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After The Vacation Ends: Jessie Maye

Summary: Jessie Maye was going through a rough time. Her career was over. Her mistakes were taking their tolls. And her daughter wanted nothing to do with her. She wasn’t sure she could find happiness, but one man felt she deserved it more than anyone else.

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A Rabbit Among Wolves 34 – 35 

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Jaune wanted nothing more than to become a hero – and in a way he got his wish. One man’s criminal is another’s hero and the faunus of Remnant need a champion. Who better to take the mantle of leader of the White Fang? Not a faunus? Not a terrorist? No aura, training or leadership skills to speak of? Minor details. All hail supreme leader Jaune Arc. Long live the resistance!

Dauntless 102

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary:  Lelouch had been quite happy with his life. Sure they were living in obscurity, but he and Nunnally were safe. All of that changes however, when his identity is revealed and Lelouch is forced back into the fold of the Imperial family.

After The Vacation Ends: Jessie Maye [Huniepop One-Shot]

Summary: Jessie Maye was going through a rough time. Her career was over. Her mistakes were taking their tolls. And her daughter wanted nothing to do with her. She wasn’t sure she could find happiness, but one man felt she deserved it more than anyone else.

Jessie Maye stirred awake the moment she felt something trailing along her cheek. A soft, warm touch carrying a gentle pleasantry that spread throughout her head and nibbled at her mind. It coaxed a soft moan from her throat as she opened her heavy eyelids and peered up towards the source of her delight.

It was a young man, roughly a decade and a half younger than her if she had to guess. It wasn’t like she had asked his age, but she had always assumed he was about the same age as her daughter. He was a head taller than her, well-built, and just seemed to have a charm about him that she had missed.

Over the last two years, he had changed for the better. The first time she’d let him take her to bed, he had been charming in a cute way that gave the impression he hadn’t had much experience with women. Of course, learning he managed to bang her friends on their Friday Night bar crawl left some room to the imagination that he had more than that going on.

But now there was confidence just smoldering beneath the surface in everything he did.

“The plane’s landed. Time to disembark.”

“Is it now?” She pulled her head off his shoulder, a task she found far more herculean than she would ever admit before turning her gaze to the window where the slowly fading sun was casting its final rays over the airport. “I can’t believe I slept nearly the entire flight. Some company I turned out to be.”

A soft chuckle pulled her attention towards him once more. She saw his lips were curled into a slight grin even as he stared into her gaze with his stalwart, silver eyes. “To be fair, we did stay up pretty late the night before.”

“Well, you’re not wrong.” It was true that the two of them had a very late evening with Lola before the end of their vacation. But she also knew that wasn’t the only reason.

She had been sleeping later than usual or waking up tired at times. Some days she struggled just to get out of bed, unable to find the motivation. It was a far cry from when she felt ten years younger just two years ago.

Honestly, Lola wasn’t wrong when she said that she needed a vacation to get away from everything that was weighing her down before. She had felt more alive in the last few days than she had in a long time. She was sure that ninety-percent of that was due to him, and it might have been the reason why she’d taken him up on his offer when he invited her back to his place rather than heading back straight to Glenberry.

Seeing him again had been a blessing. But she was sure it was just a fleeting one, a brief break in the dark clouds that would be swallowed in a moment. All the same, if she clung to him then there was a chance he’d lose interest in her or see her as being too needy. She wasn’t fond of the idea of becoming that sort of woman either.

Jessie was pulled from thinking too deeply on the topic when she felt his hand settling on top of hers on the armrest between them. His touch was warm, accompanied by a slight tingle that seemed to sink beneath her skin. It was a pleasant enough feeling that it coaxed her lips into a smile and pushed back the dark thoughts as they disembarked the plane, retrieved their luggage, and caught a ride back to his place.

It was… a far cry from his old place in Glenberry. Sure, she hadn’t paid much attention given that night was a haze of sex and booze. But it was the kind of place you would expect for a young man living on his own.

Now he lived in a loft complex that was on the verge of luxury. It had a modern aesthetic to it with polished hardwood floors that ran from wall-to-wall, a kitchen island that was made of marble, adorned with stainless steel, and had an overhead rack for champagne, martini, and wine glasses.

“You’ve really moved up in the world, haven’t you?”

He smiled as he set his jacket on a rack by the door. “Yeah, the complex has just about everything. A Gym. An indoor pool. And then there’s the view from the balcony.”

“Not bad at all.” It sounded like a great place to live. She had to wonder what job he had to afford staying in a place like this, but she didn’t want to press the matter. “Mind if I have a smoke while I take in the view?”

“Go ahead.” He gestured over to the balcony door. It was a sliding glass one, right by the windows that faced the eastern side. “On the way over I ordered dinner from a decent restaurant, along with Mint Ice Cream and a Red Velvet Cake for dessert. It should be here in less than 10 minutes.”

Her favorite dessert. Jessie genuinely smiled as she walked past him, a sway in her hip. “You’re too good to me, baby. I’ll have to take especially good care of you tonight.”

Sashaying her way to the balcony door, she opened it up and felt the evening breeze on her skin. The sun was already behind the distant skyscrapers and the cloak of night was steadily draping the sky. Soon it would be an ebony blanket strewn with countless stars that glimmered like diamonds in the moonlight.

The flick of a lighter. A string of smoke wafting into the air. Then the familiar sensation of relief slowly spreading over her body as she took it into her lungs and let out a ring of smoke that slowly faded into the backdrop of the cityscape.

For a moment, Jessie just basked in the glow of things. She found comfort in the fact that she was here now, in a nice place with a decent guy. It was just like the island, an extension of the vacation only closer to home…

“Cough! Cough! Cough!”

But then reality reared its ugly head as she found herself coughing violently. Every breath clawed at her from the inside out, a scraping sensation running along the back of her lungs. It left her with one hand pressed against her chest while the other still held fast to the cigarette until it passed and left her panting for moments afterward.

“Damn it all…” She huffed before turning back to the window to look on the inside. She was relieved when she saw he wasn’t there. Maybe had gone to the bathroom or their food had arrived. “Why the hell did this have to happen now?”


Jessie had spent twenty years smoking without a problem. Through the good times and the bad times, a cigarette always brought her some measure of relief and comfort. Only when she was at her lowest did she learn the hard way that she emphysema after her coughing had gotten bad enough that her agent practically shoved her into a doctor’s office or else he wouldn’t get her another gig.

Now she didn’t have her work anymore. There had been too many shoots when they would have to stop so that she could catch her breath. The industry wasn’t so kind that they would accommodate her. Especially when she was steadily moving towards a demographic that was less profitable than before.

In the end, the agent had made it clear the only thing that she could do was quietly go sink into the background. Announce her retirement soon. That way she could leave her fans to remember her as she was, rather than let it get out her age and health were catching up to her.

The hell am I going to do now, she thought bitterly as she took another drag of her cigarette and stared out at the cityscape growing dotted with lights, a heavy weight pressing down on her heart. Getting another job wasn’t going to be easy since she had dropped out of High School. And spent the last twenty years in the industry.

Even if she went back to school that wouldn’t change much, since you had to disclose your background at nearly every possible place to get a job. She was damn sure that not a lot of people would be willing to hire someone who once banged a football team while dressed as a cheerleader. And she wasn’t sure she would find anything she really liked.

The doctor had been optimistic at least. He told her the case was mild enough that if she quit now then she could probably make it another twenty years. Maybe even longer if she ate well and exercised regularly. But Jessie had tried quitting before and it was a nightmare.

She shuddered, recalling the time she had tried to quit back when Tiffany had been in Middle School. That was probably when she first took an interest in medicine and tried to warn her off smoking and drinking. She wanted to make her daughter happy and if quitting was one way of doing it then she had been desperate to try—god knows she had tried.

It was Hell.

She faltered before she could make it a month, settling for trying to keep it a secret from Tiffany instead. But she was a smart girl and it was only a matter of time before she found out. Another nail in the coffin, even before the last one had been driven down and left her daughter wanting nothing to do with her.

Now what did she have left without her career or her daughter?

She still had her looks, but she imagined they wouldn’t last much longer. She had her home, but that was an empty nest. She had her memories, but she was afraid those would fade away as well with enough time.

If she had to walk into Hell again without anything waiting for her on the other side, was trying to go another twenty years like this worth it?

She blew out another string of smoke as the haunting thought lingered, leaving her wishing she had a drink until she heard the balcony door open and turned to see that he had returned from wherever he had been. And there were glasses in his hand, both of which had a lemon twist garnish on the edge. Her brow rose as he extended one towards her. “A Martini?”

“You wanted one, right?”

“It’s like you read my mind.” Her fingers delicately wrapped around the stem of the glass and brought the wide rim to her lips. Cold. Crisp. A hint of greenery gracing her tongue before sliding down her throat, like a stroll through a pine forest in the winter. “Mmhmm… that’s damn good. You made it yourself?”

He shrugged. “I took some correspondence courses on barkeeping in my free time. Figured might come in handy for dates.”

“Well, far be it from me to say otherwise.” She took another sip, basking in the taste before turning back to look towards the city. ”The view here really adds to the atmosphere of it.”

“Yeah, it does…” He took a step out onto the balcony and then rested against the rail, peering towards the same skyline. “But it really looks amazing during the winter, when the snow is coming down.”

Jessie took a moment to close her eyes, letting her mind paint a picture of just how lovely it would be. She could imagine just standing behind the chilled windows, nestled by the warmth of the heater as frost crept from the edges and coated the glass that was just clear enough to see as the silver and white flakes slowly drifted from the gray skies above. They would cover the steel and concrete, leaving it a blanket of white as far as the eyes could see.

It brought a smile to her face as she opened her eyes again. “It sounds beautiful. I’d love to see it for myself one of these days.”

“You could always spend the winter holidays here,” he offered.  “It’d give me a reason to deck the place out for Christmas.”

“Careful now. I might really take you up on the offer.” Her voice and tone were teasing, backed by a slight bump of her hip against his. “You wouldn’t want me to show up when you’ve got some adorable girl here, would you?”

His smile folded in a little at that, becoming just a little dourer. “You wouldn’t have to worry about that. Company tends to be scarce around that time of the year.”

I thought he was a little too young to be making that kind of face, Jessie thought to herself. She recognized that expression on his face. It was just a touch of loneliness, spending the one day of the year where everyone else was with their loved ones alone.

She was well-versed with that same feeling, especially these days. Her girlfriends all had other things going on around then, so the best they would do was drop by. It served as a balm for the loneliness, but that didn’t change the fact that her only constant companions throughout the holiday would be the two in her hands at the moment.

And, in his case, she supposed that casual relationships were just that—casual. Sticking around during the holidays would involve commitment, which would defeat the purpose. Not something most girls who weren’t serious would do if they had a social life.

That look doesn’t suit him at all. She knocked back the rest of her martini and set the glass on the railing before looking to him with an amorous glint in her eyes. “Well, I know Santa doesn’t deliver gifts to naughty boys, so I guess I’ll give you a present to unwrap on Christmas Eve.”

The message carried well enough. His dour smile turned to one more carnal, his mind clearly running through just what that would entail. “And just what kind of present would that be?”

“Maybe I’ll give you a sneak peek if you can convince me?” She ran a finger down his chest, adding to the playful tease. She had already decided to sleep with him on the way back unless he really did something to get under her skin. But you couldn’t blame a girl for trying to get going a little before the main event, could you? “What would you do with your present?”

