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Haven

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Once, you dwelled in a dark cave where creatures of sharp claws and venomous fangs lurked about. You told them not to bother you nor to take your things. They didn't.

Once, you resided at a swamp in the north where a curious Chickatrice nicked your cheek. You simply thumbed the blood off and left. It was getting humid over there anyway.

Once, you stayed at a small motel in an old town you couldn't remember the name of. Old L'Salem? But it was where you could "fly down to the original nest for a real treat". Enticing as the smell was, there were too many people for your liking. You had to go.

The list goes on. You stayed at many places, mainly outdoors, sometimes at inns and old warehouses. But what you really wanted was a place that was devoid of disturbance. Somewhere that was devoid of people. You could abruptly faint in peace without others pointlessly screaming for help. 

And you found it in Cape Caem.

A two-story building stood before you. Wooden planks were horizontally nailed on with different shades of brown and blue. Some of them were rotting away, but the overall appearance gave it a clunky mosaic look. If you looked up, you could see murky windows. If you tilted your head back, you could see pipes on the roof. To your left, a dirt path led to what seemed to be an unused garden. Various tools were scattered with an overturned cart next to them. To your further left, just beyond the garden, a silent lighthouse stood tall and once proud. You'd take a look at that later. 

Facing front, you stepped up the eight stairs that led to the door. The rust that coated the knob indicated that it hadn't been touched in a while, but when you touched it out of experimentation, the door opened a crack. It smelled old from the inside.

You paused, listening for any voices. There were none. 

Pushing the door completely open, you were surprised to see the interior wasn't as bad as you expected. An aging long table that could seat about eight people sat in the center of the dining room. A few of the chairs themselves were tipped over and you slowly moved to set them upright. Your creaking footsteps seemed to be echoing as you eyed the rest of the room. Tall shelves collected dust. There was a small kitchen at the corner, and you briefly wondered if the gas stove was still working. Two sets of stairs opposite from each other led to bedrooms and you wondered if they had beds...

...

You were suddenly tired. Hungry. More tired than hungry. 

The chairs screamed comfortable. You dropped your bag and stumbled towards one to slide into it, arms automatically making a make-shift pillow on the table. Your face nestled into the crook of your elbow and you closed your eyes.

Was this house really abandoned? Was anyone going to come back? Idle, rhetorical thoughts. There was no evidence of fresh footsteps. It was clearly abandoned. You didn't understand why when it was in such a good location, not that you were com...

...plaining...

 

... 

 

.. 

 

.

 

 

.. 

 

...

 

When you woke up, it took some time to remember where you were and what you were doing.

Blinking blearily, you got up from your position and stretched out the cricks that had built up. Your mouth twisted in irritation at the soreness. Now that you were a bit more alert, you realized that sleeping on a worn chair at a dusty table was a terrible idea. But the thought was pushed aside when your stomach growled. Right, food. You haven't eaten since yesterday morning. Or was it three days ago? Time wasn't really important for you to keep track of lately. 

You fetched your bag and took out some bread to nibble on. It was getting lighter, you noticed; you should start stocking up supplies again. Slinging it over your shoulder, you went outside and closed the door. You estimated not much time had passed since the sky was still bright.

You were ninety-nine percent sure that this part of Cape Caem was isolated. 

(That one percent at the back of your mind was teasing you that maybe, possibly, probably, it wasn't abandoned after all.)

So if people were away, then it was very likely that animals of all kinds were around and you could find what you needed, especially since you were right next to the ocean. The coast was just ways down the cliff. You'd have to go to Cape Caem's entrance and start trekking through trees to reach the coast. 

But the lighthouse caught your eye and you slowed to a stop. 

What if...

You pivoted towards the lighthouse.

What if the elevator was still working and you could gain access to the top? You'd be able to see everything from such a vantage point. 

The wind picked up and tousled your hair as you made your way around in the dirt path. Of course, you could have just cut through the grass to save time, but you weren't in a hurry. Taking your time meant more time to look. Feel. Smell. Learn. 

You saw thin railings, as well as stone walls that had crumbled of old age, yet they still managed to form the path to the lighthouse. You stepped up the stairs to its entrance, but you circled around the lighthouse to explore. There was the beautiful sea on your left, with fences preventing you from tumbling down the cliffside. On your right, tires, crates, and bags with trash were scattered against the wall. And was that a bench right there? More trash, a dumpster, more crates. It seemed that it was easy to litter here.

You finally entered and found two buttons. One was labeled '2F - Deck', the other label was scratched out. You pressed the first button and waited. Honestly, you weren’t expecting much, but to your mild surprise, the elevator rumbled open. You stepped in and watched as the gates closed around you. The elevator hummed and brought you up, up, up. Below you, Cape Caem was getting smaller, smaller, smaller. 

The wind blew even stronger when the gates opened, causing you to shield your eyes from stray debris. After lowering them, you were met with a breathtaking view that left you appreciating Cape Caem even more. 

You could see everything. Your hand glided over the railings as you circled around once again, admiring the scenery with lazy eyes. Tiny roads and the Cygillan sea stretched as far as the eye can see. Birds cried, flying from the main cities to the coast, where something big and dark was lurking there.

Pausing, you trained your eyes on the coast. That was a Karlabos, wasn't it? It is. No other crustacean had that tail of a shimmering rainbow.

