The harvest always held a certain excitement for Yuuri. This was the week when all the people of Hasetsu came together to finally reap the fruits of their yearlong labor (although they mostly farmed wheat, corn, and potatoes instead of any actual fruit). The able-bodied men and women of the village would gather in the fields from dawn to dusk while the others prepared meals and worked on equipment that needed fixing.
Yuuri loved the energy in the air. This was one of the few times he felt comfortable around so many people all at once, for the dirt, sweat, and hard work quickly melted away the need for any forced chitchat.
With a quiet grunt, he hacked off an ear of corn and dropped it into the large wicker basket on his back. As he began sawing away at the stem of another piece lower down on the cornstalk, he turned to the brunette woman working next to him.
“Are you sure you should be out here, Yuuko?” Yuuri glanced worriedly at his friend’s small but beginning to be noticeable baby bump. “Do you think it’d be, uh, safer for you to help sort the crops or fix the plows this year?”
Yuuko rolled her eyes as she dropped a piece of corn into her basket, moving on to another stalk.
“Geez, you’re almost as bad as Takeshi!” She smiled fondly. “I’ll be fine Yuuri. The baby’s not due ‘til next spring.” Another ear of corn went into her basket. “I feel like I need the exercise after being cooped up and fussed over all the time and Minako said that I should be okay for a few more months anyways.”
“If you say so…”
He watched Yuuko saw furiously away at a particularly hardy stem near the bottom of a stalk, sweat beading on her wide forehead and lips flattened in concentration.
“…Just be careful not to overdo it, okay?”
After severing the final piece of corn from the plant with a victorious umph, Yuuko patted the dust off of her knees and stood up with a satisfied sigh. She gazed down at her belly with a warm light in her chocolate eyes and placed a small, delicate hand over the slight swell.
“You better pay attention, little one. You’re going to be doing this too someday,” she whispered, a grin slowly stretching across her lips.
Yuuri’s heart melted as he took in her peaceful, glowing face in the bright daylight.
She’s going to be a great mother.
“You worry too much, Yuuri!” Phichit’s voice rang out from behind them, making Yuuri jump. “I feel like Yuuko’s the type of person who can take care of herself just fine.”
Yuuri turned to see his friend approach, a basket nearly overflowing with corn on his back. The tanned boy’s pearly white teeth sparkled blindingly under the bright midday sun. Despite not being a citizen of Hasetsu, he was wearing a loose beige tunic and dark pants like everyone else working the fields, collar left wide open. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, revealing toned arms and a dark scab that was healing up nicely.
“Why, thank you Phichit!” Yuuko threw a pointed look at Yuuri. “I’m glad someone here understands!”
“He’s just trying to butter you up…” Yuuri grumbled, lightly elbowing his friend in the ribs.
Phichit feigned a shocked gasp, dramatically clutching his side where Yuuri had nudged him.
“That’s so mean, Yuuri! Why would I need to do something like that?!”
Yuuri could hear Yuuko giggling by his side.
“Because you’ve been trying to get everyone to join you in nagging me about going to the harvest festival since you heard about it last week!”
“Well, you really should!” Phichit whined, throwing a heavy arm over Yuuri’s shoulders.
“Hey! You’re too sweaty!”
“—I mean, why wouldn’t you want to go? It sounds like there’s going to be great music and dancing and so much food! Doesn’t that sound like fun, Yuuri?”
The village always held a large celebration on the last day of the harvest. Yuuri hadn’t needed to go in years, since the only thing he was particularly interested in was trying all the food, and Mari would just bring platefuls of the most delicious dishes back home for him anyways.
“You should’ve told me earlier, Phichit!” Yuuko laughed, a playful spark in her eye. “I’ve been telling Yuuri that he needs to go for years now, but he always has some excuse or another!” She shook her head with a nostalgic look. “I think the last time I saw him come to one…I was still taller than him.”