Sure enough, he played into it by setting down his own drink and approaching her from behind. His chest was firm as she felt it against her back. His hands were careful as he cradled her while hovering just over the sweater dress she was adorned in. His breath was warm against her skin as he breathed close to her ear and whispered sweetly into it.

I’m thinking I would take it slow…” He trailed off into a kiss, planted firmly at the crook of her neck and shoulder as his finger glided up the knit sweater towards the swell of her shapely breasts. “Feeling beneath the wrapping to take in the shape of it as I made my way towards the ribbon.

The touch was soft over the fabric, but it sent electricity rushing throughout her body all the same. Temptation began to bubble up in her blood, a familiar and welcomed sensation to accompany the alcohol on her tongue and the smoke in her lungs. Then he reached the peaks and touched them in a way that left her back arching and a moan on the cusp of slipping out of her mouth…


…Then he stopped as his phone began to vibrate in his pants, muttering a swear under his breath as he pulled away. He pulled out the phone and then practically glared at the screen. A sigh followed as he gave her an apologetic look. “The food is here. I’ll have to run to the front desk to get it.”

Jessie felt the urge to tell him to forget the food and eat her there and now. But reason won out and she felt the familiar itch in her lungs. Better to send him off before she killed the mood even more. “We’ll pick up after dinner. Don’t keep me waiting too long, okay?”

He couldn’t have flown out the door faster.

Which is just as well, considering the coughing fit that followed. This time it felt like her lungs were trying to escape her throat, leaving her nearly to double over. The cigarette she had been holding onto slipped from her grasp and landed on the balcony ground. Jessie swore under her breath before bending down to reach for it…

Then she stood straight and settled for snuffing it out with her heels. She had enough for now to settle the craving. More would just make things worse and she’d be damned before she traded the real fun tonight for a few more puffs. She kicked the butt off the ledge, grabbed the glasses, and went back inside his loft.

Dinner was great. Dessert was even better. But the real treat came afterwards in the bedroom.

Ooooohh… baby, that was just…what I needed…

A satisfied tinge painted her words between heated breaths as Jessie just laid there, adrift in the postcoital bliss. Her body felt so light that she felt like she was floating. The smoldering embers from the fire he stoked inside of her still lingered beneath her skin, a pleasant warmth that ran from head-to-toe.

He laid there alongside her, taking deep and slow breaths that left his chest to rise and fall while staring up at the ceiling. “You’re amazing, Jessie.”

She giggled at that. “Honey, I was a professional. I’m more impressed that you managed to keep me going for so long compared to the island. I guess sharing you meant you couldn’t give me your full attention.”

Jessie wasn’t exaggerating either. Years ago, he had been a foal getting his legs underneath him. She had practically taken care of everything. Now he was a stallion and had shown how far he had come, which she was very grateful for it.

It had been a while since she went at it for that long without needing to catch her breath. He’d controlled the pace to match her perfectly, drawing it out while not pushing her too far too soon. She had a chance to take it slow and really savor it all. It felt almost like she was making love with someone rather than just banging them for the rush of it…

“I kind of had other things on my mind at the time,” he admitted, taking a deep breath before adjusting his posture on the bed. “…Have you thought about what you’ll do now that you’re not in porn anymore?”

The question put a damper on the elation she was feeling. “Sweetie, I really don’t want to think about that right now.”

“I’m just saying, you could be a coach or an agent or something.”

She sighed before sitting up, her good mood waning. “As interesting as that thought is, it’s typically not professional to fuck your clients even in the industry. I’m not sure I’d be able to stand watching younger girls getting to have all the fun on the set and then have to crank it out on my own.”

“Even if you had someone waiting back home more than willing to help there?”

She turned to him with a raised brow. “Are you offering?”

He leaned forward and looked her in the eyes. “Maybe I am.”

For a moment he sounded completely serious to her. She hadn’t clarified whether she was talking about a steadier relationship or even marriage. But it almost sounded like he would have settled for either and she was almost willing to believe it.


But Jessie knew better than to believe him. It wasn’t the first time she had been proposed to after they’d gone a few rounds in the sack. But once the high faded and they were in their right minds, it was clear they never really meant it. She’d tease them about it and just brush it off, not willing to even entertain the thought longer than it took for her next drink.

Besides, she had been burned once before she had gotten into the industry. Promises of a wedding coaxing her to keep spreading her legs, right up until the baby bump began to show. At this point, Misty Katz had become synonymous with Jessie Maye and any man who wanted to marry her would probably want the former rather than the latter—if there was a difference between them to begin with.

But… for a moment… just a moment… she allowed herself to just fantasize about it.

She imagined working in the industry from the other side. Helping nervous girls come out of their shells and learning to embrace their sexuality like with Lailani. Teaching them not to make the same mistakes that she had. Maybe even have them plan an exit strategy, so they wouldn’t end up like her.

Then she’d come home to find him there. A welcoming kiss leading to a quick release to burn all the sexual frustration away. Then they would talk and laugh and cuddle in the bliss of the moment. Maybe she could even end up raising another daughter who would love her. Having a whole family for once.

…It was painful for Jessie to open her eyes again and return to reality after picturing all of that.

All of a sudden, she felt a craving for a cigarette. She reached over to the nightstand next to the bed almost reflexively only to realize that she had left the pack in her pants. A scoff slipped out of her mouth and she moved to slip out of the sheets when he grabbed her wrist.

“I really am serious,” he said before she could pull away. “I’m in love with you, Jessie.”

“… You aren’t thinking straight,” she said slowly as conflicting feelings built up in her chest. He still sounded so serious that it hurt listening to him say that because she knew things couldn’t be that way. “I’ll catch a ride home and we’ll just pretend this never happened.”

“I know it might sound hard to believe considering everything but seeing you again after all these years… made me happy. Wasn’t it the same for you?”

Rather than give him the answer he was looking for, she instead resorted to asking him a simple question for which there was no good answer. “…Were you ever going to tell me that you slept with my daughter a few years back?”

His body tensed next to her for a moment, going rigid entirely. Then he looked away from her, not daring to meet her eyes. “…How long have you known?”

“For a while now,” she admitted. She didn’t know whether or not to be happy that he didn’t try to deny it. “Aiko, Beli, Lola… we get together every Friday and talk about things over drinks, so it was only a matter of time before your name came up. There weren’t any hard feelings since none of us were going for anything other than a casual fling back then. But it’s different for younger girls, you know?”

His expression went from guilty to slowly dawning horror as the dots connected. Then he asked the question that she knew was coming. “Am I the reason you and Tiffany aren’t talking to one another anymore?”

She closed her eyes so that she didn’t have to see the look on his face as she drove the knife in. “It was the last straw.”

It was around Christmas then. She wanted to connect with her daughter, knowing that she was getting ready to graduate and move out into the world beyond the dorms. But Aiko had told her that Tiffany’s grades were slipping, she seemed constantly distracted, and about the time she overheard her getting into an argument with one of her friends over a relationship.

Jessie only wanted to help, and men were her field of expertise in contrast to her daughter. Tiffany had strived to be everything she wasn’t, so it was natural she would struggle to cope with the idea that it had just been something casual or that a guy would have multiple partners. But the moment his name came up…

Her eyes opened to get away from the memory of how heartbroken her daughter had been. “She had struggled so hard to avoid being like me, only to find out that we had been with the same man. To her, it was as though the moment she let her guard down she was destined to make the same mistakes. That was why she severed ties between us for good.”

“…I only thought about getting laid at the time,” he admitted, letting her go. No, he didn’t let her go. His fingers simply lost their strength as he fell backwards until his back ended up against the headboard. “And after I succeeded once, I just…”

“Couldn’t stop?” she finished for him. “The pleasure. The thrill. You became addicted to it and could only think about having more and more of it.”

She understood how it was because her first time had been an awakening of sorts as well. She honestly couldn’t get enough, and it was no wonder she ended up conceiving her daughter. But the fact that the guy in question wanted nothing to do with her afterwards had only reaffirmed that sex didn’t make for a deeper relationship, and she couldn’t trust any partner to stick around when things got too heavy for them.

She had entered porn to pay her bills after giving birth to Tiffany, but she honestly loved her work for what it offered her. Pleasure, attention, all of it. The thought of enrapturing the eyes of men and women alike, all of them within her grasp, was just such a rush that it kept her going until now.

He buried his face into his hands, as good as admitting he was the same. “If I had known this would have happened, I wouldn’t have… You must hate me for that and here I am asking you to….”

She didn’t, surprisingly enough. He couldn’t have known they were family at the time. Even if he had, it had been casual and she had distinctly kept her daughter’s name out of it when they had been together. But she needed an excuse so that she didn’t have to tell him that she had felt happier these last few days than she had in a long time.

The moment she saw him back then on the island she honestly wondered if she should get involved with him again. She had accepted her role in how things went with her daughter and wanted to find a way to escape the pain. He was familiar and had a way of taking her mind off of everything, so she took him up on his offers for going on double dates.

She never really considered falling in love and finding someone to just stay with her as anything more than a dream. But as the nights went on, she felt she could overlook her pain and began to think that he really could be her Prince Charming, here to sweep her off her feet. That was why she was so tempted to give his promise a chance.

At the same time, she was terrified about getting serious with anyone because it would mean being vulnerable. If he broke her heart after she opened up to him, then even that pleasant dream would become just another painful memory. Her heart had betrayed her once already.

Walk away. The little voice in her head whispered, telling her it was safer to cling to just fleeting moments of passion while her body allowed her to.  She should just get dressed and get a ride home, leaving the whole thing behind her so she could continue as she was. He would be nothing more than another man walking out of her life, as he had been years ago.

…Yet, her legs refused to move. Could she really leave things like this? Could she leave him like this, full of regret that he had been the one to push her away? That he had torn away the fragile tether she had with her daughter?

In the end, Jessie couldn’t leave him like this. So she climbed back onto the bed and sat next to him against the headboard, setting a hand on his heated, sweat-slicked shoulder. “…Sweetie, if I hated you then the last few nights would not have happened. But asking me to get serious with you all of a sudden was a bit much. What brought it on?”

He lowered his hands, turning towards her. Even with her bare breasts on display, his gaze remained firmly on her eyes. “I was afraid if I didn’t make it clear I was interested… if I let you away, then it’d just end up like before.”


“That we’d eventually just lose contact with one another,” he clarified. “It was two years since the last time we spoke to one another. You didn’t call me even once after that first night.”

Jessie pulled back and crossed her arms. “I could say the same about you, sweetie. Phones work both ways.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “It was because you didn’t seem to be the type to want to get into a serious relationship back then. If I had called you, I was afraid I’d come out as desperate and you’d simply have laughed it off or saw me as being too clingy, so I settled for just hoping you’d remember me.”

She probably would have. He wasn’t anything too special back then. She also had her work, so she wouldn’t have gone out of her way to make time for him. If he kept showing up at the bar to hit on her then it really would have come off as desperate.

“…You been with a lot of girls since then,” Jessie mentioned, shifting the topic. “Even on the island. What made me so much different than them that’d you’d try asking me for a serious relationship now?”

“I won’t pretend I haven’t had a lot of sex with a lot of women since the last time we met,” he began. “Yet I was never really able to get that same feeling that I had the first time. No matter how many times I slept around, even with some women like you couldn’t believe, nothing quite matched. There was just something there that only returned when I was with you.”

