Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Chapter 2

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Chapter 31: Calm and Majestic

Tyram the calm versus Rumari the Majestic Lancer! The fight was certainly majestic but it was anything but calm. The way Ureksa was cheering, anyone would think he really did want Rumari to leave Tyram like swiss cheese.

Though Tyram retained a good pace all throughout the battle, from the start he was more on the defensive than the offensive. At one point, Rumari got annoyed because she thought Tyram wasn't seriously trying to beat her and spun her spear so fast it was like a tornado around her. She hit him with the blunt end after slowing down so as to not crack his skull and for the rest of the night Tyram wore a red spot on his forehead which slowly faded to purple then black.

Sanary was certainly amused by all that. She took back anything she ever said about Rumari becoming weak because she was in love and declared that it was rather obvious who would be the boss of that marriage. I just enjoyed watching the battle too. Of course Rumari won.

After the first round against Tyram, Rumari asked her brother for another exhibition match. Though rather than a spar, it was more like a demonstration of their skills with spears. They were in perfect sync with each other; surely they're an unbeatable team.

Several other matches took place, including Bron versus Libody, in which Bron won, but pretended that it was harder than it actually was to get more attention from Amariss. But the longest battle was between the two Craftlords of Iron. The twins, Pratty and Cleru fought an impressive battle that ended in a draw. They pushed themselves to the limit and were exhausted afterwards.

When dinner time rolled around, and people started sitting down to eat, I spotted Master Sakuro helping with the food and realized he must have snuck off to help in the kitchen while I was hiding in the bathroom. "Can I help with anything?"

"Oh sure, you can start serving on this side or help set the table on the other end." I wanted to stay and help where I could be near Sakuro, even if the image of Ureksa was also present in my mind.

But the truth is I'm clumsy when it comes to serving drinks and will surely spill something. As for the food, I'm terrible at calculating how much to serve and I'll either leave people hungry and end up with too much left in the pot, or serve too much and leave the last few people with empty plates. I accepted the fact that if I stay it will be disastrous and admitted it. "I'll help set the table; I'm clumsy serving things..." Even if I'm not exactly complimenting myself with that, I felt that I needed to avoid the embarrassment and I needed to give Sakuro a reason why I chose to move to the other side of the room, even if I really want to stay near him.

"Okay," after Sakuro gave me some directions, I left, off to finish setting the plates and eating utensils on the other end of the row of tables, while people start being seated and served on this side.

The trip to the other side of the tables wasn't bad; I found Rumari and Tyram talking to some people. They had not even sat down yet. While setting the table with immense care to avoid dropping anything, I searched for Ureksa among the crowd, but didn't find him. For a moment my eyes stopped on the newly weds and just in time the little cart ran out of plates and utensils and the table was set. I didn't think the cart would be needed right away, and if it was, someone else would see it and take it, so I went to join the circle of people around Rumari and Tyram.

For a while, I just stood there, pretending to be part of the conversation. I was simply there. I still write to Rumari, and she's very easy to talk to, but surrounded with so many people it's hard to talk to the bride, groom and the others when only the bride will know what I'm talking about.

After a while of standing there, the crowd around Rumari and Tyram begins to dissipate and Ureksa appears. I stand around a little longer and for a moment Rumari glances at me as if asking if I wanted to say something. I only smile like an idiot; feeling embarrassed that Ureksa paused and looked at me too. I shake my head and awkwardly get out of there. Ureksa looks manlier when his hair isn't falling on his face covering half of it and the thought of his handsome face makes me blush just like the thought of Sakuro.

After a while, we're all seated. I'm sitting between two people I don't really know. There are a lot of guests and the seats closest to the Craftlords, which are also closest to the bride and groom, have already been taken. Overall, dinner was absolutely delicious, but quite boring. I'm pretty sure my friends were sitting near the Craftlords, but I dared not ask for anyone to make room for me and simply sat where there was an empty place. Because of that, I had no one to talk to during dinner.

There was an awkward moment where, since all my time was being devoted to eating dinner and not talking, I realized that I was almost done, when those around me were just getting started. The familiar feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time settled into the bottom of my stomach where it would remain for the rest of the dinner.

I tend to eat in big bites, and I'm not lady-like at all. Tonight I was watching my manners but spilled some curry on my dress anyway. I later hid the stain behind a flower held in place with a safety pin I got from Amariss. Who knows why she was carrying a safety pin in the first place, but I'm glad she had it. The flower looked like it was meant to go there and thus unless they saw the stain before, no one would know that the flower was covering a curry stain.

Dinner was both calm and majestic, though lonely in my case. Time continued to pass, and once again the musicians got ready to play another round of songs. It was time to dance again, and I dreaded it. I didn't want to hide again, but I didn't know what else to do other than stand around idly.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 32: Dancing With Sakuro

"What are you doing up here?" I was all alone in upper Wystern until Master Sakuro arrived.

"Nothing really," I was hiding out again. At least there's a nice view up here.

"Rumari asked about you," now he's got my curiosity, not that it was needed for me to pay attention.

"She did?" I'm quite happy staring at Master Sakuro, he's extra handsome today and I'm on cloud nine day dreaming about how things would be if we were a couple who snuck up here for a romantic moment alone.

"Yes, she said you haven't danced. They're dancing again, you shouldn't miss out." Sakuro's smile is truly wonderful.

"I don't know how to dance," I admit. "What about you? You've been busy helping with the food, right?"

"Yes, but my duties are done for tonight and I did dance in-between trips to the kitchen." A soft breeze blows, playing with his long brown hair which isn't tied into its usual low ponytail today.

I simply stare at Sakuro, unable to get my eyes off him. My cheeks become red but I can't make myself stop staring. I want to sink out of existence, but I can't even look away.

"I can teach you how to dance," do my ears deceive me? "It will only be a quick lesson but I think you're a fast enough learner."

My heart is pounding and I'm captivated by his Sapphire eyes. I open my mouth but no sounds come out until a full minute passes. "I don't want to... step on your feet," I mentally kick myself for saying that as he starts to lower the hand he was holding out to me. "But I want to learn so... I apologize in advance!" I grab his hand clumsily and step on my dress nearly falling on Sakuro.

Sakuro holds my shoulders preventing me from falling. "Let's work on balance first," he jokes and even if I'm mortified I laugh and mutter and apology. "It's okay, now, this hand goes here." He places my left hand on his shoulder. "Give me your other hand," he takes my right hand in his left then places his right hand on my waist. "There, it's not as hard as it seems."

It's possible to hear the music playing, echoing all over Wystern and possibly beyond the sea. Sakuro guides me along with the music and I realize what a good dancer he is. Master Sakuro, the Craftlord of Sapphire is handsome, friendly, nice, a gentleman, a great cook, an amazing dancer and a strong warrior. Is there anything this man can't do? He's charming and irresistible in every way I can think of, and he smells nice too.

I take my gaze away from his perfect face to stare at my feet. There is some distance between us as we dance, allowing for a clear view of my feet and enough space for me to clumsily kick around without actually kicking him.

"Don't look at your feet." While listing Sakuro's virtues in my head before, I forgot to say that he also has a great voice, manly but gentle, in a word, knightly. "Look at me." Sakuro pulls me closer, reducing the distance between us so that I will no longer use it as a window to look at my feet.

My heart is pounding so hard and fast that I think he can hear it. My face is bright red no doubt about it, my knees are weak and I'm dragging my feet. I want to close what little distance is left between us, I want to stay in his arms forever, I want to kiss him...

"Just as I thought, you are a quick learner!" Sakuro stops dancing and smiles at me, a hint of something unknown in his eyes.

Did he know what I wanted? Was I that obvious? Has my unspoken declaration been rejected or is it all just a mere coincidence and I'm exaggerating? Yeah, he only ended the dance because the song ended. I'm just overreacting, what was I expecting anyway? "Thanks..."

"Now you're ready to go out there and dance the night away, right?" Can he be so clueless as to not realize how I feel?

"Maybe later, it's so nice up here..." The moon is full, big and bright. The stars are shining, a soft breeze is blowing. This is all truly dream-like.

"Wystern will be here for many years to come, but tonight is special. You should go back to the party; I think you're ready to dance." Sakuro heads towards the tower. I think he was just taking a break from the fan girls. Yes, he must have been hiding from them; no way was he actually looking for me.

"Okay..." I follow Sakuro if only to be with him for a moment longer. Though I never thought Sanary was right about love being a weakness, tonight I have started to wonder if there is some truth to it.

After returning to the party, Sakuro was lost in a sea of girls who all wanted to dance with him, I was lucky to have gotten that chance. Rumari and Tyram had just finished another dance and were talking to the guests, taking a break from the dance floor. Everything is being set up to cut the cakes, because there had to be several so that there's enough for all the guests, and once again people are returning to the tables.

This time I made sure to sit near my friends and I enjoyed a slice of cake talking to them and laughing along with them. Ever since Master Sakuro found me in upper Wystern all by myself and gave me a dancing lesson, things took a turn for the better.

While I sat there eating cake and talking to my friends, I thought it wouldn't get any better than this. I was in such a good mood I would even humor Chaves if he asked me to dance during the next round after cake, but I was still relieved to see he was rather content talking to a girl with purple hair.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 33: A Dark Proposition under the Full Moon

After we had cake, ice-cream and all sorts of sweets, there was a toast and the opening of presents. Finally there was more dancing. These are the last few songs of the night and after the fireworks it will all be over. Rumari and Tyram will leave on their honey moon trip, I'm not sure where they're going, and life will flow as it has been flowing day by day.

When the dancing starts I once again feel out of place, wrong place, wrong time... so I go for a walk. I walk around Central Tower but this time I don't hide. "Excuse me," the girl who spoke was with us when we had cake. There was also a boy who looked like her, whom I assumed was her twin.

"Yes?" Pratty and Cleru knew the twins and introduce them. She is Natsumi and her brother is Hayato, they are known as heroes in their distant home land.

"Have you seen my brother?" Natsumi looks worried, I wonder what's wrong?

"Not since we were having cake together," he sort of disappeared after that. I wonder if he doesn't like dancing.

"Oh, okay, if you see him please let me know," she sounds really worried but I can't think of a reason why she should be.

"Is everything alright?" I ask.

"Yes, it's okay," Natsumi sounds unsure with her answer, she's definitely hiding something.

After talking to Natsumi, I continued my walk until I heard someone call my name into the shadows. I froze up and didn't reply, while I instinctively reached to where my drill would be, but it's not there. "It's just me, don't be so jumpy."

I let out a breath of relief seeing that the one who called is only Hayato and not some creepy stranger, though I'm not sure why I was worried in the first place. I'm not afraid of wandering around the city alone at night, so why would I suddenly be frightened?

As crazy as it sounds, I have a feeling that this young man identical to Hayato somehow isn't Hayato. "Can I talk to you for a moment?"

"Sure," we start to walk as we talk; it's nothing out of the ordinary at first.

It's only a casual chat in the beginning, but as soon as we're away from the crowds Hayato's expression changes. "I will be honest with you, if you think I'm not Hayato, you're right."

As the one who looks like Hayato but isn't him goes up to the top level of Wystern, I can't help it but to follow. "Who are you?"

"Because Hayato is a linker, it was easy for me to hide in his body. But unfortunately I can only control him during the full moon." I'm still confused about what he's saying but I listen quietly. "I'm a spirit, the spirit of a summon creature to be specific, and I need a body. I thought you could help me with that."

I really feel like I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time. I feel that I should run and scream, but the part of me that longs for adventure wants to stay and listen. "What do you mean?" I'll try not to jump to conclusions. "Do you want me to build you a robot body? I'm not that skilled, but I can tell Pratty about it and she can ask Zantek. I'm pretty good with engines so I'll be able to help, even if I don't think I can build a robot from scratch by myself."

"That's not quite what I had in mind..." The look in Hayato's face is not one that inspires trust. "I'll make you a proposition that I know you will like. You see, I'm a summon creature and as such I could become your guardian beast. In exchange you can give me your energy to complete a spell."

"My energy?" I don't like where this is going.

"Your love towards Sakuro." I stare at the summon creature who has come before me behind the face of Hayato.

"You got it all wrong," I stammer. "I don't... I'm not... Sakuro and I are not... we're not a couple." I manage to push the words out with my voice trembling.

"That's the problem, isn't it?" The summon creature hands me a small bottle, tiny enough to fit in my hand so that it becomes completely hidden when I wrap my fingers around it. "Make him drink that, put it in his food, only a drop is enough."

"What is this," I feel that it is best to take this thing than to leave it with a dangerous being, though I have no intentions of using it. "Why do you want to poison Master Sakuro?"

"Poison?" The creature laughs. "Far from it. That is a piece of my soul. When Sakuro drinks that, I will be able to pull all of my soul towards him and his body will be mine. You see, this doesn't work on anyone, even if I can hide in a linker's body, I can only take over aided by the power of the full moon. To make a body mine, I need to push the original soul out, and to do that I need the power of desire... your love for Sakuro."

"What are you saying?" The words spill out as I remain rooted to the spot.

"Make him drink it, or add it to his food and kiss him within the hour afterwards. The power of your love will give me power within him and his soul will be pushed out, making his body mine." The dark being laughs.

"I can't..." I think I should be running now, but I'm still standing here, not moving an inch. I know I can't beat Hayato, even if it's not really Hayato.

"In exchange I'll be your lover..." He pulls me closer, hands around my waist. "You'll have Sakuro all to yourself. Since it will be your energy that will empower me, the pact cannot be broken, you don't need to fear, I can't and won't leave you. I'll use Sakuro's body to take over Wystern, his power his influence, everything. You can rule by my side, by his side."

"No!" I don't know where I got this strength all of a sudden but I push him away, my fist still closed around the small bottle. "Do you think I'm so shallow and evil that I would help you murder Sakuro's soul for his body and power?!"

The creature laughs. "It's tempting isn't it?" His eyes flash red and I can't stop looking into those blinking lights. "Think about it..." Then he walks away.

When I follow Hayato I find that he is himself again and has no memory of our conversation. I think Hayato and Natsumi knew about this, maybe Hayato is actually using himself as a prison for that creature. I'm sure he won't say anything because he doesn't want to trouble others, but I can't let him deal with this alone. Surely the Craftlords will know what to do.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 34: Dancing With Ureksa

Today is a happy occasion and I don't want to ruin it, so I decided to hide the tiny bottle in my dress and continue the party. Hayato is back to normal and I don't think that summon creature will do much else tonight. If he can't control Hayato unless there's a full moon, he won't be able to do anything for a while. I'll tell the Craftlords about this tomorrow, leaving out certain details of course.

After another round of toasts and a visit to the buffet tables that have been constantly refilled all throughout the event, it's time for all of us to go to upper Wystern for the finale. The place has been decorated and the gaps that were not fenced in were fixed for safety. I am astonished they managed to do all of this in such a short time when none of the decorations were up when I was here not too long ago.

I caught a glimpse of Master Sakuro and Master Ureksa, and nearly bumped into a few people because my head was turned towards them instead of watching where I was going. I didn't hear a lot of their conversation, but some of the bits and pieces included "I can't believe they forgot to decorate this place." And "Good thing you saw it on time."

The orchestra is setting up to play one last song, and people are discussing the events of the wedding and reception while the waiters pass by refilling cups of wine. I don't really like alcohol, so I barely tried it during the toasts.

I saw Rumari and Tyram and walked over to them. "Having fun?" Rumari asked as soon as she saw me.

"Yes, it's been great!" I'm not lying, even if it didn't start out all that great and there were some set backs, I will still treasure this night.

"I'm glad, did you dance?" No one saw me dance with Master Sakuro so the question comes as no surprise.

"I did... once," I admit, though that one time was very special.

"That's once more than my brother," Rumari greets her brother Ureksa and asks him if he had danced yet.

"I've been busy..." He didn't mention the fact that the one in charge had forgotten to decorate upper Wystern and that Ureksa needed to remind them after finding out through Sakuro. I can imagine him running around with an improvised team of decorators and I wonder where I was when the team was assembled, I wouldn't have minded helping.

I suppose the girls who approached Master Ureksa to dance with him must have gotten tired of being left with an apology and the excuse that he was busy. I just stood there listening to Rumari, Tyram and Ureksa talk and enjoyed the view and by view I mean Ureksa of course. I guess that's why I got this chance, because I just happened to be there. For once, I'm at the right place, at the right time.

"Then why don't you two dance this last song? It's about to start." Rumari is a truly wonderful person.

Everything happened so fast, but at the same time in slow motion. Ureksa said something; I think he asked me if I wanted to dance. I nodded and my lips moved as if to speak, but no sounds came out. It was happening again. My heart was pounding so hard I wondered if Ureksa could hear it over the music.

The first few seconds were a little awkward, my right hand held in his, and my left arm resting at my side, until I remembered how it was supposed to be and placed my left hand on his shoulder, allowing him more space for the hand he had on my waist. "Sorry I'm not a very good dancer." I smiled while saying this, because even if I wasn't a good dancer, I was happy to try.

"I don't have a lot of practice either, but it's alright, we'll manage," that was hard to believe, because he was dancing quite well.

I'm dragging my feet again, afraid that if I lift them, I will accidentally set them down on his feet. But it's okay because the lack of sound from my steps is covered by the sound of the steps from the couples dancing near by, and it's all drowned out by the music. If anyone sees me, it doesn't matter because my long dress will hide my lack of skill on the dance floor.

I wished for that song to last forever, it's as if we were the only ones there. I didn't hear any people around us, even if they were there, and I only saw Ureksa. He really has a handsome face; it's a pity that he hides it behind his hair most of the time; he looks amazing with his hair back.

Some would say that the last song was a long one, but to me it was painfully short. I'm honored to think I was the only one who had the chance to dance with Ureksa tonight, if only because Rumari suggested it. I am eternally grateful to her.

After the song ended, the fireworks began. We all watched them, and though Ureksa and I parted, Rumari and Tyram were near by, so he did not walk away. While we watched those fireworks I armed myself with courage and slipped my hand in his so gently I'm not sure if he noticed.

I dared not look at Ureksa; my eyes were always directed at the skies the entire time, at the magnificent display of color and light. I was thankful that the lights were off to allow the fireworks to shine brighter; it helped hide my crimson face.

We stood there for about an hour, maybe a little more. I could feel the glares of other girls and hear bits and pieces of muttered words, "she's not even pretty." But I didn't care because I was standing there holding Ureksa's hand and they were not.

After the fire works ended, we all went down to the port. At some point I lost Ureksa in the crowd, and I'm certain I was pushed and shoved on purpose, but they can't take away that moment from my memories, and the still present feeling of my heart trying to jump out of my chest.

Rumari and Tyram's boat had been decorated as well, the luggage had already been packed and they left towards their honey moon. When the ship disappeared in the horizon the crowd dissipated and everyone went home. I'm not sure were the Craftlords disappeared to, but I was exhausted and went straight to sleep after I got back to the Silver Guild.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 35: The Day After

It's a beautiful morning and after having a sweet dream, I woke up to the sound of Master Bron's screaming voice telling me to get up and get to work. It's okay though, I'm in too much of a good mood to be bothered by the fact that I'm still sleepy and in no mood to work.

I started work as usual and the entire morning passed by before I remembered the bottle I got from that summon creature possessing Hayato. I went to see Master Sakuro during my lunch break and knocked on the door to his house.

"Come in," I opened the door to find Sakuro serving lunch.

Kouren was there too, which made me green with envy, but I know it shouldn't, after all, it's not like I actually stand a chance with someone like Sakuro. Last night was special, but I wonder if he would be just as happy giving a dancing lesson to any girl who asked nicely. "I came to deliver something..."

"Oh, good timing, is it naan bread?" He looked me over, searching for a package, but I wasn't carrying anything other than a tiny bottle inside my closed hand. "Not naan bread?"

I shook my head, but though I was replying to Sakuro I was looking at Ureksa. He was leaning on the table; arms crossed forming a sort of pillow for his head. His hair was once again falling over his face and his breathing was gentle and even. "Not really."

"What could it be?" I think Sakuro was amused that I kept staring at the sleeping Ureksa. It's not every day that you get to see Master Ureksa like that.

"Is he okay?" I wonder if I'm only concerned, or if I'm concerned and I'm trying to stretch my time here.

