Other A Farm in the Forest- Chapter 56 (December 7, 2018)

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

  1. MagicallyClueless

    MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer


    The Stardew Valley Fair approached ever closer, and for once, Jade was ready. This festival would not go wrong as far as she was concerned. A week prior, she received a letter in the mail about bringing 9 main items for a contest at the festival. There were several categories, and the more she included, the better chance she had to win the grand prize! Apparently such a prize was a currency only used at the festival, but it would still be fun and she could actually win something after such rotten luck the past two festivals.

    And the odds were in her favor yet again! Her sickness had passed, her crops were flourishing, and her rabbits had plentiful amounts of wool. When she wasn’t at complete health, she devoted much more time into making crafts. Using the provided wool, supplies from the Community Center, and her own creativity, she had crafted a lucky charm that looked just like a rabbit’s foot.

    The best of the best would be included for the fair, too. Jade used a large but pullable wagon that Robin left on the farm to carefully pack all of her goods for a safe travel. For the fair, she picked the largest stalks of corn, the greatest pumpkins of the patch, and some foraged blackberries and hazelnuts. She was fortunate enough to include a large salmon she caught the previous day, and then her rabbits provided not only raw wool, but she was able to include a roll of cloth and the rabbit’s foot she made as well. To complete the bundle for the contest, Jade included her actual lucky charm, Petrified Bastard. Petrified slime apparently qualified for the minerals category!

    After all the preparations were made and Jade accomplished all of her daily farm duties, the young farmer set out towards Pelican Town with a covered wagon full of the rewards of her labor. On this day, the Stardew Valley Fair would begin. On this day, Jade would win.

    --

    Jade arrived to the fair earlier than most of the townspeople, since she had to set up for the contest. Several people, including those not even citizens of the town, were setting up tents, booths and the like. Colorful balloons, streamers, and festive decorations adorned the buildings in town square and wrapped around temporary fencing to provide various pathways to each of the stations. There seemed to be a shop surprisingly run by someone other than Pierre, several food and concession stands provided by Gus, a ton of minigames, a small petting zoo, and of all things, there was entertainment... by a clown. Creepy, but Lewis went all out for this festival, for sure. Jade entered through the southern part of the town and explored up to the northern area to see where the contest took place. On the way, she spotted other exhibits from fellow townspeople, such as Clint and his blacksmithing practice and Robin with all of her wooden crafts and materials. Jade’s face brightened upon seeing Robin, and Sebastian was there too, helping her set up the exhibit. Immediately after seeing them, she burst out an excited, “Seb! Robin! Hey!!”

    Both of them turned around when they heard the eager farmer’s voice, Robin excitedly waving over while Sebastian smiled, his arms still full of supplies. Jade wandered over to them while tugging her prized possessions behind, which Robin noticed with a gaze of curiosity. “Hey, you making an exhibit of your own?” the carpenter inquired in a lighthearted tone.

    “Oh! No, but I am taking place in the fair contest for the highest quality goods. I have a hunch I can win this one!” Jade beamed aloud.

    “We’ll be rooting for you,” Sebastian chimed in. “Abby’s dad usually wins every year. It’d be nice for a change.”

    “May the best producer win- wait, does he even make any products?” The farmer furrowed her eyebrows in confusion.

    Robin rolled her eyes. “If you want my opinion, I say he’s never touched a dang watering can in his life. But, who knows for sure. I know Caroline has a garden, but the stuff he displays, is, I dunno.” She shrugged, trying to express what she meant. “A little... mass produced? Maybe? I don’t think Caroline had a part in it.”

    “No heart, you mean?” Jade added in question.

    The carpenter nodded. “Yeah, that sounds about right. Enough about him, though. After you get all set up, you should come check out my exhibit! And take Sebby around the place, there are tons of games to play when everything opens for business.”

    Jade and Sebastian exchanged pleasant but sad looks. “Actually, we probably won’t see each other too much today,” the raven-hair responded.

    “What?? Why not?” Robin seemed betrayed by such a fact. The fair was just asking to be a romantic wonderland! “Did you get in a fight?!”

    The young farmer chuckled and shook her head. “Not at all! I think it’s fair to say we’ve been neglecting our friend duties a little bit. I know I haven’t had some quality time with Alex in a while.”

    “Sam’s been bugging me constantly for a decent hang out. I haven’t been alone with him in ages.” Sebastian sighed, putting down the supplies he held to Robin’s exhibit table. “Jade and I just figured that the fair would be a good opportunity to play catch-up.”

    Jade nodded in agreement. “Yeah, and with me getting sick recently, we’ve been together a lot. He’s too adorable and caring, ugh. I need a break.” She grinned and poked at him, to which he playfully nudged her back.

    “Don’t say that stuff in front of Mom,” Sebastian muttered, blushing.

    “Say everything in front of Mom,” Robin stated in an instant, expression completely serious and fascinated. Such a response caused Jade to laugh, even though she knew it wasn’t a joke. “I like to know you two are getting along well!” added Robin once more.

    “I know, I know,” giggled Jade. “You should know we’re doing fantastically, though. Hey, let’s have lunch together, maybe,” she continued her statement to Robin and then brought her attention back to Sebastian. “It’ll be fun eating in a big group! Whatever Gus is cooking is killing me already.”

    Sebastian groaned, indicating how hungry he already was. “Ugh, me too, and you can smell his cooking everywhere. Group lunch sounds like a plan,” he concluded, smilng. Robin went back to setting up the exhibit, but she continued to glance at the newfound lovers to see their precious interactions with each other. A toothy grin stretched across her face from watching them.

    “Great, then. Well, I need to go set up, so I’ll see you later in the afternoon, then?” the young farmer went for confirmation.

    “Mmhm. Good luck.”

    “Good luck kiss?” Jade shyly asked.

    Sebastian blushed more and grumpily stared at her. “Again. Mom is right there.”

    “She’ll see it sometime anyway!”

    Robin cackled. “What? See what? I don’t see anything,” she said, staring at them and waiting for them to kiss. Sebastian huffed at his mother and sighed to Jade in defeat.

    “Fine,” he softly mumbled back. Jade took it as a cue to give him a gentle hug, the two then exchanging a simple and cheerful kiss.

    She let go of him with an expression as bright and clear as the sunny sky. “Now I know I’m gonna win,” she calmly remarked. Robin clapped her hand onto her own mouth to prevent ruining an endearing moment.

    “Yeah, yeah.” Sebastian gave a warm smile, then gently nudged her away. “See you later.”

    The gesture made Jade giggle. “Bye, nerd. Hope people buy tons of stuff from you, Robin!” She waved at them and began walking off.

    “Heh, me too!” Robin waved her off, then instantly stared back over to Sebastian. Before she even uttered a single word towards him, he held up a hand in defiance.

    “I want to hear nothing about this. Kissing is not that big of a deal.”

    “I can say whatever I damn well please,” Robin sassily cocked her head and crossed her arms, grinning. “And it is a big deal, because that was so cute!! You two were made for each other! I can give you advice. You know what? I’ll give you some advice. I was a youngin' just like yourself when I first met your father...” And there she went. Robin was always full of stories, reveling in youth, nostalgia and using her rebellious past to give helpful (if not slightly invasive) relationship advice she acquired over the years. Sebastian had already suffered a couple of similar lectures since starting his relationship with Jade, so he was somewhat used to it. He didn’t stop her from talking, though, since she was so excited and he was able to learn more about his mother... maybe a little too much, but hey. Robin had been keeping the advice behind locked doors for a while. Sebastian had very few dates and Maru never had an interest in anyone, which meant Robin never really had the chance to present her wisdom. Sebastian continued to help Robin with her exhibit as she yammered on, a smile still faintly showing on his face.

    Meanwhile, Jade eventually found where she was supposed to go for the produce contest. There were several large displays standing in a row, all located in front of and past Pierre’s store. Pierre’s display was the one furthest to the left, various fruits and vegetables placed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. There was an empty display to his right, but the two after that were occupied by Marnie and then Willy. Marnie’s display mostly had produce and artisian goods from her farm animals, while Willy had a fantastic array of fish. The specifics of their displays suddenly brought Jade great nervousness... They had a variety of their own, but kept within a theme. Jade’s was all over the place with the theme and had an intense variety. Hopefully they would still count. With a deep breath, she continued to walk forward and stopped in front of the first empty display.

    Lewis approached her while she was carefully organizing her goods, and he seemed ecstatic for her to take part. “Well if it isn’t farmer Jade!” he started with a pleasant surprise. “It’s good to see you. This is one of the biggest festivals of a year by a long mile.”

    The young farmer glanced at him with a smile, then continued to add to the display. “Hello, Mayor. The fair looks amazing already! I can’t wait for everything to start.”

    “Mm, yes. I’m pleased to see your participation in the contest, as well. The competition is fierce, but I have faith in you.” Lewis watched as she set her display, though she paused for a moment to take in his words. Such a phrase from Lewis was really sweet and did help her confidence.

    “Thank you, Mayor! That means a lot. Even if I don’t win, I think I tried my best.”

    Her response incited a proud laugh from him. “That’s the spirit! Judging may take a little while, so you’re free to explore and do whatever you want after you finish setting up. I’ll call everyone over before announcing the winner, so good luck!”

    “Of course! It was nice talking to you, Mayor,” Jade eagerly replied. He gave her a pat on the shoulder before walking off to speak to Caroline and Pierre near their own display. Setting up didn’t take all too long, and when she finished, she was blossoming with pride! Everything was organized by category, making a colorful and neat collection of food and an array of other farming products. The only thing left to do was to convince herself that she would still do well even if losing was a possibility.

    Several tents opened up for business and tourists came in droves. Pelican Town surely knew how to throw a real fair, and the amount of people seemed to show it. When Jade finished her display, she wandered over to Marnie and Willy’s showcases and chat with them for a while, before then finally going to Lewis and announcing that she had finished. Lewis bid her a temporary farewell so that she could go off and experience the many parts of the fair for the first time.

    With some hunting around, she finally found her fair partner right outside his house. They changed loud greetings with endearing “farm girls” and “gridball boys” and set out to explore the fair together. Alex had some extra fair tokens from last year, so he split them with Jade in order for them to play games together.

    Alex has been to the fair several times, so he found himself an expert at many of the games. Jade, however, either loved the games or hated them. There was a tent that contained a pool of fish, and whoever obtained the most fish would win a significant prize. With all her fishing practice, the game was a breeze! The amount of tokens she won from all her catches seemed to show for it, too. Alex was decent enough, though he much preferred the shooting gallery. Jade, for the life of herself, could not hit a single target with the damned slingshot for that game. Targets went by too quickly, some popped up and vanished instantly, and she was just baffled by the whole game. The athlete by her side was able to hit just about every target and then some, winning a hefty amount of tokens for doing so.

    “I don’t know how you managed to win that cursed game, but wow, that was awesome,” Jade remarked with a grin. “What are these tokens for anyway?”

    Alex scratched his head and looked around for a specific stand. When he caught sight of it, he discreetly pointed over to a tiny shop overloaded with souvenirs and an assortment of cheap prizes. Many of the items consisted of oversized plushies, toys, nic-nacs, and so on, but there were a few peculiar items that caught Jade’s interest from even the distance. The shop stood alone in the top-left corner of the fair, though its popularity was noted. Families and eager adolescents approached the stand to reap their rewards. “There’s nothing too much, but the games themselves are fun, yeah?” He slyly looked at her and emitted an evil chuckle. “Plus, I get to kick your ass.”

    “You wish!” she laughed in response. “We’re even right now. Uhh... Let’s go over there.” Jade took her dear friend by the arm and walked him over to what seemed to be a strength tester. A gigantic, burly man stood at its side, yelling about the machine and egging people into playing. When the two approached, he grinned and spouted about the name of the game. Without even skipping a beat, he offered Jade a giant hammer. “Thanks! Okay, Alex. It’s time to see who is really the strongest one.”

    “You’re on, farm girl. Fish all you want, but this is my kind of game,” he boasted, pointing his thumb at his chest.

    “Okay, you know what? You go first!” Jade tossed the hammer over to him, causing him to stumble back. She laughed when he insisted he was just caught off guard, then watched in fascination when he tried to get the highest mark on the strength tester.

    Unfortunately for Alex but great news for Jade, the game was more of a ‘get to the top or the bottom’ game, which involved more timing than it did strength. When Alex tried, he almost got the top mark, and Jade’s turn allowed her to get the very top mark and win the grand prize!! Of one token. Alex burst with laughter with seeing her winnings of one token, but hey, she was still a winner.

    The fair carried on in a cheerful manner. The two played some more games, explored over to the petting zoo and conversed about animals and farming, and so on. They would come across some fellow townsfolk and briefly talk to them, though everyone seemed preoccupied with whatever they aimed to do at the fair. Jade found talking to others useful, since they knew where extra games were and some of them even parted with some tokens to give her a better first experience. Penny wasn’t in the highest of spirits due to her actually being banned from one of the more gambling oriented games. She told the farmer and athlete about how she won too many times and had too many tokens, so she gave quite a mound to the both of them. When they left her side, she still had a gigantic stash of tokens, though all the poor thing wanted to do was to play.

    A nearby fortune telling tent caught the young farmer’s interest as well. In the mouth of the tent, an old woman wearing a blue cloak stood in front of a presumably magical crystal ball. Abigail stood near the tent and watched people’s various fortunes, making her extremely giddy and fascinated. When Jade approached, she excitedly explained that this fortune teller in particular was real and that the old woman could see into people’s futures. Jade wasn’t one to easily buy such statements, but she noticed the Wizard looming nearby and there were enough magical creatures in the world to give this particular fortune teller the benefit of a doubt.

    Alex went to have his future explained first, both Jade and Abigail watching his expressions. At first, he seemed proud, beaming, and then he seemed somewhat bummed and discouraged. When he walked back over to the girls, he huffed. “What does some old lady with a sparkly ball know anyway?”

    The young farmer chuckled. “Did you get a bad fortune?” she asked.

    “We’ll talk after you get yours! Go, go!” He lightly pushed her over to the tent, making Abigail laugh as well.