Old information automatically kicked in. The Karlabos attacks with its front pincers and is able to shoot water in a straight line from its tail. Propels itself through waves by ingesting water and releasing it in high-pressured bursts. Can jump to quickly turn and pounce on prey. Can be caught and traded as food and material. Can...

You slowed down your thoughts. That part wasn't important, it was what they can drop that were. Rough shell, it has value as a shock-absorbent material. You weren't sure how long it would take for that Karlabos to molt. Prawn antennae, stronger than steel wire. You weren't sure what they can be made into. Claws—no, of course not. It would take a miracle for you to procure those giant weapons yourself, unless some freak accident killed it.

You didn't see any other beasts besides the common Shieldshears which were a little further from the Karlabos, but it was a starting point. Sighing, you made your way back into the elevator and down the lighthouse, down passed the abandoned house, and down to the coast where you leaned against some rocks to observe the small group of Shieldshears from a decent distance. All they did was scuttle slowly on the grounds, occasionally picking at each other's shells with no purpose.

You raised your hands and clapped once. 

All activity stopped. Half of the group turned in your direction while the others raised their claws. When they didn't see any more movement from you, they resumed their activity. You clapped twice and the same thing happened. You waited, clapped three times, and only one of them turned towards you. You clapped four times, and all of them paused at the sound. Five times, and they outright ignored you.

You pushed yourself off the rocks and strolled to the closest Shieldshear. Frothy bubbles dribbled down from its mouth as it stared at you with beady black eyes. You shoved its massive claw; it didn’t react from your touch and started to eat pebbles, so you looked around for anything you could take. Luckily, there were some molted claws lying around. You slipped your way in and tried to find the ones that weren’t too cracked, because the better the quality, the better price you could sell it for.

The claws lying before you varied in different sizes. Two were small, but were cleaner and in better shape than the larger ones that were cracked. You weighed your options. An average-sized Shieldshear claw was about four-hundred gil; your goal was to at least get three-thousand. You never needed a lot of money unless you were staying at an inn or purchasing necessities such as food and clothes, but even that was rare. 

The smaller ones will have to do. They were easier to carry back anyway. You bent down to gather them in your arms and weaved your way out of the Shieldshears, trekking back to the house. From the corner of your eye, the Karlabos’ shell glimmered teasingly in the distance. 

You sighed. Perhaps a tsunami would kill it one day.

Upon arriving inside, you gently placed the claws on the dining table and found an old rag to polish off the excess sand, watching as they shone brighter than when you found them. It should sell a bit more. Speaking of, the closest market was miles away. But you just arrived here, and money can wait.

Your eyes wandered around, taking in every detail of the house once more. It had only been a couple of hours since you first arrived, but you felt a forming affinity with this place. It was quiet here. Next to the sea. Abundant in supplies. Far but close to the market.

This was kind of… lucky, no?

Those other places you stayed at. The caves, the swamps, the inns. And some other places you couldn’t remember. Some had the silence you wanted, but didn’t have the resources you needed. Some had the resources you needed, but didn’t have the silence you wanted. You would stick with living with one without the other until the urge to leave was strong. 

Of course, from a bystander’s perspective, it would be easier if you didn’t constantly move.

But how your mind worked was a mystery to everyone.

 


 

It wasn’t until thirteen days later that something disappointing happened.

(Thirteen. Unlucky number). 

Over the duration of your stay of thirteen days, you figured cleaning would pass the time. Soap was out of the question and you had to improvise with the water that surprisingly still worked from the sink. You scrubbed and rubbed and wiped and washed whatever you felt needed cleaning. You sorted the furniture to your liking, pushing and rotating them to your barely existent aesthetic. It somewhat pleased you to see the new arrangements you made.

You had just plopped down on a chair for a long break when something strange and faint reached your ears, prompting you to crane your head to the door.

Pairs of human footsteps trekked on dirt and gravel in the distance. They were walking at a neutral pace but you were able to discern that one pair was approaching faster than the others. Almost running. Was running. To here

You buried your face into your hands out of disappointment. Some annoyance. No fear. You were no stranger to danger. Gods, you almost faced it every day.

But you've made your decision to leave. No matter how many useful resources were here, you preferred your tranquility and solitude.

You grabbed your bag. It would be best to go before any of them saw you. As soon as you took three steps to the door, the exhaustion from moving around for the past thirteen days really kicked in; you found yourself frozen on your feet.

For a few seconds that felt like hours, your mind was blank. You didn't know what to think. How to think. 

It was enough time for the door to swing open. There, stood a young boy whose hollow eyes nearly surpassed yours. 

A still moment. Then surprise. "W-who are you?"

You didn’t react, only leveling a stare as he tentatively took a few more steps in. You vaguely noted that the floorboards didn’t squeak as loud as they used to.

“Do you... live here?” He cautiously eyed you, as if he was expecting a weapon on your person. A threat? You did have a hunting knife in your bag, which was somehow on the floor. When did you drop it? 

"But Uncle Dustin said it was abandoned…" the boy mumbled sadly. "Where are we supposed to go now?" 

Your fingers twitched, aching to pick up your bag and leave. 

"Not Lestallum anymore because Grandfather… G-Grandfather…!"

Before you knew it, he already shuffled to a yard in front of you, trembling and so close to breaking. You distinctly remembered that when people cry, they try to find the best warm object they can latch onto for comfort.

To him, that object was you.

The young boy in your unwilling arms was full-blown sobbing, muffling his wails and wetting his tears into your shirt. A part of you told you would have to wash it later. Another reminded you of the current situation. 