“That’s just probably because it was your first time,” she reasoned. The experience didn’t really stand out to her, but it was a pleasant memory for him. “It was a big step for you, so you’d naturally have good memories and feelings tied into it.”

“I thought the same at first,” he admitted. “The moment I saw you again back there, it rekindled that feeling. I thought it was just sex, so I was more than eager to go out with you and have threesomes left and right. And each time it was like the first.”

“If that’s all then there’s no reason to—”

He shook his head slowly and set a hand on his chest. “But it didn’t end there. Every date, I found myself just happy to listen to you talk to the point that sex wasn’t even on my mind. When you smiled, it was like butterflies fluttering through my chest and left me floating. When I saw your pain and sorrow, I felt miserable and wanting nothing more than to help. Then there was the night before the last when you…”

As he trailed off, Jessie tried to recall then. To be honest, it felt like her head had been in a haze. She couldn’t quite recall what she had been doing, but it almost felt like she had been sleepwalking.

“I was worried that we wouldn’t see each other again once I left the island,” he continued. “That terrified me because I thought you might disappear from my life again. And since you told me about how much your life had changed….”

“You figured it was the time to act,” she finished for him. Over the course of their last few dates, she had confessed how in the past she wanted someone to sweep her off of her feet. That was probably why he had gained the courage to act now.

He looked away from her. “I only thought that I wanted to be there for you, without any clue that the reason you and Tiffany broke apart was because of me.”

Jessie’s expression softened as her own guilt weighed on her heart. He was the last straw, but her daughter had completely severed ties with her because of how she had lived until now. There was no way to make the past disappear and she could only accept that as she went forward.

But when she was with him on the island, she felt so happy. And when she looked back at all those sarcastic comments he made, like traveling the world looking for her and spending every waking moment thinking about her smile, it seemed like he was trying to drop hints.  He had even admitted to having fallen in love with her, but she had simply thought he was playing around so she had never given it any serious consideration.

“I suppose I can’t blame you then,” she settled on, getting comfortable next to him and laying her head on his broad shoulders. “You even admitted you’d marry the right woman regardless of an age gap right in front of me, and I just said I hoped you’d find her. That must’ve hurt so much.”

“It was what made me decide to do all of this…” He let loose a shuddering breath. “I’m sorry for acting like that without knowing anything. I’ll make things right with your daughter. I promise.”

“Oh baby, that ship has sailed.” It hurt for her to admit that much, but it was true. “Anything we can do to connect to her would just make things worse. All I can do now is have hope that one day she’ll look back and reach out to me.”

“But she was part of your world,” he said softly, reaching up to touch her shoulder. It was a gentle touch, soft as it glided down her arm to her elbow. Comforting. “There has to be something I can do. Just tell me and I’ll do it.”

A slight hum bubbled up in her throat at that as the whisper in her head came back. She swallowed her own fear and reservations so that the words they kept chained down could float to the surface. “…Then could you promise to love me for who I am?

She was a woman who had been with more than a hundred men over her career of twenty years. Her body might have looked good on the outside, but she was already facing an uphill battle on the inside. Not to mention everything she had done was out there in the open, where anyone could find it. Her stint to the island had proven that with that girl having practically worshipped the ground she walked on, and she knew that it would never go away.

“There will always be people who know me as Misty Katz, even if they don’t say it out loud,” she said, giving voice to her fears. “I’ve been with more men than I can count, and I’m not as young as I used to be. Even then, could you really be happy with someone like me when you’ve got your whole future ahead of you?”

Just asking him that much was causing her heart to race. Not out of anticipation, but out of fear that by putting herself out there again she’d end up being betrayed. He may be in love with her now, but who was to say that he wouldn’t get bored with her until he left her behind as well. If that happened again, she would never recover…

“I know all of that, and I’ve never been more in love with you,” he confessed, staring into her eyes. “I love you for who you are, Jessie.”

…Forgive me, Tiffany. Jessie felt her heart quiver in her chest and tears escaped the corner of her eyes, as though everything that was being held back came rushing forward. I don’t know if I deserve anything good in my life for not being the best mother to you, and I don’t think anything will fill in the hole you’ve left behind. But…

“You’d better not break your word,” she warned him. “I swear I’ll never forgive you if you do.”

“I promise,” he murmured, placing his hand beneath her chin and raising it up so they were eye-level with one another. “I’ll love you until the day I die, Jessie Maye.”

She was drawn to his lips, pressing hers against them in a kiss. The fears, the sorrow, the sadness, all of it seemed to just be blown away at that moment. Her heart felt like it had wings and hope flickered within her chest anew. Her Prince Charming was with her here and now, a dream coming true.

But I’m going to try to find happiness with him. Jessie silently finished as she fell into one kiss after another. Whatever the future holds, I want to believe that I can with him in my life.


[-His Apartment Months Later-]


It really is a beautiful sight. Jessie couldn’t help but think as she watched snow fall from the skies and slowly painted the darkness outside with a veil of white. It wasn’t quite so cold that frost had built up on the edges of the glass, but it was still a breathtaking view that added to the spirit of the holidays.

It had been months since that night. Months since she had decided to entrust her heart to the man who’d stolen it, despite being more than a decade younger than her. And she hadn’t regretted it.

He’d been a bright spot in her life, a beacon of hope. He always seemed to know just what to say to pull her up when she felt down. And, because of that, she found the courage to start moving ahead.

Her career as a pornstar might have been over, but Misty Katz now lived on as a coach for girls just entering the industry. She had been working for twenty years, so she was fairly knowledgeable about the latest trends in the industry along with the needs of the girls. And she had a few connections to pull on if need be.

Of course, since she didn’t have sex practically every day, she needed to workout more to keep her weight down. Beli was helpful there. Her classes were easy enough, helped keep her flexible, and were good for exercise. And she was cutting back on smoking and drinking—stopping outright was still beyond her, but she was getting a better handle on it bit-by-bit.

I hope you’re doing well, Tiffany. Her thoughts turned to her daughter once more. She had sent a letter as a birthday gift to her a while ago thanks to Aiko getting her current address from the college’s record. In the letter, she had poured her heart into it and told her of the changes in her life, from her new career to her new love, and expressed that she wanted Tiffany to be a part of it.

But if she chose not to, Jessie would understand. All she could do was wish her well in her future as a nurse, telling her that she would always love her and reminding her that there was always a place in her heart—no matter how Tiffany felt, they were family.

“Now then, I suppose I should get ready to give him his present when he gets back,” Jessie mused as she turned her attention to a gift that she had gotten from Lola. Her business was taking off, so the two did not see each other as often they would have liked. But she had taken the time out of her busy schedule to make what was probably one of the most seductive outfits she had seen.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

However, before she could get started changing, there was a knock on the door. He did mention that he was having a gift for her delivered that was likely coming while he was out. So she sauntered over to the door and cracked it open…

Only for her world to sudden shake as she came face-to-face with her beloved treasure. “Tiffany…?”

Tiffany looked off to the side, trying not to meet her gaze. She was dressed in a beige coat and checkered scarf still that were still covered in melting snow. Her hair had been woven into two long braids while adorning her head were a pair of earmuffs.

…Hi, Mom.” Her voice was soft, just above a whisper as though she was uncertain about her words for a moment. But then she cleared her throat and held up a gloved hand to show the envelope that was addressed to her. “I got your letter.”

Happiness. Confusion. Elation. So many emotions swirled together in Jessie’s chest that she struggled to put words to what she was feeling at the moment. So she settled for just lunging forward and embracing her in a crushing hug, rocking back and forth while just taking in the fact that her daughter was here now. “Baby, you’re here! How? Why?”

“Mom, let go of me.” There was more than a hint of annoyance in her voice, but Jessie could see that her cheeks were rose-colored as she broke the hug. “Like I said, I got your letter. Since I still had his number, we… talked and he managed to convince me to stop by.”

“He did?” Jessie looked around the corners, but she didn’t spot him.

“He promised to wait outside until I came back,” Tiffany explained. “I’m still not ready to see you two together, you know?”

That’s… to be expected, she thought to herself before sighing. “Baby, I know how it probably looks with me being here. But everything I put in that letter was true.”

“Mom… I…. I tried so many times to get you to change, but nothing I said reached you. You always seemed to either be drinking, smoking, or getting it on with some random guy. It’s not easy to accept having someone like that as a mother.”

“I know, baby,” Jessie said. “I wanted to change, believe me. It was so hard before. It still is now.”

“Yet, he managed to do what I couldn’t,” Tiffany pointed out. “It bothered me until I really sat down to think about it for a few days and understood that I couldn’t accept the flaws you had. I always wanted you to be… the perfect mother, I guess. And, because of that, I didn’t give you as fair of a shake as I probably should have.”

“And now?” Jessie asked, hope in her tone that they could finally connect.

Tiffany only shook her head. “Not yet. To be honest, I’m still not really sure how to process all of this. Kyanna helped me understand how difficult it is for a single mother, but it’s not easy to just forget everything. And while I’ve gotten better about it, that guy is still a sore spot.”

“That’s fair,” Jessie said. “It’d be too much to ask that you let those things go right now. But someday, I’d like for us to really be together again.”

“Someday, maybe,” Tiffany agreed before she pulled a small envelope out of her other pocket. “It’s a card with my new number, address, and email. It’s not much, but—”

“It’s the best gift in the world,” Jessie told her, taking the envelope gingerly. It was light and probably just a gift card from a dollar store, but to her it was the most precious thing in the world. Because it represented the very thing she wanted the most in the world—a chance to connect with her daughter.

“Just don’t go back to how you used to be,” Tiffany said before she spun on her boots and made for the elevator. “Anyway, I better get going before your boyfriend ends up freezing to death out there. Merry Christmas, Mom.”

Jessie watched her go, fighting against the urge to reach out and pull her in. As much as she wanted to spend more time with her, she knew that forcing her to try to stay would only sever the new connection they had reestablished.  Even if it was fragile and possibly fleeting, it was still a chance she wasn’t eager to let go to waste.

That didn’t apply to her boyfriend. The moment he popped back up on the floor, she pounced on him with a kiss that stole his breath. Then she dragged him back inside to give him his Christmas present early.

Her future was finally looking bright.


Ending Notes:

This was longer than it had any right to be, but as a side-project it wasn’t bad. Huniepop has surprising depth with some of the characters when you think about it. Even little details like how Jessie’s token preferences changed align with her character development. I only regret that at the end we ultimately did nothing to help her.

Fanfic Recommendation 100

My Fanfics

Busi Goes Blue (or HTBABIE): Spell 5- Faze

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?

Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated

The Beast of Beacon 23 – 24

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Blake had fled, making it clear she couldn’t trust him to change. She thought him inhuman, lost, a beast. He was going to prove her wrong. Getting into Beacon was hard enough, but fitting in would be harder still. All those… humans. Will a man fuelled by hate truly be able to let go and move on; or is suffering the only thing Adam Taurus can ever bring to those around him?

A Rabbit Among Wolves 31 – 32 

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Jaune wanted nothing more than to become a hero – and in a way he got his wish. One man’s criminal is another’s hero and the faunus of Remnant need a champion. Who better to take the mantle of leader of the White Fang? Not a faunus? Not a terrorist? No aura, training or leadership skills to speak of? Minor details. All hail supreme leader Jaune Arc. Long live the resistance!

