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

    that's a win in my book!
    thank you <3
     
      Roskii Heiral likes this.
    • Roskii Heiral

      Roskii Heiral Heliosphere

      Hahah, thanks for the creativity and heart you put into your stories and art.
       
        MagicallyClueless likes this.
      • MagicallyClueless

        MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer


        Something didn’t feel right.

        Jade saw a cave riddled with bones of ancient monsters, dead secrets of the valley. The air smelt of sulfur and it was hard to see anything except for what was at her feet and the faint green light in the distance. Gravity bore down on her as she struggled to walk. She was so tired, for some reason. She couldn’t help but think of her bad memories. Of her bad actions. Running away, the most cowardly thing she could have done. Running away when she could have done something.

        You could have done something, couldn’t you?

        Something about the scenario didn’t seem real, but she could feel the cold, damp rocks that surrounded the tunnel, she could feel the crunch of the dirt and bones beneath her. She began to smell the rot of small creatures who dared enter and couldn’t escape. There was gooping slime from stalactites above, but no living slime creature. No bats, no duggies, no life.

        But she wasn’t alone. She could feel something following her. Every once in a while, as she made her way towards the green light, she could feel something touch her shoulder. She stopped looking whenever she felt it since nothing was ever there.

        She finally reached the room, which was large and circular. It was full of old-style cages hung from the ceiling, ones that would be seen in a dungeon. The source of the light consisted of thousands of strange green markings on all the cages. Old, rusted chains dangled along with them. Discarded weaponry, shields, helmets... human skeletons. The stench grew. There were tiny bones in the cages, cushioned by beds of dead grass. They didn’t look like any bones she saw before... For some reason, seeing them made her want to cry. It felt like tragedy. It felt like she could have prevented something.

        You can’t run again.

        I don’t want to run, she bitterly and internally told herself. The voice wasn’t hers, but she felt stern. She wasn’t going to run. Why did it keep bringing that up? How was this relevant? Didn’t it know all the improvements she’s made? Her friends? Her significant other? Pets? Fa-

        You know why.

        This had to be a nightmare. It had to be. But it was so real. She looked around, but couldn’t see the source of the green light. Everything in the room had shadows, but when she looked down at herself, she didn’t see hers. Her shadow didn’t exist.

        No. It did.

        She saw it. It was standing at the end of the room. The whole figure black, and the eyes-- there were no physical eyes-- were seethrough, the very green of the room.

        It was real. She knew she would forget, but for the time being, she just kept telling herself. It was real. “What do you want?!” she yelled as loudly as she could, but her voice only came out in a breathing whisper.

        The shadow lifted its head, staring at her. She couldn’t tell what kind of expression it was making, if it was making any expression at all.

        The shadow disappeared. Jade looked down at herself, and the shadow still was not there.

        Thunder striking. Heavy rain. Jade saw a door at the other end of the room, wooden and perfect, just like her house’s.

        Bam!

        No. Not you.

        Bam!

        The door was going to collapse.

        Bam!

        The door cracked under the pressure and burst open. She was paralyzed. But there it was.

        It was Alex- no. It wasn’t. She wanted it to be Alex. It looked like Alex. It had his clothes, his hair. But she knew it wasn’t. Alex did not have the menacing eye, or the hulking stance, or the haunting breathing. The very moment her perception changed, its true form showed. It definitely wasn’t Alex.

        “What choice did you want me to make?” Jade shouted, though she wasn’t sure the air carried her words. “I can’t be held back by this anymore. I can’t be shackled. I’m finally living a normal life!”

        She felt something grab her neck. It was black, and it stung and began to spread throughout her body. The shadow that looked just like her now had her in a devastating grip.

        All of Jade’s drive vanished as it took hold of her. Her depression returned. Her struggling worsened. She really, really wanted to run away. Not from the dream. From the world.

        Run away.

        The shadow was speaking to her. She couldn’t feel her own heartbeat. Running away must be so easy. Then she wouldn’t have to think anymore. She wouldn’t have to see him, break down her door, she wouldn’t have to confront him, ever again. She wouldn’t have to disappoint anyone else. Running away sounded really nice to her. Yeah... running away. This time for real.

        Something happened, just as she began to slip away. The green lights vanished. The cages broke, and the bones in them transformed into balls of light. They spoke a familiar voice, but in a language she wasn’t supposed to understand. The shadow let go of her and vanished. The cave vanished, the farm door and he vanished. There were only the balls of light. She felt a breeze. She could smell pleasant growth. She heard leaves rustling, a far away wind chime. She felt a warmth that surrounded her head, back, and arms.

        She heard a soft voice amidst the ancient whispers of the forest.

        “Jade,” it said.

        “Jade,” he said.

        “Jade?”

        She opened her eyes.

        Sebastian sighed in relief as he held her close to him. “Jade, you worried me sick... do you often go out here at four in the morning?”

        “What...?” Jade still tried to get a handle on reality. She saw her boyfriend’s worried face with the night sky behind him. The moon was slowly descending for the impending morning. Wait. They were outside. Jade suddenly sat up and looked around, puzzled.

        The raven-hair carefully watched her. “I woke up and you were walking outside in your pajamas. There’s still snow on the ground and you were about to jump the fence!” He huffed, and gestured to the slippers on her feet. “I at least brought those... were you sleepwalking?”

        The young farmer suddenly realized just how cold she was out in the dead of the night. Her feet were like blocks of ice, and immediately she began her trek back inside. Sebastian quickly followed her, concerned.

        “I... I never thought I sleepwalked before, I...” her words fumbled out before her. “It... I’m...” She went back inside with him right behind, immediately relieved by the warmth of the house. “I’m sorry,” she finally murmured.

        “Jade... it’s alright. It’s not like you could help it.” He gently smiled, but then frowned as he stared at her. She looked beyond exhausted, like the life was drained out of her. “How... how are you feeling?”

        “I’m...” Jade sighed. “I don’t know, right now.”

        He watched her for a moment, but then slowly nodded. It wasn’t the time to press on. “... Well... you should go back to sleep. I’m normally up at this time... I’ll keep an eye on you.”

        The girlfriend would have given a cheery response if it weren’t for the circumstances. She simply kissed his cheek half-heartedly and slowly walked back upstairs. Sebastian ran his hand through his hair, sighing anxiously. What a first night.

        Jade didn’t stir anymore in her sleep. She didn’t have any dreams or nightmares or any sort of thoughts before she woke. Sebastian kept his word; he stayed in the same room and would occasionally glance at her while he used his laptop. The morning came too soon, but seemingly there was peace. One more day until the Feast of the Winter Star.

        The young farmer enjoyed getting to have her boyfriend over for breakfast, and to know it would be every morning instead of the occasional sleepover. Sebastian wasn’t one for breakfast foods, but she saw him cooking as she went downstairs. Eggs, grits, sausages. It didn’t seem like him to cook and to make such a nice breakfast. Jade thought he did it as a treat for her, showing his concern under a domestic layer of care.

        She still appreciated it. “What’s all this?” she asked, smiling.

        “Oh, I just... kinda went through the fridge. You have this stuff so I assume you like it,” he started.

        “Honestly, I didn’t know you could cook much,” Jade snorted. Her tone indicated that she was fine. Or rather, she didn’t want anything to get to her that day.

        Sebastian understood. “Eh, I’ve cooked for mom before. Not the best, but I can make the basic stuff.”

        Jade smiled in thought. “You know, impressing you is why I started cooking more too. That, and farming up my own ingredients.”

        “Really?” He glanced at her.

        She chuckled. “Yeah. There was one time when I was making sashimi and Alex got onto me because he knew I didn’t like fish.”

        “Well I don’t like eggs so we’re even.” The raven-haired man gave a single strong nod and put the finished food on a plate. “Go on and eat, I know you work all day.”

        “Aw...” She smiled and sleepily kissed him on the cheek. “You better not do this too often, you’ll spoil me.”

        “Don’t plan to,” he snorted back with a pat on her head. “Alright, I’m taking a bath.” He gave a dismissive wave to her as he started walking off. She grinned as he did, the two exchanging familiar playful glances. Before he disappeared upstairs, she gave a roll of her eyes. A sign of annoyance to some, but to her, it meant she was able to make light of a scenario.

        Jade enjoyed her breakfast, spent some quality time with Onyx, and then set out to get ready for the day. She tried to act as if she didn’t remember her experience, even though she recalled every detail. Sebastian never prodded her about her being out in the snow, but they both knew she didn’t sleepwalk. She never has, not before the previous night. So why was she walking? The young farmer knew the answer somewhere, but the swelling suspicion wouldnt reach her conscience. She hoped she could find some kind of answer.

        The rabbits helped calm her down. They behaved a little differently, like they knew she was upset about something. The farmer just did her regular duties: brushing her bunnies’ soft fur and collecting wool, feeding the chickens and making sure they were healthy, grabbing the eggs they left. She loved Winter, but she just wanted the season to be over already. The season must have been messing with her, among other things.

        After Jade completed all her required work, she walked back to the place Sebastian found her, right at the gates. Nothing looked out of the ordinary, just a snow-covered fence that led deeper into the forest... wait. She knew the ruins were straight ahead. It could have been a coincidence, but it made her want to explore the ruins more. There had to be more there.

        She jumped over the fence and took a few steps forward. An incredibly ominous feeling came over her. The path felt different, much more... somber. A foreign force wanted to bring her in, but another one pleaded for her to go back. Plus, she couldn’t go exploring in this state. Not there, anyway. She hopped back over the fence and returned to the safety of her farm. “I’ll go tell Seb I’m leaving to forage,” she mumbled quietly to herself.

        So she did. By the time she returned to the house, Sebastian was upstairs and working in his new office. He didn’t even see her until she stood beside him and kissed him on the head.

        “Oh, hey,” he greeted, surprised by his own inability to notice. “You taking a break?”

        “I’m done with the farm right now, so I’m just going to go forage and explore the town some. I’ll be back this evening, most likely,” Jade said in response. She smiled at the thought of telling him such things. Usually they’d just message each other, but as they lived together, they only had to be a room apart.

        Sebastian looked away from the computer screen and returned her gaze. “Alright, be safe,” he muttered in a lighter tone. They kissed each other and hugged to signal their parting.

        “I will. You have fun getting used to the house,” she replied, smiling.

        The raven-hair returned her cheerful expression. “It’s still pretty weird, but I like it. It’s very quiet, and I like the window. Lots of trees.”

        She decided to stare out the nearby window with him. She agreed, it was nice. “Yeah, the farm is far away from everything. It sucks walking a lot though. Maybe I should get a horse.”

        “A horse? I bet my mom could hook you up.”

        “Really?” Jade pondered for a moment. “I’ll ask her about it later... it must be really expensive.”

        “Yeah, I mean, a regular horse is bigger than both of us combined,” he retorted.

        Jade rolled her eyes, still smiling. “It’s not hard to be bigger than the both of us, we’re both short.”

        “Hey! I’m not that short. I’m taller than you,” he sassed.

        Jade giggled and let it go for that moment. “Anyways... hey... before I leave, I want to know... how’s the festival tomorrow going to work?” she asked. She really didn’t intend to stay and chat with Sebastian, but she really enjoyed their conversations. She forgot why she was so nervous before.

        The raven-hair narrowed his eyes as he thought for a moment. “Eh, it’s nothing too bad. There’s a huge feast and all the families have to sit together. We all exchange gifts before the feast itself begins. Sometimes Willy tells us stories.” He yawned. “The food is pretty good.”

        “Ohh, I see... Where will I sit?” she mumbled in question.

        Sebastian almost looked offended. Jade could see his mother in those eyes. “With me, duh.”

        She couldn’t help but laugh. “I am part of the family, huh?”