You placed a hand lightly on his sandy brown hair. Soft. Very well taken care of. Pampered boy. You tried to pry his arms off. They remained stuck and stubborn around your waist. Iron grip. Annoying. You considered twisting them when the other footsteps you had forgotten about arrived at the doorway.

"Talcott!"

An older girl in black stopped upon seeing you, but quickly shook out of her stupor. "Talcott, let go!" 

Hearing her words, the boy shakily dropped his arms. Your waist felt much better. 

"L-Lady Iris…" he sniffed heavily as she walked closer. "My apologies for losing my composure."

Your eyes drifted to the boy. Apologies? Composure? Pampered in speaking manners as well. 

The girl's eyes softened—with pain, you saw—and she knelt down to embrace him. "Oh Talcott," she murmured into his hair. "I'm just glad you're finally letting it out. You had us so worried when you wouldn't say a word…"

She finally looked up and met your eyes. "I'm really sorry for the trouble," she said quickly. "We just have a lot of things going on right now and um, needed a place to get away to. Just a moment of fresh air and Cape Caem is perfect for it! Especially since this house used to belong to King—er, I mean my dad's friend! Oh, Talcott, use my handkerchief."

She talked a lot. But in short, it turned out the abandoned house was no longer abandoned. Of course; it was never yours in the first place. 

Time to go.

You bent down to pick up your bag, but something else came to mind. The Shieldshear claws were still here, sitting in the room upstairs on the bed. You hadn't felt like selling them yet, and that was a mistake on your part. Maybe in the near future, you could find better materials. Oh, but the Karlabos… molting season was almost here. Maybe you could come back for it later. 

"I'm Iris, by the way. What about you?"

You glanced at the pair, the girl smiling and awaiting your answer. 

"Iris? Talcott?" The last of the footsteps arrived. An older woman and a man stepped inside, their eyes immediately landing on you. That one percent from thirteen days ago started to taunt you again, chanting I-told-you-so's over and over and over and over and over and—

You cut it off.

"And you are?" the woman asked politely, cautiously. Her eyes scanned you not unlike the boy did earlier. 

"Monica," the girl said quickly, reassuringly. "I checked."

The woman heeded her answer and walked over to the younger pair. "Talcott," she said gently, kneeling to meet his eye level, "we all miss him deeply, but you can't run away from us like that. Come, I’ll make us some lunch…” 

Her voice reduced to soothing murmurs and your attention was diverted to the man who had just finished examining the house. 

"Excuse me," he said, "have you taken residence here? The interior is much cleaner than I expected."

You slowly nodded.

"I'm impressed; by yourself?"

You slowly nodded. 

"Er, are you able to talk…?"

You slowly nodded.

As the man was left blinking and unsure on what to say next, you headed to the entrance. Maybe it was time to move up north again, where the Vesperpool— 

"Hey, where are you going?"

It was a genuine question coming from the girl. You glanced at her over your shoulder. She was looking at the bag you were holding, and then to you as it dawned on her. "Are you leaving?" 

You gave a short nod. 

"W-wait, but," she stammered, "you've been staying here and cleaning the place, right? I heard what Dustin said. It wouldn’t be right to kick you out like this… Monica?” 

The woman in question was in the kitchen. She had gone out and back in with supplies but paused in her unpacking when the girl addressed her. “Yes, Lady Iris?”

”Can she join us for lunch?” 

The woman regarded you with a polite smile. "Well now, if what was said earlier is true, it would be rude to evict you after you've restored this place into a better condition.” She resumed unpacking ingredients. “Why don’t you stay for a meal? We certainly have enough to share.”

Shaking your head felt so heavy. You should really leave and never come back. But you’re frozen again.

You haven’t done this in a long time since you dutifully accepted the misfortunes in your life, but you cursed the body you’re born with.

“You’re eating with us?” the boy spoke up with hope. You’re not sure if you like that look.

“Lunch will be ready in a few minutes,” the woman added. “Dustin, the plates if you will.”

“Of course.”

“Aunt Monica? What are we eating?”

“Just for one meal,” the girl said kindly.

Your head was spinning.

 


 

You were at the head of the table.

On your left: Talcott and Iris.

On your right: Dustin and Monica.

The food before you was pretty. You didn’t care if it didn’t taste good.

"Thank you," you finally uttered, voice terribly low and hoarse from weeks of disuse.

Iris’ eyes widened in surprise and delight.

You picked up the spoon and began to eat.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


 

Somewhere in the Nebulawood, a Behemoth was killed. Four hunters. The mother’s blood mourned for her child’s death.  

 


 

You woke up with the familiar feeling of grief weighing in your heart, instinctively reaching out to find the nearest object to clutch onto for comfort. The claws that took little effort to obtain and clean gleamed back at you.

Almost glaring.

You pushed them away from your sight and sat up in a daze.

What were you doing? 

(Waking up.)

Why were you still here? 

(Don’t know.)

You thought you were leaving after that pretty lunch. It was a sound plan. Yet, you recalled your body hauling itself upstairs and collapsing face-first on the bed. 

You brought your eyes to the window. It was evening outside; gentle blues and brash oranges meshed into a beautiful gradient that might as well be a fantasy. You wondered how colors of stark contrast could be the epitome of serenity. But you knew better; this fake serenity meant transitioning into the night.

