lightly damp from the snow. She wasn’t in the water. She had nothing to worry about.

              Another tug from the line, and she jumped in shock, then yanking the pole. She could have done better in reeling the fish in, but she was still able to do so. Another chub. “Good job,” she muttered to herself. Good job. She put the fish in the bin and cast her line once more. She noticed she had held her breath, so she slowly exhaled and glanced at all the people. They made her nervous. She didn’t want them to realize something was wrong. She saw Sebastian again. Nothing to worry about.

              Throughout the competition, Jade began to relax. Fishing was calm and monotonous, though a little boring for some, provided some safety for her. She was just fishing small chub out of a hole she could hardly fit in, and she already caught four along with a few pieces of junk here and there. "I'm okay," she whispered to herself. She wanted to be okay. She cast her line for the fifth fish, but then the whistle blew again. Time was up. The four hauled their bins up to the mayor for him to judge properly.

              Lewis seemed impressed. "Look at all these fish!" he beamed. "Good job, everyone. Now, the results..." For a few moments, he examined each bin. "And the winner is... Willy, with five whopping fish!" Lewis cheered. The whole town applauded accordingly, whistling congratulations to the fisherman. None were surprised, even though the competition was close. Jade had just been one fish off from being tied with Willy, and that was a victory enough for her.

              As Willy accepted his rewards for winning the competition, Jade made her way to Sebastian with a trembling body. She smiled to the raven-hair, though he could sense something wasn’t right. Sebastian held her hands and bumped their heads together. “You did a good job.”

              “Thanks...” Jade whispered. “If I keep talking, I’ll start crying,” she muttered with a shaking voice. Sebastian nodded in understanding, when Sam approached them both.

              “Hey... what’s wrong?” Sam asked with a frown.

              “She’s just a little bummed not winning, that’s all. Give us a minute,” Sebastian answered. Sam didn’t need to prod any further and pat Sebastian on the shoulder before walking away.

              “Thanks for covering,” she whispered. “Am... am I doing better?”

              “Yes,” he said with a smile. “Just rest. You deserve it.”

              Jade vigorously nodded and wiped her face. She survived the fishing competition, and even got second place for it. Her heart felt like it was pumping out of her chest, but she was excited. She, for a moment, went through it all despite being terrified.

              The festival went into its later stages when everyone started to go home. Jade still felt too frazzled to go back home alone, though she ended up proving herself useful when Robin requested more help with clearing up the festival. Together, Robin, her family, and Jade put away the ice sculptures, with exception to the one Leah wanted to keep for herself. Not everyone could fit in the truck to complete the delivery mission, but the daughters and son seemed more than happy to hold the structures in the truck bed. The sun was already descending down the mountains when they drove off, bringing a swift end to a freezing winter day.

              Maru, as of late, has felt much more comfortable being around Sebastian, and by extension, Jade. While riding in the truck bed, she smiled worriedly to Jade. “How are you doing? I was surprised you entered the contest.”

              “I’m... I’m good, still a little shaken, admittedly, but it was my choice and I could handle it.” Jade nodded to no one in particular. “Thank you for worrying.”

              Maru passed a glance to Sebastian, who seemed well versed in Jade’s stubborn mentality. He kept some form of contact with Jade, be it touching shoulders or having a hand on her leg. While accepting of Jade’s behavior, he didn’t seem to worry any less. Maru felt heartened by their gestures. “It’s no problem, Jade. So,what are your plans after this?”

              “I’m going to take a shower, get in my pajamas, and sleep,” Jade replied with a shiver.

              Sebastian lifted an eyebrow. “It’s 6PM.”

              “Okay, maybe I’ll eat first, then.” Jade sighed. “Though, I’m not very hungry... Whew, we’ve been talking about me an awful lot. What about you guys?”

              Maru gave a warm smile akin to her mother’s. “I'm probably going to finish some paperwork from the clinic I’ve been putting off... Business is much more ruthless in the winter.”

              Sebastian shrugged. “Probably work.”

              “I hope you both get all your stuff done,” Jade answered in a tired yet cheery tone. She glanced through the back window of the truck; Robin and Demetrius seemed to have a pleasant conversation with each other. Looking back at the siblings, Jade crossed her arms. “I noticed Demetrius was a little different at the festival. Are you fighting less, Seb?”

              The raven-hair didn’t expect such a topic to come up to suddenly. “He’s... okay,” mumbled Sebastian, which was pretty much his ‘yes’ to Jade. “He’s not getting on my case as much, that’s for sure. Don’t really know why.”

              “Well, you haven’t exactly been one to pick fights yourself, Sebastian,” Maru added. “I suppose everyone has mellowed out.”

              Jade smiled. “That makes me happy to hear.”

              “I still hate living there,” Sebastian grumbled.

              Maru smirked and wanted to give a response, but decided against it. There was no question that Sebastian hardly stayed at the carpenter shop anymore, though she didn’t want to frustrate him by bringing the fact to light. Jade had a very similar thought.

              The truck eventually stopped for their errand to be completed. Afterwards, Robin offered to have Jade over at their house for dinner, which she happily accepted. Though Sebastian often skipped the family dinners, Jade’s inclusion insured that he would also participate. Together, they all had a festival dinner and managed to enjoy one another’s company. Robin was more than eager to have a full dinner table and, for once, no significant bickering. She put part of the peace to Jade, though most of it she felt went to Demetrius and Sebastian’s slowly increasing understanding with one another. Her favorite boys haven’t fought for a little while and she was eternally thankful for it.

              Jade ended up staying the night after all, though her initial plans still came true. She took a hot shower, borrowed some pajamas from the very kind Maru, then dived into Sebastian’s bed for an early night’s rest. Sebastian himself settled at his computer and silently worked, glancing over to his slumbering girlfriend every once in a while. Unknowingly, he smiled to himself.