Phichit laughed. Yuuri’s face was gradually turning tomato-red as his lips puckered in a small pout.
“No…” he protested, “I also went two years ago.”
“Oh?” Yuuko arched an eyebrow. “Then I’m sure you just snuck in the through the back of the town hall, grabbed some food, and snuck back out immediately.”
“Haha,” Phichit ruffled his friend’s hair. “That sounds just like you!”
Yuuri blushed and sputtered indignantly, wriggling out from under the shorter boy’s arm. But he didn’t exactly have a comeback, since it was all true.
“…I-I think it’s almost time for lunch.”
Yuuri spun away from his two traitorous friends, his lengthy dark bangs swishing in a quick flip, and began walking back along the tall, golden rows of corn. “We should head to the barn before all the food gets eaten.”
“Oh, you’re right!” Phichit hopped into step beside him. “All this work has gotten me pretty hungry!”
“I wonder what they made for today…” Yuuko immediately followed suit.
“I think my mom mentioned that they were going to roast a few chickens with some of the extra potato and carrot duds from yesterday.”
Yuuri sighed in relief, glad that his friends seemed too distracted by the prospect of lunch to pester him anymore. After a few minutes of blissful silence trekking through the fields, Phichit broke the peace.
“…Hey Yuuri,” his tone was teasing, “you know what’s even better than eating good food?”
“Phiiichit,” Yuuri groaned. “Stop—“
“Eating good food next to a nice warm bonfire while listening to great music! And maybe you’ll even get to dance with a pretty girl!” Phichit waggled his eyebrows suggestively as his friend turned tomato-red.
Yuuko giggled at the boys’ antics and leaned in between them. “You know,” she whispered, eyes darting back and forth conspiratorially, “I heard that Tazusa has a thing for you.”
Phichit’s onyx eyes lit up at that juicy piece of gossip.
Yuuri groaned and hung his head.
“Is that the girl who always has her hair in those pigtails?”
“Yep! You have a really good memory, Phichit!”
“Nah, it’s just that everyone in Hasetsu is so nice and friendly!”
Yuuri just shook his head in resignation.
Phichit stared into the sky with a thoughtful look. A few moments later, he turned and smirked at Yuuri.
“I think Chada might get a little jealous if she found out, you know.”
“Phiiiiichit…” Yuuri could feel his face turning a mortifying shade of fuchsia.
“She told me the other day that she was hoping to get a dance with you.”
“Oh my!” Yuuko gasped, clapping her hands. “You’ve become so popular, Yuuri!”
The Romani boy edged closer to Yuuko and pretended to whisper to the brunette.
“Do you think he’ll go if we get a cute girl to ask him?”
“You know I can hear you…“
“Maybe,” Yuuko stage-whispered back, “but I think it’ll be more effective if we get Mari and his parents to not bring any food back for him.”
“Hey! They’ve already tried that!” Yuuri scowled. That was the reason he had to sneak in to the festival two years back. “And it’s not like I’m that easily baited by food…”
“Well, your childhood nickname was katsudon…”
“Katsudon?” Phichit cocked his head. “What’s that?”
“It’s this amazing pork cutlet bowl that Yuuri’s mom and dad make! Ahh… I’m drooling thinking about it already.” Yuuko smiled dreamily. “You’ll have to try it sometime, Phichit! It’s the Hasetsu Inn’s specialty!”
“I think I would like that!” Phichit said with a smile.
A deep voice suddenly called out from the rows of corn in front of the trio.
Takeshi’s large, hulking form stepped through the yellow stalks, rustling the long leaves of the plants with a dry, rasping sound. The worn fabric of his sweaty shirt clung to his skin tight around his torso. Patches of dirt were smudged all over his pants and arms.
“Hey,” Yuuko greeted her husband with a wave. “You guys finished up the wheat fields early?”
“Yeah,” Takeshi hurried to Yuuko’s side and grabbed her basket. “Here, let me get that.”
