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Crystal Chronicles Story Collection

Chapter Text

...He had the dream again.

Waking up, he was greeted with the faint traces of the dim early morning light poking through the glass of the window overlooking his bed. He allowed himself the small luxury of lying on his mattress for a few more seconds, unwelcome memories surfacing in his thoughts as he saw a few wisps of cloud floating above his head through the glass.

The dream was always the same, no matter how hard he tried to forget it. In the dream, he relived the moment when he buried his father.

It played on a constant, repeating wheel: the shock that had overcome him at the time, giving way to despair and grief with each motion of the shovel--the aches as his nine-year-old body suffered under its burden.

Reliving it every night, thinking upon it every day...it was almost more than Yuri could bear.

Refusing to let the tears that threatened to spill out constantly overwhelm him this morning as well, he rubbed hastily at his green eyes and sat upright so quickly that it appeared as if someone had literally started a fire under his bed...a joke his sister had often playfully teased him with in reference to his eagerness to begin the day when they were younger.

If he didn't get started right away, he would dwell too much on what happened...he would accomplish nothing.

...What would crying accomplish now, after all? Home was still horribly, horribly empty and silent around them--nothing was going to change the events of that night.

Letting his despair swallow him whole would do nothing but make the situation worse. He had to keep going, to stay strong. There was so much to do...

He glanced over at the figure occupying one of the other beds in the house. She stared straight forward with a blank gaze, her expression frozen in place.

At first, it had shocked him horribly when she didn't respond to his voice after that night...when she didn't blink her eyes or so much as turn her head slightly when he tried to move her. He still nearly cried thinking of how lifeless his sister Chelinka looked, how much like their father's lifeless eyes her own resembled despite her still breathing. Despite her presence there, how he knew she was still with him...her condition made living here seem all the more lonely to him in a way.

But he couldn't cry, he knew. Crying wouldn't help her, wouldn't solve anything. He had to be strong, for both of their sakes...for their father's, for Al's, and Meeth's too.

Yuri managed a small smile in the direction of his sister. Though he wasn't sure if she was even aware of his presence or not anymore, he always tried speaking to her: both because he wanted her to know that he hadn't given up on her and also because being able to hear his own voice, to have someone to talk to even if they weren't really "there" so to speak, helped to keep his mind grounded--to remind him of what he was still doing here.

"Good morning, Chelinka! Did you have any good dreams last night?"

Silence. Chelinka continued to stare straight at the wall in front of her with dull green eyes.

Suppressing the sob that always seemed to accompany this string of one-sided conversations no matter how often he continued to do them, Yuri's smile widened.

"I think it's going to be a really nice day today. Hopefully the sun will stay out for a little longer than it did yesterday."

More silence.

He stared down at his hands. They were already forming tough calluses and large blisters were still forming on the softer parts of his skin. He couldn't help but wince at a rather large one on the inside of his thumb...from the look of it, it would likely burst the second he gripped his sword handle.

At least he knew how to make bandages now, he thought wryly. He would wrap a medicated linen around all of his fingers before he did his training today in order to keep the odds of infection down.

Once he was gripping the sword in his hand, he wouldn't be stopping until he had to make the afternoon meal for his sister. Then he would go immediately back to training afterwards until dinner, and then he would continue to train until he would collapse exhausted into bed well past the time when the stars showed heavily in the sky.

That was his routine, the same one he'd been doing over and over with very little change every day since that night.

He wondered if a year had gone by yet or possibly two even...not sure of when he'd lost track of time in the repetition of his daily motions, beyond the fact that he was noticing himself and his sister starting to get a little older every so often. He was lucky that he'd been able to find some spare clothes their father had apparently kept in storage after getting a good deal on them in Rebena Te Ra at some point in case of any potential growth spurts the two of them might have.

Hopefully it wouldn't rain today. Gripping with bandages was a bit harder when the weather did that.

But first...but first today, he had to get Chelinka cleaned up and make sure she had a decent meal for breakfast. And he probably should cut some wood for the chimney and stove later on too--he thought they were getting a little low last night in their supply.

Then he would train again. In a strange way, he could just picture his mind becoming as sharpened as the blade he practiced with when he did so...focused only on his thoughts of improvement, of becoming stronger.