With Friends Like These 9

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Sequel to My Own Worst Enemy. On all of Remnant, Atlas—the pinnacle of law and order, and the kingdom he committed an open act of war against—is the place Roman least wants to go. So of course, it’s where Ozpin decides they have to go.

Content Warning for M/M.

Dauntless 99 – 101

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary:  Lelouch had been quite happy with his life. Sure they were living in obscurity, but he and Nunnally were safe. All of that changes however, when his identity is revealed and Lelouch is forced back into the fold of the Imperial family.

A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.

A Future Tied by Fates 48

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”

Busi Goes Blue (or How to be a Blue Mage in Eorzea) – Spell 5: Faze [FFXIV Fanfic]

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?




Many practitioners of our cerulean arts are wont to favor the more destructive spells. However, one must remember that the Whalaqee discovered Blue Magic to survive first and foremost. Because of this, there is inherent compatibility in other techniques that were derived to do the same without wanton destruction left in its wake. One such example would be the technique developed by the Qiqirn: Faze.

The members of this small-statured Spoken race lack the inherent technological prowess of Goblins and the raw strength of others, thus leaving them at the mercies of many predators. To survive they developed a technique that condenses aether into their palms and creates a shockwave that sends it rushing through an area in front of them. The sudden rush of aether causes an imbalance with the aether flowing through the aetheric channels and causes leaves the body and mind stunned for a bit—buying just enough time for them to squirrel away to safety.

Now, while Qiqirn can be found around Eorzea, those who would have it impressed upon their aether are those who would more frequently utilize the technique. That leaves those that would settle into a merchant trade a poor, and possibly unlawful, source of learning. Though, there are roaming bands of lawless Qiqirn known to frequent Thanalan and have a taste for flesh…




“It’s good to be back home!”

The nascent blue mage stretched beneath the bright sun casting its rays over the glory of the city-state as he passed through the Gate of Nald. He was surprised how much he missed the dusty, sun-kissed breeze. Limsa Lominsa might have been neighboring a beautiful sea, but the desert jewel that was Ul’dah was his home.

As he strode up the sett-paved roads and around the bustling streets, Cocobusi came to a stop beneath the lamppost on the left corner and just stared at the structure that laid before him. It was one of the finest, affordable establishments for Adventurers within Ul’dah: The Quicksand.

The towering structure had at its front a babbling fountain spouting crystalline water. Folks of all ilk and races moved about, chatting while clad in arms and armor both foreign and native. To accommodate them and make travel easier there was an Aethernet Shard just outside of the establishment, a Chocobokeep right across from it should they need to travel out of the city, and he knew the Aetheryte Plaza was further to the right.

The nascent blue mage crossed the street once a Chocobo passed him by, climbing up the flight of stairs. He made it to the massive set of double-doors and moved to push one in when it opened of its own accord. What greeted him was the glare of the sun, reflecting off a massive female Roe clad in plate armor as she stepped from the shade of the building and into the Ul’dahn sun.

It left him seeing spots, eyes stinging as the woman stepped around him. He stumbled inwards before the door could close, rubbing his eyes with one hand while he reached out for the wall with his other… only to bump into something relatively softer than stone.

“Watch where you’re walking.”

He quickly recoiled as he forced his eyes open, looking upwards towards the source of the voice. It was a Wildwood Elezan woman dressed in linen robes that felt different than usual. There was a brimmed hat perched atop her head, marked with an unfamiliar emblem, while her eyes peered down at him with her lips pulled back in a frown and her arms were crossed. Judging from the ring bands adorning her hands that were affixed with an Eye of Wind in each of them, and the well-used wand on her back, she was a seasoned Conjurer.

“I’m so sorry,” Cocobusi apologized hastily as he looked to the ground, where he could just make out her shoes that were weathered from travel and trade. “The sun caught my eyes, and I couldn’t see where I was going.”

“…Well, no harm done, I suppose.” She lowered her hands and turned her attention back to the board in front of her. “If you’re looking for Leves, the only ones left are slim pickings. You have to be here earlier to get any of the good ones.”

“Oh no. I’m not registered here yet, so I was going to introduce myself to the head of the Adventurer’s Guild.”

“If that’s the case, then go speak with Mistress Momodi.” She pointed a slender finger over towards the counter, where a red-haired, red-eyed woman in a woolen bilaud was amicably chatting with another person.

Cocobusi thanked her before he made his way over and politely waited for her to finish.

“Thanks for being patient dear,” she told him. “I saw you talkin’ to Elviane just now before she pointed you my way. Is there somethin’ I can help you with?”

“Yes. I’m a native to Ul’dah but, on a trip I just came back from, I registered to be an adventurer in Limsa Lominsa. I wanted to place myself on the registry here as well.”

“Then just sign your name here for me.” She pulled out a pen and a registration form for him to sign. When he did so she quirked her head. “Cocobusi Lolobusi … any relation to the boys who run the Thaumaturge guild?”

He nodded. “Those are my brothers. Oh, but don’t tell them. I don’t want them to know I’ve registered to become an Adventurer yet since I want to surprise them.”

“Well, you’re entitled to your privacy unless they come through certain channels, so I won’t say anythin’ unless they come to me that way. That being said…” Mistress Momodi cast her gaze over his sheet—specifically his Job Class. “I don’t think they’ll fancy you copyin’ that new performer by claiming to be a Blue Mage.”

He tilted his head in confusion. “Umm, I don’t quite understand.”

“Oh, right. You said you just returned from Limsa Lominsa, so you probably don’t know about the new guy that has been making waves over at the Celestium. Calls himself the Great Azuro and participates in somethin’ called the Masked Carnivale. See?”

She pointed to a poster that was set on the pillar next to them, separating the tavern counter from the inn-registry. Sure enough, the image on display was that of a man dressed in a regal blue outfit that was adorned magnificently with a cape that fluttered in the wind. In his hand was a different sort of cane that held a white wolf’s head. Opposite him was a depiction of several monsters that he was poised to face against with his cane in one hand and his other arm out in front of him.

Hmm… I think that might be the one who gave my Job Crystal,” Cocobusi said. He couldn’t be completely sure with the mask covering his face, but the goatee and mustache gave him the impression it was. Plus, who else would be better known as a master of Blue Magic than the one who brought it over. “You say this gentleman is at the Celestium?”

“He’s been puttin’ on shows a lot and they tend to be sold out fairly quickly, but I hear he’s seen around the Steps of Thal afterwards. That’ll probably be the best place to run into him.”

“I’ll head there next then. I owe him my thanks for what he’s done for me.”

“Don’t be in such a rush that you go forgettin’ to attune to the Aetheryte and the rest of the Aethernet Shards,” she reminded him. “That way even if you miss him, you’ll be able to just port over to the Miner’s Guild or Weaver’s Guild and head right out another day.”

It was sound advice. He gave her a courteous bow in gratitude. “Thank you for all your help, Ma’am.”

She returned the gesture with a wave and smile. “Anytime. Take care now.”

Then he made his way out of the Quicksand, stopping at the Aetheryte Plaza first in order to properly attune to it. The beating pulse of it felt different than the one that he felt from Limsa Lominsa. Enough that he could feel the difference deep down inside of him as his aether matched its rhythm until he felt the pull.

Once he finished attuning, he took the path towards the Steps of Thal and ventured out into the plaza leading to the Milvaneth Sacrarium. The temple was still undergoing repairs, so few visited the locale. Yet beneath its fountain there sat the two Mamool Ja talking to the very same figure that he saw on the poster with his shoulders hanging low and slouching.

“—I tell you the stuff’s not easy or cheap to come by,” the man finished whatever he was saying with a sigh before one of the beastmen took notice of the approaching figure and pointed in his direction. His head whipped around and, upon noticing Cocobusi approaching, he quickly straightened his back and turned to face him with a practiced smile. “Afternoon there.”

“Oh good, it is you,” Cocobusi said, elation in his voice. “I was hoping to run into you again, Mister Martyn.”

“Err… Have we met?”

“We met back in Limsa Lominsa a short while ago,” Cocobusi reminded him. “I was one of the people that who you sold a Soul Crystal to.”

“Look, if it’s a refund you’re wanting then I should point out that not being satisfied with your purchase—”

“Why wouldn’t I be satisfied?” interjected the neophyte Blue Mage as he pulled out his Soul Crystal. “Thanks to this I can use magic now when I couldn’t before. I wanted to thank you personally, but you disappeared before I could.”

“Uh… congratulations?” The man paused for a moment with a befuddled expression, as if taking a moment to process that. “So, you actually managed to get a few spells under your belt then?”

Cocobusi nodded. Then he looked back and forth between the beastmen, slightly craning his head. “Wait… weren’t these two the Mamool Ja that tried to attack us before?”

“Oh, uh… these two?” He fumbled over his words for a moment before he cleared his throat. “You see, after that display of my majestic cerulean arts, they decided to repent their ways and entered into my service. But never mind them—why don’t you let me see your Soul Crystal so I can see what it is that you managed to learn?”

He handed over the precious gem that had become a prized treasure to him. “I managed to learn Blood Drain from a Cave Bat in the Blind Iron Mines. After that, I learned Sticky Tongue from Cane Toads and Bomb Toss from some Goblins. And before I left La Noscea I felt the Soul Crystal resonant when a Killer Wespe died, but I haven’t tried using Final Sting yet.”

“Best you don’t go practicing with that last one,” Martyn advised as he did something to the crystal, leaving it alight with aether. “Even at the best of times, that one will put an experienced Whalaqee out of commission for weeks from the strain of it. Still, that’s not half-bad for such a short time.”

“Should Gaheel Ja give Totem to small one then?” asked one of the beastmen.

“A Totem?”

Martyn explained as he handed back the Soul Crystal. “Wooden effigies that have aether from creatures from the New World. They contain spells that you won’t be able to get here under normal circumstances, making them even more unique.”

“Oh, can I get one?”

Hmm…” He rubbed his chin. “We’ve only got a select few of them, but given you’re pretty dedicated I might be convinced you’re worthy enough. You’re an active Adventurer, aren’t you?”

“I only signed up to become one recently,” he admitted. “I’m an Alchemist by normal trade. Part of the Guild here, in fact.”

His brows rose at that. “An Alchemist as well, you say. Well then, I think we might be able to—”

“Nice to see you’re making time for your fans,” a third voice interjected. It drew their eyes towards the eastern entrance of the plaza where Hyuran woman was approaching. “But mind spending a few talking with your boss?”

“Ah, sure thing,” Martyn said, before looking over to the neophyte Blue Mage. “Tell you what, meet me at an eating establishment called The Coffer & Coffin tonight out in Central Thanalan. We’ll talk about getting you a totem there.”

Cocobusi nodded his head enthusiastically at the prospect. “Certainly, I’ll be there!”

That said, he left the master of the cerulean arts to speak with the woman and made his way back throughout the city. He had his evening planned out, but he still needed to attend to the matter of visiting his brothers. It had been so long since he had seen them and there was a lot that he wanted to tell them, like the fact that he could use magic now.

He made his way to the gates of the Arrzaneth Ossuary, the temple that extolled the worship of Thal. Those who traversed the hallowed halls often fell into two groups: those who came to pray that the weight of their wealth in the world beyond would be greater than in the world of the living. Or those who had amassed great amounts of wealth and wanted their funerary rites to be worthy of Thal to tip the scales in their favor.