              It was a peaceful night.



              Nothing too much to note this time around; there's some focus on improvement from previous chapters. Things have been going smoothly for a while, huh?
              ;^)
               
              • Risukage

                Risukage Existential Complex

                Augh, I've not had the brainpower this last month to comment and that just feels wrong. It's great to see this picking back up, and the character and story development keeps me coming back; Jade is facing her fears, and while it's a slow process, she's still trying, and that's awesome. Seb is coming out of his shell and making better ties with his family. Robin is...sneaky. Next chapter is going to be SO much fun. :3

                Also, Jade and Sebastian are precious cinnamon rolls and I want to protect them. Oh, that's what Sam's for. Carry on.
                 
                • MagicallyClueless

                  MagicallyClueless Giant Laser Beams


                  Jade woke up, feeling achy as ever from fishing, lifting, walking, and everything else, but at the same time, she felt extremely comfortable. She loved her bed, however there was a certain joy in being in another bed. Sebastian’s blankets were thick and warm, and his pillows fluffy and covered in his scent. The only drawback was that he was not beside her when she woke... where was he?

                  Jade’s question was answer as soon as she sat up from her spot. Sebastian was still in his computer chair, slumped over on his keyboard and completely passed out. The young farmer couldn’t help but giggle at the sight; he was so hard at work that he forgot when to stop. She hopped out of bed and went over to him, supressing even more giggles when she saw the computer screen. A document of code was open with the bottom of the screen full of gibberish from when Sebastian’s face pressed against the keyboard. On normal circumstances, Jade would leave him to rest, but he didn’t even sleep in a proper bed! She gently nudged his shoulder. “Psst, hey,” she began.

                  An unfavorable groan came from the raven-hair. “No,” she heard him mumble.

                  “You fell asleep in your chair, dummy.”

                  He was quiet for a moment, but then lifted his head just enough to see the time on the clock. Way too early. He made a noise between a groan and a sigh, then wiped his face, sitting back into his chair. “No,” he just repeated in a quieter voice, rising out of his seat like the undead. Jade covered her mouth and refrained from commenting on the pattern of keys that indented his cheek. He waddled over to his bed and collapsed to where Jade lay previously, grabbing any pillow he could reach to put on top of his head. She let out another giggle and followed him, pulling the blankets over him.

                  “Night night,” she said in a hushed tone. A shorter grunt came from the raven-hair, possibly a goodnight in return. The young farmer grinned and pat the pillow on his head before turning to the rest of the room.

                  The room was how she remembered it... for the most part. It wasn’t as clean as it normally was, and didn’t have as much in it. She could blame the lack of cleanliness from having spontaneous company, but Sebastian often cleaned up after himself. The most mess she saw before this merely involved open books on top of shelves and on the floor, near his desk. While there wasn’t garbage anywhere, clean clothes were piled on the couch near his door and a couple of his drawers were open with clothes hanging out of them. Bookshelves seemed emptier and his gaming cabinet had half as many games as it previously did. A few of Jade’s games were on top of the cabinet, probably with intentions to return. Most of the games that were still there were ones Jade owned at her house already. Lastly, the whole room was a bit stuffy. She could see dust accumulate on most of the surfaces. It was apparent he hadn’t spent much time at his home, at least not for a while.

                  Jade decided to stop her snooping and leave the basement to go see what everyone else was up to. Immediately after reaching the top of the stairs, she saw the friendly figure of Robin walking down the hallway. “Good morning,” the young farmer cheerily greeted.

                  “Morning, hon!” beamed Robin. “Some breakfast is in the kitchen if you want any. I’m going to be very busy today, so I gotta get started!”

                  “Oh, I hope all of that goes very well! Thank you for letting me stay the night,” kindly replied Jade. “I’ll be outta your hair with my clothes and food.”

                  “Oh please, stay all you like, hon. I’m sure Sebby appreciates it. Oh! Speaking of Sebby...” Robin leaned in. “Birthday plans.” She winked.

                  “Y-yeah! Yeah, I remember. Okay, what are we going to do?” she asked.

                  Robin stood back up fully and crossed her arms. “Well, for starters...” She ventured over to her front desk in the ‘shop’ part of the house and dug out two tough strips of paper. Tickets? “There’s a really nice aquarium in Zuzu City. That was one of my first dates with Demetrius, actually.” She warmly smiled. “I think Sebby would really like it, there’s all sorts of interesting animals, huge and spooky. And a frog exhibit. They’re... probably one of his favorite animals,” she cackled. “It suits him, somehow. Anyways, I’m rambling.” Robin offered the tickets to Jade. “He’d enjoy it that much more with you.”

                  Jade’s face paled. Huge and spooky, Robin said. But... they’d be behind glass cases. There would be nothing like the Legend in the aquarium... right?

                  “... Hon? You okay?” Robin asked with a frown.

                  “... Um...”

                  The mother examined Jade with uncertainty. “Is it not a good idea?” she asked.

                  “N-no, it is! It is. Sorry. I’m... Fish kinda... Deep water...” Jade scratched her head. She didn’t want to say it. “I’ve just, uh, been a little nervous with water. I’m surprised I could fish yesterday.”

                  “Ah...” Robin thought for a moment. “Sorry, maybe I should have asked. But... there’s a lot of beauty in wildlife. Often they are misunderstood...” Robin chuckled to herself. “There I go again. Of course you don’t have to go, sweetheart. We can get Sam to go instead.”

                  Jade stood there in thought for a moment, then silently took the tickets. “I’d like to go,” she answered, softly smiling. “It’s for Sebastian, not me. And I can hold my own. I’ve been trying to get over that whole fear.”

                  “Are you sure, hon?” Robin placed a hand on her hip as she watched the young farmer carefully.

                  “Yes.” She hugged the carpenter. “Thank you, I’ll make sure Seb enjoys his time outside.”