He would lose himself in those motions and thoughts for a time, and not feel as if his dreams and memories were threatening to swallow him whole.

He couldn’t help anyone if that happened...and he knew that the best thing he could do for Chelinka right now was to keep moving forward, to become stronger so that they wouldn't have to lose anyone close to them again.

Whether or not he’d be able to succeed was still up in the air, but it would not be because he didn't try.

"I'm going to get breakfast started, okay?" Yuri headed over to the pantry as he started to go through his daily morning routines, his eyes glancing over to his sword propped by the door as he did so.

"...There's a lot to do today."

Chapter Text

The dog stared up at Chelinka with tired, hungry eyes. The spark of life still flickered in their depths, but the ribs showing through its matted, muddy brown fur revealed how rough the animal had been living for quite awhile.

Unable to speak, the blond-haired girl smiled encouragingly and held her hands out...the dog approaching with a nervous sniff.

Her brother Yuri, along with Meeth and Al, were in a discussion with a Moogle shopkeeper right now...and she had wanted a breath of fresh air, so she'd slipped out so as to not disturb them. She had seen the dog huddled in an alleyway across the street and now was unsure of what to do.

"Here you go!"

A hand holding out scraps of what appeared to be raw, red strips of meat dangled over her shoulder.

The dog turned its attention from her hand to the proffered food. With more energy than she would have given it credit for initially, the dog reached out its neck and began inhaling the meat strips.

Careful not to touch his hand in the process, she turned to see Gnash, the Selkie "wild child" they'd met earlier, grinning broadly.

"He looking for food." He explained in his rough "wild" language, "That why I didn't go in store...wanted to get him some to eat."

The dog was done eating by the time he'd finished explaining, looking up again at the two hopefully.

Gnash gave him another strip to eat, "He lost family, wandered off...came back when things didn't go well." He was recalling his earlier conversation with the animal (he could talk to them, after all!), "He misses little Clavat boy with black hair. Maybe after he's done eating and group's done haggling...we go find his friend?"

The dog looked at her with large, imploring eyes-- more alive now that food was in him despite his haggard coat. Gnash waited patiently, a cheerful and expectant look in his orange-red eyes. They both had hopeful, eager airs about them as they waited on her answer.

Chelinka smiled. Her friend's kindness and perception never ceased to amaze her. She nodded, and she could tell from the knowing look in Gnash's eyes that the older boy had known she'd agreed.

A thought crossed her mind though, and as she bent down to reassuringly pet the lost dog on the head, she pointed to Gnash's hands...still covered in the red juices of his food gift for their newfound friend. She frowned slightly.

Gnash laughed, "Oh right! Here you wash hands after meat!"

He sped off after promising he'd be right back, the smile returning to Chelinka's face again. He caught on to what the mute girl was trying to say almost as easily as he conversed with animals...but living among people was something new that he still needed a little help with every now and again.

...Not that she minded too much though. As she scratched behind the dog's ears as they waited for the others to get out of the store and the Selkie boy to return so that they could reunite the dog with his young Clavat friend that he'd told Gnash about...she didn't think he minded if some nuances of "civilized" etiquette weren't readily on his new friend's mind either.

Chapter Text

The fire flickered in the peripheral of her vision: dancing flames and tongues of light that cast moving shadows over the sleeping forms of her companions.

The pot next to her, heated by its own separate fire she was currently feeding some twigs to bubbled slightly as the liquid inside rose to a boil. The ingredients she still need to cast into the pot lay on a neat pile atop a linen kerchief.

"Too smelly!" the Selkie wild child Gnash had said...thus why her workspace had been moved further from the campsite with a lot of varying degrees of complaints and vocal grumblings on her part in the process.

The forest around them was dark: though her sharp ears heard the faint sounds of wildlife coming closer. The night air was peaceful, and brought to mind her camping foraging trips for supplies outside of Villa.

...And that was one way to sour the mood quickly. Meeth tried to swallow the lump of grief that had found its way to the back of her throat at the memory of their old home that would never be the same again.

No point in dwelling on the past. Moving forward was the only thing for it.

"Making potions?"

Lost in her thoughts, she hadn't seen the figure moving from the main campsite to her own smaller fire.