        “My mom would kill you if you didn’t join us probably. Especially since you don’t have family in town.”

        “Well, I’m honored,” the young farmer concluded with a grin. “Thanks for the heads up. I’ll really be going now,” she said. The two kissed again and waved each other off. Jade left the house with her trusty backpack over her fluffy coat. She wore Sebastian’s old hoodie under her winter coat for warmth, but it also helped soothe her nerves. She found difficulty being anxious when she caught hints of his scent.

        Her foraging trip was more exciting than most other trips she had. Something seemed to be changing within the valley... slimes were everywhere in the more public areas of the Cindersap Forest. She equipped herself to slay them and collect the materials they dropped, but the ominous feeling she had before returned. Many of the slimes were blue in contrast to their normal green, but they did drop some fairly interesting items. She was able to salvage some foraged goods and some artifacts, even a nice weapon from one of them. She didn’t want to think about how the slime obtained it, though.

        As she walked towards the town, there were slimes. Jade slain all of them as she traveled since they all tried to attack, but she wondered how the other villagers dealt with it. Was it a certain breeding season? Or did it have something to do with the mines? Jade decided to go to the Adventurer’s Guild and see if they knew anything.

        “Good afternoon, Marlon,” Jade muttered as she entered. Marlon was inside and the cabin looked as it always did, but he seemed busy behind the counters; his visage showed seriousness and intensity. Slowly, Jade walked over. “I have um, some stuff to sell,” she mumbled and put the slime’s weapon on the table.

        “Afternoon,” he eventually replied, then examined the weapon. “I can give you 300 for it.”

        Jade’s eyes widened. “Yo! That’s good for me. Thank you,” she happily answered, and Marlon gave the gold while he kept the weapon. “I, uh, I found it in a slime. Does that normally happen?”

        He nodded. “Sometimes, yeah... You fighting deep in the forest?”

        The young farmer shook her head. “No, sir... I actually came here to ask you about that, and about the mines, if it’s okay.”

        The rugged man tensed up, but he didn’t stop her. He stared at her, as if a que to continue speaking.

        “There were slimes everywhere in the forest, you know, just below Marnie’s ranch. I’ve never seen them there before, so it worried me. Is there a kind of mating season or something?” she asked.

        Marlon sighed. “No, that’s unusual.” He seemed angry for some reason, but Jade knew the anger wasn’t directed towards her. “I’ll look into it,” he simply stated.

        “Thanks... Um... is there an ETA on when the mines will open up again?” she nervously muttered.

        Marlon shook his head. “Look, I can tell you’re a curious young lady. You’ve been adventuring for a little while and considering the stuff you’ve been selling to me, you aren’t bad at it either. Take my advice, though. Stay out of this one. Somethin’s brewing in this valley and we don’t know what it is yet. A friend of mine has been saying there’s an imbalance that needs to be fixed.”

        “Imbalance?”

        “Look, I don’t know. But you can tell. More monsters showing up in areas that villagers go to. There has to be a reason they’ve been doing that. We just don’t know what exactly it is yet. We can’t find answers.”

        Jade frowned. “And there’s nothing we can do?” she asked.

        Marlon glared at her. He understood she was well meaning, but he has dealt with horrors of the valley she hadn’t seen. “Look. If there comes a time we need you and other guild members’ help, we’ll ask for it. For now, though, just stay out of it. Slay the monsters you see, but don’t venture too deep in any place.”

        “I...” She wanted to say something, but the words wouldn’t come out of her mouth. Eventually, she gave up. “Alright.”

        “And if you do run into anything significant, let me know immediately,” he sternly finished.

        “I’ll be sure to do that,” Jade answered. “What would count as significant?”

        Marlon thought for a moment. “Any strange experiences, or a monster you haven’t seen before,” he answered.

        Strange experiences... “... I... Um, okay, I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks.” She waved to him and took her leave. A part of her wanted to tell him about the dream, but it seemed so unrelated. It’d only worry Marlon about stuff that didn’t concern him, anyway.

        As she left, she noticed Sam coming back from his work at Joja Mart. He grinned and she groaned since they both already knew what the conversation would be about. Sam eagerly asked her about Sebastian moving in and all the juicy details, though he found it disappointing that there were hardly any to give. After sending a warning to Sebastian through texting, the two walked back to the farm together and had a cheerful evening. Sam got a brief tour of the house and teased them until Sebastian ushered him out.

        Finally, they were left alone and they got to spend the rest of their day together. There was nothing much to note; they enjoyed being with one another and it felt like a normal and harmonious ending to an otherwise average day. When the two grew too tired, they got ready for bed and lay together, murmuring their goodnights and settling for sleep.

        Sebastian couldn’t sleep, though. “Jade?” he asked.

        “Hm?” She turned her head to look at him.

        “... Do you want to talk about what happened last night? With the sleepwalking?”

        Jade knew the subject would come up again sooner or later, but she couldn’t blame him. She slowly exhaled. “... I just had a really vivid dream. That’s all I remember about it.”

        “Do you normally have those dreams?” he asked again.

        She thought for a moment. “I... I’ve had a couple. This one felt more real than the last ones though.”

        Sebastian nodded while listening. “I’m glad you could sleep again. It’s always hard for me to when I have a nightmare...” He stayed quiet for a moment. No words went between them, but they were both awake. “... Do... Do you want to talk about it? About your nightmare?”

        Jade held his hand under the covers and sighed. “I don’t know. Not because I don’t want to tell you, but because I can’t muster the words that would properly explain it. It was just... it felt... bad. I felt really unhappy.” She frowned. “It was like I wasn’t in the valley anymore.”

        He watched her, then looked at the ceiling. “Ah...” A moment passed. “Well... I’m sorry. I hope you won’t have the nightmare again.”

        “Thanks,” she softly replied, and snuggled up to him. “You woke me up before, so I have you to thank for that.”

        “Mmhm.” Sebastian smiled and leaned in to her.

        They talked a little more, then fell asleep together. Their comfort was enough to destroy the bad vibes of the early morning.
         
          Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
          Roskii Heiral and Minimanta like this.
        • Satashi26

          Satashi26 Phantasmal Quasar

          You're still going at it!? oh my word... I'll get right on this!
           
          • MagicallyClueless

            MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer

            yup, though my pace has slowed down so it's not really as much as one would think
             
            • Stryder87

              Stryder87 Existential Complex

              I have to totally agree with this. After reading the story from start to Chapter 49 in 3 days, I can't play SDV anymore without my brain insisting that all the stuff you've written is game canon. I find myself, quite often, doing something in the game and having to give my head a shake to remind myself that certain things didn't actually happen, they were in your story (like the Operation FUL during the Luau! (I think that's what it was called)), or how the Wizard, Linus and Marlon watch over the mine and the monsters in it.

              You've screwed up the whole game for me!!!!! But in a good way! haha

              Yay, 2 new chapters to devour!
               
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              • MagicallyClueless

                MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer

                LOL that means a lot to me, thank you! I'm really glad you enjoyed it, by the way. And yesssss operation FUL was great. I have a lot of fun involving the characters in slightly different ways from the events in-game. The next chapter *should* be about feast of the winter star, so we'll see how that goes. I feel bad that I'm not uploading faster, but college takes all my attention and I only really have weekends to sit down and write. Hopefully I'll be able to do a lot more in november since it's NaNoWriMo.
                 
                • MagicallyClueless

                  MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer


                  Ring! Ring!

                  Jade groaned and opened her eyes, disturbed by the sound of her phone. It impatiently rang at her bedside, allowing her only a brief moment to grab it and check. There was no name on the caller ID, and the number was unknown. Against her better judgment, she pressed the call button and put it to her ear.

                  The other end was full of static. “Hello?” she asked in a hushed tone, quiet to not disturb Sebastian at her side.

                  A voice pierced through the static. “You escaped me once, but you will not get away again.” It was raspy, angry, but... it sounded like him, in a weird way.

                  Her eyes shot open. “Excuse me?” she asked, horrified.

                  “I know where to find you.”

                  Jade began trembling. “You’re not supposed to know this number!” she screamed. “You... you’re not! You’re lying!” Her eyes immediately began to tear up. She imagined the end of her farm life. It passed by too quickly... it couldn’t have ended this way.

                  The call ended. She glanced again at her phone. The number was still unknown, but the caller ID changed. The name ‘Jonah’ appeared in large, bold letters. She dropped her phone in shock.

                  Jade opened her eyes again and sprung up. Was... was that really a dream? No. It felt too real. She glanced at her phone, and it was still on her nightstand, screen off. She looked to the other side of the bed and Sebastian snoozed like he heard nothing. Jade reached for her phone and checked the screen, checked her recent calls. Nothing.

                  There was still a negative feeling in her gut. What was happening felt foreign, unknown. She didn’t imagine it... right? Could she really be going crazy?

                  “S-Sebastian,” murmured Jade as she nudged him awake. “Seb...”

                  “Hm?” He lifted his head, an exhausted and grumpy look appropriate on his face. “What?” he bluntly asked.

                  “I-I, um...” She began tearing up. “Sorry...”

                  His eyes widened towards her reaction and he shifted himself to sit. “What’s wrong?” he asked, more awake.

                  “I had another... dream. It... it felt real, like the last one. I thought I was awake but I wasn’t.” She frowned and wiped her eyes before tears could run down her cheeks. “This is really frustrating me... I feel like I’m going nuts.”

                  Sebastian stared at her, concerned. “Whoa, now... what happened? What did you dream about?”

                  “He called me... h-he... oh, Yoba, I’m a wreck,” she murmured again. “It’s... you know... a long time ago I mentioned a stalker?”

                  “Yeah... I remember that,” he replied.

                  Jade exhaled and tried to keep her composure. “He called me... he had my number, and said he knew where to find me.”

                  “Well... it was a dream, right? It’s not true,” Sebastian retorted, worry increasing on his face.

                  “That’s why I haven’t seen my parents, you know? When I left the apartment, he knew I would go see my parents. But I couldn’t go there. I didn’t want to drag them into this. They know nothing about it,” she explained; a tear finally escaped one of her eyes. “I don’t know what would’ve happened if I was there. He really.... he... he had a temper, you know? I was okay if he called me hundreds of times if he left them alone.”

                  Sebastian was silent, only listening to her.

                  “Maybe it was stupid... everyone probably thinks I’m dead by now. I dropped off the radar. I... my old life wasn’t all that great, but... but I still think about them, you know? I still think about my parents, and how much I love them,” she sobbed. “But I can’t go back, I can’t. He’ll find me... it took me months to get him off my trail. He called me so many times, I saw him follow me, I had to do so much to leave and to go way out here, into the valley.”

                  “Jade...” Sebastian didn’t really know what to say. “... I know I can’t say much about it, but... did you... did you ever go to the authorities about this?”

                  “He was the authority,” Jade quickly responded. “And he was the star of the community. Everyone loved him, everyone respected him. He couldn’t do any wrong. But he was evil.” She wiped her eyes again. “I saw his temper, his obsession, his manipulation. I knew who he really was. But no one ever believed me, because I was so quiet, I kept to myself all the time. I never went out. And he knew that I knew.” She deeply breathed. “I feel like, if I didn’t escape, he would have found a way to silence me for good. So I just decided to disappear instead.”

                  Her significant other continued to watch her, keeping a distance that she needed for the moment. “Is it alright for me to ask who this person was?” he muttered.

                  “His, um... his name was Jonah,” Jade returned. “I... I regret a lot of things I did, a lot of things I said and didn’t say. It’s been really hard to adjust to the valley, with people who want to know me, and everyone so welcoming and nice. Sometimes, it made me feel even worse... Like I don’t deserve to be happy here.”