"He's fine; Ureksa didn't get any sleep the days before the wedding. He was helping plan everything and really wanted it all to be perfect for Rumari. Then he ran around all day and for most of the night supervising everything. It wouldn't have run so smoothly without him." Something has come to my attention that I think I knew before but didn't quite pay close attention to it; Sakuro and Ureksa are very good friends and I think it's cute.

"Oh, okay," I shift awkwardly, as Kouren gives me a quizzical look. "The delivery," I hold out my hand, the tiny bottle resting on my palm.

Master Sakuro picked up the small bottle, his fingers brushing against the palm of my hand slightly. It reminds me of the feeling of being close to him while dancing, and my heart picks this instant to speed up. "What is it? An ingredient? Something rare? Or maybe it's a good luck charm."

"I don't know what it is." I don't want to give him too much information if it involves the embarrassing story of a summon creature offering me Sakuro's soulless body as my lover, the soul replaced by the creature's spirit. "But whatever you do, don't drink it. I think there was something wrong with Hayato, but he didn't want to worry anyone so he didn't talk about it. I just thought it was best to give that to a Craftlord, maybe you'll know what to do with it."

Master Sakuro has been examining the liquid, holding the little bottle against the light. Master Kouren stood behind Sakuro looking at the bottle over his shoulder. I have a bad feeling about this, the feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time again. "A portion of a summon creature's soul," Kouren spoke.

I gulped, if Kouren knew that much, then maybe she somehow suspected what the deal was. I did tell Sakuro not to drink it, so it's not like I was actually taking advantage of all of this. But I would still be mortified if Sakuro or anyone else found out the kind of bribery that was offered to me. "I guess I should get going..." I started to slip away towards the door.

"Yes, I agree, it's a piece of soul..." Sakuro noticed that I was trying to leave quietly. "Wait a minute, could you stay a while longer?"

"I really should be getting back to work." What if they ask about what Hayato said? I would be too embarrassed to repeat it but my blushing might speak loud enough anyway. I think lying about this would be bad, but there's no way I'm going to tell Sakuro that a summon creature promised me his body. Even if I did not accept the deal, it still makes me sound shallow for such a bribe to be offered to me in the first place.

"Stay, we need to ask you a few questions about this." Kouren was firm, her voice filled with urgency. That made me want to run away even more.

I pouted, "sorry for the trouble, I just thought I should give that to the Craftlords since I wasn't sure what else to do. I really must be getting back to work now. Master Bron wants me to make up for taking the day off yesterday." It was true, we all took the day off for Rumari and Tyram's wedding, but we are expected to work extra hard and make up for it. Besides, I'm in a stubborn mood all of a sudden and don't want to listen to Kouren.

"Please wait, this is important, we just want to ask you a few questions, it won't take long." I can't bring myself to say no to Sakuro. What have I gotten myself into? But then again, I guess it would be worse if I kept quiet about it, though I wonder... "Sit down, have lunch with us, I made plenty of curry. I hope you're not tired of curry."

I remain rooted to the spot, staring at my feet. "I... I'm not even sure what's going on..."

I look up only when Kouren calls my name, "no one is accusing you. You did the right thing by bringing this to us." Somehow, I feel that she knows a lot more about that mysterious little bottle than she's letting on.

I nod and join them at the table. I hope I can digest while fearing humiliation. I take a deep breath and watch Master Ureksa sleep, finding peace in that sight. It's not my fault that summon creature spirit made such an embarrassing offer, so I really shouldn't blame myself. As Kouren said, no one is accusing me and I gave the Craftlords the report so I'm innocent. I did my duty, but something tells me this interrogation won't be easy. Wrong place, wrong time, definitely the wrong place and wrong time.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 36: Interrogation

Sakuro's house has fallen into silence, but it's not as uncomfortable as it should be. I have my elbows on the table, my head resting on my hands. I've been watching Ureksa sleep for the past few minutes. I wonder what the look in my face is like? I wonder if it's curious, bored or loving...

Kouren clears her throat and I wake from my daze. There is a plate of curry in front of me and I cannot precise at what moment in time it was placed there. I blink at the curry that apparently came out of nowhere then watch as Sakuro pokes Ureksa. "Five more minutes Rumari..."

I giggle in amusement. Right now Master Ureksa is like a child who doesn't want to get up to go to school. It's so cute! But for some reason, Kouren isn't amused at all. "Wake up Ureksa, we have a situation."

In his half asleep state, Ureksa registers the voice as not being Rumari's and fully wakes up. "Sakuro? Kouren?" His gaze pauses on me and he speaks my name as well. I'm the only one here who isn't a Craftlord and thus the odd one out.

"Well, at least he remembers who we are." I can tell that Master Sakuro is trying to lighten the mood, but it doesn't seem to be working on Kouren.

Ureksa isn't happy about it either, "of course I know!"

Pouso comes from the next room yawning. "Pouso! I didn't see you yesterday, where were you?"

Pouso squeaks in response and Ureksa explains. "He was helping 'back stage' all along." I have a feeling that Master Ureksa overloaded poor Pouso with work to prevent him from trying to find him dates.

"What a good little helper." I'm glad the topic has shifted to something less serious, but eventually the interrogation had to start.

"Ureksa, do you know what this is?" Kouren holds the small bottle for Ureksa to see.

"It looks like a normal bottle to me, just very small." Why doesn't Master Ureksa know about this? I heard Master Sakuro and Master Kouren were Craftlords before Master Ureksa. It makes me think that something might have happened related to a similar situation when Rumari was still the Craftlord of Jade. Ureksa continues to look at the bottle. "Wait, there is something unusual about it. I feel a presence but it's very weak."

"It's a portion of a summon creature's soul, it's only a piece, so the presence is hard to sense," Kouren explains. I couldn't sense it. I guess I'm not skilled enough. I'm definitely not at Craftlord level.

"I take it there's a story to go along with it?" Ureksa asks.

"Yes, this happened when Rumari was still the active Craftlord of Jade. It was when Shintetsu still lived..." Somehow, I know it's hard for Master Kouren to tell that story. Is it that what I've heard is true? Was Master Kouren in love with Shintetsu who married Amariss and fathered Cleru and Pratty? "This is from a summon creature empowered by the moon. It's a trickster that offers certain things in exchange for help in taking over a human body. The original soul occupying the body would be pushed out when the spell is completed, thus killing the person. The body will continue to live with the soul of the summon creature occupying it." Now Kouren is looking directly at me and it makes me nervous. "Who was the target?"

"Huh? What?" I'm not sure what she's talking about. I'm so nervous I can't even finish such a simple thought process.

"The body that the creature wished to overtake; whose body was that?" Kouren clarified.

I swallowed and took a deep breath. "Master Sakuro, he promised... he said..." Kouren shakes her head as if to indicate I don't need to reveal what I was offered since I didn't accept it anyway. But I can't leave things like this and I fully intend to bend the truth. "He promised me power, but I didn't fall for it." I wasn't entirely lying, other than Sakuro as my lover I was promised power.

"Power?" Kouren raised an eyebrow. "You're saying that you were promised power instead of a lover?"

My face becomes ghostly pale; I don't know where all the blood that had accumulated in my cheeks suddenly disappeared to. My eyes are open wide and my mouth is hanging open.

"You need to answer this question accurately," now that the tension seems to have shifted from Kouren's story to my story, she has regained her cool, calm and collected expression and I'm the one wishing that the floor would just swallow me whole. "I can't sense what kind of creature this is. Some feed on desire, others feed on greed; I had thought it was the first. They are very different and must be confronted in diverse ways."

A soft breeze blows but it's not coming from the windows. I look towards the origin of the breeze and see Sakuro waving a paper fan at me. "It's a hot day; I think you might be suffering from a heat stroke."

I twitch then force my head to turn away from Sakuro's direction, face becoming scarlet, hands sweating like crazy, mouth still hanging open. Pouso flies by and pushes my jaw up with his tiny yellow paw and my mouth finally closes.

"What's wrong?" Ureksa decides to speak up. "Is it that you're having trouble remembering? Did that creature do something to your memories?"

I want to say yes, but Kouren speaks first. "It doesn't work that way, Ureksa."

"How do you know unless you've..." Ureksa stops, realizing that Kouren must have indeed experienced this. "Is it that hard to say?"

I shake my head and swallow the lump in my throat. "Sorry that just caught me off guard. I mean, summon creatures and evil spirits offering power, that's something that appears in children's stories all the time, and usually the motto in the end is not to trust strangers. I was remembering all the things he said."

"Well then, did he offer you a lover or power? If he offered a lover, was it Sakuro?" How can Kouren ask something this mortifying, that casually?

"Kouren, isn't that a bit personal?" Thank you Sakuro, but please don't get the wrong idea.

"Not at all; I'm not accusing her. I already said she did the right thing." Kouren remains cool, calm and collected.

I think I finally came up with a way to answer truthfully without sounding too bad. "He wants to take over Wystern using Master Sakuro. He said I would rule Wystern with him... I guess that would make me the queen of Wystern or something, if he was planning to become king. But I told him there was no way I would help him kill Master Sakuro. If his soul is pushed out of his body, then it would be like dying, right?"

"Yes, that is true," Kouren nods. "Well it seems that he offered you power but also wanted it for himself." I don't like were this is going. I didn't lie but I didn't explain the truth clearly enough. I don't want to cause serious trouble with this inaccurate information. What should I do? I feel as lost and out of place as ever.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 37: Half-Lie and Run Away

The Craftlords are discussing how to contact Hayato for further information. I should have just told them to talk to Hayato from the start. Even if Hayato told them what kind of proposition the spirit could have made, it wouldn't have been as embarrassing as actually saying it. Then again, if the spirit managed to hide that detail from Hayato then this could be troublesome.

Sakuro's cooking is always great, but today I've lost my appetite. "May I be excused now?"

"Oh? You don't like it?" I can't look at Master Sakuro, I'm still too embarrassed.

"I don't have much of an appetite right now..." I just want to go home to the Silver Guild and focus on drill engines until I can think of nothing more.

"That's too bad, it seems my cooking has failed today..." is Master Sakuro really that disappointed just because I won't eat? Or is it that I hurt his curry pride?

"Sorry..." I really am sorry Master Sakuro, but I don't feel like being here. I head for the door and stop. "Master Kouren..." I was thinking about speaking to her alone later. If knowing exactly what kind of motivation the spirit used to try to bribe me is truly that important, then I shouldn't hold out on this information, but I really don't want to talk about it, "never mind."

"Wait, I would like to speak to you again later." I nod accepting Kouren's request then leave the Craftlords to discuss the situation.

I might have half lied to the Craftlords, or more like let them interpret a blurry piece of truth, but I can't lie to myself. The truth is that I regret bringing Sakuro the bottle. I should have just smashed it or thrown it into the ocean. I'm not sure what that would have done or if it would have been any good for Hayato, but I know I wouldn't be blamed because it would have been so easy to truthfully say my intentions were good. I know I'm selfish to think this way, but I acted too naive today and it led to an uncomfortable moment not easily forgotten.

I went back to the Silver Guild and worked diligently all day. Even Master Bron was surprised by how hard I worked. In truth, I just wanted to keep my mind occupied.

Later that evening, when most Craftknights have called it a day, I was still assembling drills until I ran out of materials. I carried the last box of drills to Master Bron downstairs and with some difficulty set it down. "Another one?" Bron was surprised; he really thought I was done after that last box of finished products.

"Yes, but I ran out of materials..." I admitted.

"Well you did a good job today," at least Master Bron is in a good mood. He must have been remembering dancing with Amariss.

"Thanks, I'll go get more materials now." I'm not tired enough to fall asleep, not with so much on my mind and I don't want to go to bed until I can fall asleep instantly. I don't want to lay awake thinking about this.

I start to head out and Master Bron stops me, "you really have done enough for today, you should take a break."

"Okay then, I choose to go train at the labyrinth. I want to improve," that is not a lie, though it's not the only reason why I'm going. I left before Master Bron could say anything else.

I navigated the labyrinth down to the basement level twelve without using the teleporter. The waters are shallow and I don't care about getting wet, though the feeling isn't exactly pleasant either. I didn't take my water scooter, that thing hates me.

I opened a door to walk across one of the rooms of level twelve, to go out the other end of the room and down the stairs. But it did not proceed as planned, for Kouren was in that room. "I was expecting you." I certainly wasn't expecting her. She must have tried to find me at the Silver Guild and Master Bron revealed my location. Either Kouren passed by and I didn't see her while I was fighting stray summons, or she used the teleporter.

"About the bottle..." I half asked, half guessed.

"Yes, about that. I would like to listen to the details. It must be hard, but you need to be strong and be true to yourself." I'm not entirely sure what Kouren means, but I feel as if she's asking a question to which she already knows the answer.

"What do you mean?" Maybe I'm asking a question to which I deep down already know the answer too.

"If you love Sakuro just say it. It was your fear and doubt that attracted that creature to you. Your love is tainted." Just who does she think she is making such assumptions? She was somewhat accurate but still...

"It's not like that!" I stubbornly hold my ground and almost unconsciously start to get defensive.

Kouren can easily see I have tensed up. "For a long time I have loved Shintetsu." I can't believe Kouren would admit it so openly. "I tried to replace him with Sakuro and came so close to succeeding. In fact if I give it a little more time, it might just work."

I grit my teeth and my response comes as a growl. "Good for you, but what does that have to do with me?"

"I'm trying to save you from making my mistake, so you could show some appreciation." I stare at Kouren with wide eyes. "There is no such a thing as a half truth and a half lie is still a lie, as are intentional misunderstandings. Running away from your problems won't make them go away either, but I guess you have a history of that, don't you? When you think you're not good at something you just turn away from it."

"No one is good at everything, not me and not you, no one. I can be stubborn for some things, believe me I can; but that doesn't mean I'll stubbornly pursue a goal that no longer interests me, just to prove I won't give up. I can decide for myself when I'm quitting out of disinterest and when I'm backing out, no one needs to point it out, I know the difference." I find it pointless to torture myself practicing something I'm bad at when I don't want the reward that badly. Such is the case with the forging of weapons other than drills. But if the reward is good enough, then I'll stick with it.

"Then you should know that hiding your feelings is useless." I can't ignore the fact that Kouren is either very confident, or just plain bold, enough to openly say she loves or loved a man who was married to someone else and has already died.

I can't even openly say I have a crush on two single men. But there are also big differences between us. She's a beautiful and strong Craftlord and I'm just an average girl. Even so I have my pride and just this once I will do something foolish to prove my bravery. I have no intentions of fighting, I know I can't win, but at least I'll speak up. "Fine then, I'll admit it so I hope you're not a tattle tell. I like Sakuro, I like Ureksa, and I have already decided not to lift a finger about it. I'll let the crushes fade out on their own and that will be the end of it." I think she just wanted me to admit this, I think she was trying to get me to stop running from the truth. But even if I stare it down, the truth doesn't change. What's the point?

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 38: Summoning Trouble

The next day Kouren came by my workshop and asked me something. "I'm curious; do you really like both Sakuro and Ureksa?"

"Yeah..." I'm not sure where Kouren is going with this but I don't think I'll like it.

"I just thought it was unusual that you couldn't decide..." A cold chill runs down my spine. Kouren is plotting, I don't know what she's plotting but I know she's plotting. "If you absolutely had to choose, you would pick Sakuro, right?"

Is that what that creature sensed? "Good thing it doesn't matter."

"I think that if you like them both you should keep your options open. Don't be in a rush to decide," with that said, Kouren started to leave. What in the world could she be plotting?

"Kouren!" I rush after her. "I... there's..." If only I can trick her into keeping this quiet and stop her from further embarrassing me, because even if she claims to be helping she's not. "There is another man whom I like more then those two put together." I rush back into my workshop and Kouren makes no attempts to stop me. I don't think she believed me.

I'm just about fuming right now. I'm angry at Kouren for expecting every girl to be as much of an open book as she is, radiating confidence in her path, and I'm angry at myself for getting into this mess with the Craftlords in the first place. I've been telling a lot of half truths, and they have evolved into lies... or maybe they were lies to begin with.

I'm not about to throw away my last bit of self respect. I can't openly admit things like Kouren. I'm not going to admit I lied, instead I intend to turn the lies into truths.

I run down the stairs in search of Master Bron. "Master Bron! Where can I find a summoner?"

"A summoner?" I don't think Master Bron expected such a question.

"Yes! Yes! A summoner!" I insist, running in place making my rush evident.

"Why do you need a summoner? I don't think you need a guardian beast for your job." I can't tell Master Bron what I'm planning. I'm sure he won't approve.

"Never mind, can you still tell me?" I insist.

Bron shakes his head. "What's gotten into you?"

"Alright, I understand, I'll ask someone else," I start to leave.

"Wait a minute!" Master Bron stops me. "Don't go doing anything unnecessary. You're acting very strange today..."

"It's okay; I just want a talk to a summoner. It's not even a sure thing I'll ask for a summon creature to be called." Unless of course there is one that can accomplish the twisted purpose I have in mind.

"Fine, just don't do anything rash, having a guardian beast is serious business," Bron wrote some directions for me on a piece of paper and I was well on my way.

I'm sure Bron must have found it strange to see me rush out of the Silver Guild, only to return a few minutes later and rush up to my room. I had forgotten to bring money and there's a good chance the summoner will have a sort of fee for the special type of summing I have in mind.

I was soon boarding the next boat headed for Vance. The trip went with nothing out of the ordinary and soon I was in Vance.

At Vance, I followed Bron's directions, got lost a few times, asked the locals for directions, and finally found who I was looking for. "Are you a summoner?"

"Yes, I am." The young woman was dressed in white, dark blue and red. She had long purple hair and glasses. "My name is Nina, I was about to go back home so you caught me just in time. Are you a Craftknight? Do you want me to summon a guardian beast for you?"

"Yes I do! Um... how much does it cost?" I really don't need to get myself into another big debt. Besides, it's all for the sake of being stubborn and turning my lies into truths, so I don't think it's worth spending too much.

"One thousand boam for the summonite gem, unless you have your own. Otherwise I'm offering a free service during my stay here at Vance." Maybe my luck is improving after all.

"In that case I'll buy it." You know what they say, once you hit rock bottom the only thing left to do is climb up.

"Okay, here you go," Nina gives me the summonite gem and I pay for it. "Now I'm going to ask you a few questions to determine what kind of summon creature is best for you. It's hard to say what kind of creature will answer the call, but this will make it more likely for a certain type of creature to come."

"What?" This isn't good. "You mean it's random? But I already know what I want, so can't you summon something that fits a description?"

"Just because you want a certain creature as your guardian doesn't mean that creature is best suited for you." Nina explains.

"It's no good if he doesn't fit the description," I pout; I knew my luck was too good to be true.

"You should give it a chance no matter what kind of summon beast you get. I always thought something small and cute was best for me, but later I realized that my ideal companion is actually really big and strong." Nina doesn't understand that I don't really want a guardian beast, I want an actor.

I shake my head. "That's no good. Can you send it back if it doesn't work? Can I use the summonite gem for a different summon then?"

"I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. You should also be thankful when a creature answers the summoning..." Nina doesn't get it and I have a feeling that she won't approve if I explain it to her.

"I'll think about it..." I'm lying again, I don't like lying.

"Okay, but I'm leaving in about an hour. You shouldn't rush if you're not sure though," Nina advices.

"I understand," I leave the inn with a plan in mind. I'll find another summoner, one that will give me what I came for, even if I have to pay a little extra money for it. I've become more stubborn, and I know I'm being a fool but I don't care. The man I said I liked more than Sakuro and Ureksa... he may not exist now, but soon someone will summon him to me.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 39: Enter Rasho

I found another summoner, one who was willing to give me what I wanted for five thousand boam and the promise of my silence. I agreed; I know I decided that I didn't want to waste too much money on these stupid lies, but I don't want to back out now. This might actually put a permanent solution to the entire Sakuro and Ureksa problem and bring me a boyfriend as well. If Cleru can go out with a summon creature, so can I.

"Alright, what exactly do you want, tell me in detail," the summoner is getting ready.