Leaving now meant running into daemons. They weren’t life-threatening, but they were annoying. They always reeked of a sinister evil. They oozed malicious intent. They stared into your eyes too much. They’re attracted to your—

Knock knock knock.

You should have heard the footsteps earlier. They must’ve slipped past your ears as you were thinking. Careless.

The door opened. Iris was smiling.

“Hey,” she greeted, stepping in. “That must have been a good nap, huh? You must’ve been exhausted. So this is your room?” 

Slightly overwhelmed, you faintly shook your head. It was never yours in the first place. Didn’t she know that?

Her eyes landed on the claws. Keeping her gaze on them, she asked, “So... what’s up with those? Were they already here? Oh, maybe you can sell them for gil!”

That was the plan, yes. Maybe you should do it now. Go to the market with your belongings and never come back. It’ll be troublesome since the daemons will soon be on the prowl, but it’s not something you haven’t done before. You’ll just have to stick to the usual plan; don’t draw their attention and block out everything they say.

Good plan.

You gathered the claws in your arms and stood up with your bag, walked past Iris without a second glance, out of the room that wasn’t yours, down the stairs that creaked, and out of the no longer abandoned house. 

The transitioning night greeted you with fresh air, bringing the salty scent from the sea you’ve come to know. You briefly paused to inhale it. It brought forth a sense of relaxation, only to remind you that you were going to lose this. You had to admit that your stay here was efficient while it lasted, but the quote, ‘all great things will have to come to a stop', was very much true. 

You briefly glanced off to the side in thought. Was the wording right?

Whatever.

There were plenty of other places that can do the same. You just have to find it again. It’s okay—the cycle will continue like it always did. It’s time to find your next destination.

After the market, of course.

...

That is if Iris wasn’t right in front of you. 

You gave her an odd look, perplexed, before moving around her to continue your path. So it’ll probably be dawn by the time you arrive at the market, depending on the amount breaks you—

“Hey!”

You almost dropped your things when a hand tugged at your sleeve. Iris was in front of you again, disbelief evident on her face.

“Where are you going?” she asked incredulously. “It’s evening!”

And that was a problem because…? You didn’t understand what she was trying to get at. What you’re doing was beneficial for both parties; both won’t have to deal with each other. The solution was right there. 

“Are you going to the market? I know I suggested to sell them”—she gestured at the molted shells—“but I didn’t mean now!” 

You stared blankly at her, then past her to look at the road. 

“The daemons will come out soon. I don’t want you to run into them, y’know? Can’t you wait until tomorrow morning when it’s safer?”

You saw a flash of purple in the darkening distance. It materialized into a silhouette of an Iron Giant.

“Sorry. I know I sound so pushy, but I’m so tired of seeing people die. I want to prevent that as much as I can. I thought I could start with you.” 

The Iron Giant raised its mighty sword upon birth and—as if to test its newly formed body—swung it around.

“So please, just stay for tonight…”

The Iron Giant was on the only available road to the closest market, clearly intending to roam around on that spot until sunlight disintegrated it. There were no other ways to sneak around it. How unfortunate. The realization made you so tired, even though you had just woken up not too long ago.

“Okay,” you said. Your voice was still hoarse. But better than before.

She blinked, then smiled gratefully. “Let’s go back for dinner,” she suggested, heading back towards the house. You paused, before quietly trailing behind her. Were you really doing this again?  

Stupid, stupid, stupid body.

“Monica’s making spaghetti,” Iris said, breaking the silence you were hoping that would stay silent. “You like spaghetti? I feel like I could eat it every week.”

“...” 

Spaghetti wasn’t the greatest thing. Meat was your preference.

“When I was on my way to get you, Monica told me she tried to stop you,” she added, slowing down to match your pace. “She said you ignored her?”

You nodded thoughtfully. Most likely you did. Your selective hearing was astute as ever.

“You’re really spacey, y’know?”

The night was now devoid of the brash oranges you saw earlier; inky blues now ruled the sky, speckled with stars and pale clouds.

“And... you’re not much of a talker,” Iris added hesitantly, glancing sideways at your figure. “You okay? You seem out of it.”

You absentmindedly shrugged. Just before she reached for the doorknob, she abruptly turned around and you were forced to stop at the stairs. “Hey, um, I never got your name…?”

You stared up. Why would she need it? There wasn’t really a point since you’ll be gone, but if she needed to address you for the time being, then…

“Fayri,” you said, unsure. It was just to get her to stop talking, but you realized it would have the opposite effect the moment her expression brightened.

“That’s such a pretty name!” she praised brightly. You mildly blanched at the loud peppiness her voice held. “Fayri, Fayri, Fayri.” She repeated your name, to your annoyance. “It sounds a lot like ‘fairy’. Oh, it’s an anagram, isn’t it?”

It’s just a name.

She either didn’t notice or paid no mind to your brooding as she opened the door, light spilling onto the two of you as the aroma of steaming tomatoes wafted to your nose. That smelled nice. 

“Mind if I called you Fay?”

A minuscule headache was forming. “Whatever.”



 

Eating spaghetti with the people you had planned to leave and never see again was very…? What’s the word. Strange.

(The plan backfired twice now?)

You could sense Monica and Dustin discreetly glancing at you every now and then as if they still had doubts about whether you were a threat or not. What could they do? Kill you? Talcott, on the other hand, slurped his spaghetti with the occasional wipe on his mouth with a napkin. He seemed to be doing a bit better now. Your ears were safe.