    “Yeah! Good luck, Jadey!”

    Fine, fine. Jade dismissed the both of them and approached the woman. “H-hello, miss. I would like my fortune told,” she began, placing the required money on the counter. The old woman nodded and examined Jade for a while, not even paying attention to the money at first.

    “Mm, your fortune,” the woman began, giving her another detailed look. “Excited, are we? Young people are often skeptical, but I am able to see your willingness to trust others. Naivety in some cases, maybe, but such proves to be useful in this instance. I may give you glimpses of your future.”

    The young farmer blushed in embarrassment. Maybe she did seem too excited. “Th-thank you, miss.”

    “Now, let’s see...” The old woman began to consult the crystal ball, while Jade waited in anticipation. She gave a raspy chuckle, and muttered a “my, you’re an interesting one.” Jade didn’t reply, but she was already devoured by her words. She eagerly awaited for what would next be said. Finally, the old woman smacked her lips as she readied to speak: “I see a young man with you, just a little older- oh, his name. Sebastian.”

    “Y-yeah??” Jade was impressed already. She never mentioned any names to her!

    “Both of you are somewhere... dark. You both appear serious, but not unhappy... yes, something important must be happening.” The old woman had her focus completely on the crystal ball, not paying attention to Jade or her reactions. The statement she gave had confused the farmer, though it made her excited as well. If anything, she looked forward to more moments with Sebastian, especially if they were happy moments.

    The old woman paused briefly, then continued: “I see another man. Large, brown hair... green- no, unique... Unique eyes.”

    Jade lifted an eyebrow. “Alex?”

    “No. He is unfamiliar to the town, but familiar to you.” The fortune teller continued to stare at the crystal ball. “I see a...” Her voice faded and went quiet for another moment. “... I will give you advice, child.”

    “Huh?”

    “To reach your positive future, you must first pass the negative. Your immediate future is cloudy, unsure. I see storms, blood, anguish. You are still running away, even from a home you now hold dear.” The old woman eventually lifted her head and stared right into Jade’s eyes. “My advice for you: do not run away. You know what running has done to you.”

    Jade looked like a deer staring into a car’s headlights. Her expression was full now shock, terror stricken in her eyes. She did not respond.

    “What I see is not always the definite future. You have the ability to change your story, for better or for worse. Damaged as you may be, you have a powerful conscience and an aura that even magical creatures can trust. There are people in town who hold you dear. Do something good.”

    “I... Thank you.” Jade truthfully did not sound very thankful, but the fortune was something she needed to hear for herself. The old woman simply smiled and took the currency left on the table.

    “Of course. I wish you a good day, farmer Jade.”

    Jade bowed her head and quietly returned to Alex and Abigail, both extremely curious with her sudden change in demeanor.

    “What’d she say, Jadey?” Abigail asked first. Alex watched with more concern.

    “O-oh, nothing too big... um...” The farmer frowned as she tried to recall. “Oh! She did say something about me and Sebastian.” Jade ended up telling them the more positive side of her fortune, while keeping the other part to herself. All of them shared their fortunes with each other, though Jade had a feeling they all had something negative they were hiding. At least they just as easily dismissed the conversation with each other and carried on to other activities.

    Everyone was getting hungry, so the three of them met up with Sam and Sebastian, Maru and Penny also joining with everyone else. They all sat at the same picnic table and dined upon juicy burgers, fries, salads, the works. While Jade and Sebastian had fun at the fair, both of them were excited to reunite. They sat beside each other and talked just about the entire time, mentioning their fair-filled adventures and teasing each other about who was the better token collector. Lunch was lovely with all of them, their table full of delicious food, laughter, and a plethora of captivating conversations.

    A few of them left at a time until it was Jade with Alex, and Sebastian with Sam. The two not involved in a relationship chatted amongst each other until the lovebirds finally parted ways. Jade didn’t necessarily feel guilty for spending some extra moments with Sebastian, considering how well Alex and Sam seemed to get along. Truthfully, she hadn’t seen Alex be so genuinely social except towards herself and maybe Haley. She felt happy that everyone was bonding some way or another, in any case. After lunch concluded and everyone said their goodbyes, the fair continued.

    After another fishing game and some entertainment shows, Jade heard a call from the other end of the fair: “The results of this year’s contest is in! Everyone involved, report to the displays!”

    The young farmer gasped and instantly ran to the source when she heard. Alex smirked and followed at a slower pace. The other three contestants were already there and patiently waiting, Jade then going beside her display and waiting for the results. Some people had curiously crowded around to see what the fuss was about, including Alex to see how Jade was faring.

    Lewis held a clipboard in one hand and a megaphone in the other. Thoughtfully, he stared down to whatever was written on the clipboard in front of him, then one by one, listed the contestants. Each word passed by in an eternity, trying Jade’s patience and making her even more anxious for the results. Eventually, Lewis finally brought the announcement the four contestants were eagerly waiting for: “And the winner of this year’s Stardew Valley Fair Showcase is...” He glanced down at the clipboard once more, making sure he had his facts straight. “Jade!”

    She could hardly believe it! She tried so hard with her display, and actually won! There was a round of kind applause, then some people dispersed while others watched Lewis approach her. “As a farmer new to our community, you’ve showed massive improvement with your skills, and everything you brought today shows just that. Here, you deserve this,” Lewis happily stated. He offered her a thousand tokens to buy whatever she wished, along with a frilly red button that showed she won first place. The young farmer eagerly thanked the mayor, Marnie and Willy both passing by their congratulations before putting up their displays. Pierre watched her with a scowl, but looked away when Jade turned in his direction. When all was said and done, Alex approached her and gave her a very proud pat.

    “Farm girl! You did awesome. Fair’s working out well for you, huh?” he asked with a grin.

    “Yes! It’s been great. Help me load, will ya?” Jade asked in response, gesturing over to her display. She started lifting some of the goods to put back in the wagon she brought. Alex happily assisted her by lifting the large pumpkins she brought and carefully placed them in the wagon. They were heavy for even him, so he could only imagine the struggle she went through to load them and carry them all the way to the fair. Together, they finished cleaning the display and had everything carefully packed up to take home later. “Perfect,” Jade beamed. “Let’s go to that shop! I have a crapload of tokens to spend now.”

    Alex snorted. “Of course. Too bad there’s not too much stuff that’s good, but hey, you might like somethin’.”

    “Hope so!” Jade started tugging along her wagon as she walked with Alex following by her side. He seemed surprisingly quiet compared to his usual demeanor, though such a manner would never be unnoticed by Jade. She glanced at him as they walked. “What’s up?” she asked.

    “Oh, uh... Nothin’, really...” He eventually huffed, then seriously stared towards her. “Um. Do you believe in that fortune telling business?”

    “Well... it would depend, but I think in that lady’s case, I’d believe it,” Jade muttered in response.

    “Great.” He sighed, discouraged. “I guess some things she said rattled around in my head for a bit. I’m not feeling right.”

    “Wanna talk about it?”

    “Uh... You know what, sure. I guess I can trust you,” he replied with an unsure grumble.

    Jade looked back to him, amused. “You guess? Hehe, of course you can. Go on, tell me.”

    “Well... it’s just... we all have secrets, you know?”

    “Whew, Yoba knows that for sure.”

    Alex nodded. “My, uh... My fortune kinda involved that. And I don’t really know how to go about it.”

    “Well, can I be of any service?” asked his dear friend, keeping a watchful eye on him.

    The athlete straightened out his jacket and fumbled with his hands for a moment, trying to think of how to properly word his next statements. “Uh... Maybe... I guess, before I really talk about myself, I have some questions about you.”

    “Go ahead!”

    “How long did you have feelings for... That... S-...” Alex always forgot the damned toothpick’s name. Jade was about to scold him and correct him, but he finally remembered: “Seb! Sebasomething. Him.”

    “One of these days I’m gonna beat you up,” laughed Jade. “Sebastian. And, uh... A long time? Maybe not as long as many crushes go, but... We were really great friends, and it branched off into other feelings.” She shyly smiled in thought. They approached the shop, so Jade excitedly looked at all the selections. With the winnings from all the games, the contest, and the tokens that Penny left her, she could buy practically anything. As she browsed the shop’s selection, she still kept an ear out for Alex.

    “I see... What made you confess your feelings?”

    “Hm?” Jade unintentionally blushed from the comment. “Oh, whoa, uh... Well... I had a push from a friend, and it turned out that Sebastian wanted to confess anyway, heh... So we kinda confessed to each other at the same time.”

    Alex went silent for a moment. “A friend, huh?” He frowned. “Maybe I need that push. But I know it won’t end so happily for me.”

    “What?” Jade paused her browsing and stared at him in shock. “Wait, do you actually like someone? I thought you were just being difficult with me! Holy Yoba! Who is it? Do I know who it is?” Jade grinned and eagerly turned to him, excited to learn more.

    “Hey! Shh!” Alex flushed up and pat his hand in front of her mouth. “Don’t be so loud! No one knows who it is. It’s a secret that I’d rather keep to myself. Forever.”

    Jade said something with her mouth muffled, but no one could make out what she was saying. With the roll of his eyes, Alex removed his hand. “So you do like someone then,” Jade replied in a more quiet voice.

    He huffed and nodded. “Let’s... ugh. Let’s not talk about it in such a big place like this. But... I would appreciate some advice. It’s been messing with me.”

    “Come by in the morning, like what you used to do! I know you’ve been busy, but I’m always free to chat then. I don’t want you to be feeling so unsure about stuff.” Jade grinned and gave him a light hug. “Okay?”

    He thought for a moment and then agreed. “Yeah, that sounds good. Sorry I haven’t been around too much,” Alex nervously mentioned.

    “No, it’s okay! I’ve been so preoccupied anyway, with the animals and harvesting and then getting sick and all. I’m happy I got to see you and everyone else before, and it’s nice that we all get to hang out here. So, for now, lets- ooh!” Jade’s eyes fixated on a glittery looking fruit in the shop. “What’s that?”

    Alex looked to what she was referring to, then blinked in surprise. “Wow, they have one of those here?” They asked to get a closer look of the object, which the shopkeeper allowed. The fruit was shaped like a star and shimmered a bright, sparkling purple. There was a hole in the middle of the fruit and a few green leaves sprouting from it’s highest tip. “That’s a stardrop. It’s said to be the best tasting fruit in the whole world!”

    “Whoa! How much is it?” Jade checked its price, stepping back in shock. “Two thousand tokens. Wait, let me see.” She counted up all her tokens, then stomped her feet in glee. She had exactly the amount required. “Sweet! Should I buy it, Alex?”

    “Ooh, you know what? Go for it. Maybe you can share with your toothpick.”

    “That’s a great idea!” Jade eagerly talked to the shopkeeper and exchanged the tokens for the stardrop. The fruit itself was fairly bulky, though it felt rather lightweight as well.

    “Those are super rare, you know. You deserve it! Honestly, I hear those things can go for tens of thousands of G’s.” Alex crossed his arms and nodded with confidence. “They’re said to have super powers too, ooooh.”

    “Wow, I can’t wait to try this. Do you think Seb will like it?”

    “Yeesh, talk about obsessed.” He laughed and nudged her along. “You should go hang out with him, festival will end soon anyway. I’m thinkin’ of going home early.”

    Jade giggled from being pushed, but settled to examine him once more. His way of acting caused her great worry. “Aww... Okay. Will you be alright? If you can’t wait until the morning, I want to be there,” she stated.

    He shook his head in dismissal and smiled. “I’ll be fine! I need to make sure the grands are doing alright anyway. See you tomorrow!” With that, he ventured away with a wave, heading towards his house. Jade pouted as she watched him leave, though he was right about the festival. The sky started to darken with reds and purples and the many lanterns that surrounded the town square turned on to accommodate the loss of light. Some other people seemed to be leaving and some exhibits have closed, including a very excited Robin who gained some well-earned cash from her projects. Jade explored the still busy remainder of the fair grounds to find anyone she recognized. With so many crowds of people, she started to feel a little overwhelmed, like she was in a city.

    Finally, she spotted her favorite person sitting in the only unpopulated area at the fair. Sebastian rested at the edge of the river just before the east side of the town. A petting zoo was nearby, though their noises didn’t seem to bother him. He lifted his head and turned when he heard the squeaking wheels of Jade’s wagon.

    “Hey there,” Jade pleasantly remarked as she approached. “Hehe. I wanted to make sure it was you.”

    “Oh, hey.” Sebastian warmly smiled, then turned back to watch the river. Jade stopped her wagon on the last bit of pavement, confident no one would mess with it, and sat beside her loving boyfriend. She held the coveted stardrop in her hands, waiting for the right moment to bring it up to him. “I heard you won the contest. Congrats, you deserve it,” he happily commented.

    “Yeah! I think Pierre might be mad at me, but I’m just excited to win something for once. It’s been a very good festival,” the farmer beamed in reply.

    “I would have loved to watch, but Sam decided to be a daredevil and lunge into the muddy pit over there,” he said, pointing over to the pigs at the petting zoo. “He ended up pissing all the animals off and some authorities chased him around until he hid on the roof of Penny’s trailer and finally went home.”

    Jade chuckled from the story. “It sounds like your fair has been rather eventful as well! Did you have a good time?”

    “Oh yeah, I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. Sam’s a dumbass, but he’s my dumbass.” Sebastian sighed in contentment and leaned back as he watched the water flow. Jade took a moment to relax with him, but then she recalled the stardrop.

    “Oh yeah... um, I got this for us to share,” Jade quietly mentioned, holding the mysterious fruit up for him to see.

    “Whoa. Is that a stardrop? You won one of those?”

    “Mmhm.”

    “... You want us to share it?” Sebastian watched her in bewilderment. It was such a rare fruit that he was baffled it would be shared to begin with.

    Jade smiled and nudged him, then breaking the fruit in half. The fruit came apart with ease and halved perfectly. The inside seemed soft and mushy, like the inside of a jelly filled doughnut. Its aroma was rather questionable, but Jade tried not to judge it too harshly. It was supposed to be the best tasting fruit in the world, after all!