                  “You know that’s not true...”

                  “Yeah, I know,” she continued. “I know it’s all in my head. I really like that everyone is so honest here, and how real the connections are. I do feel like I belong here... that’s what makes me so scared, if my past catches up to me, if he really does find me. I don’t... I don’t want to think of what would happen.”

                  “Maybe it won’t happen... if you really did drop off the map,” Sebastian mentioned.

                  She sighed. “Well, he knew I was alive. A month into my drive, I found out he was tracking my phone. I had to destroy it and keep going, but I lost him for like half a year. I nonstop traveled, so I lived on the road pretty much. I was able to go to the valley when the house was finished. Maybe he did think I was dead after that, or just gave up searching, but a part of me doubts it. I think he’d still be looking for me.”

                  Sebastian ran his fingers through his hair in frustrated thought. “Look... if there’s any chance that your stalker’s gonna find this dinky old town in Stardew Valley, you’re not alone. I have your back, my family has your back, all of your friends have your back.”

                  “Thank you... it really does mean a lot to me.” Jade managed to smile. “Pitiful, huh... I became a farmer in a dying town because it’s the last thing he’d expect me to be. But... I actually love it. I love this job.”

                  Sebastian snorted. “Well, I wouldn’t say dying. I think you breathed some life back into it.”

                  “You think so?” She smiled more.

                  “Yeah. I’m very happy you’re here, anyways.” He closed the distance between them with a hug and she returned the embrace.

                  “I love you,” she murmured in his shoulder.

                  Sebastian blushed. “I love you too,” he replied. “It was just a nightmare. Maybe you just need some fresh air and relaxation to get things off your mind.”

                  “Yeah...” She sighed in his arms. “Maybe the festival today will do me some good.”

                  “That’s the spirit,” he smiled. “Afterwards, how about we go for a drive? We can get some food.”

                  “I’d love that.” She relaxed and felt secure from Sebastian’s hold. Everything he said seemed just right. Maybe she wasn’t so crazy.

                  “Oh, and you know what we haven’t done in a while?” he asked again.

                  “Hm?”

                  “We haven’t fought some monsters. Or, well, I haven’t. I bet there’s a ton in the forest.”

                  Jade’s eyes brightened. “There’s been a lot more monsters, lately. Marlon wants us to get rid of any he sees. We should definitely go do that.”

                  Sebastian smiled more. “It’s a date, then.”

                  She blushed and playfully pushed him. “Sure, I guess,” she laughed. Sebastian pushed her back with equal force, and their conversation devolved into silly teases and jokes.

                  Something was wrong, but for a little while, Sebastian could make it right. That’s what Jade told herself. A little doubt swelled in the very back of her mind, though. What if, one day, Sebastian isn’t there to make it right?

                  --

                  After their morning rounds around the farm were finished, the couple walked hand-in-hand towards the town square, which is where the Feast of the Winter Star would take place. Both of them carried a wrapped gift in their free arms, while their other arms were intertwined with each other. Being with Sebastian always made Jade much more cheerful, but as silence passed between them on the cold walk, the more her joy faded, back to how she was in waking up. Sebastian glanced at her every once in a while, and noticed she was still shaken from the previous events... He watched her nervously, though tried to keep his composure. Only the sounds of faraway birds and slimes creeping about near trees could be heard. “Have you ever had a big festival dinner before?” He asked, trying to break the silence.

                  Jade thought for a brief moment. “A family one or a town one? I mean, my family would have feasts when we all lived together... I lived in too big of a city to have get-togethers like this. Maybe if I went to a church or something...”

                  “Ah, well, you’ll really enjoy this one. All the families have tables and there’s tons of food to eat. I’m actually getting hungry thinking about it,” the raven-hair groaned.

                  Jade could tell what he was doing. He was acting much cheerier than his usual self in an attempt to cheer her up too. It was sweet... but something still felt off about the day. She really wished she could be more like herself, enthusiastic and loud, but it wasn’t coming to her. Maybe this was the real her.

                  “I wonder what it’s like to make out in the snow?” Sebastian pondered aloud.

                  The farmer’s previously downcast eyes widened and she stared at him, surprised. “Did I hear that right?” she asked, nearly hysterical, cheeks even more pink than what the cold gave her.

                  Sebastian couldn’t help but laugh; he hoped that would get her attention. “Yes, I just wanted to see if you’d answer. I was losing you a bit there.” He warmly smiled and kissed her head. “Um... Maybe you’ll feel better having some good food,” he muttered.

                  Jade sighed. “... Sebastian, did I make it awkward for us?” she asked.

                  “What? No, not at all. Please don’t think that,” he answered with more concern on his visage. “I mean, all the information I got was a bit overwhelming, but... it would be for anybody. I’m not going anywhere.”

                  She considered his words and thought again, drooping her head in defeat. “I suppose so... thank you,” she murmured. Her hand tightened to his. “I know it doesn’t need to be said, but please don’t tell anybody.”

                  There were a lot of things Sebastian wanted to say, but he knew it wasn’t right to chime in at the moment. Maybe when things settled. “I won’t,” he simply replied. They smiled at each other. Even though Jade’s expression faded some, it was still sincere.

                  All of Pelican Town crowded around their main meeting place, which seemed small and cramped when everyone was there at the same time. Several buffet tables were set around a gigantic, gorgeous festival tree, which was adorned with lush white garland and multicolored ornaments. Of course, as the festival was called Feast of the Winter Star, a giant, gleaming yellow star sat atop the huge tree for everyone to gaze. Each table had different families- Pierre and Caroline sans Abigail, Penny and Pam, Alex and his grandparents, Jodi and her sons, and last but never the least, Sebastian’s family at the far end table. There were extra tables for everyone else, like Elliott, Leah, Willy, and everyone else who thrived on their own in the valley. The tables themselves had hot and steamy festival meals: turkey, ham, dressings, rolls, many things covered in cheese and such delicious unhealthiness that one (except maybe Leah) couldn’t resist!

                  Robin’s face lit up when she noticed Jade and Sebastian walking towards their family table together. She frantically waved them over, causing Maru to laugh and wave at the two as well. Demetrius, though not participating in his family’s antics, managed to smile to the two.

                  “Hey! Are you guys ready to dig in?” grinned Robin. “What gifts did you get? Are any of them for me?”

                  Sebastian and Jade exchanged glances. They knew she was more excited for the gifts than the food.

                  “Settle down, dear, they just got here,” Demetrius murmured, a drop of sweat trickling down his forehead. “You look like you’re going to flip the table over.”

                  “Sorry!” Robin beamed, then sat back down. “I’m just excited.”

                  Jade’s mood improved some. “Do you mind If I sit with you guys this year?” she shyly asked. She knew what the answer would be, but she still didn’t want to barge in.

                  “Wh-I... Wow! Excuse me! Sit down!” huffed the carpenter, nearly appalled that Jade felt like she had to ask.

                  Obediently, she sat down, grinning. “I didn’t mean to offend you, Robin!”

                  “I can’t wait for you to stop calling me Robin,” she grumbled. “You better stay with us while you can before you get your own family table,” Robin then cackled. The couple in question groaned in unison, though Sebastian decided to cover his face in doing so.

                  Sebastian took a deep breath. “Mother, you do,” He sat back up, then clapped his hands together and aimed them at her. “You do realize that... that we’re not married, right? You know this?”

                  Robin crossed her arms.

                  “I want you to say it,” he sternly told her.

                  She looked off with her signature stubborn glare. “Well, you’re living together, you might as w-”

                  “I want you to say it, Mom,” he repeated. “It’s embarrassing for you to keep bringing stuff up like that!”

                  Robin huffed. “Fine, fine. Not married. Whatever. Buuut!” She slammed her hands on the table. “How’s the house life doing? I can tell you have so much color on your face already!”

                  “Mom, that’s because you caught him off guard,” Maru whispered.

                  “Oh please, he’s glowing,” Robin answered back with a flail of the wrist.

                  Sebastian stood up with a bored look on his face. “I’m getting food,” he grumbled, then stalked off to the other side of the table.

                  Jade sighed, a little embarrassed for him as well, but decided to stay in her seat to take in the environment. She could hear chattering all around her, smell the food’s many irresistible scents, and see the family that’s warmed up to her so much over the past year. It really has been a crazy year, now that she thought about it. Having a family again felt nice. She exhaled, trying to relax herself again.

                  The family ate together and enjoyed themselves, for a grand festival like this only happened annually. Surprisingly, there was no arguing at the table: Sebastian learned to keep his mouth shut (with food) and Demetrius didn’t really want to disturb his girls’ joy. After all their feasting concluded, it was finally time to give gifts. Jade, slumped in her dining seat, nervously eyed Penny, then glanced around to make sure no one noticed. She nervously clutched the gift box to herself and prayed to Yoba, or whoever was listening, that she would enjoy a homemade gift. She looked at Sebastian, too, who seemed nervous about giving his own gift; the recipient was his sister, after all.

                  Sebastian and Jade exchanged looks, then calmed down once meeting each other’s gaze. With a form nod, both of them got up and left to deliver their gifts. Penny chattered with Sam, who held a new comic book in his hand. Jade didn’t want to interrupt their conversation, but right as she approached, Sam winked at the red-head and walked off to some other part of the town square.

                  Finally, she spoke up: “Penny?” Jade squeaked in an attempt to get her attention. The young woman in question turned her head towards Jade, then pleasantly smiled.

                  “Having a good festival, Jade?” she asked.

                  The young farmer nodded. “Yeah! Um, I was your secret santa, so...” She handed the gift off as quickly as she could. Penny stared at the box with surprise, but smiled more as she tore the wrapping and opened it.

                  Inside the box shimmered a brand new scarf with a green as deep and bright as Penny’s eyes. Her smile formed into a grin, and she snatched the scarf to examine it. “Wow!” beamed Penny, “It’s so pretty! Did you make this?” she asked.

                  A sigh of relief. Penny seemed to like it, so Jade was satisfied with that. “Yeah, I made it from my rabbits’ wool. It’s extra soft and should keep you warm!”

                  “I love it, and the color is so pretty. Thank you,” she warmly replied and wrapped it around her neck. “I don’t own any scarves, so this was really nice. It’s been a brutal season.”

                  “Yeah, I noticed you don’t have too much warm clothes, so I thought I could add to it. I hope it lasts a while!” Jade replied with zeal. She was in a much better mood since the present was a success. The two continued their conversation, which was enjoyable and light-hearted. It was nice talking to more people again.

                  When Jade and Penny’s talk concluded, there were still other things to be done. Jade searched for her beloved Sebastian in the crowd of people and noticed him and Maru having a pleasant talk. It seemed like Maru approved of whatever he got her, too... that was a relief. Now, all that was left was...

                  “Hello?” called someone from the other direction. Jade turned to see who it was- oh! It was Dr. Harvey. Her heart skipped a beat from nerves. He never talked to Jade, or really all that many people from what she saw. It should have been obvious why he called her out, but in the moment, she felt like she did something wrong.

                  She gulped. “U-um, hi, Dr. Harvey,” she muttered.

                  Then Harvey was the nervous one. “O-oh, Harvey’s fine, um, I’m not working,” he mumbled in response. “I just... I have a gift for you, uh, this year, so, here.” He hastily offered a small gift box to her, which she took without much thought.

                  “Oh yeah, my secret gift! Thank you, Harvey!” Jade said with excitement.

                  “Uh, I didn’t really know what to give you, so... But! I hope you like it, and stay safe over the holidays,” he stammered. Jade ripped her gift open with such excitement that she didn’t notice Harvey left just seconds after.

