The Festival of the Moon
The streets were filled with people preparing for the upcoming festival. The crowds were hustling to put up the star decorations and the bright coloured streamers. After a long winter, The Festival of the Moon had finally arrived. She looked at each stall being prepared and found herself wondering what fabulous shops and games would be made for the celebration. Pennie was amazed to see the people of Asteria were even more cheerful than usual. She was excited as well. It was her first moon festival, and if the Peace festival was amazing, then the Moon Festival was sure to exceed her expectations. The festival was a huge celebration that memorialised the beauty of the Le Alban sky. It was celebrated every spring as that was when the moon shone the brightest, and the blossoms of the Luna tree sparkled more beautifully than usual.
Although it was a holiday across Le Alba, Asteria was known for its festivities and was the place to be that night. The only other place Pennie wished she could celebrate the Festival was Theia, Liwana’s famous city of lights. Pennie had never been to any other states before; it had only been in the past few months that she had the luxury to travel to other cities with Luminea. She could only hope that her new adventures would eventually lead her to visit another state. For that moment, Pennie was just glad to be able to have the free time to celebrate the Moon Festival with the rest of Twilight Heart. She hummed a little tune as she walked through the colourful streets.
“I can’t wait for tonight!” she said with a skip in her step, “It’s going to be so beautiful. Aren’t you excited Ray?!”
Ray dawdled behind her, not paying attention to the wonders around him. He didn’t answer her question; his eyes somewhat focused on the ground in front of him.
“Hey, Ray… are you okay?” she asked walking up to him.
He looked up at her in surprise, “Sorry I wasn’t paying attention.”
Pennie sighed. Ray had seemed very distant in the four months since the Toivoa incident. Something had been bothering him; it was as if he didn’t care about the celebrations of spring. Since the destruction of the Toivoa weapon, there hadn’t been any major incidents. It had been very quiet, the CSOG had been behaving, and there had been no word on the movements of the Anti-government guilds. There had been reports of an army from an unaffiliated city making attacks on CSOG and MLC towns. However, Master Isaac had forbidden anyone from investigating the matter due to the lack of information. Not that Pennie really minded, she didn’t want to become involved with something that sounded so scary.
She had spent the majority of the winter anticipating a Christmas. She couldn’t wait to spend time with everyone in Twilight Heart, but Ray went on a week-long job without her and missed it. He also seemed to be avoiding people ever since they returned from Valo Village. According to Kaela She assumed it must have had something to do with something Achilles had said while she was knocked out or perhaps even what he saw when under the Akumu spell. Remembering the Dark Soul member’s abilities, Pennie assumed it was connected to his past. Pennie sighed uncertain whether she should say something. As they walked down the street in silence Pennie suddenly remembered something.
“Oh, I totally forgot!” She said with a gasp, “I haven’t gotten an outfit for tonight! I have nothing at home I could wear!”
“Now that would have been interesting…” Ray sniggered with a devilish smile.
“You can be such a creep!” Pennie exclaimed.
“What are you doing tonight anyway? Why can’t you just wear what you usually do?” Ray asked.
“You’re such a typical boy,” Pennie complained. “The Festival of the Moon is on tonight, so I have to dress up.”
“Oh… right,” Ray said bluntly.
“You really weren’t paying attention to anything I was saying, were you?” Pennie said with a sigh. “I’ve got to go! I’ll meet up with you later at the festival. Okay.”
As she began to walk away, Ray looked down at his feet and scratched his head.
“Actually…I wasn’t thinking of going…” he said.
“Wait? Why not?”
“I’m not particularly interested, or rather I’m not really in the mood.” He replied.
Pennie frowned, he was doing it again. According to Kaela, from mid-winter until the end of spring Ray was abnormally quiet and often quite moody. He never participated in events like Christmas and was usually absent. At times in the winter, he becomes quite absent-minded and often complained of being tired and run-down as well. Although Kaela did admit he was behaving stranger than usual. Annoyed with his odd mood, she shook her head and walked up to Ray. She grabbed his hand to stop him from walking away from her.
“You have to go! The whole guild is hosting a special party tonight, and it wouldn’t be the same without you!” she exclaimed.
Ray looked away from her. When she thought he was going to interject, she interrupted him before he could speak.