    He glanced down to the halved fruit she offered and shyly took it. “Thanks... Are you sure, though? This stuff is supposed to be super rare. I wouldn’t want to take that from you.”

    “Aw, we’ve been apart all day. Let’s have something memorable we can share.” She smiled and held up her half of the fruit. “Want to try it at the same time?”

    “Yeah, let’s see if this thing holds up to its name,” Sebastian answered. Both of them turned to each other and counted down from three at the same time. At the final number, both of them took a bite out of their stardrop halves.

    The taste... was indescribable. Both of their eyes widened, mouth gaped, and stared to each other in shock. This really was the best tasting fruit in the world.

    “Holy shit,” Sebastian muffled with a full mouth.

    “I know, right?” Jade responded, voice equally covered by the food. Neither of them spoke for a while and took to finishing their halves of the stardrop. Jade was the first to finish, wiping her mouth with a satisfied, “that was absolutely worth the tokens.”

    “No wonder this is rare. Damn.” Sebastian finished his piece afterwards and flopped back to stare at the sky. Jade giggled and lay beside him.

    “How would you describe the taste?” she asked him.

    “To be honest? I dunno. It was very... season-y. Kinda spicy. Extremely delicious.”

    Sebastian’s answer sounded very odd to Jade. “Really? I would describe it was super sweet. It tasted like the best candy in the universe!”

    He chuckled. “Maybe it tastes like what we like the most.”

    “Could be. I really love candy.”

    “How you don’t have cavities baffles me.” The raven-haired man turned his head to watch her, a soft smile on his face.

    She continued to watch the sky. “I’m just really good at covering my tracks!” Jade laughed and settled down. “I feel so awake now,” she added.

    “Me too. That fruit was surprisingly filling as well.” Sebastian reached to hold her hand as they relaxed. “Thank you for sharing.”

    “Thank you for being here,” the young farmer responded just as quickly, leaning to kiss him on the cheek. They both lay and listened to the babbling river, followed by the faraway commotion at the main part of the festival. The quiet moment had been disrupted by a light clink against Jade’s wagon behind them. The farmer sat up to see what it was, surprised to see Demetrius standing there.

    He seemed a bit nervous and somewhat out of breath, as if he just arrived. Sebastian sat up once Jade did, his visage lacking any expression.

    Jade decided to take the bait. “Hi, Demetrius... need anything?”

    “Ah, yes...” He took a deep breath. “Sebastian. Your mother would like help loading the truck. The exhibit is over now.”

    The raven-hair sighed. “I’ll be right there,” he calmly replied, then stood up. He helped Jade up afterwards, Demetrius quickly leaving. “... I could be interpreting things wrong, but that was... incredibly swift. I think he is wary around you.”

    Jade scratched her head. “Considering my outburst last week, I wouldn’t be too surprised... as long as everything is going well at home, I’m fine,” she replied.

    “Yeah, it’s been okay. Quiet, if anything. We leaving each other for the night?”

    “Mmhm.” Jade smiled, then let go of him to take the end of her wagon. “I should be toting this home, myself. Tell your mom I said hi!”

    “Will do. Be safe.” He waved to her, to which she waved in response. They ended up going their separate ways, as both of them had filled their social quota for a while. Regardless, the Stardew Valley Fair was fantastic. For once, things went well. No angry Lewis, no yelling Demetrius, and there were several great memories that Jade knew she would hold dear.

    The fortune teller’s words of warning took a back seat in Jade’s mind. Nothing could ruin her experience, not this time.



    Big chapter, lots of stuff going on! Lots of lovely banter, contests, shenanigans, PLOT FORESHADOWING, and blah blah you got it.

    I actually didn't want to include Sebastian in this chapter at all, but that ended up not happening since it'd be OOC, hilariously enough. I did accomplish bringing the spotlight to someone else for a bit, which was Alex in this case. It seems like Jade and Sebastian are still figuring out how much time to spend together, though they try their best to not neglect their friends! I think after last game night, Sebastian is much more conscious of the fact, too. It's weird suddenly having to juggle between people you love when before the instance was nonexistent.

    Next chapter is going to deal with Alex some more. There have been some things I've been foreshadowing for a while that I'll get to directly address, though I still think it might catch people off guard, especially since it's been sprinkled over older chapters. It'll be good though and I try to keep everything in character as always!

    Some delicious stuff is comin' up, y'all. Some delicious stuff.
     
    • Risukage

      Risukage Giant Laser Beams

      D'awwwww, the big, cuddly athlete has a crush, so cute! <3

      Also, delicious dramatic tension, mmm, can't wait to see where this goes...
       
      • Gabaw

        Gabaw Scruffy Nerf-Herder

        Sam always being Sam lmao :rofl: I'm really curious about both Jade and Alex's fortunes. That crazy old lady seemed like she knew what she was talking about and it didn't bode well for one of them at least. Good luck to the resident gridball pro! He'll tackle the hardest touchdown yet... Love!
         
        • MagicallyClueless

          MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer

          i have been out all day and i am cranky and tired no post write until later myabe
          enjoy chapta


          If there was anything concerning at the Stardew Valley Fair for Jade, it was the trouble Alex seemed to be going through. He didn’t want to continue his conversation with his sister-in-spirit at the fair, so their talk proceeded the next morning. Jade completed all of her farm work and was in the process of winding down right when Alex stepped into the scene. He wandered over to her, gave falsely confident greetings, then finally settled on the porch swing. Jade moved beside him to listen to whatever he needed to discuss.

          The day was bright and beautiful. Red and orange trees surrounded the farmland, dry leaves gently flew onto the barn’s roof or settled down onto the grassy terrain. A soft breeze maintained its presence, making the perfect weather for a light jacket. Jade propped her feet onto the swing she shared with Alex and leaned her head on her knees. “Okay, start talkin’.”

          “Ugh, I’m really so bad at these things.”Alex groaned and threw his head back as he tried to think. “Where did I leave off?”

          “You said you liked somebody!” Jade beamed, tapping her feet excitedly.

          “Oh...” The anxious athlete took a deep breath and flopped his head forward in defeat. “Yeah.”

          “Well? Why the mood?”

          Alex managed to return her worried gaze. “Well... It’s not going to work out. I know it’s not. For... a lot of reasons.” He sighed again. “At first I thought so because the person was already taken, but now...”

          Jade watched her dear friend with a frown and placed one of her hands onto his closest arm. “Well... I know yesterday you talked about confessions. Are you thinking of confessing?”

          “Ah... My gut’s telling me I should, even though I know what the answer will be. It’s... It’s wrong, anyway. And you know how fast rumors spread, you know? I don’t want to be hearing about this everywhere, or the person being unable to show their face. You know.”

          The young farmer felt confused and baffled at his statements. She could understand the bit about rumors, but... being unable to show faces? Complete embarrassment? Something was fishy here. “Alex, it’s fine to try to hide from the paparazzi and all, but... What are you going on about? Truthfully, you’ll never know what happens unless you confess. And...” Jade started, fumbling her words to try to reply correctly, “Abigail told me, that confessing is good to do either way... The better result is you going to the next level, and the worst result is you moving on and eventually finding someone else! Which isn’t that bad at all, if you ask me.”

          “You don’t get it.”

          Jade sighed. “Okay, then make me understand.”

          “I’ve, uh... I’ve known this person for a long time, but... they don’t really know me that well,” he muttered. “We’ve talked before, sure, and would often buy ice cream in the summer, pleasant conversations every encounter. Even meeting on the beach, and just passing in town... Yoba, this has been happening for a while. It’s actually sad that I haven’t shaken this yet. I shouldn’t feel like this.”

          She lifted an eyebrow. “You shouldn’t feel that way? It sounds pretty legitimate to me, and even if it didn’t seem like that, I don’t have a say.”

          “Look...” Alex took another deep breath and ran his hand down his face in frustration. “Just... Promise me you won’t tell this to anybody. Telling you is the only way you’ll get it.”

          “I promise, Alex.” Jade responded with an encouraging smile.

          “... Okay.” He watched her for a while, scanned the area of the farm, then focused back on her with a more determined expression. “I, um... It’s...”

          Jade gently pat him on the shoulder in hope that it would urge him to speak.

          “It’s a guy, okay? It’s a guy.”

          Oh. That did explain some things, especially since they lived in such a small town. And with how Alex was, Jade knew that he struggled with some stereotypes. It took him a little while to stop the girly insults with Jade, and he sometimes treated interests as either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ even if he didn’t mean to. Not to mention, rumors of any romantic calibur did spread pretty fast. Even just hanging out with her friends sparked some rumors, so she knew the validation of Alex’s paranoia.

          Though the young farmer was quiet for a moment to absorb the information, she ended up chuckling. “I really like guys too, you know. Is he cute?” she asked with sparkling eyes.

          Alex stared at her, surprised. “... That’s your first response?”

          “Well, is he?” Jade warmly smiled.

          “... Yeah.” He frowned and blushed. “My grandparents would disown me if they ever found out.”

          “Whoa, now. I highly disagree with that,” Jade retorted in a lighthearted voice. She leaned her head onto his shoulder and wrapped her arms around one of his to keep him grounded. “That nice and frail old lady who made cookies for the person who decked you in the face? I hardly think she would get upset about a guy that makes you happy.”

          “More worried about gramps...”

          “There’s nothing much he can do about it if he has a big issue with it. Just be true to yourself, you know? Are you telling me you’ve gone ages with these feelings and haven’t told a soul?” Jade asked, legitimately curious. She was terrified of the answer.

          “... Yeah.”

          She didn’t realize how a single word could slice her heart in half like it did. Jade didn’t keep her feelings for Sebastian to herself for all too long and it was still torture for her. She couldn’t fathom how Alex felt, keeping those emotions pent up for an unbearable amount of time. “Wow... Not even like... Haley? I thought you were close to her.”

          “Haley’s great, but we kinda stick together for more practical purposes. There aren’t many people in town, so yeah. She’s a good friend, and protective, but I couldn’t tell her something like this,” explained Alex.

          “Ah, I see...”

          “The, um, the fortune teller, from yesterday, was telling me what I already knew I guess. That the current path I’m going romantically won’t meet a happy end... Which, I guess means that I should try to let go and move on.” He frowned. “But... I’m not sure I can.” Alex leaned back in the porch swing, but threw an arm around Jade to keep her close. Her presence was comforting.

          The young farmer was still trying to figure out what to say. It was a lot to take in, and Jade didn’t have too much experience in mediating people’s feelings. Alex was hurting, though. She wanted him to be happy, and needed to say just the perfect words...

          Alex let out a somewhat nervous laugh. “You know, I was going to confess around the time you moved in. I was confident that he, uh... probably liked guys too. But...” He sighed again. “That... turned out to not be true.”

          “How are you sure about that?” Jade asked.

          “Well, um... I thought they were dating at one point? And it turns out they never did.”

          “Huh, that happens to the best of us, honestly. If I didn’t know any better, I would have probably thought the same of Seb-” Jade interrupted herself with an earth-shattering gasp. “Wait a second!!”

          Uh oh. Alex turned away from her, face red, while she confidently stood up. “Don’t tell me!! I know you don’t like Seb, and plus, he is taken for the next forever probably... So that leaves...!!!” She giggled and excitedly stamped her feet again. “You like Sam! You thought he was dating Seb for a time!!”

          “Shh!! Your damn voice carries for miles!” Alex blurted in frustration. Jade knew she was absolutely correct in that moment, especially with how dark and flushed his face became. Alex keeled over with a groan and buried his face in his hands while Jade did a tiny dance in celebration for getting it right.

          She quickly calmed down when the reality of the situation hit her. “Well... you have good taste! Sam is really sweet and fun. And you know, he ain’t bad looking. He’s very athletic too, you know. Agile, to say the least.”

          “Trust me, I know,” he grumbled.

          Jade sighed and sat back down, giving her brother-in-spirit a gentle nudge. “Hey. You know... I consider myself decent friends with Sam. And... I think you should tell him. I can’t say for certain that you’ll get the outcome you want, but... Sam is a very good person. He would handle the truth with grace, and you’ll feel better for doing so.”

          The athlete lifted his head to glance at the young farmer once more. “... Will you help me?” he meekly asked.

          “Of course! I’ll do everything in my power to help you. And I just so happen to have an endless source of Sam information just a few instant messages away! Or... a forty-five minute walk.” Her face went blank, feeling like the analogy didn’t go through well. “It’s Sebastian,” she blatantly stated. Alex snorted and returned the nudge.

          “I got it,” he assured her. “But, uh... It’s okay. I don’t want you to tell Subassman anything.”

          “Fine,” she giggled, then punched his arm for the name. “What can I do, then?”

          Alex went quiet and peered away in thought. Eventually, he returned to her. “... Can you tell me I’ll be alright?” He asked with such a weak voice.

          Jade stood up again, then hugged her friend around the neck and collar bone. She bumped their heads together and confidently smiled, backing up so that they could see each other’s faces. “Alex, you’ll be amazing.” Her smile slowly transformed into a grin. “And... if it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. I’m always here, too.”

          The athlete’s expression was a mix of massive relief and the urge to cry. He didn’t outwardly express either of them, but did give Jade a hug in return. “You’re not so bad after all, farm girl,” he chuckled, slowly sounding like himself again.

          “I know, I’m pretty great. So! Tell me. Is this why you were weird with me in our early days? What moments did you know? You need to spill.” Jade eagerly settled beside Alex once more and waited for more juicy bits of information.

          Alex laughed. “Okay, fine. I owe you that much.”

          Much of their day wasted away with tsunamis of conversation and bountiful quality time. Jade ended up taking him inside for some lunch so they could comfortably continue talking while in the cushy spaces of her home, and he didn’t leave until around 3 PM. The athlete promised Jade that he would keep her up to date on what was happening, providing his phone number on a piece of paper to let her know the results that night. She wished him the best of luck upon leaving, though the only phone she had was a house phone that wasn’t even hooked up yet. Jade was left alone again with the rest of the evening left to her disposal- she would deal with the details later.