"A handsome man, that is, a handsome human looking male summon creature." I won't be too picky about the specifics as long as he's boyfriend material. I can't believe I haven't committed such delicious foolishness earlier. It's so wrong, but so enjoyable.

The summoner gives it some thought, "I take it by handsome you mean tall, strong, masculine, and all that stuff, right?"

I nod, "right, all of that works."

"You don't mind the specifics too much do you? It'll be harder if you're looking for a specific hair color and such." I expected him to say that.

"No problem, any hair and eye color is fine; any skin tone will do as well." I've never really been picky with colors. "Do you need an item of mine?"

"No, that's only used when summoning the creature that is best suited for you. I'll be summoning what you asked for regardless of compatibility." I find it Ironic that he would say that. But I suppose it wouldn't be the first time I hear the old saying that what we want isn't always what's best for us.

"That's fine; I don't care if he can't even forge. I can do my own work." What I need is to erase my pointless feelings for Sakuro and Ureksa.

"Alright then, here we go!" The summoner starts to chant and a bright light appears.

When the light dims there is someone standing there that was not there before. His hair is long and red; he's tall and muscular, floating in front of me with a certain air of pride. "What is this?!" The summon creature looks angry. "I didn't even answer that summoning, so why am I here?"

"Don't forget, it's a secret. I suggest you don't send him back until you're done with him. The summonite gem could work to call him here again, but it's not a sure thing with this type of summoning." The summoner takes his leave.

"Yeah, sure..." I mutter. I didn't realize what kind of thoughts the summoner had swimming in his head. He must have assumed I was a desperate shallow girl.

"What's going on?" The summon creature, my new guardian beast protests.

"Hmm..." I examine the summon creature. Well he's handsome alright, long red hair, muscular tanned body, but he could have been a little more human looking. He does have a big horn sticking out of his forehead which kind of bothers me, but I guess he'll have to do; he's not bad really, not bad at all. "Okay, I guess we're partners now."

"Like hell we are. I didn't even answer to that summoning and somehow I ended up here. I'm going to find that summoner and give him what's coming to him!" I should have specified that I also wanted the summon beast to be obedient, but it's too late for that.

"Wait! I only need your help for a little while then I'll send you back with this summonite gem!" I ran after the summon beast.

"Humans, always in need of help, they're so pathetic!" I feel ripped off.

"Actually I changed my mind. I want my money back. Go give that summoner what's coming to him, this is a rip off!" I wasted my money on a summon creature that won't solve my dilemma.

The summon creature gives me a curious look, with a hint of offense. "Are you saying I'm not good enough for you?"

I nod, "yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying." I'm having a terrible time and don't care about being rude anymore.

"I'll have you know I'm the king of the Oni, the great Rasho!" So his name is Rasho and he's a king.

But that's no good to me if he's not an obedient actor. "I don't care; you can't help me so I don't want to keep you. Go find that summoner; I want to trade you in."

Rasho gives me a deadly glare. "Shut up and listen to me, you got lucky that I ended up here so show some thanks. Quit your pathetic whining and tell me what it is you want me to forge."

I pout, the summoner is probably gone by now. I run past Rasho who follows me, and try to catch up with the summoner. I find him in the middle of an argument with Nina. "I know I sensed something! You better not be up to your old tricks!" She sounds upset.

"You and your Cerulean Society can mind their own business!" The summoner who called Rasho yells. "I didn't do anything so leave me alone!" He walks away disregarding Nina's warnings.

"We're keeping an eye on you!" Nina calls out to him but doesn't follow.

A small curse escapes me; Rasho must be a bad influence. "Let's get out of here," and I run to the port to catch the next ship to Wystern.

The entire trip Rasho complains and demands an explanation or a one way ticket home, both of which I deny. "I hate humans," he growls.

But then I think about how annoying it must be to be taken from your home, just like that, and not even receive an explanation. "Sorry Rasho, it's complicated." I'm not sure where to start, but one thing is for sure, saying too much already got me into this mess, so I'll have to choose my words carefully from now on. "I need you to act."

Rasho looks puzzled at this, but at least he's paying attention, "act?"

"Yes, a certain someone needs to be convinced that I don't like certain men because I actually like someone else." I think I have just inserted my foot in my mouth again. Oh forget it, I'll spill the beans, this can't get any worse. "Except there is no one else so I thought I could find someone..."

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 40: Suspicions: Rasho vs. Ureksa

"You want to make someone jealous by pretending to date me, is that it?" Rasho laughs. "How pitiful!"

"No, that's not it!" Truly, that's not my plan. "I want to cut all ties with them, make it clear that I'm not interested."

"Why don't you just say that? You don't have to be interested in someone else to be able to reject those guys." Rasho brings up a valid point, but it's also evident that he is misinterpreting the situation.

"Because there is someone who doesn't believe me. The issue aren't even those men, it's a nosy woman who won't drop the subject when it comes to the men." I try to explain without mentioning any names.

"It's a cat fight then," Rasho concludes. "A battle between females, I'm not even going to pretend to understand that."

"Can you help me then?" I fully expect a negative answer.

"No, I don't like humans; I can't go out with you." I knew Rasho would say that.

"You don't have to pretend to like me; I have to pretend to like you. I never said the third man had to return my feelings, I only need proof that he exist to turn my lies into truths." I'm sinking deeper and deeper, I can feel it. "Pretend to be a civilized stray summon who happens to arrive at Wystern trying to make a living among humans. Say that you used to live at Rugista at one point and that we've met there before. Ask them to send you home, and accept their offer when they say they will. But you need to stick around for a few days first, just long enough for a certain someone to see you. Then you can leave."

Rasho simply stares at me as if I grew a second head, "girls are so strange," he concludes. "Well, that sounds easy enough and I'll be home soon. I have no idea what you hope to accomplish but I can play stray summon. However, I won't pretend to want to live among humans, I'll say I want to prove I'm better than humans."

I knew this wouldn't be easy, "c'mon Rasho, work with me here. You need to pretend to be someone I would like so I can pretend to like you! That's the entire point!"

"What's not to like?" Well he's certainly confident. I sigh aggravated. I should have known all of this would backfire.

When we arrived at Wystern I headed back to the Silver Guild followed by Rasho. Just out of the port, as I walked on my way to the Silver Guild, I saw Master Ureksa. I turned around and pretended to buy some naan bread, when in fact I was just trying to buy some time.

"Hey, what's going on?" Rasho poked my shoulder and insisted on his inquiry.

"Be quiet..." I whispered, trying to hide among the customers.

"No one tells the Oni King to be quiet!" Rasho spoke louder on purpose which made me shove my newly purchased naan bread into his mouth.

"Here, have some naan bread," I smiled almost cynically, maybe that will keep his mouth full.

I can tell Rasho is getting angry but before he can throw his come back at me, Ureksa has spotted us. "Is everything alright?"

I blink, wondering what could bring Ureksa to ask that question. Did Kouren tell him everything I said? "Yeah..." somehow I think he's talking about more than just my feelings, which are certainly not alright. The way he said it was as if my life was in danger.

"Where did you go?" I find it odd that Ureksa is asking me all these questions. He looks at Rasho distrustfully, "who is he?"

"I was at Vance and this is Rasho, an old friend," I hope Rasho doesn't ruin things.

Rasho smiles mischievously and I know he's about to do something to piss me off. "You mean boyfriend, don't you sweet-cakes?"

"Huh?" I'm taken completely aback when he places his arm around my waist and pulls me closer. I really must be a fickle, superficial, vain girl if my heart is beating faster for Rasho, even if Ureksa is right in front of me.

"Let go of her," Ureksa reaches for his spear and I'm certain that there is something I don't know. Some hidden plot that Ureksa heard about and I didn't. Then the name of Kouren comes to mind and I wonder what in the world she told Ureksa to make him act this way.

"What if I don't want to?" I think Rasho enjoys bothering people.

"Then you'll have to answer to me," Ureksa is holding his spear ready for battle. What in the world have I gotten myself into?

"I see, so you've been stalking her," Rasho laughs. "She made me go through all that just to make it clear she has no feelings for you." Rasho has the wrong idea and he's talking too much.

"Shut up Rasho, I didn't say that!" My face becomes crimson as I finally react and part away from Rasho. "Please ignore him Master Ureksa, Rasho says strange things sometimes." I really am sinking deeper, tangled up in the lies I built. I used to think I was an honest person, but I'm not.

"I don't understand you at all, I thought you wanted this guy to leave you alone," Rasho has a big mouth.

"That's not true! I don't know what would cause Master Ureksa to be suspicious of you, but I appreciate that he's watching out for me." I have an even bigger mouth, and it was my big mouth that started this mess.

"I see..." Ureksa has calmed down and put away his spear. "It was all a misunderstanding. It seems we were trying to defend her from the same enemy." What's he talking about?

Rasho turns to Ureksa for information and ignores me. "What exactly is going on anyway?"

We start walking towards the port, away from the crowd that has formed to witness the argument. Once we're away from them Ureksa explains, "Kouren asked me not to say this so I wouldn't worry you." I have a bad feeling about this. "There is a summon creature after you. She asked me to protect you. I think it's best if you know about it. When I saw," Ureksa pauses remembering what I called the Oni, "Rasho, I thought he was after you. It was a hasty mistake, I should have remembered that the summon creature is a spirit that cannot possess other summon creatures."

"The soul in the bottle, are you saying that spirit is after me because I didn't help him?" I wonder if that's really what's going on, or if Kouren told a half lie for some reason.

"Yes," that makes no sense; Hayato should have it under control as long as there is no full moon. I think Ureksa was tricked by Kouren, but I don't fully understand what she's trying to do, though I get the feeling that her intentions are good. It's just that her methods are not very tactful.

To be Continued

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Chapter 41: The Truth Always Comes Out

"Master Ureksa... Do you know where Master Kouren is?" I guess the only way to find out what's going on is to ask her directly.

"Yes, she went to Seijent to speak to Hayato." Master Ureksa must know I feel uncomfortable with this subject so he hasn't elaborated more than needed. But if I am to untangle all these lies and tie the loose ends into something akin to the truth, I need to know.

It may not be the actual truth that I'm trying to build, but close enough. "I see... I wanted to talk to her; there are some things I don't fully understand."

Let's see how Ureksa replies to that. "To be honest, there are things I don't understand either. Something must have happened that we weren't told about. I was thinking about talking to Sakuro about it while Kouren is away."

Great idea, but how can I face Sakuro? Well I have to face him sometime, and this could be my chance to clear up the awkwardness without Kouren pushing me into spilling out my heart. "We should go talk to him."

Ureksa glances at Rasho, "yes..."

"Got a problem with me?" Of course Rasho just had to say something impulsive.

"Don't worry, Rasho can be trusted. I might have lost contact with him for a long time, but I've known him for years." I hope Rasho doesn't mess up my story. If he does I'm sunk for good.

"Right, nothing to worry about," I let out a breath I didn't even know I was holding when Rasho played along.

"Alright then, let's go." We follow Master Ureksa to Master Sakuro's house.

It looked like Master Sakuro was just arriving at his house as we found him at the moment he was entering. "How lucky, I came back just in time for visitors."

At Sakuro's house we attempt to clear things up. I just sit there, listening quietly while Ureksa asks all the questions. I occasionally glance at Rasho, who is just as confused as ever, but by some miracle isn't saying anything.

"You're so stubborn," finally Sakuro gives into Ureksa's insistence. "Alright, I'll tell you the full story. Kouren won't like this..." We all listen, "there are several types of summon beasts that remain in this world even after they should have passed away. Those creatures seek new bodies for various purposes that often include revenge. There are different types of spirits that can be identified depending on what they offer or threaten to do. For example the ones that offer power or money, are generally weak beings who react to a human's greed. Those who offer other things, such as to give someone a lover, feed on people's love energy. Those are more powerful and harder to deal with if it gets out of hand. While the spirits that feed on greed can be defeated by the host, those who feed on love are stronger and thus the host would be helpless against them."

Which means that there's no way for me to deny that I was offered love. They knew, they knew all along and saw through my contradictions. I see now that Sakuro didn't press the issue because he knew it was hard for me, but he realized I was bending and twisting the truth all along. Being a linker, Hayato is a special case and he cannot be permanently possessed, instead being allowed to use his body as a prison for the spirit. Maybe summoners are strong against spirits as well.

I didn't speak, no one did, and Sakuro continued. "Years ago, a spirit powered by love, temporarily possessing a summoner under the full moon, approached Kouren and attempted to trick her into giving him Shintetsu's body. Initially, Kouren agreed but Shintetsu saw through it at the last moment and Kouren confessed the truth and apologized. Shintetsu forgave her and helped capture the being by pretending to drink the portion of its soul. The creature did not bother trying to sense that piece of its soul within Shintetsu and simply trusted what he saw. The being transferred his full soul, using the piece as the target to allow this to happen. But that portion of soul had been frozen inside a crystal that trapped the creature when it transferred itself to it. Shintetsu's apprentice witnessed the entire event." From what I heard, Shintetsu's apprentice was Sakuro.

"It's the same type of creature, that's why Kouren is so upset about this..." Ureksa concludes.

"There's more," once again our attention focuses on Sakuro. "The crystal was kept in a safe place for the most part, but eventually it was lost. I just returned from the Gold Guild, I asked them to gather information about this. The crystal was eventually recovered by a Craftknight with an affinity towards machines and used in an attempt to repair his injured robotic guardian beast. The being imprisoned in the crystal took over and the guardian beast was no more. However, those spirits feel uncomfortable in machine bodies and prefer to be contained within flesh and blood. Using its new robot body, the creature broke its own power cell, the crystal, and freed itself. Weakened from captivity, the spirit wandered around until it found Hayato. The spirit cannot possess other summon creatures and it cannot fully possess a human without being empowered by a certain energy, in this case love. Hayato was easy to possess being a linker, but impossible to take over, even with love. As for what happened with the robot, it wasn't really being possessed but rather the crystal was being used as it's battery, allowing the spirit control over the robotic body without truly possessing it."

It's all falling into place, and I'm realizing how obvious my lies were. I think Sakuro knows I meant no harm, I think he understands I was just hurt, and I'm thankful that he hasn't said anything about me directly.

After giving us a moment to let it all sink in, Sakuro finishes the story. "What that spirit wants is a normal human to possess, one who is not a linker, and preferably a human of a high position and skill to make it easier to exact his revenge. Usually the vengeance is related to the cause of death, a sort of unfinished business. Kouren wants to permanently seal the being who caused her to admit her feelings for Shintetsu even if she had originally meant to keep them a secret, since he already had Amariss. That's the full story; Kouren has gone to speak to Hayato about this."

So that's why Kouren admits her feelings so openly. They were discovered and she could no longer deny them. Was she angry that she was tricked and I wasn't? No... I think she just wanted revenge on that summon creature and I happened to get caught up in it. I have a feeling that all the loose ends are about to be tied very soon.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 42: Kouren's Plan

"Kouren's plan..." the words escape me before I can stop myself. "She's planning something, right?"

"Something other than talking to Hayato, you mean?" Sakuro speaks naturally and without a hint of discomfort other than what's proper of the situation, but there is no awkwardness what so ever.

"Is she?" I guess a lot of girls must have a crush on Sakuro; he must be used to it by now.

"It's possible, do you have any ideas?" It's as if Sakuro is telling me with his eyes to speak the truth this time. No more lies.

"I'm not sure, I just thought she might have a plan," I answer truthfully.

"Is there any chance that the summon creature could attack any time soon?" Ureksa asked.

"I don't think so," Sakuro replies, I think we're on to something. "From what we can tell based on the information we have, the spirit that Hayato carries can only possess him during the full moon and remains dormant in his body at any other time. There is no need to fear an attack right now."

"Then why did Kouren ask me to protect her?" Ureksa's question is also my question.

What was Kouren trying to do? Her words about keeping my options open surface in my memories. She should know I'm no competition for Sakuro so she wouldn't make me spend more time with Ureksa to keep me away from him. That just can't be it.

"Do you know?" I stop staring at the floor and look up at Sakuro. "Do you know why Kouren sent Ureksa to protect you?"

"I don't," I'm not lying, I really don't know. "I thought it was unusual since I didn't think I was in any danger."

"Then why?" Ureksa sounds upset to have been tricked. "Why did Kouren insist so strongly? She said I had to do it, that a Craftlord needed to be there. What is she hiding?"

"I don't know," Sakuro admits, "but whatever it is, she hid it from me too." I think Sakuro understands that it couldn't be something as simple as giving me someone other than him to like, and hoping I fall for Ureksa more than for Sakuro. But if that's not it, then what is Kouren trying to accomplish?

"We'll have to ask her when she gets back," Ureksa concludes.

I nod in agreement and prepare to leave. "I should get back to work now."

"I hardly get any of this, but whatever." I think Rasho understands more than he cares to admit.

After returning to the Silver Guild with Rasho, we work on a few things. Rasho is forging on his own and I'm assembling drill engines. Occasionally he complains that he's supposed to help, not do the work himself, but I'm not listening.

Time passes as it always does. Rasho sometimes he goes out for walks around Wystern and entertains himself scaring people, but they stopped fearing him after the first few times and labeled him as a harmless prankster, much to his annoyance.

Rumari and Tyram will be gone for an entire month in a mix between honey moon and vacation. Ureksa probably thinks his house at Vance is too lonely to return to right now, so he might stay in Wystern for longer. The full moon will come and go once again before Rumari and Tyram return.

Kouren eventually came back with Hayato and Natsumi. We gathered at Master Sakuru's house and discussed everything, but we didn't really speak of anything that had not already been said before. It was all a recap and I'm still not sure what Kouren's plan is.

After the meeting at Sakuro's house I returned to my work shop at the Silver Guild as usual. I was working and nothing was out of the ordinary other than a feeling of foreboding. Rasho was downstairs annoying Master Bron; it had become one of his favorite ways to pass the time. I continued to work while listening to their argument with little attention.

"Ureksa, come back here!" A voice that rung clearly over the sound of Bron and Rasho's arguing made me jump. I dropped a bolt under the desk and bent over to pick it up. "Ureksa!" The same voice called as I reached the bolt I had dropped and made me jump in surprise once more.

"Ow!" I bumped my head under the desk and rubbed the affected area. I set the bolt down on the desk and went out to see what was happening.

"Stop!" The woman yelling at Ureksa was Kouren. "If you ruin this plan we won't be able to capture it."

"I can't do this! I'm telling her the truth. I can't believe you would trick me into this!" Ureksa is upset, but why? Is he talking about me?

"I don't mean for her to be hurt in any way," Kouren tries to clarify.

"It would be impossible to stop that from happening," Ureksa argues.

"She has already decided she doesn't care," Kouren shakes her head exasperated.

"What's that's supposed to mean?" Ureksa is still upset.

They're arguing in the middle of the room upstairs, to which all the work shops connect to. Naturally, they have gained an audience. Everyone who was at the Silver Guild when the Craftlords arrived is now watching the argument unfold. Random passer bys and those within ear shot who were not in any hurry, had stopped at the Silver Guild and followed the Craftlords to witness their argument. Even Master Bron and Rasho stopped arguing and are standing there in awe, witnessing the event.

"Okay that's enough!" Master Bron finally decides to take matters into his own hands. At first no one listens to him but when his voice shakes the very foundations of Wystern they have no choice but to listen. "Shut up!" I don't think I would be exaggerating if I said all of Wystern fell into silence at that very moment. "I don't know what this is about, but Craftlords shouldn't argue like this. I would like both of you to go to my office right now." That's it, the three of them where gone off to Master Bron's office and everyone else stood around expectantly until Master Bron's voice echoed all over the Silver Guild, "get back to work!"

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 43: Let the Investigation Begin!

I went back to work as Master Bron said, but I couldn't focus on it. I wanted to go to the office and find out what was going on, as I'm sure everyone else also wished to do, but I didn't.

"Why does everyone listen to him anyway?" Rasho occupied himself complaining about why everyone granted Bron such authority and they hardly listened to the Oni King.

I occasionally nodded to Rasho but my mind was elsewhere and time slowly continued to pass while I awaited the explanation that never came.

The next day rolled around and nothing out of the ordinary happened. Another day passed and life fell into a routine. I had not spoken to Kouren since she returned from Seijent and argued with Ureksa. Actually, I had not spoken to Ureksa or Sakuro either. That will change today, I'm going to talk to Sakuro, since he's the easiest to find; he's always either at his house or at work.