“Besides, you owe me. Remember that time after our last mission, how I paid for your food because you left all of your money at home? I believe I said…that you could pay me back later.”
“Wait you don’t mean…” Ray said.
“Yep, it’s payback time. Instead of giving me money you have to come with me to the Moon festival!”
“But I...” Ray began.
“Oh, what was the thing you always say? I do believe it was that you will always properly thank a person who helped you out.”
“You can’t be serious?” Ray sighed and removed his hand from her grasp.
“Of course I am. As I have quite a bit more money than you, you paying me back for a meal isn’t going to help me in the slightest.” Pennie claimed bluntly. “Therefore if you truly want to thank me for helping you out, the only appropriate way is to come with me to the Festival tonight.”
After staring at her in shock for a while, Ray closed his eyes and sighed. He turned around and began to walk away from her. Pennie frowned, she began to believe that perhaps her words weren’t enough to make him feel better and blackmailing him wasn’t enough to get him to spend time with her.
“I guess I have no choice. I’ll meet up with you later then” Ray said after a while waving his hand in defeat.
Pennie smiled with relief and called out to him, “Awesome! See You Later!”
“Wow, Ray look how pretty it is!” Azaliea exclaimed watching the sparkly pink blossoms falling from the tree.
“It’s Amazing!” Ray yelled.
Azaliea danced around the Luna tree laughing as the blossoms fell into her hair.
“I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we last came to Asteria!” Ray said chasing after her.
“I know right! The Moon Festival is even more amazing than last year!” She said turning to face him, “Spring is definitely my favourite time of year… Well besides Christmas!”
She spun around on one leg and sung one of her favourite songs. However, Ray thought it was strange that she hummed a song that held painful memories for her. She suddenly slipped and fell to the ground. Ray tried to catch her, but he ended up falling with her. They laughed for a bit until Azaliea began to frown.
“I wish Dari came with us…”
“We don’t need him to have fun. That guy is just too annoying!” Ray exclaimed.
Azaliea sat up and looked at her hands. “Still, I wish he was here. He hasn’t hung out with us for quite a while. I find it concerning that he has been ignoring us of lately…”
Ray sighed and stood up reaching out his hand to her.
“You’re such a child, can’t you have one day where you don’t cause trouble?”
Azaliea ignored his hand and stood up on her own, “Like you’re any better, you stupid Fire Demon!” She growled.
“Sure, sure! Whatever you say, Celestial Devil…” he growled back, turning away from her.
“Humph, at least I’m not as destructive as you!”
Ray turned to growl another comeback but was distracted as he watched Azaliea look up at the stars above. He looked up as well and was amazed. He had never seen to moonshine so beautifully, and he had never seen the star’s sparkle so brightly. With the floating pink blossoms filling the sky it was the most breathtaking sight he had ever seen
“Hey, Ray…” Azaliea asked not taking her eyes off of the stars, “Do you think the fighting will be over soon.”
“If you stay serious then perhaps you might be able to bring peace to our nation,” Ray replied.
Azaliea gave a weak chuckle, “You think too highly of me. You know as well as I that I’m not exactly the heroic type.”
Ray shook his head, “You’ve saved so many people, I’ll believe in you no matter what! I’m sure that next year we’d all be able to have fun at the Moon Festival just like we are now.”
She looked down at him and smiled, “Sure! All four of us are going to come back here next spring! And we’ll have the best time ever!”
“The four of us?” Brayden questioned. “Surely you don’t mean to invite that guy too?”
“why not?” Azaliea complained. “I like him he’s fun to be around.”
“But he’s kinda…”
“If you’re going to be like that you can’t join us,” Azaliea stated.
“Wait that’s not fair!” Brayden claimed, trying to convince her to let him come again. “I don’t want to be left behind.”
Azaliea stuck out her tongue with a cheeky grin.
“Just kidding,” she giggled.
Ray laughed with her. He couldn’t wait until the day returned. A full year was still a long way away, perhaps by then the fighting would have been over, and they would be living a peaceful and normal life.
But they never went back. Not the following year. Nor ever again…
“Hey Ray…” someone called out to him.
He opened his eyes to find Pennie standing over him. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. He realised he must have fallen asleep laying on the grass by the lakes.