                  Robin awwed and returned the hug ecstatically. “Of course, hon. While y’all are out, we’ll set up a surprise party back at your house. I’ll take care of everything, pay and all. You just worry about keeping him busy.”

                  “I can do that!” the young farmer replied. She wasn't sure how Sebastian would respond to a surprise party, but as his mother, Robin knew well enough. Jade decided to put her trust into the carpenter.

                  “Good!” beamed Robin. “I ain’t asking you to lie or anything. Just have a good time.”

                  “I will,” grinned Jade. Taking Sebastian out for a birthday date sounded extremely fun, so she hoped her trauma wouldn’t ruin any of it. “Oh, Robin? Do you know if Marnie’s in her shop today?” she asked.

                  Robin laughed, somewhat unsurprised by the question. “She should be, but be quick! It’s Tuesday, all the old girls including myself work out at Pierre’s. I know she always seems to disappear when you need her, but maybe you’ll get there in time.”

                  “Thanks,” Jade answered with a wave. With the tickets in hand, her first destination was to the laundry room where her old clothes were located. She got dressed, stuffed the tickets safely in her pants pocket, then grabbed some breakfast in the kitchen. She caught a glance of Maru and Demetrius in the lab as she head back to the basement, giving them a wave. Sebastian was asleep once more, so Jade left him a note to read when he woke later. Before shooting out the door, she grabbed the fishing supplies she used at the festival previous. There was a lot to do this day.

                  The young farmer walked outside, eyes squinting from the brightness of the day. The sky was a bright blue, though the sunshine did nothing in making it warmer outside. Piles upon piles of snow scattered throughout the whole land with no intention of melting anytime soon. Jade hugged her winter coat to herself more and continued surveying.

                  She could see that the mines were still blocked off some ways away. Linus decended from the hill nearby and walked towards the mine entrance, while Marlon approached the entrance from the other way. They met up with each other and began talking about something. Linus turned and saw Jade staring from the distance, causing Marlon to look as well.

                  “O-oh. Whoops,” she whispered to herself. Jade always got too caught up in the scenery to realize she was staring. Giving an awkward wave to them, she started walking off towards the town. “Hopefully those two aren’t ones for rumors. Who even knows in this town,” she snorted.

                  The town itself had its usual amount of activity. Villagers went from shop to shop, home to store, crossed bridges and stopped to chat with their acquaintances. On the way back to the forest, Jade paused in front of a bulletin board at Pierre’s shop. There was a calendar that highlighted different aspects, such as birthdays and events. Sebastian’s birthday was the next day of course, then a big festival near the end of the season. Feast of the Winter Star, it said. Jade’s eyes lit up; one of her favorite holidays if not her absolute favorite. Her original city celebrated it, too. Thoughts flooding with ideas and plans, Jade resumed her trek to the forest. Farm first, then celebration.

                  Oh, thank Yoba. When the young farmer approached Marnie’s ranch, the shopkeeper in question was actually there for once. Jade sighed in relief, since she was running somewhat low on feed and Butterscotch really needed some professional attention. “Hi, Marnie!” beamed the farmer, eager to get to business.

                  That’s when she noticed Marnie seemed a little... stressed. The woman in question ushered a forced smile to appear amicable, then began organizing her uncharacteristically messy desk. “How’re you doing, Jade?” she kindly asked, though the tiredness in her voice was apparent.

                  “I’m doing well, thank you. How are you..?”

                  “I’m fine, dear, I’m fine,” Marnie answered. She knew that wasn’t true, but didn’t know Marnie well enough to really receive more answers. “Can I help you?”

                  Jade smiled a little, trying not to seem so worried. “Yes, um... I need to buy some feed for my rabbits and chickens, and... one of my rabbits, uh...” She tried to conjure the right words. “Butterscotch has seemed a bit odd lately. She’s much slower than usual, and she’s still eating but I’m worried she is hurt or something.”

                  Marnie began writing the order down on a slip of paper. “I’ll get your feed delivered-” She waited for Jade to place the appropriate amount of money on the table. “Perfect. Ah, um... Butterscotch is still eating, yes? Nothing else seems wrong? Is it alright for me to check on her tomorrow instead?”

                  Jade scratched her head in thought. “I’ll be a bit busy tomorrow... But, if I don’t have to be there, you’re welcome to go to my barn and tell me the news afterwards.”

                  “I can do that. I promise your sweet animals will be under the best care,” the rancher concluded. “I’m really sorry about this, I’ve been uh, somewhat preoccupied, it’s been difficult to keep everything in check.”

                  “I understand, Marnie. I hope everything will work out for you!” Jade answered in her much cheerier voice.

                  “If it doesn’t I’m gonna rip that slimy mustache off his face,” she grumbled under her breath.

                  “What?” Jade didn’t hear.

                  Marnie laughed. “Nothing, nothing! Okay, dearie, I got your order and I’ll send someone to deliver it to your silo.”

                  “Thank you and have a good day,” bowed Jade. She quickly left, figuring Marnie still needed some time to herself. Right as she went onto the path towards her farm, she heard Marnie leave and grumble something to herself. Everyone had their own dose of drama to deal with, the young farmer supposed.



                  Home at last! Jade rushed to care for all of her animals in the barn, making sure they were all warm, cozy, and most of all, happy. After half an hour of feeding, brushing, and talking to the animals, Jade finally went back to her house and immediately shed herself of everything she was carrying; first the fishing supplies were stored, then the winter coat, hat, and scarf came clean off. Jade briefly flopped onto her couch with an exasperated sigh, calculating her next steps.

