Scrya Chronicles – Chapter 2
Yuuno hesitated in the orange glow of the fading sunlight, standing outside the home of the Harlaown Family on Mid-Childa. He had spent more time than he realized with his clan, talking over some of the preliminary measures that would need to be taken for the trip, provisions to be bought, and what was expected. After that he entertained some of the younger kids in his ferret form, finding it to be a rather emotionally soothing—if not tiring—event.
It was a modest home, standing roughly a story-and-a-half in height. The window panes reflected the dying light, casting it back over the carefully tended lawn of viridian grass. Flowering brush lined either side of the entrance, white butterflies gently resting on the golden petals in full-bloom.
Lindy Harlaown, at the very least, was expecting him. When he had called their residence, in order to try and contact Arf, she had told him to come over. It seemed like the polite thing to do. She was Fate's legal guardian, making her also responsible for Arf in that aspect, and asking her in person was only fitting.
No, what bought the hesitation was the fact that Nanoha was supposedly staying over for the length of her holiday. It made sense. They were friends, and it mitigated the commute time between Mid-Childa and Earth. But the day's revelations had not exactly readied him for a discussion with her.
Instead, he feared talking to her would complicate his already complex emotions further. Worse than that, what if Arf told Fate or Nanoha about their discussion in the café? Would she try to comfort him? Would she reject him? Would she pity?
Yuuno didn't think he could take any of those responses coming from her. The thought alone clawed at his stomach and heart. It left him struggling with two choices:
He could stay, braving his emotional confusion and turmoil to make his plea to Arf and her family. He felt like he owed it to her out of respect for listening to him, as well as a chance to connect with someone from his past. It felt more appropriate, since they were both in the same metaphorical boat
Or, he could leave while he was still unnoticed. It would be simple enough to say something came up. But then it would be rude, wouldn't it? He would feel terrible for lying to them, just to relieve himself from the fear of seeing Nanoha.
The decision was ultimately made for him when he heard another voice that he hadn't heard for some time, marking the third time for that day. "What are you doing standing there, Ferret Boy?"
"Uh… enjoying the scenery?" he said meekly, turning to find Chrono Harlaown and the girl he vaguely recalled from the few times he was on the Asura, Amy. As tall as Yuuno had gotten over the years, Chrono had grown even taller due to being older.
"Right…." Chrono strode forward, Amy following behind, and came to a stop in front of him. "Honestly, I thought you had been buried under a stack of books at the Infinite Library, never to be found again. This is certainly the last place I expected to see you."
"I had something I wanted to discuss with your mother and she told me to come over," Yuuno said. "It would have been rude to refuse."
Chrono crossed his arms. "And yet you've been standing there for who knows how long?"
Yuuno scratched the back of his head, not willing to meet the pair of dark-violet eyes boring into him. He didn't want to admit he was nervous to Chrono, of all people. Thankfully, the door opening to reveal Lindy spared him of that.
"I was expecting Yuuno, but you're home early, Chrono." Her eyes drifted past her son and to Amy. "How have you been, Amy?"
"Very well, Admiral Harlaown," Amy said, holding up the bags. "I came to help make dinner, if you don't mind?"
"Not at all," Lindy said. "And you don't have to call me Admiral anymore. I'm retired."
Yuuno took a moment to register that bit of information. It was news to him. "You've retired?"
"Chrono is the new Flotilla Admiral of the Asura." She couldn't have been more proud in the way she said it either. "Anyway, all of you come inside."
Chrono and Amy entered through the doorway and into the home. Yuuno hesitated, still unsure if he should enter. Chrono settled the mental debate by grabbing his shoulder and pulling him in.
Dragged inside, Yuuno took his place at the table and sat in the chair across from Lindy. Since Chrono and Amy seemed content on making dinner, setting to work in the kitchen, it left the librarian with the smiling former admiral as she poured him a cup of tea. He couldn't help but feel a little out of his element.
"It will be a little while before the girls finish bathing for dinner," she said. "What have you been up to since we last seen one another? You haven't been involved in anything as troublesome as what we went through then, have you?"
"Of course not, ma'am," he said, scratching his cheek at the thought. Honestly, he couldn't imagine being caught in something like the Book of Darkness case a second time. Or that mess with the Jewel Seeds. "I've just been at the Infinite Library, but it seems I've missed at lot during that time."
She nodded to that. "The years seem to pass by so quickly."
"It seems that way, doesn't it?" There was an undertone of melancholy in his voice. "But, you can't help but wonder what it is that you missed."
"That's true too, I suppose." Lindy took a sip of her tea. It was rather sweet. "It's probably one of the reasons I retired. There was no time for me to do the simple things I liked, not mention trouble after trouble. Though there are times when I sincerely miss being on the Asura."
Taking a drink of the tea she offered him, he imagined how stressful her work had been. Spending vast amounts of time away from her home-world, while constantly monitoring and handling threats, was something that wore on you over time. It wasn't all that different from his time as an archaeologist, but she also had to look after Fate and Chrono. It must've been hard.
The silence that followed was broken when Lindy decided to open a telepathic line to Yuuno, not wanting for the others to overhear. 'Chrono is getting married next year.'
He nearly coughed up his tea in surprise. 'He is? To who?'
'To Amy, of course.' She tilted her head towards the pair. 'Just look at them.'
Looking over her shoulders, Yuuno watched how close the two were. 'I never would have guessed he'd be the type to get married so young.'
