Carpathia III: Episode 122: Junior Elder

The Outlands, Yseri

Kaoru and Quilyon sat together at the edge of the steep hillside, near the canal waterfall, enjoying a private moment together. From their vantage point between the hill and the treeline, they had a commanding view of the peaceful village before them. The low volume of water going over the falls created more of comforting, white noise than a disconcerting roar.

Quilyon: It took a long time to get here. I got so used to moving forward, that I forgot what it was like to stop.

Kaoru nodded in agreement.

Kaoru: A lot happened on the way. I'm glad we met the others. I'm not sure we would have made it without them.

For as long as they sat by the cliff, this was the way of their conversation. The majority of their time was spent in silence, holding hands. The trickle of the water and the wind harassing the leaves was the only sound, punctuated only occasionally by very brief spurts of conversation.

Quilyon: I wrote to Kaut.

Kaoru: That's good. Now, at least, he can write back.

Once again, the brief exchange ended and the two of them sat in silence together for awhile, gazing out into the horizon.

Quilyon: Well, we're here now, and you've found all of your friends. You know what that means, right?

Though Kaoru knew exactly what she meant, he decided to feign ignorance.

Kaoru: Yes. I suppose it's time that I figure out which crops I'm going to grow.

Quilyon sighed conspicuously.

Quilyon: No, the other important thing?

Kaoru: Fruit trees, then?

Quilyon slapped Kaoru playfully across the chest.

Kaoru: Hee hee. Yes, we are getting married.

Quilyon: I really believed you'd forgotten for a minute.

Kaoru: How could I? Reuli is already going around making plans.

Quilyon's ears twitched as she shifted her position to face Kaoru.

Quilyon: Really? First I've heard of it.

Kaoru: Yup. He said he's going to ask Jaze to sing a little.

Quilyon shifted again, returning to her original position.

Quilyon: Huh. Is he any good? I've never heard a neko sing before.

Kaoru: It's usually not a good sound. Still, somehow, Jaze rivals your mother. I've never heard anything like it from a nekohuman before.

Quilyon took a deep breath as she rested her head on Kaoru's shoulder.

Quilyon: Well, then I'll look forward to hearing it.


With their clothes stacked neatly on a rock by the shore, Jaze and Toma bathed in the river, taking their time to enjoy the cool, clear water. Soap in hand, Toma washed Jaze's back while Jaze scrubbed the end of one of Toma's ears.

Toma: So many scars. I'm still not used to seeing this.

Jaze: I'm just amazed that I'm in one piece. In the end, I'm fine. How about you? Do you need a rest? You've been standing for awhile.

Toma shifted his weight to another leg and continued scrubbing.

Toma: I'm still okay. Back home, there's therapy to regain strength after...

Toma paused and Jaze knowingly gave him time to collect his thoughts. Though not Toma's fault, Jaze could tell that he was embarrassed having been addicted to caffiene. Toma took a deep breath and continued.

Toma: ...after prolonged addiction. I guess that's why the Angel gave me wind. I guess he couldn't fix me and now I can make myself feel lighter.

Jaze sighed heavily, prompting Toma to stop rubbing Jaze's back.

Toma: Something else is bothering you.

Jaze didn't answer right away, though Toma didn't say anything further, awaiting his response patiently.

Jaze: Seems kind of silly considering everything that I've been through, but I am nervous. Reuli asked me to sing an accompaniment with him on one song at Kaoru's wedding.

Toma smiled and resumed washing Jaze's back, this time kneading at his stiff muscles.

Toma: You'll be fine. Your singing is great.

Jaze: That's what everyone says, but something feels off. Reuli taught me the lyrics to the song and when I sang them back to him, he seemed to zone out.

Toma scooped water from the river and splashed it on Jaze's back.

Toma: Maybe he has a lot on his mind.

The arrival of Jacob interrupted further musing on the subject of singing.

Jacob: Hey, guys!

Jaze and Toma both turned and watched as Jacob examined the large, fluffy tree standing by itself in the grass.

Jaze: Hi, Jacob.

Toma tensed as he turned his gaze to Jaze, as though he were a bomb about to go off. Toma's sudden, standoffish body language did not go unnoticed.

Jaze: What?

Toma shrugged and relaxed his body.

Toma: Well, you're naked and Jacob just showed up. I kinda expected you to yelp and jump straight up into the air or something.

Jaze blinked several times as the reality of Toma's words sank in.

Jaze: I suppose I would have, not long ago. I guess I know there are worse things to get worked up over now.

Still nonplussed by his nudity, Jaze turned his attention back to Jacob, who was still gazing up at the tree, seemingly deep in thought.

Jaze: Something wrong with the tree?

Jacob briefly turned his head away from the tree and then back again.

Jacob: Got a wedding to plan and so I'll have to find a way to decorate the tree. It's been awhile.

Appearing to give up, at least for now, Jacob shrugged and took a seat on a rock by the shore.

Jacob: I don't reckon I mentioned it, but I was invited to be a member of the elder council. They like to have a couple of young guys like me around to do the sort of work they can't.

Toma: Like decorating a tree?

Jacob flashed a breezy smile.

Jacob: Well, someone's gotta climb it, right?

Jaze: I guess that's true.

A little pit-pat of tiny feet interrupted the conversation. Closing quickly on them were Phobos and Deimos, trotting along the short grass, headed directly for Jaze and Toma. As they got closer, they split apart, with Phobos heading for Jaze and Deimos heading for Toma. Concern suddenly passed through Jaze's head as Phobos sprinted toward the water and splashed into it, making a final leap onto Jaze's leg. As he climbed, Deimos did the same on Toma.

Jaze: Hey, is it okay for you two to get wet?

Phobos climbed until he was able to perch himself on Jaze's shoulder.

Phobos: It's okay!

Deimos: We're waterproof.

Jaze smiled, relieved that his fears were unfounded.

Jaze: That's good. I didn't know, so I was worried for a minute.

Without warning, Phobos threw his tiny arms around Jaze's neck and snuggled him aggressively. At the same time, Deimos wrapped herself in one of Toma's ears.

Jaze: Whoa!

Phobos: Daddy gave us control over our personalities.

Deimos: We're trying "love" now.

Jaze couldn't help but smile at the sincere corniness of the situation. That changed, however, when Phobos placed his finger on his chin and leaned forward, looking down at Jaze's nude body.

Phobos: Hey, maybe we should try "naughty" next.

Right away, Jacob chortled and held his hand to his mouth as Jaze immediately grabbed Phobos by the chest and plucked him off his shoulder, holding him distantly, but still straight in front of his face. Jaze glared at Phobos sternly, as though he were a father about to reprimand a child.

Jaze: Phobos, listen carefully. You must not ever use that... um... function without the other person's consent. Understand?

Phobos's face went blank and for several moments, he merely stared gormlessly at Jaze, as though all his systems shut down while he processed this new information. Suddenly, he smiled and flung his arms into the air exuberantly.

Phobos: Got it!

Jaze: That's good. I'm going to put you down, now.

Jaze slowly lowered Phobos onto a small stone by the river.

Phobos: So, do I have your permission?

Jaze: Sorry, but no.

Deflated, Phobos dropped his arms by his side and lowered his head.

Phobos: Aw...

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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