• Welcome to ZD Forums! You must create an account and log in to see and participate in the Shoutbox chat on this main index page.

General Art The Dragonslayer Orphan

Azure Sage

Spread Smiles!
Staff member
ZD Legend
Comm. Coordinator
Hello, everyone! Now that my fan fiction, The Hero of Spirits, is finished, I can move on to an original story of mine, The Dragonslayer Orphan! This story will be quite different from The Hero of Spirits. It will have a much bigger focus on character interactions and character development. Since the characters are so important to this story, there is going to be a lot of dialogue. Also, I won't have any specific chapter lengths for each chapter. With The Hero of Spirits, I tried to make each chapter between 9 and 11 pages long. But this time, the chapters will be as long as I need them to be. Whatever I want to cover in a chapter is what's going to go into it. So, the chapter lengths will end up varying greatly at times. This story will also be quite long; maybe not as long as The Hero of Spirits, but long nonetheless. Also, it should be noted that this story will contain more mature/suggestive content, themes, and dialogue than The Hero of Spirits did. It's not exactly "R-rated", but do keep in mind that it will probably be "+17" at times.

Alright, with that out of the way, it's time for the prologue! This chapter is mainly for the purpose of introducing some of the characters. The first few chapters are the same. They'll mainly be meant for introducing the characters and the aspects of the story. This story will start off somewhat slow, but after the first couple of chapters, it will begin to get more plot-heavy. Now then, I hope you enjoy The Dragonslayer Orphan!


* * *

"Yuri and Serah belong to a group of twenty orphans who have banded together into a family. They work together to make a living by taking on job requests for people in need, doing various things like gathering resources, or acting as guards for travelers, or even fighting monsters called 'Hades Dwellers'. They make use of 'Krystel Tools' to help them during their jobs. One such tool is called a 'Krystel Fairy'. The user can transfer his or her consciousness into the fairy, and act as a partner for the other person. This is how Serah helps Yuri as they take on jobs together.

When the King of the Krystel Kingdom begins setting more and more restrictions on resources, it becomes harder for the family to earn a living. One day, Yuri takes on a job that forces him to go against the Kingdom. As a result, the King labels Yuri, as well as the entire family, as criminals, and orders them all to be executed for treason. Will the King’s merciless laws put an end to the family of orphans, or will they manage to survive in a ruthless kingdom?"






The Dragonslayer Orphan



Prologue
The Family


Cold water splashed onto the boy’s face as he knelt at the bank of the stream. After washing his face, he opened his eyes and stared at his reflection on the water’s surface for a short while. He had a somewhat thin face and what could be called hints of feminine features. His rust-colored eyes peeked out between the gaps in the bangs of his fluffy flaxen-colored hair.

The boy sighed as if something about his appearance bothered him, and he started to rise to his feet. But just as he was halfway up, a pair of arms hugged him around the neck from behind, and the warmth of the body they belonged to pushed him back down as it pressed against his back.

“Hey Yuri! Let’s go get dinner together!”

The girl who said this perched her chin on Yuri’s right shoulder so she could see his face. Yuri respectively turned his head so he could see the face of the girl.

“No. I’ll be there in a bit. Go get dinner by yourself, Serah.”

Upon hearing Yuri’s stoic reply, Serah curled her lips into a pout. “You’re mean.” she teased.

Yuri watched the pouting face of his best friend for a bit. Serah was a beautiful girl, and one year older than he was at nineteen. She had smooth skin and very well-defined features. Her brunette hair was straight and silky, and her bright orange eyes were big and beaming. Her rosy lips, though currently pouting, warmed one’s heart when they smiled.

“Fine, then. Come and join us when you’re ready.”

After saying this, Serah released Yuri from her hug and stood up. He felt her body heat vanish, and he listened to her footsteps as she walked away through the damp grass. Yuri sighed, which was something he found himself doing often, and rose to his feet without any interruptions this time.

Instead of walking toward the campsite right away, Yuri took some time to stare up at the heavens. The night sky was dark purple and dotted with bright white stars all over. Various constellations were visible in the clear, cloudless sky. The large crescent moon had just finished rising beyond the tops of trees that lined the far horizon.

Yuri turned his back to this sight after taking it in for a while, and he began walking away from the bank of the freshwater stream. He marched through the grass towards the campsite, the location of which was signaled by the large fire in its center. The fire was surrounded in a large circle by various tents, although the tents on one side were accompanied by open-air stalls. The tents on the other side were fewer in number and had no such stalls to go with them.

The purpose of the stalls was to harbor equipment and other things, which the adults held onto. There were eight adults, and respectively, eight tents on their side. On the other side were only five tents, even though there were twelve kids. Many of the kids, such as Yuri, had to share a tent with someone else. In Yuri’s case, it was Serah.

As Yuri approached the noisy campsite, he headed straight for the fire in the center. Atop this fire was a large cauldron, and standing in front of this cauldron was the person Yuri was going to see. She noticed Yuri as he walked towards her, and a big smile spread across her face.

“Hello, Yuri dear. Tonight, we’re having beef stew with a dinner roll!”

The woman who greeted Yuri with the menu was Angelica, the family’s cook. She was a very kind-hearted woman in her thirties with sparkling blue eyes. Her dirty blonde hair was currently tied back under a hairnet, and she was wearing a white apron with a few brown stains on it. She was very motherly and helpful, and everyone went to her when they needed advice.

Angelica reached into a straw basket and removed a tin bowl. After pouring beef stew into it with the ladle she was holding, she handed it to Yuri. Next, she grabbed a metal spoon from a second basket, a paper napkin from a third, and a dinner roll from a fourth. She handed these items to Yuri consecutively.

“Thank you.” Yuri said.

“Oh my, it’s a rare day when you thank anyone for anything!” Angelica laughed.

“... Shut up.” he grumbled.

Yuri quickly walked away while listening to Angelica chuckle, and he joined the other kids on their side of the campsite. He sat down in the grass next to Serah without uttering a word, and began to shovel the steaming stew into his hungry mouth.

“Hi, Yuri!” Serah said to him cheerfully.

Yuri mumbled a hello as he swallowed a mouthful of stew. He looked around as he ate, watching the other kids engage in conversation. One of the older kids, called Raiza, was talking to one of the little kids, called Ana. They had the same kind of conversation day in and day out.

“And that’s how I saved the entire village from the legion of monsters! How’s that, Ana? Did you just now understand the depths of my greatness?” Raiza said in a grandiose voice.

“No, you’re still a weirdo, Raiza.” Ana replied like she usually did.

The other kids laughed as Raiza clutched his head in a very exaggerated display of frustration. Raiza was tall and lean with clean-cut blond hair and dark brown eyes, and the same age as Serah. Like Yuri, his face had hints of feminine features, but it wasn’t as thin. Raiza could be called quite handsome if one could stand his narcissistic personality.

“One of these days, I WILL get you to understand my greatness!” Raiza groaned.

“Making up stories isn’t gonna do the trick, Weirdo.” Yuri said.

“Shut up, Gloomy!” Raiza snapped at Yuri.

“Ha ha! He called you ‘Gloomy’!” laughed Maika, one of the other kids in Yuri’s age group.

Maika was a year younger than Yuri at seventeen. She had wavy cherry-colored hair and shining green eyes. She was a bit on the short side, like Serah. Maika was very cute, but her airheaded personality didn’t match her appearance at all.

While she was laughing, Maika spilled a bit of her beef stew on her pink blouse. “Oopsie.” she said plainly.

She removed her shirt right then and there, exposing her white and frilly bra to plain view without a care in the world. The boy seated in the grass next to her, Aeri, let out a surprised gasp. He quickly covered the eyes of the seven-year-old boy Leo, who was sitting next to him.

“Maika! Don’t take your clothes off around us like that!” Aeri cried, trying his hardest to keep from staring at her cleavage.

Aeri was a shy boy at the same age as Maika. He had light brown hair in a bowl cut and brass-colored eyes that were always filled with worry. His passive personality made it easy for others to walk all over him.

“Aeri, come on. She does stuff like this all the time. How could you not be used to it by now?” Raiza said in a somewhat condescending tone.

“I don’t see what the big deal is...” Maika said blankly.

“Of course you wouldn't, Streaker.” Yuri said.

“It’s a HUGE deal, Maika! You have to learn to be more modest!” Serah scolded.

“But I thought it was okay to show off your chest once in awhile. Aren’t girls supposed to make use of their assets or something?” Maika said.

“You’ve been spending too much time around Leyanne.” Yuri said.

Just then, a pair of crossed arms nestled themselves atop Yuri’s head, and at the same time, a pair of large breasts pressed against the back of his neck. Yuri knew who they belonged to without even having to ask.

“Just what are you trying to say, Yuri? You’re not implying that I’m sleazy, are you?” Leyanne asked.

“Get your boobs off me.” Yuri replied curtly.

He was trying to sound annoyed, but he couldn’t hide his blushing cheeks. Leyanne simply laughed at his response. She was the youngest of the eight adults in the family at twenty-two. She had golden hair and eyes of the same color. She was extremely beautiful, but she was also extremely shallow. There was nothing Leyanne loved more than using her looks and her body to her advantage, whether it was for personal gain or for personal amusement.

“My, what a naughty thing to say.” Leyanne teased.

“Shut up.” Yuri said.

The others around them laughed at their exchange, and there was one person whose laughter boomed louder than all the others.

“Ha ha ha! What’s the matter, Yuri? As a man, shouldn’t you be happy about having a woman’s chest pressing up on you like that?” his voice boomed.

“Marko, you shouldn’t say things like that!” said the girl next to him.

“Aw come on, Scheri! Don’t be like that!” Marko said in his usual loud voice.

“I-I’m sorry!” Scheri quickly apologized in her usual quiet voice.

Scheri was a timid girl of seventeen. She had light blonde hair and beautiful silver eyes. She was rather pretty, and her tendency to apologize for anything she said or did added something to her charm. If you were to describe her in one word, it would be “wallflower”. Marko was a brazen boy of eighteen, the same age as Yuri. He had short black hair and bronze-colored eyes. He was tall and somewhat muscular. If you were to describe him in one word, it would be “jock”.

“Ha ha ha!” Marko continued to laugh.

“Ha ha ha!” the eight-year-old Ben mimicked.

“That’s the way, Ben! That’s my Apprentice of Coolness! Now, laugh together with me! Ha ha ha!” Marko bellowed.

“Shut up. You’re too noisy.” Yuri remarked.

“Yes. You’re scaring poor little Arin.” Leyanne said.

‘You’re still here?” Yuri said to Leyanne.

“How rude.” she replied.

Arin was a seven-year-old girl who looked up to Scheri like a big sister. However, she was frightened by Marko’s loud voice, so she clung to Scheri’s arm in fear whenever he laughed. And he laughed a lot.

“There, there. It’s okay, Arin.” Scheri said as she gently stroked the little girl’s hair.

“That girl needs to have some more courage! Hey, maybe she could become my Apprentice of Coolness like Ben!” Marko said.

“No way! She’s too scared of you, Marko!” Scheri protested.

“That’s exactly why I suggested it! So she can face her fears like a man!” Marko said.

“I-I’m sorry...” Scheri apologized.

“She can’t face her fears like a man if she’s a girl, dummy.” Serah joked.

“Oh, that’s right! How could I have forgotten? It appears the Master of Coolness has made a grave mistake!” Marko said dramatically.