I went to Sakuro's house and Rasho tagged along. I knocked and called but no one answered. Rasho tried to force the door open, but luckily I got him out of there before he actually did. I went to the third floor of Central Tower and asked the guard, "is Master Sakuro here?"

"Yes, he's working right now."

"Okay, thanks," I nodded and left.

"Hey, weren't you going to talk to him?" Rasho asked.

"He's working, I'll talk later." While Rasho encouraged me to demand to talk to Sakuro, I leaned against a wall and tried to ignore him. I should have figured Rasho would encourage me to get into trouble.

Suddenly the wall behind me spun around, throwing me to the other side. I let out a little shriek as I stumbled and painfully fell backwards flat on my back.

"Is everything alright? Who yelled just now?" The guard asked.

"That was me..." Master Sakuro signaled for me to stay down.

"It couldn't have been," the guard was not so easily fooled. "It sounded like a woman."

"That's because..." Sakuro looked around, as if to buy some time to think of an excuse. "Over there!"

The guard was startled when Sakuro suddenly pointed at a vase. "What is it?"

"I saw a spider; it ran behind that vase..." Sakuro observed the guard's reaction, he still looked unsure. "I'm scared of spiders, they make me scream like a girl, but don't tell anyone, okay? That's our secret."

"Oh... Don't worry, I won't tell." I can't believe the guard fell for that.

I had to clasp my hands over my mouth to muffle the sound of my uncontrollable giggles. Sakuro couldn't fake my girly scream even if he tried, yet with a straight face he claimed that spider made him scream like a girl. Sakuro the great Craftlord of Sapphire is afraid of spiders? That is something I wouldn't have fallen for.

I crawl out of the private room unnoticed and Sakuro meets me in the hall where I can no longer hold my laughter. "Oh sure, laugh it up, you made me tarnish my reputation and almost uncovered the secret passage."

"Sorry," I managed to say between laughs and giggles.

"Sakuro is afraid of spiders and screams like a girl!" Rasho chants in a song-like tone.

"Be quiet you, don't rub it in," Sakuro tried to get him to stop, though he's also laughing. The Craftlord of Sapphire has a good sense of humor. "Now, why is it that you snuck in there?"

"I didn't," I admitted. "I wanted to talk to you, but the guard said you were busy working so I thought I would just talk later. I leaned on the wall and fell."

"You have to be careful, I don't want that passage being discovered, otherwise I won't have an escape route anymore." Sakuro and I walk away from the scene of the crime towards the door leading out to upper Wystern, with Rasho following. "What is it that you wanted to talk about?"

"A few days ago Master Kouren and Master Ureksa had an argument. I was worried about that and wanted to know if it was solved." I also want to know if the argument was related to the summon creature, or myself, and if the reason why Kouren asked Ureksa to protect me was revealed.

"Don't worry, it all worked out and they're not arguing anymore." Sakuro isn't giving me more than the necessary information.

"I asked Master Bron but he won't tell me anything about it. He said being nosy only led to getting hurt but I wanted to make sure everything was okay. It was surprising that Master Kouren and Master Ureksa would argue like that. I only heard part of the argument so I'm not sure what it was about," but I have a theory and I want to know for sure.

"It's nothing, just Craftlord business, you don't need to worry about it." Sakuro is smiling but his eyes tell me he doesn't want me to ask anything else.

"Oh, okay that's good to know," I'll pretend to play along. "That's all I wanted to ask about really, sorry to bother you." I'll have to get answers from someone else.

"No problem, let me know if you need anything," Sakuro returned to work and I stayed in upper Wystern until he was gone.

"Special mission Rasho," I announced. "We'll split up and search the city. We're looking for Kouren and Ureksa; let me know right away if you find them."

"Why do I have to play along?" Rasho complains.

"I don't really care if you help or not, I'll find them on my own," lately I've been pouting a lot.

"Hey! You could have insisted a little more!" Rasho does like to be helpful sometimes, he just never admits it.

Rasho and I had gone our separate ways in the search for Kouren and Ureksa. I will get to the bottom of this. As I walk down the street in middle Wystern I spot Pouso. Bingo, I got lucky; if Pouso is here then Ureksa must be near by. I'm not sure what I'm going to say but forget about having a plan, I'll just act concerned and wing it. "Pouso!" The little yellow ghost waves at me and approaches. "Is Master Ureksa near by?"

Pouso squeaks and nods then points towards Ureksa who is unknowingly walking down the street minding his own business and possibly wondering were Pouso went off to. I grin victoriously, even if it has just begun. At least finding Ureksa was easy enough.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 44: Game Over

The conversation between Master Ureksa and I started out in a similar way than what I said to Master Sakuro. "Master Ureksa, is everything alright? I was worried about the other day..."

It looks like Master Ureksa feels uncomfortable with how this is going. I'm sorry, but it's the only way to get some answers. "It's alright now, we worked things out."

"That's good to hear. I didn't even know what the argument was about and I've heard many things. I didn't know what to believe." This is mostly true. I have heard many theories, everything from a power struggle to a lover's spat. I may not know what to believe, but I do know what not to believe.

"It wasn't anything serious," I suspect judging by the way Master Ureksa looks away uncomfortably that he's hiding something.

"It wasn't? That's good, because I heard it was pretty serious," is it related to the summon creature or to me? I need to figure it out but I can't think of a way to get him to give me that information.

"The important thing is that it's solved now." It's evident that Ureksa wants me to drop the subject.

"Yeah, you're right," it doesn't matter; I get the feeling that the only one who will give me a straight answer is Kouren. "Well, I'm glad. Sorry to bother you." That last bit is spoken a little harshly. I turn away quickly and walk a hurried first few steps, then slowdown, a lost look upon my face.

Ureksa calls my name, he pauses, I almost have him. "Never mind..." that was so close but not quite enough. I keep looking at him, it's making him uncomfortable, he's definitely hiding something. "Nice talking to you," he blurts out the last few words and walks away. Pouso floats around idly, then shakes his head and follows Ureksa.

He almost spoke too much, almost. But now I feel guilty pressuring Ureksa like this. I need to find Kouren. Even if it turns out this doesn't concern me, I'm too deep into the mystery to give up now. I can almost taste the bitter sweet truth and it makes me feel oddly adventurous.

Finding Kouren was no easy task, but maybe that was only because I was searching in the wrong place. I looked all over the city before realizing that she might be in the labyrinth. Sure enough she was there, and in the first floor no less. There she was, Kouren, the Craftlord of Ruby, watching the glass window commonly known as the aquarium, with Rasho floating about pestering her.

"Master Kouren, I have a question." I stand next to her and watch the fish swim around. Rasho greets me but I refuse to speak to him because he stayed there annoying Kouren instead of telling me where she was.

"Why did I send Ureksa to protect you?" Kouren guessed my question easily.

"Yes, I want the full story, the entire truth. It's related to that argument you had with Ureksa, isn't it?" I asked.

"The truth can hurt..." As Kouren spoke, not once did she take her eyes off the aquarium. "The truth is I made a mistake." I'm taken by surprise with those words. "I wanted to use you to trick that spirit. Did Sakuro tell you my full story?"

I nod before I can even think about what I'm revealing.

"I see..." I cringe; I wasn't supposed to tell her that. "I appreciate your honesty, I won't tell Sakuro you let me know." That's a relief. "In my case the summon creature was tricked, but he won't fall for it twice. This time I'm sure seeing his target apparently take the piece of soul won't be enough. That being will rely on sensing it now. That's why I thought you could help. It may sound cruel, but if you were so confused that you didn't know who you loved, the being's senses would be clouded and he would be forced to rely on what he sees. We can trick him again, but we needed your indecision to numb his senses."

"I understand," all the pieces have fallen into place and the game of cat and mouse has ended. "You thought I liked Sakuro best so you sent Ureksa to spend more time with me to balance things out, but he refused." Somehow, this hurts more than it should. If Ureksa refused then that means he didn't want to play with my feelings. Then why am I disappointed? What was I hoping for? That instead of being honest from the start he would choose to make my same mistakes and try to turn a lie into the truth? That he would like me for real? That's impossible, they're Craftlords, they're handsome, talented, skilled, smart and strong. I'm a regular drill maker, I'm average, with a little talent only for machinery and nothing more, with skill only for drills, I'm somewhat smart at least, but I'm not strong. I'm not a disaster but I'm not special, and they are special, they are above me.

"I apologize... I know it was inexcusable, I got caught up in the past..." I know I should be angry at Kouren, I know I could even hate her but I don't. I'm angry yes, I'm quite upset, but it's as if I don't have the right to be and it's frustrating.

I remember that long ago in Rugista, I was one of the people who treated Varil differently. I hardly knew him, I admired him from afar. He was cool, skilled and rich and I wasn't, but I wanted to be, so I saw the one who had what I wanted as superior. Who knows, maybe that's why I ended up with a silly crush, because I thought he was better than everyone else. Yet now, I'm glad Pratty has managed to knock Varil off his cloud and put his feet on the ground, and I'm happy for them.

I'm tired of not feeling good enough; I don't want to be that way anymore. Why am I crying now? I didn't used to cry this often, have I become weaker?

"I didn't mean for you to get hurt this badly." I shake my head, unable to respond to Kouren with words. I feel so pathetic.

The recent events are not even the point anymore. "I liked myself better when I was cold," back when I built a wall around my heart. Without realizing it I allowed myself to feel again after coming to Wystern because I thought that I would only feel happiness here. "I already told you what I decided so why am I not doing it?"

Kouren is saying something, this something is rare for her, I think she's trying to console me, but I'm lost in thought. The truth is that I like both Master Sakuro and Master Ureksa, and I can't stop.

That summon creature caused all this trouble for me and it was that summon creature that caused Kouren pain too. "I'll forgive you on one condition. That we defeat that creature, just us."

I know I can't win on my own, and deep down I want to show Master Sakuro and Master Ureksa that I'm strong enough to do at least this. I know Master Ureksa refused to play with my feelings, and I know Master Sakuro has been doing his best to act natural for my sake even if he knows how I feel. I'm not ready to fully admit it, but I want to prove, perhaps more to myself than them, that I can be strong.

"Just us girls against the creature? That could work, I have an idea..." I should have known Kouren would have a back-up plan.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 45: Rest in Peace

Time passed and the day of the full moon finally came. I got up that day like any other day and took a look in the mirror at my sleepy face. I traced a line with my finger across my cheeks and realized that if I didn't already know there was supposed to be something there I wouldn't know where to trace it.

I smiled dumbly, "it faded." It took its time disappearing but the cut I got at the door to the Silver Guild when there was a panic during the entire sea serpent ordeal is finally disappearing. Of course the scars of my clumsy fighting in the labyrinth are still there, but those can be easily hidden and with some luck will also fade in time.

Things progressed normally that day, but in the evening I told Rasho I was going out and asked him to keep it a secret. "Got a date?" He teased.

I shook my head. "No, just a girls' night out."

I met up with Kouren who was having some second thoughts about it, but I assured her I was not going to change my mind. We went to Seijent and as expected Hayato and Natsumi didn't approve of our plan, but we insisted and convinced them.

There is a special type of gem that can be used to entrap a being like that one, the same type that was used before. Except this time he won't fall for any tricks so he must be forced into it. Kouren melted and mixed the gem, placing the liquid piece of soul in the center and mixing it with a rare ore that reacts to ones emotion. "Confusion is the key," she had said.

It's Ironic to think that the fact I like both Sakuro and Ureksa will be good for something. That night under the full moon, I focused my love for them in the gem, thoughts running wild as my emotions were amplified by it, face scarlet red, feeling exposed and vulnerable; but I didn't stop.

Under the faint light of the full moon, the creature was forced to come out of its slumber and try to stop me as I called its soul towards the Crystal with my energy. It was furious, taking control of Hayato and trying to stop me. But fighting it and keeping things under control was Kouren and Natsumi's part.

The power of the spirit gave Hayato amazing strength, speed and stamina, it took both Kouren and Natsumi to keep him under control long enough for me to trap the spirit, but I did it.

After it was all over, Hayato collapsed from the strain and so did I, but other than being exhausted, we were fine. I don't know when I started crying, or why, if all was going according to plan, but the emotional strain proved to be hard and tears fell out. I've calm down by now, a serene smile upon my face.

The mission was finally completed when the Crystal was immersed in a ritual to put the soul to rest. I was surprised to see it was none other than Nina who was called from the Cerulean Society to perform the ritual.

After it was all done, I can say that we were victorious. The creature was put to rest, no longer lingering in this world for the unfinished business of revenge on Wystern. Hayato was freed from acting as the creature's prison, and we were all safe.

Exhausted, looking kind of pale, more so than normal, and a little light headed, I stayed in Seijent that night. The next morning we had breakfast together, talked for a while, then said our goodbyes.

Kouren and I returned to Wystern and she gave the Craftlords the report. I just said I had some work to do and went straight home. Though I wanted to prove that I can deal with these feelings, and I am strong enough to help in some way, it's still embarrassing to say that I sealed away a creature with a ritual fueled by the conflicting love energy of being in love with two men at the same time. If it worked, then it turns out, that I do love them equally after all.

I didn't see Sakuro or Ureksa for a while. I got along with Kouren better after what happened though we never became really close. When I finally saw Master Sakuro again, it was to pick up a delivery for Master Bron. The Silver Guild leader had said that Sakuro would have the delivery waiting for me, though it actually wasn't ready so I had to wait at his house where I found out that the delivery was actually curry. I should have known.

"Almost done," Sakuro pauses, eyes closed in deep concentration, a happy expression on his face, "there! All done."

I guess he must have been adding the love. I can't help it but to be amused and I'm still laughing when he hands me the bowl full of curry to deliver to Master Bron.

"You're cheerful today," at least he's laughing with me so that I'm not laughing at him. "That's good, I'm glad you're in a good mood."

"I am," really, I can't complain. "Thanks Master Sakuro, I'll take this delivery to Master Bron right away."

"I'm counting on you," it's amusing because Sakuro is making it sound as if this is some sort of secret package and the fate of Wystern depends on it.

"I shall guard this with my life!" Though I'm trying to fake a serious expression, I giggled the entire time.

Life is good, it's starting to settle back into a routine and nothing much has changed since I came to Wystern, though a lot has happened. That's okay, because I like the way things are.

When I arrived at the Silver Guild with the delivery, I found that Cleru and Pratty were interrogating Master Bron as to why they had not been informed about the summon creature. As I hand Bron the delivery their questions turn towards me. "Why didn't you tell us?"

"I didn't think it mattered?" I was honestly too preoccupied to inform the Craftlords of Iron about this, or anyone else.

They pouted, looking very much like twins and I giggled again. It seems I've been doing that a lot lately. I spent the rest of the day telling Cleru and Pratty the full story about the summon creature, since they had only heard bits and pieces. But other than saying I powered the gem with my energy, I didn't mention that the energy came from my love for Sakuro and Ureksa.

I have decided to continue living my life normally as I did before. I'll keep these feelings to myself and as long as they act natural around me, even if I know they're aware of my secret, I'll be able to act natural too. Albeit I can't help it but to wonder what things would be like if I haven't told Kouren that I had decided to let these feelings fade away in time. I wonder what would happen if I decided to try to make one of them like me back...

I push the thoughts away; I shouldn't think such silly and impossible things. I have a good job, great friends and a happy life in Wystern to look forward to. That's enough; I won't trouble myself with what I know I can't have.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 46: Time Skip

Many things have happened, but it seems that when I think back on it I can only remember the most important events, as every other day feels like one day being lived over and over again.

Rumari and Tyram came to visit Wystern after they returned from their honey moon vacation. Ureksa eventually returned to Vance and only comes to Wystern for the Craftlord meetings.

I see Master Sakuro often, since I'm always volunteering to make deliveries. Nothing unusual has happened between us, but we're getting along great as friends so I have no complaints.

Master Kouren has been traveling often, though she spends a good amount of time in Wystern. That guard from the third floor of Central Tower still likes her, I heard. The rumors say she has started to like Hayato, but I don't know if it's true.

Life goes on and time passes slowly, but when I look back, it feels like it's passing very fast. Eventually, the tournament to elect the new Craftlord of Crystal took place and was actually finished this time. The top competitors were Varil, Sanary, Razzy and Ariel, and the tournament ended with Varil as the winner.

Things have been going well for me; I'm becoming skilled in drill making after all this practice. It was a slow process, but I'm progressing. The Silver Guild is doing well. Vance has become an important trade point, it's certainly not as busy as Wystern, but it has become a place were ships often go to pick up cargo and distribute it.

More and more tournaments have been taking place all around the world. Many of the people participating aren't even Craftknights and thus fight with weapons they have purchased and not made. To try to lessen the injuries, contestants are encouraged to try to win by breaking their opponent's weapon instead of by knock out, and are given extra points or prices if they can do it. This proves to be challenging, but most are up to it. It's beneficial to the City of Swords since the demand for weapons increased, weapons that are durable and powerful enough to shatter the durability of the opponent's weapon.

I've been working hard on durability; I've always known that's my weak point when it comes to making drills, but I can't deny that I have improved. Master Bron has a weapons distribution shop at Vance. It's not as big as the commerce coming from the Gold Guild, but the Silver Guild weapons are on high demand, so whatever we produce, we sell.

There has been some mining activity going on at Vance. Some caves were discovered containing precious ores. The Craftknights of Vance and Wystern are quite happy to have new materials to experiment with. The miners have been using drills to help extract the ores and dig deeper into the mines. Because of that, a portion of the Silver Guild's shop at Vance, which is currently managed by Tyram, will be dedicated to the production of drills.

Master Bron has offered me a new job, a promotion. He offered me to work on the drills at Vance; I would be working with Tyram, focusing on drills while he crafts other types of weapons. The commerce in Wystern has increased and the waters are usually crowded with ships, so shipping more drills and spare parts to Vance has proved to be a slow process, more so since the raw materials have to be brought over from Vance only to be sent back after they are processed.

If there was someone at Vance who could focus only on drills then it would speed the process. Plus instead of shipping over drills for upgrades or repairs to Wystern and waiting for them to be returned by ship, or leaving them in Vance to wait in the shelves until Tyram can manage his overload of work and fix them; I could work on them and help speed the process.

Rumari has been working on the shop as well and Ureksa works there when ever he can, since he still needs to take care of his Craftlord duties first. However, Rumari is expecting a baby and will have to stay away from the heavy forging work for a while. I heard that Ureksa, ever protective of his sister, won't let her do any real jobs while she's pregnant. Tyram has agreed that she needs to take it easy, even if he ends up with more work than one person, even at Craftlord level, can possibly handle.

I told Master Bron I would take the job. It's clear that he needs me working at Vance and he's helped me so much. I'll also be able to see Rumari more often, whom I have been exchanging letters with all this time, and I can help out around the house if she needs it. Then there's the fact that I'll see Master Ureksa more often too. The down side is that I won't get to see Master Sakuro as much and I'll miss my friends from Wystern, even if we write often. But I've decided that I'll do this for Master Bron, for the Silver Guild and for Rumari, I feel that I owe them this much as gratitude for all they've done for me.

I have given the summonite gem to Rasho. He said he was entertained and wanted to stay in Wystern a little longer. I think he has gotten to like forging weapons and living in the City of Swords. He would probably be bored in Vance so I told him he could stay in Wystern. He muttered something I didn't quite catch when I hugged him and told him to write to me sometime and come visit as much as he wants. Then he went into his speech about not liking humans, but that's just his way to show he cares.

Tomorrow I'm leaving for Vance, I don't know for how long I'll be there, but I'm going. Second thoughts and uneasiness are abundant right now. I have already told my friends about this days ago and today we're having a little reunion before I leave.

I'll be leaving very early or very late depending on how you look at it. At three in the morning Master Bron will take me to Vance with enough time to set things up there and return to Wystern early. He gave me as many extra days in Wystern as he could, but there is a lot of work to be done, so we could leave today at a normal hour or tomorrow at three in the morning since Master Bron has to make both trips anyway. I chose to go tomorrow despite the odd hour, so that I can spend one more day in Wystern, I don't know when I'll return.