Iris met your eyes and spoke. She introduced your name to the rest of the group and said you liked spaghetti.

Spaghetti wasn’t the greatest thing. Meat was your preference.

“May I ask what brought you here, Miss Fayri?” Talcott suddenly asked. He was brimming with curiosity.

“I’ve been thinking about that myself,” Iris admitted. “What made you wanna come here?”

Their questions had you wondering how to phrase your answer. “...I wanted to get away.”

There was a round of silence.

“‘Get away’?” Monica repeated cautiously. “Is someone after you?”

From the corner of your eye, Talcott was clutching his napkin a little more than he should. Iris wasn’t smiling anymore, a worried expression crossing her features. 

You shook your head at Monica. “Away from people,” you finished. The stares you received made you look down at your meal. “For silence.”

“Cape Caen is a place of tranquility,” Dustin commented unnecessarily. 

Iris seemed embarrassed. “Is that why you tried to leave earlier?” 

You nodded curtly. “This was never my right to stay,” you said firmly. “I don’t belong here.”

There was another round of silence. Iris had a twinge of pity in her demeanor. Monica and Dustin exchanged glances. Their actions annoyed you.

Talcott spoke. “Then where do you belong?”

Your silence prompted him to keep going.

“Everyone belongs somewhere,” he continued eagerly, a sparkle gradually brightening in his eyes as he talked. “Because everyone came from somewhere. I’m not too sure about the details myself, but it was one of the things Grandfather taught me.”

“You’re strange,” you said, not unkindly, and the boy grinned shyly at your statement. “And where is your grandfather? You can ask him to explain better.”

Silence.

Talcott’s smile dimmed.

You picked up your fork.

Yes, you liked silence. It allowed you to hear many things when voices weren’t mumbling and screaming and crying and piercing your ears. It allowed you to fantasize about acceptable nonsense you conjured in your head, things you didn’t have to share, things that you can keep to yourself.

Yes, you thrived in natural silence, not silence of tension.

It was suddenly obvious that Talcott‘s grandfather passed away very, very recently. You’ve only opened the wound wider. It wasn’t your fault you didn’t know, but it was also your fault for not picking up the hints when he cried about his grandfather. Stupid social cues, stupid.

You twirled your fork to get the pasta tangled in its fangs, and brought it to your mouth.

Monica, you deduced, was a good chef. You wondered if there was someone better.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s morning. 

Four in the morning. 

Now it’s six in the morning. 

Six-thirty.

Seven?

Eight. The sky said so.

You don’t know if you slept at all. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. 

Wake up, get up, get out there. Take your things. Go downstairs. Is anyone there? Would the third time be the charm?

The Astrals said no.

“Morning, Fay!” Iris greeted cheerfully, nibbling on a piece of crunchy toast—your eyes flickered to the toaster next to her and when was a toaster here?—from the kitchen. “Ready to go?”

Go where?

“Go where?”

“The market, of course.”

Oh.

“...”

“Don’t tell me you forgot?”

“I didn’t,” you said tersely, clutching the shells. You hated forgetting the simple things, but you sometimes you did it anyway. “Stay.”

Iris wasn’t deterred. “Nuh-uh. I told you last night that I’m coming along with you in the morning and I don’t break my promises!”

The hand that was pushing the door stopped and curled its fingers in thought.

She… didn’t say that. Did she? Your mind skimmed to remember last night. You can’t recall. Did she ever make some promise? When? You can’t recall. You stopped paying attention to every spoken word after you brought up Talcott’s dead grandfather (which wasn’t completely your fault). Either way, you do remember the mood after that: uncomfortable. 

You turned to look at Iris, as in, really looked at her. You studied how her dark brown hair framed her youthful face and ended at the back of her neck. Both her short-sleeved hoodie and skirt were black and consisted of red patterns. Her various accessories donned her neck and wrists and waist and you couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be held down by loose weight. 

Yet, her appearance fitted her personality… somewhat. Iris wasn’t a bad person. You at least understood that she was trying to help you in the way she saw fit. You just didn’t know why. But what you did know was that you didn’t want her help. You didn’t need it. 

“Is there something on my face?” she challenged. 

Determination, you thought idly.

“Crumbs,” you said.

She frowned. “Huh?”

You tapped the corner of your mouth. 

She missed.

You shook your head.

She somehow missed again.

You slowly shook your head.

As she furiously rubbed her mouth, you slipped out of the house. But her quick padding footsteps followed soon after. They reminded you of Chikatrice chicks waddling after their Royaltrice mothers. 

“Hey!” she pouted indignantly. “We’re still going together!”

An invisible sigh. “Do your guardians know?” 

From what you could gather, Monica and Dustin were not parents of either Iris or Talcott, seeing as the children called them by their first names. There was also the fact that all four members looked nothing alike. But the boy called the adults ‘Aunt Monica’ and ‘Uncle Dustin’. You could only come to the conclusion that they were their guardians, if not related by blood.

Iris paused. “Well, yeah, since they’re the ones taking us.”

With dread sinking into your stomach, you faced the road. There was a black car. Monica was behind the wheel. Iris tugged at your wrist when you didn’t move. You let her, bewildered beyond comprehension.

“At first I thought, ‘there is no way Fay is walking to the nearest market when it’s miles away’, because who would do that? Then it hit me that you would because you’re so serious and if you had a car, we would’ve seen it already. So I asked Monica and Dustin if we could go to the market and they said yes! We’re running low on supplies anyway so it’s two birds with one stone.”