                  Aquarium date, huh? Jade dug out the tickets from her pants pocket and stared at the details. It did sound romantic, and Sebastian did have a fascination for certain wildlife. She remembered how he admired the jellyfish, his bountiful trivia about frogs, how he often quietly watched the water. Aquariums suited him after all... fish were beautiful, mysterious, quiet. She knew Sebastian would be worried about her going, but she was crazy if she refused the opportunity to see his childlike wonder. Something told her that she wasn’t the one magnifying the terror she faced back at the lake. The feeling was very foreign. She didn’t want it.

                  “I gotta look cute...” she muttered to herself, staring at the tickets. Suddenly she shot up from her seat. She knew exactly what to wear!

                  Ping!

                  Oh, boy. Who was it? Jade reached over to check her phone.



                  SEBASTIAN: No

                  JADE: Lmao, what?


                  SEBASTIAN: I saw your note. My mother put you up to this. We don’t have to go out anywhere.

                  JADE: I am taking you out and we will have fun O:<

                  JADE: Happy early birthday <3


                  SEBASTIAN: URhglfjlfj

                  SEBASTIAN: We don’t have to do anything for my birthday. It isn’t a big deal

                  JADE: But I want to!! you’re a great boyfriend, i want to take you out.

                  SEBASTIAN: What are we even doing

                  JADE: I’ll show you tomorrow, but you have to drive

                  SEBASTIAN: It’s not anywhere fancy is it

                  JADE: LOL no but it’ll be fun, I promise that

                  JADE: We’ve only been on one ‘big’ date so it’ll be a lot of fun going out again

                  JADE: This is coming from someone who doesn’t care about going out


                  SEBASTIAN: Fine

                  JADE: I know i implied it already, but it’s a DATE which means it’ll only be you and me. be up in the morning too!

                  JADE: *kissy face*


                  SEBASTIAN: You’re such a dork

                  JADE: Duh <3 now be excited!

                  SEBASTIAN: Okaaay

                  JADE: I’ll be busy today, so I’ll see you tomorrow. be a good boy

                  JADE: No, you’re a MAN now

                  JADE: How old are you turning


                  SEBASTIAN: None of your business

                  JADE: I’m asking sam again because I forgot

                  SEBASTIAN: No

                  JADE: Omg you’re turning 26 YOU’RE SO OLD

                  JADE: Senpai....


                  SEBASTIAN: UGH

                  SEBASTIAN: Let me rot in peace.

                  JADE: Maybe I should get you a walking cane for your birthday

                  JADE: It’ll look like a wand from solarion chronicles


                  SEBASTIAN: I hate you

                  SEBASTIAN: And Sam

                  SEBASTIAN: And everyone.

                  JADE: LMAO I’m just teasin. tomorrow will be fun, I promise

                  JADE: Have a good day <3


                  SEBASTIAN: Ok <3

                  SEBASTIAN: You too




                  Jade lost the track of time from having so much fun talking to Sebastian. With their conversation out of the way, however, Jade was ready to continue her plan. She first scrambled back to her room to pick out a nice outfit for herself. Even if it wasn’t something super fancy, she still wanted to look nice... Jade laughed at herself, thinking about it. She never really wanted to look nice for another person before.

                  After her clothes were sorted out, she walked back into the living room and brought out her sewing supplies from a cabinet near the television. Her surprise for Sebastian was nearly complete, and it would prove to be a wonderful birthday gift for him. She really hoped he would like it despite it being a bit cutesy... Quietly, she continued sewing and putting the finishing touches on her gift.

                  Lately, Jade couldn’t feel very comfortable being by herself. She was cheerful, but the longer she spent in silence, the longer she worked on the gift, she began to feel depressed. She could have blamed it on anything; the freezing weather, the health of one of her animals, not being impressive with her date, and of course, the fear of being lost in the lake once again... but she knew that wasn’t the reason she started to feel that way.

                  She paused her work for a moment and stood up, staring to the staircase that ascended to the second floor. Slowly, she walked to it and checked the front door before following the stairs upwards. To the right, there was the computer and gaming room, as usual. She spent much of her time relaxing in there. The room itself was the same as before, tidy but crammed with games and consoles.

                  There was a room to her left. The door was always shut, and no one ever questioned it, thankfully for her. When she moved in, she used it as storage for all the boxes and extra stuff that wouldn’t fit in other reaches of the house. For some reason, she never finished unpacking all of the boxes, and never cleaned out the room- no. She knew the reason.

                  Jade stood there for what felt like an eternity. She knew what she needed to do, but did she have the will? The strength? Maybe she could get over the fish in time, but not this. Not this. This was the whole reason she came to the valley. The reason she ran away. Her feelings worsened. It always happened like this. Whenever she would feel comfortable, that voice would begin nagging again. It would say that he’s still after her, that her efforts were in vain. She could remember the phone ringing. The texts. He was after her, he said. She could remember it again.

                  It couldn’t ruin her day again. Not again. Not tomorrow. She was tired of being under the control. She couldn’t run away again. Not again. Even if she wanted to.

                  Jade opened the door and walked inside. She shut the door behind herself.
                   
                  • Ghostly Fox

                    Ghostly Fox Giant Laser Beams

                    Poor Jade, having such ingrained fear of a stalker that she can't even go in a room. : C (though, if the fic is going to continue into having kids, I guess that would be one of the kid's bedrooms? Which may mean dealing with the issues one way or another.)

                    I do have some thoughts as to who the stalker is/was but I think I will wait and see.

                    Also, I've never been to an aquarium in my life, but I think the water and fish behind glass would freak me out because what if it breaks?
                     
                      MagicallyClueless likes this.
                    • Risukage

                      Risukage Existential Complex

                      I always say it, but it's always true: I love chat/text logs, hahaha! :rofl:

                      Also, Jade is totally wrong; a cane would be a totally kickass wizard's staff, not some dinky wand. Duh! :p


                      The glass in those tanks is crazy-strong, and some places actually have some of the science showing just how strong/resilient/thick it is. Some places are kinda rubbish, but I've been to a couple that are freakin' nifty, and I don't like water/aquatic stuff much at all. The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA is absolutely fantastic, and next time we're in that area again we want to drop in again. Think of an aquarium as a very wet zoo. :D (Plus, sci-fi fans will remember that that's where they filmed part of Star Trek IV, where it was the "Cetacean Institute." The area the whales were kept in is now the otter exhibit. SO CUTE!!)
                       