          She couldn’t help but wonder how Alex’s endeavors would turn out, of course. Whatever it was, she didn’t really have a good feeling, even if she wanted his feelings to work out. There was something about Sam that she couldn’t pinpoint, but unfortunately, she didn’t really know him enough to confirm her suspicions. While he did care for others and had a massive “interest” in people’s romance, he never seemed focused on himself. Was he lonely? Did he have a lover already? And what about Penny? They seemed pretty close...

          But, thinking about it some more, Jade felt it was unfair to lump Penny and Sam together as a couple. Doing so would be just like lumping and Alex and herself together, which was something the townspeople considered and something Jade found extremely annoying. Whichever way Sam swung, though, he had talent in keeping others guessing.

          Wow. Sam was a complete mystery to her, and it took this long to realize it. Jade found it funny how she knew the “mysterious” member of the squad inside and out and could list all his favorites, peeves, and what all of his body language symbolized, but Sam... Her mind went blank. The blond was sociable, fun, and an amazing foil for Sebastian, but when it came to actually knowing Sam, Jade really could not recall. Perhaps a one-on-one hang out session would be in order, as long as she could do it without anyone noticing.

          Such sneaky moves could wait for another time, however. Jade wisely spent her time fishing at the body of water right beside her farm, until, unfortunately, her old fishing pole gave in and snapped. Jade sadly walked back onto her farmland with her broken fishing pole and a large ice chest full of fish, but perked up when she heard the familiar hum of a motorycle engine.

          Pouting transformed into excitement, the young farmer dropping her supplies to run over and hug Sebastian as he stepped off his vehicle, then returned to pouting when he asked what she was up to. He couldn’t help but laugh at her expression when she remarked the broken fishing pole, which incited an irritated huff and a fake shove from her. A playfight broke out from their physical banter and teasing remarks, only concluding when both of them were laughing more than spouting actual banter. Like the “helpful” boyfriend he was, Sebastian assisted in storing her fish for shipment and rounding the chickens and rabbits inside their homes.

          He assured her that she could buy another fishing pole when all was said and done, and offered to go to Willy’s shop with her the next day. He’s seemed much less busy than before and the weather forecast stated that it would rain, anyway. Jade always welcomed more time to spend with Sebastian, so the plan sounded golden with her. The young farmer had a fanastic evening, all things considered... unfortunately, all of her bouts of paranoia returned. She was cuddling in bed and watching a movie with Sebastian when all of her worried thoughts rushed back at once.

          Jade snapped her head in the direction of her alarm clock to look at the time. Her face suddenly paled; it was nearly 9 PM. “Oh, no... I’m gonna miss it. Seb, do your have your phone? Can I use it?” She brought her focus to Sebastian, who was nodding off from holding her and being wrapped in blankets.

          “Hm?” Sebastian yawned and dug around in his pockets, bringing out his phone. “Sure, I guess, but... Why do you want to use it?”

          “I have to text someone! It’s really urgent.”

          “Sure.” He offered the phone to her and then buried his face in her mass of waves and curls. “We really need to get you a phone...”

          Jade graciously took the phone and reached for the slip of paper Alex gave her, then began tapping away on the device’s screen. “I didn’t need a phone until now,” she huffed. “Plus, my computer has everything I want.”

          “Maybe I want to hear your voice but I don’t feel like walking an hour,” the raven-hair spoke again with a yawn. His voice was muffled from her hair, though he seemed too comfortable to adjust. A few moments passed from his last statement, bringing alarm to him even while drowsy. “Hey,” he said, in hopes to get her attention.

          “O-oh, sorry. Um. I’m dealing with this.”

          “With what?”

          “I’m not allowed to tell anyone!” the young farmer stressed. “My friend will get mad at me.”

          “You’re using my phone,” he grumbled, finally deciding to lift his head. He peeked over her shoulder to see who she was texting. On the screen was just a number followed by messages:


          JADE: Hey I’m on seb’s phone

          JADE: I thought I told you a long time ago that I don’t have a phone but I’m worried about you! Is everything okay?

          ???: Can’t talk right now

          JADE: Let me know when you can ):


          Sebastian didn’t recognize the number, nor did anyone state any names. Trusting Jade wasn’t a question, though he didn’t get what was going on. “Fine, don’t tell me any names. Why do you need to talk to your friend?”

          “They’re gonna confess to someone in town, and they’re supposed to tell me how it goes. It’s super late right now so I thought it’d be done by now...” Jade sighed. “I’m really worried.”

          “Someone in town?” Sebastian raised an eyebrow. There were only so many people in town, so there were few possibilities of who this ‘friend’ was and to whomever they were confessing. As someone who loved his privacy, however, he didn’t prod any further. “Try not to worry. Good luck to whoever your friend is, though.”

          “Yeah...” Jade relaxed back and slouched in Sebastian’s arms. With a pathetic whine, she snuggled into the blankets more. “Did you go to that fortune telling place at the fair yesterday?” asked the farmer.

          “Heh... I did.”

          “What kind of fortune did you get?” she continued in question.

          The drowsy programmer, though unsurprised, didn’t know how to reply without being so gushy. “Uh... To be honest, it was a pretty good fortune. I always get crappy ones. Boosted my ego a bit.”

          Jade snorted. “Your ego, huh?” she repeated in a giggle. “Did the fortune teller say any names?”

          “I’m keeping that one to myself.”

          “Uh huh,” she concluded with a smile. The two continued to watch the movie together, though Sebastian faded off to sleep quickly. Alex never texted back, causing Jade to slip off into dreamland as well. Hopefully the poor love-struck athlete was doing well enough...

          --

          Jade had another dream- no, nightmare? But it was different.

          She drowned in pitch black, as if she wandered into the depths of a cave or had been thrown down a well. The floor was solid beneath her, but nothing was around. There was just... darkness.

          She began walking, though she couldn’t feel her legs. Only the sounds of her shoes clapping against the ground gave her any sort of indication. She tried to speak, her mouth opening, her thoughts transferring, but nothing came out of her mouth. This was strange. This couldn’t be real.

          A voice creeped in through the cold chill of the space. It was an otherworldly voice, distorted, creepy, its pitch all over the map... it was... unsettling. Jade grew aware that she was experiencing a dream, but it was too different. The dream was empty, void... She had never gone through anything like this. Maybe she was stressed, but... the young farmer stopped walking to try to gain her bearings.

          The voice’s garbled structure also began to stabilize. Jade looked forward- whatever forward was in this case- and noticed a blotch of white that appeared in front of her. It stretched out far, and mimicked her silhouette like it was a shadow. But... it was a blinding white, the only thing she could see in the void, the only indication she could see at all. She still couldn’t tell what the voice was saying, though it sounded more and more human-like. The inverse shadow at her feet moved, even though she didn’t move, herself. It opened its pitch black eyes-

          Jade woke up.

          She adjusted herself with a snort, much less jumpy she thought she’d be. Her heart was pounding, but she was safe at home. Just a dream, after all, even if it was strange. If anything, she felt disappointed that she couldn’t ever decipher what the voice was saying...

          There came a familiar and gentle snore at her side. Sebastian was tangled in the same blankets she took refuge under, except pillows stacked on top of his head to shield from the television’s still blaring light. Jade spent a few minutes admiring his sleeping form, which, at a glance, looked somewhat uncomfortable. His hair shrouded his face, hoodie pushed up and sleeves uneven. One arm clutched around the rim of a blanket, while the other was presumably hanging off his side of the bed. Jade didn’t want to mess with the covers too much to satisfy her curiosity, though she was fairly certain she could see one of his knees near the arm closest to her. He was snoring, so he was comfortable, at least. The bed was big enough for him to continue such an expressive sleeping position, anyway.

          Just then, Sebastian’s phone lit up in the middle of the bed. Oh, no... she forgot about Alex, if only for a moment. She picked up the phone and glanced at the time that displayed on the screen. It was past midnight... Okay, maybe she forgot about Alex for quite some hours. She unlocked the screen and squinted as she scrolled to find some text messages, the light still hurting her eyes.

          There they were. Alex messaged back after all, interestingly proud statements glowing on screen:


          ???: Well... I did it

          JADE: I’m here! Sorry, fell asleep. How did it go?

          ???: We walked to the beach and had a really long talk about a lot of stuff.

          JADE: Whoa, really?

          ???: Let me call


          Not even a moment later, Sebastian’s phone began vibrating and started receiving a call. Jade had been caught by surprise, clutching the phone and worming herself out of bed as quickly and quietly as she could. After exiting her room and carefully closing the door, she finally answered the phone. “Hello?” she muttered in a low voice.

          “Yo,” came Alex from the other end. “Sorry, I know it’s really late, but I just... I’m better at talking than texting, anyway. I felt like you should know how it went.”

          The tired farmer beelined for the living room couch and collapsed to listen. “I was waiting for this, so please tell me everything,” she calmly replied with a smile. “I’m trying to be quiet... Seb’s asleep.”

          “Whoa,” the athlete replied in an elevated tone. He sounded fascinated and excessively annoying. “Sounds like maybe you need to tell me some things.”

          “Wh- no!” Jade nearly shouted with a huff. She knew what he was alluding to, but she didn’t want to think too hard about it; regardless, her face flushed up. “He spends the night all the time, it’s not-”

          “Oh?” Alex laughed. “Does he now?”

          “Y-you’re twisting my words!” Jade ignored the fact that she, in fact, was stating everything. Face now completely red, she curled into a ball on the couch while listening intently at the phone. “This isn’t about m-me. Just talk.”

          The athlete lightheartedly exhaled, figuring his time to tease had concluded. “Sure thing.”

          “Well?”

          “It... It could have gone worse,” Alex muttered. He waited a moment for Jade to say anything, though she seemed to be waiting for him to continue. His sigh was heavier this time. “To go ahead and get it out of the way, he doesn’t reciprocate my feelings, and I knew he wouldn’t. I guess it’s nice that I know for sure now.”

          Jade frowned from the news. “I’m sorry, Alex.”

          “The weird part is... after saying he was flattered but didn’t reciprocate, he wanted to go out. He said, hey, let’s still go on a late night walk! And before I could even answer, he took me by the arm and just... dragged me along to the beach.” Alex laughed, though it was more of a sad one. He was still figuring through his heartbreak, Jade figured. She didn’t speak and allowed him to proceed.

          “Talking was a little awkward... he was really, uh, nervous, I guess. But he was trying his best to be enthusiastic. He tried to explain to me how he felt about people. He told me not to feel bad, because he doesn’t like guys or girls... or anybody. Not in that way.” Alex paused for a moment, thinking carefully before his next lines. “I... can’t say I understand, to be honest. But, he was trying really hard to stay positive and be nice to me, and hear what I have to say.”

          “Mmhm,” muttered Jade. She had completely forgotten about his joking before and closely listened in.

          “He said that he felt very happy with the relationships he had, and that he’d be even happier and more than eager to get to know me as a friend. He also said he understood if I wanted some space, but... Yoba, how does someone smile so much? He was smiling at me the whole time. His voice was loud, and still managed to sound so sincere and honest. Then...”

          Jade was on the edge of her seat.

          “He didn’t look angry or sad, but not all that happy either... He said that he wasn’t the person for me.” Alex emitted another sigh. Jade wished she could have been at his side to comfort him. “I insisted that he shouldn’t feel bad for that either, even though I felt like shit myself. But, it meant a lot that he went through the effort to explain. He kept saying how he wanted to be friends, and he’d love to get to know me more that way, and that he was sorry he couldn’t reciprocate. As funny as it sounds, him apologizing actually made me feel better about it. You’re supposed to stay upset, you know? ... If anything, I feel... relieved.”

          “Relieved?” Jade asked, egging for more explanation.

          “Well... Even though Sam is so... Sam, I didn’t expect how anyone would react, especially another guy, to getting confessed... And by me, no less. But, he took it all in, he nodded sincerely, and then laughed and dragged me to the beach. Who does that?” He actually let out a chuckle as he talked. “You were right. He is a good person. And... Because of that, I can’t be mad, or all that disappointed. He’d want me to go forward with my life, and he wants me to be friends, so... I will.” Alex sounded a lot better now. “I guess I’m mainly relieved because he likes me enough to be friends, even after that.”

          Jade smiled a little. “Aww,” she swooned. The story woke her up some more. “Yeah, he is a very caring person... What are you going to do next?”

          “Well, uh... Honestly, I’m probably going to take a break from everything for a little bit. I’m so damn tired. I didn’t know just talking to people could make you feel so tired. But... After that, I think I’ll take him up on his offer. When the most awkward part of the conversation was over, we just hung out and talked. It was fun, and he offered to walk me home when he planned to leave but I said no thanks and that I’d talk to him later. Now I’m sitting out here, watching the waves.”

          “It must be cold out there at night. You should go home, ya dope.” It was Jade’s turn to sigh, though it was in a more motherly manner. “I’m sure you’ll be fine in no time! Come by my house when you’re up for it and we can play some catch or whatever you want. You should see how big the animals are getting, too. You’ll be shocked.”

          “Hehe, that sounds fun... Yeah, I deserve a break. I did good, didn’t i?”

          “You did,” Jade affirmed with a confident nod, even though he couldn’t see it.

          “Hm... Have you been to the springs? That bathhouse near the train station?”

          “... We have a train station and a bathhouse?”

          “Ha! Okay, let’s go there sometime... maybe not for a while, but it’d be something fun. You can drag along the toothpick and whoever else if you want, though he’d probably be crushed at seeing a real mans body, such as yours truly.”

          Jade laughed. She was happy that he was willing to banter, even if he was so crushed. “Wow, extending an invitation? I like this reborn Alex already. We can finish talking about that later, okay?”

          “Sounds like a plan, farm girl. I guess I should get home now... Um, thanks. For pushing me to do this. I don’t feel the best, but... I feel like it’ll just get better from here. You know?”

          “Absolutely. Be safe on your way, gridboy.”

          Alex sarcastically clicked his tongue. “Tell that Seb to keep his hands to himself.”

          Jade huffed. “Goodnight!” she hissed before hanging up the phone. The young farmer stared at the now dimmed screen of the device, then sighed. Alex sounded much cheerier, but she still hoped he would be alright. Maybe a gift would be nice, when he comes back around to it.