Yuri, who in only what was a short time ago (yet a lifetime ago it seemed now, she corrected herself) had been a pesky silly boy who had loved to drive her nuts during lessons, sat down near the linen kerchief. He had a somber expression on his face...a far too serious expression for a youth his age.

"So many things have changed. While it seems far too quickly for me given what happened, I always forget that he had to bear the brunt of the hardship on his own."

...Though she never would admit it to anyone, Meeth wished to have the annoying, carefree Yuri back. The demeanor of someone forced to grow up far too soon didn't suit his inquisitive and adventurous spirit.

He had to bury his father on his own. He had to take care of his sister Chelinka by himself when she fell into a coma. Even now, Chelinka seemed changed too. She wondered how much of a shock it had been for him: how painful to see the absence of Chelinka's gentle, always present smile...of her comforting words and voice, all that time. A loneliness that was always present while Meeth and Al had been incapacitated.

"Latov, I'm truly sorry."

Both twins' strength was astounding for their ages and a part of Meeth, as one of their caretakers and tutors, was immensely proud. But that didn't change the heartache, the wish that things could have been different.

"...Getting breakfast ready, actually."

Yuri stared at her, the dumbfounded expression on his face quickly rousing her ire.

"What?!?" she puffed out her chest and her cheeks a little, her face tingeing red, "I can cook too, you know!"

"I know, but..." he looked squeamish, "Normally the stuff you put in there isn't for eating."

Narrowed eyes met his comment head on, "I cleaned it out quite thoroughly!" she said each syllable indignantly.

"Uh-huh." Deciding to change subjects, Yuri glanced at the items on the kerchief, "Those are the berries and nuts you picked up earlier."

"We're going to have berry and nut gruel. You can make it at night and just heat it up in the morning." she quickly dumped the contents into her pot, talking quickly to help sooth her annoyance. Talking in a tutorial-minded way helped ground her, no matter how people said it didn't 'suit' her, "I used to make it all the time when I went camping outside Vi--"

Her voice cut off just before she said the name of their former home. Concerned, she cast a quick glance over at Yuri.

The boy was staring at her as if he hadn't quite grasped yet why she’d stopped. Her expression gave it away though, realization dawning in his eyes at the guilty look in her own. Always sharp, that one...though she wouldn't be quick to admit it out loud. A downcast expression crossed his features, his mouth sagging downward.

"Oh."

Hastily, Meeth stirred the gruel concoction and put a cooking pot lid she'd brought with her over it: a few stirs after the last ingredients were in, then cover and let it heat until the fire died out. Then just reheat again in the morning before serving.

Unsure of what to say, but finding the heavy silence suffocating, she opened her mouth to speak.

"You know, you guys don't have to avoid talking about Villa for me or Chelinka's sake." Yuri beat her to it, staring into the sputtering flames under her alchemical-but-at-the-moment-cooking pot, "It's okay."

She frowned, the expression still looking 'cute' and 'childlike' with her Lilty features, "But..."

"There were lots of good memories there. You, me, Chelinka, Al..." he paused and choked down something (a sob, maybe?), "And Dad too. You guys shouldn't feel bad about that. It's nice to remember them sometimes even...even if it hurts a little still."

"Latov, Aleria...when did your son become so wise?"

Meeth said nothing, unsure of how to respond. She felt a burning sensation in her eyes and hastily wiped her sleeve over them to get rid of any evidence of tears threatening to spill.

Yuri was more mature now, more wise than he ought to be by all accounts. What he had just said he believed, even if it had been hard to speak...but he sat quietly now, staring at nothing and looking for all the world like a lost puppy who'd just been kicked.

...A child forced to grow up far too soon.

What was it he would do teasingly to her when he'd been younger? When the world to him was still smiles and warmth, and her lessons a bore with no practical value he could think of?

Smiling gently, Meeth reached out her hand and patted Yuri on the head. He was sitting down, so she was able to reach his mop of brown hair pretty well. It would have been comical with a lot of jumping if he'd been standing: even at his young age the Clavat boy towered over her.

Yuri brought his hand up to bat hers away, but stopped before the motion carried through, "Hey, quit it! Don't treat me like a kiddie!"

He used the same line she had always said back then.