She talked a lot. That’s all you could think of right now.

When you were mentally present, you found yourself sitting in the middle of the backseat. Your eyes were suddenly darting everywhere. Black. Black. Black. Almost everything in the interior was black. Black leather seats, black radio, black steering wheel. Even the clothing of Monica and Iris were black. Dustin wore white. One of the few things of color was Talcott’s beige shorts and his red shirt. 

He was sitting on your left. Iris was sitting on your right. Dustin was sitting in the passenger seat.

Monica’s eyes peered into yours through the mirror. “Fayri, do you have everything you need? Iris told us you wanted to sell your materials.”

You snapped out of your stupor and nodded stiffly. 

“Then let us go.” Monica faced ahead and started the engine. The sudden noise had your ears shifting back uneasily, even more so when the car started to inch forward. Iris glanced at you.

“Hey, have you been in a car before?” she prodded tentatively. 

Your lips tightened. “Yes.”

Not really. Maybe. You don’t remember. Did it matter? 

“Then… are you gonna put your seatbelt on?”

Safety. Right. Hesitantly, you grabbed the seatbelt. It took a couple of clumsy tries before it noisily buckled in. You felt everyone’s curious stares.

Uncomfortable. More uncomfortable than last night's dinner.

“Miss Fayri, what kind of animal are those claws from?” Talcott pointed at the mentioned object in your arms. You glanced at him, silently grateful for the distraction. 

“Shieldshears,” you stated.

“Whoa, really?” he exclaimed in astonishment. “I saw them earlier and their claws don’t look anything like this! Yours are sparkling!”

“I cleaned them.”

“How come?”

“Better prices.”

The car was slowly picking up the pace. You hoped Talcott would continue his flurry of questions so you wouldn’t focus on the unsteady bumps. To your luck, his curiosity pulled through.

“How so?”

Words were spilling out of your mouth. “These can be... made into things like jewelry… or hairpins. If I sold them looking like the claws you saw, it’d take the workers longer to clean them. It would save time if they bought clean claws. Money is time.”

“I thought the quote was ‘time is money’.”

“Same meaning,” you grunted.

Talcott nodded, never taking his eyes off the claws. “I think I understand!”

You noticed his staring. “Want to hold one?”

“Oh, may I?”

You silently passed the smallest one onto his lap. The boy gently tapped it with his finger and marveled at the colors it emitted. “Oh!” he suddenly exclaimed. “Speaking of creatures, I love Cactuars! I wish I could get real close to one.”

You saw Iris wince.

“What’s your favorite animal?” Talcott asked.

Your mind drifted to the Behemoth in the Nebulawood. He was territorial like all Behemoths were, but it neared paranoia. You supposed it was because his eye was brutally taken out and left him with weak vision. Luckily, he was nice enough to let you sleep on his fur for coverage. And then he went on to get killed, the poor beast—

Hm. It was your grief talking again.

“Coeurls,” you said. 

 


 

You don’t remember when it happened, but you unintentionally separated from them. Not your fault.

Into the sea of strangers you go.

It was an outdoor market. Somewhere in somewhere, near… somewhere. You’re not sure. 

Where were you, exactly?

Whatever.

 


 

“So whatcha got for me?”

You lifted the cloth that preserved the claws from dust and dirt. The woman whistled in awe.

“Shieldshears?”

Nodding, you almost shoved them to her face. “How much.”

“Hang on, girlie, I gotta calculate first! It’s been a while since I’ve seen serious polishing like this. Gosh, I can easily cover the small cracks with a bit of powder… hm. The size ain’t much, but the color quality is really something else. Hm, okay. I’ll give you two-thousand and eight-hundred gil for those two claws. That alright?”

“Three-thousand.”

“Deal.”

You finally parted with the claws that had stuck with you for the past two weeks as the woman handed you the appropriate amount.

“Thank you!”

 


 

There was a vendor displaying raw meat.

Inside the glass cage, several strips hung from several strings and spun around several times in the soft light oh so slowly, teasing you with every side and curve of its slick flesh and fat. Red juices dripped down like sweat and plopped into a bloody pool.

Tantalizing, tantalizing, so very tantalizing.

You left, thumbing off a pearl of saliva that was starting to appear at the corner of your mouth.

 


 

There was a tug at your wrist.

“I, um, seem to have gotten separated from Aunt Monica and Uncle Dustin and Iris,” was what Talcott said in a small voice.

You heard him loud and clear. He was asking you to help him. You didn’t want to. Sighing, you studied your surroundings. Craft vendors everywhere. Food vendors next to them. Clothes next to that.

Too crowded. Too noisy. Too tiring. Too warm.

“Shade,” you said, abruptly heading to the nearest craft vendor. Talcott nearly stumbled since he was still holding onto you. His grip reminded you that you had to slow down. Once the two of you reached under the covers, he spoke.

“I was here earlier, looking at the little Cactuar figurines,” the boy admitted, letting go to point at the vendor next to you. “See?”

You stared at the wooden figurines that neatly displayed themselves on the open shelves. They came in a variety of colors. Red. Yellow. Blue, green, purple, more and more and more.

“I have a collection of Cactuars,” Talcott said brightly, “although I need the last one: the Mortar Cactuette. Actually, it’s right there!” He pointed at a particular figurine.

Your eyes narrowed in realization. He must have gotten distracted by this and strayed away from his guardians. And you were left to deal with this mess.