          Meh. Jade decided to think more about it later when she was fully rested. The whole ordeal concluded for the time being, allowing her to peacefully return to her room.
           
            Gabaw, Minimanta, Rijolt and 2 others like this.
          • Risukage

            Risukage Giant Laser Beams

            ...

            You meanie, I need so many tissues right now.

            *Blows nose, throws wadded-up tissue at monitor.*
             
            • Gabaw

              Gabaw Scruffy Nerf-Herder

              Well that was a thing. When Alex was talking about it and he said what he said I was like, I think it has to be such and such. And it was! You were rite tho it was handled as it would have been by that person. As for Alex, he flexes on the outside but his heart needs a few rest days. Hold on, I got a poster of Daniel Craig somewhere he can put in his locker if it helps...
               
              • MagicallyClueless

                MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer

                Jade and Sebastian have an exciting day in the rain~


                Jade groggily awoke to the pitter-patter of rainfall colliding against the roof. She slowly turned her head towards the nearest window; the outdoors managed to remain so bright despite no speck of blue in the sky whatsoever, and it was gorgeous. She sat up and checked her alarm- oh. She overslept, but she didn’t set her alarm in the first place. It was 10 AM, which wasn’t too bad since it was still the morning. Sebastian wasn’t in bed anymore, so he probably went home after waking.

                The young farmer untangled herself from her already messy blankets and sheets and wandered over to the window just across from her location. She tiredly forced her window open with a grunt, relaxing once the cool air wafted in with fresh rainwater scents. She spent a moment taking in the dampened environment, how the birds still chirped happily and the trees still glowed with their bright, warm colors. Leaves fell and littered the borders of her farmland, though she didn’t seem to mind all too much. The fall has been fairly dry so far, so it was really nice to breathe in the rain.

                The impatient grumbling of her stomach told her that it was time to make breakfast. Jade wandered out of her room, noticing Sebastian’s laptop turned on and set on the coffee table in front of the couch. Speaking of coffee... Jade could smell the bitter aroma of freshly brewed coffee over from the kitchen. She nearly forgot that he brought over a coffee maker back when she was sick, since he needed something to stay awake. Funny he never took it back.

                Ignoring her stomach for just a moment, Jade opened the front door to find the suspicions in the back of her mind confirmed: Sebastian sat on the porch steps and watched the light rainfall while drinking a mug of coffee. He glanced back to her when he heard the door, then calmly smiled and returned to the view. She silently joined him and watched at his side, enjoying the opportunity to gauge at her farmland once more.

                Sebastian took a sip of his coffee and watched Jade in the corner of his eye after a few moments of silence. “What’s the plan today?” he gently asked.

                Jade couldn’t help but smile; his voice was soothing to hear and the rain only made it even more relaxing. “Um... Well, fishing was a fairly profitable source of income, and my pole broke... so... Maybe I should do that first after farm work.”

                “Oh yeah. I said I would come along for that.”

                “You still going to?” Jade inquired, leaning her head on his shoulder.

                He made a playful huff in return and bumped his shoulder up to pick at her. “Depends. Am I going to get treated in return for escorting?”

                Jade snorted. “I won’t throw you into the ocean, maybe.”

                His arm was thrown around her in response. “As if I haven’t heard that one before,” he chuckled. Another comfortable minute of silence passed between them. “How did you sleep?”

                “I’m okay. The rain is nice to wake up to... my crops are happy.” Jade sighed as she scooted closer into his hold. “I’m happy you’re here.”

                “But?” Sebastian moved his head to look at her. He knew she didn’t sound as chipper as she usually did.

                She wasn’t in the mood to hide it or really keep up her cheerful persona. She was still worried about Alex and wanted to do something nice for him. “... I’m... still a little nervous, I guess.”

                “About what?”

                “Well... You know... The whole thing last night.” The young farmer frowned in defeat. “I suppose it’s all solved. He confessed to the person in town, and got rejected but they remained friends and worked things out. He still seemed upset afterwards, because who wouldn’t, and I’m not going to hear from him for a little while... I’m relieved that he got everything settled, but... I don’t know. I wish I could do more. I wish people could be happy, like us. I just feel like I didn’t do something that I should have done.”

                Sebastian stared out towards the barn in the distance, watching the water drip off of the shutters and into the short grass below. He took a slow breath and finished his coffee, setting the mug down beside him. “Hm... Jade?”

                “Mmhm?”

                “You’re a caring person... you worry and genuinely want the best for everyone. You put everyone before yourself, and it just shows how big of a heart you have. Maybe it drove me a little crazy at first since you’re so nice, but it’s just how you are.” He let go of her so that he could fully face her. Jade blushed from the sentiment, though she still had a pouty look on her face. Sebastian gently lifted up her chin with his hand so that the focus would be brought back to him. “But...” he continued, a frown on his own visage. Jade carefully watched him, waiting for his answer. “I think you can be a little... careless. You tend to dive head first and ask questions later in any given situation.”

                She shyly averted her eyes and spent a minute absorbing his information. “I don’t try to...”

                “Of course you don’t. You have a very selfless nature,” he responded, the corners of his mouth rising ever so slightly. “I want you to take better care of yourself. Your effort to help others doesn’t go unnoticed... so, you can take a step back and just think of what you can do for yourself. What keeps Jade happy and safe?” He genuinely smiled this time. “I just worry about you too, that’s all,” he concluded.

                Jade leaned back over to him and tightly but lazily hugged him. He wrapped his arms round in turn and rested his head on hers. “What can I do?” she muffled.

                “You can be patient. If he said he wanted a break, then that means he will return to you later.” Sebastian idly threaded his fingers through her fluffy and bunched up hair while she buried herself in his hold. “So... There are plenty of things you can do until then.”

                “Like what?”

                “Well... let’s have some fun. It’s a rainy day, perfect for all sorts of mischief.” His gentle smile malformed into a smirk. “I’m sure we’ll think of something. Um... Let’s get your fishing pole, then stop by my house right after. I forgot to bring some extra clothes.”

                She ended up giggling. “You stay so much, you might as well just have some clothes here.”

                “Don’t tempt me,” he replied with a tease. “How are you feeling now?”

                “Better,” calmly replied Jade. She lifted herself from his chest and gave a somewhat tired smile. “I mean, I’m still worried, but... I know I should just try to be patient. He does want to hang out with all of us later, when he feels up for it. Did you know that we have a train station?!”

                Sebastian actually let out a laugh from her surprised string of words. “Yes, I actually go there quite a bit. You’ve never been?”

                “No!! I was honestly surprised to see we have a freaking bus, let alone a train station.”

                He warmly smiled. “Let’s go to the train station, then. It’s not that impressive, but it’s a good place to hang out. Not to mention, the station is right behind my house.”

                Ooh. Jade didn’t realize it was that close, but that was interesting! She was already getting excited from more time to spend with Sebastian. He knew how to distract her well. “I’d love that,” she beamed in response. “But... Food and shower for me, first.” She stood up with a grumble and headed towards the front door. “You better not give yourself a cold while I’m gone!” She shouted as she left the porch.

                “No promises,” he chuckled back.

                Once eating breakfast, showering, and dressing for a fun (and rainy) day, Jade brought her attention over to her farm animals. All of the bunnies were chased, petted, brushed, and guided over to their food stalls, since they wouldn’t have liked the rain. Her two chickens were also doing fabulously, both of them enjoying the petting, gentle words of encouragement, and casual grooming before being provided with corn meal to chow down on. Since Sebastian was still there, he watched the process she went through to take care of the animals, and was fascinated to say the least. He could tell a lot of love and care went towards her fur and feather born children. After wool and egg collecting with several bouts of banter, they had lunch and then finally set off towards town.

                Jade used to enjoy the rain because it brought cooler weather and was always a joy to run around in, though she found a different reason to feel happy: Sebastian. He definitely brought out his more cheerful, childlike side in gloomier weather. Instead of his usual neutral expression, the corners of his mouth were slightly raised. His eyes were wider and his green irises sparkled even in the dim and cloudy environment. Sebastian thrived within his element.

                While avoiding the complaints Jade gave about Sebastian’s hoodie not being suited for rain, he carefully drove them to the bridge before the beach. They both dismounted and rushed across sandy shores to reach the docks at the other end, then entered the fisherman’s shop without much trouble, both relieved by getting out of the freezing rain.

                Well... almost relieved. Jade attempted to mask her disgust for the store’s fishy stench, while Sebastian was too focused on getting dry and warm to really care. Willy was restocking bait into one of the several bins in his store, but paced back behind the shop’s counter when potential customers arrived. “Welcome, welcome. Make yerselves at home. Lots of new fish and bait for ye,” started the withered fisherman. He was surprised to see two young people in his store, but pleasantly so.

                “Hello, Willy,” kindly replied Jade. She was the first to step forward despite the overwhelming stench of chum and fresh fish. “Actually, I think it’s time for me to get a new fishing pole... the one you gave me a long time ago is broken. Do you have any more?”

                It was as if Jade spoke the magic words. Willy’s demeanor changed for the better after her request, eagerly showing her the clear-glass display of all the available fishing poles. She had enough money for the most expensive fishing pole available, which was an iridium-based rod, but she didn’t want to spend all of her cash at once. Jade settled for a nice and sturdy iron-based rod and still with some leftover cash to boot! The transaction completed and the young lovers left the shop. Jade felt happy to see Pelican Town’s kind of fisherman again, while Sebastian was more worried on how to properly drive on the motorcycle with the equipment.

                The weather made it so Jade could hold the fishing pole as-is without it really impacting their drive. Light gray clouds darkened in the sky and menacingly hung overhead as a storm picked up around the valley. Thunder could be heard in the distance, breaks in the clouds flashing from faraway lightning. Sebastian felt paranoid enough to drive slowly and prevent going into any worse areas in town.

                Getting to the carpenter shop took much longer than intended, but they were safe and in one piece. Sebastian parked in the house’s garage and immediately stood up to take his hoodie off and twist the water out of it. While drying himself, he watched his dear motorcycle in dismay. As much as he loved rain, he hated driving through it. Jade didn’t seem all too bothered when she got off the motorcycle, though; the raincoat and boots she wore kept her dry.

                “I’m gonna go shower and all that good stuff. You, uh...” The raven-haired man watched his girlfriend with both reluctance and fascination; she seemed so excited to have a brand new fishing pole. “I have a feeling you want to go back out there,” he chuckled.

                “I do! Wow, and I hear you catch more fish in the rain!” Jade beamed.

                “Is that real, or is it just a video game thing?”

                “I dunno. Guess I’ll find out! I’ll be out by the lake!” she stated with utmost enthusiasm. She waved and ran back out of the garage’s opening, turning left to go to the lake in the mountains. Sebastian watched her with concern since the storm picked up, but she was so excited. He decided to move the opposite direction and finally enter the home.

                The storm picked up, but at least it wasn’t so bad that the young farmer couldn’t go fishing. She decided to cast her line out on one of the several islands within the lake, all of them connected by old wooden bridges. Jade stood on one of the larger islands in the middle of the lake, which had enough room for her and quite a few pine trees. She set her bait on the fishing hook and cast out the line, hoping to obtain some great catches.

                Some minutes passed and nothing. Only rumbling thunder and heavy rain accompanied her during the chilly afternoon, though not getting a catch so soon was normal. The young farmer’s hopes were still high for any potential big catch, focusing on the bobber in the water for a while. Slowly, her attention faded, allowing her to examine her surroundings.

                Rain never stopped being so beautiful. The ground was foggy and the lake was rising in water level and losing clarity. Despite the loud rush of rain and the growling sky, Jade felt so quiet and peaceful. She only hoped that fishing in dreary weather wouldn’t give her another bad cold.

                More minutes passed by, testing Jade’s already dwindling patience. She’s waited longer, though. She could do this. The precipitation seemed to come down even harder and the sky grew darker; Jade glanced above to see heavy clouds twisting and twirling as if they had a life of their own. She recalled a television station that remarked the moods of spirits on each particular day... they must have been very displeased for the time.

                Right then, the entire sky flashed before her very eyes. She heard an earth-shattering crackle, followed by ringing in her ears. The ground shook. She saw the tree beside her start to collapse forward in two, burning halves. Something-- a fish? the tree?-- yanked her off the dirt.

                Water. Lots of water sinking past her raincoat, up her nose, in her eyes. She could only open her eyes long enough to see a mass of bubbles. Where was she? How deep? Where was the surface? Several precious seconds were wasted. She attempted to regain her sense.

                The fishing pole was out of her hands, but... She couldn’t feel that arm. Or her legs. It was cold. It took several attempts to discover her surroundings. There was the surface, but it was so far away. Time was running out. It was getting dark. She could barely hold her breath.

                A gigantic shadow loomed over her. It had to be much larger than her. Her vision started to blur, as did her focus. She could only see... teeth. A lot of teeth and the hulking body of a fish. Her heart dropped to her stomach. The spirits were very displeased.

                It swam away.

                ... No, it didn’t. She felt it brush against her back. The force brought her closer to the surface of the water, but it was still so far away. She couldn’t feel anything now, but she no longer cared. Rage overwhelmed her senses. Determination. She told herself to swim up, so she tried. She wasn’t sure it was working, but she couldn’t give in. Spirits or not, they wouldn’t win.

                Her eyes couldn’t stay open anymore. She just tried her best to reach upwards, swim with all her might despite every muscle in her body working against her. Her burst of energy faded, even with a mind furiously urging to continue. She could feel a crash into the water nearby. Her consciousness faded.

                There were two very familiar voices. They sounded muffled and hazy.

                “... Just some nasty bruises. Yoba, I’m surprised she only got off with some scrapes...” The source of the voice was very close to Jade. She had difficulty in making it out, but she felt like the voice belonged to Maru.

                “Are you sure? She’s okay?” the second voice asked with utmost worry. She knew that voice from anywhere... Sebastian.

                Maru sighed. Jade felt a warm hand brush across her own forehead. “Yes, I think she’ll be fine... I’m glad I got to her in time since she almost drow-” Her voice abruptly halted, a tense second of silence in the room. “... Sorry. I... I’m just glad she’s alive and well.”