“Well, if that’s the case, all she needs to do is become a man, right?” Maika said.

"You’re an idiot.” Yuri said.

Yuri finished his stew and placed it next to him in the grass. He then took a bite out of his dinner roll. As he gulped down the delicious dough, a six-year-old girl called Mary scurried up to him and tore her roll in half. She presented one of these halves to Yuri, making a face that indicated she wanted him to have it.

“No. Go away.” Yuri said to her.

“Yuri, stop being so cold to Mary!” Serah chastised.

“What, I’m the bad guy because I don’t like kids?” Yuri replied.

“Don’t pay any attention to that grouch, Mary.” Serah said.

“Grouch...?” Yuri muttered in annoyance.

Despite Serah telling her not to worry about it, Mary shook her head defiantly and continued to present half of her roll to Yuri. Mary was very attached to Yuri, and she was always trying to get on his good side. However, this made Yuri feel very uncomfortable. He didn’t understand what this uncomfortable feeling was, so he did everything he could to avoid it, even if it meant being cold-hearted to a little girl.

“Here.” Mary insisted as she tried to push her roll into Yuri’s hand. “Please, Big Brother?”

Upon being called “Big Brother”, the uncomfortable feeling Yuri felt reached its peak. He wanted to escape from that feeling so badly that he spoke without thinking.

“I’m not your brother!” he shouted.

“Yuri!” Serah snapped at him sharply.

Yuri quickly became aware of the huge mistake he’d just made. He looked around himself, and the entire campsite had gone deathly quiet. Everyone was staring at him. Yuri felt like an idiot, and he remained silent and stared at the ground.

“Yuri.”

The rough and powerful voice that called out his name gave Yuri a jolt. He slowly raised his head and looked behind himself, towards the source of the voice. Their eyes met, and Yuri felt like he wanted to crawl into a hole.

“... Han.” Yuri said the man’s name.

Han was a big man with a big heart. He had fierce scarlet hair and striking brown eyes. At thirty-six years old, he was the oldest in the family, as well as its leader and father-figure. Everyone admired him and respected him, including Yuri.

“You just broke the Number One Rule.” Han said sternly.

Yuri knew this. He was aware of what he’d done. This one rule that should never be broken, the Number One Rule, the Golden Rule, the Ultimate Taboo; no matter what it was called, it was always the same absolute rule. “Never, ever mention the fact that none of us are family.” Yuri had engraved this rule onto his heart, just like everyone else. Yet, he’d spoken without thinking, and in turn, broke that rule.

“Geez, Yuri. Even you should know better than-” Raiza began to say.

He cut himself off the second Yuri gave him a death glare. He whispered an apology and remained quiet.

“Yuri.” Han said as he stood up and approached him. “Even if we’re all just orphans living together out here, we still have to treat each other as family. That’s how we’ve made things work all these years, and that’s also the ideal I had in mind when I brought us all together. I know you of all people should understand that. Out of all of us, you are one of the ones most grateful to be a part of this family. So make sure you think before you say something like that again, okay?”

Han ruffled Yuri’s fluffy hair with a warm smile, and Yuri buried his face into his arms. “... Shut up.” he squeezed out.

Han laughed upon hearing that, and he went back to eating his dinner. Yuri almost expected some sort of punishment, but he knew that such a thing was not something Han would ever do. However, despite the lack of consequences, Yuri did not feel relieved. He’d ruined the cheery mood everyone had, and he felt awful for it.

Yuri stood up silently and carried his dishes over to Angelica by the cauldron. Without a word to anyone, he retreated to his tent. He closed up the entrance behind himself and allowed himself to drop right onto the two-person sleeping bag. He buried himself under the covers and rested his head on his pillow. He shut his eyes and let his mind wander off.

He thought about what Han had said about him being one of the ones most grateful for being a part of the family. Up until the age of ten, Yuri had been living an isolated life on the streets. He had to fend for himself and struggled to survive everyday. He very rarely had any human interactions. He was convinced he would spend his entire life like that, until he was discovered by Han and Serah.

The two of them found him sitting all alone in an alley while they were in town buying supplies for the family. Seeing that he was an orphan, they took him in. Yuri was brought to live with the family, and since he and Serah were the only kids in the family at that time, they quickly bonded with each other. Yuri finally found a place to call home. He was no longer alone. This was why he was so grateful to Han and the rest of the family. He deeply cared about everyone, even if he didn’t know how to express it properly.

Yuri’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the tent’s door being zipped open. He listened without opening his eyes as another person entered the tent and zipped the door back up. He knew who it was immediately. There was no one else who would come into this tent, after all.

“Don’t lecture me, Serah.” Yuri said, without opening his eyes.

“Too bad!” she replied. “I can’t believe you sometimes, you know? This wouldn’t have happened if you would just open up to Mary! Why do you insist on shutting her out like that? Don’t you know how much it hurts her?”

“I just don’t want to act friendly with her. What’s wrong with that?” Yuri said, continuing to keep his eyes shut as he turned onto his side.

He heard Serah sigh. He could hear her lay down in the sleeping bag next to him. Maybe it was because they’d been close for the past eight years, but Yuri felt nothing about sharing sleeping quarters with her, despite the fact that she was a girl.

At first, Yuri thought she was done talking, but then he remembered how stubborn she was. There was no way she’d be satisfied with the answer he’d given her. Just as he wondered what she was going to do, he felt her wrap her arms around him from behind. His eyes sprang open and his body flinched from surprise as the warmth of her body invaded his space.

Serah’s chest pressed up against Yuri’s back as she hugged him tightly, and her forehead gently touched the back of his head. He could tell by the feeling of her breathing that her lips were in very close proximity to the back of his neck. Her body heat engulfed his body, and he experienced a strange sensation that he couldn’t understand.

Yuri was so surprised, he couldn’t even say “Get off me!” like he usually would have said. If anyone else had hugged him so intimately, he would have struggled like a madman to escape. But instead, he held as still as he possibly could, and remained quiet. This was the first time Serah had ever done anything like this to him, and he couldn’t understand why. He also couldn’t understand the feeling he had at that moment, but strangely enough, he didn’t hate it. In fact, for reasons he didn’t understand, he wanted it to last.

This feeling was similar to the uncomfortable feeling he experienced many times since coming to live with the family. He had this feeling any time someone tried to get close to him or had any personal contact with him, such as a hug. Perhaps it was a result of his isolated youth, but he didn’t know how to respond to such things. And so, he avoided any and all situations that would cause him to experience that feeling.

Serah was the only exception. Even when she hugged him, the uncomfortable feeling he would have gotten from anyone else was different. He couldn’t explain it. He didn’t mind being close to Serah, and he didn’t mind it when she had any personal contact with him. He didn’t understand what this feeling was, and he desperately wanted to know. But he couldn’t bring himself to talk to anyone, not even Serah herself, about it. And so, he could do nothing but suffer because of this as he closed himself off from the world.

Yuri wondered why Serah hadn’t said anything since she began to hug him like this. But, he found his answer when he felt her steady breathing as she leaned against him. She’d fallen asleep. Yuri sighed, and decided he may as well try to fall asleep as well.

While quietly laying in her arms Yuri had a lot of time to think about her reasons for doing this. He knew Serah very well. Both of them could easily tell what the other was thinking. Because of this, he had a feeling that Serah knew what he was thinking when he said what he did to her about Mary. It was also because of this that he was able to figure out what Serah was thinking when she embraced him so intimately like this.

“I know what you’re feeling, Yuri. It’s not that you dislike Mary. You just don’t know how to express kindness properly. I’ve known you for a long time now, so I can understand you. But it’s okay. You don’t have to try if its hard for you. You can just let the others express kindness. All you have to do is learn to accept it. And I'll be your support.”

That was the meaning behind Serah’s actions. Yuri understood what she was trying to say, but he could still do nothing but shut himself away. He desperately wanted to open up, but something made him too scared to do that. He didn’t understand why, and that only made him want to close himself off even more.

Despite this, he was fine with the way things were now. Even if he was suffering deep inside his heart, shutting himself away from everyone was easier for him. To Yuri, this was for the best. Still, he appreciated what Serah had done for him just now, and so, before he drifted off to sleep, he whispered something to her; something he didn’t say often.

“Thank you.”
 
Last edited:

Vanessa28

Angel of Darkness
Staff member
ZD Legend
Administrator
Joined
Jan 31, 2010
Location
Yahtzee, Supernatural
Gender
Angel of Darkness
Teehee and a new story has begun :D I like it already Az ;) Yuri his feelings and behavior are going to be interesting and should he ever learn to open up to others and little mary? We will see it in the next chapter(s) of this new story!
 

Ventus

Mad haters lmao
Joined
May 26, 2010
Location
Akkala
Gender
Hylian Champion
TL;DR
I swear that fairy thing you mentioned in the intro has been used in an anime before, but I don't remember the name of the anime
otherwise v @ Vee
I'm liking what I see even if it isn't THOS :(

Keep them coming, buddy! :yes:
 

bunny

birb overlord
Joined
Sep 16, 2011
Location
Indiana
Gender
¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Wow, a lot of times I can't get into reading because I find the story boring or the descriptions aren't vivid enough. You did a great job though, Az. I can already see depth in these characters; I'm really enjoying this story so far. I'll be looking out for the chapters to come. ^^
 
Joined
Nov 24, 2012
Location
Probably roleplaying
Ooh, this is quite an intro. The idea of a community of orphans living together as a family is intriguing, to say teh least. I'm glad you could start this one up so soon.

I love your writing style--it's improves so much since the top of tHoS, and can only get better. I look forward to the next chapter!
 

pkfroce

Skelepuns
Joined
Nov 25, 2012
Location
The Underground
Gender
Male
I really hope you continue this because I really like it. There are only a few things that I've read that have caught my attention like this one.
 

Fig

The Altruist
Joined
Jul 23, 2011
Location
Mishima Tower
As only a commentator, I really don't think my words mean a lot unless I was experienced in writing, Damn Az! You really know how to make illustrate the entire scenario! I was easily able to picture the entire scene and now my imagination is simply taking off! I have read countless of fanfictions/originals throughout the years, and for the most part lack the quality that I always seek in writing art. You my friend, however, prove that you do have skills to write a successful story! There's excessive amount of detail (which is always a huge plus for me as I personally want to engrave my eyes to what I reading/viewing), though it is brief the backstory is quite interesting, the characters themselves are truly fun to see be developed, and of course their interaction with one another is impeccable. Speaking of characters, each one has a great personality that fits them quite well with their descriptions, even the clueless Maika! I really can't wait to see them be developed as the chapters are developed. Another point I should mention is simply how detailed you described the family's current position in life, their values and morals despite their situation! The title is practically the only thing that is throwing me off as I this is just the prologue but I'm sure I will understand it as time continues to unwind itself throughout the year. I have a tendency to always pinpoint at least several characters that I can relate to so that ride can always make it even more meaningful to me personally. I think I just found that in your character Yuri. :lol: I really do hope that you will continue to develop this story as it has great potential! I know I only have the experience from writing essays and papers for my classes, but hopefully you don't have to suffer from a lot of writer's block! I personally can't wait for the next installment of this incredible tale! :D
 

Azure Sage

Spread Smiles!
Staff member
ZD Legend
Comm. Coordinator
I know it's been a very long time since I've posted the Prologue, but now I'm finally ready to post Chapter One. I hope those of you who commented on the prologue will also read this chapter and comment. I'd really appreciate your feedback, since this is the first thing I've written after ten months of being lazy.