“I’m fine, Takeshi!” Yuuko gripped the straps around her arms more tightly as her husband tried to tug the basket away. “I’m not an invalid!”
“C’mon… Please? Let me help?”
Phichit and Yuuri just stood aside to let the couple bicker it out. The Romani boy turned and smiled at his friend.
“He really loves her, huh?”
“Yeah,” Yuuri replied, eyes a little wistful. “They’ve been like this since we were kids.”
Takeshi finally got Yuuko to relinquish her basket and the four continued walking through the fields.
“Knowing someone since you were a kid must be nice.” Phichit remarked.
“You don’t have anyone like that?” Yuuko asked in surprise.
The boy shook his head. “It’s always been just my parents and Chada…” When he saw the others’ pitying looks, he immediately elaborated to correct the misunderstanding. “Oh, it’s not bad or anything! We’re constantly on the road and meeting lots of new people in new places, so it’s a lot of fun! But we just don’t really get to know many people our whole lives like you do in Hasetsu. I thought it was nice, is all.”
“Huh…” Yuuri wondered aloud. “Don’t you usually travel with lots of other caravans though?”
“Yeah, we like to join larger groups when we’re going through a long stretch of forest or wilderness since it’s a lot safer, but families are always joining up and leaving. Sometimes people like to stay in a place for longer or want to split off and go somewhere else. So it’s not really a fixed thing.”
“Man… I can’t imagine living like that.” Takeshi’s brow was furrowed in thought as he put an arm around Yuuko’s waist. “Don’t you get homesick? Or tired of traveling all the time?”
Phichit shrugged. “Not really. It’s always been this way so I wouldn’t know what it felt like to not be on the move, you know? Our caravan is my home.” He looked towards the horizon as they neared the edge of the corn fields, a light smile glittering in his eyes. “I actually really love seeing new lands and meeting all sorts of new people. There’s always something unexpected or amazing that I never could’ve imagined before, and I always have my family by my side, so it doesn’t get scary or anything…” His bright grin faltered a bit. “…Usually.”
He must be thinking about the fire…
Yuuri brushed against Phichit’s arm sympathetically and received a grateful nod.
It must be pretty dangerous to camp in the forest all the time… There are all sorts of monsters and robbers. I wonder if anything like that has ever happened to them before.
…But I guess now’s probably not the time to ask.
Then, as it often did these days, Yuuri’s mind drifted to that night in the woods. He thought of the beautiful fairy with azure eyes and silver hair, recalling the strength in his shoulders and the poise in the upwards tilt of his chin. He still felt the same thrill of amazement whenever he remembered how the being had lingered in the air and bent the wind to his will.
Mari frequently remarked that Yuuri had become jumpier and more out of it than usual for the past two weeks. Ever since that night, he would startle at the tinkling of a bell. If he saw a puffy white cloud when he looked up at the sky, his heart would skitter as he squinted to try and make out if it was at all dog-shaped.
Yuuri would always be disappointed, however. The white puffs up above were always just regular clouds and the sounds that startled him were simply the mundane noises of everyday life in the village.
He often caught the worried glances and whispers of his family and friends—they thought that he had been shaken up by his near-death experience, he supposed—but in reality, Yuuri just felt eagerness and excitement. The fairy had told him that he’d like to meet again soon, and Yuuri couldn’t help but wonder if he really meant it.
I hope so…
Yuuri looked up at the clear pale-blue sky, sighing at the lack of clouds in sight.
The large barn that served as the town hall sat on top of the gentle swell of a hill, conveniently located between the village fields and the town square. Yuuri, Phichit, and the Nishigoris trekked up and approached the two large doors propped open by crates of produce, greeting the trickle of people leaving the barn. Most of the village was gathered inside the expansive structure. Family and friends were chatting animatedly and tucking away at plates of food. Several large crates of freshly harvested produce were proudly displayed in the center. There would usually be groups of people cleaning, sorting, and preparing the harvest to dry, but now everyone was taking a break for lunch. Towards the back, a group of children and the elderly were washing dirty dishware.