                “I...” Sebastian exhaled, slightly shaken. “Forget about it,” he quietly replied with dismissal. He didn’t seem to be in the mood to nitpick with Maru. If anything, he was thankful she was there at the right place and time. A different hand gently clasped onto Jade’s arm; it was colder but still felt very comforting. She knew it was Sebastian’s. “Shit... this is all my fault,” he whimpered with a scratchy voice. “I had a feeling and I went back on it...”

                “No... no, it’s not your fault. No one could have seen this happen. It was only raining before. These things don’t just... you know.” Maru’s tone, though hushed, brimmed with understanding. Another pause, and then a sigh of relief. “She wasn’t crushed by the tree. I think it just ended up dragging her somehow.”

                “Urrngh...” Jade groaned as she came back to the waking world. She slowly opened her eyes, seeing the two half-siblings hovering over her in concern.

                “Jade!” They both exclaimed, leaning in closer.

                She slowly lifted one of her arms to wipe her eyes. “Where am I?” tiredly asked the young farmer, still disoriented. Sebastian had backed away after seeing she came to, hugging himself and observing her with a terror-stricken expression. She sat up with a woozy grunt and wiped her eyes as she looked around. They were definitely in the carpenter shop, but she wasn’t sure she had ever been in this room... it was bordered with starry wallpaper and some astrology posters covered the walls. She rested against a cushy teal colored bed and noticed an old, dusty computer in the corner. There were several shelves full of science magazines and books.

                Maru held the farmer’s hand and gave it a sincere pat. “You’re in my room. Can you recall anything?”

                “Um... not much...”

                “That’s normal. I’m sure it happened pretty fast... We were so worried,” the young nurse continued. She glanced over to her half-brother, who wore clothes surprisingly different from his usual get-up. He wore a light gray t-shirt with characters on it and dark blue jeans. Still the same black shoes, though. His arms relaxed only enough to cross, still staring at his girlfriend with both pain and concern.

                Jade’s focus was on Sebastian, but slowly went back to Maru as she attempted to regain her thoughts. Maru wore her usual overalls, but they seemed surprisingly clean compared to her damp and disheveled hair. “What happened?” She asked in hopes to remember.

                “Ah...” Maru deeply breathed to accurately recall. “All of us heard a terrifying crack of thunder, then a huge disturbance in the lake. I had come back home from work when I saw one of the trees on the island missing... One of your rain boots floated to the surface.”

                “Oh...” Jade didn’t even realize she was no longer wearing her raincoat or boots. Her hair was still wet and matted from all the commotion, but she had been dressed in warm pajamas that belonged to Maru. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders and another at her legs, pulled down only while Maru was checking her vitals.

                “I dived in and got you out in time. Took some resuscitating and your arm was pulled, but you’re fine and we fixed it,” explained Maru. “You’re safe, now. You’ve only been out cold for an hour at best.”

                Jade took a moment to examine her own arms and legs. She could feel them again; in fact, her right arm hurt something awful. The room felt so warm, even if she still felt the need to bundle up. “I couldn’t feel my limbs before.”

                The young nurse watched her. “Yeah... Could have been shock. The water was freezing and you were practically thrown into it. The impact may have given you some bruises, but I’m so glad there’s nothing worse. That lake is pretty deep...”

                “Wait... I remember something.” Jade’s breathing increased as her memories flooded back. “I thought I was in trouble for a second.”

                Sebastian and Maru exchanged horrified looks. “What?” Maru asked, unsure if she heard Jade correctly.

                “Yeah.” Jade shivered and curled the blanket around herself more. “There was... a really huge fish, above me. I just remember seeing its teeth. Then it swam behind me, and I think it ended up giving me a boost towards the surface of the water... Like it helped me? It was really hard to swim, though...”

                The half-siblings couldn’t conjure any coherent answers to her statements. She wasn’t lying at all, but the thought of something that big being in the lake... it was extremely disconcerting. “... I’m just glad you’re okay,” muttered Maru with a sigh. “If you weren’t going to wake up when I thought you would, I would have taken you right back to the clinic.”

                “Man... I get myself into more trouble than I ever mean to,” grumbled Jade to herself. “I’m so sick of seeing the clinic. I just want things to go right. Stupid spirits...”

                Maru emitted a bit of a chuckle, hopefully not with ill timing. “No clinic this time. Just... Be careful, okay? You’ll be feeling sore, but I don’t think anything is broken from how you sound.”

                “Nah... just my arm, really, but you said you fixed that,” replied Jade. She rolled the shoulder bringing her pain, first wincing, then sighing in relief when she adjusted. “Thank you...”

                “Think nothing of it, Jade.”

                Sebastian walked back over. “So... you’re well?” he asked. The poor guy looked as exhausted as she did.

                Jade answered with a nod. “For the most part,” she added. Suddenly, she gasped. “Oh, no! My brand new fishing pole,” she stressed. “The lake took it...”

                Sebastian was in the process of calming down, but her remark made him tense again. “You’re worried about a fishing pole?” he asked, irritation in his voice.

                “Well... Yeah. I just got it,” said Jade. “I wonder if it’s still in one piece...?”

                “Wh... Because of that fishing pole, you almost--!” He grit his teeth in frustration and glared at her. “You...Y-... Agh!!”

                Before she could really answer, he stomped out of the room and slammed the door shut. Maru watched, frowning but unsurprised. Jade sat there in shock, unsure what she said to set him off like that.

                “I... I would give him some time,” Maru lowly muttered so that only Jade could hear. “He was really scared and upset when he saw you unconscious. I think he still might be panicking about it...” She took a moment and sadly breathed. “... Maybe I think he’s not giving you enough slack as a near-drowning victim, but...”

                Oh, no. The young farmer’s face had been struck with realization. “No, I get it. I wasn’t thinking very much... It was still insensitive of me to talk about something so trivial.” Jade frowned. “I’m sorry.”

                Maru shook her head to dismiss the apology. “Again, just give him some time. After that ordeal, you both need some time to unwind. He thinks it’s his fault for what happened,” she murmured.

                “It’s not! If anything, it’s my fault. I wanted to go fishing out there...” Jade’s breaths interrupted in a terrified hiccup. “Dammit...” She started to tear up and slowly wiped her eyes. The exhaustion was returning to her, along with the droves of feelings that come with a near-death experience. “I’m sorry,” she pitifully cried.

                The young nurse’s first instinct was to pull Jade into a nurturing hold. “No, no, it’s okay,” answered Maru in her gentle tone. “Look... A lot happened. Just take a rest, okay? You can stay for the night, if you don’t want Mom to drive you back in the rain. Both she and Dad are running errands in the city today, so they won’t be back until late.” She didn’t expect Jade to reply, surprised to even get a whimper of approval as a response. Maru held her with a deep sigh. “It’s okay,” she softly repeated.

                It took Jade several moments to calm down, but she eventually did. Maru gently let go of the traumatized farmer, then looked over to the door of her room. “Um... you hungry? It’ll be dinner time before you know it.”

                Jade slowly nodded.

                “... Okay. I’ll go make something. Feel free to explore the house if you want, but don’t overdo it, alright?”

                Another nod.

                Maru smiled. “Good. I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me,” she remarked, then left the room. Jade stared at the then open doorway, pondering her next move. She was exhausted, but... all she could think of was Sebastian, and how he was doing. Giving him space was the right thing to do, even though it didn’t feel right. She spent ages sitting there, staring off into space while in a battle between her brain and her heart.

                ... Her heart won. Jade carefully stood from the bed and kept herself wrapped with the blanket. She felt a little sore, but she could hardly notice it over her blaring thoughts about previous events. Nothing mattered until she made up with Sebastian.

                She made her way down the house’s hallway, then descended the basement stairs. Sebastian’s door was left ajar, Jade peeking inside to see if he was in there. She slowly pushed the door open and glanced around. Her eyes locked onto him lying face down on his bed, head resting on one of his pillows.

                There was no way he couldn’t hear her walk in, and yet he continued to lie there, unmoving. Jade stared at him with worry, not even sure of how to begin. “... Seb?” she eventually squeaked.

                No response.

                “... I know you’re not sleeping,” she murmured. “I... Look... I’m really sorry.” Jade stood there awhile to see if he would respond, but all he did was close his arms in on the pillow he buried his face in. “You have every right to be upset with me... What I said was really stupid. I wasn’t thinking.”

                Still nothing...

                “Seb... On normal circumstances, I would leave you alone, but... With everything that’s happened, I can’t let this sit.” She frowned. “Please, talk to me...”

                He wasn’t asleep, right? He couldn’t have been.

                “What do you want me to say? I was being insensitive... I didn’t realize it. I had to process my thoughts for a little while, and I just... I feel a little sore, but it’s fine... So I didn’t think it was all that much to worry about.”

                “Not much to worry about?” Sebastian finally repeated. He lifted his head but refused to turn in her direction.

                “Seb...”

                “That’s it? Because you’re fine, it’s not much to worry about?” His voice grew stronger, but it was also broken, offended. His entire demeanor changed, from dead weight to boxed frustration. Finally, he turned his head to her. His face was lit in rage, eyes portraying as much flare as it did pain. “Because you’re not fucking dead, it’s okay? Not a big deal?”

                Jade frowned and took a step back. “Seb, I-I didn’t mean-”

                “What did you mean, then? What could you possibly say that would make this better?” He stood up from his bed, glaring her down.

                Jade felt intimidated, but she tried to stand her ground. Regardless, she didn’t answer. She didn’t know how to.

                “You know, good idea! I should have applied that logic when I saw my half-sister drag your limp and lifeless body out of the fucking water.” He clenched his teeth as he spoke. His eyes, though angry, started to dampen. He was trying very hard to control his already heaving breaths. “I should have laughed it off and go, wow, it’s not a big deal, as my half-sister had to perform CPR on you multiple times before you finally hacked up all the water in your lungs!” Sebastian practically yelled at her, but the voice lost its menacing tone. A tear slid down his cheek, still glaring at her and balling up his fists. “Since you’re okay, right?!”

                She was speechless.

                “What if nothing helped you towards the surface? What if Maru wasn’t there? You’d be fucking dead, Jade! You’d be dead and you just...” His tone officially cracked, causing him to turn away. He wiped his eyes and coughed out another desperate breath. “What would happen then? Is it really not a big deal when you were so close to leaving me?” There was no attempt to hide his tears now, but he couldn’t look at her at all. “Fuck, Jade... This is exactly what I was talking about earlier!”

                She was crying now, too, but still couldn’t move. She didn’t know what to say.

                “You’re so damn careless! Yeah, maybe it was just bad luck this time around, but what about next time? What about the times before that? This isn’t the first time I was scared you were hurt! Remember when you collapsed at the community center? Dammit... remember when you went to the mines? ANY time you went to the mines? Just over a week ago you could barely stand you were so sick!!” The words just kept coming, and he couldn’t stop them. “Have you ever stopped to really think of what could happen? How precious your life is, and how easily it can be sapped away?! All from just one stupid decision if I never stopped you!”

                “I’m sorry!!” screamed Jade through a stream of tears. “You’re right!! I’m sorry! I’m a moron, okay?!” She hiccuped and wiped her eyes next. The blanket had slipped off of her person and she didn’t even realize it. “I never think things through! I never think about my safety, or consider how you feel about it. I’ve never been more sorry,” she sobbed. “Please forgive me... I’ll be more careful. I’m sorry...”

                “Jade...” He tried once more to control his breathing, making several attempts to calm himself down. “You’re not... you’re no moron. Just...” He sighed and thread his fingers through his hair. “I love you. I can’t bear the thought of you getting hurt. I get enough nightmares as is...”

                Jade tightly embraced him and cried into his chest, Sebastian wrapping his arms around her just as tightly. One arm firmly wrapped across her torso, while the other arm kept her head close to him. He heard a weak and muffled, “I love you too...” from her.

                “Look... I... I’m sorry for yelling. I just...” He sighed as he continued to hold her close. “I get so anxious when I don’t know you’re okay. You’re strong and independent, and want you to stay that way, but... Just... Be safe... please. I can’t handle anything less...” Sebastian buried his face into her hair. “I was really, really scared...”

                Jade lifted her head up enough to clear her voice. “I’m sorry I put you through that... I know I keep saying that, but... I understand. I’ll... I’ll be more careful. Thank you for being there all those times, and...” She weakly kissed his shoulder. “I promise I’ll try to stay safe. I didn’t realize how... how close I was to...” She hugged him tighter. “I don’t know what I’d do if the same happened to you, either...”

                Sebastian released his hold to get a better look at her, making her do the same. “Thank you,” he simply replied, voice tired but extremely sincere. He placed his hands to her cheeks, wiped the stray tears with his thumbs, and leaned over to kiss her on the lips.

                At first, the kiss was to signal the end of their confrontation, but... It wasn’t exactly perfect. The kiss ended too soon. Jade, enraptured by his gesture, brought his head back over for another kiss.

                Then another.

                And another. Each kiss lasting longer, each kiss portraying their heightened emotions all in one gesture. Jade relaxed her arms around his collarbone while his hands stayed firm at her sides and kept her close to him.

                Neither of them could speak, but neither of them needed to. Somehow, they ended up on Sebastian’s bed, participating in an excited and relieved make-out session with each other.

                “Hey, I didn’t know if you liked grilled chee--oh...” Maru wandered to the basement to bring Jade and Sebastian dinner, but they seemed, uh... busy. She clapped her hand onto her mouth to prevent making any more noise and slowly backed out of the room. Silently, she shut the basement door and sneaked back upstairs, her face as red as a tomato.

                Jade probably wasn’t in the mood for dinner, but at least she and Sebastian were feeling better.



                :^)
                 
                • Gabaw

                  Gabaw Scruffy Nerf-Herder

                  omfg wow, definitely wasn't expecting most of what happened here. It's a powerful chapter and you should be proud of it! I did see what you meant by showcasing a flaw in Jade's personality, priorities, or what have you. but I also saw how desperately Seb cares about her, a side of him that isn't shown hardly at all or ever. Poor Maru tho :rofl: lmao! overall a fantastic chapter and looking forward to how things progress from here.
                   