It was also home to the Thaumaturge’s guild, as their art was born from funerary rites.

No sooner than the doors open did he hear, “Leave these grounds immediately!

The heated demand left him to jump as a Hyur hurriedly fled, nearly kicking the Lalafell if not for him getting out of the way at the last minute. He then turned his gaze inwards to see Yayke Yake, the guild’s receptionist. The woman had a furrowed expression as the man fled from the halls, only for her visage to visibly soften when she spotted Cocobusi approaching.

“Is everything alright, Miss Yake?” he asked in a concerned tone, taking note of how uncharacteristic it was of her. She was soft-spoken for the most part, often with a book in hand.

“I am sorry you had to see that shameful display,” she huffed softly. “Since that performer at the Celestium has been showing off, we’ve had all sorts of new applicants seeking to tutelage in the hopes of emulating him. I’ve had to turn away a number of them while dealing with our sacred and time-honored art being compared to that…gaudy showmanship.”

He figured she was talking about the Great Azuro’s performances. “Why would they come here?”

“Because there is no guild for that mockery of the arcane arts,” she said pointedly. “And if it were my choice, there never would be. Our art were born of tradition and teachings of our ancestors of Belah’dia, with the lessons instilled having been refined over centuries through the Order of Nald’thal. It is not for the sake of entertainment.”

He winced at that, knowing full-well how frustrating that must have been for her. She had been the receptionist here for over fifteen years now, having come into the position before even his brothers had ascended to the title of guildmasters. He could argue that there was no one who valued the practices of their art, the intricacies and dedication to mastery, more than her.

Not only that, but she had a record of turning away applicants that she deemed unworthy. She valued the requirements that had been loosened since the need for more thaumaturgist required trimming back the necessary reading materials. Plus, her brothers seemed to trust her judgment in spite of the previous guildmaster’s failings.

“Do my brothers feel the same way about it?”

“But of course.” She adjusted her monocle. “What self-respecting thaumaturgist would feel otherwise? I disapprove of even selling the Celestium the creatures we conjure up as part of our practice, knowing that they would have to be disposed of either way.”

He felt himself deflate hearing that. He wanted to tell his brothers that he had gained the ability to use magic, but if they perceived the method he used in the same manner that she did then it would probably be sacrilegious to them. There was a chance that they might not only deny him anyway, but confiscate his Soul Crystal and strip away his ability to use magic entirely.

Then again, maybe he could bribe them with enough high-quality Ethers…

The receptionist breathed out softly before continuing at a laxer tone. “I do wish there were more applicants with your dedication. If only fate were not so unfair, you would be amongst our numbers… at any rate, if you are here to try to convince your brothers to allow you to practice, now wouldn’t be the best time. There’s been a bit of a situation as of late aside from that annoyance.”

His lips pursed slightly. “What do you mean?”

“My apologies, but it is a guild matter, so I cannot give you the full details,” she said in an apologetic tone. “However, I will tell them you have returned from your journey and that you appear to be in good health once they are free.”

It was all he could ask, so he gave her a bow of gratitude before heading out. He still needed to pay his guild a visit, attune to the rest of the aethernet shards, and then get ready for his meeting with Martyn at the Coffin and Coffer over in Central Thanalan.


“Finally made it,” Cocobusi breathed out a sigh of relief as he finished traversing the desert lands along a well-trodden dirt path that ran along from the Ul’dah to the Black Brush Station still some ways off, its distant Aertheryte luminous even with the fading sun lighting up the horizon in softer hues. “So this is the Coffin & Coffer…”

He had never been to the establishment. It was weathered in some spots from the harsh winds that occasionally blew, built in the shadow of a cliff-face that offered it shelter and shade. It was also far more rustic than what would normally be seen within the town, though he supposed it looked sturdy enough despite being a lot rougher than the usual establishments he stayed at when traveling for work.

He approached the entrance, muted chatter leaking from the walls when a man wearing the uniform of the Brass Blade that stood out front gave him a glance over from behind the visor of his turban. “Wipe yourself off a little, will ya? Don’t want any dirt getting into ale or food and sparking a fight.”

“Oh, my apologies!” he said, hastily wiping the dirt and dust that had gotten on his Hempen Cloak Set. He’d worn his garments with the hood up in order to hide his face while on the way out of town, having decided to keep his new occupation from his brothers for the moment. “Some of the local wildlife seemed to believe that I might be an easy meal, and so I had been forced to defend myself.”

“Better a little dirtier than dead,” the man said with a shrug. Then he quirked his head in the direction of the tavern, a gesture for him to continue inside.

He ventured through the doors, the hinges letting out a gritty groan as though sand had been wedged inside of them from the rough winds. The muted chatter turned into a somewhat louder cacophony of voices that mixed and mingled with a modest but rowdy number of individuals. Their garments and arms suggested they were adventurers, though the tan and accent were distinctly Ul’dahn as they seemed to regale the barkeep with some tale while another looked among the casks of ale that lined the wall further back.

Not far from there were a group of Brass Blades who were seemingly off-duty. Their blades and bucklers were set aside, turbans and visors set in the center of the table while a woman dressed in a brown canvas tunic and red cotton turban took down their orders. When they were done, she stowed it in a pouch attached to the belt and gave the Roegadyn a wink before making her way back towards what was assumed to be the kitchen.

He eventually spotted Martyn at a table by the windows. The man was no longer clad in the more extravagant outfit, but instead a popular doublet and halftrews that Cocobusi believed was from the oasis settlement at Southern Thanalan. The name of it escaped him, but he recalled that one of his co-workers intended to visit the springs there. “I’m sorry if I kept you waiting.”

“I arrived only a short while myself, though I have become something of a regular since coming to Ul’dah,” he said. “Here we have more freedom to speak, after a bit of food.”

As if on cue, the Alehouse Wench appeared at their table with a small tray. It had Flatbread that looked rather plain to go along with the gruel that smelled of spices and fruit, and some boiled eggs. She set the plate down in front of Martyn before turning to Cocobusi. “Haven’t seen you here before. What do you fancy here?”

He brought a hand to his chin in thought. “Hmm… I’ve been eating fish for the last few weeks, so I’ve gotten a bit of a taste for it. Would you have anything like that?”

“If it’s fish you’re after, we do have some Tiger Cod caught fresh from Vesper Bay. We salt it and dry it in the sun, giving it a native taste that goes well when washed down with a Mint Lassi.”

“That sounds nice. I’ll have that, along with some Raisins, if you don’t mind?”

She gave him a nod, turned on her crakows, and made for the kitchen. That was when Martyn opened the dialogue with questions about his experience with being a Blue Mage so far. More feedback than anything, like how he learned the spells, his experience with them, and any sort of complications that arose from it.

Cocobusi was fairly open in his answers as well, which sparked curiosity in the elder Blue Mage about his increased anima capacity. Of course, that became a secondary concern by the time the food arrived from the kitchen and he mentioned the overarching opinion on the cerulean arts from the perspective of the Thaumaturge’s Guild. Namely, the low opinion of them.

“I suppose puttin’ on a show with Blue Magic that might not be doin’ it all the honor it deserves,” Martyn conceded with a soft sigh before setting his spoon down in the empty bowl that had been filled with the Frumenty before. “But Blue Magic has grand cultural significance to the Whalaqee. The New World isn’t exactly easy to live in and their ancestors had to effectively learn to harvest the power of the monsters that hunted them to have a chance to survive. Since then that art had been passed down and refined through generations—no different than their own.”

“I think it’s because some members of the guild already weren’t happy that they had to lower the requirements so that adventurers could learn without fully undergoing the same teachings,” Cocobusi said, rocking his feet back and forth as he finished the last of his Salt Cod. “I know better because it’s helped me, but to them it’s different.”

“I’ve got my reasons for it, so that won’t be changin’ any time soon,” Martyn said, one hand on his chin in thought. “But I suppose I can make it a little clearer folks shouldn’t go botherin’ them at the very least.”

“I’d like to give my brothers a good impression of it as well if I could.” Cocobusi set the knife and fork he was using to eat on the plate. “So, for the time being, would you mind if I studied under you?”

“I’m glad you’re findin’ it useful. And I’m curious about the results when it comes to your anima capacity situation as well. But my performances leave me little time as is. Though, we might can reach an arrangement—”

Before he could finish his proposition, wood shuddered and the hinges screamed as the doors burst opened. The chatter of the crowd stilled as their eyes were drawn to the source, the Brass Blade who had been outside standing watch. He laid eyes on the table with the others and pointed at them, “Roundelph, you and the rest get off your arses! The rats are on the move and Babaroon Halfshell is with ‘em. They’re calling in all the local arms!”

“Thal’s balls, I’m supposed to be off!” the man said, dropping his fork that had a half-eaten Marmot Steak as he rose to his feet along with the other two at his table. They were reclaiming their helmets and weapons, the call to arms too great to ignore apparently.

“Tell that to the Rats!” He then turned towards the rest of the patrons of the bar. “As for the rest of you, the Brass Blade are offering coin to anyone willing to sell their sword and deal with ‘em.”

“I’ll throw in a free meal every day for a week,” Roger added. “Those sodding rats have harassed and plundered travelers, and it’s driving down my business. The sooner we’re rid of those bandits, the better.”

Martyn rubbed his chin in thought while muttering under his breath as the other Adventurers began to make their way out. Then he then rose to his feet. “Come on, lad. We’ll go with ‘em and I’ll show you a lesson first-hand of what Blue Magic can really do.”

Given the urgency, the Brass Blades and the adventurers sprinted in a hurry towards what was presumably the camp that the bandits had set up. By the time that they came to a stop, Cocobusi was struggling for breath and covered in sweat. He wasn’t in bad shape by any means but compared to men and women who had been at this sort of a thing for who knows how long he might as well have been.

The area near the train tracks had been made into a ramshackle camp for the Qiqirn bandits, haphazardly strewn together lodgings serving as their base of operations. Flames from the campfire had begun to spread as the wood gathered to serve as kindling was at some point ignited and scattered, creating patches of light where steel gleamed as it was swung. The battle was raging on in earnest now.

There were maybe twenty Brass Blades engaged in combat with the handful of adventurers from the tavern-inn, each one more skilled with a weapon than the bewhiskered beastmen. The Roegadyn alone took a broad sweep of his sword and managed to cut three of them down before using the shield on his other arm to slam another on his flank in the face. It went flying into a tent that collapsed as its body broke the support within it while he tried to push through their ranks.

But the sheer numbers of the bandits placed them at three-to-one odds, those that had been cut down easily replaced as reinforcements poured from the shadows of the camp. They used their numbers to their advantage, allowing two to distract one of the attackers so that a third could get into their blind-spot and performed a technique he’d read up on his way back to Ul’dah.

“That’s Faze!” Cocobusi said as one of the adventurers who had been punching another Qiqirn in the face was clapped from behind. The shockwave of aether drove an influx into the body, causing symptoms akin to aether sickness and leaving them witless. Given that they were in combat and the aetheric channels were overflowing, they would soon purge themselves of it. But those scant seconds would have been more than enough for the Qiqirn to finish off the pugilist if not for one of their compatriots rushing in to protect them.

“They’re going to be overrun before any reinforcements get here.” Cocobusi could tell that there were just too few of them and too many of the Qiqirn to last very long. “We have to help them.”