“Yuuri! Phichit! Yuuko!” Hiroko’s voice carried over the din and Yuuri swiveled to see his parents at a long table to their right. A few villagers who looked like they had just returned from the fields were lined up for food. His father was waving a ladle in the air, gesturing for them to come over.
Once the four friends unloaded their corn into the appropriate crates, Takeshi put an arm around his wife and started pushing her towards the serving tables.
“You need to get something to eat, Yuuko. I tried a bit of the chicken before I came to get you and it’s really good.”
“Okay, okay, stop rushing me.” Yuuko chided exasperatedly, though a smile lingered on her face. “You’re acting like I’ll die of starvation if I don’t get food right this second.”
Phichit and Yuuri shared an amused glance and then got in line behind the couple.
“Takeshi was worrying over you all morning,” Toshiya teased Yuuko as he ladled a generous scooping of gravy over a few pieces of chicken.
Yuuko shook her head. “I keep telling him that I’ll be fine, but he just won’t listen!”
Hiroko chuckled, taking the plate from her husband and placing three lumps of bread next to the chicken.
“Weren’t you just like that when I was pregnant with Mari, dear?” Hiroko handed the plate to Yuuko, who thanked them with a smile and was quickly whisked away by her husband to sit on a bale of hay.
“Ah…” The wrinkles around Toshiya’s brow crinkled as his eyes misted over. “It seems like it was just yesterday…”
“And then we had Yuuri…”
Yuuri groaned as his parents gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes.
“Mom, dad, please stop.”
“Don’t be so shy, dear. You’ll find the perfect person for you too, someday.”
Phichit nodded sagely in agreement while trying to stifle his snickering.
Yuuri blushed at that and shot a betrayed look at his friend.
Hiroko handed the boys their plates of food and pushed them along. “Now go eat! And there’s plenty left so make sure to come back for seconds!"
“Thanks…” Yuuri turned and glanced around the barn. It looked pretty packed. Some of the villagers were sitting on piles of hay or a few of the sturdier farming tools that were still under repair, but most were sprawled across the floor of the barn. There was still a bit of open floor space near the Nishigoris, but given how much Takeshi had been fretting this morning, Yuuri figured that he would appreciate some time alone with Yuuko. He also spotted a half-hidden Mari crouched in a corner, leaning against a broken plow with her eyes closed.
It’s probably best not to bother her. She looks like she’s taking a break from serving lunch.
“Where do you want to sit?” Phichit asked, lips pursed. He probably saw the same predicament.
“Want to go outside?” Yuuri suggested with a shrug. “We can sit in the shade of the barn.”
They quickly found a scratchy clump of uncut grass nearby and sat down with their backs against the wooden panels of the wall. The boys devoured their lunch in companionable silence, too starved to make conversation over their plates of food.
“Have you ever been outside of Hasetsu, Yuuri?” Phichit asked when he had finished eating.
Yuuri was still wiping the last of his bread against his plate, trying to soak up as much of the gravy as he could.
“Well,” he popped a piece into his mouth. “I’ve gone pretty far into Saga Forest before, I think. Almost to the northern border once. But I’ve never really had to go beyond that.”
“What about other villages? There are a few to the west, right? On the road to the capitol?”
Yuuri shook his head. “They’re too far away. Mari and I can’t really afford to be gone for too long. Now that they’re getting older, mom and dad need all the help they can get running the inn and taking care of the farm.”
“I see…” Phichit quirked his lips and paused for a thoughtful second. “Well, have you ever wanted to?”
“Hm?” Yuuri asked distractedly as he finished his bread. “To what?”
“Travel! See the world!”
“I mean, I can’t really leave—“
“Just pretend that you could! If you could visit any place in the world,” Phichit swept his arm in front of them, gesturing towards the grand expanse of golden fields and forest that stretched under the turquoise sky from their vantage point at the top of the hill. “Where would you want to go?”