                  • MagicallyClueless

                    MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer

                    thank you very much!
                    i have spent quite a few chapters focusing on sebastian's flaws, so i figured it was time to spell jade's out better. tho i think she's had some flaws apparent throughout the story, they may be less obvious until they're pointed out (like this chapter!)

                    maru has seen more hand holding than she can HANDle
                    HA
                     
                      ApertureGaming011, Risukage and Gabaw like this.
                    • Risukage

                      Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                      Well, they're both quite right, but it's good to see that they see and respect each other's opinions and that neither holds a grudge. Hurrah for character development due to mortal peril! :p
                       
                      • Minimanta

                        Minimanta Spaceman Spiff

                        Lmfao, the smiley in the post-writing xD

                        That was an intense chapter, but with a happy ending ;D
                         
                        • MagicallyClueless

                          MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer

                          Yay! Got to update twice this week.


                          The three who were part of the near-drowning incident decided to keep it to themselves for the most part. Maru didn’t see Jade or Sebastian anymore that night, so she had the responsibility of informing Robin and Demetrius what they deserved to know: Jade simply needed some time to spend with her boyfriend. She wasn’t particularly lying, though poor Maru never enjoyed concealing the whole truth about the lake. As for their friends, it wasn’t very necessary... the trio were merely relieved it was over.

                          Demetrius didn’t exactly absorb the information until he saw Jade the next morning. Most of the family’s mornings were spent grabbing food and getting out, but Robin wanted to make a good impression for the very special guest. The father arrived to the kitchen, newspaper in hand, when he noticed everyone eating freshly cooked breakfast at the dining table. Robin, Maru, and Jade were all devouring their sausage, egg, and cheese filled meals, while Sebastian seemed content with some coffee and toast. There were four chairs and four people at the table, and yet... a seat remained open for Demetrius.

                          Eugh. Jade and Sebastian were sharing a chair, that’s why. The father of the household unintentionally focused on them as he sat down. Robin, through a full mouth, eagerly told her husband what there was for him to eat. He gathered his food and settled, mind focused on reading the mood of the room more so than eating.

                          It was strange. Everyone seemed happy, which was fine, but... he never really saw Sebastian smile, let alone actually pay him no mind. The raven-hair didn’t even realize Demetrius joined them until Jade greeted him with a gentle, “good morning!”

                          “... Good morning,” replied Demetrius in equal surprise and sincerity. “How did you sleep?” he kindly asked. Demetrius couldn’t lie to himself; he hated the idea of a guest staying the night with one of his kids, even if it was the troublemaking one. Sebastian’s two outbursts and Jade’s desperate attempt to get him to understand his step-son kept his mouth shut, though. Sebastian was an adult, and he did respect the house rules for the most part... plus, Jade was lovely; she seemed to adore everyone in the family. He’d swallow his pride for this one.

                          “I slept like a rock--” Jade interrupted herself with a laugh. “A log. I slept like a log.” She grinned over to Robin, who wiped an imaginary tear from her own cheek.

                          The carpenter couldn’t have been more proud. “You’re learning so fast, hon,” she wistfully remarked. Sebastian rolled his eyes and nudged Jade with a smirk, causing her to bump him back.

                          Demetrius merely smiled and slowly pecked away at his food while unfolding his newspaper. “That’s good. Maru said you were having an unfortunate day.”

                          “Yeah! I’m a lot better. It’s especially thanks to her and Seb for that,” Jade went, giving a kind smile to Maru, then endearingly resting her head against Sebastian. He cast one of his arms over her shoulders, securing their contact with each other. “I know both of you were away, but I’d still like to thank you for treating me so well. I don’t get to have breakfast with a family often at all, so this is really nice.”

                          “Aww, hon! You’re always welcome to stay here. I like the whole family being together,” Robin mused, stabbing the last morsels on her plate with a fork. “I’m sure Sebby enjoys you staying, too.” She exchanged a devious grin to Sebastian, who blushed and averted his eyes. Maru made an awkward cough while she was eating.

                          “Mother, don’t ruin this,” he calmly pleaded.

                          “What? Am I wrong?” Robin cackled.

                          “Of course not,” Sebastian answered as a matter of fact. He finished drinking his coffee and pushed his empty plate away. Jade was surprised to hear his comeback, mainly because it... wasn’t a comeback? He normally would have denied speaking about anything romantic with Robin, so maybe he wasn’t in the mood. Either way, Jade was absolutely moved.

                          “Aww, Seb,” she quietly swooned, leaning into him more.

                          Robin chuckled more from their interactions. “Both of you are adorable. I hope Sebby was a good host!”

                          “He was,” the young farmer happily replied. Maru choked on a piece of food and then coughed, taking a huge gulp of orange juice after. “Ah, Maru, you okay?”

                          “H-huh? What?” Maru pushed up her glasses to get a better look at Jade. “I-I... Yeah, just. Got distracted while trying to figure out a scientific formula in my head.”

                          Demetrius perked up from Maru’s mention. “Oh? What kind, dear?”

                          “Uh... Biology.” Her face was red. Everyone except Demetrius noticed her strange behavior, but none of them were really sure why she was acting as such.

                          Meanwhile, Demetrius excitedly straightened his posture at the mention of biology. “Biology!” He boomed in repetition. His true calling! “Tell me, Maru! What is the formula? I am sure I can help.”

                          “U-um...”

                          Robin looked as concerned as she was entertained. “You okay, sweetie? You look a little hot.”

                          Jade nodded in agreement. “Hopefully you’re not getting sick... The storm was pretty bad yesterday,” she solemnly added.

                          “I-I’m fine! Really!” Maru emitted laughter, though no one-- except again, Demetrius-- believed it. “Oh, Jade! Your clothes are washed. L-let me go get them!” she exclaimed. Instantly, Maru got up from the table and marched off at a quick pace.

                          “What’s up with her?” Sebastian wondered aloud. Jade exchanged glances with him and shrugged.

                          “Hopefully she is not overworking herself,” Demetrius muttered with a sigh. “She has been a little stressed lately with the clinic. It is the busy season, you know.”

                          Jade hummed in thought. “Yeah, I hope she’s doing well too... Oh! Darn, I can’t believe I forgot about my own work for a moment... I should really get to the farm. I have lots of cute faces to feed.” She stood up from her side of the chair and stretched with another yawn.

                          “Want me to take you home?” offered Sebastian. He didn’t appear as concerned with whatever her answer was, though Jade didn’t want to assume. Even though the tension was resolved, maybe it was too soon to spend time apart.

                          “I’d love that,” she cheerfully replied. The rest of their conversation involved day plans, sassy banter, and the usual schemes for torturing Sam. The steady couple cleaned up the kitchen together and then parted ways just long enough for them to get ready for the day. Sebastian disappeared to the reaches of his room, while Jade located the frazzled Maru and obtained her dry clothes.

                          Maru seemed to have calmed down, but Jade decided not to directly confront her about her earlier behavior. If she was faring well, that was what mattered. The young farmer started for the nearest bathroom to change her clothes, but Maru sheepishly called out for her just as she was leaving. “H-hey. Jade?”

                          “Hm?” She turned to face the nervous Maru.

                          “Uh...” Maru stepped forward and reached out to touch Jade’s shoulder. With that, she took a deep breath: “Please take care of my half-brother.” She said it with a wobbling voice, as if she were giving away her own child.

                          Jade’s face blanked. “Hah...” She turned her head back to see if anyone was there, then back to Maru. “... Okay?”

                          Maru vigorously nodded. “Thank you.”

                          The young farmer chuckled, hugging the clothes to herself. “Maru, is there something you want to talk about?” she asked in a teasing tone.

                          “Wh-what? No. No, just.” Maru nervously exhaled. “Whew. I just haven’t seen someone so... um... c-close... to Sebastian. You’re special.”

                          Jade’s chuckle broke into full-blown laughter. “Thank you, but I feel like I’m missing something here!” She grinned, noticing Maru’s flushed face again.

                          “It’s okay. You... you don’t have to explain.” The gadgeteer balled up one of her fists and held it close to her heart, eyes sparkling. “If there’s anything I learned as a kid, it’s that... Sebastian is very fragile. I hope you were gentle with him.”

                          “Aww, thanks for your concern. It was pretty intense at first, but I think we settled everything pretty well,” Jade beamed with confidence. Maru probably overheard their argument the previous night... poor thing! The young farmer was more than happy for Sebastian’s half-sister to be so caring, even though they weren’t on the best of terms.

                          Maru stared, speechless, then gathered herself with another heavy breath. “Th...That’s... Wow, um, that’s... good.”

                          “Yeah! I have the feeling we’ll get even better as time goes on, too. Hehe, he said he loved me after all that,” Jade continued, blushing lightly. “I mean, I know I loved him before, but now... I can hardly describe how I feel!” She giggled to herself.

                          Maru choked on her own spit and pounded her chest in a cough. “Alright! I’m just! Gonna stop you there, before I ask questions I regret.” She started gesturing Jade out of the room; Maru’s face was even redder than before.

                          Jade raised one of her eyebrows at Maru’s behavior, but simply shrugged and started walking again. “You don’t have to be embarrassed! I’m really happy you care. I hope you have a wonderful- whoa, hey!” Jade huffed from being pushed out of the room.

                          “Bye!!” the younger one desperately yelled. With that, she was pushed out of the room, Maru walking out and hastily heading towards her own room.

                          Maru was acting so weird... Jade decided to walk the other way, searching for the bathroom to change her clothes. What was up with her, anyway?

                          ... oh. OH.

                          Oh no.

                          Jade briefly froze in realization. “Oh... Oh, no! No, no, uh!! Maru! Wait! Wait!!” Jade suddenly took off in the opposite direction, going towards Maru.

                          The young gadgeteer sped up. “It’s okay!!! You don’t have to tell me anything else!!” she shouted, covering her ears with her hands. The poor girl was in a fever.

                          “No, you don’t get it! It was a misunderstan-

                          “I get it!!! I promise!!!” responded Maru from the other end of the house. “I trust your feelings!!!”

                          Jade tried to chase after her, but the door to her room shut and locked. “Maruuuu!” the farmer desperately called, jiggling the door handle and knocking. “Maru, I meant something else!! Maruuu!”

                          Instead of a reply, a power drill started up. It gradually grew louder until it was apparent that no one could be heard from the other side of the door. Jade clasped her face with both of her hands, face now as red as Maru’s.

                          Sebastian approached Jade in his usual attire, noticing she had collapsed at Maru’s door in shock. The young farmer continuously whined the gadgeteer’s name, a traumatized expression clouding her focus. He glanced at her, then at the door, then back at her. “... Okay, what was all that yelling about?”

                          Jade didn’t reply, instead gesturing with her hand for him to approach. Sebastian obediently leaned down to Jade’s eye level, then turned his head to the side to listen. She whispered something in his ear... His eyes widened.

                          “... Whoa. Really?” Sebastian asked, forming a grin.

                          Jade solemnly nodded.

                          “Holy shit.” Sebastian erupted into devious giggles, covering his mouth with a hand as he did so. “That’s... interesting.”

                          “... I don’t like that look on your face,” Jade mumbled, squinting. “There’s... something evil about it.”

                          “Me? Evil?” He laughed rather confidently. Jade was actually intimidated, even though his laughter was irresistibly cute. “Don’t be ridiculous!”

                          “What are you planning?” Jade glared at him, crossing her arms.

                          “Ah, don’t worry about it~” He gave his girlfriend a kiss on the cheek, mischievous grin ever so present. “After all, WE’RE STILL NEW AT THIS!” He yelled into the door, cupping his hands around his mouth. “I KNOW IT’S HARD!”

                          The drilling became even louder from within the bedroom, making Sebastian to cackle himself to tears. Jade lightly hit his arm, but he was unphased, laughing to the point that he collapsed beside her.

                          “Holy Yoba... I’m gonna have so much fun with this. Wh... What did you... even, heh, tell her?” He calmed down enough to wipe his eyes, still heaving a few chuckles.

                          Jade blushed furiously and turned away from him. “I’m not falling for this scheme of yours!” she claimed, lips trembling as she tried her best to not smile back.

                          Sebastian was going to answer, but he just started laughing until he could hardly breathe. Robin glanced down the hall to see what all the commotion was, then endearingly smiled. She let them be; it’s been so long since she’s seen her Sebby in such a good mood.

                          After a minute, the raven-haired man finally settled down. “Hehe, aww, don’t give me that grumpy face,” he lightheartedly teased Jade. She shoved him to the side and stood up with still a red face.

                          “Y-you’re horrible!” she weakly stammered. She knew she loved his trollish side, but she would never admit it to his already towering ego. Sebastian stood up after her, extremely aware and entertained by the fact. “I need to get dressed before we leave. Behave!” she stressed. Her face dropped when she saw he was trying really, really hard to not reply with another joke.

                          “You make this so easy, Jade,” he snorted, grinning. “For you, though, I will be good.” Such effort was rewarded with a false kick to his leg before she stomped off.

                          When all was said and done, Jade and Sebastian bid farewell to Robin and Demetrius, then set out for the farm. Jade rode the bike so often that getting to her farm was a breeze, no matter the distance. Unlike the previous day, the sky shone a brilliant blue and not a cloud was in sight. It was as if the storm was a dream-- or, well, a nightmare. Due to her pondering, Jade felt surprised when she and Sebastian arrived to her farm already. Everything was how she left it, so she supposed it was time to continue her farming life.

                          Jade got off the motorcycle while Sebastian remained, tiredly looking at the farm house. “Guess I should get to work too,” he sighed. “I haven’t been working as much as I should.”

                          “Yes, go work!” Jade replied, shooing him with her hands. “... Heh, I still feel the need to apologize,” she ended up murmuring.

                          “You don’t,” simply answered the raven-hair.

                          “Well... Still. I think I’m going to stay out of trouble for a little while. Saloon tonight?”

                          Sebastian thought for a moment, and then nodded. “Yeah, that sounds fine. I’ll see you tonight, then.”

                          “Good. You take care of yourself, too,” Jade told him with a smile. She did feel somewhat guilty since they’ve spent so much time together. Sebastian really needed an evening to himself...