This chapter introduces some aspects of the story, but not all of them. I'm breaking the exposition down between the first three chapters. Also, this chapter is a whole lot longer than I originally planned it to be. It's 23 pages long, making it the longest single chapter I've ever written. At any rate, I hope you enjoy Chapter One.






Chapter One
Everyday Life ~Yuri and Serah~


Yuri rubbed the sleep out of his eyes as he sat up. After yawning and stretching, his head slumped to the side and he gazed down at his sleeping friend. Serah was still off in dreamland, so Yuri left her to her unconscious adventures and left their tent.

Zipping the door closed behind himself, he walked through the damp morning grass towards the adults’ side of camp. Most of the grown-ups were already up and wide-awake, standing behind their stalls. Angelica was cooking breakfast over the fire pit in the center.

“Good morning, Yuri!” she greeted with a smile.

“Hi.” he replied.

Yuri walked over to the stall run by Terynn. “Give me my coat.”

“Your coat. You want your coat. I see. The funny thing about that is YOU TORE YOUR COAT ON YOUR LAST JOB. DO YOU KNOW HOW EXPENSIVE THE THREAD FOR THESE CLOTHES ARE? YOU NEED TO LEARN TO BE MORE-”

“Then give me a new one and stop shouting at me so early in the morning.” Yuri cut him off.

“HOW ABOUT YOU STOP UNDERESTIMATING HOW HARD I WORK TO MAKE ALL THESE CLOTHES FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY-”

“How about you stop shouting and give me something to wear.”

“HOW ABOUT YOU STOP CUTTING ME OFF-”

“No.”

“Hee hee, you two always get along so well!” Maika said as she approached.

“Do we look like we’re getting along to you?” Yuri and Terynn said in unison

“Terynn, I want my blouse.” Maika requested.

“Fine. Just try to keep in on this time.” he sighed. “Here is a new coat for you, Yuri.”

Terynn tossed a pink blouse at Maika and a gray, button-up coat at Yuri. He also added in pants for the two of them; blue jeans for Maika and khakis for Yuri.
“Thank you~!” Maika said as she waltzed away.

“Put it on, damn it!” Terynn yelled. “As for you, make sure that shirt fits you before you walk away. It’s a brand new jacket I spent hours laboring to sew just the other-”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I said stop cutting me off!” Terynn snapped.

Putting it on over his black undershirt, Yuri pulled his arms through the sleeves and adjusted the collar.

“Fits fine.” he said.

“Good, then I won’t have to take new measurements for you. Go on, then.” Terynn said.

“Mhm.”

Yuri carried his pants back to his tent to get changed. After re-entering, he found that Serah was still asleep. He nudged her arm with his foot.

“Wake up. I need to get dressed.” he said.

“Mmmnnnnh...” she moaned. As she pushed herself up to a kneeling position, she released a great yawn and stretched her arms out wide. “Goooood moooorning...”

“Your shirt is coming off.” Yuri pointed out.

“Eep!” Serah yelped as she rushed to fix her undershirt. “I’ll leave you to get changed, then.”

With that, she got up and left the tent, not bothering to brush her bed hair into place. Yuri removed his pajama pants and changed into the khakis that Terynn gave him, as well as into the pair of white socks and black lace-up boots that were in a corner of the tent.

After getting dressed, he left the tent and joined Serah in front of Terynn’s stall. She was currently receiving her clothes from Terynn. “Hey, Serah, I want to take on a job today.” he said.

“Okay, sure. We can go ask Leyanne if she’s heard about any good ones once I’m done here.” Serah said as she pulled a blue, buttoned shirt over her head.

“How does it fit?” Terynn asked.

“... It’s a little tight around the chest.” Serah said.

“COME HERE, I MUST RE-MEASURE YOU AT ONCE.” Terynn’s voice boomed as he grabbed her arm and pulled her into his tent.

“Ah- Hey, wait! It’s not a big deal! Wait! H-hey, be careful with that tape measure!”

Serah’s cries could be heard from within. Yuri sighed, knowing there was no escaping Terynn when it came to measurements.

“Aha! Just as I suspected! Your bust has grown two inches since I last-”

“H-HEY, SHUSH! YURI IS RIGHT OUT THERE!”

“I will make you a new shirt tonight. You’ll have to make due with that one until then.”

“Alright already. Geez...” Serah sighed as she left the tent. “Y-Yuri... You didn’t hear what he said, did you?”

“I did.” he said bluntly.

“Augh! Come on, you should at least pretend like you didn’t hear it!” she complained with red cheeks.

“I don’t like lying.” he said.

“Hmph.” she pouted. “Well... I guess it’s okay if it’s you...”

“What?”

“N-Nothing! I said nothing!” she panicked. She quickly changed the subject. “Oh, there’s Leyanne. Come on, let’s go ask her is she knows about any decent jobs.”

She pointed to Leyanne, who was over with Angelica at the fire pit. Yuri and Serah walked over to her together. As they approached, Angelica greeted the both of them with a smile, as she always did.

“Hello, you two.” she said.

Leyanne turned around to face them. “Hey, there. What’s up? Have you come to ask me on a date~?”

“No.”

They both shot her down at once. Leyanne pouted.

“Tell me if you know about any good jobs.” Yuri said.

“Please.” Serah added.

“‘If’, huh? Just what do you take this family’s informant for?” she boasted. “I heard about a good one that just popped up in Lysen Town about defeating a pack of Class D Hades Dwellers in a cave. Supposedly, it pays well.” she told them.

“What, it’s just a monster hunting job?” Yuri said. “... That’ll do, I guess.”

“Great! Let’s go get ready and head to the request board in Lysen, then.” Serah said.

“Be careful, you two!” Angelica advised.

“We will. Thank you.” Serah said.

First, Serah brought her clothes back to their tent and got dressed. Then, together, Yuri and Serah headed over to one of the other stalls, run by Selym. He handled weapon distribution for those in the family who go out to take on job requests. He also managed the weapons’ storage and upkeep for the family.

“Good to see you two!” Selym greeted.

“I want my sword.” Yuri said.

“Going out on a job, eh? I see Serah will be your backup again.”

“Yuri is better at fighting than me, after all.” Serah said.

“Yeah, he’s good with a sword all right. He really knows how to make a... point. With that sword.”

“...”

“What? No good?”

“It stops being good after fifty times of use.” Yuri sighed.

“Yeah, I need new material.” Selym said, scratching the back of his head.

“You don’t need any material.”

“But then this wouldn’t be any fun!”

“It isn’t any fun as it is now.”

“Sadly, I have to agree with Yuri on that.” Serah said.

“Ouch, you too, Serah...? Fine, whatever. Here’s your sword.”

Selym opened a case behind his stall and, after rummaging around a bit, pulled out a straight sword and a brown sword belt. He handed them over to Yuri. The sword had a silver blade made of stainless steel, and a golden guard and hilt in the shape of a cross. There was a red gemstone enshrined in the center of the guard, and a matching one in the pommel. Yuri strapped this sword to his waist, on his left side.

“Next, we have to go see Klemn for a krystel fairy.” Serah said.

“Right.”

“Krystel tools sure are amazing, though.” Serah said as they walked. “Krystel fairies allow a person to transfer their consciousness into it and control it remotely, and com krystels let people communicate from long distances by transmitting thoughts and ideas back and forth. They’re so amazing. I wish we understood krystels more. I bet we could find even more amazing uses for them!”

“I’m not really interested.” Yuri said plainly.

“Hmph. Well, a krystel tool user like myself has to be aware of these things. A plain old swordsman like yourself doesn’t.” Serah frowned. “Krystels are still a material we don’t know much about. All we know is that they’re similar to rocks and ore in structure and have various, mysterious powers when utilized. I’m actually kind of surprised you aren’t interested in this, Yuri. I think it’s really fascinating.”

“Well, after all, I’m just a plain old swordsman.” he said, being sarcastic.

“Hmph. “ she pouted.

“You bet they’re fascinating!” Klemn said.

The two had arrived at Klemn’s stall. Klemn handled the distribution and storage of krystel tools, such as com krystels and krystel fairies, for the family.

“I got a special going on right now for a krystel fairy! Top quality! Come and take a look!” Klemn continued.

“‘Special’? And there aren’t any differences in quality between krystel tools. They all have the same effects if they’re in the same class. Well, krystel weaponry is different, but that stuff is restricted to military use only...” Serah said.

“Wow, you sure know a lot.” Klemn said. “And don’t worry about the ‘special’, I just like to try sounding like a professional salesmen. It’s always been my dream to go into business!”

“Then get down to that business and give her a krystel fairy already.” Yuri said.

“Ever the impatient one, aren’t you?” Klemn laughed. “Here you are, Serah. You two are going out to find a job today, aren’t you? Good luck!”

“Thank you.” Serah said.

Klemn reached into a bag behind his stall and pulled out a small, spherical stone. It was mostly transparent save for a small splash of white, and as smooth as glass to the touch. Serah carried it in her hand.

“Now we need to get some money for food and travel expenses.” Serah said to Yuri.

“Yeah. Hopefully Beron will actually give us a decent amount this time.” Yuri sighed.

The two marched through the grass and reached Beron’s stall. He was the one who managed all of the money and expenses for the family. If someone goes out to find a job, they see him first to get money to pay for transportation to the nearby towns.

“You two need some money?” Beron asked.

“What other reason would we have to come see you?” Yuri said.

“That isn’t very nice, Yuri.” Serah chided.

“Here.” Beron said, handing Yuri a small satchel of coins. “200 kopeks. That oughta cover the coach fare.”

“To Lysen, it’s 250 kopeks. And I need at least 500 if I wanna have lunch.” Yuri said.

“Fine, 250 kopeks.” Beron said, adding five 10-value coins to the satchel.

“Did you miss the part where I said I needed money for lunch? Don’t be stingy.” Yuri protested.

“Yeah, Yuri needs to eat to keep up his strength.” Serah said. “He is one of the family’s vanguards, after all. They go out and work hard to earn the money for the family. It couldn’t hurt to lend him a little more so he can eat, could it?”

“Fine, fine. I’ll give you 100 more kopeks. But that’s it.” Beron conceded.

“Just 100? That won’t get me much.” Yuri said.

“Then make sure you eat breakfast before you set out. I won’t give you more than that.” Beron said.

After placing ten more 10-value coins into the satchel, Beron shooed the two of them away.

“Geez, that guy... He’s been becoming more and more of a penny pincher lately.” Yuri grumbled.

“Yeah, I know what you mean. I guess we’ll just have to make due with 350 kopeks today.” Serah said.

“Man, this sucks.” Yuri sighed. “Well, I guess we’re all ready now. Let’s get going.”

Yuri and Serah headed to the center of the camp, on the kids’ side. Serah sat down in the grass and held her krystel fairy up to her forehead. She touched the cold stone to her skin, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. The krystel tool in her hand began glowing.

A bright orange light flowed from Serah’s body into the krystel fairy, and it sprang to life. Serah’s arm dropped down to her side, and the krystel fairy sprouted four wings from its back. It fluttered in the air above Serah’s dormant body, shinning the same bright orange as Serah’s eyes.

“Okay! I’m ready!” Serah’s voice came from the fluttering, orange fairy.