“I… I never really thought about it…” Phichit shot him an unconvinced expression, one eyebrow raised. “I mean… I wouldn’t know where would be safe outside of Hasetsu or the forest. And I wouldn’t know how to get there or what to do.”
“Ah, I could take you to all of these amazing places! It would be so much fun!” Phichit’s eyes lit up.
As they finished their lunch and worked in the corn fields throughout the afternoon, Yuuri listened, enraptured, as Phichit regaled his friend with tales of his travels. The Romani boy’s words painted visions of sand dunes under a burnt-orange sun, of a city centered around a single intricate marble palace that was larger than Hasetsu, of strange and beautiful creatures with impossibly long necks and patchwork skins, of a floating village in the sea that was entirely constructed of reeds.
“…Ooh, there’s also this huuuuge hedge maze right outside of the Leroy kingdom capital. I hear that it spans ten whole acres and the hedges are almost as tall as this barn! It’s supposed to be impossible to get through.”
“Really?” Yuuri’s eyes widened. “What do they need that for?”
“There’s supposed to be a beast of some sort trapped in there…” Phichit lowered his voice. “My parents wouldn’t let me get close, but one night, Chada and I snuck out of camp to check it out.”
“…And we heard a man scream from inside the maze.”
“W-what did you do?”
“We freaked out and ended up running back to camp.” Phichit scratched his head with a sheepish grin. “We got too scared to sleep that night. Mom and dad got pretty upset at us for being so out of it while manning the wares the next day.”
“D-did you go back?”
Seeing Yuuri’s frightened expression, Phichit tried to reassure him. “But I’m sure it’s safe. The Leroy kingdom would’ve posted some soldiers or knights around if it was actually dangerous since it’s so close to the palace.”
“Y-yeah, that makes sense.”
“Oh!” Phichit’s eyes lit up. “There’s a really famous school for physicians in the Leroy kingdom too!”
Yuuri vaguely recalled a customer at the inn mentioning the school to him a few years back after he had healed the man’s broken arm.
He nodded at Phichit. “I’ve heard of it, I think.”
“The apprentices at the school set up this huge tent in the city plaza every Sunday to help the townspeople. And they’re really good. My dad had this terrible cough one time that wouldn’t go away for weeks so he went there to see if they could help. They gave him this bottle of medicine that he had to drink every night and the cough went away in a few days! I bet you would have a blast if you went there sometime!”
“That sounds amazing…” Yuuri was in awe.
It must be great having an entire school with all those physicians. You could probably learn a lot from everyone…
“Also, I was wondering,” Phichit furrowed his brow and tapped a finger to his lip. “Who did Minako apprentice under? She really knows her stuff for a village apothecary. Someone of her skill could easily open up shop in a big city.”
“I’m not really sure.” Yuuri tilted his head. This was something he had wondered about for years too. “I’ve asked her about it in the past, but she’s pretty vague about what she did before she came to Hasetsu.”
“You mean, she’s not from here originally?”
Yuuri shook his head. “My parents told me that she came to town around the time Mari was born. The midwife from the next village over had just passed away so everyone was really worried about mom, but then Aunt Minako said that she could help since she had some medical training. Apparently, the village chief back then asked her to stay after that and she’s been here ever since.”
“Oh, I’d always thought she was your real aunt.”
Yuuri shook his head. “Even though she’s not a blood relative, she’s like family to me.”
“I can see why. After all that, no wonder you’re all so close,” Phichit smiled. “I wonder what she did before. I’ve talked with her about all her travels and,” Phichit shook his head almost reverently, “she’s been everywhere!”
Yuuri pursed his lips. “I don’t know… She’s told me that she wasn’t always an apothecary, but she doesn’t like to talk about her past much… I-I feel like it’s painful for her.”