“If we run off guns blazin’ then we’ll only make things worse,” Martyn told him. “What we need to do is tip the scales so that the others will be able to bring down the biggest target. Without their leader, the rest will scatter.”

His gaze then spanned the battlefield for a pause before settling on a Qiqirn that was seemingly larger than all the others. Whereas most of the beastmen would be lucky to reach the height of a ten-year old Hyur, this one was notably taller. Even so, he was steadily backing away from the Roegadyn cutting a swathe to get through to him, flanked by the other two they’d seen in the tavern as the ranks of bandits closed in upon them.

“Right then, time to show you what a real Master of Blue Magic looks like,” Martyn said, rolling his shoulders before holding out his hand upright. Azure crystals danced around him, the aether in the surroundings stirring before viridian wove itself anew and took the shape of what looked to be a massive seed pod. He then threw it out towards the cluster of Qiqirn Shellsweepers.

It ruptured, the shell breaking apart with far more fragility than its exterior would have led you to believe. The closest thing he could relate it to was his own Bomb Toss spell, a shell housing the aetherial copy of the explosive compound. However, rather than flames and smoke and smoldering dirt, what emerged was a thick cloud of viridian spores that shrouded the horde to the extent that Cocobusi couldn’t see more than their silhouettes as they collapsed onto the ground.

Some kind of soporific akin to the Sleep spell, Cocobusi theorized as the trio of Brass Blades took stock of the fact that they were no longer barred from their target and promptly rushed the large Qiqirn.  Then he spotted movement in the corner of his eyes, turned his head to see that several of the Qiqirn Shellsweepers were approaching them, and drew his cane. “They’ve spotted us!”

Martyn spun on his heel to face the incoming swarm. Azure crystals danced around him once more, supping upon the aether around them as his eyes began to grow luminous while small, crackling streamers began to lash out from the corner of his eyes. He quickly brought his hands to his face and removed the spectacles he wore before leaning forward…

And then a blinding, deep-purple glare illuminated the night around them as a singular crackling beam surged forward like a levinbolt.

A dense concentration of lighting-aspected aether, the rational part of his mind deduced based on both the coloration and the fact that the air immediately around the beam as it cut forward was ionized to the point where purple electric arcs filled the space. Thus, it electrocuted even the Qiqirn who weren’t directly hit by it, leaving their small bodies spasming in place from the electricity worming its way into their muscles.

The neophyte blue mage followed up. His mind shifted to that of the Goblins and crystals danced as the spell took form in his hand, an explosive mimicry of goblin engineering. He chucked the bomb as hard as he could into the paralyzed group, helpless and unable to escape as their muscles seized up.


Cocobusi took a deep breath as scorched black earth rained down. His nose itched as acrid smoke rose into the air, mingling with the tangy scent of ozone. But in the pocket where he kept his Soul Crystal, he felt the telltale quiver of a new spell acquisition.

BABAROON HAS FALLEN!!” a voice shouted across the dark, drawing their gazes towards the Brass Blades.

The Roegadyn from before stood with his bloodstained sword raised, the Qiqirn bandit leader fallen in a pool of its own lifeblood. The remainder of the bandits scattered without any semblance of resistance or direction, now lacking a leader to hold the Rat’s Nest together. The rest of the Brass Blades let loose cheers as they allowed them to run off in whatever way they could to get away.

“And just like that, the matter’s resolved,” Marytn noted, replacing his glasses on the bridge of his nose. “There’s the real key to what makes Blue Magic so special. It’s versatile enough that the right spell can change the tide of a battle before the enemy knows what’s hit them.”

“I’d like to show that to my brothers as well someday,” Cocobusi said in agreement, before shifting back to their original topic. “You mentioned before you wanted to come to an arrangement of some sorts?”

Martyn nodded. “I’ve got my hands tied here in Ul’dah., so I need someone who can do favors for me here and there. You’re a solid fit for the bill and you’ll get a chance to get some new spells along the way. Not a bad deal, I’d say.”

“Mmm… it seems simple enough,” Cocobusi said. “Very well. We have a deal, Mister Martyn.”

The two shook hands.




Fanfic Recommendation 99

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Calling Card (Psyren x FSN -Nasuverse): Arc 5 – Chapter 23

Chapter 23

Silence looms within the room at the Temple.

The call came in. The message clear. It’s time to play Nemesis Q’s game again.

Too soon. That thought lingers at the forefront of my mind. It feels too soon since the last time. There hasn’t been enough time to train. Then again, I suppose there’s never enough time when you’re being coerced into fighting for your life—no matter how much you prepare for it.

I look over to see Ayako leaning against a wall with her ridiculous polearm next to her. She seems like the perfect picture of calm just standing there with her arms crossed and eyes closed. But, even without reading her mind, I can tell she’s deep in thought about how to make the best out of this situation now that she has to look after another three people.

Meanwhile, Gotou is pacing back and forth while absentmindedly rolling those oversized knuckledusters in his hands. Ayako said that he can work out his issues with killing the homunculi on his own. But I have doubts he’s made any significant progress on that front.

If he hesitates at the wrong moment it might bite us in the ass…

“Maybe these?” Makidera muses as she plucks yet another weapon from the cabin—a pair of metal tonfa this time.

She wraps her hands around the handles and then moves them around to get a feel for them. The long ends were just past the length of her elbows. The short ends stick out past her knuckles by the length of her longest fingers. They should be simple enough to use that she won’t need to fry her neurons thinking when she has whatever is waiting for us in that ashen wasteland trying to rip out her throat.

In contrast to her, Himuro went with a more complex choice by choosing a sickle and chain. I can’t pretend that I knew what was going through her mind when she picked it out, but I don’t think she intends to make much use of it. Since that discussion a few days ago she’s been focusing on refining her Burst more than anything, isolating herself from both her friends in the process from what Saegusa mentioned to me in private.

Speaking of the mousy one, she finally appears when the Student President pops into the room using his Teleportation Marker. Unlike the others, she insisted that she had to go home first and changed out of her school uniform for something akin to winter wear. Casual but practical at a glance, with lots of pockets.

“Sorry I’m late,” she says apologetically. “I know it was asking a lot, but—”

Makidera quickly brushes off her apology before she can even finish. “It’s not a big deal. You had a lot to do, right?”

“I just had to check my brothers, make sure they knew what would be for dinner, tell them not act too naughty while I was out, and a few other things…” She finishes counting off on her fingers with a deep breath and nods. “But now I’m ready.”

…No one really buys it. Not when none of us are ready to go die in some distant future. Fighting for a cause none of us signed up for willingly. All of us can see she’s just putting on a brave face, but none of us can call her out on it when she still came knowing that there’s a very real chance she won’t be coming back.

That none of us will be coming back alive.

“Don’t worry about anything!” Makidera says boisterously while giving her a pat on the back, showing off the tonfa in her hand. “We’ll keep you safe.”

That was the wrong thing to say. It might have been meant to be reassuring, but she was more terrified of them dying for that very reason given their last trip. Not that the loud one has any way of knowing that as Saegusa puts on a nervous smile before staring down at the ground.

I float a thought her way before she dwells on it too much. ‘You didn’t tip your family off too much, right?

Her gaze turns to me. ‘I… um… just told them I might be a little late. And that my brothers should be good for our parents. And that…


She bites down on her lower lip and looks at me somewhat guiltily.  ‘And that if anything happened to me… I wanted them to know I love them.

Another mistake. The reason we pretend to have normal lives is to avoid anyone getting suspicious about these little excursions. So that they don’t end up getting sucked in like how I did with Ayako’s situation.

But she just can’t separate herself from her family. Not without at least letting them know how much she cared. Even if she can’t tell them why to avoid wrapping them up in this, it’s just not in her nature to not do that.

Oh well. Damage done. Another matter for another day. ‘You can pass it off as just wanting to reaffirm things after the hospital visit, so it isn’t a big deal. Just remember to apologize for worrying them later, okay?

She lets out a small breath in relief and gives a slight nod. Then she makes her way over to me, leaning against the wall next to me. ‘Umm… what did you tell your sister?

I didn’t tell her a thing,’ I confess unashamedly. ‘I don’t have any intention of dying, and if I came out of nowhere and said something like that Sakura would undoubtedly start worrying that something was up. No sense in winding her up about nothing.

And, even if by some chance something does happen to me… well, the paperwork for her to get everything has been in place well before now considering my condition. She’ll never have to work a day in her life, so Sakura will be just fine financially speaking. Emotionally…

I push the image out of my mind.

Meanwhile, Saegusa looks down to the ground. ‘Oh… I see… I wish I could be so sure like that. Even Maki-chan and Kane-chan are so calm, but I’m still so nervous that my stomach feels like it’s turning in knots.’

Again, not a surprise. But rather than trying to calm her down with empty platitudes, I decide to take a more practical approach. ‘Make a Mind Jack.

My sudden request catches her off-guard. But after a moment she closes her eyes and weaves a Mind Jack into existence. It flows from the base of her skull and connects our minds. ‘How’s this?

It’s well-made,’ I tell her truthfully. While the shell feels thinner than my constructs, so the amount of information that can flow through it might be bottlenecked, it feels smooth. And she constructed it rather quickly.

Despite my praise, she meekly brushes her fingers against her arms and keeps her eyes on the ground. ‘It’s nothing special. I know that Mitsuzuri-san and Kane-chan can make them as well—

I place my hands on her shoulders before she goes on. ‘Saegusa. Look at me.

Her head shoots up and her soft, brown eyes meet my own.

It wasn’t that long ago that you couldn’t even do basic Telepathy. The fact that you can do the same thing as someone as experienced as Mitsuzuri and as competent as Himuro means that you’re just as capable as I thought you were.

But… that’s only because you spent so much time helping me…

True, I might have spent more time grooming her to be a capable Trance-user so she doesn’t get herself killed. But she legitimately did put in the work to get this far despite having obligations to her family, and never once complained. Yeah, she needed the talent to get this far. But she worked to make something of that talent.

I let the sincerity of that paint my thoughts as I continue. ‘Even so, you’ve never disappointed me. That’s why, while I expect you to be terrified and make mistakes, I know you’ll do the best you can and make up for it. So, stop underselling yourself already.

Matou…kun…’ She only catches her slip up after the fact and it leaves a crimson blush that paints her cheeks.

I only give her a small smile before gesturing my head over to the weapons cabinet.  ‘Now let’s get you armed for the trip.

She nods meekly and mutely, following me to take stock of the arsenal. She isn’t suited towards strengthening her body for combat, so heavy weapons are out. She has no practice with anything that requires dexterity or skill, so a staff is out of the question as well. And I don’t trust her not to hit someone in close-range combat if we gave her a long-range weapon either, so we might as well go with the practical choice then. ‘Take this.

Her slender fingers curl around the Tanto within its sheath. It’s the same one I used before, so I know it can get the job done. Ideally, she won’t need to use it. But if she does need it then she’ll have it.

She looks it over for a moment. ‘Won’t you need it?

I’ve got my own packed away, plus I bought a couple of weighted chains and some metal stakes used for camping to serve as ranged weapons. The chains can be used to bind the mouths of any of those damn hounds to keep them from screaming at us. As for the stakes, I can program them to seek out and strike the cores or brains of the Taboo, so it’ll be more efficient to support everyone.’

She winces, probably imagining what the latter would look like. The casual way I mention impaling spikes into the brains of the homunculi probably doesn’t help either. The rest of the preparations are understandably done in solemn silence.