                  Her excitement quickly faded, and she realized then when Harvey left. It was... medicine. Just... medicine. Jade sighed a little, though she knew she couldn’t be too ungrateful. After all, a gift was a gift. She did get sick last Fall, and Winter wasn’t too kind of a season, either. Plus, she’s had the strange dreams. Maybe it was medicine that could help her rest easier? She checked the bottle- oh! That’s... exactly what it was. He gave her sleep aid. A pleasant coincidence.

                  The gift wasn’t too bad, then. She would get a use out of it, and her gift to Penny was a success, so the whole holiday went well overall. Jade wafted her gaze over to Sebastian yet again, and saw him sitting alone at the family table. She wandered over and plopped beside him, curiously eyeing his gift. “Did you get anything nice, Seb?” she asked.

                  Sebastian lifted his head and looked over, only just realizing her presence. “Oh, hey,” he muttered, then smiled. “Yeah, I got something from Alex, can you believe it?”

                  Jade snorted. Of course she could believe it. Who does he think Alex went to for gift help? “What did you get?” she asked again, though her sly glare knew everything.

                  His expression lightened more and he rolled his eyes at her attitude. “I got a new scenario pack for Solarion Chronicles... that was actually really cool of him. Even if you probably helped him.”

                  “I’m glad!” beamed Jade. “We should try them out later.”

                  “Definitely. Hey, though... I’m... kinda done with people, how about we leave now?” Sebastian asked, his voice quiet. He did seem a little tired, and Jade completely understood. Talking to so many people did take a lot of energy out of him... admittedly, her too. Maybe more energy than she came to terms with.

                  So, she nodded. “Yeah, let’s go.” The two stood up and walked off together, passing their goodbyes to nearby friends and family as they exit the crowds and towards Cindersap Forest. Sebastian noticed the small box she carried, though knowing her, she would have yelled her gift to the clouds... he wasn’t sure whether to pursue or not. It’s been a little weird lately, and she just wanted to walk. Jade didn’t realize how quiet she was, but Sebastian did.

                  Sebastian loved Jade, but he felt frustrated... he thought he knew her well enough to know what exactly to do. He thought he would be able to help, and make her forget all her bad ties with the past, the bad memories and the gloomy aftermath. None of it was really her fault, nor could he say it was his for not knowing what to do. But lack of understanding didn’t make the situation better. He could feel Jade slipping from his fingers, and the last thing he wanted was for her spark, the first thing he fell in love with, to fade. Sebastian frowned, noticing her increasingly exhausted look. He hoped it was because of the festival, but he was too smart for that. He knew the early morning still bothered her.

                  “Hey, Jade-

                  “YOU!” interrupted the Wizard. He appeared out of nowhere, just as they exit the town square. Both Jade and Sebastian jumped from the sudden shout and stared at the purple-bearded mage, dumbfounded.

                  “Rasmodius?” gasped Jade, unsure what else to say.

                  “Do you have any idea what you’ve done? Did you not heed my warnings?!”

                  Sebastian was lost. He looked to Jade, and he could tell Jade was lost, too. What did she do? The wizard seemed too angry to care about their reactions.

                  Jade went into a panic. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she stammered, tensing from the accusation.

                  “The- oh, we don’t have much time!” he yelled as he quickly examined Jade; he opened her eyelids wide, checked her hands, and felt the temperature on her head, all in just a few seconds. It happened so quickly that Jade couldn’t really react- “Gah! You are coming with me!”

                  “Wait, wait!” Jade pleaded, “I really don’t know why you’re-”

                  “No time!” yelled the wizard, then strongly gripped her shoulders. In a flash of purple, they vanished, leaving Sebastian by himself. He could barely process what just happened, and every exchanged word made him as confused as he was suspicious. As soon as the thoughts came together, though, they were gone.

                  The freezing chill rattled leaves of nearby trees and the voices from the town square were nothing but echoes. The raven-haired man stared off towards the forest, unmoving, as if he broke, too. A gust of wind pushed against him, almost begging him to stay put. But his legs started moving without his direct thought. There were a lot of things to question, but there was no point. There was no time. Sebastian continued walking, blank expression turning into one of fierce determination. His steps were more certain. If there was no time, then there was no time for him to dawdle. He knew one place the wizard could be.



                  So there's a few reasons it took me forever to get this chapter out. No motivation, life got complicated, and since this fic is reaching 2 years, it's not as easy for everything to make sense. Ideas and plot points change as I write more and my direction was originally much different (and tbh not as good) as where I'm going now. There are some things I wish I could trim from the fic and I REALLY wish I could rewrite a few things (the stupid phone is one of them, i think i could've done the spooky phonecalls without her having to have it in chapter 6), but that's just how it goes when you write chapter-by-chapter. Maybe when I'm finished, I'll go through it some, but I'm more of a keep-looking-forward kind of person. My writing style continues to develop and change more, so I can confidently say my writing now is way better than the start of this fic. I would hope so, since it was a year and a half ago whew

                  You'll be happy to know that I have the rest of the fic planned out now. I don't know how many chapters it'll take, we still have quite a bit to go, but i do have the main plot points figured out and I've made everything fit together. I estimate we'll have about 20 chapters to go, being generous with numbers- the climax is definitely in around 13-15 chapters, and then the aftermath and loose ends might be a couple chapters after that. Either way, the end is in sight, even though 20 seems like a lot.

                  Thank you to everyone who stuck with me on this journey so far! It really does mean a lot, seriously. I get this is a super long fanfic and it's not traditionally lighthearted, but it is my first fanfic and I hope my way of storytelling has interested you. I really hope you continue to enjoy the fic and I hope to see you at the end, too.
                   
                    Rod&Root, Byakuren, Minimanta and 3 others like this.
                  • Rod&Root

                    Rod&Root Void-Bound Voyager

                    Hey, at least you're making more progress, right? That's something. Life does get complex, and sometimes motivation goes out the window. You can't really force yourself to do something because then the product isn't what you want it to be and you're not happy with it. You're doing fine; take your time and have fun with writing.
                     
                    • MagicallyClueless

                      MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer

                      I don't have much to say in response except thank you, it means a lot!
                      i thought i'd get the next chapter out faster but honestly school has been kicking my ass this week. i hope i'll have the weekend to do my personal projects
                       
                        Roskii Heiral likes this.
                      • Rod&Root

                        Rod&Root Void-Bound Voyager

                        School will do that. At least you're not as slow as me! I took seven months to write a second chapter and so far another three to get 1100 words into the third! You're far and ahead of me by 50 chapters :rofl:

                        So when you're feeling slow just remember,"I'm faster than that other guy. He's like a turtle in winter, stuck in molasses, and going uphill."
                         
                          MagicallyClueless likes this.
                        • Stryder87

                          Stryder87 Existential Complex

                          I can only speak from my own view, and my own experience as a writer, but I think you're doing fine! I've read many fan-fics in the past and none kept me coming back looking for more like this one does. Like I mentioned before, you ruined the game for me because of your convincing writing style... your story is game canon in my head. haha :)

                          I know very well the pain of looking back on your own writing and shredding it. I have stacks of stories that, when I was writing them, were the best I could do, and I portrayed things like I wanted , but now, looking back, I cringe. That's what evolving as an artist (and a person) will do to you; your outlooks change Writing (and posting) a chapter at a time definitely works against the polish a writer wants to present, but it also let's others join you on the journey of your story, as well as your journey as a writer. It's a very personally exposing thing, and you have a TON more courage than I do to let people in on that journey, so thumbs up to you!

                          It's been pretty fun to follow your plot, think of all the different ways I would take the story, then wait and see how you do it. There's lots of unanswered questions, plot threads unresolved and character interaction expectations to be developed, so it's a pretty good draw as a reader.

                          Don't worry about it going dark. Being too light and sugary is ok for anime and manga, but don't those kinds of stories still draw you in more when they take a darker turn? Stress your characters... let them tell YOU who they are. It's an interesting thing when you create a character, put them in situations, and then THEY write the story and take YOU, the writer/creator, along for the ride as well. I've had a number of characters turn out to be someone other than who I intended them to be. Let them grow and lead you. It makes for a more organic story, and you'll end up at the end amazed with what happened. :)
                           
                            MagicallyClueless likes this.
                          • MagicallyClueless

                            MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer

                            Sorry it's taken me a while to answer, but I read it as soon as you posted and everything you said really helped me. Thank you, and it means so much for you to say all of that!

                            Yeah, I've definitely grown in writing since my first chapter. I'm glad I took the step to put it all online, because I've written a lot before, but never really opened myself up to the Great Unknown(tm). It's hard to get critique on something you take so personally, so it was terrifying putting my fic out there. But the reception has been good and the critique I get *usually* isn't so bad. One time someone told me to how to use spellcheck on Microsoft Word and talked to me like I just learned to read 30 seconds ago, unable to comprehend that people make errors even if they know how to spell the word, but other than that it's been good.

                            My classes have been helping me a lot too and showed a lot of errors I make in my writing. It's kind of embarrassing looking back on it, because with what I've learned, it's not that hard to tell some of my stuff is first-draft. But that's why I'm getting better and I actually am revising my work waaaay more, haha. I write the whole chapter and then let it sit for a while before going back and changing some of the details. I used to have betas, but they always disappear and get caught up in their own lives, so I need the revising experience anyway. I also need to learn to use active voice waaaaaaaaay more.

                            Anyways, I'm done rambling LOL. Thank you again!
                             
                              Roskii Heiral likes this.
                            • MagicallyClueless

                              MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer


                              “I told you ages ago to never go to the ruins, but you did! I should have kept a closer eye on you, living so close to that horrible place- Gah!” The wizard jumped back as a puff of smoke from the cauldron smacked his face. He desperately fanned the fog away, then stirred the pot while Jade stood in a baffled state.

                              “Wait... what just happened?” Jade asked. She examined her surroundings; they were in a dim room made out of cobblestone. The torches and ominous glows surrounding the room barely illuminated the many trinkets and jarred collectibles on the walls and shelves. There was also a tiny window that had little impact of the room’s visibility. Jade wandered over and looked outside; they were in the Cindersap Forest, there was no doubt. Still, that didn’t explain one vital mystery: “How did we get here?”

                              Rasmodius appeared extremely... irate. “What, so you got nothing to say about the ruins, huh? You just want to know how I poofed us here? I’m a wizard, girl, think with your brain!”

                              Jade flinched. “I’m sorry,” she muttered. “I... look, I went to the ruins a couple times. I was careful, though. I haven’t been there in a long time-”

                              “What was the earliest you’ve been there??”

                              She didn’t know what to say. “Um... maybe... Summer?”

                              His jaw dropped. “Summer?! This thing has potentially been with you for two to three whole seasons?! No wonder there have been monsters everywhere, they’ve been wandering closer and closer! Sending all the damn creatures into a panic!”

                              What? Jade stared at him in fear; she didn’t know what to do.

                              The wizard took a deep breath, realizing he was getting too carried away. Of course the girl didn’t know what was going on; it was information only select people knew, if even that. “Before I even answer, you need to tell me what you’ve been experiencing.” He slowed his stirring, then turned to her, serious expression still evident. “If you have what I think you have, then your life has been taking a turn.”

                              “A turn?” Jade scratched her head. “I... I mean, there have been positive things happening. It’s wrong for me to just... be unhappy, right?”

                              “Then why are you?” Rasmodius asked, again. “You’re unhappy, right?”

                              She didn’t really expect to get a lecture out of a purple-bearded man of all people. She slowly breathed, and nodded in admission. “I... I guess I am unhappy. There’s this... weight, that’s been on me for a while now. Even when everything is going right, I just can’t help but feel everything is about to go wrong. I’ve made too many mistakes, and I feel like I’m being punished for it. Rightfully so.”