Phichit’s eyes softened. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t pry.”
Yuuri quickly shook his head. “I think she has a lot of fun talking with you about all the places she’s been to. She told me that every time she visited a new country, she would buy a book somewhere along the way as a souvenir. That’s also how she has so many rare books.”
“I wonder if she was a wealthy merchant’s daughter or something. It’s rare for commoners to be able to afford books—let alone know how to read!”
“Maybe?” Yuuri had some trouble imagining his tough mentor in fancy dresses, however.
“Alright!” Phichit leaned forward and stretched his arms. “I think we should probably wrap up here! Let’s head back to the barn?”
Yuuri nodded and stood up from his crouch, brushing a few stray hairs from his forehead. He noticed that the sun had already fallen low, bathing the sky in oranges, golds, and lilacs from its hiding place behind the dark blue mountains. They probably still had about an hour of daylight left, but Phichit needed to hurry back to his family’s caravan in the forest before sundown. The wolves were beginning to become more active at night as the first signs of winter approached.
“Thanks a lot for helping out, Phichit.” Yuuri said a bit abashedly as they carried the corn to the barn. “I know there’s a lot of work you guys still need to do to fix your caravan.”
“Yuuri! I told you to stop thanking me!” Phichit thumped him on the back. “This is the least I can do in return after everything your village has done to help us get back on our feet.”
“I’ve never had the chance to try any farming since we’re always on the road, so I’m learning a lot too!”
Yuuri smiled. Phichit’s constant positivity was one of the things that he admired the most about him.
“It’s also a lot of fun hanging out with you, Yuuri.” His face broke out into a grin. “I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to get to know you.”
“Yeah, me too.” A light, pleased blush dusted his cheeks as they walked through the fields.
Yuuri usually took a long time—years, even—to warm up to people, and Phichit was the first person he’d become so comfortable with in such a short span of time. He felt like he could just be himself with the Romani boy and had willingly told his new friend all about his childhood and growing up in Hasetsu over the past few weeks. Phichit was one of the most accepting people he had ever met and the kindness and warmth with which he treated everyone made Yuuri feel like he could talk to him about anything. There were no expectations or judgement, and despite knowing about his powers, Phichit still treated him like anyone else.
However, Yuuri felt guilty every time Phichit chose to do something with him instead of the others their age or declined an invitation because Yuuri didn’t want to join. Since the Romani boy was so sociable, Yuuri couldn’t help but think that he would prefer to be in a larger crowd.
“Um…” Yuuri ventured, biting his lip a bit. “I don’t want you to feel like you need to stay with me all the time just because I helped Chada. You can do other things too if you want.”
Phichit stopped and stared at him. Yuuri swallowed, his throat suddenly dry.
When Phichit spoke, his voice sounded a little hurt. “That’s what you think?”
Yuuri awkwardly shuffled his feet. “I mean, everyone in the village loves you and I know I’m a pretty boring person, so…”
Phichit’s shoulders fell as he turned to face Yuuri, pinning him with fierce onyx eyes.
I definitely should’ve phrased that better. It probably sounded really petty.
“You need to have more confidence in yourself, Yuuri. You’re a great person, and—don’t get me wrong, your powers are amazing—but I’d still like you even if you didn’t have them. I’m not just spending time with you because I feel indebted or obliged to.”
Yuuri curled in on himself, trying to quash the coarse, queasy feeling slithering around in his gut as his face burned in shame. “O-okay…”
“Unless…” Phichit furrowed his brow and licked his lips. “Am I being a bother?”
“No!” Yuuri’s voice shot up, surprising them both.
“Um,” he cleared his throat, avoiding Phichit’s bewildered stare. “That’s not what I was… I just thought that, uh…” He flailed for the right words, his voice wavering. “You seemed like you would prefer talking to more people. And I’m kind of…” Phichit shot him a look, making him bite his tongue.