Then we jump back into the future.


The steel-grey sky welcomes us for the third time with a lonely whisper in the breeze. The chill riding it digs past my flesh and muscle to caress the bones. It’s enough to stiffen my spine as the tang of metal on the wind lines my tongue on its way down my throat.

“Is… it always like this?” asks Saegusa as her small body shifts around uncomfortably in the wind. It’s not the sheer cold she’s talking about. It’s the thrumming going on inside of her from feeling her powers grow stronger.

“Even with forewarning, it’s still an unpleasant thing to experience,” Himuro notes while adjusting her glasses with one hand. To her credit, she hid whatever abnormality she felt with her neutral expression.

The same can’t be said for Makidera, currently rocking back and forth on the ball of her heels, I won’t be surprised if she starts sprinting laps around the half-eroded road that we’re on from how energetic it’s making her feel. Thankfully, common sense seems to be doing its job and keeping her feet still.

“You adapt quicker to it over time,” Ayako states with a shrug. “But it’s best that you wait for it to settle down before trying any PSI. We don’t know what’s out there or what mission we have, so the first thing we should do is find a place to hunker down in for the moment.”

We scan the roadside for shelter immediately. Standing out in the open like this is just begging to get us spotted before we can properly fight back. Not to mention how cold it is. We manage to spot a place among the bones of what were once massive buildings that’ll suffice and shuffle into it.

After slipping on the winter clothes and ensuring the supplies made the transition without any problem, Ayako heads for the entrance with her weapon in hand. “I’ll go scouting for a bit.”


She nods. “Getting a better understanding of the situation will make things easier in the long run, and I’m used to doing this sort of thing whenever I arrive.”

“Then I’ll make a Mind Jack so we can at least—”

“I can handle that. You just focus on waiting out the adjustment period,” she states before spinning out a Mind Jack. The tip angles towards me for a moment before suddenly swerving and connecting to Gotou. “I’ll let you know if I find anything, but until then don’t broadcast or give away our position.”

I stamp down on the feeling gnawing in my chest as she closes the entrance. The rational part of me can recognize that she’s being considerate considering how little time we had to adjust the last time. We were only a trip ahead of these three and the sensation was still moderately distracting, so not wanting us to attempt even something as simple as creating a Mind Jack is understandable.

But looking at the construct, and whom she chose to link it to, the realistic part of me concedes she’s still wary about letting me in her head after that last time. She has no assurances it won’t happen again when the best I can tell her is that I’m handling it. Gotou is the safer choice at the end of the day.

Whatever. I shift my focus onto helping Saegusa. “Just close your eyes, calm your breathing, and focus on everything slowing down and closing in until you’re in the state of mind we normally practice in during our sessions.”

Her eyes close. Her shoulders relax. Her chest rises and falls in time with her breath, matching the rhythm that we practiced together. Good.

I look towards the others and catch them doing the same. Breathing exercises aren’t exactly foreign to members of the Track Club, so they can copy the physical motions easily enough. And Gotou will likely adapt quicker than them simply due to previous exposure, so there’s no need to worry about him.

So that just leaves me.

I put myself through the motions and mindset. The storm settles within me soon enough. Then I test out my limits by preparing one of the safeguards I have planned for when we inevitably run into Atlasia.

It’s based on the principles of a Mind Jack. Specifically, the exterior shell designed to keep the more sensitive Trance waves inside of it. I use the construction as a foundation and let it expand slowly so that it encroaches over my body inch-by-inch, until it forms a membrane wrapping around me from head-to-toe.

I breathe out and open my eyes once it was done to see Saegusa staring at me with her head quirked to the side. “Has your PSI settled down now?”

She nods. “I should be able to use it now without any problems.”

“Then spin out a Mind Jack and try to connect with me.”

Her brows furrow slightly in concentration for a moment. Then out comes the wired connector in roughly the same time that it took back in the present. Not a surprise since being able to program the process is above her skill level at present—foundation first, efficiency afterward.

It slithers towards me and curves smoothly around to the back of my skull, intending to sink into the base and connect us. Then the tip stops as it catches on the membrane. The familiar touch of her mind remains absent.

Her brows arch. “You… found a way to block me?”

“In light of what happened the last time we came here, I thought I should try out some anti-Trance techniques.”

Specifically, I wanted a method to avoid having my mind read wantonly or my thoughts influenced by an outside force. The simplest method of doing so is to shut them out before they can get to my brain. Ideally, it’ll work on even non-Trance methods of mental interference as well.

“Try to force it in until I say to stop.”

She seems mildly uncomfortable about using her PSI in such a manner, but she ultimately does attempt to force the Mind Jack past my defenses. The membrane manages to hold up, but it feels like it’s being grounded away as her own Trance construct pushes against it. Probably because the Mind Jack has more density to contain the regular telepathic transmissions.

A dense enough Trance construct could simply erase it. Then again, being composed of Trance energy means that it won’t offer any sort of protection from physical interference. But what about regular Trance waves?

“Try with regular Telepathy now,” I instruct her.

She does so. Or at least I think she does by how her expression shifts for a few moments before she gives up. “It looks like you couldn’t hear me.”

No signs of any notable degradation within the membrane. I can only presume that any thoughts she tried to float my way ended up breaking against it—like water splashing against an umbrella. However, if it shuts me out of all thoughts other than my own, it’ll effectively render me deaf and mute to telepathy.

It’ll be a gamble to keep it active at all times in that case. Telepathic transmission happens to be our primary means of long-distance communication. I can probably key it to allow for specific people to circumvent it if there’s a specific frequency or signature to an individual’s Trance waves…

No, I’m getting too far ahead of myself right now. I need to focus on what it can do for me in the short-term. It’s a safety net against having Atlasia and other trance-users getting into my head unwillingly. But if that does happen, I’ll have to resort to the other two methods I have on hand.

But I push that aside for the moment to address the others once I notice them listening in. “You three finished adjusting as well?”

Makidera opens her eyes and crosses her arms. “The shakes have settled down enough. I’m ready to go.”

In lieu of a verbal answer, Himuro holds out her hand with her palm facing upwards. Then something proceeds to take shape, similar to how Gotou created a simple ball to knock down the cards in a demonstration of how Burst could manifest. Only in her case what formed was an almost glass-like octahedron.

It floated above her palm for a moment before her gray eyes peered to the wall on the opposite side of the room we were in. Then it shot towards it as if it was thrown at the speed of maybe a fastball. It shattered upon hitting the wall, but not before leaving a rough indent that was a quarter-inch deep.

“I believe I’ve acclimated well enough,” she finally answers while adjusting her glasses. “It seems like my Burst has more physical substance than when I practiced back home. But it’s still too fragile to be of use against anything with a hard exterior.”

“A simple answer would have been fine, but whatever.” I turn to Gotou last. “What about you?”

He looks down at his hand from his perch against the wall at the prompt. Then he closes his eyes and forms it into a fist. “…There aren’t any problems from what I can tel—”

Gotou’s head snaps up and his words die as he looks towards me. Makidera takes a step back and bends her legs. Saegusa nearly falls off her makeshift seat in surprise. And Himuro grips her weapon tighter.

That’s when I turn around to see what set them on high alert.

And come face-to-face with Nemesis Q.

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Summary: In one world, Robin died abandoned by those she thought friends, with the sword of her lover driven into her chest. In another world, a young man with no memories of his past was trusted to guide Ylisse in war. Given a new chance, the broken queen will make sure this young tactician survived, no matter the cost.

A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.

A Future Tied by Fates 47

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”

Calling Card (Psyren x FSN -Nasuverse): Arc 5 – Chapter 22

Chapter 22

Ughhh… why do we have to do this stuff?

As the autumn sun was slouching over the horizon, the soft whines of a somber panther fill the air.

The former captain of the Track Team was miserably carrying a set of steel poles along with Gai. They were meant to be used building the different stands for the sake of the upcoming cultural festival. The collective weight wasn’t light by any means, but since we were the only ones left on the campus there was no reason to hold back using Rise.

The Cultural Festival would be within the first week of November. That wasn’t too far off from now and there was still a lot of work to be done for certain clubs. Hence the reason we were still here at this hour.

I roll my eyes at her complaining before turning my attention back to my own assignment. Manual labor is beneath me in most cases, but I treat it more as rudimentary training to master the form of telekinesis that suits me. By brushing a finger across a nail and infusing it with my PSI, I can program them to drive themselves into place with no physical effort on my part.

It’s a simple program at the end of the day—requiring a set amount of energy to carry out a simple routine at a specific distance. Not the flashiest uses of PSI, but driving the sharp end of a weapon into the head or core of the target is a practical and efficient method of killing. It also requires no extra effort on my part once its set into motion aside from the implementation of a return function.

“It’s not fair that we have to suffer alone when we can’t even run or participate with the Track Club anymore,” the loud one continues to whine. But, like how a broken clock was right at least twice a day, she has a point. None of us would even be here under normal circumstances, since only current club members are required to construct their own stands and displays.

Then again, her mouth is the reason we’re here now.

Even I could tell the Student President was in a mood after his return from… wherever he and his brother ventured off to. But she lacked that ability apparently. So here we were, pitching in with helping the clubs that were dragging behind—Archery and Track Club included.

I have a barb on my tongue ready to go and remind her that she’s the reason we’re here. But then I see Himuro looking up from sketching out a design that’ll later be shaped and painted into a sign and hold my tongue. It’s more fun to watch sometimes.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t this because you were the one who kept egging on Ryuudou about the training camp?”

Himuro’s opening salvo starts out with a factual reminder and a pointed stare. Caught unaware by the sudden assault Makidera recoils as if she’s been slapped. But Himuro doesn’t relent as she continues her verbal assault.

“And didn’t you also come up with this needlessly elaborate design and theme for the Track Club? Despite the fact that everyone else in the club pointed out it wouldn’t be practical?”

“Bu… But…”

“And, after you insisted that we still do it, rather than having everyone work on it bit-by-bit each session you said we’ll just leave it alone until a few days before the festival so we can concentrate on practice—and then let whoever had the worst time on the field hammer it out, which is the qualification that you now meet?”

I grin when the realization that she ultimately dug her own grave blossoms on her face. It’s like a work of art. If only I could capture the moment on camera…

“Matou-kun, you shouldn’t smile at Maki-chan being scolded.”

A gentle chastisement in a soft voice courtesy of Saegusa breaks the moment. She has a small, disproving frown on her face that a pre-school teacher wears while scolding a child for laughing at another hurting themselves by being stupid. Yes, they have it coming but you shouldn’t make fun of them because of it.

I’d probably take more offense to it if not for the fact that it came from… well, her.

The mousiness that comes naturally to her makes it hard to take her seriously. Really, the fact that she’s gotten comfortable enough in the last week to actually call me out on it is more of a surprise. But it also serves to further a theory I’ve had for some time now.

“Just now… you addressed me rather informally, didn’t you?”

A brief look of surprise crosses her face. It’s genuine too. The moment she realizes the implications she starts to get flustered like one would expect.

“Oh, I didn’t… I’m sorry if—”

I shake my head and quell her worry before she gets too worked up about it. “I don’t really mind. You can even just call me by my name like Mitsuzuri does occasionally if you want. I just noticed you never did the same for her or Gotou.”