“Good. Then, here we go.” Yuri said.

“Take this before you go.” Angelica, who was also at the center of the camp, called out. She tossed a steaming roll of bread Yuri’s way, and he caught it in his hands. “For your breakfast, dear. Stay safe out there.”

“You heading out on a job, Yuri? Serah?” Han, who had just arrived at the center, asked.

“Yeah.” Yuri and Serah said together.

“Good, good. Best of luck to you.” He ruffled Yuri’s fluffy hair. “Chin up, kiddo.”

Yuri swatted his hand away. “Whatever.”

“You know he doesn’t like being touched, Han.” Angelica said.

“I’m going.” Yuri said curtly. He stormed off.

“Yuri, wait up!” Serah said as she chased after him.

“Have fun out there!” Han said, waving at the two.

“Be sure to be back by dinner, okay?” Angelica said.

Together, Yuri and Serah made their way away from the campsite. They needed to cross a small patch of woods, and on the other side they would find a coach stop. From there, they would pay for a ride to Lysen Town when the next coach arrived.

* * *

“This place is always bustling, huh?” Serah said.

“Yeah. It’s kind of annoying.” Yuri said.

“That’s just because you don’t like crowds.”

The two zig-zagged their way through the crowded streets of Lysen Town. By the time they had arrived, the sun had almost climbed to the top of the sky. Its rays were beating down on the hundreds of scurrying people. Vendors stood behind open-air stalls filled with fruit, bread, and other groceries. People crowded around these stalls that lined the cobblestone streets like ants flocking sugar.

Yuri and Serah were headed to the town square, which housed the request board. There, people could post formal requests for help with many things they cannot do on their own, and anyone could take these requests on.

“Hey Yuri, do you wanna stop at a stall for a snack before we hit the request board? It’s almost noon, after all.” Serah suggested.

“Sure. I’m getting a little hungry. Though, all I’ve got on me is that measly 100 kopeks...” he sighed. “Hopefully we can find something cheap.”

The two scouted the various stalls, looking for the lowest prices. 200 kopeks for a roll of bread. 150 kopeks for fruit. 120 kopeks for milk.

“I guess finding something that costs less than 100 kopeks isn’t easy. That damn Beron...” Yuri grumbled as he bit his thumb.

“Hey, this guy over here is selling fruit really cheap!” Serah called out.

“Really?”

Yuri nudged his way through a thin line of people and stood before the stall Serah had beckoned him over to.

“What’ll it be, sir?” the man behind the stall said. “I see you’re traveling with a krystel fairy. If you’re out on a job, I might just cut you a deal on these apples. Two for 100 kopeks! How’s that for a bargain?!”

“That sounds perfect, actually. I’ll take it.” Yuri said to the surprisingly excitable vendor.

“Great! Pleasure doing business with you!” the man said as he took Yuri’s money.

Yuri graciously received the two apples, and wasted no time biting into one of them as he walked away.

“We sure lucked out, huh?” Serah said cheerfully.

“Yeah. Thanks to you.” Yuri said, still chewing on the crisp apple.

“Aw, geez. Getting thanked by you just doesn’t feel right.” she laughed.

“H-hey, shut up.” Yuri barked.

The two made their way to the town square and sat down on a bench in the center. Here, it was a wide-open street paved in a circle, and it was filled with people. There was a large fountain spraying water in a beautiful arc at the heart of it. The fountain was surrounded by wooden benches, one of which Yuri was occupying. Also in front of the fountain was the request board they sought.

After finishing off his apples, Yuri tossed the cores into a nearby public waste bin. He then trotted across the pavement to stand before the request board. It was a rather tall bulletin board, at least eight feet in height. It was wide enough for up to four people to stand in front of it at once. Currently, Yuri was the only one in front of it.

Several sheets of paper were tacked haphazardly across the board. These were request sheets, issued by the town. Anyone could attain one by paying 5 kopeks at the post office. The request sheets had several lines to be filled out; one had to write their name, address, reason for their request, and how much they would pay as a reward.

If a person wanted to accept a request, they had to take the sheet to the address listed and tell the requester that they’d take the job. They then had forty-eight hours to complete it before the requester was able to put it back on the board.

It was through this request system that thirty percent of the kingdom’s population earned their money. This was due to the amount of money typically offered as rewards. Many people could get rich quickly by completing the more dangerous requests. Monster hunting requests were especially profitable, and that was what Yuri and Serah had set out to undertake.

“There should be one here about defeating some Class D Hades Dwellers.” Yuri said.

“Hmm... Some of these look pretty dangerous.” Serah said. “I see one for taking down a Class A Hades Dweller! I wonder what kind of person could take one of those on?”

“Hey, are you searching properly?”

“Of course I am!”

Just then, a young woman stood beside Yuri in front of the request board. She was about as tall as Yuri, with long, dark brown hair and deep blue eyes. She was wearing the armor of the kingdom, so Yuri figured she was a soldier. She was also carrying a rapier at her waist.

This woman, after examining the board for a short time, reached out and grabbed the request to hunt a Class A Hades Dweller that Serah had just pointed out.

“Y-you’re taking on that one?” Serah asked her.

“Yes. It is the most pressing requests that one must take on first, no?” she replied.

Another soldier, this one wearing the standard infantry uniform, approached her. “Commander, have you chosen a request?” he asked her.

“C-commander?!” Serah gasped.

“Yes, I have. Prepare to move out.” she said to him.

“Yes ma’am!” the soldier responded with a salute.

Yuri and Serah watched the two of them march off. They joined up with what appeared to be a battalion, and together they all headed down one of the streets, away from the town square.

“She must be pretty strong if she’s gonna take on a Class A.” Yuri said.

“Oh, she’s definitely strong. If she’s commander of the infantry, then that makes her Elsa the Frenzy!” Serah said.

“Elsa the Frenzy? One of the four Krystel Knights?” Yuri said.

“That’s right! The Krystel Knights are the strongest soldiers in this Krystel Kingdom, and they directly serve the king himself! I can’t believe we actually got to meet someone like her. Wow...”

“Hey, we’re supposed to be looking for that job about Class Ds. Remember?” Yuri said as he lightly tapped the star-struck Serah.

“O-oh, yeah! Let’s hurry up and find it!”

Together, Yuri and Serah scoured the request board, and they managed to find it; a request that entailed hunting five Class D Hades Dwellers inside the caves on the nearby Mt. Remlan, with a reward of 22,500 kopeks. Mt. Remlan was a small mountain right next to Lysen Town, and the caves there were well-known for having rich ore deposits, so an outbreak of Hades Dwellers there would mean trouble for craftsmen.

Yuri took down the request sheet for this job and, following the directions on the address section, made his way to the requester’s residence with Serah. Not to their surprise, they found themselves at a smithy, and the blacksmith there, who called himself Remi, was very overjoyed to hear they were going to take on his request.

* * *

Judging from the position of the sun in the sky, Yuri surmised that it was getting close to two in the afternoon by the time he and Serah reached an entrance to the Remlan Caves, located about halfway up Mt. Remlan. They used a mountain trail that Remi informed them of to reach their destination.

The two were standing before the mouth of a cave, carved into the face of the mountainside. Two fir trees stood on either side of it, as if they were gates. Behind Yuri and Serah, a dirt path winded down the mountain through a sea of fir trees. The town of Lysen could be seen nestled below them, at the foot of the mountain.

“That blacksmith guy uses this trail to come up here all the time, huh?” Serah said.

“So he said. At least, he did until the Hades Dwellers popped up.” Yuri said. “I wish those stupid things would just stay in the underworld.”

“Oh come on, that’s just a legend. It’s true that people say Hades Dwellers are monsters that seep into this world from the ‘underworld’, but the existence of the underworld hasn’t even been proven.” Serah said.

“Yeah, yeah. Still, it’s annoying when they show up.” Yuri sighed. “Speaking of annoying, these caves look awfully dark. I wish I’d brought a krystel torch. Guess I’ll be counting on you to be my eyes, Serah.”

“Leave it to me! Krystel fairies filter out ‘dark’ and ‘light’, after all! I can see perfectly clearly in any degree of darkness!” she proclaimed.

“Yeah, I know. Let’s get going.” Yuri said.

Yuri drew his sword from its black leather sheath, and took his first steps into the cave mouth. The darkness filling the tunnel was deep and intimidating. He’d barely walked ten feet in before he could no longer see his hand in front of his face.

“Geez, it’s dark... It’s up to you, Serah.” he said.

“Yep. Don’t worry, I can see fine. Keep going straight ahead for a few more yards.” Serah told him.

Yuri trusted in his partner to lead him through this dark abyss. Following Serah’s instructions, he continued forward, stepping over rocks and other obstacles on the cave floor that she warned him about. The further in he went, the more he began to notice the floor sloping downward.

After turning a corner on Serah’s instruction, the two came out in a small cavern. Serah could see veins of ore on the walls, so she figured this was where Remi typically mined for his materials. However, there was no sign of the Hades Dwellers.

“I don’t see anything in here. Maybe they’re deeper in?” Serah said.

“There are supposed to be a few branching paths and tunnels in here, right?” Yuri asked.

“That’s what Remi told us, yeah. They must be down one of those. Let’s keep going. There’s a tunnel straight across from you.”

“Got it.”

Yuri’s footsteps echoed as he carefully walked across the cavern. He passed through the mouth of the new tunnel, and continued on a slight downward slope. This one also curved to the right. They marched down the tunnel for several more feet before Serah stopped him.

“There’s a fork here.” she said.

“Someone left their silverware laying around?”

“No, you dummy! A fork in the path!”

“Well, excuse me. I can’t see a thing. Which way do we go?”

“Hmm... Let’s try going right for now.” she said.

Yuri turned down the the tunnel on the right, stepping over more rocks. This one curved sharply to the right, and then sharply to the left. After following this winding path for several feet, they once again came out to a small cavern. This time, however, something else was there.

“Yuri!” Serah said.

“Yeah. I hear them.” he said, brandishing his sword.

Towards the back of the cavern, Serah could see two reptilian Hades Dwellers. They each had pale, bluish scales covering their bodies and pallid, snake-like heads with beady, red eyes. They were bipedal, with webbed feet and sharp claws at the ends of their fingers. A lengthy tail whipped back and forth at irregular intervals, and a long, forked tongue poked its way through their lips as they hissed.

“Ten steps forward!” Serah called out.

Yuri wasted no time as he dashed through the darkness. He counted ten steps and swung his sword. He could feel it connect with something as feedback tugged on his arm. An anguished hiss echoed throughout the cavern, and Yuri could hear something collapse to the ground with a thud.

“Great! You got the first one!-- Watch out, here comes the second one! Jump back!” she shouted.

An angry snarl was the next thing to echo in the darkness. The smacks of webbed feet on stone followed. Yuri leapt back, and his boots scratched the cavern floor as he skidded to a stop. He could hear a swish of air at the spot where he was previously standing, caused from a swipe of the Hades Dweller’s claws.

“It’s coming back! Duck down half your height and thrust!” Serah instructed.

Yuri listened to the smacks of the beast’s feet as well as its growls approach him once more. He bent his knees and brandished his sword at his side with both hands, the blade pointing outward. He waited for the sounds to grow closer, and quickly crouched down as low as he could. Another swish of air tickled the locks of hair at the top of his head. Yuri did not hesitate to thrust his sword forward.