Very soon a new era in my life is about to start. I've been to Vance before; I know Master Ureksa, Rumari and Tyram. It's honestly not that far from Wystern, though I would be too busy to visit very often. But even if Vance is not really a completely unknown place, living there is new to me and I keep wondering if I've made the right choice. I guess only time can tell if Vance is the right place to be.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 47: Moving to Vance

It's three in the morning and everything is quiet in the City of Swords, even Craftknights have to sleep after all. My friends made a little party for me, we talked, joked and had cake, it was fun. They even gave me presents. Cleru, Sugar, Pratty, Zantek, Varil, Razzy, Kenon and Rasho were there. Even Ariel, Mariel, Cazio, Kouren, Sanary and Sakuro went.

I promised to write often and so did they, because I know I won't be able to visit Wystern very often for now, but I'll definitely visit everyone when I come by.

All my luggage is in Master Bron's boat. I'm taking one last look at the City of Swords before I leave; one last look at Wystern, my home. "Ready to go?"

I'm about to answer Master Bron but I pause. Someone is coming. "Just a moment..." It's dark but as the person comes closer I recognize him. "Master Sakuro?"

"Oh good you're still here, I almost missed you, I want to see you off." Words cannot describe how happy I am to see Master Sakuro again before I leave, and at the same time I'm sad to be leaving.

I jump off the boat and by some miracle make it to the docks without falling. "It's good to see you again."

"I'm going on a trip too, a trip around the world." Master Sakuro had mentioned it before, but had not set a specific date. "I'll leave the day after tomorrow."

"How come you didn't tell me?" I'm not sure I can be here then.

"It's alright; you have your career to think of, find your dream and follow it. This is my dream. I'll see you off today, and you can say 'see you later' to me now. I know you'll be busy when I leave and I'm not good at goodbyes anyway. Besides, it's not goodbye forever. We'll both return to Wystern some day to visit the City of Swords. I'll see you then." Master Sakuro hugged me and I wanted to stay that way forever.

For just a small moment the world around me stopped, then came abruptly into motion again when he let me go. I want to stay with him, but even if I stay in Wystern I won't be able to stay with Sakuro for more than a few days.

"Don't look so sad, you have friends in Vance and you'll still keep your friends from Wystern." Sakuro places something in my hands, wrapped in shiny Sapphire colored paper. "Open it on the way to Vance."

"Sakuro... Thank you, have a safe trip and come back to Wystern some day. Write to me if you can." Sakuro... you're in my heart...

As Master Bron's boat approached Vance, I opened Sakuro's gift and found a very beautiful sea shell bracelet, I will treasure it forever.

It was still mostly dark when we got to Vance, but a few faint rays of light started to appear in the horizon. I had never witnessed the sunrise at sea, even if I lived in a tower in the middle of the ocean for so long I always slept through it. It's truly beautiful and it makes Vance in the distance look like a picture from a post card.

Master Bron and Master Ureksa helped me move in. Master Bron said he had arranged everything for my stay, so at first I assumed I would be living at the work shop, but instead I would actually be living at one of the houses near the work shop. There was the shop where Tyram and I would work, Rumari' and Tyrams house, where I assumed Ureksa also lived, and there was another house next to it, I would be staying in that house.

After we brought in my luggage, I went to the port with Master Bron to say goodbye, shivering from the morning cold all the way. "The cold might take some getting used to. You never liked the cold did you?"

"It's okay, I'll just wear a coat," I wasn't going to let a little freezing cold air bother me.

"And it's warm in the work shop so you won't have to worry too much. Good luck, make some Silver Guild worthy drills!" Master Bron is glad I took this job; I can tell he is, and I'm happy I could help. After all, it was thanks to Bron that I could go to Wystern in the first place.

"I will!" I'm feeling better about being here already, even if I am freezing.

"Don't slack off now!" Another voice calls from the ship. It's Rasho!

"Rasho, what are you doing there?" I stare at him surprised but somehow amused.

"Just saying goodbye, I'll come by when ever I get bored of Wystern," Rasho is his usual self as always.

"Hey! I don't want any stow aways in my ship!" It's funny to watch Bron chasing Rasho around the ship.

I think Rasho will be happier in Wystern than he would have been in Vance. After all, annoying Bron is one of his favorite things to do. He's never really been my guardian beast, but he has become a dear friend. He's a free summon more so than a stray summon, and that's the way it should be, I think that's how he wants it to be too.

After Bron's ship disappeared in the horizon, and the sun continued to slowly rise, Tyram filled me in on the work schedule. "You can unpack first if you want, it's still very early. I already set up your work area so you don't need to do that. Do you mind using new tools or are you too used to the ones you have?"

I guess Bron thought I would have to set things up myself. "I don't mind either way. Any tools are fine by me, and thanks for setting things up." I wonder if I'm even a real drill crafter, not getting attached to my tools as most Craftknights do.

"Good, then you can get settled into your new room, then come have breakfast with Rumari, Ureksa and me," Tyram is still ever the calm.

"That sounds great," I find it odd that it's so early but I'm so energetic. I thought for sure I would be falling asleep standing. I guess I'm just excited and a little nervous. "Master Tyram," even if he isn't a Craftlord anymore he's still at that level and technically the master of the Vance shop. "You and Rumari live there, right?" I point towards their house. "Then whose house is this?" I point towards the house where I will be staying as we arrive.

"This is Ureksa's house. He insisted on moving out after Rumari and I got married, even if we told him he could stay as long as he wanted. At least we're still neighbors. The guest room has been empty since he moved so when Bron told me about sending some help over I asked Ureksa if he would mind if I borrowed it. Now you don't need to sleep in the work shop or worry about renting a room. You get a free room and Ureksa will have some company in that big empty house. Well, he has Pouso, but I'm sure Rumari will feel better knowing you're there too; everybody wins." I wasn't expecting Tyram to say that, but he's right.

I'll be living with Master Ureksa! I feel like I won the lottery! Of course this doesn't really mean anything, but can I help it if my thoughts go in every direction? Then I noticed the pretty sea shell bracelet I'm wearing and I don't know if I should be jumping with joy to be close to Ureksa or crying because I'm far from Sakuro. Ah, the joys of loving two men...

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 48: The Quiet Snow Town

Time has gone by slowly ever since I came to Vance. My schedule is the same every day. I get up early, usually to the sound of Master Ureksa calling me, and rarely without having to be called. The first time I gave Ureksa a bit of a scare because I wouldn't answer. He said he called and knocked and I didn't reply, so he went into my room to find me sleeping soundly, except to him it looked almost like a coma. I didn't wake up until he was loudly calling me, while standing right next to me and gave me a good shake.

I guess I forgot to mention that I sleep like a rock and I'm used to sleeping through the occasional hammer banging that happens in the middle of the night in the Silver Guild when someone wakes up with the inspiration to make a weapon and can't go back to sleep until it's been made. Of course Master Bron's voice could still wake me up. Master Bron's voice could probably wake the dead, it echoes, resonates and booms like no other and makes the very foundation of the city shake.

After a while I started getting used to the quiet of Vance and Master Ureksa didn't have to strain his throat too much trying to wake me up. After dragging myself out of bed, washing and dressing for the day, I go to Rumari and Tyram's house and have breakfast with them and Ureksa. Though it's cold I still prefer cool food and I'll take juice over coffee any day.

Vance isn't as active as Wystern, which is to be expected even with the growing commerce. It's very quiet here in comparison, to the point where sometimes I wonder if there are any people in town besides Tyram, whose hammer I sometimes hear forging, because I can't detect the presence of anyone else. Rasho would have really been bored here.

Living with Ureksa isn't as much as a big deal as I initially thought it would be. I have my own room and my own bathroom so we hardly cross paths. We eat at Rumari and Tyram's house together and when I finish my work, I help Rumari around the house, mostly with cleaning and laundry since I'm a disaster in the kitchen.

Vance is an uneventful town which is why when something does happen, everyone knows. There's a play going on, it's not exactly a huge event but it's something. Everyone is going, I guess I should go too and see if the traveling artists from the show boat can act as well as I've heard.

Today I finished work early. Rumari has asked me to remind Tyram to bring more fire wood, which I did mention, but I think I'll get things started by getting some myself, which proved to be more difficult than I expected. I don't have the skill or equipment needed to bring a tree down. I'm not exceptionally strong either and even if I chopped down a tree little by little, I'm not sure if I can finish the task without accidentally hurting myself.

Master Tyram is good at collecting fire wood, he's an expert with the axe and he's used to it. All I can really do is collect small twigs which simply look pitiful. I huff, this isn't working. There's a tree trunk on the ground that I could cut up, but the wood is old and possibly burns up too fast. Plus I've seen people sitting on it and children playing around it so I'm sure the locals wouldn't want me to ruin it.

I guess my journey to collect fire wood is turning out to be nothing more than a useless walk. I reach the area near the mines and curiously watch the workers from behind the fence. It's only a wooden fence, not too tall and easy to trespass. It's only there to mark the area rather than to keep people out, they assume that everyone will respect the landmark and not go any further.

"Hey, you're the girl from the shop, right?" A random worker noticed me.

"Yeah," I suppose I could make it sound as I'm here for a reason. "Are the drills working alright?"

"Yeah, pretty good, especially those new ones. Give Master Tyram my thanks," after saying this, the worker goes back to his job.

"I will," and I walk away without saying anything else. I made the drills on my own, Master Tyram fully trusted me with that. I don't care if they don't know that, I'm proud that the drills I made are good.

On my way back I saw a girl I've never seen before. "Excuse me," she was pretty, long brunette hair and pale blue eyes. "I was looking for some fire wood, is it okay to cut some here?"

I may be unable to do this myself, but at least I know where cutting trees is allowed. "Yes, those trees over there can be cut, but you can also buy firewood in town." It is a bit overpriced, hence why I didn't consider the option for myself.

"Okay, I already asked the inn keep if it would be alright to use a tree, I just wanted to make sure I didn't cut the wrong one. He said people usually just take what they need and leave the rest for the next person. I don't see any left over parts of trees that have already been cut, so I guess I'll bring down a new one." She carries a double bladed axe, the handle is a bit longer than usual and rests on her shoulder. "Thanks for the info!"

"Sure, no problem..." I wonder who she is. It's not that she's mean or anything, but a part of me hopes she's just a traveler and not someone who just moved in.

I walk back to the shop empty handed. I didn't say I would bring anything, so I'm not expected to, but I wish I had some fire wood to bring. I glance back at the girl with the axe, she's very skilled with it, I wonder if she's a Craftknight. She's almost done chopping down the tree with perfect cuts and it didn't take very long at all. Somehow, I have the urgency to run home and make an axe. Even if I can't wield it as well as she can, I want to at least make one. I'm quite out of practice since I started focusing on drills, but I want to try.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 49: Alora: Adorable, Axe Master... Annoying!

I've been in a rotten mood all evening. Apparently Tyram finished work early too and he went off to get the fire wood. I was going to catch up, but figured I wouldn't be able to help much so I went to help Rumari around the house instead. It turns out that Ureksa was done with his Craftlord work early today and what a coincidence that he went off to help Tyram. The biggest coincidence is that they got to the area designated for collecting wood soon after I left, and that girl with the axe was still there.

Oh joy, she got to show off how skilled she is and even if I was actually there, I wouldn't have been able to do anything. I feel so helpless. They decided to share the tree since she didn't need that much wood and Tyram and Ureksa helped her carry the firewood back to her home. My only consolation is that her home happened to be the large show ship anchored at the port, which means that she should be gone after they act out their little play and take their show on the road, or I should say sea.

I've forced a smile upon my face and did nothing more than nod, refusing to comment on how wonderfully skilled the actress is, it's not like I was there to witness the whole process with them anyway. I think they said her name was Alora, quite frankly I don't care, I'm just turning green with new found envy and I want her gone.

I went to bed early, I don't know if I'm angrier for being jealous, when in the past I have practically always accepted my limitations, or if I'm angrier because I can't compete. But overall I'm being silly, I'm not sure what I would be competing for. Besides, it's not like she's going to stay, she'll be gone with her acting crew soon enough.

When the day of the play came we all went as one large group. When I went to meet up with everyone at Rumari and Tyram's house, I caught part of a conversation between Rumari and Ureksa going on in the next room. "So you told them all the same thing; that you would go with a group of friends?" Rumari asked.

"It's the truth," Ureksa replied and Pouso's squeaks followed.

"It sounds alright, but you really should consider going out with one of them-" I didn't need to hear anymore. I ran out of there before Rumari could finish and waited outside, it's not like I should be eaves dropping anyway.

It's obvious that the girls of Vance are starting to get closer to him, growing more impatient as more time passes with him being dateless. It's ironic that I'm the one closest to him, yet at the same time the one who's furthest away. I guess those other girls know that I'm just occupying a room in his house and nothing more. It's become that obvious, and the bitter part of me is wishing that Ureksa wasn't a gentleman at all and would take advantage of the situation already. But he won't, I know he won't, why would he want to? It's just me, not an amazing axe wielding beauty, just me...

My eyes are watery; I don't know what I was expecting. I blink and try to hold back. I'm such a stupid girl, I know very well not to wish for what I can't have, and then I'm disappointed when I realize that other people can have what I never could, even if I knew that all along so it shouldn't come as a surprise. I frown, I'm not pretty or skilled. Fine then, I'll just have to work till I drop and try to become rich. But that doesn't seem very likely... I'm fairly smart but not a genius, I suppose I could study hard and try to become one, because I'm desperate to be special.

I managed to keep a straight face throughout the entire play and the ordeal of girls putting an amazing amount of effort just to sit next to Ureksa. I even managed to pretend I enjoyed watching the play, but I wasn't paying attention and I'm not even sure what it was about.

The next day I started studying. I worked and studied for a few days and didn't even speak more than a few words to anyone. I ended up mentally burned out and realizing that if I kept that up, it would only push Ureksa and everyone else away.

I decided to tone down the studying and read the drill books little by little. There is no labyrinth here, but I occasionally hike for the sake of not looking like a couch potato since I'm sitting down all day assembling drills.

I don't think I would have enough time to do my job and somehow improve myself even if I skipped out on sleep completely, which would just make things worse. Why is it that it takes so much effort for me to look half decent and lady like, and those other girls seem to look radiant no matter what? I guess that's why I always look like a careless tomboyish girl; it's what's easiest for me.

All of this has brought me back to square one, back to what I told Kouren. I should, and will, let those crushes fade away. Trying to be more than I can be is only causing me stress. I've decided that I'll accept my role and stop complaining. I'm the friend, and I'll try to become the irreplaceable friend, that's all.

Much to my annoyance, Alora decided to stay in Vance to pursue her dream of becoming a full time Craftknight. She's made friends with Rumari and I feel as if she's stolen my dear friend. I'll just have to be a better friend, because that's who I am, the eternal friend, not the sister in law, goodness no, I just need to get that through my thick skull.

I've been working hard day by day. I've been frustrated with how slowly I improve and how long it's taken me to get to this point, but I've been working. I've been getting little sleep; I just don't feel like sleeping anymore, I want to achieve something, even if I'm not sure what it is anymore.

I've been writing to my friends regularly, all my letters are happy and encouraging. I just wish my heart was the same as my outer shell. Alora has been working part time at the shop, Tyram was kind enough to give her a job and with all the good intentions told me I could take a break now that I had some help. She's annoyingly good at this. I just told Tyram that I enjoyed working at the shop and still spent the majority of the day there.

Sometimes, Alora, Rumari and I cook together. She's great in the kitchen and I can only help with simple tasks I can't possibly ruin. Alora asked me if I liked Ureksa and I denied it, claiming that I only saw him as a friend. I regretted saying that and got a burning sensation in my heart right after. I think I just messed up very badly. I long to return to Wystern away from all this pain.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 50: Giving Up So Soon?

A job came up in Seijent. When Master Bron came over to see how everything was going he mentioned it. I said I would like to apply for that job. Apparently, the mining for new ores has increased, so drills and machine based equipment are on high demand.

Ever since Alora came I've been feeling that I'm at the wrong place, and the time has come for me to move out. Master Bron sensed my doubt and told me to think about it, and give him an answer tomorrow when he comes by to deliver some things. He'll give me the job if I still want it.

I went to talk to Rumari and told her about the job at Seijent. "Do you want to go?"

"I don't know," I truthfully replied. "I guess my goals are a little blurry. I don't want to move further away from my friends, but I guess I know Hayato and Natsumi, so not everyone in Seijent is a stranger to me."

"Do you think this will be a good opportunity for your career?" Rumari asked.

"I suppose so..." I'm not truly sure, I would assume it is.

"Isn't that why you're going?" Rumari certainly knows how to get to the bottom of things. She asked the exact question I don't know how to answer. I remained silent, in thought. "Is there another reason?"

I sighed. "I wish that all my friends were in one place, and that all of us could live happily together. But I guess everyone has things to do, people change and move on. I'm the only one who stays the same."

"Do you want to move because it feels like everyone else is moving?" Rumari has a caring and understanding look on her face.

"I don't even know what I want. I suppose that's my real problem. I guess it should be clear, to advance in my career, right?" I feel so lost.

"That is something that only you can decide. Only you can decide what your goal will be and what you feel most comfortable doing." I guess Rumari is right, but how can I do that? "Be honest with yourself, what is it that you want?"

"I want to be happy..." I finally reply. "Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy here, but there's something missing. I guess I can't freeze life during a happy moment with my friends. I suppose the only thing left for me to do is search for more happy moments. The feeling of a fresh start is comforting, or maybe I'm trying to recover the comfort zone I left in Wystern. I thought I found that here and then..."

"Could it be that what's missing is love?" Am I that easy to read?

"I think I've been in love..." I don't want to say too much, Rumari is Ureksa's sister after all. "But I never did anything about it."

"Why not?" Because I'm not pretty, talented, strong, kind and amazing like you...

"I thought he wouldn't like me back so I never bothered mentioning anything," I admit.

"So you won't ask the question until you know the answer?" I know, it's cowardly.

"I sort of gave out the answer, but he didn't ask the question..." I know that Sakuro must have known that I like him and I can't be one hundred percent sure that Ureksa knew, but there's a possibility he might know.

"Then don't worry about it, he's the one missing out," Rumari, you have no idea I'm in part talking about your brother, do you?

Then I realize that even if I admitted the truth to Kouren, I also told her that I fully intended to let those feelings fade away. "I kind of gave the impression that I liked him but I didn't want to like him."

"If he thinks that, then you didn't really give him the answer you wanted, so it's no wonder he never asked the question. Why don't you just try being sincere and a little more direct? Men can miss small hints sometimes." Rumari laughs at this point as if remembering a personal experience.

Her laugh is contagious. "I don't think I know how to make a man fall in love with me."

"Just be yourself," it's classic advice but I don't think it will work. "Be yourself, be true to your feelings and if it's true love then it will happen on its own."

"And if it's not I'll be causing unnecessary trouble for both of us," and the awkwardness will never be lifted.

"If you didn't think it could be true love, why do you like him so much in the first place? Think of why you like him, don't you think someone with all those good points deserves to know he's appreciated? If he's really as good as you think, then he'll respect your feelings, you don't need to keep everything bottled up." I don't think it was that hard between Rumari and Tyram. Sometimes everything just works out, but not for me.

"Respecting isn't the same as returning. Besides, it's because I care about him that I want to keep him as a friend instead of talking too much and losing him entirely." Why am I even talking about this? The answer should have already been clear; I should have seen it by myself.

"I thought you were braver..." Is Rumari disappointed?

I don't know how to reply to that, what can I possibly say? Then there's a knock on the door and a familiar voice that makes me twitch. "Rumari!"

I plaster a fake smile on my face, with no effort to make it look real as my left eye twitches a little. "I'll get it..."

By the time I open the door and see Alora standing there, my fake smile has melted into a real frown, complimented by a distant look in my eyes. "Hey Alora," my friendly tone does not match my face at all. "What brings you here?" I have not yet moved from the door.

"I came to see Rumari," Alora makes a pause as if waiting for me to move and takes a small step to make her intentions to go inside obvious. "Can I come in?"

I didn't say anything; I just remained rooted to the spot until Rumari said "yes." Only then I move.