Meeth smiled even more then and continued to pat his head in what she hoped was a comforting gesture despite feeling very silly doing so (she was very glad that no one else was up yet), "Me? Never."

...That had been his response to her demands then too.

Silence reigned in the campsite, but a small, nostalgic smile passed between the two of them. Yuri seemed a bit more cheerful, and that in turn lifted Meeth's spirits up a bit as well.

The two waited for the cooking fire to die down, the silence they were sitting in warm and comforting.

Chapter Text

Even before vision and thought returned to his conscious mind, his body was processing the sensation of falling. Wind whipped ice cold over his body, his jacket and thick clothing doing little to keep the chill out. He had no footing, clouds and blocky shapes of browns and greens kept coming towards him in a blur.

The shapes started taking form with every moment, his mind starting to process what his eyes were taking in...what the sensation of free-falling from such a height meant.

"I'm about ten seconds from becoming a smear on the ground."

The thought spurred him to action. The land was becoming more discernible: valleys, the remnants of a fence that wound its way through flat terrain...

Knowing he did not have the luxury of time on his side, he forced his arms as close together in the powerful air current as he could...the Crystal Shard on his cheek becoming warm as he focused its energy.

Amazing how many times his "curse" had saved his life. He probably would have smiled wryly at the thought in a more light-hearted situation.

His rapid descent began to slow noticeably, the gyro-kinetic field his powers emitted acting as an umbrella might: cushioning the air around him and slowing his fall. It wasn't a perfect solution and if he'd jumped through the air and had been conscious initially, he would have been able to slow himself a lot more...but beggars can't be choosers.

Right now, it was better than nothing and that's all he needed.

Instead of hitting the ground directly, his falling trajectory had him aimed at the roof of the only building for miles. The impact, while greatly muffled thanks to instinct and quick thinking, caused an aching shudder to rip up through his body. He grimaced, wondering how many bruises and aching bones he had.

...And just as he was about to collapse on his knees with the last of his awakened strength quickly ebbing away with his recent efforts--he heard the crack of rotten wood underneath him.

Before he could even register a curse in his thoughts or out loud, the roof gave out under his feet and he was falling once more.

The floor of the upstairs of the farmhouse proved even less sturdy. He felt splintered wood smacking his face and falling into his hair, the first floor of the house proving much the same until his body impacted harshly with the stone floor of a root cellar that had been long abandoned.

His body ached all over.

Tears threatened to spill from eyes that were very red and agitated by dust. He tasted the coppery flavor of warm blood on his tongue, felt it streaming down his face...felt it from the stinging cuts on his hands.

From his sprawled position on the floor, he turned to lay on his back...staring at the hole in the empty house his arrival had made, at the dust his arrival had stirred up as he lay in an ocean of debris.

...Was saving the world supposed to hurt this badly? This time, he did smile wryly at the thought: knowing that at least one person would perhaps find the situation funny once he recounted it to him.

Keiss always had a pretty interesting sense of humor in combination with his observational skills.

Grateful that the farmhouse seemed long abandoned by the Clavat family that would have undoubtedly once owned it as he wasn't in the mood to hear complaints about "dropping in" right now...Layle finally gave in to his body's urge for sleep. His eyes closing, the thought of Keiss must have been the last thing on his mind...his dreams turning into memories rather quickly.

***

The blade had come at his face rather quickly, Layle having to jump back to avoid a direct impact with his face. The monster behind him, a Bloomer, writhed in agony...its vitals pierced.

The second knife that followed the other's trajectory he simply deflected. The thin blade hung in the air in front of him, his hand out as the wall he’d built up did its trick. With a flick of his wrist, the knife clattered to the stony ground.

"You could have hit me." his tone was factual, not really accusatory or annoyed. He knew the only person who could throw knives in so quick a succession like that wouldn't have intended to hit him with them.

Offing your own partner was, generally speaking, a pretty bad business move. Even worse to do it to a friend.

Keiss waved his hand in the air as a means of an abstract apology, "Sorry, sorry...I knew you could dodge them though, Crystal Bearer." he smirked, the look very becoming and friendly in a way with his Selkie facial features, "You of all people I have that much faith in."

"Lucky me." he reached down and picked up the deflected knife, handing it to Keiss as he was wiping the blood from the other one, "So the target is close then?"