                          “I’ll get to it eventually,” he said back with an equally cheery expression. Sebastian waved a goodbye to her, Jade doing the same as she started to walk back to her house. “... Wait. Jade,” he called, narrowing his eyes at her for some reason.

                          “Huh?” Jade turned to look at him.

                          “Come here,” he started. “There’s something in your hair.”

                          “What? Really?” Jade reached back and felt for whatever was in her hair while walking towards him. Her efforts were in vain, since she had so much hair and a very little idea of where they were.

                          Sebastian snorted and reached for her when she was close enough, calmly urging her to turn around so he could get whatever it was. “Your hair is the most constructed mess,” he joked. “Oh. Here it is.” He took out a thin glittering object from the abyss of her hair, its shape similar to a plastic guitar pick. Its color was a bright green and it felt smooth to the touch, but whatever it was had been lost to Sebastian. “Why was this in your hair?” he asked, confused.

                          Jade turned around to see the object in question, leaning in to examine it in detail. “What is that?” she pondered aloud, then taking the object to get a better feel. Then her eyes shot open in surprise. “Oh. This is... this is a scale. From the giant fish I told you about.”

                          “... Really?”

                          “Yeah. Look at the size of this thing,” she said, showcasing the scale. “How does something that big live in that lake? I mean, it’s an okay sized lake, but...”

                          Sebastian shrugged. “Maybe you should do some research on it. There’s bound to be some information about local fish in the library,” he suggested. “Well... If anyone knows that fish exists. I sure as hell have never heard about it.”

                          “Huh... I guess I’ll see.” She pecked him on the cheek and grinned. “Alright, get lost!”

                          “Eugh, with pleasure.” He smiled back and waved to her again. This time he really did drive away, while Jade returned to her house, scale in hand.

                          Research wasn’t such a bad idea, but where to start...?

                          --

                          Friday nights always brought an extremely full saloon, making Gus, the bartender, extremely happy, while everyone else enjoyed their time to drink, eat, and socialize. Jade was often the last of the squad to arrive, not only because of the distance, but because she hadn’t participated in a proper saloon night in a while. Getting together with Sebastian and taking a sick day seemed more important at the time.

                          At last, Abigail and Sam got to join Sebastian and Jade for their highly coveted saloon night. When the young farmer entered, Abigail was already relaxing on the couch while the boys played an unevenly matched game of pool. She watched them all, smiling, then gave a single wave of greeting. “The gang’s here! At last!” she beamed.

                          “Hey!” Abigail piped up excitedly. “It’s good to see you, Jade! I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages.” The novice adventurer hopped out of her seat and trotted over to her dear friend eagerly, the two then exchanging a friendly hug. “How are you~?”

                          Sebastian brought his focus to Jade while he shot the cue ball for his turn, but his aim failed in accuracy. Sam watched the horrible move with a gasp, then shouted in glee. “HA! What was that, dude?!”

                          “What?” Sebastian looked back at the pool table, his expression going flat. “... I want a redo.”

                          “No! This is my time to shine!” Sam excitedly giggled to himself and readied for his turn.

                          Jade chuckled as she watched them, passing a wave to them both. “I’m doing alright, Abby. I’m happy we get a night again.”

                          “I’m not!” Sebastian huffed. “You’re too distracting. Leave forever.”

                          Jade approached to see how their game was, then laughed. “Look, Seb. It’s not my fault I’m so beautiful. Just ask Sam. Sam, is it my fault?” she asked the blond who giggled furiously while making his move in the game. After he completed it, he confidently crossed his arms and turned back to Jade.

                          “Normally? Yes. But, whew, see Sebastian in his LARPing gear and not even I can contain myself. He’s definitely the more distracting one.”

                          “For the last time, it’s not-- YOU have costumes too, asshole.” Sebastian glared at the two, then pretended they didn’t exist while he planned his next move. While doing so, he was grumbling something unintelligible under his breath. Jade went into a fit of chuckles after seeing him so worked up.

                          Abigail ushered Jade over for an arcade game while the guys argued and joked with each other. So far, the night was peaceful and everyone was having fun. The atmosphere was full of warm air and the sounds of clinking glass and dishes. People excitedly conversed, the smell of beer and hot food wafting in the saloon.

                          For a while, Jade really enjoyed herself. After her life being derailed for just a moment, she felt like she was finally on track... but, something kept nagging her in the back of her mind. How was Alex doing? She hadn’t heard of him in a few days... was it alright that she didn’t? Sebastian and Alex were different, so she couldn’t treat them the same... was giving him space the best decision? Her mind weighed heavily with serious thoughts about her brother in spirit.

                          Jade had enough playing with Abigail and she didn’t feel like watching the guys anymore. With minimal thoughts, she ventured over to the nearest window and peered outside. There was the blackness of night, a view with a shoddy picket fence and the darkened figure of Alex. The athlete in question would always be outside during the night to spend some time with his dog, Dusty. Even though he was right there, she felt so far away. She wanted to be there to comfort him.

                          Sam strode up to her and effortlessly threw an arm around her. “Whatcha thinking about, Papa?”

                          “Oh...” Jade watched Alex, then turned her head away in embarrassment when she realized she was staring. “I... Maybe it’s not a good idea to talk about,” she murmured. Sam was sort of part of the problem.

                          “Hm...” Sam glanced over to Alex, then sighed with a smile. “I see what this is. Don’t worry!” The ecstatic blond’s smile transformed into a grin. “There will be a happy ending. I have some tricks up my sleeve, you know.”

                          “Well, can one of those tricks have me be best siblings with Alex? I miss him,” she mumbled with a frown.

                          Sebastian walked over to them right after her last three words were ushered, as if he was summoned by magic. “Hey, what are we talking about?” he asked in a louder-than-usual voice, already noticing Alex through the window.

                          Sam burst into laughter and playfully shoved Jade over to her boyfriend. “Just talking about how you two hardly talk about your relationship! Talk about boring~”

                          “Hey!” The couple retorted at the same time.

                          “It’s none of people’s damn business,” Sebastian grumbled.

                          “Yeah! Plus, there’s no need. I always hated seeing couples randomly making out on the street,” grunted Jade. “Oh, wait. Seb, remember our rule about public affection?”

                          Sebastian’s face blanked as he tried to think, then mischievously grinned. “It’s fine if it’s in front of Sam?” he asked for confirmation.

                          “No!” shouted Sam.

                          “Come here, boyfriend,” Jade swooned, dramatically leaning back while having her arms around his neck.

                          “Nooo!” the blond protested again.

                          Sebastian confidently held her with one arm and caressed the side of her face with his free hand. “Anything for you, girlfriend,” he replied with equal drama.

                          “Nooooo!”

                          The couple brought their faces close together with exaggerated kissing faces. Sam made a high pitched screech and threw his arms up in defeat, hastily leaving the game room. Jade and Sebastian couldn’t hold their ridiculous expressions any longer, so they broke out into quiet laughter. The raven-hair gently helped Jade stand straight and looked towards the direction Sam went. “Making life hell for two people in one day. This is the best day of my life,” he excitedly muttered.

                          “You know, at first I didn’t approve of your evil agenda,” Jade started, scratching her chin in thought. “But now I think I might have to reconsider.”

                          “Oh? Do I sense a partner in crime?”

                          “You’ve used me both times today so I’d have to say yes,” Jade chuckled. After some seconds of pondering, she crossed her arms. “Well. Not until you tell Maru the truth.”

                          “The truth about...?”

                          “You know what!” Jade quickly answered, blushing. “She’s horrified!”

                          Sebastian cackled again. “Oh, she’s fine. Maru’s smart; she’ll figure out that I was just pulling her leg.”

                          “Are you sure?” Jade huffed.

                          “Well, yeah. Like we’d actually do it in my room...” Sebastian glanced to his right as he continued his train of thought. “The whole room is so dim and depressing that I can only stay in the room for so long... You know how long I’ve been saving up to get out of there? There’s also just a basement smell you cannot get rid of, it’s atrocious. And the bed is tiny and cramped, so if we were being logical about this, yours would be way bette-” He suddenly stopped himself, his amused face instantly fading into shock and embarrassment. “... Uh... ”

                          Sebastian!” Jade yelled with a solid red face.

                          “I didn’t mean it that way!” he claimed, flushing just as hard. While he tried his best, he just couldn’t bring himself to look at her. The unfortunate Sebastian covered his face with his hands and collapsed onto a nearby couch, pondering about how this was the worst day of his life. This was why he wasn’t talkative.

                          It took Jade a brief moment to calm down, but she still found amusement in his explanation. Of course she knew he didn’t mean to come across in a brash manner, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t give him hell for it. “Then what way did you mean it?” she asked with fake accusation.

                          “... You know... Logistics...” He weakly muttered.

                          “Logistics? Well, logically, you’ve had to have thought about this a lot to logically explain the logistics of the state of your room. With logic.”

                          “Fine, I’ll go tell Maru it was a joke,” Sebastian groaned, lifting his head to only bump it against the back wall. “Please, Yoba, drop this topic for eternity...”

                          Jade laughed for good reason. “That’s the taste of sweet, sweet karma,” she mused.

                          Abigail walked up to them, appearing slightly irritated. “Yo, are we getting food? And where did Sam go?”

                          The couple ceased their banter to bring attention back to Abigail and Sam. Sam, in his dramatic episode, actually went to the bar to go order some food for the four of them. He shortly returned with a bountiful pan of pizza; the whole squad then ate and rejoiced for a wonderful night spent.

                          After several conversations about their lives, various interests, and a plethora of inside jokes, the four parted their own ways. Sebastian and Abigail headed up north, while Jade and Sam walked together up until they reached his house. Jade returned to her house, cautious of her surroundings but ecstatic. She was happy she got to spend time with some of her closest friends, especially after the previous day.

                          Jade felt satisfied to conclude the night on such a positive note.



                          Last chapter was full of some heavy stuff, so here's something to even the load! I had a ton of fun with this and with shenanigans, and hopefully showed some character development as a result. There may be tidbits of Plot Progression that'll be more obvious later on.

                          I think the biggest thing this chapter showed me is that I love Maru and I think she's precious
                           
                            Rijolt, Minimanta and Gabaw like this.
                          • Ghostly Fox

                            Ghostly Fox Giant Laser Beams

                            Just dropping in to say I love the asexual Sam thing, for one. Really, asexual representation in a community this size is lovely.

                            For two, this is so fun to read, then it gets all srs business, then goes back to cotton candy fluff and comedy and it's one of the most enjoyable cases of mood whiplash I've gotten from reading a fic.
                             
                              Risukage and Gabaw like this.
                            • MagicallyClueless

                              MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer

                              aww, i'm really glad you do!
                              i was actually surprised that there's not much asexual representation in fics to begin with, aside from some stereotypes here and there. while i'm not an asexual, there are two people very close to me who are and they are huge inspirations for how i write sam (other than how sam is in game, of course! i like to think i'm being pretty accurate.) he's outgoing, confident, funny, and is an asexual at the same time! he's definitely one of my favorite characters to write and, since the sexualities are so malleable in the game anyway, i like to think this fits him well.

                              i'm also really happy you read and commented! i've noticed you've disappeared for a while (real life and etc. it's all good hehe) so i just kinda assumed some people stopped reading. this was definitely a pick-me-up! i'm really glad you enjoy it too <3
                               
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                              • Ghostly Fox

                                Ghostly Fox Giant Laser Beams

                                Oh! Sorry, I've actually been reading, but... yeah, life happened, and then the update kinda reminded me "wait, I haven't been commenting on Magic's fic... fffff!" I don't like not finishing fics, so, even if I'm not commenting, you can assume I'm still around, because I really adore this fic. (Jade's such an adorkable farmer, for one. And Sam is adorable, and I generally just love the characters all together. (yes even the Shane bit.))
                                 
                                • MagicallyClueless

                                  MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer

                                  lmao don't worry about not commenting or anything. i'll keep it in mind and i'm happy you've been this far!
                                   
                                  • Gabaw

                                    Gabaw Scruffy Nerf-Herder

                                    They settled it quite well I'd say :p Geez! Poor Maru x2. Well, it's a nice chap after the previous turmoil. and now we got a large scale to look into. FYI, it's a shark, it's a freakin lake shark monster and I'm scared. Ok?? Kinda hoping Jade figures out what it really is posthaste but big fish, big teeth? Get me outta here! She's been thru a lot recently anyhow. It's nice to see even Demetrius thawing out a bit. The family dynamic is a good one!
                                     
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                                    • Ghostly Fox

                                      Ghostly Fox Giant Laser Beams

                                      Well, Jade is also pretty tiny, IIRC. Though still over 5', which is 60 inches so... 1.5 meters, I think? Which is a large fish, but not really a huge fish.

                                      ...Then again, I live somewhere that has fish large enough on average that I am forever banned from fishing without someone taller and heavier than me around, because of the very valid concern I would be pulled in, and gators too, so maybe I have a warped perspective on what a "big" fish is. Especially since I've seen about four feet long catfish in person, which weigh more than me. Hmm. I probably am not helping, am I? :V

                                      Well, if it were a shark, it'd probably be a bull shark, since I think they are one of the only ones that can travel between salt, brackish, and fresh water, from what I was taught as a kid. If it were brackish water, you MIGHT get a great white pushed into the area by a storm surge, but they tend to either die or try to get back to salt water, for buoyancy reasons. Though, bull sharks are more likely to attack a human, if I remember correctly... Less out of specific targetting, more because, according to the fisher's I've talked to, they're more aggressive.

                                      There are also stories of sturgeon, bass, and catfish ranging in size from 6 feet to "the size of van" in some rivers, so they'd be the most likely candidates for the IRL version of the fish I THINK that might have been intended to be... This is what happens when you grow up in an area where either fishing or hunting are practically mandatory.
                                       
                                      • Gabaw

                                        Gabaw Scruffy Nerf-Herder

                                      • MagicallyClueless

                                        MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer

                                        lmfao

                                        maybe i should tweak the description a bit then. it's supposed to be pretty big width-wise, like, it could probably devour a person whole :^)
                                         
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