                              “Well, I have some good news for you. Maybe you got your own problems, we all do, girl, we all do. But there’s something that’s been making it much worse on you,” he said.

                              Jade watched him. She didn’t really know what he meant and she felt too stupid to ask. Her silence indicated him to continue on: “You’re being possessed, farmer. A shadow spirit took a hold of you.”

                              As if on cue, he held his hand up to keep her from speaking again. He continued, “It’s not on you right now, but its influence is unmistakable and the aura it left on you reeks of dark magic. It will return if we do nothing about it.” Rasmodius grabbed a glass cup and watched the cauldron as it slowed to a simmer. He looked back at Jade, and sighed. “Did you ever see anything like that? A shadow spirit looks exactly how it sounds: a shadow. They are amorphous blobs of void essence and most of them are very dangerous... not to be mistaken with the Shadow People, though they look very similar. Shadow Spirits are corrupted and are not even questionably alive.”

                              The young farmer’s heart sank. Possession was too heavy of a word to properly grasp, let alone it being something that actually happened in their world. At least the wizard understood enough to let her decompress for a moment. When she was ready, she finally answered: “I... I did see something like that, long ago. It was a rainy day, and I saw a lot of them walk in the middle of that abandoned town. It was the second time I ever went to that area.”

                              Rasmodius seemed much more in control of his emotions, so he simply stroked his beard. “I see,” he said, voice low and intimidating. “If it’s been with you this long, then no doubt you’ve experienced the long-term effects. These shadows live in those ruins, and seek to expand their territory. As ravenous as the things are, they’re very intelligent... They might have targeted you for that purpose, especially since you live so close.” He sighed. “They can’t reproduce like most living things can; they’re monsters, born from the shadows of their former selves. They feed by draining the energy of living things until they can no longer sustain themselves... if I didn’t catch you now, no doubt you would have suffered the same fate,” he explained.

                              Maybe she wasn’t crazy after all. All the things she went through... they were actually legitimate? “So... the nightmares... the sleepwalking... it...?”

                              “That was probably the shadow spirit, exposing whatever weakness it can find.”

                              It was clearer now. Jade understood, at least a little bit. But, she knew being possessed didn’t create her problems... she already had those problems. The shadow spirit simply dug them out from the very back of her memory, where she buried them away... that was the part she didn’t understand as much. But at least the visions, the nightmares, all those experiences that were too real, there was actually a purpose. “Well... How can I stop it, then?” Jade asked.

                              “That’s the tricky part,” Rasmodius answered. “There is a ritual I can perform to rid you of the spirit’s hold, but...” he sighed. “I don’t think I have the power to do that. Even I, with all the abilities I possess, am unable to do this task. However, I can do one thing.”

                              “What is it?”

                              “I can protect parts of your mind. The shadow spirit won’t know that you’re aware of it, and it won’t be able to feed off of your weaknesses, at least for a little while. I highly recommend you take the opportunity.”

                              Jade nodded. “Okay, but... um, what about the ritual? If you can’t perform it... will I just have to keep doing the second option? It sounded temporary,” she replied, unsure.

                              The wizard appeared unamused, though he was willing to reason with her. “The shadow spirits have a grave enemy, one that has kept them from slithering into the main reaches of Pelican Town. The forest spirits, Junimos, have had their territory in and near Pelican Town for a long time. Perhaps you can ask them for help.”

                              Her eyes widened. “The Junimos!” she repeated, nearly ecstatic. “The letter they gave me... they wanted me to prove that the valley is my home, and gave me several tasks to complete. I... I still need to do three more,” she said. Her excited voice slowed down to a mutter.

                              “It sounds like you still need to gain their trust, then. Knowing the world’s balance as it is, their trust for humanity has decreased and their numbers have suffered because of it. The spell I can cast on you will protect you for a little while, but it would be smart to assist the Junimos and restore their faith. Maybe then, they’ll help you. You have a common enemy,” the wizard concluded. He peered over to the cauldron again, then scooped up some of the glowing liquid with the glass cup.

                              “That makes sense... okay, but, the tasks are super cryptic. What do I even do?” The young farmer frowned. “I’ve read them over in my free time, and I can’t really figure them out... one of them is to become a part of the community, another is to unite myself with the stars, and the third one is to speak to the people of the past. The first one makes some kind of sense, I guess, but I don’t know how to prove it... and the other two are very... strange?”

                              The mysterious bearded elder nodded to himself. “Those are the exact words?” he asked, then upon her nodding, thought some more. “People of the past makes me think of those who are no longer with us. We have a graveyard near the river, surely you’ve seen it by now. I sense many auras there often. Maybe you should investigate.”

                              “Okay. I’ll take whatever hints I can get,” Jade replied. She felt much more thankful than she actually sounded, but the wizard wasn’t exactly a cheerful fellow himself. The graveyard sounded like a good place to start, in any case... she never took the time to read the gravestones or see who the previous members of the town were. Reading them would help her become part of the community a little more, too. “Thank you... um, so what is the spell you’re going to cast, then?”

                              The wizard glared at her with those serious eyes of his. “Simple,” he started, offering her the cup of strange liquid. “Drink this first. It will give you the vulnerability required to take the spell.”

                              She returned the glare. The color was a gross and glowing neon green. The last thing she drank from the wizard made her pass out. “Is this going to knock me out?” she asked, cautious.

                              He rolled his eyes and sighed. “If you absolutely must know, your subconscience is much stronger than your conscience, for it goes beyond your petty human senses. So, yes, it will knock you out, because it is too much for you to grasp. But when you wake, the spell will be on you, and you can finally leave. You’re welcome.”

                              “Yoba, fine,” grunted the farmer as she took the glass. “I trust you. Thank you for helping me... and... I’m... I’m sorry. I should have listened to you more than I actually did.”

                              Rasmodius shook his head. “This issue goes beyond you and me, girl. We must do what we must do. The faster you drink, the earlier you can leave.”

                              His answer didn’t satisfy Jade, but he was right. This was beyond the both of them. Closing her eyes and plugging her nose with two fingers, she downed the ominously colored potion. A chill went down her spine and her face scrunched up, even though she masked the taste the best she could. Then, everything got fuzzy. Her muscles weakened and her posture faltered. The wizard walked towards her before everything went black.



                              A familiar scent stirred the young farmer back into the waking world. It was cold, but she relaxed, cradled by something- no, someone. It was his scent, his arms, his hold. Jade opened her eyes to the setting sun, confused, but relaxed. She heard the crunching of snow, and focused her vision. Sebastian carried her, looking serious and calm, quiet with a busy mind. She caught a glimpse of the barn... they were back home already? Wait... what happened?

                              “Seb...?” murmured the young farmer. She didn’t know what happened, or why she had to be carried. Her head felt like it weighed a thousand pounds and her eyelids struggled to open further. Her mind was clouded, fuzzy... it was hard to think. She wondered if she had been drugged, since she hardly had any control of her limbs.

                              At least Sebastian’s face softened when Jade spoke to him. He smiled, relieved to see her awake. “Hey,” he gently replied. “Don’t try to move much, we’re almost home.”

                              “What... happened?”

                              “The wizard said you might have some amnesia... Try to get some rest first, and then we’ll take care of everything else, alright?” The worry in his voice increased, though it was so caring at the same time. Normally she would try to combat him in a war of wits, but she felt too weak from whatever occurred.

                              Sebastian found a way to unlock the front door while carefully holding his significant other. He walked inside and finally ascended the stairs to put her in bed. He gently placed her on her side of the bed, then flopped back to his side with a groan. “I can’t believe I carried you all that way. At least the tower wasn’t too far, but still. My arms are killing me now.”

                              Jade sleepily smiled. “You calling me fat?”

                              “No, I’m calling me weak,” he huffed. “Anyways, I guess the date we planned for tonight is cancelled. That’s alright, though. Take the rest of the night to sleep.”

                              “Can you at least tell me what happened?” she asked.

                              He sat up. “Depends, are you awake enough to read a letter? The wizard wrote it for you. You were at his tower and I got there right after you passed out... he explained most of the ordeal to me, but admittedly I let my temper get the best of me,” Sebastian muttered with embarrassment. “I was just scared you were hurt, that’s all.”

                              “I’m fine,” she answered, a calm smile on her face. She wasn’t sure if she could focus on reading the letter, but Sebastian’s voice was good enough for the time. “I didn’t mean to worry you again,” she said as she sunk further into the bed.

                              “It’s alright. That wasn’t really your doing. The wizard, you know, appeared out of nowhere and took you. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the stuff he said... I guess it’s surreal for me, knowing magic is even more intense than what any game could do.” He blushed, feeling even more self conscious than before. “Sorry, I know you’re supposed to get some rest. When you feel better, we’ll get up to speed.”

                              His voice was already fading again, and Jade closed her eyes. The raven-hair touched her forehead with his hand to make sure she wasn’t getting sick... luckily, she seemed alright. He frowned, thinking about all the information the wizard told him. Of all places, Jade decided to move to Pelican Town: a magical hot-spot of dreadful creatures.



                              Sorry for the short chapter. I originally had this completely done but then I had a better idea, so I changed it. Simultaneously, school work has been kicking my ass. Like read-200-pages-for-one-assignment ass kicking. That, and I've been distracted by video games, I'll be honest. Buuuut I really want to continue writing on my personal projects, including this one. It's just harder to make the time. I really hope things will calm down and I'll be able to focus on personal works, so college stops taking over my life.

                              Anyways, we finally know the culprit! We've come full circle! The creepy writing now has more merit! Whoohoo! I've been planning this for a while and it's one of the plot points I've really liked throughout the changes my story has been through. It also gives a better connection to the Junimos, which I originally was 100% stumped on. Hopefully the story doesn't seem choppy or anything because of it, but we'll have some more actiony stuff approaching. Like I said before, if I could polish on some previous chapters, I would, but I'm a keep-looking-forward kind of person and I'd rather have a complete fic than for me to take like another whole year to revise everything and change the chapters I'm unhappy with.

                              Hope you enjoyed and have a good day/night!
                               
                              • MagicallyClueless

                                MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer


                                Jade received the best rest she had in a long time. Her memory was still fuzzy, but she read the letter from Rasmodius as soon as she woke up. The old-timey, almost fancy letter detailed their conversation and what Jade should do next, causing her to get out the remaining scraps of paper the Junimos wrote for her. For some reason, Sebastian couldn’t read the scraps of paper; it all came out as gibberish to him, so he couldn’t help her decipher the source material. However, the wizard already gave her a starting point, so that’s what she would do first. A weight had been lifted off of her already. As foggy as everything felt, Jade already beamed with positivity. She had a clear goal, one more important than her farming duty: Jade needed to speak to the people of the past.

                                As soon as she felt better, she returned to her farm work and then set off towards the lower end of town. The seasons started changing, slowly but surely, as grass started to grow back around the valley’s many paths. Snow melted under the merciless sun with increasing temperatures. It was still cold enough to wear a heavy coat, so that’s what Jade left with. She didn’t even know if Sebastian noticed, but she grew accustomed to wearing his old hoodie under her coat. She could feel its warmth and sentimentality... He didn’t miss it, anyway.

                                Jade never exactly hunted for ghosts, nor did she think she’d ever try, so ‘speaking to the people of the past’ proved challenging. When she traveled to the graveyard, armed with her fishing pole, sword, and backpack, she stood wondering what to do. The graveyard was appropriately small since the town didn’t even have a hundred people in it. Most of the gravestones were so old that the names were hard to make out... Jade supposed there hadn’t been any deaths in a while, which was good. Moss overgrew on the gray slabs and trees stood proudly to get their nutrients from the dead. The view looked more beautiful than somber, more peaceful than creepy. It was nice.