Yuuri’s habit of making self-deprecating remarks clearly upset his friend, and he felt like he’d already surpassed his quota for the day.
“Er…I don’t really like crowds, I guess. And I don’t want to make everyone uncomfortable because people aren’t really comfortable around me because… I can… I’m, well… you know.” Yuuri finished his awkward almost-apology, eyes drifting down to bore into a gray pebble buried in the ground, fingers plucking at the seams of his trousers.
“…Yuuri.” Phichit’s voice had a confusing air of hurt mixed with sadness or maybe even anger.
Yuuri couldn’t bring himself to meet the other boy’s eyes, but he could tell that Phichit was shaking his head.
Yuuri opened and closed his mouth again, his heart lurching sickeningly, churning up his stomach. “Sorry,” he finally managed to force out, albeit weakly.
A few coarse beats of silence passed.
When Yuuri dared to look up, his friend’s mouth was quirked in a genuine but slightly bitter smile.
“I guess we can call it even if you promise to come to the harvest festival.”
And just like that, the tension dissipated.
Yuuri’s eyes widened as he gaped at the now-grinning Phichit. “I can’t believe you…! I… I was… O-okay.”
“Hehe, I knew you’d come around!”
Yuuri’s face broke into an embarrassed but relieved smile as they continued walking, arms bumping companionably.
The fairy realm had never seemed so boring before. Victor had no desire to walk the homey halls of his palace in the millennia-old grove, to frolic in the meadows and lakes with the beautiful creatures that lived there, or even to dance and sing with his friends.
“Makkachiiiinnnnn, why is the Seelie Council always so slow and tedious?” Victor hugged the fluffy air sprite from his position on its back, burying his face into the creature’s cool, cloud-like fur. “They’re going to accept my sentence for Georgi in the end anyway, so what’s the point of debating over it for so long?”
Makkachin whined in sympathy, lifting his head from where it had been resting on his paws to nudge his nose comfortingly at Victor’s face.
“Yeah, I’m glad Georgi’s going to be alright too.” Victor patted Makkachin’s flank. “We should go visit Mila and the rest of the healers after they’re done to thank them.”
Makkachin’s tail thumped in agreement.
“He’s going to be angry with me, but I think I gave a fair sentence.” Victor combed through the puffy clouds of Makkachin’s body, creating thin streaks with his fingers that were quickly filled up again by the magical condensation. “Even if he still wants to go back to the mortal realm after his confinement is over, that woman will be long dead and she won’t be able to hurt him.”
Victor turned to lie on his back with a furious—almost frighteningly cold—glint in his eyes. His gaze was fixed upwards at the ceiling of the Seelie Court’s palace, a large mosaic reflecting the night sky of the mortal realm, magicked to twinkle with small studs of starlight.
His long silver hair slowly fell, strand-by-strand, over the curves of Makkachin’s sides. “Humans are all either fickle, selfish, or boring anyway, he’s not missing out on much.”
At that, Makkachin suddenly got up, throwing Victor off balance and consequently off of its back, sending small tufts of white moisture scattering into the air. As Victor looked up in surprise at his usually calm and gentle friend, the air sprite whimpered anxiously at the fairy, a trace of desperation in its bright, round eyes.
“Ah, of course I didn’t mean Yuuri!” Victor quickly stood up to reassure Makkachin with a hug, his arms stroking the back of the air sprite’s neck in a soothing motion. His face gradually relaxed into a smile at the memories of the mortal boy. “Yuuri’s not like the rest of them. He’s as kind and sweet as he’s always been.”
Apparently pleased by the fairy’s correction, Makkachin laid back down, tail wagging happily.
“I had such a shock when I saw him again, Makkachin!” Victor put his hands on either side of the dog’s cheeks and nuzzled his nose excitedly. “I’d totally forgotten how fast time passes in the mortal realm! All of a sudden he’s now all grown up!” Makkachin made a happy noise at the back of his throat and his tail wagged even harder. “I had wanted to visit him more often but you know how I was so busy working on those treaties with the Unseelie Court…” Makkachin whined and shifted to curl around him consolingly.