A nod, "Place is rumored to be cursed too...though that might just be because of all of the monsters running around." he gave him an appraising, shrewd look, "Figured you wouldn't mind too much."

A shrug, "Rumors don't bother me too much." Layle had to keep himself from instinctively touching the mark on his cheek as he said, "Besides...I'm used to curses. They're usually not as bad as people want to make them out to be."

Keiss nodded, looking pleased...almost as if he already expected that response (knowing him, he probably already did).

"...And you?" Layle started walking further through the forest.

The Selkie boy patted his shoulder amicably and flashed Layle a grin as he moved past him. The look in his eyes was warm, but one that Layle wasn't sure he could quite identify.

"Didn't I tell you before? I don’t believe in curses."

***

The cliff side giving way was not something he'd expected. All at once, the solid ground he had been standing on was disappearing in the span of a blink of an eye.

"Layle!"

The shout had come from in front of him, and a shock of orange-red tinged with blue came into his vision as he was forcibly pushed back onto solid ground. Keiss was standing in open air only inches past him.

"No!"

He wasn't sure which was stronger...the Crystal Bearer powers as he kept Keiss from falling into the chasm below, or the force of his own body as he gripped Keiss' arm and pulled him backwards. The two boys fell in a heap on the ground, Keiss on top of Layle due to how quick the pulling had occurred. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Layle registered that both of them seemed to be out of breath.

"You were...behind me." he finally managed to be able to say after a few quick sucking gasps of air into his over-exerted lungs.

"I saw the collapse starting. This terrain is pretty rough." Keiss always did seem to have incredibly fast reflexes (and that was coming from someone such as Layle who wasn't too bad in the department either--couldn't do his job well without them!), "It wouldn't really do to have a friend die on me, would it?"

He rolled over onto the ground next to Layle, neither boy noticed that Layle still had his death-grip on Keiss' arm as the two were trying to readjust and catch their breaths still.

"What about you?" Layle was surprised at the anger in his voice, the frustration that tinted his words, "Didn't you think I wouldn't want to have a friend die either?"

Keiss arched an eyebrow at the question, "Guess we're both in agreement then: it would officially suck for the both of us if the other died."

Despite the anger he'd felt earlier, the laughter that followed Keiss' statement was infectious and Layle couldn't help but follow along with the joke.

If someone had seen them, they would think they were both nuts: a Selkie boy and a Clavat boy laughing together loudly at some private joke no one else would probably get...one still holding onto the other subconsciously as if ready to drag them away from some unknown danger at any second.

***

Underneath the small waterway was a secret spot Layle liked to visit whenever he was in the area in order to collect his thoughts. It was nondescript and unremarkable: he doubted most people in the city even knew it existed. He had retreated there early this morning, and was staring at the clear water beneath him...his back leaning against the stone of the waterway on the narrow ledge protruding from under the bridge itself.

"Hey, Crystal Bearer."

He didn't need to look up to know that Keiss had followed him there. A piece of bread landed on his lap.

"Figured you might be hungry." The other boy sat down next to him, munching on bread of his own.

"Thanks." Layle didn't touch the food.

Keiss glanced over at him, but Layle knew that he wouldn't intrude on his thoughts unless he felt it was necessary to do so. The silence lingered, water lapping gently on the bridge and the ledge they were sitting on.

"...My birthday was a few days ago."

"Oh." Keiss finished his bread and looked sheepish, "Happy Birthday?"

"I don't celebrate it." Layle saved his friend further embarrassment, "I haven't in a long while."

"..."

"I just kind of wanted to think on things here. Don't worry, I haven't even told Cid or anyone else either."

"Did your family celebrate it with you before?" the question was asked quietly, and it hung in the air for a long while before Layle answered.

"When I was little. Before...things started happening with my powers."

"Ah."

The water continued to lap against the bridge.

Crystal Bearers were abominations: cursed beings that had no place in a world where magic was completely outlawed. Their very existence was an affront to the lives others had built. It didn't matter that they were often born with the Crystal Shards through no fault of their own. The Clavat were a peaceful tribe and often overlooked due to their rural leanings by others, but the emergence of his powers had still caused some ripples in the community.