                                For a while, the young farmer waited. Most of the day passed by with her sitting in or near the graveyard. She fished safely at the river bank as she waited for anything, any sign of other life... or, well, death, nearby. But there wasn’t anything, except lots of fish she successfully caught and stored in her trusty cooler. Jade still felt shaken after her experience with the Legend, but recalling her practice before the Ice Festival helped calm her nerves. The graveyard’s calming atmosphere helped, strangely enough. An encounter with the Legend could have scared anyone, but she thought the shallow water held no threats and there were large enough fish for her to make profit with. She fished until after the sun set, then decided to wait for an entity. It was getting dark, and there was still nothing... she didn’t even feel any presence, and it was getting too late for her to be out. She didn’t want to get in trouble with slimes out and about at night, plus, she didn’t want to worry Sebastian. Before the gloomy night turned into the witching hour, she hurried back home.

                                This process repeated for the next few days. Jade would wake up, do her farmer duties, then stay around the graves. She bid her time by reading all the gravestones and paying her respects, bringing them wild flowers and pretty stones in hope of enticing any response. She even stayed home in the daytime and checked the graveyard at night once. Nothing came.

                                The more time passed, the more skeptical she got. She believed magic had a strong influence, and even believed in spirits, but what was she even waiting for? Was a dead person going to glow a spooky blue, then give her a magical sword and send her on a quest? She crossed her arms and furrowed her eyebrows in thought. Okay, she thought that with sarcasm, but at this point that’s probably what could happen. Defeated, Jade sighed and continued her endeavors.

                                Winter transitioned into Spring at last. Different types of foilage grew around the town, and the temperatures steadily grew warmer as the environment became greener. Jade thought about the first time she moved to Pelican Town, how it looked the exact same as it did the previous year. The town felt much different, though. It was familiar... it was home. But there was still no spirit, no ghost or anything of the sort.

                                Jade lost most of her hope, but she went one more night before trying another ghost-catching method. The graveyard was quiet as always: the wind occasionally blew, the bugs loudly chirped, and the river gently babbled. Nothing of note. Jade sighed and started back home.

                                She stopped right as she started walking. An ominous feeling came over her and loomed behind. Her eyes dropped down without moving her head. The moon was bright and she searched for her shadow. It was there, intact. Nothing about her moved, not even the hairs on her head.

                                There was some rustling. Jade turned back towards the graveyard. It was a shadow hovering over one of the grave’s flowers.

                                “You! Stop!” yelled Jade as she hurried to pull out her sword. “You terrorize me for the last time!”

                                The shadow flinched at the noise, glanced over at her, then absorbed the flowers and ran. It didn’t have any arms and seemed awfully short... and scared.

                                “Hey!” Jade ran after it. The shadow shuffled off at a speed that made it invisible if it wasn’t for the moving grass. It went to a fenced area, near a manhole, and pried the opening to quickly slip under. Jade dropped her sword and dove for the manhole cover. She pried it open just in time, pushed it aside, and descended the ladder into the depths below.



                                ---


                                Green. That was the first word that came to mind when Jade saw where she was. Green, foggy, putrid, humid. But there was something... interesting, about it. Jade forgot she was chasing for a moment as she saw the huge expanse of the sewers... could such a small town really make rivers of sludge?

                                Wait. “Hey! Where’d you go?!” Jade hissed as she marched around the corner of the hall. She caught something shiny in the corner of her eye and walked towards it- wait, not just one shiny thing, but several! A haven of shiny objects, objects she’s never seen before, all stacked and organized neatly.

                                “D-don’t take what’s not yours, human!” cried a voice behind her. Jade widened her eyes and turned around.

                                It really was a shadow, but it was different from the ones she saw at the ruins. For one, it was much shorter, had large, innocent... Eyes? Holes? She couldn’t tell. A big mouth too, but the ‘teeth’ were only silhouettes. Everything about the shadow was seethrough. It reminded her of the nightmare she had in a way. Though, nothing was nightmarish about this shadow; it was a cute blob, and it didn’t even have arms. Just tiny legs and tinier feet. There was a little curl on the top of its head, too.

                                “I’m not going to steal anything,” Jade replied. Something welled within her to not be aggressive to the shadow anymore. “What are you? Are you related to the thing that possessed me?”

                                The shadow tilted it’s upper half in perplexion. “Possessed?” It stood upright again. “Wait... no, I see it... I see it! No! Why are you here? To kill me and spread that awful curse you have?!”

                                Jade frowned. “No, no. I’m not here to kill you-” Jade put her sword away. “See? And I don’t want to spread whatever this is... I just want to get rid of it.” She sighed. “We got off on the wrong foot... I mistook you for something else. Let’s start over,” she told it and leaned down to be closer to his height. “My name is Jade. I moved to the valley almost a year ago. I’m a human. What about you?”

                                The shadow was silent for a moment, then looked at the items in the corner. It glanced at Jade, then slowly waddled over to the items. Some wildflowers emerged from its body and landed in a blue glass vase. It sat down, facing Jade. “... Krobus,” he muttered. “I’ve been here a long time... I’m just a Shadow person.”

                                The farmer felt relieved that he replied to her. “It’s nice to meet you, Krobus,” Jade said with a smile. “I’m sorry for pointing my sword at you and chasing you. I... I was scared too, but I promise I won’t do that anymore.” She watched the shadow, who slowly seemed to relax. “Um... so do you know what this ‘curse’ is?” she asked.

                                “Yes. I know it too well. I want nothing to do with it,” Krobus quickly responded.

                                “I don’t blame you,” Jade sighed. “But... I need some help. You look very similar to the things that... got to me. Why is that?”

                                Krobus was quiet for a while, but right when Jade was about to speak, he replied: “They were Shadow people too. A long time ago, they were. They’re not people anymore.”

                                Jade frowned. “What about them changed?”

                                “War, hunger for power, corruption of land. Those shadows you speak of... they are not even alive. They are supposed to be dead, but they came back.”

                                She blinked. “Like zombies?”

                                “I don’t know what a zombie is...”

                                “Oh, um... it’s basically what you described. Zombies are people who died, but they come back and they’re monsters and try to eat people.”

                                Krobus stared at the green-tiled floor. “Yeah. That sounds like what they are. They make more monsters, too. I thought there weren’t any in this area...”

                                “I went somewhere I shouldn’t have gone. There is a very old part of town, buried by the forest. There’s caves and buildings taken over by vines. I saw a lot of the shadows there, marching... Huh. They had arms and were very tall.”

                                “Some call them the Shadow spirits. My people, they... they do not take kindly to humans, but they fight for their own territory. The ones you saw are smart but only want destruction. They are lost, angry. Even then... I want nothing to do with it. I’m tired of the fighting.”

                                Jade could tell Krobus was starting to lose interest in the conversation. She tried to collect her thoughts. Well... he wasn’t a ghost, but maybe he knew more about the past. “Thank you for letting me know. I won’t, and I’ll try not to come across your people, either. Um... So, that area the Shadow spirits were in. What is so special about that area?”

                                “The town above you. The one you humans call, ‘Pelican Town’. It used to be bigger, it used to have more people. There are many huge mines under and the people worked in there a lot. Some Shadow people underground didn’t care, but others did. Other monsters woke up, and one year, a beast emerged.

                                It killed not only humans, but my people too, and the dwarves, and everybody. A group of humans killed it, right as it got to the surface. Only people underground suffered. I don’t know what the humans did after that, but I know they stopped mining so much. The beast still lays there, as do the souls of the restless. Like the Shadows you saw...” For a moment, Krobus closed his mouth. “Get rid of your curse and never go back. They are the problem of the Junimos now.”

                                “Wait, Junimos?” Jade asked. She listened closely before, but she could no longer stay silent. “The Junimos are helping me. We have a little deal, I suppose... I give them items they want, and they give me items in return. One thing they asked... they asked me to talk to someone about the past... I... I think the task was about you.”

                                Krobus scrambled up to his feet. “Oh my,” he said, shocked, hurried. “You are a friend of the Junimos... Maybe it is your problem after all. I... I hate what I am about to do, but... this is the work of Yoba, and I take these encounters seriously.” He waddled over to his assortment of items and absorbed an item, then waddled back to Jade. “Here.” The item phased out of Krobus’s body and into Jade’s hands.

                                “A... scroll?” Jade didn’t want to open it just yet, but the paper looked old, and it was tied with a faded blue ribbon.

                                “It’s a dwarf scroll. I usually throw them away, but... I think you should have it. There is rumor that possession of all four scrolls lead to one of the greatest dwarven treasures. It... it might help you and your Junimo friends.”

                                Jade watched Krobus and smiled. “Thank you... you’re very kind, Krobus. You’ve helped me a lot, more than you realize. I’ll definitely pay you back for this. Um... is it alright if I ask you for another favor?”

                                “Yes?”

                                “I need to tell the Junimos we had this encounter. Is there some kind of proof I can give them?” the young farmer asked.

                                “Oh...” Krobus looked at his assortment of items again. “Hm...” He waddled over to a pile of black egg-shaped objects with red spots on them. He took one and put it in Jade’s other hand. “You can give this as proof, but also you can use it to do the paying you said.”

                                “Really? What is it?” Jade observed the item... it was rough and coarse, but something was strangely cute about it.

                                “Hatch it, give me mayo.”

                                Jade stared in shock. “... Hatch? Wait, this is seriously an egg? What a strange color!”

                                Krobus nodded. “Void items. Shadow people have many of them. I like mayo from these eggs, please bring some if you ever have the free time.”

                                She chuckled. What a night it has turned out to be. “Thank you, Krobus. I’ll take good care of the egg and I’ll make some mayonnaise just for you.”

                                Krobus smiled a little. She didn’t think he was able to do that with his... hole-mouth. But it was cute.

                                “I should go now, thank you.”

                                “Please don’t tell the town about me.”

                                Jade smiled too. “I won’t. But I have a few humans helping me with this journey... is it okay if I tell them?”

                                Krobus thought for a moment. “If Yoba permits it.”

                                “I’ll give you a prayer, Krobus.” Jade safely stored her two new items and waved to him. “Have a safe night.”

                                The shadow person watched Jade travel back to the pure air of Pelican Town. “Th-thank you... you too...” he muttered.



                                ---​



                                Sebastian stood at the edge of the porch, watching the night sky and the silhouettes of rustling trees. It was way past his bedtime, but he wanted to make sure Jade got home safe. The spring air was pleasantly cool, anyway- not too cold, not too hot. He noticed grass grew pretty high around the property... it was like there was never any crops to begin with. The reds of the barn and silo contrasted the blue-green hues of the grass. He wondered if the animals were sleeping well.

                                His attention snapped back to reality when he saw a waving figure at the end of the field. It was Jade, there was no doubt. He smiled and waved back. She seemed in good spirits, though a part of him wanted to scold her for being out much later than usual. Maybe that meant good news?

                                “Seb!” cheered Jade as she approached. She finally reached the porch, put her bookbag down with a sigh, and rewarded herself with a hug from her boyfriend. “I’m happy to see my favorite boyfriend,” she sighed.

                                “I’m your only boyfriend,” he smirked. A few seconds passed, and his face scrunched up. “What is that smell? You need a shower.”

                                Jade laughed. “Oh... I was in the sewers. That’s probably why.”

                                “I need a shower too, I just hugged you. Ugh!”

                                She laughed harder. “Oh, please! I’ll tell you the whole story. Let’s go inside.”

                                “The whole story better involve why you assaulted my senses,” Sebastian said with a grunt as he lifted her backpack. They chuckled among each other and walked into the house together.