“Those were some terrible times…” Victor winced just thinking about all the political manipulations and the cloak-and-dagger intrigue that he had to deal with due to neither side having any trust in the other.
“But Yakov’s face when everyone signed it was spectacular, Makkachin! For the longest time, he was all like,” the fairy furrowed his brow and dropped his voice a few octaves in a gruff impression, “‘Vitya, no matter how great you think you are you’re never going to make those barbarians see any sense!’ Just because he couldn’t do it when he was king!”
Victor’s face suddenly fell as his tone became irritated once again. “…But now there’s that missing selkie knight… Can you believe they accused us of doing something to him? No matter how strong he is or how uncharacteristic they claim it to be for him to be so careless, I bet he just had his pelt stolen by some human. It’s always like that with them.” Seeing that Makkachin was starting to become confused by all of his complaints, Victor shook his head clear of those thoughts. His hands were tied regarding that particular issue anyway.
He let out a sigh, mind drifting back to his favorite human. “I don’t think Yuuri remembered me though… That was a little disappointing.”
Makkachin cocked his head, a question in his eyes.
“Ah, you weren’t corporeal yet so you couldn’t leave the fairy realm. But remember that great party we had on the midsummer night of my coronation?”
Makkachin panted happily, a little bit of watery drool starting to drip from his mouth.
Victor chuckled. “Yeah, we had lots of delicious food that day, didn’t we? Well, Yuuri somehow found his way into our party and we danced together all night long!”
With a dramatic jump, he twirled away from the air sprite, starting up a graceful dance with an invisible partner that only he could see, stepping to the rhythm of a song that only he could hear. When the silent music ended, he dropped his arms and turned back towards Makkachin.
“You miss him too, don’t you?”
Makkachin let out a soft whimper.
Victor flopped back onto the ground with a sad sigh and a small pout.
Suddenly, the fairy’s eyes lit up, shining with excitement and mischief.
Well, the entire council is going to be stuck in that room for a while and everyone else is busy with Georgi or that matter with the Unseelie Court…
Victor leaned forward and buried his face into one of Makkachin’s floppy ears. “How about we sneak out and visit him, then? At the rate they’re going, we’ll be there and back before the council is finished!”
The air sprite let out an enthusiastic woof of agreement that had the fairy enveloping him in another hug.
Without further ado, Victor closed his eyes and let his body fade and become one with the wind. He followed the flow of the palace, quickly drifting down corridors, into the open sky, and towards the heart of the fairies’ sacred grove, Makkachin close on his heels. As they approached the ancient tree guarded by two armor-clad fairy knights, Victor whispered the spell that would render him undetectable as he passed into the mortal realm.
The guards spared Makkachin a curious glance but let the air sprite through without any motion to stop him. Victor took the opportunity to slip by, the extra breath of wind barely noticeable considering the substantial volume of air that Makkachin moved with his large body.
As he reached the shimmering, opalescent surface of the broad trunk, Victor only felt a small nudge of guilt… He recalled the long lectures that Yakov had given him before passing on the crown.
The powers and privileges of the Fae King were probably not meant to be used like this.
Oh well, Victor shrugged, inadvertently causing the wind to rustle the lowest branches of the ancient tree. It’s not like he was hurting anyone and he definitely deserved a break after all of his hard work with the Unseelie Court and Georgi.
The odd sensation of nothingness seeped into his skin as he drifted through the portal. In the blink of an eye, he was staring out into the night sky of the mortal realm—the real one much more vivid than the likeness on the ceiling of his home. The stars formed a large glowing band that cut across the canvas of the heavens, their light spilling ever outwards and dyeing the inky darkness a royal blue.
“Makkachin, are you ready to go see Yuuri again?”
Nobody would even notice. The guards sure hadn’t.