"On second thought," I addressed only Rumari, ignoring Alora completely. "I think it's best if I leave." Then I went to my room to pack.

To be Continued

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Chapter 51: Fight!

The time came and I gave Master Bron my answer. He had some things to do, so I still had a couple of hours in Vance. I'm feeling hurt and don't want to be here. I asked if I could wait on the boat, Master Bron said I could but I don't think he understood why I would want to.

I went to pick up my luggage and Ureksa was at the house. I just went straight to my room without saying anything. "You really are leaving..." I'm not sure if Ureksa sounded angry or disappointed.

"Yes, I'm going to Seijent," my face and voice were neutral and could be seen as uncaring. I took a deep breath and smiled, I didn't want his last memory of me to be like this. "Right! I'm finally going to Seijent; it'll be good for my career."

"So that's it, you're happy to leave?" Why does Master Ureksa sound upset?

"Why wouldn't I be?" I'll be happy when I can calm down and forget about these stupid crushes.

"Sounds like you can't wait to get out of here. You're abandoning Rumari," what is he talking about? "She was upset."

"I'm not... that's not..." I stutter, I don't know how to word this.

"Fine if that's what you want, then go ahead and leave," Ureksa starts to walk away upset.

I grab the end of his scarf and pull him back then let go. "Alora is here now so it doesn't matter if I'm gone." My mind travels back to a time when Alora and I were working at the shop. She asked me if I liked Ureksa and I denied it. "She likes you; I'm just getting in the way."

Ureksa gives me a look I can't quite read. "Did she ask you to leave?"

"No, I can see for myself that I'm in the way." I grab my luggage and start to walk towards the front door.

"So that's why..." Ureksa follows me. "But you're not in the way. I don't mind if you stay here and I hardly know Alora, you shouldn't jump to conclusions too quickly. If you're leaving because of me then you don't have to."

My hand rests on the door knob. Once I step out of his house, I might never be able to return. "Yes I do, because I like you too." I open the door and start walking out.

Ureksa stands at the door for a moment then follows me. "I'll help you carry that," he does, and we walk in silence towards the port. We stand there at the docks, looking at Master Bron's boat. "Since when?"

"Before coming to Vance, didn't Kouren mention something?" It's strange; I'm talking about myself in a tone one would use to talk about someone else.

"She asked me to protect you and to try to make you like me. I thought it was all needed for her plans, but this was the real reason. I guess I can't take a hint." I know Ureksa must feel as awkward as I do or at least close to it.

"I didn't ask her for that," this is the truth. "I told her not to take it into consideration, it's pointless..."

"I'm pointless?" No, that's not what I meant.

"Not you... what I mean is that unrequited love is pointless. I'll come visit one day, and I'll be able to see you as a friend when I come back. It seems I can't achieve that without some time away. I'll miss talking to Rumari and working with Tyram. I'll miss you too, but it's for the best." After that Ureksa and I quietly moved my things to Bron's ship and discovered Alora was there.

"Nostalgia, I've spent a lot of my life on a ship, so I asked Master Bron if I could hang out on his boat for a while," Alora explained before we could ask her anything.

"Oh... okay... Hey Alora, can I ask you for one thing before I leave?" I may be running away like a coward, but I'm a coward who fights, even if it's just a little.

"What is it?" I don't think she'll expect this.

"Spar with me," I've been secretly working on a special drill all this time, using my experience making mining drills to create a drill that's small enough to be used as a weapon, but powerful enough to break rocks.

"I would win," Alora is certainly confident.

"I heard you get stronger by fighting someone who is stronger," I insist.

"Alright," of course Alora is carrying her axe. "How about the docks then?"

"Fine by me," I dig out my drill from my luggage and join Alora at the docks. Ureksa is watching silently.

We both take attack positions and the battle begins. Alora is very fast and I hardly have time to block, let alone attack. My drill looks fragile, but it's very strong, the spiral has been sharpened and it has small thorns on it. The engine is small but powerful. Its durability is enough to be useful in a fight, though I had to strengthen it so it's a little heavy and I need to hold it with both hands.

As Alora's axe collides with my drill, I activate it and the weapons screech from the friction. Alora keeps hitting it; sure that she'll break it, until she realizes that one of the blades of her axe has been turned into a zigzag pattern.

She turns it over and our weapons clash again. I push my drill against her axe, she pushes back. I move backwards, but I'm running out of room; there are waves behind me and the dock doesn't go on forever. Then it happens, Alora's axe shatters leaving her only with the handle.

I hear clapping and realize that Ureksa isn't the only one watching. Rumari, Tyram and Bron are here too. "Well done, that was a great fight."

While Master Bron speaks, I move away from the edge of the dock, it's over. "I can't believe you actually broke my axe, what kind of a drill is that?" Alora sounds upset.

"It's my own design, Master Bron, I sent it to you, remember?" I'm proud of my work, I actually won.

"Yes, It's a good drill, with some modifications you could turn it into a design for an industrial drill to mine ores," I wonder why Bron would consider that possibility first instead of thinking of it as a weapon for tournaments. "But as a weapon..." I wait expectantly as he pauses. "It's a bit destructive isn't it?"

"So that's why my axe broke, the drill is above the regulations. That's not fair." What is Alora talking about?

"What regulations?" I question.

"The ones I mentioned yesterday at dinner while you were spacing out and glaring at the walls," Ureksa finally says something.

"Oh that... Well I had a good reason to be distracted, I was thinking..." Great, I messed up, I won and I still managed to mess up somehow.

"Certain guide lines will be implemented for drills, which have become more advanced than the other weapons. We talked about it in the last Craftlord meeting." I really was distracted not to have heard Ureksa say any of that during that dinner. "But, those guidelines have not been made official yet, so technically this was still a legal match."

"But it wasn't fair," Alora complains.

"You should have said so before," I hold my drill up, "It's not like it doesn't look destructive, there's really no way to hide that." I don't care what Alora says, and I don't care if it really wasn't fair, it was at least legal. I rarely win at anything, so I intend to savor my victory.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 52: Indecision: Trying to Avoid the Inevitable Regret

I had an argument with Alora, but it was decided that I won the match. She walked away saying I was childish because I wouldn't stop defending my point. The fact is I didn't know about the guidelines, which are not even official yet. Besides, it was a spar; we were clearly going for each other's weapons not trying to injure the other. Or at least she was trying to break my weapon while I blocked and countered at the same time, so technically she decided how it would go. I know Alora is more skilled than me, but I outsmarted her with my drill design.

Then in the rush of the moment I said I didn't feel like leaving anymore. "You have to make up your mind," Bron reminded me.

I took a deep breath. The thought of Alora occupying my room made me burn up inside. I could say I saw Ureksa first, but the fact remains that there are no real privileges for the one who gets there first in love, especially if she wasted so much time and so many opportunities. "I'm sorry..."

"Well then I guess this means you don't want the job after all? I thought you were rushing to get out of here. I'm not sure what's going on, but I take it you sorted things out?" Master Bron asked.

I almost feel like laughing at the Irony. "No, I made a bigger mess of things actually." If Kouren heard about this she would be either amused or in an odd sense happy for me. "But I shouldn't run away from my messes, right?" I laugh.

"I don't know what's going on, but I suppose it's something only you understand." I'm not sure if that's meant as a complaint or compliment from Master Bron. Congratulations to me, I had made life very complicated and didn't escape when I had the chance.

I moved my things back to my room, but when I got there it wasn't empty. "Alora? What are you doing over here?"

"That's what I should be asking you. This is my room," What in the world? Who does she think she is?

"No it's not, when was that decided?" This can't be happening.

"It was Bron's idea," Ureksa stands at the door. "He found out Alora was renting a room at the inn and said that even if you decided to stay it would be fine for you two to be roommates."

Well, I can't deny that there is in fact enough space and furniture. The room has two beds and a big closet. I guess we'll have to share the bathroom and closet but there's certainly enough space for two people here. However, I really don't want to share with Alora. Under other circumstances I wouldn't mind, but she's my rival and my victory has made me foolishly cocky thinking I can actually compete. I'm caught in the rush of the moment, trying to be brave like Rumari advised, but this is too much.

"Is it that bad?" Alora asks in an almost mocking voice. "Don't be childish, we're rivals, but it's not like I'll murder you in your sleep or anything."

I twitch. "I want... I want to catch a break for once..." I sigh. "Alright, you got yourself a childish roommate. I'll stay out of your way, and expect the same. Deal?" I hold out my hand.

Alora shakes hands with me. "It's a deal but you know what they say, all is fair in love and war."

I knew this would be bad. "I take it this means we're at war? Lucky I'm the destructive one."

Alora was taken by surprise by my remark but brushed it off with a glare and called me childish to bring that up. Ureksa actually laughed a little at my odd response, since it was rather obvious the love part was about him.

"Mail!" The mail man called from outside and I practically bounced over to the mailbox, while Alora continued to mutter something about me being childish.

I sorted the envelopes, searching for any mail from my friends. "Mine, mine, mine," One letter was from Cleru and Sugar, another from Pratty and Zantek, another was from Razzy. "This is for Ureksa, it looks official," I handed him the envelope; it was most likely a Craftlord document. The last two things in my hands were post cards; one was for me and another for Ureksa. "He sent a postcard!" I practically squealed and remembered who gave me the sea shell bracelet that I was still wearing. I gave Ureksa his postcard and sat on my bed.

"So Sakuro is in Seijent," Ureksa seemed happy to change the subject.

Seijent... Sakuro was in Seijent and I missed the chance to see him. Then again, he might be gone by now. The mail takes several days to get to its destination, so maybe Sakuro wasn't even in Seijent anymore. Besides, if I went to Seijent it would be to work there, not to follow clues and stalk Sakuro. "It must be interesting to travel all over the world." I came up with a perfectly neutral comment.

"Ureksa, can you write down this address for me, so that my friends can write to me here?" Alora... She only likes Ureksa and while I still like Sakuro, I can't ignore Ureksa who is right in front of me.

I don't know how unreachable Sakuro was before, but he certainly is more unreachable now. I guess I'll stick with Ureksa then, unless Sakuro suddenly comes to steal me away. I don't think I should choose simply based on who is closer and nothing more, but life isn't a fairy tale and you need to make the best of what you're given. I guess Alora isn't really my personal enemy, she's not stupid either; she's just my rival.

I broke the oath of the Craftknights, a sword is not strength, a sword is not skill, a sword is not fellowship. If the word sword is used metaphorically then a drill isn't supposed to be strength or skill or fellowship either, but I tried to hide my lack of strength and skill by making a super drill. I kept thinking that because I designed it, I was making up for the battle strength and skill I lack with brains, but did I do that, or did I in a way, accidentally cheat?

I don't know what will happen next, I don't know what twists and turns life will bring, but I'm done telling myself I'm not good enough to face them. I'm finished with running away, and even if I fail, no one will see me as a coward any more.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 53: Dear Diary

Ureksa hasn't mentioned anything about my confession. Alora and I are tolerating each other, but she's spending more time with Ureksa than me. I just can't keep up with working, studying drills, doing chores, being helpful to Rumari, spending time with Ureksa, sleeping, eating, taking a shower and breathing all in one day. Yet, somehow I have to do all that, and somehow my Ureksa time is always sacrificed.

Rumari gave me a gift; it's a diary for me to write in, though I haven't used it yet as I have not found the time. I'm sure she thought this would help me sort out my thoughts and feelings by getting everything on paper and reading over it. It could be quite helpful, so I should try to use it when ever I have time.

Right now I'm cleaning my work space; I finished work early and will go over to help Rumari soon. She's seven months pregnant and it shows. I catch a glance of the blank diary on my desk. This is a special item I decided to keep in the place where I spend most of my time, the work shop. My precious sea shell bracelet is also something that I take with me to work, though I take it off while I'm working to make sure it's not damaged.

I pick up the diary and wonder if I can turn my feelings into words. Then I remember that when I did turn my feelings into words I received no reaction, either by my own request, or by mercy. If only I could say things sincerely, just communicate and get an answer. I'm starting to think that no answer is worse than a negative one.

All is fair in love and war... I grin at the little red book with golden lettering spelling out the word 'diary'. Then I open it and start to write: "Dear diary, following Rumari's advice I will try to put my thoughts and feelings into words here. This diary is very special as it is a gift from Rumari. I will start with a little history about myself. I was born in Rugista. When I was little I had basically no personal identity and I didn't like the one that was chosen for me, hence why I was not happy with myself."

"When my father passed away, things became worse with my mother, who only cared about my image to the rest of the village and not my happiness. I'm not really what you would call lady like, and in Rugista Craftknight girls were considered tomboys even if they didn't look it."

"Eventually I was rescued by Master Bron who gave me a job and home at the Silver Guild in Wystern, the City of Swords. While in Wystern I had a secret crush on Master Sakuro, the Craftlord of Sapphire, and Master Ureksa the Craftlord of Jade. I thought that since they're Craftlords and I was just a Craftknight, and not a good one, that neither would like me back and never said anything."

"Many things happened and I eventually specialized myself in drills. Wystern was attacked by sea serpents, but the City of Swords won the battle. I went to Rugista again while Wystern was being repaired, though I wanted to go to Vance. However, things worked out because I tied some loose ends, or maybe I should say I finished cutting some old ties, and put my past behind me completely."

"I returned to Wystern and life went on. Rumari and Tyram got married. Master Sakuro gave me a dancing lesson, then later I danced with Master Ureksa and held hands during the fireworks display, but didn't tell either how I felt."

"It was during the night of Rumari's wedding that a spirit possessing Hayato came to me trying to trick me into helping him possess Master Sakuro's body, since he could only control a linker during the full moon and could not switch to inhabit another body pushing out the original soul without help. I told the Craftlords about it and soon after, while Master Kouren, the Craftlord of Ruby, was investigating what kind of spirit we were up against, I admitted my feelings for Sakuro and Ureksa but only told Kouren about it."

"I was feeling frustrated to have admitted it before I felt ready, though maybe it was for the best, because who knows for how long I would have kept it all bottled up otherwise. Because I thought neither would ever like me back I told Kouren that I intended to let my feelings fade away."

"When Master Kouren and I trapped that spirit in the Crystal, the energy used to power the Crystal was my love energy and the friction in that energy caused by being secretly in love with Sakuro and Ureksa at the same time. I still didn't speak of my feelings to them even then."

"Eventually I moved to Vance. I had second thoughts at first, but Sakuro was going on a trip and would not be in Wystern, and Ureksa was in Vance so it all worked out for the best. I got a very pretty sea shell bracelet from Sakuro, which I treasure. I live in the same house as Ureksa but we're still just friends. I work with Tyram everyday and help Rumari as often as I can."

"A girl named Alora came to Vance, and I tried to run away by taking a job at Seijent. I thought I would be getting in the way and even if Rumari advised me to be brave, though I don't know if she knows I like her brother, I still intended to give up and leave. That would have been a huge mistake."

"I had been secretly working on a drill of my own design. I asked Alora to spar with me so I could leave feeling like less of a coward by facing her in some way. I actually won and I was surprised, but it turns out I only won because of the advantage of my weapon. Still, I designed it and put my love into it, so it was more than just a weapon."

"At first I thought the advantage of my drill went against the code of Wystern, a sword is not strength, a sword is not skill, a sword is not fellowship, or in this case a drill instead of a sword. After it was over, I thought it was unfair to tilt the duel in my favor, even if I thought it was a fair fight when I was actually dueling. I thought I had made a mistake, but it was while writing this that I came to realize that I designed this drill and worked hard on making it, my ideas, determination and work were the strength, skill and fellowship rather than the drill itself. This realization makes me feel better."

"I feel a bit silly having to win a duel to gain some confidence when I should be able to have it on my own. I should have been able to become confident long ago. I've had friends who support me for a long time, but for some reason it took me this long to stop doubting myself."

Now to say things clearly for the one whom I hope reads this. "I only see Sakuro as a friend now," I would have to actually see him again to know for sure but I'll write it like this, "which is fine since we have always been friends, no more and no less. Before Alora came to Vance I was in love with Ureksa and thought that one of two things could happen, either Ureksa would never like me back and my feelings would fade away in time, or Ureksa would actually get to like me, though I wasn't confident about that at the time, and things would progress slowly. We live in the same house so we see each other every day, it would be easy for him to find a moment to talk to me if he wanted."

"I guess I should have been more direct or at least let out a clear hint about how I feel. It might be too late now that I actually want to try. I've wasted a lot of time and I wasn't honest about how I feel and that is something I regret. But everyone has things they regret, it's how we make the most of life afterwards that truly counts." I add one more little note at the end and close the diary. Now I just need a little luck, some strategic thinking and a lot of patience. Let operation diary confession begin!

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 54: Idle Time

"This is the last box," it was a small box full of bolts.

"Could you put that on the desk? Are you sure there are no more boxes on the ship, I thought I saw one more... I'm going to check," and I zoomed past Ureksa leaving him to deliver the box to my desk at the work shop.

I left the diary on the desk; it was unlocked, open and tempting. If all goes according to plan, Ureksa should take a peak. One thing is a heart felt confession, but reading it from a diary that was supposed to be read by no one but the writer has a special feel to it. It's just a subtle reminder that I have not received an answer yet. If he doesn't like me, and there's no chance that he could, then I would prefer if he just said so. I'm tired of waiting, but I've wasted so much time that I feel I shouldn't be impatient, plus I'm still too shy to confess directly twice.

That final note I added to the diary read, "PS: I started liking Ureksa more after moving to Vance and before Alora came. I will forever treasure Sakuro as a dear friend, but that's it. I hope Ureksa says something soon, yes, no or wait, I don't mind being asked to wait for an answer as long as I know I'm waiting and not being ignored. Fell free to write your answer here you mischievous boy who reads other people's diaries."

I gave Ureksa plenty of time to read if he was going to read. I walked around the docks and finally went back to the shop. I stopped and hung around idly watching Tyram work, then finally returned to my work area just as Ureksa came out and informed him, "you were right; there were no more boxes on the ship."

"I thought so, but these materials should last a while," our conversation was completely casual. I wonder if Ureksa was tempted to read at all.

However, when I looked at the diary I was happy to find that he did read it. I didn't want to say anything directly; I didn't want to rush him if he was thinking. After all, I was the one who kept quiet for such a long time. "Okay you got me, I peeked, but you knew that would happen. Can you wait a little longer?" I don't mind waiting, I'm just glad I got some sort of reply.

I had an urge to practice with an axe later that evening. I finished work and forged one. It wasn't smooth at all but it was somewhat sharp. Predictably, it didn't go well. I did bring back some wood and piled it up in a corner of the work shop, and set the axe aside.

I was making a small delivery to a store at Vance that helped with the distribution process of the weapons we produced. I saw Ureksa heading towards Rumari's house returning from his Craftlord work in Wystern, and walked with him part of the way back to the shop. "You're hurt?"

"Huh?" I stared at Ureksa dumbly. What's this all of a sudden asking if I'm hurt? "I'm alright..." I finally reply, is this about his answer in my diary?

"No, you're bleeding," I blink and continue to stare at Ureksa.

"Bleeding?" I repeat, and automatically my eyes look at my right shoulder. I shouldn't have made a double bladed axe when I can only wield a drill decently, knuckles are pretty easy to handle too, but I'm not good with bladed weapons such as swords and axes. "It's nothing, I just had a little accident." Did I mention I'm also bad at bandaging? My shoulder hurts, I notice, sometimes I amaze myself at how distracted I can get to the point where I feel no pain.

"Let's go, you need to do something about that." I don't know if I should be glad Ureksa thinks about my safety or if I should kick myself for clumsily getting hurt.

"No, really, I'm fine, it's nothing." I caught one of the axe's blades on my shoulder... I found part of a tree trunk on the ground, people leave them there for others to use when they have obtained enough wood. First I didn't hit it hard enough and the axe practically bounced off since it wasn't too sharp, which I guess I should be thankful for, but it was just sharp enough to give me a cut, though not too deep. I thought I had learned from my mistake and tried hitting the tree trunk harder, but the axe got stuck and I ended up having a hard time pulling it out.

"Don't be stubborn," I stop in front of the shop even if my work is done, and start to walk towards it, but Ureksa stops me, takes my hand and leads me away.