                                After properly cleaning herself, she told Sebastian all about what happened and her meeting with Krobus. They discussed the Shadow people, the Shadow spirits, and what lie beyond. Sebastian didn’t know about how the ruins came to be, but it didn’t seem like anyone their age did. He considered asking his mother about it, though Jade warned him to not drag her into the situation. After some brief banter, the conversation concluded and they eagerly put their new egg in the barn’s incubator before heading off to bed at last.

                                Like the previous night, Jade felt at peace. There was no spirit attacking her head. Hopefully soon, it would stay that way.
                                 
                                  Stryder87 and Roskii Heiral like this.
                                • MagicallyClueless

                                  MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer


                                  “You should get, like, five hundred seed packets.” Sebastian gave his beloved farmer a firm nod. He and Jade browsed Pierre’s shop together to get food, and more importantly, crops. Sebastian remarked how springtime arrived, but Jade hasn’t done anything with the field. He originally advised against it, but Jade insisted that the work would keep her positive and they needed the money, anyway.

                                  “Five hundred? Can we even afford that?” Jade peered at the prices displayed on the store shelves. “Are... are there even five hundred?”

                                  “Got some extra in the back!” Pierre yelled from the counter. Of course he would want her to buy extra.

                                  Jade bit her lip as she weighed out her options. “I know we can make the money back if we invest in so much, but...”

                                  Sebastian snorted. “I was joking... were you actually considering getting that many seeds?”

                                  Jade blushed. “Well... I want to work hard! This is the season I moved here, getting some good crops is important to me.”

                                  Pierre peeked over into the aisle the two stood in. “Sellin’ some red cabbages this year, too. Maybe you’ll be interested in that.”

                                  Jade sighed. “Well... potatoes are always a safe choice...”

                                  The raven-haired man dismissed them both. “Let’s just get some of everything... except the green beans. The trellises look like a pain to put in the ground.”

                                  She nodded in agreement. “Okay. Um... let’s get extra cauliflower, and extra potatoes. Then a little bit of everything else. Parsnips grow fast so we can just keep replanting those. I could probably plant some seeds from the forest, but I don’t know what those will grow...”

                                  “A fun roulette, then. I think that’s our plan,” Sebastian confirmed.

                                  The two grabbed a hefty amount of seed packets and some lunch, then set everything on the store counter. Pierre already scurried behind the register and eagerly priced then placed the items in two paper bags.

                                  Jade blinked. “Yoba, thirty thousand?” she gaped her mouth at the number that displayed on the register.

                                  Sebastian brought his hand to his chin in thought. “... How much is it without the food we bought?”

                                  Pierre took a few seconds to calculate. “Twenty-eight thousand,” he said. The couple sneered.

                                  “There’s pizza in the freezer,” Jade grumbled, then grabbed the extra food to put back in the shelves.

                                  Pierre nodded and offered the remaining bag while Sebastian handed the required money over. “It burns,” Sebastian groaned as he took the bag.

                                  “We’ll live,” Jade chuckled. They exit the shop together and walked on the pathway home. “I’m surprised you wanted to run errands with me. Are you really that worried?” She dug her wallet out of her pocket and gave him half the money they spent.

                                  The raven-haired man accepted the money without reservation. “Nothing of the sort. I like being cooped up in the house, but I end up feeling a bit useless after a while. I’d like to help and break up my routine some.”

                                  Jade smiled and bumped him with her elbow. “I’m glad we can do stuff like this together. I understand about wanting to break routine. How’s computer work going, though?”

                                  He shrugged and bumped her arm back. “It’s going alright. I got a job due in a few weeks, but I wanted to take a break today. Well... I say ‘break’ loosely... I’m gonna help you plant this stuff, aren’t I?”

                                  “Damn right you are. You suggested I buy five hundred!”

                                  “It was a joke!”

                                  “Still, we might as well have gotten that many. This is a lot, but it’ll pay off huge later.” Jade chuckled. “No, you don’t actually have to help. But I’d appreciate it.”

                                  Sebastian rolled his eyes. “Please, of course I’ll help. I’ll even roll up my sleeves.”

                                  “Oh no, not your tiny white arms!” she laughed.

                                  “Hey!” Sebastian scoffed. “They’re not that white.”

                                  “But still tiny?”

                                  “Maybe.” Sebastian laughed too.

                                  Their arrival at the farm meant planting time. Jade started their labor by digging rows with her hoe, then she stuck her trusty scarecrow in the middle of their freshly tilled land. Sebastian brought her water as a refresher and began planting the seeds. He had a master plan for crop organization, which Jade found hilarious. He wanted the reproducing crops at the very back, close to the barn, then the cauliflower next, and all the cheaper produce closest to the house. Jade helped him plant out his ‘master plan’, then they watered everything together. Their chickens and rabbits ventured over a couple of times, but retreated back into their shelter when the evening approached.

                                  The couple collapsed on their couch as soon as they went back inside. Not a word passed between them for several minutes; only heavy breaths. Finally, Jade spoke: “That was your official welcome to the farming life.”

                                  “Farming life my ass. That’s your job,” Sebastian snorted.

                                  The farmer giggled. “Well, yeah. But thank you for helping me. I could tell you were having fun, even though you won’t admit it.”

                                  “Mmhm.”

                                  The two relaxed for a while. Jade squirmed up to Sebastian’s side to lay beside him. He had to make himself comfortable by moving his arm under her neck and holding her. They settled and Jade closed her eyes for a moment.

                                  Then, a buzz from Sebastian’s pocket. He dug his phone from his pocket and squinted at the screen. “Oh, Mom’s calling.” He answered the phone and held it to his ear, suppressing a yawn. “Hello?” he asked. “... Sure. Yeah, she’s right here.” He held the phone away and looked at Jade. “Want dinner at my mom’s?”

                                  “No cooking tonight? Yes, absolutely,” Jade answered and grinned.

                                  Sebastian put the phone back to his ear. “Yeah, we’ll be there.” He heard Robin yell something, but it was so muffled that Jade didn’t catch what she said. His face flushed. “I’m hanging up now.” More yelling from Robin, and in a small voice, he mumbled a “love you too” before hanging up and tossing the phone to the end of the couch.

                                  “Are we leaving now, tomato face?”

                                  “Yea- okay, one: shut up. Two, yes.”

                                  Jade laughed. “I love your tomato face,” she muttered and kissed his cheek.

                                  Sebastian groaned, but he couldn’t help but smile. Jade was cute even when insufferable. “Yeah, yeah. Let’s get ready, then. I’ll get the bike’s keys.”



                                  ---



                                  Sebastian thought going back to the house would be awkward, but his experience wasn’t so bad. Robin welcomed him and Jade with open arms, hugged them, then brought them inside. While Demetrius’s relationship was still a gray area, there was still an unspoken sadness between him and Maru. Neither of them could muster any courage to talk about it, which Jade noticed. She wondered if Sebastian wanted to hang out with her and be a better big brother... maybe Maru was thinking the same, but her as a little sister. The young farmer didn’t have any ideas on how to help them, or else she would have tried to bring them together. Knowing Sebastian, though, he’d tell Jade there was no issue.

                                  Demetrius had reserved thoughts on Sebastian being gone, marked by his perplexed expression at the dinner table. He was relieved that there weren’t as many fights, but... an unmarried couple, in the same house! Everyone at the dinner table knew he wouldn’t have allowed it if Sebastian and Maru switched places. Maybe he was more protective over Maru? Maybe he trusted Sebastian’s safety more. Either way, the two were never even. Robin did her best to avoid talk like that, but Demetrius left dinner early to work, so it wasn’t that much of a problem. Sebastian had to face the 3 women in his life for the remainder of dinner and begrudgingly so.

                                  “Soooo, we haven’t had a big talk like this since the winter feast! How’s home life?” cooed Robin. “Are you two doing well? Couples have to adjust a lot when they live together, you know!”

                                  Jade laughed. “I think Seb is still adjusting and being more courteous than he usually would be.”

                                  “What?!” Sebastian scoffed and crossed his arms. “I haven’t been acting any different.”

                                  The farmer poked his arm and grinned in a tease. “I’m joking! Okay, half-joking.”

                                  “It’s nicer since I usually have the whole house to myself in the daytime,” he answered his mother. “Honestly, I don’t think I see Jade more than I did before. Other than nighttime, I guess?”

                                  Robin wanted to complain about the lack of a spicy answer, but Sebastian seemed happy! Jade too. They were an adorable couple, and it was like they were born to be with one another. The mother smiled at them both, then glanced at her other baby, Maru. She finished her meal and eagerly listened to the couple. A part of Maru missed talking to Sebastian, too.

                                  “Well, just be prepared. Petty things will drive you crazy! I know that was an issue with me and your daddy at first. He takes everything literally, so I had difficulty adjusting to that,” Robin explained, then chuckled. “Well, it still happens, but I’m used to it now. I asked him to get some fruit from the store the other day, and he came back with a basket of tomatoes! I scolded him, but a part of me finds it endearing, too.”

                                  “Like Jade’s snoring.” Sebastian gave a firm nod.

                                  Jade gasped and nudged him. “I don’t snore, you snore.”

                                  They playfully bickered, then stopped when they remembered they were with company. Sebastian blushed and quietly coughed. “Anyways, we’re fine. If we fight, it’s not going to be anything worse than what we’ve already fought about.”

                                  Robin watched them both in fascination. “I trust y’all! Well, I still have some cleaning to do at the shop, so I’ll leave you be for a while. Stay as long as you like!” she beamed and stood up. “I’m so happy you two are doing good,” she said before leaving.

                                  Jade looked at Maru. “You haven’t been talking a lot. How are you doing, Maru?”

                                  The young scientist slightly jumped from the sudden rush of attention, then smiled and waved her hand in dismissal. “Oh, I’m just enjoying listening to you guys! I’m fine, just the same old, really.”

                                  “I wish I was doing the same old stuff, but... it’s been getting better. Oh! Maru, I have a question,” Jade replied. Maru watched her and gave a nod to proceed. “I know you like artifacts and stuff... so... I got this scroll and was told it was from... dwarves?”

                                  Maru’s eyes widened. “Really?? What color was the ribbon?”

                                  Jade blinked. “Um... blue?”

                                  Sebastian’s younger sister sprang out of her seat at the table. “Blue!” she repeated excitedly. “Let me show you something!” She took off and motioned for the other two to follow. They entered her room when Maru halted them with her hand.

                                  “I need to get it first. Hold on just a sec.” She pulled a small carpet that revealed a wooden hatch. With a smile, she pulled it open and crawled inside.

                                  Sebastian and Jade waited patiently and glanced around her room; after all, neither of them were ever in there. Jade vaguely remembered waking up in the room after the fish incident, but those memories were hazy compared to the fight with Sebastian on that same day. She frowned as she thought about it. Wasn’t time to get into that somber mood. She wanted to think about something else.

                                  “Did you know she had a hatch like that?” Jade asked.

                                  Sebastian shook his head. “News to me. I think I’ve been in here as much as you have,” he replied.

                                  “Ohh. Maybe you should hang out with Maru more.”

                                  “Maru? I barely hang out with anybody. Sam’s lucky to get me once a week.” Sebastian crossed his arms.

                                  “Maybe when everything settles and I take care of this shadow business, we can both take more time into going out and hanging with others,” Jade continued.

                                  Sebastian sighed. “I suppose... how are you holding up? Feeling weird?”

                                  “I’ve been better since we visited the wizard, but I’m unsure how long it’ll last. I’m just enjoying it for now,” she told him. “Maybe we-”

                                  Thud!

                                  “Found it!” shouted Maru from below. She pushed a large closed storage container up to the ground floor and then ascended with a grunt. “Whew!” She sighed and grabbed it, then she kicked the hatch door closed. “Here’s my collection of books and scrolls I found. You’d be surprised how much stuff gets preserved perfectly in the ground! It’s almost like someone buried them on purpose.”