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                      • Minimanta

                        Minimanta Existential Complex

                        I've been to countless aquariums in my life and it is a bit intimidating to stand next to a wall of water, sometimes with water rigth above you with nothing but mere glass between you and the water. But like Riukage said, the glass is insanely strong, it's so rare that the glass breaks that I don't even think it's happened in my country. And I'm from Denmark, half the animal attractions are aquariums here :p
                         
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                        • MagicallyClueless

                          MagicallyClueless Giant Laser Beams

                          i've been to a few aquariums and it's lovely! the upcoming chapter has some stuff from my experience actually because i'm a freakin dweeb. hopefully it'll be interesting though

                          but yeah there will be a better idea about the Issues(tm) coming up REALLY soon, some stuff is gonna kick into overdrive. It'll be interesting yall
                           
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                          • MagicallyClueless

                            MagicallyClueless Giant Laser Beams


                            “Sebby! Someone’s at the front doooor!” shouted Robin from her front desk, engrossed in her work.

                            “You couldn’t get it?” sighed Sebastian as he walked out of the basement. He zipped his hoodie up as he approached the door.

                            “Wait!” Robin yelled once more. Obediently, Sebastian walked over to her. She gave her motherly smile and fixed a stray strand of hair on his head.

                            “Seriously, mom?” he grumbled.

                            “Yes.” She chuckled. “Go have fun.”

                            “It’s just a date. We’ve been on them before,” he replied.

                            “But it’s your birthday! It’s extra special. Okay, bye now!” waved Robin.

                            The raven-haired man sighed, but smiled to his mother for her good intentions. He parted her with a wave, then opened the front door.

                            “Happy birthday!!” beamed Jade as soon as Sebastian opened the door. She greeted him with a loving hug. “Are you ready for today?”

                            “As ready as I’ll ever be,” he said as they let go of each other. “You haven’t told me where we’re going yet.” He noticed her hair was poofier than usual and topped with a soft green and black bow. She had a winter coat on, but he could only see black leggings and boots underneath. Was she wearing a dress?

                            “Oh!” Jade dug into one of her winter coat pockets, then showed him the tickets. He took them to examine.

                            His eyes widened. “Aquarium?”

                            “Yeah! It’ll be fun. Don’t say it,” she snorted.

                            “... But are you sure?”

                            “Yes. This was my choice.” Jade nodded and smiled. “You’re such a worry wart. This is for you, though! So, how about it?”

                            Sebastian watched her with simple curiosity; he couldn’t keep his stoic expression and smiled back at her. “Yeah, let’s go.”



                            Jade enjoyed riding with Sebastian on his motorcycle, since it allowed so much closeness and a degree of safety that she couldn’t properly describe. She held tightly onto his torso while they left for Zuzu City, head leaning to his back as she watched the scenery pass them by. The drive itself took a while, but the day was so beautiful and roads clear that it didn’t really matter.

                            The young farmer at least found herself to be useful when they got to the city and Sebastian needed help with directions. Together (and with their phones) they navigated their way to a parking space closest to the aquarium. Jade was trembling, but this time it was due to excitement. Her heart pumped as hard as it did on their first date; there was just something about spending a day exclusively with someone she loved.

                            They could already smell river water as they entered the aquarium building, a scent familiar to both of them. The floors had dark blue carpeting while the walls shown a light blue, bringing a lot of space and aquatic feelings. They went through the entrance and used their tickets, so the entire aquarium could then be explored at their leisure. The first exhibits were saltwater focused, clad with different buzzwords and species to entice some attention.

                            "Have you ever been to an aquarium?" asked Jade, eyes focused to the first exhibit’s entrance as they walked.

                            "When I was little, yes. Mom said I really loved it, but then I'd act jealous if Maru got to go." Sebastian scratched his cheek as he thought. "I was apparently a very lively kid."

                            Jade laughed. "I can believe it. Well, no Maru this time. I've never been."

                            "This'll be a different experience for both of us, then," the raven-hair gently commented. The two went into the first exhibit, which already captured Jade's complete attention. There was a gigantic hallway with divots of rooms, small tanks on both ends, leading to larger tanks at its end. The fish flourished with life in their tanks, all sorts of sizes and colors, different ways of swimming, the amount of attention they paid to passersby. Sebastian couldn't tell that she had a bad experience before, but he supposed aquariums were different.

                            He found himself watching Jade more than the fish themselves. Every time she saw a fish she thought was interesting, she'd softly call his name and talk about what she found interesting. They would read the names and types of fish together, comment on the sillier names, and then make banter and jokes as they continued walking. Jade was always grinning with her eyes sparkling as she watched the water... it reminded Sebastian of when they first saw the Moonlight Jellyfish together, how she'd stare and watch with fascination. Though he wanted to focus, she was more interesting than the fish. When she noticed him, they'd briefly make eye contact, then smile at each other. His heart was pounding too.

                            Exhibit went into exhibit and the two forgot they were even on a date to begin with. Both of them were happy, chatting, taking pictures, and enjoying every moment in its passing. Any nervousness they felt was gone, and any ounce of professionalism that came with a date was no longer there. It was just Jade and Sebastian, and that was all that really mattered. They watched in awe at seahorses and giggled at how they wrapped around plants and each other, became lost in the slow drifting of the glowing jellyfish, then teased and cursed each other when they couldn’t get a proper picture of the only giant sea turtle in the aquarium.