His arms experienced more feedback as the steel penetrated the scaly hide of the Hades Dweller. This time, he felt a splash on his cheek. He felt the body of the beast fall limp, and he removed it from the end of his sword with a kick. He could hear it flop lifelessly to the cavern floor with a splat.

“Great! You got it!” Serah cheered.

“Yeah. That should leave three more.” he said, wiping the black monster blood off his cheek with his sleeve.

“Yuri, you have some blood on your shirt.” Serah pointed out.

“Oh, great. Terynn’s gonna have a fit...” he sighed.

“Ahaha, yeah, I can imagine.” she laughed. “Anyway, we should look for the remaining Hades Dwellers. They may be down that other tunnel. The one we didn’t take.”

“Yeah, I think so too.”

Yuri flicked his sword, listening to the black blood fly off the blade. Serah led him back down the tunnel they came from, and they reached the fork in the path again. Serah had him take the left tunnel this time.

“Watch your step. It looks like the tunnel slopes a lot here.” Serah advised.

Yuri treaded down the tunnel carefully, keeping his hand close to the wall. This tunnel had a slight leftward curve. Before long, it straightened out, but the slope did not lessen. He stepped over rocks that Serah warned him not to trip over as he made his way down this pitch black tunnel for several more feet. At last, the slope began to decrease.

The tunnel continued straight for several more yards. At the end, they reached the largest cavern yet. From what Serah could see, there were no veins of ore in the walls, unlike the two previous caverns. There was a rather large tunnel dug into one of the walls; larger than the man-made tunnels they had previously traversed. And, just as they expected, the remaining three Hades Dwellers were there.

“Looks like they’re here.” Serah said.

“Okay. Let’s get this done.” Yuri said, brandishing his sword.

These Hades Dwellers were also reptilian types, exactly like the two Yuri defeated earlier. One of them spotted Yuri, and began growling and hissing, alerting the other two. The first one rushed towards Yuri, snarling and drooling. Its eyes looked hungry.

“Here it comes! Move to your right! Quickly!” Serah shouted.

Yuri jumped to his right, and listened as the clumsy footsteps of the monster tackled the space where he had been standing. Yuri swung his blade at a horizontal angle, and felt it cleave through scaly flesh. A cry of pain echoed in the cavern, followed by cries of rage from the two remaining Hades Dwellers.

“One down! Two coming at you together! Forward roll!” Serah yelled.

He could clearly hear the smacks of their feet running towards him. He dove forward, his shoulder grazing past one of them. He somersaulted across the cavern floor and jumped to his feet. Turning on his heel with no hesitation, he sliced through the darkness where he thought the backs of their necks would be. He felt a tug on his sword, and another painful whimper echoed.

“You only got one of them! Jump back!” Serah warned.

Yuri quickly jumped back, and listened to the sound of flailing limbs and growls in the darkness. Smacks of the beast’s feet could also be heard, growing closer.

“Here it comes again! Spin!” Serah called out.

Yuri held his sword out in front of him, firmly extending his arm. He then spun on the heel of his boot three hundred and sixty degrees. He felt his blade carve its way through the body of the approaching Hades Dweller.

“Great! That thing was flailing its arms. You wouldn’t have been able to get close like that.” Serah said. “Well, that takes care of all five Hades Dwellers! We did it!”

“Yeah. Let’s get-”

Yuri was cut off by a deep bellow that echoed in the cavern.

“... What was that?” Yuri said, his voice full of tension.

“Dive to your left! Hurry!” Serah screamed.

Yuri did as she instructed, and as soon as he hit the floor, the whole cavern shook. Something had jumped from the wide tunnel into the cavern.

“What the hell is it?!” Yuri shouted.

“This looks bad! It’s huge! And it’s blocking the way we came in!” Serah said in a panicked voice. “Let’s hurry down the path it came from! Run to eleven o’clock! Fast!”

Yuri dashed across the cavern, following Serah’s orders. As he did, he heard something slam against the wall where he’d been, and the cavern shook some more. Serah led him down the wide tunnel, and he sprinted with all his might.

“Don’t worry, it looks like a straight shot all the way down!” Serah said. “But this isn't good. That thing looked like a Class C!”

“What the hell is a Class C doing here?! The request didn’t say a damn thing about that!” Yuri shouted.

“I don’t know! But it’s chasing us, so just run!”

The two fled down the large tunnel as fast as they could. Yuri could hear sounds of the Class C Hades Dweller’s pursuit. It could be heard clumsily grazing against the walls, shaking the tunnel. Yuri began to worry about the chance of a cave-in. Fortunately, Serah soon shouted some good news.

“There’s an exit! Hurry! We’ll have a better chance against it outside!” Serah said.

“I can see the light up ahead!” Yuri said as he ran.

Yuri’s feet flew as he pushed himself for one last spurt. The light was growing brighter and brighter as he got closer, and soon the darkness faded away as he jumped out of the cave.

Below him was a slope. Yuri quickly hopped down, using boulders as stepping stones. After six hops, his feet hit the bottom of a very wide stream with a splash. The water was only deep enough to submerge the tops of his feet.

Behind him, a great shadow leapt from the cave, gliding over him and crashing down in the water several feet in front of him. Yuri’s eyes were still re-adjusting to the bight light of the outside world, so he could not see the monster clearly.

“Damn, I still can’t see right. Serah, just a little longer!” Yuri shouted.

“Don’t worry, I got you covered! Out here, even a Class C like this won’t be a problem!” she said.

That fearsome bellow resounded again, causing ripples to form across the water’s surface. Yuri could see, however blurry, that the great beast was getting ready to leap toward him.

“Let’s go! Jump to your left!” Serah said.

Yuri dove out of the way, rolling through the water. The beast hit the water, missing him. It then raised one of its arms up, attempting to swat the boy like a fly. He dove forward, avoiding the powerful arm that slammed onto the ground. Water splashed into the air like a fountain from the impact. Yuri quickly got to his feet, rubbing his eyes.

His vision was finally adjusting to the light. He was gradually becoming able to see the Class C clearly. It was at least twice his size, in both height and girth. It was an amphibian type, in the shape of a frog. It had green skin with pale yellow stripes streaking down its back as well as four red eyes, two on each side of its head.

“I can see!” Yuri said.

“All right! Let’s get him!” Serah said.

Yuri dashed through the stream along the side of the Class C, which was turning to face him. It raised its arm up again, but Yuri was too fast for it. He sliced across the beasts arm and dove forward. He leapt up, turning on his heel and slashing while he did it. Black blood sprayed from the wound, dying part of the water black.

The Class C croaked in pain and swept its feet. Yuri jumped back, but his legs were caught by the sweep, and he lost his balance. He fell into the water on his side, bumping his head and scraping his arm.

“Yuri! Roll!” Serah shouted.

Yuri rolled away on his side, fleeing from the frog monster’s tongue. It was firing its tongue off like a piston, crashing onto the stream bed with surprising force. Yuri planted his hand onto the ground and used it like a pole vault. He flipped up into the air and landed on his feet.

The menacing tongue continued to fire at him. Yuri jumped into the air, over it. Before the beast could retract its tongue, Yuri landed, stomping his foot down firmly on it. With a swift motion, he cut through the Class C’s tongue, severing it. Black blood spilled from the severed tongue, and the beast howled in agony.

“Just a little more!” Yuri shouted.

He kicked off the ground and sprinted through the stream, side-stepping past the monster’s flailing arm. Yuri jumped into the air, and his feet touched down on top of the beast’s arm. He leapt once more, this time landing on its back.

Yuri swung his sword in a flurry, carving cut after cut into the monster’s back. The Class C cried out and began thrashing, trying to toss Yuri off its back. Yuri staggered, but he didn’t fall. He flipped his sword around, and, gripping with both his hands, stabbed it down through the back of the creature’s neck.

The monster reared its head, choking in pain. Yuri carved his sword’s way out through the side of its neck and leapt off. As his boots hit the water, the Class C collapsed into the water. Its life drained away with the black blood that flowed from its wounds down the stream.

“Well, that’s that.” Yuri said, flourishing his blade before returning it to its sheath.

“Alright! Nice work!” Serah cheered.

“Still, I wonder why that thing was here. Maybe Remi missed it when he scouted this area for the job.” Yuri said.

“Yeah, maybe. But it’s still his responsibility to know how many of them there are before making a request!” Serah said. “Oversights like this require compensation! We should ask him to increase the reward when we get back!”

* * *

“No can do.” Remi said.

“What?! How can you say that?” Serah fumed. “Don’t you know that Class Cs are more dangerous than Class Ds? It’s your fault that we were caught off-guard! You’re supposed to take responsibility for blunders like this! That’s how requests work!”

“Yeah, I know that. It’s not like I don’t want to compensate you. I just can’t.” he said. “I was already offering all the money I could possibly spare for that job. I just can’t afford to increase the reward.”

“But that’s...” Serah said.

“If he can’t pay more than that, then we can’t do a thing about it. Let’s just drop this.” Yuri said.

“What? Why do you have to pick now to be nice, Yuri?” Serah said.

“H-hey, what’s that supposed to mean?!” he snapped.

“Look, how about this. If you ever need anything from me, I’ll do it for free. Sound good?” Remi said.

“I’m fine with that.” Yuri said.

“... Fine.” Serah said, giving in.

“Great! Thank you so much for taking care of this job for me!” Remi said. “By the way, what should I do about the bodies of those things you killed? Is the clean-up all up to me?”

“Hades Dwellers evaporate after a few hours of death. Their bodies have probably already melted away by now.” Serah said.

“Oh, okay. That’s good to know. Makes things easier for me to start mining again. Anyway, thanks for your hard work. Really! I appreciate it.”

Carrying the bag of 22,500 kopeks over his shoulder, Yuri left the smithy with Serah. They talked as they walked down the street together.

“That guy is such a cheapskate.” Serah grumbled.

“Oh, come on. He offered us compensation. It doesn’t have to be monetary compensation, so long as something decent is offered.” Yuri said.

“Yeah, but money is preferable!”

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s just get home. I’m really hungry.”

“Heh. I don’t blame you, after all that fighting.”

Together, Yuri and Serah traveled to the edge of Lysen Town, and using 250 kopeks from their reward money, rode a coach to Stop 22, the closest coach stop to their camp.

* * *

It was dark out by the time Yuri and Serah arrived at the camp.

“We’re home.” Yuri and Serah said together as they arrived back at camp.

“Oh my, welcome back!” Angelica said. She was standing at the large pot in the center of the camp, cooking soup for the family’s dinner. “How did the job go?”

“Total success!” Serah said.

“That’s wonderful! Good work, you two!” she smiled.

“Thanks!” Serah said cheerfully.

“Thanks.” Yuri said shyly.

The two headed over to where Serah’s body was waiting, untouched in the same spot it’d been when they left. Serah, in the krystel fairy, floated down, and touched the forehead of her body.

A bright flash of orange light shone from the krystel fairy, and it lost its orange color. It fell to the ground at Serah’s feet. Sure enough, Serah began to open her eyes and stretch her arms.

“Ahh~! Feels good to be back in my body!” she said, picking up the krystel fairy as she stood up.

“Let’s go hand this money over to Beron. We need to return our equipment to Selym and Klemn, too.” Yuri said.

“Man, can’t you at least say ‘Welcome back!’ or something?” Serah sighed.

“Why would I do that if we’ve been together all day?”

“Because~!” she whined as she jumped on him.