"I told you I was fine, I can take care of this myself..." I would rather hold hands in a different situation.

"But you don't take care of yourself. You push yourself until you faint when you're sick and you disregard injuries as if they were nothing." I think Ureksa still remembers how we first met.

"Am I the only one?" I ask, Ureksa has been known to claim he's alright all the time and be stubborn too, though it is quite rare that he's not well enough for it to be true.

"Admittedly you're not, but that's not really an excuse." We go to Rumari's house, where Ureksa tells her that I'm injured.

Rumari takes care of bandaging my shoulder far better than what I could have done. "Try not to move that arm too much, okay?"

I nod, "I'm sure it will heal in no time." Not much has happened as I continue to wait for whatever life has for me. I just hope that when the time comes for me to find out what it is, I won't be disappointed. Nevertheless, I'll be prepared for it in case disappointment becomes inevitable again as it always has been.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 55: Arguments: Versus Alora

Today is my day off and it's snowing like there's no tomorrow. Isn't it wonderful? That was sarcasm by the way. "You really like him don't you?" I don't need to stop staring at the snow out the living room window to know that Alora is speaking.

"Yeah," I sigh, with no intentions of hiding it at all.

"You always watch him when he walks down the street, you wait for him expectantly every day and get all excited when he arrives," that, I did not expect. Either Alora was very observant or I was very obvious.

"I do?" Am I really that obvious?

"Yes, and when he gets here you're like a child on Christmas morning. Why don't you just go out with him?" I have to turn around and look at Alora.

With a surprised expression upon my face I ask, "What?" I blink and stare some more. "I thought you liked him too."

Ureksa looks up from the Craftlord report he's been reading and clears his throat as if to remind us that he's right there listening to what we're saying, but we both ignore him, it's not like he hasn't heard this before.

"I don't like the mailman," Alora replies, "I like Ureksa."

My mouth hangs open for a moment before I burst out laughing. "I don't like the mailman either, I like Ureksa too. I like the mail, I don't really care who brings it."

"His name is Sakuro, isn't it?" I wonder where Alora is going with all of this. "The one who gave you that bracelet you wear all the time."

"Yes, Master Sakuro the Craftlord of Sapphire. He's a dear friend; he's also good friends with Ureksa and sends us both post cards every now and then." I think I know where she's going with this, but I'll play along.

"Do you love him?" Alora asked just as I expected.

"Could you be a little more specific about which him this time?" I smile only because I know it will annoy her.

"Sakuro, I heard you were in love with him and that when he gave you that bracelet you promised to wait for him." I have no idea where Alora would get a story like that.

I can't help it but to laugh again. "It wasn't like that at all. I can write to all my friends except Sakuro because he's always moving and doesn't have a permanent address. I haven't lost contact with any of them, this bracelet is like a reminder of friendship, to make up for the fact that I can't write back. Besides, I already said who I like."

"I guess we're still rivals then..." Why is it that some girls just love to broadcast their feelings while others, like me, find it hard to even accept them, let alone voice them?

"I suppose... but at the same time we're not," okay, time to use my head.

"What do you mean? Are you trying to tell me I don't stand a chance?" That's it, well done, I'm pissing her off. Very soon that mocking little voice will be turned against her.

"What I mean is that I'm not really competing. I'll just act natural, keeping up a pace that isn't really my own can be exhausting. Besides, it doesn't feel honest to try extra hard while you're here. I'll just try as hard as I would even if you weren't here; with a pace I can comfortably keep up forever. It feels more honest that way since I'm one of those people who hardly changes as time passes by." In other words, this isn't an effort he'll get for as long as I need to compete, but a preview of my devotion in a future, that's the hidden message here and it makes me sound both smart and sweet. Score! Alora may be skilled with an axe but I'm better at verbal spars.

"Are you saying I'm fake?" That's it, sink deeper my rival.

"I never said that," I am calm and serene on the outside, but very amused on the inside. "If you say you're not then you're not, because that's something only you can decide." In other words, if you feel accused you should ask yourself why you feel that the accusation fits.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Oh yes, this will be the cherry on top, perfect! But I can't say it, I'm laughing too hard. "Are you making fun of me?"

I shake my head and try to calm down long enough to speak, but Alora goes back to our room in a huff before I can. "Wait... I was going to say..." Slam! The door is closed.

Ureksa gives me a half confused and half curious look wondering what in the world is so funny. "What's gotten into you?"

I shake my head again, "I wasn't making fun of Alora it's just that I had the perfect thing to say and it sounded so funny I started laughing before I could say it."

"What do you mean?" Ureksa asked and my chance for the perfect answer was set up once again.

I grinned, feeling that I was too easily amused but enjoying it none the less. "Look it up in the dictionary."

"That's my quote," Ureksa laughed.

"I thought it would be funny to borrow it. But I guess Alora doesn't have a sense of humor or she got the wrong idea. I didn't think it would bother her that much that I randomly started laughing. She's always saying I'm childish after all." It may sound mean, but overall I'm pleased with the results. I'll still try to have a sudden outburst of maturity and apologize to Alora. Then again, it might not be so mature after all, since I would only be apologizing to annoy her further.

The next day I went to work as always and when I got home at the end of the day, I found Alora in hysterics. I didn't notice that she had left earlier than usual. Ureksa was standing there as if he didn't know what to do with himself. "What happened? Alora, are you alright?"

She gave me the nastiest glare. "I won't lose to you!"

"I didn't know there was a contest going on," I reply with heavy sarcasm hidden behind a gentle tone.

Alora goes on into a cheesy and exaggerated speech about love. It's no wonder Ureksa didn't know what to do with himself. I couldn't comprehend the full extent of what she was saying, and I doubt even a dictionary would work, but Ureksa is sneaking away in the background while I continue to stand there. I think the speech ended with something along the lines of, "and I can't wait forever."

I just blinked and continued watching Ureksa make his escape looking over Alora's shoulder, then I whispered, "I can," just loud enough for both of them to hear.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 56: Resolution? I Don't Think So...

Rumari is due to give birth in one week. We all got together and threw her a party. Tyram is still living up to his name of 'the calm,' but Ureksa is constantly worrying about Rumari. I guess becoming an uncle isn't as simple as it sounds.

"Look it up in the dictionary!" I was sitting alone in my room writing in my diary when I heard Ureksa say his famous quote rather loudly and angrily.

"Fine!" Then there was Alora's voice. She stormed past me and sat on her bed. "Leave me alone." I have no problems with that, and without a word I scurried out of the room, diary in hand.

"Ureksa," I called softly, curious about what was going on.

"I told you to leave-" he yelled then stopped and looked at me, continuing without yelling. "I'm busy."

"Oh... okay, I was locked out of my room so I'll just sit over there." I sat on the living room couch opposite to Ureksa, next to Pouso and doodled in my diary with Pouso looking over my shoulder. I occasionally peek at Ureksa until he's done with his Craftlord paper work. The Craftlords have been getting a lot of paper work lately, it must be annoying, plus he has the pressure of becoming an uncle. "Can I help with anything?" He shakes his head and folds up a paper. "I could at least fold papers and put them in envelopes," there's really not much else I could do with those documents.

"Yes... sorry, I'm just stressed." Ureksa replies. I set my diary on the coffee table and sit next to Ureksa folding papers and putting them in envelopes. "Could you copy the addresses on the document to the envelopes too and put on the stamps?"

"Sure," after a while we're done and the envelopes are ready to be sent. Pouso squeaks but I'm not quite sure what he's saying. I glance at Ureksa but it doesn't look like he's going to translate. "Can you write?"

Pouso nods and I let him write a note on my diary to the page opposite of my doodle. The note reads "that was more helpful than a 'nice relaxing back rub'."

"What's that about?" I look at Ureksa curiously, eyebrow raised.

"I did say 'leave me alone, I'm busy'." I guess that's how the little argument started.

Then Pouso writes, "she said she didn't understand so Ureksa told her what to do."

"Look it up in the dictionary," I repeat his famous quote.

Pouso writes again, holding up the diary for Ureksa to read. "Now that you're done, you can let her give you a massage." Pouso, why do you always come up with ideas like that? He's suggesting that I do it instead of Alora, good to know he's on my side.

Ureksa takes the diary from Pouso and sees the drawing. "What's this?"

"The one holding the baby is Rumari, then there's Tyram, you, me and Pouso," it should be no surprise that I didn't draw Alora.

"These are..." Ureksa laughs.

"What? A magnificent work of art?" I joke, I know that my doodles are not good.

"Maybe abstract art," it's good to see Ureksa laugh after being so stressed for so long. He turns the pages back and sees his reply to what I wrote and I instantly start to get that feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I realize that maybe it's not that I'm in the wrong place or that it's the wrong time to be here, maybe I'm just nervous. Perhaps I'm scared to get the answer I've been waiting for and fearing at the same time.

Then I feel the unmistakable sensation of being watched and look up. "Alora?"

"I'm leaving," if looks could kill I would have died a thousand deaths there and then. Alora headed towards the port, luggage already packed. I guess that's what she was doing when she locked me out. "I said that if I changed my mind I would meet them tomorrow in Rugista." I knew that Alora must have been talking about the crew of actors. She paused for a moment and whispered, "I can't." It wasn't about the crew, she was meeting them alright; those last two words were about something else entirely, about our argument. I guess I out waited her.

Alora left on the next ship to Rugista and the ship disappeared in the horizon as the sun sunk into the ocean and night fell. "I..." I had come to a realization as Ureksa and I stood there at the port when the first few stars started to shine. He nodded encouraging me to finish what I was going to say. "I get to have my own room again!" I cheered.

Ureksa only blinked as if he didn't expect me to say that at all. Pouso squeaked in laughter then made some more squeaking sounds as if scolding me.

"What?" I smiled; I didn't realize the kind of moment I ruined until much later. Another confession must have been expected.

"You really are childish," Ureksa started heading back home.

I tilt my head and ask, "is that bad?" I'm in a really good mood as I skip home after him.

"It's cute," I honestly believe, the world stopped spinning at that time just so I could savor the moment. I never thought hiding away when my new found confidence gave in a little would be interpreted as respect for personal space. I never thought that my childishness could be seen as cute. I never thought I would come this far, but here I am.

My heart was beating fast, a big happy honest smile was plastered on my face and I thought that things had finally resolved themselves. Alora has left, Ureksa said I was cute, Pouso was on my side and my career was doing well. I felt as if I could see the course of my life unfolding before my eyes, and I thought that a resolution was near, along with the start of a calm new era.

As usual, I was wrong. I never imagined the chaos that the next day would bring. It's as if the world itself had kept the most important situations bottled up and decided to release them on that day. The man I had never forgotten was about to return and a new life would come into the world.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 57: Conflicts and Loyalty

I was working harder, trying to make up for the fact that Alora was gone. I realized that, though she was in fact a great Craftknight, she must have chosen to pursue her dream in Vance instead of Wystern because of Ureksa. I wondered if she'd stay in Wystern if she visited, or if she only liked being a Craftknight more than being an actress because of Ureksa and without him, being an actress won. I guess I'll never know.

I was focused on my work when I thought I heard someone arrive, probably another customer. He was talking to Tyram but I wasn't really listening, the conversation wasn't directed at me anyway.

I heard the footsteps of someone entering my work area but that person did not say anything. I finished off the engine component I was working on and before I started working on the next part I looked at the person who had just arrived. "Sakuro!" I practically squealed and glomped him. "You're here! You're really here, I missed you so much!" The words spilled out before I even had time to think about them. It all just happened.

"Looks like you've been doing well," Sakuro returned the hug. "I've seen some of your work in my travels; those are some advanced engines you worked on." I cannot begin to say how happy I am that Master Sakuro liked my work.

"Thanks!" I smile brightly, not realizing how close I'm staying to him. "I'm glad you think so, it means a lot to me."

"I'm planning to have a little reunion with everyone sometime soon in Wystern. I'm going to stay there for a while before starting my next trip." I guess that even Craftlords can get a little home sick sometimes. Even if he was supposed to have resigned, they never really took away his title, all the Craftlords really wanted him to stay as one of them, thus this was seen as an extended vacation and not quitting.

I'll admit I'm disappointed that Sakuro is leaving again. "Aw, you're leaving again?"

"There's still a lot I haven't seen yet. I want to explore the world." I can tell that Sakuro really likes traveling.

"But you must have seen a lot of interesting things already." Time flies while Sakuro tells me stories about his travels. Tyram soon joins us and we go back to his and Rumari's house.

Tyram, Rumari and I continue listening to Sakuro's stories until Ureksa returns from Wystern and he's surprised to see his dear friend has come for a visit. Everyone is happy, and in such happiness I have no room to think about my feelings, except for the joy of seeing Sakuro again.

I had made some progress with Ureksa, finally realizing that I should stop doubting myself and let him decide if I am good enough or not, instead of assuming I'm not. When Sakuro returned I could think of nothing more than about how happy I was to see him again. I wasn't thinking about trying to win Sakuro's heart, but I wasn't thinking about anyone else. In my world, as soon as Sakuro returned, only he existed.

That evening we all had dinner together. I wore my sea shell bracelet, my treasure. "You still have that?" Sakuro had asked, I think he was happy that I still had it.

"Of course, it's my treasure," I smiled and I knew Sakuro was happy that I treasured it so much. Then I realized that if by some twist of fate, back then when I left for Vance, if Sakuro had told me to wait for him, I would have.

Sakuro was unreachable, but after spending so much time with Ureksa I began to realize that maybe he wasn't so unreachable simply because he was a handsome and skilled Craftlord. I competed against Alora, something I rarely do as I rather avoid competition. She became impatient and left, and Ureksa told me to wait for an answer. He didn't tell me to wait for him, just to wait for an answer, there are no guarantees. But if back then Sakuro would have promised me his heart upon returning, I would have loyally waited.

I supposed he really was my first choice, but nothing like that ever happened. I should still think that Sakuro is unreachable, especially since he'll be traveling all the time; but somehow, now that I've stopped doubting myself so much, and assuming I'm not worth any man's attention, I want to be with him more than ever. Is it that Sakuro was not as unreachable as I thought?

Either way it doesn't matter. Sakuro will leave on another trip, and Ureksa will still be here. I've lost my chance with Sakuro, if I ever had one. I should forget about him... What if Ureksa decides he likes me? I can't waste that chance. I guess that I'm really not all that picky, it's not about me at all, it's not about what I want, it's about the miracle of finding a worth-while man who actually likes me. Out of all the men I would label as dateable, I'll pick which ever likes me back. It doesn't matter if he's not my first choice, no other may ever like me, so I shouldn't waste that chance.

Maybe I'm not fully confident yet, but either way the point is that regret has returned. I wish I was with Sakuro, I wish I had told him how I feel long ago. I wish I had not told Kouren that I gave up on those feelings. He knew; Sakuro knew I loved him, but he also knew I intended to give up. He must have thought that if I wasn't going to stand by those feelings then he certainly shouldn't bother mentioning it. That's the way I wanted it back then, but now I wish it was different.

If I could live my life over, I would do many things differently. I would work hard; grow some guts earlier in life and leave Rugista as soon as possible. I would go to Wystern, I would tell Sakuro the truth directly, I would... Who knows how things would have gone really. But it doesn't matter, because time doesn't turn backwards.

The fact remains that I lost my chance with Sakuro, if I ever had one. He never told me to wait for him, he only saw me off as a friend. I should stop myself from loving two men. That's not fair. If I'm going to be with one of them, if I ever hope to achieve that, then I should love only him. Even if my heart cries in pain, I promise myself not to look at Sakuro as more than a friend. Even if I am never able to erase my feelings for him, I'll stay loyal to Ureksa. Because it's not about how I feel, it's about how I act, it's about what I can and can't have.

But our happy time together was interrupted all of a sudden when Rumari started feeling ill. She looked like she was in great pain. We were all worried about her, she was fine earlier and then she wasn't. "It's time... the baby..."

My eyes went wide in realization, while Tyram remained characteristically calm and helped Rumari get to the Vance hospital. I froze up, then walked after them in a zoned out state. I knew Rumari would give birth soon, but it was supposed to be in a few days, not today. Sakuro was excited about having arrived just in time to be there on the day the baby was born. As for Ureksa... he was in a total panic.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 58: Baby

Rumari, Tyram, Ureksa, Sakuro and I, rushed to the Vance hospital, where doctors and nurses took Rumari to the maternity area for the birth. The rest of us were ushered into a waiting room where Tyram sat quietly, an excited look in his eyes. Ureksa was pacing around in circles fussing and panicking while Sakuro tried to calm him down and I didn't know what to do with myself.

"Don't tell me to calm down! My sister is in there, who knows what could be happening to her right now!" Ureksa pointed at Tyram accusingly. "How dare you just sit there as if nothing is happening? This is all your fault! If Rumari is in pain I'll-"

"Ureksa calm down!" Sakuro tried to maintain the peace. It's childbirth, it's impossible for it to go without pain.

"I trust Rumari," Tyram finally spoke. "She's strong, I'm sure she'll be alright. We need to trust her." Though I could tell Tyram really wanted to be with Rumari, he still remained ever the calm.

"Is that all you have to say?" Ureksa was still in a panic. Pouso, who had followed us there, squeaked and tried to calm him down. "Stop telling me to calm down! I am calm!"

"Excuse me sir," a nurse came.

"What is it? Is Rumari alright? Did something happen? Did she have the baby? Is the baby okay?" Ureksa cornered the poor nurse and interrogated her.

The nurse looked a bit nervous, "sir, please calm down," she slipped away and looked at her clipboard. "Rumari is in labor right now, these things take time. It is possible to be there with Rumari during the process but-"

"Why didn't you say so? Let's go!" Ureksa started heading in the direction of Rumari's room but the nurse stopped him.

"Please wait! You may not all go in, only her husband can come," the nurse clarified.

"That's not fair," Ureksa complained.

"If you really want to come, then I'm sure we can arrange it," Tyram calmly spoke.

Ureksa gave him a burning glare so deadly that I thought Tyram would spontaneously catch on fire. "You are not skipping out on your duties and sending me in your place. As Rumari's husband you have to be there for her, now hurry up and go!"

"Yes, right away," Tyram left with the nurse and the rest of us were left to wait. I'm sure that wasn't what Tyram had in mind. He must have been planning to arrange it so that both he and Ureksa could be there. I supposed he must have thought better of it, given Ureksa's panicked state.

"Ureksa, you should sit down before you make a hole on the floor walking around so much," Sakuro joked.

"How can I sit still when my sister is giving birth? Why is it taking so long? How long has it been?" Ureksa has not stopped moving since we got to the hospital.

"It's been about an hour," Sakuro replied.

Ureksa's eyes went wide in surprise. "An hour?! Why is it taking so long? There must be something wrong, that's the only explanation for it to take this long. Just wait till Tyram comes back." The Craftlord of Jade clenched his fists, making choking motions in the air.

Sakuro shook his head and looked at me as if telling me to try to say something to make Ureksa sit still. He just wouldn't listen to reason. "Ureksa, we should all stay calm, I'm sure Rumari is fine. Giving birth takes time. It takes more than just an hour, that's perfectly normal," I tried to explain.

"How would you know?" Ureksa was still not convinced.

"I just know, its common knowledge," I really thought it was and Pouso squeaked his agreement.

"No it's not!" Ureksa yells, "if it was common knowledge I would know!"

"Well..." How can I make him understand? "I know because I'm a woman?"

"But you don't have kids," Ureksa raises a good point.

"I know by instinct?" Ureksa is certainly hard to reason with when he's panicked, but somehow it's kind of cute.

"Then why didn't you know Rumari would give birth today? Why didn't she know? Or if she did know, why didn't she tell me?" I sigh; Ureksa is too worried about Rumari to process any logical information.

"If becoming an uncle is like this, I don't even want to think what it would be like if he was becoming a father," Sakuro whispers.

"I heard that," Ureksa pouts.

I shake my head, "honestly, just trust Rumari and try to be patient."

"But it's taking so long..." Ureksa complains again, and for the first time sits down. Sakuro and I are sitting left and right of Ureksa trying to keep him calm, and he's holding Pouso as if the summon creature was a plushie.