                            Some tanks were low to the ground and allowed visitors to touch the fish; Sebastian seemed reluctant to do so at first, but Jade nagged him into it. They felt the strange and slimy stingrays, and as they continued on through the exhibits, got to feel the bumpy spines of sturgeons. The couple had completely let loose at that point, excited to see what fish were next. There could have been beautiful fish, weird fish, unbelievable fish, and...

                            Frogs. Sebastian belonged to Jade until there were frogs. Sebastian saw the frog exhibit, and his face lit up as if he were a child. Eagerly, he took Jade to one of the tanks and began pointing out the specie names, providing his own trivia and even gave insight to ones he caught before in the valley. He never talked too much unless he had something to explain, so Jade really loved when he went on one of his trivia rants. She remembered when she first got to hang out with him, they would play video games and he'd excitedly talk in-depth about technical details, the story, the characters he enjoyed. He had so much knowledge about things he loved, though not many chances to really show it. In talking about frogs, Sebastian noticed that Jade was watching him more than the frogs themselves. He flushed in embarrassment and sighed. "Sorry. I got a little carried away," he muttered.

                            "No, I was listening." Jade giggled. "I just really like it when you talk so much," she admitted. The girlfriend leaned down to watch a bright yellow and black tree frog. "So, they're that color for a reason, you said?"

                            Sebastian took a second for her compliments to sink in. At first, he seemed dumbfounded, but then he averted his eyes, blushing. "I'm not used to getting praised for that," he weakly replied.

                            "I've always loved it, Seb. Now, don't stop there!" she grinned.

                            His face lit up just like it did before and turned back to the frogs. Happily, he continued his explanation. He remembered he never had to hold back with her; maybe Abigail or Sam didn't care, but she did. He couldn't explain how that felt to himself, nor the amount of appreciation he truly had for the gesture.

                            They approached the final exhibit: river giants, the largest freshwater fish in the world. While Jade didn’t seem to mind, Sebastian suddenly appeared nervous. Before they entered, he stopped her.

                            “Are you sure you want to go through this?” he asked. “I mean. Let’s be real. The fish you saw was pretty giant.”

                            Jade shook her head, still with that warm and loving expression of hers. “There is only one of the Legend. That was the fish I saw. It has never been caught before, and those who have tried, have suffered at its jaws.”

                            “For some reason, that doesn’t make me feel any better,” Sebastian grumbled with crossed arms.

                            She laughed and started walking, nudging him on the back to get him to continue. “I’ve been thinking... and I don’t really know how to explain it, but I feel like those fears aren’t... mine. Drowning, I think, is pretty terrifying to me. It’ll take a while to really be comfortable with water again, but... the fish... Every time I see one, fearing them becomes more and more foreign,” she explained. Her voice lowered to ensure that Sebastian could only hear her: “I relived that day so many times... And I can’t forget what the Legend did, it was so strange and it just... it pushed me closer to the surface when I couldn’t move anymore. It probably could have charged me, or eaten me, or anything like that, but instead it... pushed me.”

                            Sebastian watched her, silent.

                            “I’ve told you a little about the Junimos and their missions before. One of their missions was... ‘Gain the respect of the lake god’. They took the scale that you found in my hair and considered the mission completed. That was the lake god, and it... respected me?” Jade sighed. “I’ve been so confused about it all, but I do believe it helped me that day. If it didn’t push me, maybe Maru wouldn’t have reached me in time.” The two held hands again, though they stopped walking. “... Sorry. I know we shouldn’t talk about something so serious on this day of all days. But, I’m fine, I promise. I think I’m learning better about my place in the world.”

                            “I’m... just glad you’re safe,” muttered Sebastian in return. “... We should really look through those missions again. What kind of tiny rainbow fairy assholes consider almost dying a mission?” he asked with a huff. He began walking again, guiding Jade along.

                            She couldn’t help but chuckle at his comment. “Maybe they can see the future or something.”

                            “With all the magic stuff in this world, I wouldn’t doubt it. I think I prefer keeping it a fantasy, though,” Sebastian answered.

                            “Aw, you don’t wanna cast heal on me?” she laughed again.

                            “No,” he snorted. “I’m a wizard, not a healer. I thought you knew me better than this.”

                            “Can wizards heal? Let’s ask Rasmodius.”

                            Sebastian rolled his eyes. “We’d probably get a lecture... Oh, here are the fish.”

                            The last exhibit consisted of a gigantic room with the walls as the fish tanks. Species of all kinds fluttered through the water, from giant stingrays and catfish to enormous types of carp found in only certain parts of the region. A specific type of fish caught Jade’s eye; it had a narrow head and small eyes, but its body length stretched farther than a person’s, each scale the size of a human’s palm. It had large, flowing fins on its latter half, and the spaces between the scales turned red at its backside. The fish strolled through the water elegantly, ignoring the stingrays and catfish that roamed at the bottom.

                            “Wow.” Jade just stood there and watched.

                            “The board says it’s an arapaima,” Sebastian mentioned. “Maybe not a lake god, but it is beautiful.”

                            “... Thank you for accepting the date,” Jade said.

                            “Huh?”

                            She leaned her head on his shoulder and continued watching. “I just want you to know that I really appreciate these moments. This was a lot of fun.”

                            Sebastian brought his focus to the fish as well. He slowly exhaled and took in the moment. “Yeah,” he muttered. “I do too.” He didn’t necessarily want to say it, but he didn’t mind celebrating his birthday if it meant days like this.

                            All the exhibits were explored, so they exit the building. Before getting back on the motorcycle, the couple ventured to a nearby diner and had a celebratory meal together. They laughed, ate, exchanged banter and became breathless from the funniest inside jokes they had. Sebastian walked into the date with a neutral expression, but came out grinning. Eventually, they made their way back to the raven-hair’s motorcycle and prepared their leave.