“Ack! Get off me!”

“Heehee!” she laughed, releasing him from her hug.

“Geez... How old are you, anyway...?” he sighed.

“Older than you, silly.” she said, poking his arm.

“Whatever.”

“Hmph. I wish you’d be nicer to me...” she said quietly.

“Huh?”

“N-nothing! Forget it!”

For a reason that was beyond Yuri’s comprehension, Serah’s face was a little red. He shrugged it off, and the two of them walked over to Beron’s stall. He was sitting behind it, as always. As he was the one who managed the family’s money, when someone comes back from successfully completing a job, they hand over the reward money to him. This is what Yuri and Serah did.

“How much is it?” Beron asked.

“22,500. No wait, we used 250 to pay for the coach ride back. It’s 22,250.” Yuri said.

“I see. Very well, then.” he said, taking it off his hands. “Go on, now.”

“Right, right.”

Next, the two headed over to Klemn's stall. Serah returned the krystel fairy she’d borrowed from him. Then, they walked over to Selym’s stall. Yuri handed back his sword to Selym, who stored it in a case under his stall with the other weapons.

Yuri and Serah walked down to the freshwater stream a few feet away from the camp. They washed their faces together, and then walked back to the center of camp. They sat down on the kids’ side with the others. Angelica passed out bowls of soup to everyone.

“Hey, Yuri! Serah! How was work today?” Maika asked.

“It went well! Although, a Class C came out of nowhere and made things more complicated.” Serah explained.

“Sounds like you two had it rough today.” Aeri said.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal. “Yuri said.

“It was so! That was more dangerous than it had to be!” Serah said.

“We’re alive, aren’t we?”

“Everything’s so simple for you, isn’t it?”

“Heehee, you two get along as great as ever!” Maika laughed.

“You need to get your ears checked.” Raiza said.

“Ha ha ha!” Marko laughed. “Come on now, those two get along just fine!”

“Hey Yuri, is your arm okay?” Scheri asked. “I think I see a little blood on your sleeve...”

“Oh, it’s just a scrape.” Yuri said. “I’m more worried about Terynn freaking out over getting blood on my new shirt than I am about that cut.”

“YOU GOT BLOOD ON YOUR NEW SHIRT?!” Terynn’s voice shouted from the adults’ side.

“You see?” Yuri said.

“O-oh, I’m sorry!” Scheri said.

“... Why are you apologizing for that?” Yuri sighed.

“Still, you should have Silvia look at it. It might get infected.” Serah said.

“Fine...” Yuri said.

He placed his bowl of soup in the grass and stood up. He walked to the adults’ side of camp and found Silvia, sitting with Leyanne. They were eating together.

“Hey, Yuri! Are you ready to ask me out now~?” Leyanne said.

“Silvia, can you take a look at this?” Yuri said, rolling up his sleeve to show her his cut.

“Oh, certainly. Come this way.” she said.

“Ignoring me, huh?” Leyanne pouted.

Silvia led Yuri to her stall and sat down behind it. Yuri offered his arm to her, and she examined the cut. Silvia was the doctor for the family. She always took care of anyone who got hurt. Though, if they needed serious medical attention, she would take them into town for that.

“This isn’t bad. You just need a bandage-- Achoo!” she sneezed.

“Hey, don’t sneeze on my cut!”

“S-sorry. Here, I’ll use a little disinfectant.” she said, reaching below her stall.

“Seriously, if you’re a doctor, take care of that cold already...” he sighed.

“Yeah, I just can’t seem to shake it off, huh?” she laughed.

After touching up Yuri’s cut with some disinfectant, she placed a small bandage over it before letting him go. Yuri returned to finish his soup, sitting back down next to Serah.

“How’d it go?” she asked.

“Fine. She’s still got that cold, though.” he replied.

“Ha ha ha! She’s had that cold forever, huh?” Marko laughed.

“Yeah. It makes me nervous when I need to see her for something...” Aeri said.

“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Raiza said.

After chatting for a while and finishing their dinner, everyone brought their dishes to Angelica and headed off to their respective tents. After zipping the door to their tent closed behind them, Yuri and Serah started getting ready for bed. They took off their shoes and socks, placing them in a corner of the tent.

“Are you ready for bed?” Serah asked.

“Yeah. I’m really tired.” Yuri said.

“I am, too. Today was kinda crazy...”

“I think it was the same as ever. Just another typical day for us...”

“Heehee. Yeah, I guess so.” she smiled.

The two got into their two-person sleeping bag together on their respective sides, preparing to drift off to sleep. As yet another day faded away, they wished each other a good night and closed their eyes.



Next: Everyday Life ~Maika and Aeri~
 
Last edited:

pkfroce

Skelepuns
Joined
Nov 25, 2012
Location
The Underground
Gender
Male
DAYUM. You really are an amazing author Az. The fight scenes you wrote pulled me in and HOLY **** IT WAS SO GOOOOOOOD. Very exciting and detailed. Can't wait for the story to unfold. Great job! ^^
 

Violet Link

takumi was a mistake and so are the S supports
Joined
Feb 18, 2012
Location
insert fictional world
Like what I said before. Your special ability in writing is making things detailed, and you did a really great job in flowing that ability to your chapter here, making it enable the reader to imagine as detailed as what you wrote. *claps hands*
 

Azure Sage

Spread Smiles!
Staff member
ZD Legend
Comm. Coordinator
I finally finished chapter two! I should really stop posting these several months apart... But I'm really lazy. xD This chapter is 18 pages long, so it's 5 pages shorter than the previous chapter. It also introduces the concept of dragonslayers, part of the reason behind the story's title. I hope you enjoy it!





Chapter Two
Everyday Life ~Maika and Aeri~


Aeri awoke in his tent to find the sleeping body of Maika sprawled on top of him.

“Not again...” he sighed quietly. “Why can’t she just stay on her own side at night?”

With a red face, he gently pushed Maika off of him. She laid on her back, her mouth gaping open and a line of drool trailing its way down her cheek. Aeri sat up and watched her sleeping face for a while. He listened to her occasional snores and sighed.

“She’s a mess. But still, I...”

He cut himself off by vigorously shaking his head. He sprang up from the two-person sleeping bag and quickly left the tent. As he zipped the door shut, he noticed that Yuri had just left his tent.

“Oh, good morning, Yuri.” Aeri said.

“Hey.” he replied. “Your face is red. What, did Maika roll over on top of you in her sleep again?”

“Wha?! Y-you’re right...” Aeri said, feeling embarrassed.

“I figured it was something like that.”

“Ha ha ha! That happens a lot, doesn’t it? And every time it leaves Aeri as red as a beet!” Marko said as he approached.

“Hey, keep your voice down! The girls are still sleeping!” Aeri said. “... Wait, what do you mean it leaves me red in the face every time? Really?”

“Yeah. Really.” Yuri said.

“I-it’s that noticeable?” Aeri said.

“What are you referring to? The fact that it makes you blush or the fact that you’re in love with Maika? Because both are obvious.” Yuri said.

“Whoa whoa whoa! D-don’t say something like that so casually!” Aeri panicked. His entire face, right to the tips of his ears, was bright red.

“Ha ha ha! It’s no biggie.” Marko said, patting Aeri’s back. “Trust me, the only one who hasn’t picked up on it is Maika herself. And maybe some of the little kids, too.”

“Urgh...” Aeri sighed. “It’s really that obvious, huh?”

“Yeah! Even a disinterested guy like Yuri noticed it, after all!” Marko said.

“Disinterested...?” Yuri grumbled.

“Anyway, I’m gonna go get some clothes from Terynn. I’ll see you guys later.” Aeri said, trying to run away from the subject.

Yuri and Marko watched Aeri rush off to the adults’ side of camp. After he was gone, Maika poked her head out from their tent.

“Good morning, guys!” she said.

“You’re as cheerful as ever.” Yuri said.

“Ha ha ha! Good morning!” Marko said.

“Where’s Aeri?” Maika asked.

“He went to get clothes from Terynn.” Yuri told her.

“Oh, okay. I’ll go do that, too.” she said.

“Yeah. You need to!” Marko laughed.

“Huh?” Maika looked down at herself, and saw that she wasn’t wearing a shirt. The only thing covering her chest was her bra. “Oh. Whoopsie.”

“You’re as airheaded as ever, too.” Yuri sighed.

“Maika! Not again!” Serah said as she left her tent.

“Oh, good morning!” Maika said with a smile.

“Don’t give me that innocent smile! It’s bad enough that you take off your clothes around us sometimes, but for God sakes, don’t walk around without a shirt on! How many times do I have to tell you that?” Serah ranted.

“She’s like her mother.” Marko said.

“Yeah.” Yuri agreed.

Serah grabbed Maika’s arm. “Come on, let’s get you to Terynn.”

“Okay~.” Maika said as Serah tugged her along.

The two of them walked through the damp morning grass across the camp, and met up with Aeri at Terynn’s stall.

“Oh, hey girls.” Aeri said after pulling a turquoise turtleneck shirt over his head. “Uwah?! Maika, w-where’s your shirt?”

“That’s what we’re here for.” Serah said.

“Heehee, sorry!” Maika giggled.

“It’s not a joke, you know!” Serah chided her.

“Here, here. Your usual clothes.” Terynn said.

“Thank you!” Maika said.

Terynn handed Maika a pink blouse and a brown leather vest. She fit her head through the blouse and pulled her arms through the sleeves, and then donned her vest.

“Mm, comfy!” she said.

“Then keep it on, if you think it’s comfy!” Serah said. “Well, I’m gonna go see Yuri. Bye, you two.”

“Bye!” Maika waved.

“See you.” Aeri said. “So, Maika, what do you want to do? Wanna look for a job?”

“Yeah! That sounds good to me!” she said, shaking her head.

“Let’s ask Leyanne if she’s heard about any good ones, then.”

“You called?” Leyanne asked, putting her arm around Aeri.

“Whoa, where’d you come from?!’ Aeri gasped, retreating behind Maika.

“I came to tease you! You’re so shy, it’s fun to mess with you!” Leyanne said.

“Please don’t do that...” Aeri sighed.
“Anyway, you wanted to know about good jobs? It’s your lucky day, you two! I heard about a herb gathering job in Svena Town that pays 50,000 kopeks!” she told them.

“F-fifty thousand?! Just for gathering herbs?” Aeri said in shock.

“Wow! That’s amazing!” Maika said.

“Yeah, it surprised me, too. I thought it sounded too good to be true, but I looked into it, and it seems it’s the real deal. Naturally, there’s no way it would pay that much if it weren’t significantly dangerous. So if you plan on taking it, keep that in mind.” Leyanne advised.

“Yeah, that makes sense. We’ll be careful.” Aeri said.

“Alright! Let’s get ready to go!” Maika said.

Together, Maika and Aeri walked to Selym’s stall for a weapon. “Hey, you two!” he greeted.

“Hello. We’re going on a job today, so can you give Maika her weapon?” Aeri said.

“Sure, sure. Not a problem!” Selym said.

He reached into the weapons chest behind his stall and dug out a bladed mace. He carefully handed it over to Maika, who equipped it at her waist with a brown leather sash.

“Thank you!” Maika said.

“Good luck! And Aeri, you gotta make a move at some point!” Selym teased.

“Wha?! What’s with you guys? Geez...” Aeri said, red in the face.

“Huh? What was that about?” Maika asked.