Saegusa isn’t nearly as formal as Himuro, but the number of people she addresses casually can be counted on a hand. Even if I don’t consider it that big of a deal, for her it’s a huge leap that shouldn’t be happening so fast. It’s most likely because she’s unaware of how her powers are starting to influence her.

Mental Interference can easily be obstructed by Magic Resistance. That is why Physical Interference is the preferred method of dealing with an enemy magus. But there is also another risk—the risk of losing oneself in the process of working the mind of another.

To affect one’s mind as a magus and change their thought processes pulled their own along that same path depending on the means and methods. To get around that other means were utilized, such as psychology, artificial Mystic Eyes that work like projections, and so on.  But there is a difference between suppressing a memory to forget an event or hypnotism compared to linking minds together like we do.

It breaks down the separation of self and leaves us malleable to a greater degree—at least that’s what I believe.

Saegusa has no safeguard for her own thoughts and emotions inside her own head. She lacks the mindset to separate one identity from another with self-hypnosis that I do from my misspent years. How long until she changes because of that without realizing it?

Then again, even preparation and mindset aren’t perfect. Touching one’s mind can make you consider things. Make you reflect on yourself in ways you normally wouldn’t be able to.

Touching the emotions woven into the memories of both that woman from the future and Saegusa left a mark on me. I’ve been considering just what familial affection is because of them. How it relates to Sakura and myself.

Saegusa’s affection towards her younger siblings was something…warm. Light. It’s like a gentle breeze that caresses the heart, or so my sixth sense interprets.

Yet… I can’t relate to that when I think of Sakura.

I’m trying to make amends for everything I’ve done. But I just don’t have the same depth of emotions for Sakura that Saegusa has for her younger siblings. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d still be relatively sane after everything I did to her.

Not just to her body, but her mind.

I never shied away from reminding Sakura that her purpose was to be a plaything. I enjoyed bringing up that someone like Emiya would never want someone as dirty as her. That the only thing she’s good for was… things that I enjoyed at the time.

I could see it in her eyes that Sakura honestly took it to heart at some point too.

That’s why she never once made an attempt to be happy with Emiya after the war. Realistically, she’ll probably never seek out a lover. Even without looking into her mind I can tell she believes she’s been too dirtied to deserve such things it.

Did I even care that I ruined her in such a matter back then? Was I going to take care of her for the rest of her life as my toy, using her in the same way my own mother had been used to sire a heir? Or was I going to throw her away?

…Either way, the damage has been done.

I can’t take it back. I can’t even say that I’ll be alive or sane enough to take responsibility if things keep getting worse for me. Once I’m gone she’ll be alone with that burden.

Any chance of a normal sibling relationship is long gone. I’ve already crossed too many lines with her to even attempt that. There’s no going back.

But then I recall the warmth of Saegusa’s affection for her own siblings. The happiness she finds in being part of their lives. It feels… nice.

I can’t help but wonder if it that’s the way I’m supposed to feel about Sakura. I think at some point I even might have felt that way when we first met. But once I found out she was replacing me as heir all of that vanished.

Part of me wants more of it. To let down my guard and just feel the warm touch of Saegusa’s emotions as our mind’s meld. Just so I can reclaim a bit of what was lost.

Just as a little happiness to balance out everything I was dealing with. The Grail’s curse. The ruined future. All of it.

But I can’t take that risk with her.

Ayako still gets nervous when she feels my thoughts brush her mind. Everything in her body still rejects the brief glimpse of horrors in my head she witnessed. She’s a lot of things but frail isn’t one of them considering everything she’s gone through as a Drifter.

The same cannot be said for Saegusa. For a girl who lived an ordinary and happy life until now to be exposed to even a fraction of the mire in the back my mind… for someone whose thoughts and feelings are so easily exposed to experience those things …

The image of glasswork shattering comes to my mind.

Her psyche would break into too many pieces to really recover. Even if she did, she’d never be the same. The warmth she holds for her family. The guilt she bears from nearly getting her friends killed the last trip. All those things that make up the mousy, innocent girl in front of me would be no more.

I can’t be responsible for that. I can’t let those things be tainted and defiled because I let her into my head just to savor the feel of them. I can’t make the same mistake that I did with Sakura again…

‘Is everything alright?’

I realize I lost myself in thought the moment Saegusa’s warmth touches my mind like a cloud drifting on the wind. Her brows are folded in and her neck is tilted ever so slightly as she observes me. I pull my head back slightly and force a small smile as I lie.

Just coming up with a new training regimen. I think you need to practice with the others more often so you can use your powers more frequently. I’ll try to convince the sadist to lay off you until then.

The Student President wasn’t any softer on Saegusa than he was with me when he got back from his trip. Or any of them really. But the difference was that while the other two were no strangers to physical work, she was and often ended up the most exhausted. She just isn’t suited to using Rise in an offensive capacity like them.

You don’t have to,’ her mind whispered to mine. ‘I know it’s hard. But I need to be able to do everything I can to help everyone. That includes taking care of myself.

And despite it all Saegusa never once complains about the training. She doesn’t even harbor ill-will towards Ryuudou, even though every night so far she’s needed to be carried home from exhaustion. She just keeps forcing herself to get up and keep trying because she wants everyone to be safe.

‘…You’re pretty amazing, you know that?’

I’m pretty stingy when it comes to genuine praise, but it’s deserved. The fact that it coaxes a blossoming smile from her face shows she appreciates it as well. I have to say it suits her nicely.

“Hey, quit flirting in each other’s heads over there and get back to work!”

Unfortunately, Makidera ruins the moment with her thoughtless accusations. The warm expression turns to one of fluster. She avoids my gaze and tries to justify how happy she looked just moments ago. “I…it’s n-not like that…”

Makinoji…” Himuro’s voice came out a bit more frosty than normal. The light of the evening sun obscures her eyes behind her glasses. But I can imagine she’s glaring at the thoughtless monkey. “Please think carefully before you speak again tonight.”

She catches on she might have botched things from the expression on her face. But it’s too little and too late. We call it an evening a little later and put away everything before heading home.

Or at least the others do.

I stay behind just a little longer to make sure everything is in order. I didn’t want to have the sadist in my ear about a misplaced screwdriver or anything. Then I grab my bag and make my way out of the gates.

“May I have a word?”

That’s when Himuro calls out to me. She’s standing next to the wall on the outside of the gates, arms crossed.

“I thought you left with the others to escort Saegusa back to her home?”

“Since Maki was hungry and Saegusa wanted to get some snacks for her family, I told them I would catch up with them in Miyama. I didn’t want them to wait for me while I spoke with you in private.”

“Oh really?” I cross my arms and stand a little straighter. “Talk to me about what?”

She adjusts her glasses and meets my gaze. “I won’t defend what Maki did, but we’ve been friends for a long time now. She does tend to speak tactlessly, but in this case it’s because she picked up on how strangely Yukika acts around you. I’m sure you can understand that with everything going on, it’s somewhat worrying to us.”

“And she somehow interpreted that as us being lovers?” I nearly laugh. “A bit of a stretch, don’t you think?”

“I suppose it might seem that way to you, but…” She brings her hand to her chin and closes her eyes for a moment, as if in thought. “Before I say anything more, I would like your word that you’ll not utter a word of this to her. Agreed?”

I arch a brow. She approached me and now she wanted my word to keep silent about it. There should be a limit to how self-entitled you can be. But I humor her.  “Fine. Now spill.”

She opens her eyes and then takes on a firm expression. “The way she looks at you at times is really incomparable to how she was even a month ago. You were quite a notorious person during our Second Year and onwards. So much so that even she couldn’t help but hold some disdain towards the mention of your name.”

I clench my teeth for a moment at the thought of that happening. It’s a complete contradiction when she doesn’t even hold an inkling of hatred towards the one who worked her over during training. I barely even talked to her back then.

…But then I remember Blood Fort Andromeda and that they were among the victims. I can’t claim it’d be undeserved. Even if those memories were locked away or removed.

I let out my frustration with a sigh. “Your point being?”

“Even though there were rumors that you’d become upright or at least less abrasive, the impression from before remains so firmly entrenched that it’s hard to be shaken. Yet, there are moments when she looks at you and simply smiles like before. Since you saved her from that monstrous dog it’s like she has an… admiration for you, at the very least.”

I scratch my head and realize what she’s getting at. “…Listen, you don’t have all the facts so you’re piecing together a conclusion that isn’t right because of that. It isn’t love or admiration or whatever you think it is.”

“Then what is your perception of things?”

I payback her own entitlement with a demand of my own. “Do I have your word that this won’t reach any of the others?”

She nods without hesitation. “It would only be fair.”

I give a heavily abridged version of my thoughts on the matter. That I’ve had my own suspicions about how our powers might influence our personalities. That they are too far removed from what is normal to not have any drawbacks. That powers that aren’t purely physical might have a greater influence on the behavior.

I use the Student President as a reference. That he doesn’t pay consideration to pain because he believes he can heal anything short of death. He doesn’t empathize with it easily anymore or has at least seen and experienced wounds so egregious that anything short of that will be met with little concern.

She understands well enough. “In summation, you believe that she’s being nudged by her own powers because you two share a similar affinity with the same categorization of PSI. That it’s influencing her to an extent?”

I nod. “I’m lacking complete hard evidence, but the reason she was acting flustered earlier was because I made a note of her referring to me without honorifics. She hadn’t realized that she did so.  It’s not a big a deal for most people, but—”

Himuro picks up on the train of thought instantly. “She doesn’t refer to others so casually unless she’s well-acquainted with them. She’s a polite girl so it goes against her ingrained behavior. The fact that she did so unknowingly means that she regards you as being someone she can be comfortable with.”

Another nod. “I only brought it up so she’ll start thinking on any other things she might have done differently or open up a little more to the others. The only reason I haven’t shared this with anyone else is because we cannot have them being afraid of their own powers when it could mean the difference between life and death. More so when the circumstances can easily explain away these changes as well considering it is a rather perilous one.”

“I see…” She removes her glasses and looks down at the lenses in silence for a moment. “I can’t say I’d thought it out to the same depths as you, but I had considered that not everything was as clear as it might have been. There are so many uncertainties about everything else and now we can’t even be certain if any changes we make are of our own will.”

I remain silent to let her process everything. Someone who runs off pure emotion won’t handle it well. But Himuro is logical to a greater extent than the majority of people in the school. She’ll take that into consideration and put that before her emotions. Or so I hope.

“The best we can do is survive first and foremost. And to do that we must change, knowingly or unknowingly. Willingly or unwillingly. As long as it doesn’t completely take away from who we are, I believe we can at least claim that we are the sum of our own decisions.”

Settling on that conclusion she replaces her glasses. “So be it then.”

I sling my bag over my shoulder. “That should settle things then. I’ll leave it to you to explain to the loud one there isn’t anything romantic between Saegusa and myself. I don’t have any inclinations to seek out a lover with everything going, and even if I did, she doesn’t deserve to be stuck with a guy like me.”

That done, I start walking back home in silence. Himuro doesn’t say anything to acknowledge the discussion any further. Then again, nothing to be said now that she has reached her own resolve about how to approach things: To survive we’ll have to change, knowingly or unknowingly. Willingly or unwillingly.

In hindsight, I suppose we can only blame ourselves for what happened a few days later. That was when we returned to that future where the vampire awaited us. That was when we did something we’d regret for the rest of our lives beneath the ashen sky. It was…

The sum of our decisions.


Fanfic Recommendation 96


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