                            “Hey, we’re going to make a pitstop on our way back. Is that alright?” asked Sebastian, offering her a motorcycle helmet.

                            “You mean, somehow extend our date even further? My, I’ll really have to think about it,” Jade answered in an exagerrated, breath filled voice.

                            “I forgot I still have to abandon you at a church’s door step. I think I’ll drive you to that right now.”

                            “Hey!” laughed the farmer. They mounted the motorcycle and she hugged onto his torso as normal. “Threatening me? Yoba. You’re the worst.”

                            “I know,” he grinned. The two drove off and left Zuzu City once more. Jade wondered where they were going when she saw they had no more place in Zuzu City... she never really thought to ask how far Sebastian drove at times; she just knew he loved riding, and she loved having the opportunity to enjoy it with him. The sky already started to dim as the sun began its descent, signaling such a fulfilled day for the couple. Scenery appeared more familiar as they drove on, and then Sebastian turned off the road.

                            For the second time in knowing each other, Sebastian stopped his motorcycle on a cliffside. There were a couple of clouds floating behind the horizon that showed Zuzu City’s silhouette. Jade’s heart began pumping again. “Your favorite spot?” she asked.

                            Sebastian dismounted his motorcycle and walked to the cliff’s edge, deciding to sit down. Looking over to her, he pat a space beside him. She put her helmet on the vehicle and quickly joined him. “I actually haven’t been here in a while,” he said.

                            “Oh?”

                            “Mmhm... I often went here to just destress and think about life, since it’s just so calm and beautiful. I’ve been pretty busy lately... I’d like to come here more often,” he mentioned. “I never get tired of the view, though. I thought we could watch the horizon together.”

                            “Aww,” Jade swooned. “That sounds really nice.” She inched closer to him so their shoulders would touch. Slowly, she leaned to him. They were quiet for many moments, simply taking in the environment around them. Jade closed her eyes from being so relaxed, while Sebastian’s focus was towards the sky’s changing colors.

                            “Um...” Sebastian started. Jade opened her eyes, but didn’t move.

                            “Hm?”

                            “... I know I don’t show it all too often, and the phrase itself may be overdone, but...” Sebastian flushed and gently nudged her. “I love you, you know.”

                            Jade’s smile widened. “I love you too, Sebby.” She lay his head on his shoulder. “I can always feel it.”

                            “Good, because I mean it...” He made a large sigh of relief. “I feel like I’ve opened up a bit more. I’m not so stressed. Little things used to bother me all the time, but lately I’ve just been more at peace,” he explained. Sebastian turned his head to look at her, then began to stroke her hair. He thought of adding onto his statements, but nothing really came to mind. Silence was just as important.

                            Jade lifted her head to gaze back in his eyes. Slowly, they leaned in and kissed. She smiled as his hand went from her hair to her cheek, which she gently held. “I hope you’re having a wonderful birthday,” she muttered.

                            “It’s been perfect,” he replied. “I, um... I don’t look forward to my birthdays, usually. Mostly because it’d just remind me that I was still in the same job, still in the basement, getting older and not going anywhere. It felt very embarrassing.”

                            “Ah, I understand.”

                            “Yeah... Haha, I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but I’m excited for our future.” Sebastian gently kissed her again. “I feel like I’m getting a lot out of life now.”

                            For most, Sebastian’s trust proved to be difficut to obtain, but for Jade... they were connected. There was nothing to hide. Instead of replying, the young farmer kissed him back. They spent more time with one another, watching the red sky on their own terms.



                            Sebastian and Jade returned to the farm just before the sun set. When both of them went inside, they shed from their winter layer of clothing and settled inside. Sebastian noticed her dress, then; he thought it seemed familiar. “Shame it’s been freezing outside... your dress is cute,” he mumbled, trying to seem inconspicuous.

                            She giggled, ecstatic that he noticed to begin with. “Thank you, I wanted to look nice for your birthday.”

                            “Aww...” He coughed. “Ugh. Emotions,” he joked. “You know, I half expected there to be a surprise party or something, knowing my mom and Sam.”

                            Jade’s eyes widened. Her house was void of anyone, even though Robin said they would throw a surprise party. “... I actually thought so too,” Jade admitted. Huh. “Oh well. It’s still nice with you and me. I have my present to give you!” she beamed.

                            “Aw, you got me something? You didn’t have to.”

                            “Yeah! I’ll be right back-”

                            Bam! Robin busted through the front door, holding a fancy birthday cake. “Iiit’s your birthday!” she yelled, several other villagers following behind her: Sam, Abigail, Maru, Penny, and even Demetrius, all in party hats. Sam and Abigail dramatically entered while throwing confetti, while the others carried their respective gifts. Sebastian jumped from shock of the sudden entrance and clutched his heart. Jade stood there, lost and confused.

                            “I know you don’t like surprises, but it’s your birthday! Live a little!” shouted Robin. “My man’s 26 today! Let’s celebrate!”

                            For a brief moment, Sebastian’s expression was a mix of shock, rage, and confusion. Jade watched him worriedly and reached to comfort him, but then he actually... laughed. “You were just waiting to do something like this, weren’t you?” he asked, though he already knew the answer.

                            “Yes,” Robin grinned. “I promise we’ll get out of your hair, just have a piece of cake and let us have you for a little bit. Jade’s had you all day.”

                            “Yeah!” shouted Sam. “He was my boyfriend before yours,” he said in a snobby manner to Jade.

                            “You wish,” snorted Sebastian.

                            “Okay, okay, sorry. Brofriend.”

                            “That’s better,” the raven-haired man laughed.

                            Only the beginning of their celebration was really loud. The rest of the time was spent eating cake, chatting, talking about anything that came to their minds. Sebastian opened the few gifts from his friends and family and calmly thanked them, happy to receive anything for his birthday. All was well, until there was a knock on the door.