“I-it’s nothing! Don’t worry!” Aeri said in a panic.

The two headed towards Klemn’s stall next, listening to Selym laugh in the background. Aeri felt thankful that Maika was about as dense as they come.

“Morning, kids. You going on a job today?” Klemn said.

“Yes. Can I have a krystel fairy, please?” Aeri asked.

“Sure, sure. Here you go.”

Klemn handed over a krystel fairy to Aeri, who carried the small, spherical stone in his hand.

“How’s about I give you a couple’s discount?” Klemn joked.

“Couple’s discount?” Maika said, tilting her head.

“Ack! Don’t joke like that! Come on, Maika.” Aeri said, pulling his partner away. “What’s with everybody today?”

After leaving Klemn’s stall, the two made their way over to Beron for some money.

“Hi, Beron. We need some money to travel to Svena Town.” Aeri said.

“And some money for food!” Maika added.

“Alright. What’s the coach fare to Svena again? 200? Here you go.” Beron said, handing a small satchel of kopeks to Maika. “200 kopeks for coach fare.”

“Um... What about food money?” she asked.

“200 kopeks for coach fare.” Beron repeated.

“Is that your way of saying you won’t give us food money?” Aeri sighed.

“Please? I know I’ll be hungry when I get there and I can’t work on an empty stomach!” Maika said.

“Yeah. It’s important for her to keep her strength up.” Aer said. “Just 300 more will be plenty. We can find something cheap.”

“... Fine. Here.” Beron said, giving in.

“Thank you.” Aeri aid.

“Thanks!” Maika said.

“What? How’d you get him to do that? He’s never that nice to me.” Yuri, who was nearby, said.

“That’s because you don’t know how to be polite.” Serah, who was with him, said, tapping his arm.

“Ha ha!” Maika laughed.

“Eh heh heh... Sorry.” Aeri said.

“Okay, let’s get going, Aeri! Come on!” Maika said excitedly, dragging him off.

First, they stopped by their tent so Maika could get her brown leather boots. She slipped into them and left the tent. Afterwards, the two headed over to the center of camp on the kids’ side.

Aeri sat down in the grass, not bothered by the wet morning dew. He pressed the krystel fairy to his forehead, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. Within his mind, he spoke the word “Transfer.”

Immediately, he felt his spatial position change. A strange sensation led his consciousness as it left his body in the form of a brass colored light, the same color as his eyes.The fairy pressed to his forehead sprang to life as it sprouted its wings. Aeri’s arm went limp to his side as his body fell dormant.

A new field of vision spread out before Aeri. The brightness of the morning sun was filtered out, and he could see the world around him in a neutral light. His line of sight bobbed up and down as he fluttered about, his consciousness now within the krystel fairy.

“You ready to go?” Maika asked.

“Yeah. Let’s get going.” Aeri said.

“Hey! Are you two heading off on a job?” Angelica called out to them.

“That’s right!” Maika said.

“Oh, that’s nice! Here, take this with you.” she said, tossing her a roll of bread. “Be safe, you two! Be home by dinner, okay?”

“We will!” Maika said.

“Thank you.” Aeri said.

With that, the two of them headed off to Coach Stop 22. From there, they would hitch a ride to the nearby town of Svena for their job.

* * *

“Aeri, I’m hungry~! Let’s get some food before we hit the request board!” Maika moaned.

“Can’t you put up with it for a little while? We just got here, after all. It’s not even half past eleven yet.” Aeri said, trying to calm her down.

“Fine. If you say so, Aeri.” she said.

The two headed through the main street of the small town of Svena. It was more rural compared to the other towns in the area, with dirt roads and wooden homes instead of buildings made from cement and stone.

There were not many people crowding the streets. It was mostly parents and their kids going to lunch or school. The road was lined with stalls and vendors, but they were not very busy. It was a rather quiet and slow-paced town. Even in a town like this, however, people still needed help. And that was where the request board at the town square came in.

The town square was a small field surrounded by homes. It was filled with brilliant blades of green grass, and white and yellow daisies were planted in a spiral pattern, meeting at the center where the request board stood. Like all others, it rose eight feet in the air and ten feet across, and it was covered in request flyers.

Maika and Aeri approached the board and began examining the various requests that were posted.

“A lot of these are pretty mundane... There’s even one to help a kid find his lost cat.” Aeri said. “Figures a small town like this wouldn’t have very many big jobs.”

“Yeah... Is there really a request worth 50,000 kopeks on here?” Maika sighed.

“Well, Leyanne’s never wrong. If it’s not here, then someone must have gotten to it before us.” Aeri said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. 50,000 kopeks for gathering herbs is too good to be true. No one would turn that down.”

Just as he said that, a man approached the board and slapped a request sheet onto it, just a few inches from Aeri.

“Uwah?! Hey, watch it!” he fumed.

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t see you there.” The man apologized.

“Hey, that’s the request we were looking for!” Maika said, pointing at it.

Aeri examined it, and he saw that it was true. It said clearly on the sheet that 50,000 kopeks were offered for whoever could gather two basketfuls of cherri grass herbs.

“Wow, it really is!” he exclaimed.

“You two came here for this job?” the man asked.

“That’s right! Are you the guy who posted it?” Maika asked.

“Yes, I am. My name’s Leaux.” he said. “I need two basketfuls of cherri grass, and I’m willing to pay 50,000 for it.”

“That’s great! We’ll take it!” Maika said.

“Hold on, Maika. Look at this...” Aeir said, indicating something written at the end of the request description.

Warning: A dragon has been sighted in the area. Extremely dangerous.

“A... dragon?” Maika said.

“That’s right. The dragon is the reason I’m paying so much for the reward.” Leaux explained. “Ever since it moved into the cave near where the cherri grass I pick grows, I haven’t been able to do any gathering. My business is going under. That’s why I put up the request, but it’s so dangerous that I had to pour all my life savings into the reward. Once I can pick cherri grass again, I’ll be able to make it back in no time, but as things stand, I’ll have to close down shop.”

“I see... Maika, this is too risky. We’d better not take this request.” Aeri said.

“What? How can you say that, Aeri?” Maika said. “This man’s livelihood is at stake! How can we just let this go? I want to help him!”

“What?! Maika, are you crazy? Didn’t you hear what he said? We could get attacked by a dragon! Dragons are considered Class S Hades Dwellers, the strongest there is! They’re so invincible, only a handful of people throughout history have ever been able to slay one! If we get attacked by something like that, we’ll die for sure!”

“Well, dragons are nocturnal aren’t they? It should be asleep by now! We should be fine. I’m doing this either way.”

Maika’s eyes held a gleam that Aeri knew he couldn’t fight against. There was no way he could resist her when she had that look. He eventually gave in with a sigh.

“... Alright. Let’s do it. But please be careful.” Aeri said.

“Don’t worry. I can count on you to protect me!” she said with a grin.

“You’ll do the request? Really?” Leaux said. They nodded. “If you’re sure you’re up to it, I won’t stop you. But just be warned, it’s extremely dangerous. The reason I’m putting this back on the board is because the last guy who took it hasn’t been seen since he headed up the mountain two days ago. He was eaten for sure...”

“E-eaten?” Aeri said.

“Oh, that reminds me! We still have to eat lunch!” Maika said.

“Maika?!”

* * *

Maika and Aeri marched across the plains to the west of Svena town. On the other side of this outstretch of grass, they would find a small mountain where cherri grass grows. In each hand, Maika gripped the handle of a medium-sized wicker basket. She would use these to carry the cherri grass she gathered back to Leaux’s home in Svena.

“Do you think we’ll see the dragon?” Maika said.

“I really hope not...” Aeri sighed.

“Those things must be really impossible to kill, huh?” she said. “Oh, wait a second. Our king killed a dragon, didn’t he?”

“Yeah, that’s right. King Revel is one of the few people to become a dragonslayer. You know what they say about dragonslayers, right? If you kill a dragon and bathe in its blood, you become like a dragon yourself.”

“Yeah! You grow a fang and your eyes turn scarlet red and you can even breathe fire! Don’t they say you become impervious to fire, too?”

“Uh-huh. You also gain incredible physical strength.” Aeri said. “But if you ask me, all that isn’t worth the danger of fighting a dragon. So very few people have actually succeeded that it’s simply astonishing that we’re living in the same age as someone who pulled it off.”

“There are people called dragontamers, though, aren’t there? People who can control the mind of a dragon using a krystel whistle? Couldn’t you just control a dragon to keep it still while you attack it?” Maika asked.

“No, that doesn’t work. The mind control wears off the second the dragon senses even a little bit of malice toward it. And you can’t kill them in their sleep either because they’re so alert about their surroundings that they’d notice you before you got within 10 yards, even while asleep.”

“No wonder so few people have ever killed a dragon... I wonder how King Revel did it.” Maka said.

“Yeah. No one seems to know how he did it.”

“All that aside, the cherri grass is supposed to be growing awfully close to the cave... Are we gonna be okay?”

“Leaux said that the dragon should be pretty far back in the cave. If we just stay as far away from the mouth of the cave as possible, we should be safe.”

“Alright. I think we’re almost to the mountain. Let’s get this done!” Maika said, picking up her pace.

“Hey, wait up!” Aeri called out.

Aeri followed after Maika as she jogged up the side of the small mountain at the edge of the plains. The two of them followed a dirt path that snaked up the side, passing by boulders and trees and even crossing a wooden bridge over a river at the bottom of a small crevice. Maika’s boots kicked up a trail of dust behind her as she trotted up the incline.

The sun was rising high in the sky. It was surely past one in the afternoon by now. Maika wiped sweat off her brow, whipping her hair aside. She gazed further up the trail and spotted a field at the end of the path.

“Hey Aeri, is that it up ahead?” she asked.

“Stay here. Let me go check.”

“Geez, you worrywart.” she giggled.

“Maika, this isn’t a joke! If that’s the place, then it means we’re close to the dragon’s cave, too!”

Aeri flew on ahead to the small field. It was very wide and circular, and it was covered in small pink flowers. This was cherri grass. Across the field from where he was, just a few yards away from the cherri grass, was the face of a large cliff. Sure enough, the mouth of a cave was dug into the base of the cliff.

“This has to be it...” Aeri whispered.

He returned to Maika’s side. “Is this it, Aeri?” she asked him.

“Yes. Now, let’s be careful. We have to do this quietly. You remember how Leaux told you to pick cherri grass, right?”

“Yeah, I got it! Let’s do it!” she said.

“Quietly!” Aeri reminded her.

Maika and Aeri slowly approached the field. After waiting for a few minutes to make sure a raging dragon wouldn’t suddenly burst out from the cave, she knelt down in the grass. She began picking shoots of cherri grass, one flower at a time, and gently placing them in the wicker basket at her side.

Cherri grass was a valuable herb because of the sap contained within the stem. It could be used as part of a compound for many different forms of medicines. To make sure the sap doesn’t leak out, the base of the stem must be pinched shut after it’s picked.

Maika had to be careful not to let the wind blow the cherri grass from her hands as she lowered them into the basket. She tucked her bangs behind her ears to keep her hair out of her eyes. Aeri kept looking back and forth between her and the cave, making sure the dragon wasn’t coming.

They were able to slowly fill one of the baskets after half an hour of quiet work. Maika sighed and wiped sweat from her forehead.

“Phew! We’re half done.” she whispered.