                                  Jade and Sebastian glanced at Maru, then focused on the object in her hands. The tub, much wider than her and certainly heavy, was lidded and made out of black plastic. Both watched in fascination when Maru placed the container on her bed and pried its top off. Inside were old, neatly stacked books and small multicolored cases. Maru took out one of the smaller cases to reveal three rolls of paper tied by different colored ribbons.

                                  “Here are the dwarvish scrolls I own,” she said. “I’m interested to see if you have a different one... see... I was studying these scrolls, and the first two here made sense... but the third scroll I got was much different from the other two! It was like I was missing information. Can I see which one you have so I can continue? There’s some amazing technology by dwarves, forgotten by men! I wonder if this is the first step!”

                                  Jade chuckled. “I love your enthusiasm. The scroll I have looks very similar to what you got, so I can go grab it if you want.”

                                  “Please do!” beamed Maru.

                                  “Okay, I’ll be right back. You two behave!” Jade said and waved to them.

                                  Sebastian waved back but playfully sneered at her. “Keep to the paths, it’s getting dark!” he yelled.

                                  Maru and Sebastian were left alone, and the air was heavy for some reason. The raven-haired brother glanced at his ruby-haired sister, but he didn’t really know what to say. They talked a few times since he moved away, like at the Feast of the Winter Star. Admittedly, the incident with the Legend made them more susceptible to talking, too. But... it was still a meager step of progress in the mountain of frustration, jealousy, and aggression that was their perceived relationship. Sebastian felt guilty when he recalled the ways he acted to her, especially when he started to know Jade. His behavior shouldn’t have been excused, he thought. But there they were, standing together in her room.

                                  “So... how have you been?” Maru asked. She felt the tension, there was no doubt. The sooner they could get comfortable, the better.

                                  “Oh... I’ve been fine. How about yourself?” Sebastian asked.

                                  “Honestly? It’s been boring,” she laughed. “Harvey’s working me hard, as usual. So much paperwork from flu season, and now we’re moving into allergy season. With the mines closed, I have nothing to do but work on existing projects, so this scroll thing is a nice change of pace.”

                                  Sebastian nodded as he listened. “Maybe it’ll turn out.”

                                  “Mmhm.”

                                  They were quiet for a little while again. Eventually, Sebastian sighed. “Hey...”

                                  “Huh?” Maru looked at him.

                                  “Just...” He breathed. “... Sorry.”

                                  She quirked an eyebrow. “For what? You have nothing to be sorry about.”

                                  “No.” He threaded his fingers through his hair. “... Nevermind. Whatever.”

                                  Maru smiled. “I think I know what you’re apologizing for.”

                                  “Well, then I don’t have to say it.” His face scrunched up and he turned his head away from her.

                                  She started laughing. “Fine, we’ll make it even. I’m sorry too.”

                                  “No.”

                                  “You can be sorry but I can’t?”

                                  “That’s right,” Sebastian answered with a nod.

                                  “But I am sorry.” Maru tugged his sleeve to get him to look at her. “I... I should’ve interfered more, but... I just felt like I’d make it worse if I got involved with the family fights. I was too inactive. That’s a problem too.”

                                  Sebastian was quiet.

                                  “I’m serious,” she continued, then frowned. “I remember we were really close as kids. Well... we fought a lot, but that’s just what siblings do, right? I didn’t realize our family was separating as we got older.”

                                  He sighed again. “That’s... just what happens. I was a handful to deal with anyway... I don’t think I was a good brother. So... I’m sor-”

                                  His apology was cut short by a hug. Maru wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his hoodie, to which he tensed in surprise. Slowly, he relaxed and gave her an hesitant pat on the back. Maru chuckled. “Let’s just think about the good things,” she said.

                                  “Fine,” he huffed.

                                  “... Dad’s just weird about showing some emotions, you know... he’s so based on logic, and doesn’t have a lot of social grace. But he loves you, he always has. I think he’s hard on you because he’s hard on himself... plus... it’s not like he isn’t strict with me.”

                                  “Oh, bullshit,” Sebastian scoffed. “If he’s strict with you, then he used to have me with a ball and chain.”

                                  Maru frowned and let go of him. “I’m not saying I had it harder than you. He’s been like that with both of us... maybe I’m not one to pull practical jokes like you, and I don’t consider some activities fun, but it was rough going out when I was a teenager.” She walked over to her bed and sat down; her eyes shifted to the floor and her shoulders slumped. “Maybe he’s a little more lenient now since I’m an adult, but I still feel guilty for leaving the house to hang out with Penny. And the curfews! If I even entertained the thought of going out on a date, he’d be appalled.” She sighed. “He still treats me like I’m thirteen sometimes. I admired that you would confront him and do what you wanted anyway. Sometimes I wished I could’ve done that.”

                                  Sebastian’s face softened and his eyebrows furrowed. “I... well... being in the basement can make you a bit stir crazy. At least you had an actual room.”

                                  “Please, I would’ve loved the basement! It has so much room, I could’ve had all my projects laid out perfectly. I thought it was cool you had such a big space.”

                                  The raven-haired man blushed out of embarrassment. “It wasn’t that cool...”

                                  “Still! I always thought you were cool, even when we didn’t talk anymore. Of course, I thought it wouldn’t kill you to go out more.” She laughed when Sebastian pushed her by the shoulder.

                                  “I got some choice words about you too,” he replied, smiling a little.

                                  They were quiet again, but the silence was more comforting.

                                  “When the mines open again, do you want to go mining?” Maru asked.

                                  “Sure,” Sebastian answered. They both looked on at the bedroom door, calm. That was that.



                                  ---



                                  Jade returned to Robin’s house just as the moon rose. She came back in one of her old red jackets and had the scroll safely stuffed into one of the pockets. She approached the dimly lit home and entered the faint porch light above the door. She jiggled the handle-- to her surprise, the front door was locked. She mumbled something unintelligible and knocked until someone finally heard her.

                                  Sebastian opened the door. “We’re not interested in whatever you’re selling.” He quickly closed it.

                                  “Hey!” Jade didn’t know whether to laugh or scream. “Open the door, I sell great products!”

                                  The door cracked open. “I don’t know. I think you’ll have to prove it.” He almost closed the door again, but Jade wedged her foot in the opening.

                                  “Ha!” She beamed.

                                  “Dammit. Okay, come on in,” he said with a smile and opened. “Glad you’re safe. Nothing spooky?”

                                  Jade would’ve passed his question off as a joke if she didn’t actually look out for strange shadows. “Nothin’ spooky, you don’t have to worry. I got the scroll!”

                                  “Shh, my mom goes to bed early. Come on, I’m sure Maru’s waiting for what you have.” Sebastian shut and locked the door, then guided his shouty girlfriend back to Maru’s room. Jade took the scroll from her jacket pocket and eagerly offered it to the young scientist.

                                  “It is the scroll!” Maru mused in a hushed voice. She unraveled the scroll and glanced through it, then grabbed another one and scanned them both together. “Same writing style, looks like it fills in the blanks... amazing! No! More than amazing, this is phenomenal!”

                                  Jade scratched her head. “Can you actually read it, Maru?” she asked, unsure.

                                  “I could notice certain patterns, but I wanted the full documents to be sure. It seems very similar to our own language, just... different letters, possibly a reversed grammar structure.”

                                  “Okay, I have another question, then,” Jade continued. “I was told this would... help some critters. Um... It’s a long story. But, if it’ll help them, what does knowing the scrolls do?”

                                  Maru lifted her head from the artifacts. “Well.. the possibilities are endless. These could be directions, it could be history, it could be lore... if I had to hazard a guess though, probably history. Everything is sectioned out.” She held the ends of one of the scrolls and aimed it at her ceiling light.

                                  Sebastian leaned over and squinted at the scroll with Maru. His eyes widened. “Hey... looks like one of the graves.”

                                  “What?” Both Jade and Maru reacted.

                                  “Yeah. The graveyard in town. The lettering on one of the gravestones looks like this.” He walked away from Maru and stuck his hands in his pockets. “Might be worth checking out if you can understand it.”

                                  Maru’s jaw dropped. “Gravestone!” she repeated, astonished. “We’ve lived here for so long, I can’t believe I never noticed it! Maybe they’re connected, and this can help your... thing. Yeah!” She flopped back onto her bed, entertained and relieved. Quickly, she sat back up, staring at Jade with a strange ferocity. “Jade, give me a while and I’ll try to decipher all of this for you. I don’t know how long it’ll take, but are you in any kind of hurry?”

                                  The farmer started to sweat. “Well... I mean... I’m not going to rush you, but the sooner, the better.”

                                  Maru narrowed her eyes. “Is... something the matter?”

                                  “It’s fine!” Jade quickly replied. “But, it would be a big help to me. Thank you, Maru.”

                                  “No problem. I’ll call you as soon as it’s done, fair?” Maru asked. She didn’t want to prod however tempting it was.

                                  “Very fair! It’s getting late, so I think we should go. Right, Seb?” Jade looked over to her boyfriend, who desperately tried to make himself appear relaxed. He nodded, which she figured was enough. “See you later, Maru,” Jade said with a wave, then grabbed Sebastian’s hand. She tugged him out of the bedroom door and started for the house exit.

                                  When they both sat on Sebastian’s motorcycle, the man let out a large sigh. Jade could see his breath from the porch lights and the night’s breeze. “What is it?” she asked.

                                  “... She’s helping you out, so... maybe it would be a good idea to tell her all this magic stuff,” he muttered.

                                  Jade’s lips tightened. She wiped her forehead and fastened her arms around his torso. “I think one day I will, but not right now. She should enjoy the research.”

                                  He stared at the dirt road. “Alright, it’s up to you.”

                                  They drove off and went home together.



                                  Oh hey whaaat two chapters in the same month? Crazy. Insane, even.
                                  Everyone's been writing in the SDV Discord and it's motivated me a lot. That, plus summer break, means more writing! Whoohoo! It's really exciting to cross out parts of my story outline as I make progress, too. That being said, this chapter and the next few will probably be more relaxing chapters. After all the stuff that's happened, it's time for a bit of a break, yeah?

                                  Anyways, at this point, this fic is a few weeks over 2 years old. Thank you all so much for continuing to read and seeing the advancements over time. I plan to put my fic on another site eventually, but I'll proofread them and fix some of the writing mistakes before I do that; if you notice some changes in the writing later, it's that!

                                  I hope you continue to enjoy reading and I'm excited for what's next.
                                  Thanks!
                                   
                                    Stryder87 and Roskii Heiral like this.
                                  • Stryder87

                                    Stryder87 Existential Complex

                                    Wow, you've moved into SDV v1.3 Beta, with Seb being the farmhand. Way to keep current! haha :avalilol:
                                    And yes... she should tell Maru about the Junimos and Shadows. Nothing like getting tech into the fight! They could sic MarILDA on the Shadows! :catvanish:
                                     
                                      MagicallyClueless likes this.
                                    • jehrek

                                      jehrek Void-Bound Voyager

                                      Thanks for writing this, i hope it gets finished one day. But after 3 months with no activity, should this be considered dead?
                                       
                                      • Roskii Heiral

                                        Roskii Heiral Heliosphere

                                        Nah, she's had breaks before
                                         
                                        • MagicallyClueless

                                          MagicallyClueless Black Hole Surfer

                                          sorry, i never got notifs about this but nope it's not dead!
                                          you know what is kinda dead though? these forums oof. i'm still on the front page in the fan works section. but discord and other social sites seem to be better alternatives for most people.

                                          chapter 56 is on ao3 now, about to post ch 56 here
                                           

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