“Sorry, I fell asleep…” he yawned looking up at her.
Pennie was wearing a short blue dress and had her hair tied back into a loose bun. She smiled at him and chuckled slightly.
“Only you could fall asleep so quickly.”
Ray stood up and dusted the grass off of his jeans, “You look nice are you going anywhere special?”
Pennie blushed slightly, “Did you forget? We’re going to the Moon Festival together.”
Ray laughed awkwardly, “Sorry… I must still be half asleep.”
Pennie laughed with him. “Well let’s get going there’s so much I want to do!”
“Okay!” Ray said trying to sound as excited as possible and hide his lack of enthusiasm. “Where shall we go first?”
Pennie’s eyes sparkled with excitement. “To the Cathedral! They’ve turned it into a huge roller-coaster!”
Ray tilted his head anxiously to the side, “a what…?
Ray sat on the roof and reminisced about the night. The loud party within Twilight Heart slowly began to die down. From inside he could still hear Pennie’s laugh. Ray sighed. After Pennie dragged him to the Festival and forced him to ride a rollercoaster, he ended up lying on his back outside of the cathedral for nearly twenty minutes. The very thought of the horrible so-called “entertainment” made his head spin. Although Pennie thoroughly enjoyed herself, Ray considered it to be the worst experience in his life.
“I thought only Trains and trams freaked you out. You’re really weird.” Pennie had said to him as she shook her head.
“That was ten times worse! That thing is a total death trap, at least trains have indoor areas. I thought I was going to fly out!” He had yelled.
Of course, Pennie stated that he was just being stupid and that the ride was totally safe. Before then Ray had never even been on a rollercoaster before. The only known roller-coaster in Luminea was in Espoirs Lumineux. However, every time he travelled to the capital city he never had the time to visit that particular amusement park. When he thought about it trains had a similar feel to Roller-coasters. Ray began to assume he must have had a bad experience with one in the past and it left him so traumatised that even trains freaked him out. Not that he could remember any of that ever happening.
After resting for a while Ray and Pennie walked around Asteria visiting all of the stalls that had been set up. They walked through a haunted house, which he found boring but he ended up laughing at how freaked out Pennie got. There were all kinds of food as well, from cotton candy to an exotic sweet specially delivered from Aria for the Festival. During that time Pennie and Ray talked about all of the states they wished to visit. It surprised Ray that Pennie had never travelled outside of Luminea before despite her wealthy background. Ray himself had only been to Liwana and Tierra. They both agreed that if they could travel anywhere in Le Abla that they would go to Aria. It was the only state that was neither affiliated with the MLC or CSOG, which might be a nice change of pace, despite the latest rumours.
After playing a few games, Ray and Pennie met up with Noah and returned to Twilight Heart. It was the first time that Ray had attended Twilight Heart’s Moon Party. The bright lights, loud music and smiling people gave a friendly and carefree atmosphere. Ray had to admit that it was nice just to have fun and hang around. However, after a few hours, Ray grew tired of all the dancing and loud noises and decided to go outside for some peace and quiet.
He had so much fun he had forgotten all about his past and Azaliea. After a while, he just wanted some time to himself. He looked out to the Luna tree and the beautiful stars. Even if all his hardships could disappear for a brief moment, he always came back to wondering about his past life. He wanted to remember all the times he had shared with the people he used to consider his friends. He often wondered what they were all doing and if any of them missed him or were looking for him. However, after nearly seven years Ray guessed that they had given up or forgotten him a long time ago. After speaking with Achilles, he had become conflicted, because he wouldn’t like the answers to all his questions. He began to believe that maybe it would be better if he gave up on the past and just try to make new memories. It definitely seemed like a less painful solution. Although Ray tried to convince himself to give up, deep down he still couldn’t get rid of the sense of longing.
Ray sighed, he was glad that he had Pennie by his side. Her smile and how understanding she was of his situation made life a little bit easier. It was much better than Lynx’s constantly condescending attitude. He was thankful for it because even if he never regained his memories or found what he was looking for, he’d still have a place to call home. Ray put his head on his knees and looked up into the sky as the pink blossoms floated around him. He swore to the light of the moon that he’d do anything to protect them and wished that they could one day find the peace that they were fighting for.