“Alright. So far so good. Let’s hurry up and-”

Aeri was cut off by a deep bellow, followed by the thunderous sound of footsteps. These frightening sounds were coming from deep within the cave.

“Oh no...” Aeri said.

“Is that the...?” Maika said.

The bellow could be heard again, shaking the face of the cliff and even the ground.

“How did it notice us? We stayed away from the cave and kept our voices down!” Aeri panicked.

“Aeri, look! The wind!” Maika said, pointing at the grass.

Aeri could see that the blades of grass in the field were being blown in the direction of the cave.

“That has to be it! The wind blew our scents toward the cave! That’s why it noticed us!”

The deafening footsteps were growing louder.

“No sense in worrying about that now! We have to get out of here!” Maika said, picking up the one basket they managed to fill.

Just as Maika sprang to her feet, it appeared. Its gruesome head protruded out from the darkness of the cave. It had large scarlet eyes with slit pupils and yellow sclera. Crimson scales covered its face like impenetrable armor. Its long jaw was filled with teeth and fangs sharp enough to bite through a person’s body like butter. Two brown horns grew out from it’s head, twisting and curling behind its web-like ears.

Its nostrils puffed out smoke as its jaw slowly opened. Deep inside its maw, a spark lit up.

“Maika!” Aeri shouted.

She nodded and dove to the left as fast as she could. The dragon spit up roaring flames, incinerating the field of cherri grass and scorching the earth. The intense heat left a streak of black ash in its wake.

Maika was safely off to the side and out of the flames’ path. Aeri had gone high above the reach of the fire to search out the best escape route. The dragon, seeing that it missed its target, growled. It began to slowly make its way out of the cave, placing one fearsome foot in front of the other.

“This way!” Aeir shouted as he flew down to Maika’s side.

Maika quickly turned on her heel and, carrying the one basket she managed to fill, sprinted as fast as she could down the mountain. The dragon finished slinking out of the cave and, whipping the arrow-like spade on its tail back and forth, it turned toward Maika and Aeri, preparing to douse them with its hellfire.

“Behind here!” Aeri shouted, leading Maika behind a large boulder on the mountainside.

The dragon released bellowing flames, crashing down like a flood on the boulder. Maika shrieked and covered her ears while Aeri huddled closer to her. The hot flames licked around the edges of the rock, singeing Maika’s hair. Even with the intense heat, however, the rock did not melt completely.

As the fires ceased, Maika and Aeri took off down the mountain. Getting frustrated, the dragon roared again, shaking the ground and even the air. It began to stretch its wings, preparing them for flight.

“Where do we go from here?” Maika shouted.

“Into the river! Come on!” Aeri replied.

The dragon took flight, kicking up great gusts of wind with its flapping wings. It soared through the skies that were quickly filling with smoke and chased after its prey. Maika and Aeri reached the wooden bridge and the river just as the great beast was above them.

The dragon reared its head back, getting ready for another helping of fire. Maika dove off the cliff, down into the river at the bottom of the crevice, Aeri followed after her. As they disappeared beneath the water’s surface, the dragon’s fire rained down.

The flames hit the water, but they did not get any farther than that. Maika and Aeri were safe in their aquatic sanctuary. After the fire had died down, Maika poked her head above the now almost boiling water, gasping for air

“Ack! It’s hot!” she cried out.

“Deal with it for now! We gotta swim!” Aeri said, coming out of the water with her.

Maika furiously swam downstream, enduring the high water temperature as best as she could. The dragon, still flying high above them, roared once again. It had finally grown tired of this hunt, and turned around to head back to its cave.

* * *

“What happened to you?!” Leaux exclaimed, seeing Maika and Aeri standing dripping wet before his stall.

“We got attacked by the dragon. We barely managed to escape...” she said.

“I’m so sorry... The dragon burned the entire field of cherri grass. And in all the chaos, we lost the one basket we managed to fill...” Aeri said.

“What?! You’ve gotta be kidding me! Now what am I gonna do?” Leaux freaked.

“I’m sorry. I guess we failed this request.” Maika said.

“Well, don’t worry about it too much. I’ll figure something out. At least you guys made it back alive. You’re the first to do that much.” Leaux said. “I can’t pay you, but I do appreciate you trying to help. Goodbye, now.”

“Bye.” Maika and Aeri said.

As they walked away from Leaux’s stall, Maika sighed. “It sucks that we couldn’t complete this request.”

“Yeah... I told you it was too dangerous.”Aeri said.

“Uh-huh. I’m sorry, Aeri. I should have listened to you.”

“It’s okay. I’m just glad you’re okay. If you had died back there, I’d...” he started to say.

“Hm?”

“... Nevermind. I’m glad you’re okay, that’s all.” he said, sounding embarrassed.

“Heehee! I’m glad you’re okay, too!”

“W-well, of course I would be okay! The damage krystel fairies receive don’t transfer back to their users, after all. Even if the fairy gets destroyed, my consciousness will just get sent back to my body, and I’ll wake up just fine.” Aeri said, trying to hide his embarrassment.

“I know that, silly! I’m still glad you didn’t get destroyed or anything, though!” she said with a smile.

“Th-thank you...” Aeri said. If he were in his real body, he’d be blushing like crazy.

“I guess we’re gonna have to walk back, though...” Maika said

“Huh? O-oh yeah, you’re right. We spent our remaining money on lunch earlier. Well, luckily this town is pretty close to our camp. It shouldn’t take too long.”

“Yep. I hope we get back in time for dinner.”

* * *

The night sky had already settled in by the time Maika and Aeri returned to camp. The fire in the center was lit, and Angelica could be seen standing over a cauldron.

“We’re back! And by the looks of it, just in time for dinner!" Maika said excitedly.

“Oh, welcome back, dears!” Angelica said, turned around to face them. “How did the job go?”

“Eh... We failed. Sorry.” Aeri said.

“You failed today, huh?” Han said, approaching them.

“Uh-huh. We’re sorry...” Maika said.

“Well, that’s alright. I’m sure you tried your best. And you both made it back safe and sound. That’s what’s most important.” Han said, giving them an encouraging smile. He ruffled Maika’s hair. “Chin up, kiddo.” he said like he always did.

“Hehehe!” Maika giggled.

The two of them returned to Aeri’s body, sitting right where they left it in the grass. Aeri floated down and touched the forehead of his body. In his mind, he once again spoke the word “Transfer.” The brass colored light returned to his body, and he once again felt his spatial position change. Soon enough, he opened his eyes, and the now empty krystel fairy fell to the ground at his feet.

Aeri stood up, stretching his arms out above his head. “I always feel kind of restless when I return to my body.” he said.

“Yeah, I can understand. Sitting in place like that all day would probably make your joints all stiff!” Maika said. “Let’s go return our equipment now.”

“Okay.”

The two of them stopped by Klemn’s stall to return the krystel fairy, and then to Selym’s stall to return Maika’s mace. She hadn’t needed to use her weapon today, but it was still wise to carry one when going out on a job. They didn’t need to visit Beron’s stall, since they didn’t make any money today.

After returning all of their equipment, they joined the others on the kids’ side of camp.

“Hey, guys!” Maika said as she plopped down in the grass.

“You look like hell.” Yuri said.

“Yuri, don’t be rude!” Serah said.

“Eh heh heh! We kinda got attacked by a dragon today!” Maika said.

“Holy cow! That’s crazy!” Marko said. “I’m glad you made it back in one piece! Ha ha ha!”

“Are you guys okay?” Scheri asked.

“Yeah, we’re fine. Don’t worry.” Aeri said.

“O-oh. I’m sorry.” Scheri said.

“A dragon, huh?” Raiza said. “I bet I could’ve taken it down. After all, it’s me we’re talking about. I’m invincible.” he boasted.

“Yeah, right, Weirdo.” Yuri said.

“Oh, shut up, Gloomy! You’re just jealous.” Raiza snapped. “Ana knows how awesome I am! Tell him, Ana!”

“No, you’re still really weird, Raiza.” Ana said innocently.

“It’d take a lot to kill a dragon. I can’t imagine how someone could do it.” Serah said.

“Sounds like a huge pain. I hope I don’t ever have to face something like that.” Yuri sighed.

“Trust me, you don’t want to. We almost got burned alive.” Aeri said.

“Oh yeah, that reminds me. My hair got burned while we were running away. Serah, can you help me cut it?” Maika asked.

“Oh, sure thing. How short do you wanna go?” Serah asked.

“Let’s cut it to my shoulders this time! I wanna mix things up a little!” Maika said.

“Okay, we can do that. Let’s go borrow some scissors from Silvia.” Serah said.

Serah and Maika got up and headed over to the adults’ side of camp together. Aeri watched them with a hopeful look on his face.

“You don’t have to imagine how cute Maika would look with short hair, you know. You’re gonna see it in just a few minutes.” Yuri said.

“Sh-shut up! That isn’t what I was doing!” Aeri said, his face turning red.

“Oh, don’t tease him, now.” Angelica said, arriving to pass out food to the kids.

“Oooh, a nice vegetable stew! Thank you!” Scheri said as she received her bowl.

“You’re welcome, dear. I hope you enjoy it.” Angelica said.

“Vegetable stew? The Master of Coolness needs meat and protein to maintain his rippling muscles! Ha ha ha!” Marko said, flexing his arms.

“Just be happy we get to eat at all.” Yuri said.

Angelica finished passing out bowls of soup to all the kids, and left two bowls in the grass for Maika and Serah when they returned. As she walked away, everyone started digging in.

“Mm, delicious!” Scheri said.

“I don’t care for vegetables very much.” Raiza said.

“I’m sure someone as great as you can stomach them.” Yuri said.

“Y-you’re darn right I can! I can handle anything!” Raiza said.

“Uh-huh, sure.” Yuri sighed.

After a few minutes, Maika and Serah arrived. They sat down with their bowls.

“Well, how does it look?” Maika said, showing off her new haircut.

“Wow, your hair looks so pretty like that!” Scheri said.

“Looks good.” Yuri said between putting spoonfuls of stew in his mouth.

“Nice! Serah did a good job! Ha ha ha!” Marko said.

“... Y-yeah. It looks really nice.” Aeri said in awe. His face was bright red.

“Heehee! Thanks guys!” Maika said. “I don’t think I’ve worn my hair this short since I was a kid.”

“I haven’t had short hair since I was little, either.” Serah reminisced. “Yuri, you could use a haircut, too. Your bangs are getting long.”

“I’m fine.” he said.

“If you say so.” Serah sighed.

Everyone talked and laughed with each other for a while longer. After they finished off their stew, they brought the dishes back to Angelica. Gradually, people started heading to their tents for the night. Maika and Aeri were no exception.

Aeri unzipped the door to his tent, allowing Maika to enter first. He followed in after her and zipped the door shut behind himself. After spreading out their sleeping bag, they each sat down on top of it.

“Today was a crazy day, huh?” Aeri said.

“Yeah. We actually got to see a dragon! Although we did almost die, heh heh.” Maika said.

“Uh-huh. ... You know, I really am glad you didn’t get hurt, Maika. Really...” Aeri said, blushing.

Maika didn’t really understand why he was blushing so much, but she smiled at him all the same. “Thank you.” she said cheerfully.

“... Yeah.” Aeri said.

And with that, they each wished each other a good night.



Next: Everyday Life ~Marko and Scheri~
 
Last edited:

Users who are viewing this thread

Top Bottom