He'd left there to make a name for himself, and also to spare his family some of the gossip and harsh looks that started filtering their way. He didn't look back or regretted that choice in the slightest given the circumstances, but sometimes it was nice to just get his thoughts in order. He started using his birthday as just such an occasion: an odd celebration for himself, as it were.

There was no point in dwelling on things, after all. That was something he had always full-heartedly believed in.

"Did you have a job then?" Layle finally asked, eating a small bite of his bread.

"Nothing that can't wait until tomorrow."

Layle looked at Keiss skeptically: given his determined nature and ambitious goals for himself, that comment seemed quite out of place for the Selkie.

His friend was looking at the water, "Want to do something fun instead?"

"...Maybe later." Layle yawned, feeling sleepy, "Right now I just kind of want to rest."

Silence returned and Layle started nodding off...feeling oddly numb. He really was tired. Unknowingly, his head drooped onto the other boy's shoulder.

"...Layle?"

"Hmm?"

It was probably good that he didn't get a chance to come here very often: he forgot how hypnotically relaxing the sound of the water could be when he was in an odd sort of pensive mood.

Keiss was staring straight ahead, his voice low but warm.

"Happy Birthday. I really mean it."

It was the last thing he heard before he drifted off to sleep, but the tiny smile on his lips was indication enough that he’d heard it. It wasn't until later on, after the two hit out for a night on the town under Keiss' treat (again, an odd move on his part)...that he was finally able to tell Keiss a proper and heartfelt "Thanks." of his own.

Keiss nodded, a matching smile on his face as he dragged Layle to a diner where he told his friend he could stuff his face to his heart's content...rolling his eyes when Layle made a sarcastic but jovial comment about how generous the other youth was being.

It didn't seem like his hand ever let up on its reassuring grip on the Clavat boy's arm the entire night.

***

The pain jostled Layle awake, and he found himself looking up at a star-filled, inky black sky. It had gotten very cold in the absence of daylight, and his breath appeared in a puff of mist over his face.

He wondered how long he'd been out of it, what had happened in his absence. Painstakingly and with a lot of effort against his protesting body, he slowly began to force himself to sit up and then to stand even slower. He wanted to know what had happened, he wanted to see everyone.

...And he felt like he needed to see one person in particular.

Getting back would probably be an adventure in and of itself given how he had no idea where he was now, Layle imagined. But he would be sure to fill him in on all the details once he saw him again--and he had a feeling Keiss would be eager to do the same as well: things had probably gotten fairly interesting after all of those recent events, he wagered. He imagined Keiss would smile slightly like he always did whenever the two of them met up, and he couldn't help but picture the shared laugh they'd have over what had occurred.

That thought helped to push him on.

Chapter Text

Meat and Apples

I love meat and apples! In forest, eating both together was big treat! Chelinka said I should make recipe...not so sure how to do, but here goes.

Ingredients

...Why do I need this part? Easy enough! You need meat and apples! Can find easy when living in forest, just need bow and arrows for meat...and just be good jumper and climber for apples. Don’t eat any meat or apples laying on ground, makes you sick.

Crowded places where party and friends go have lots of people and buildings where you can find meat and apples. Those are okay to eat even if you didn’t get them yourself. Moogles don’t like you just taking them though! Be sure to bring gil or friend who pay for them.

Method

Just eat meat and apples next! Yummy, right?

...Only, friends don’t seem to like eating meat just is. They been trying to make me cook anything I hunt before they eat. Seems like added step to me, when I catch something I hungry! But if you have friends like that...I learn some tricks from them they seem to like. Maybe will work for your friends too?

Make fire with sticks. Easy to do if you rub quickly enough. Once fire ready, poke meat through stick and place near fire. Should turn dark once it ready.

Cut apples go in pot over fire. Honey and cinnamon go over (but not too much--made Birdie Man gag once!). Stir with stick or spoon (bigger stick with round thing at end). Apples turn more dark too once ready, start smelling sweet.

Cut meat into small chunks (don’t let friend see you use sword he use in battle for this!), and put on top of apples. Serve in bowls.

Takes some getting used to, but it no taste bad--just different. More "sweet and savory," Yuri says. Friends won’t make faces when they try this way, which is good!

...I think getting to eat it like this with friends make it taste better now.