“This is why you’re not with them,” you stated tonelessly. “You wandered off.”

Talcott fidgeted, his head drooping down to take a sudden interest in the gravel, lips clamped tight and eyes quivering and no, Astrals do not let this boy cry again your ears cannot you hate you don’t why is this pleaseno—

You ended up buying the Mortar Cactuette with the money you just made. 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Iris, for some reason, was smiling.

You didn’t care at first. In the two days you’ve known her (which was… yesterday and today), she smiled at every possible moment. It seemed normal for her to do so. 

But for the past hour, those smiles have been directed towards you.

In your unspoken opinion, everyone should keep to themselves and mind their own. Of course, no one can help with bubbling curiosity since it was a natural reaction, but voluntarily acting upon it turned it into nosiness. Being nosy in trivial matters just asked for needless trouble. Naturally, you ignored Iris and her current fixation on you. 

But there was only so much you could do. There was only so much room in the back seat of the car. It didn’t help that you sat next to her again. It didn’t help that the ride back to the lighthouse was taking longer than it should. And it certainly didn’t help that the uneasiness was creeping back in from the unsteady road.

Speaking of, a slight stumble caused Talcott’s sleeping figure to lean onto you. His fingers curled around his new figurine in response.

You inwardly scowled.

The breaking point was when the car bumped over another bump. You gritted your teeth; while the headache wasn’t painful, it was outright annoying. What was wrong? Was it Monica’s driving? Was it the car? The road? You?

You. It’s definitely you.

“What...” you finally pushed out, feeling queasy, but you weren’t going to show it off to the world now .

“What?” Iris said innocently, like she didn’t know you were bothered. It really did seem like she didn’t know you were bothered. Fantastic.

“Why are you… smiling at me?”

Iris' eyes widened. “I didn’t realize!” she giggled. “Well, it’s because… oh, I’ll tell you later.”

You felt your already scrunched face scrunch another crease. “…”

She opened her mouth to say something else but it quickly dropped into a frown as she asked worriedly, “Are you feeling car sick?” 

“Am I…” you said slowly, momentarily closing your eyes, “sick of cars?” 

“Um, no, car sick. Like, are you feeling dizzy? You look pretty dizzy to me.”

Is that what this nausea was? It made sense, considering walking was your main way of transportation. This type of turbulence was something you weren’t used to.

“My apologies,” came Monica’s voice from the front. “I’ll try to reach our destination as quick as possible, though I’m afraid I cannot promise it.”

“Iris, open the windows,” Dustin suggested, turning back to peer at your slackening figure with concern. “Perhaps Fayri could use the fresh air.”

“Of course,” Iris agreed immediately. She pressed down on the button and you blearily watched the window lower down halfway, letting fresh air rush into the car. The adults do the same but leave Talcott’s side untouched. The air made you feel sleepy and ah… not again…

“Tired,” you accidentally mumbled.

“Take a nap,” Iris suggested gently. “I’ll wake you…”

Your head plopped onto her shoulder.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Growing up, your condition taught you how to suppress emotions that should have been vividly expressed as a little girl. 

No laughing. No crying. No screaming.

You grew up with a neutral and bland expression. Almost robotic, one might say. Someone probably has said it.

Of course, there was no such thing as a person devoid of emotions. You still felt joy. Felt sadness. Felt anger. But expressing them meant your body would most likely fall victim to your condition.

Those emotions gradually got duller and duller and duller as you got older and older and older. You don’t know why. Maybe it’s because you adapted too well? You don’t know. Those three primary emotions were so distant. If they were tangible, you might’ve pulled them back and hold them with an iron grip. They were something everyone had.

I know it’s hard, but it won’t trigger your condition, a family member had said. Who? Your mother? No, your father. Yes, your father had said that with such a sad face. Why was he sad? This body wasn’t decaying. It wasn’t life-threatening. It’s just… an annoyance. Hindrance. Life-obstacle. Maybe he felt pity. Anyone would feel pity.

A sudden memory emerged, and you found yourself as a young girl again, an elbow propped on a school desk as your eyes struggled to stay open. The clouds outside the window were pillows, so soft-looking… 

“Teacher!” a boy had cried. “Fayri is sleeping again!”

His voice was loud. Your eyes were closed. Your breathing was silent.

Inhale. Exhale.

“Fayri has a sickness. That means she needs a lot of naps to get better.”

The teacher could not have chosen her words more poorly. Explaining the concept of a sleeping disorder to young children had to be dumbed down. Dumbed down to the point where they thought that you had a disease and avoided you like you had an actual disease.

“I heard that if you touch her, you’ll be in a sleeping spell!”

“Huh. Maybe I will touch her! I want to be like the princess and have Prince Noctis wake me up with a kiss!”

“Well, now’s your chance! She’s sleeping.”

Giggles and gaggles. Pokes to your shoulders. You couldn’t swat them away. Your eyes were closed. Your breathing was silent.

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale.

Your eyes were still closed.

When you open them again, you’re staring at an old ceiling with the familiar scent of a salty breeze drifting through an open window.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Oh, good, you’re awake. You’re a heavy sleeper, y’know?”

Iris had walked in unannounced. You heard the footsteps beforehand, of course, but it would’ve been considerate for her to knock. Though, consideration wasn’t something you particularly cared about since consideration wasn’t something that was particularly something you particularly cared about.

Your mind was a mess.