                            “I’ll get it,” Jade said as she walked over and opened the door. Marnie was there, seeming exhausted and somewhat troubled.

                            “Miss Jade, could you come with me to your barn for a moment?” she asked. “There’s something you need to see.”

                            Everyone quieted down, curious to what was going on. “I’ll be right back,” Jade told them, then followed Marnie to the barn. “Is something wrong? I’m sorry... I was out all day today, I didn’t know it’d be so late,” the young farmer informed Marnie, frowning.

                            “Just come look, dearie,” the rancher replied. Both of them went through the barn doorway to see Jade’s livestock.

                            Her two chickens were nesting off on the side of the barn, dozing and ready to sleep, while the three rabbits were sleeping already... with six other baby rabbits. Jade gasped and slowly went over to them, leaning down. The kits were just born and curled up to their mother, Butterscotch. Butterscotch herself woke up from the commotion and groomed what little ones she could reach before settling back.

                            “Holy Yoba,” Jade muttered in awe. “Butterscotch was pregnant. Now I know the signs,” she nervously laughed.

                            “Congratulations, Miss Jade,” Marnie said with a smile. “They were born just a few hours ago. They’ll need to be with their mama for a while, but I’ll happily buy some of them off of you when they’re old enough. Just keep watch over them and make sure mama gets fed,” she explained.

                            Sebastian knocked on the side of the barn entrance. “Hey, everyone else left. They wanted to tell you goodnight,” he said to Jade.

                            “Aw, thanks... Seb, come here,” she whispered, ushering him over. Sebastian wandered to their side and noticed the litter. “It’s their birthday too,” she lightly giggled.

                            Marnie watched them both with half admiration and half jealousy, then stood up fully. “I gotta go home too. Have a good night and stay warm you two,” she remarked, then left. Jade and Sebastian both kindly waved her off and brought their focus back to the litter.

                            “Wow,” Sebastian said. That was all that could really come to mind. They spent some time watching the mother with her babies. Jade didn’t want to ruin the moment by saying anything, but she couldn’t help herself when she saw that Sebastian had taken his phone out and aimed it in the direction of the rabbits.

                            “Are you taking a picture?” she asked, amused.

                            “Shut up,” he replied. That was a yes.

                            “Pfft... You can visit them all you like. I think when they grow up a little and their personalities show more, we should name them. What do you think?” she asked again.

                            Sebastian appeared as if he was actually considering something. “Name one of them Dreadlord Xarth,” he deadpanned.

                            “I’m not naming a bunny Dreadlord Xarth,” Jade sassed, rolling her eyes. “It has to be something original. Like Darklord. Or Maximum Deathguise.”

                            Her comment caused the raven-hair to laugh. “Please, for the love of Yoba, name one of them Darklord.”

                            “We will see,” Jade snorted. “Oh, yeah. I need to give you your present, still. Let’s leave these little guys to sleep,” she stated and stood up. Jade and Sebastian left the animals’ home and shut the door behind them, then finally went back to the farmer’s own house. Robin did her motherly duty and nagged Sam into sweeping up the confetti mess he made in mere minutes, so the place was relatively clean. There were a few opened gifts and the remaining cuts of cake on the kitchen table while everything else went untouched. Sebastian flopped over on the couch and let out an exasperated sigh, and Jade walked off to some other part of the house to retrieve his gift.

                            “Uuugh. Finally done with walking,” the raven-hair groaned. “Too many interactions today. I think I might be done talking until next year.”

                            Jade walked back to him, amused. “Calm down, drama queen. You still have this.” She offered him a very small gift box that could fit in both of his hands. “Last surprise of the day.”

                            Sebastian quickly sat up to receive the gift, then narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously (and jokingly) before opening his gift. His expression immediately softened as he pulled out a carefully crafted plush; its design struck Sebastian as very familiar, and he couldn’t put his finger on the answer until he noticed there was a backpack strapped behind its wings. “Holy shit, did you make the little bat kid with his batpack?”

                            Jade laughed. “You remembered!”

                            “Of course I remembered. That was the first night we spent together, wasn’t it?” Sebastian eagerly examined the plush. “Thank you, I love it- wait, is this a- holy shit, how did you know?” He noticed a certain clear-blue jewel embedded on the bat’s chest. It was unmistakable; that was one of his favorite finds from the mines, called a frozen tear.

                            “I’m just observant,” snorted Jade. “I’m really happy you like it. I was scared it was too cute.”

                            “I love cute shit, Jade,” he said in such a serious voice that Jade rarely ever heard from him. “Why else do you think I’m dating you?”

                            Immediately, he ruined it. Jade tackled him and Sebastian laughed, trying to defend himself. They play fought for a moment before they both decided they were too tired and lay on top of each other on the couch.

                            “Sorry, sorry. Cute and deadly I should say.” He smiled and kissed her head.

                            “Damn right,” Jade jokingly huffed. “I wrote a really cheesy and personal letter to go along with your gift... but it’s... whew, it’s what you could call ‘embarrassing’,” Jade said and mocked his voice.

                            “Is it, now?” Sebastian asked with an eyebrow rasied.

                            “Mmhm.” She tossed a closed envelope onto his face. “Read this when you’re alone.”

                            “Will do,” he replied and grabbed the letter. He cradled it and the plushie to one side of his chest, while Jade rested on the other side.

                            She closed her eyes, comfortable from his warmth. “You’re my favorite loser,” she murmured.

                            “I can feel it,” he chuckled. They spent the rest of the night together, finally able to take a break from all the commotion that came with birthdays. Sebastian’s birthday came to a fitting conclusion.
                             
                            • Ghostly Fox

                              Ghostly Fox Giant Laser Beams

                              Somebody get Jade and Sebastian a "Most Sickeningly Sweet Couple" trophy because they win by a mile.
                               

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