Time goes by slowly, until a nurse finally comes by to tell us we can see Rumari. All of us rush into her room and stand around her bed. Rumari is alright, tired but fine, and Tyram is with her. She's holding a small child wrapped in a pale blue blanket. I knew babies were small, but I didn't realize that new born babies were that tiny. He's a cute little boy with only a puff of hair, eyes still closed since he's less than an hour old. We stayed there for a long time with the new parents and baby. The child was perfectly healthy and Ureksa finally calmed down.

Instead of having a reunion at Wystern, the plans were changed and everyone came to Vance after Rumari was allowed to go home with her baby. We had our reunion, everyone could see Sakuro again and they could see Rumari and Tyram's son for the first time. A name had not yet been decided for the boy, though Rumari and Tyram had a long list of possible names, from the most common to the rarest. Now they just needed to decide on one of the names.

Everything was going well. The reunion was fun; it was great seeing my friends again. We would continue to stay in touch, and even after they returned to Wystern, the happy mood remained. Cleru and Sugar were engaged. Pratty and Varil were still together and in love. Razzy and Kenon were formally dating.

Bron and Amariss had formed a special kind of understanding that could go either way into a close friendship or more. Things went very slowly for those two. One step forward and two steps back, then three forward and another back, it was hard to tell where they stood, but they stood together.

Sakuro would continue his trip soon and life would slip back into its normal pace, except there would be someone new with us. I wondered what would happen next. I missed the times years ago when I arrived at Wystern, when my love was platonic and I could spend more time with my friends. I know there's no going back, so I'll try to make the best of moving forward.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 59: Miscommunication, Silence and a Step Forward

When Sakuro's ship left a few days later, I stood at the docks until it disappeared into the sunset. "You love him don't you?"

I opened my mouth to reply with an affirmative answer, but stopped myself on time after saying only "I..." Then I looked at Ureksa. "Who are you talking about?"

"Sakuro," Ureksa looked into the distance where Sakuro's ship had disappeared.

"There's nothing between us, we're just good friends. You know that," I was taken by surprise.

"I know," Ureksa looked at me. "But you still love him."

I shook my head. Sakuro was gone again, but Ureksa had said I was cute. I don't care how I feel; I'm not throwing away all the progress I made. My second choice is certainly better than nothing. "I like you..."

"And you love Sakuro," why did he think I did?

I do, but that wasn't the point. I had already denied that, I had decided to change it, and I'm not weak willed enough to be ruled by the heart to the point of losing reason entirely. It's not about love; it's about what is possible and what is impossible. "I love him as a friend," I breathed deeply, "and you as more." I looked at the calm ocean.

"Don't lie," Ureksa is getting annoyed.

"I'm not an unfaithful person," I may not be able to control my feelings but I can control my actions and words. If I decide to be loyal I will remain loyal. Thoughts may come and go, but they will never be voiced and I will certainly never act upon them.

"I never accused you of that." Then what is it that you want to say?

"Then why?" Why is this happening, just when I thought I could find happiness in Vance with Ureksa?

"Even if you're loyal to me, the fact remains that you're in love with Sakuro, even if you always treat him properly as a friend."

Then words and actions are not enough? What more is there? I don't like this, I don't like it when people base themselves on abstract things instead of just looking at the facts; it's so stupid! Then a possibility comes to mind. "Is it that you don't want me to like you? Do you wish I would like someone else?"

"What would you say, if I told you that's true?" Ureksa... Why didn't you just say it from the start. Why did you tell me to wait?

"Done," with pride I stare at him in the face and firmly speak that one word.

Ureksa seems surprised at first, maybe even shocked, then upset. "Fine!"

The days pass and we don't say a word to each other. I work as usual, Rumari, Tyram, Ureksa and I eat together and talk, though not directly to each other. At Ureksa's house I stay in my room all the time, I go out for walks sometimes without saying anything, and come back without saying anything, not even a greeting.

Rumari inevitably realizes what's going on and later asks, "did you and Ureksa have an argument?"

I nod, there's no use in hiding it. "I don't understand why he's mad at me." I'm the one who's supposed to be heartbroken; he's the one who decided this entire thing.

"Have you tried asking?" It sounds so simple, but it's not.

"If he doesn't want to talk to me I rather not bother him. Besides, I think I might have been bothering him before." Even if I was he should have said so sooner instead of keeping it bottled up.

"What makes you say that?" Rumari asks gently, I pause for a long time and shake my head to indicate I don't know. Then Rumari continues, "I thought you liked each other."

Since she brought that up, I might as well give her the update. "Ureksa doesn't want me to like him."

Rumari looks surprised, "did he actually say something like that?"

"Yes, it didn't make any sense... I said I would be faithful; he claimed to believe me, but then said I liked someone else. I told him it wasn't like that, to let actions speak for themselves and even if my words and actions matched he came to a completely different conclusion. It didn't make sense to me, so I asked if he simply wished for me to like someone else and that's it..." Somehow, I'm not as crushed as I should be. Maybe it's because deep down I knew this all along and perhaps I'm just glad to get the inevitable over with.

"Is that exactly what he said? Word per word?" Did Rumari notice something?

Could it be that I missed something? "I asked if he wanted me to like someone else. He was doubting me so much I had to ask. Then he asked me what I would say if it was true."

"What did you say?" Rumari asked.

"Done," that one word was the last thing I told Ureksa.

"Done?" Rumari repeated in surprise and I nodded. "So if it were true, you would forget him that easily?"

"No, it's not like that. If it were true..." Wait, what? Did I misinterpret Ureksa? He didn't say that he wanted me to like someone else; he asked what I would say if it were true, but didn't say it was. "If it were true I would respect his wishes; that's what I meant to say, but I would still care."

"Miscommunication happens, but you won't solve it by not talking to each other," Rumari is right.

"I understand, then I'll clear this up... But that doesn't mean he likes me. He would have just said so if he did instead of making up excuses." I pause, I don't want to put Rumari in an uncomfortable situation; this is her brother we're talking about after all. "That's okay; I still want to be friends, so I should clear this up anyway."

After talking to Rumari I went to see Ureksa. I took a deep breath and just said it all without pausing. "Just letting you know that when I said done, what I really mean is that I'll respect your decision, not that it was so easy that I could just forget all about it in an instant. I just wanted to clear that up, okay? Bye." I turn around and walk away, then stop the second I realize that I'm running away, and I decided that I wouldn't do that anymore. I look back at Ureksa who was caught off guard by all of this. "Um... either way, let's not stop being friends, okay?"

Ureksa nods and approaches me. "You still haven't decided who you like..."

"Yes I have," I've decided that since I can't have Sakuro I'll remain loyal to Ureksa. Can it still be called dishonest if I'm faithful? Are not actions more important than just thoughts?

"You decided who you wish to like or who you like?" Please Ureksa, don't start with that again. I'm the girl; leave the emotional nonsensical drama to me. I guess I can't blame him if he's feeling like a replacement.

As long as I have loyalty I don't mind being a replacement, I don't ask for much, but he does. I'll try to give him that; I guess I'll just have to try. "Why can't they be the same? Am I not trying hard enough?"

Surprisingly he hugs me. "No, I was the one who wasn't trying hard enough." It's as if time itself has frozen, and though I feel this might be a good sign, I don't know what to do. As soon as I can react, I hug him back in silence.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 60: Of Loyalty and Love

Ureksa and I have been going out for a while. I can't deny I'm happy with him. I still carry the feeling of lack of closure concerning Sakuro, but I suppose it might fade away in time. Sakuro has finished his second trip and returned to Wystern where he still is the Craftlord of Sapphire.

Ureksa was called back to Wystern for Craftlord business; I'm ahead in my work, so I can afford to take the day off. He invited me to come along to visit Wystern. I was allowed to go into the third floor and we were both surprised to see the purpose of the visit. Sakuro, Kouren, Cleru, Sugar, Pratty, Zantek, Varil and someone else I didn't know were there.

"The Hall of Craftlords?" Ureksa repeated in surprise.

"Yes," Sakuro looked amused. "Gusto is the same artist who painted Rumari and Tyram's portraits years ago." Gusto; that was the person I had not met before.

"Okay! Time to make some art!" Gusto was a very cheerful person. "Now Master Ureksa, please stand there." He pointed to a little platform.

Ureksa blinked, "I was called here to have my picture painted?" The other Craftlords were as amused as Sakuro when they unanimously nodded.

While Gusto focused on his painting, he asked to be alone to minimize distractions, so we all left. I spent the day with my friends and had lots of fun. Ureksa was able to get away from the third floor around lunch time and we all ate together. Sakuro made curry, it's been a long time since I tasted his curry and it's even more delicious.

In the afternoon, Ureksa returned to the third floor for Gusto to finish his work, I guess he was one of those artists who couldn't paint anything unless they were looking at what they were going to paint. The evening rolled around like that and we all agreed to get together again that night. In the end, by some twist of fate, I ended up alone with Sakuro in his house.

"How are things going for you and Ureksa, I heard you were together now." For some reason, Sakuro looked happy, as if he wished for that to happen.

"Yes we are, things are going well," because they truly are going well, but what's this nagging feeling in the back of my head.

"I'm glad he finally told you how he feels. I've been telling him to do it for a long time," Sakuro's words come as a surprise to me.

"Actually, I was the one who told him I liked him and he kept me waiting for a while before giving me an answer," I explained.

"Is that how it happened? Ureksa never gave me the details; he just mentioned that the two of you were dating now. But I'm glad you told him, otherwise he might have kept it quiet for who knows how long," Sakuro knows something about Ureksa that I didn't know.

"Did he ever mention liking me before?" I'm curious.

"Yes, he's liked you for a while. You wrote to Rumari often and she talked about you. I think that's how it all started. He never showed how he really felt when he was around you, but when I asked him about it he admitted it was true." Why did Ureksa tell Sakuro about this and not me?

"All that time and he didn't say anything. Even when I told him he kept me waiting for a while." The answer is as clear as day, Ureksa knew that I was in love with Sakuro so he thought it was pointless to tell me about his feelings. "It's because he was convinced I liked you."

Sakuro nodded, "yes, that was the reason. But I encouraged him to tell you the truth." To Sakuro I was always off limits because Ureksa liked me.

"I really did like you," in a way, it was Ureksa liking me that kept Sakuro away. They were good friends long before I came along. Ureksa liked me, so Sakuro must have decided that he could never see me as more than a friend. Maybe that's the real reason he never brought it up, even after he knew I liked him.

"I appreciated your feelings. You're a very nice girl, smart loyal and cute, that's why I hoped that things would work out with you and Ureksa. He's a dear friend and I wanted him to be happy." Loyalty, I was right, it's not about love; it's about loyalty. Sakuro remained loyal to his friendship with Ureksa from the start, I never stood a chance.

I finally understand what it means to hurt the one you love. Part of me is angry at Ureksa because by liking me he kept Sakuro away.

"I'm sorry, I said too much." Sakuro apologizes.

"It's alright, I appreciate your honesty." I do, but it still hurts. That time I told Ureksa that I would try to make the one I like and the one I wish to like the same and he said he would try too. "We're both tied to him by loyalty," I smiled bitterly. I promised to be loyal to Ureksa and I still intend to keep that promise. In Sakuro's eyes, I'm off limits anyway, he really was unreachable. "I'm going for a walk, I need some fresh air." Before Sakuro can speak, I assure him. "I'm alright; I just need some fresh air."

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 61: Closure

I searched for Kouren and I found her. I asked if she still liked Sakuro and she truthfully answered. "I'm not sure. I missed him when he was traveling; I missed him more than I thought I would. But I suppose I'm used to always missing a man."

"You should go out with him," I advice Kouran, because I can't stand to see Sakuro with a stranger. She doesn't reply and I slightly change the subject. "Did you know Ureksa liked me?"

"Yes, I knew. I also knew that because of that, Sakuro decided never to see you as more than a friend. That's why I encouraged you to keep your options open. It wasn't simply about my revenge, or sealing that creature. It would have been cruel to think of only that. Ureksa thought it was unfair to try to win your heart when you were already in love with another man and his best friend no less," Kouren revealed.

"Ironically, I thought he wasn't interested at all and didn't want to play with my feelings," the world is full of cruel ironies. "I still think you should go out with Sakuro. If you like him, just a little, then you should keep your options open and give those feelings a chance to grow."

She laughs at how I turned her own advice on her. "Maybe you're right. You can't stand the thought of Sakuro being stolen away by a stranger, can you?"

"That's right," I also laugh. "Even if it's not my place, I will only approve of Kouren."

After my talk with Kouren, I went back to Sakuro's house. "Hey, I'm back. Just letting you know I'm feeling better."

"I'm glad to hear that," Sakuro sincerely smiled.

A short while after I returned to Sakuro's house, Kouren arrived. I left them alone and went to see how things were going with Ureksa's painting.

"Finished!" Gusto proudly announced.

"Finally!" Ureksa stumbled off the little platform, put his spear away and stretched. "It feels so good to move." He had to maintain that heroic pose for a very long time.

I giggled; standing still for a painting must be harder than it looks. "The painting looks great." It really does, the background is different, as if Ureksa was standing at the top of Central Tower with the sky and ocean in the background. It looks like the picture of a hero from a legend.

"I'm glad you liked the results, painting the Craftlords is always a special experience!" Gusto looks satisfied with his work.

Ureksa hugs me from behind, arms around my waist, head resting on my shoulder. "Not bad... I actually look pretty cool in this painting." He laughs, then he whispers in a barely audible tone "I'm sorry," and somehow I don't know if he's apologizing for liking me in the first place or for not being able to spend time with me that day.

I don't know, but either way I say, "it's alright."

That night we all got together again. Cleru, Sugar, Pratty, Varil, Zantek, Razzy, Kenon, Bron, Amariss, Sakuro, Kouren, Rasho, Ureksa and I. Kouren and Sakuro sat next to each other and occasionally flirted ligthly. Razzy had never been one to keep quiet, and sometimes she's a little too direct. When she asked if Sakuro and Kouren were going out now, they did not deny it, and I felt a wave of relief wash over me. They must have had a long talk after I left. Rasho amused himself by teasing them.

We made plans to go on vacation together in Seijent. I looked forward to it since the idea was mentioned. I was sure it would be fun and it was. Razzy and Kenon are still together, Amariss and Bron are still standing on the line between friendship and love, yet the line becomes more blurry for them every day. Cleru and Sugar have set their wedding date and Pratty and Varil have become engaged.

That vacation in Seijent is one that I'll never forget. We saw Hayato and Natsumi again. Everyone had fun and it felt like old times, hanging out with my friends. I know that Sakuro and Kouren became closer during our visit to Seijent and slowly but surely, I managed to be truly happy for them.

I've come to appreciate Ureksa more. I think that after it was all said and done, and I finally obtained some closure, I'll be able to open my heart to him completely. I'm no longer upset about the past and the future looks good. The feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time has finally melted away.

Some time after our vacation in Seijent, I was at home, that is at Ureksa's house, looking at the snow fall out the window in the winter. "We're really getting snowed in," it was the evening and there was just a little light left.

"I like the snow..." I cuddle closer to Ureksa, I'm cold and he feels warm.

"I like the snow too," I agreed, "but I don't like the cold." I guess sometimes good things can't come without their share of difficulties.

We'll be attending the wedding of Sugar and Cleru in the spring. Pratty and Varil will be married in the fall. Sakuro and Kouren are still dating. Ureksa and I are in love and life is peaceful. I think it's about time I found myself in the right place.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 62: Life Goes On

My drill breaks through the branches as if they were made of fragile paper, a spray of tiny pieces of wood littering the snowy grounds of Vance. "Okay, now to cut this up..."

I hear my name and turn around to find Ureksa approaching. "There's not a lot left to turn into fire wood." He observes the tiny pieces on the ground.

"The best part is still whole." I point out and turn my drill on again, it's my latest design. With a somewhat maniacal laugh I continue the relentless attack on the tree trunk until it's in pieces. Finally, I put the drill away and pick up a relatively small piece of fire wood. "All done!"

Ureksa looks at the piece I'm holding, then at the pieces of wood on the ground, "maybe you should let me handle this."

"You're a Craftlord, you're busy and I'm a drill designer, the Craftknights do most of the work, I just have to come up with the ideas." Not that I'm complaining, I like having free time and I've been training, so it's not like I'm becoming a couch potato either.

"I'm not that busy," Ureksa glanced at the tiny pieces of wood on the ground again.

Maybe my drill was too aggressive for this task, but I'm not good with axes. "Hey Urek, spar with me!" I ask out of the blue.

My husband tilts his head curiously to the side. "No," he replies, his tone somewhat playful. Oh yes, Ureksa and I are married now!

"Aw, why not?" I complain.

"Because last time we sparred you tried to kill me," he chuckles.

I pout, "you're a Craftlord, you can take it. Besides, I wasn't trying to kill you. I was trying to put up a fight, and you could have won in three seconds if you tried."

Ureksa hugs me, "I had a lot of Craftlord work to do today."

I return the embrace, "let's go home then, I just need to stop by the office for a minute to sign something, the documents should be brought in soon."

Ureksa and I place the fire wood into a small sled and take it home. We part ways near the office; he goes off to take the sled to the house while I stop to sign some papers. The documents regarding authorization to the Silver Guild to use one of my basic drill designs in their Craftknight training were delivered by a young Craftknight who somehow reminds me of myself. Copyrights are more detailed now and this means more paper work is needed, even if a verbal agreement would have been enough for me, since I know Master Bron.

After the papers have been signed and the Craftknight was sent on her way, I returned home with a heavy heart. I'm not sure where the tightness in my heart originates from, but the trigger was that Craftknight. Maybe I miss being that girl who runs errands all over Wystern, occasionally visiting Vance.

I arrive at home, where Ureksa, Pouso and I live, with a solemn expression. I long for those times to return, back then I complained, but now I miss it.

"Are you alright?" Ureksa's voice wakes me from my thoughts. I'm just being silly.

I should be a little more appreciative, I realize, my career is doing well, I still have my friends and I have Ureksa. "Great!" I hug him, holding on as if my life depended on it, glomping like a fan girl, leaving him little room to breathe. My nostalgia evaporates and I'm filled with joy to be exactly where I am. "The Silver Guild can use the drill design now," I comment about the papers I recently signed.

"That's good, I can't believe how long the process takes now," and being a Craftlord, Ureksa has to see his fair amount of documents every day.

In the past, it was just a matter of asking for permission to use a design, it could even be done verbally. As the designs became complex, copyrights were put in effect. I'll admit I wouldn't want my hard work to be stolen. Still, I should also have the freedom to easily give someone permission to use my work without having to go through such a long process. It's as if not only I need to say it's okay, but Wystern needs to hear that I said it was okay, and keep it in the official records, otherwise it's as if permission was never given. I understand the purpose and logic, but I wish the process was faster.

I catch a glimpse of my wedding portrait framed on the wall. I remember it clearly, the day Ureksa asked me. There was a party at Wystern and we went to the last floor for a while. The party reminded me of when we celebrated Rumari and Tyram's wedding, though their wedding celebration was bigger.

The music was still audible in upper Wystern, though very soft. The skies were clear with many shining stars, and a soft breeze blew. There was no dramatic event, and no overly cheesy romantic scene, but I prefer it that way. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I knew something was happening. Pouso kept squeaking at Ureksa before we boarded the elevator, with the little summon beast choosing to remain outside of it. A little earlier I caught bits and pieces of a conversation between Ureksa and Sakuro.

For a split second I wondered if we were breaking up, but Ureksa was being very loving and giving me extra attention, so that couldn't be it. There was no running around in circles, no guessing games and no uncertainty, just a beautiful ring slipped on my finger and the question of "will you marry me?" To which I gave a positive answer.

Our wedding also took place in Wystern. A portion was classic and formal, but not one for formalities, I wanted to make the after party something fun and almost improvised. It was amusing; we even played party games, which is something most don't normally do on a wedding party. We continued living in Vance and it's been a few months since we got married.

I smile comfortably in my husband's arms. This is my time; every second is precious to me, because I'm finally in the right place.

End

My Main Site: http://azurelight.net
Deviant Art: http://mikaristar.deviantart.com
Fanart Central: http://fanart-central.net/user/AzureMikari/

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