Curled up on your side, you watched Iris from the dark depths of your blankets. She grabbed one of the few chairs lying around and dragged it to the foot of your bed, turning it around so her legs could hang on each side of the backrest. “I tried to wake you up when we got back,” she said, resting her chin, “but… you didn’t. So I carried you upstairs.”

You pulled the blankets down to the bridge of your nose to peer at her in curiosity.

“You carried me?” The rare incredulity was present in your voice, and even Iris lifted her head at the change of tone.

“Yeah? What about it?”

“From the car… to this bed.”

“Yeah…?”

“By yourself?”

“Well, Monica and Dustin were busy bringing in the new stuff we bought. We also ordered mattresses since we got more people coming over and…”

There was an image of the shorter girl lugging your still body out of the car, nudging the car door closed with her knee, or her leg, or her back, or with one arm while carrying you with the other. Did she carry you over her shoulder like a sack? Or bridal-style? Or maybe she dragged you across the dirt path. But you’re clean, no specks of dirt anywhere. She carried you across the dirt path, into the house, upstairs, and tucked you into bed. Neatly? Neatly.

That was strangely impressive.

“Thank you,” you said. 

Iris paused from talking about whatever she was talking about. “Uh, for what?”

You rotated away from her and returned to your dark depths.

“...You’re a heavy sleeper,” Iris repeated strangely. “I thought I was one, but meeting you proved me wrong. Are you gonna sleep again? I still have that thing I wanted to talk about.”

Stiffly, you sat up with some effort to lean against the wall and stared at nothing with sullen eyes. Iris took that as an affirmative to continue. 

“You know how Talcott got separated from us back at the market? Well, it was because he was looking for you.”

“Pointless,” you uttered.

Iris recoiled at the sudden brash look in your eyes. “Hey, you don’t have to be so mean about it. He was worried about you. And so were we.”

Worried. About. You.

“Pointless,” you uttered again.

She huffed. “You barely react to anything, but people worrying about you gets you angry?”

You didn’t answer, but not because you’re angry. You can’t—shouldn’t—be angry. 

You settled for irritation, because irritation is what you usually felt. 

“...I was smiling because you made Talcott happy. We haven’t seen him smile like that since his grandfather was killed and--”

Iris stilled. Your head tilted, irritation gone.

“Killed,” you stated with interest. 

“I-I shouldn’t have said that,” she stammered with wide eyes.

“Killed?” you repeated.

Iris relented with her head hung, her shoulders sagged with stress. “...Yeah,” she said softly. “About a few weeks ago by a general of the Imperial army.”

You felt like you should know what the Imperial army is because that sounded so familiar, but you don’t, and you don’t care, really. You’ll remember eventually. Maybe.

“For what?” Curiosity was suddenly getting the better of you. You should stop.

Iris stopped for you. “Now that,” she said firmly, “I can’t say.”

“Okay.” You nodded.

“Just like that?” She seemed surprised. Did she expect you to keep prodding? “You’re not going to keep asking?”

“No.”

And that was the end of that. At least, until the image of Talcott sleeping with his figurine flashed in your mind. 

Annoying.

Iris said he smiled… because of you? What did you do, exactly? All you did was prevent his needless crying by purchasing that figurine with… your money.

Stupid.

The tiny want for that Karlabos shell was getting a tiny bit bigger.

“He was... happy?” you asked.

Stop asking.

Iris perked up at the mention of the boy. “He really was,” she said, eyes softening. “You didn’t have to buy him that figurine. I’m so grateful. So are Monica and Dustin. Thank you so much.”

No.

You only did it because… why did you do it? For the sake of silence. Was it really for the sake of silence? For the sake of your sensitive ears? Or… you didn’t want to see him cry? Why didn’t you just leave him there? Why didn’t you just leave? You had so many opportunities to do so. You could leave now. You could leave now and go far away. You could leave now and go far away and forget about this. You could leave now and go far away and forget about this and you wouldn’t have to deal with this mess of flooding, confusing sensations—feelings?—these people were giving you—

Stop asking stop thinking just stop.

“Fay?” 

Your body instinctively jerked away from Iris’ outstretched hand before she could touch you.

“Are you okay?”

There’s worry in her eyes. You’re not sure if you like it. 

Your eyes darted to the window. You need fresh air. Opening it won’t do. You need out. The air by the coast will do. 

You flung the blankets to the side and practically rolled off the bed, your shoulder hitting the wooden floor with a loud thump. Iris gasped out your name and leapt out of her chair, but you scrambled up with a speed you haven’t used in so long, rushing out of the room that wasn’t yours, down the stairs that creaked, and out of the no longer abandoned house.

It’s a blur. Sharp wind tangled your hair. Thin branches scratched your cheeks. You blindly stumbled your way to a particular clearing, vaguely noticing the waves crashing up against the cliffs that sprayed a sloppy mist of saltwater into the air. It drizzled onto your face. It’s cool. It seeped into your parted lips. It’s salty. 

It’s relaxing.

You stood still in the clearing, tense shoulders lowering. But one of your legs buckled, followed by the other, and you’re left collapsed on your side. Your rushing heart eventually slowed to its normal pace, and you rolled onto your back so you’re facing the sky. You closed your eyes to listen to the Cygillan Sea.

All was calm. A shadow loomed over you, but you knew that it’s been here since the beginning.

You opened your eyes to stare at the Karlabos.

The Karlabos stared back.