'Me neither,' Lindy said. 'I always thought he'd be the type of person who wouldn't be tied down because he's a workaholic. But now it seems like I'll be a mother-in-law and a grandmother.'
Yuuno was honestly having trouble wrapping his head around that. In fact, the revelation made him dizzy. But there was no time to dwell on the thought, or telepathic conversation, once Nanoha appeared in the hallway entrance, from where he suspected were the rooms.
"Thank you for letting me stay over Miss—" Partway through her sentence she noticed Lindy's guest. Her smile of gratitude towards Lindy became wider, bright enough to light up the room. "Yuuno-kun!"
"Nanoha!?" He barely managed to get out of his chair before the flying hug-tackle she gave him almost bowled him over. The impact jostled his glasses, knocking them off his face. "Uh, um… why—I mean, when did you get here?"
"I told you that Nanoha was staying over for her time on Mid," Lindy said, propping her head up on the table with her palms. She chuckled as Nanoha picked his glasses up off the floor and handed them back, rubbing the back of her head and sheepishly apologizing. "I figured it had been some time since you'd seen one another, and what better way for everyone to reconnect than through dinner together?"
"I see…." He replaced his glasses only to find Nanoha still standing there, looking him with gentle, indigo-eyes that seemed to glimmer as they stared into his own. His cheeks turned crimson, and he found himself noticing how much softer her features were than he remembered. As well as the fact that she smelled… nice.
He wondered why he felt so flustered at seeing her up-close. It had been a year, and it was good to see her, but his heart was starting to beat faster. Maybe it was because he had been thinking about her and the past all day?
Chrono peeked over his shoulder to the sight of Yuuno's ever-reddening face. He couldn't help but shake his head, sighing as he did. Then he felt a brush against his mind, and opened the telepathic channel to Amy. 'Somehow, I have the feeling Mother set this up just to see this.'
'The Admiral does seem to be enjoying herself,' Amy noted, glancing at Lindy's face. She was smiling as she watched the scene unfold. 'It's cute, in a way. You think he'll tell her how he feels?'
He scoffed just a little. 'I sincerely doubt it. Assuming he knows how he feels, Ferret Boy doesn't have it in him to come out and say it. He's the defensive-type, so you pressure him until an opening appears and slip through his defenses to get the message across.'
'Pot meet kettle.' She brushed her shoulder against his arm, taking her place next to his side. Their eyes met, and a rather knowing smile crept onto her face. 'I seem to recall you being in the same boat.'
'I confessed eventually,' he retorted. 'And, to be fair, I didn't know you were interested in me.'
'I only had to spell it out for you over the course of several years….' Amy placed a hand on her stomach. 'Then again, here we are. Starting a family….'
Chrono let a soft sigh slip out of his mouth, which slowly became a rare smile. 'Yeah, I guess so….'
"Uh, so, how have you been?" Yuuno asked Nanoha after she took the seat to the right of him. "I mean, how's your training going towards entering the Combat Instructor Division?"
She went into a detailed, vivid description of some of the training she had undergone in the last year since they had gotten together. Her training had been far more exciting than anything he had done in the last year, as expected of someone in her position. Graduation for her couldn't come soon enough, it seemed.
"But what about you, Yuuno-kun?" she asked, after finishing regaling him of her exploits. "How are things with you?"
He opened his mouth to tell her of his accomplishment, but the words died before they came out. If he mentioned the potential promotion, then he'd have to bring up why he didn't jump on it. That would bring some of his concerns to light, which would be a burden to her that she didn't need right now.
That, and the fact that he didn't want to risk hearing her suggestion to go one way or the other. She'd be able to talk him into either one, but for now he wanted to see where his future was heading towards through his own efforts. It was the only way he could be certain, and satisfied, with whatever path he chose.
With her still looking at him expectantly, he shifted his gaze and rubbed the top of his head. "Just more time in the Infinite Library, still in the middle of reorganizing things. Nothing special."
Chrono begged to differ. "You can say that, but at least when we need to do a reference in that section we can actually find what we're looking for in a reasonable timeframe now. Sending you there was the best thing to happen to the place."
"True, things are better than they were before," Yuuno admitted, "but there's still a lot of room for improvement in the wing I work in. Let alone the others. It could be well over a lifetime before its perfect…."
As he trailed off, Fate and Arf entered into the room. Fate took stock of everyone who had gathered, her brother, Amy, Nanoha, Lindy, and Yuuno, and smiled at the sight of so many familiar faces. "I had no idea we were having so many people over. I would have come out sooner."
"Amy and I returned earlier than we expected," Chrono said from the kitchen. "Scrya was apparently expected though."
"He wanted to speak to you and Arf about an expedition with his clan," Lindy stated. "I invited him over to do it since we haven't seen him in so long."
"Some of us more than others," the familiar said as she took a seat across from Yuuno, leaving her Mistress to take the seat next to Nanoha. "You went to see your clan after all, huh? How was it?"
His expression softened. "It was nice actually. There are a lot more kids there now, and I found myself actually enjoying playing with them in my ferret form. I really should have done it sooner, so thank you for what you said then."
"That's really nice," she said. "I'm happy for you."
"Arf-chan," Nanoha said, "you didn't tell us you met with Yuuno-kun."
"It was pure chance that we ran into one another, when you and Fate were practicing."Arf made a small, placating gesture with her hands. "We simply had lunch, but since it wasn't anything major I decided against mentioning it since you were both tired then. I wanted to wait until you both were relaxed before bringing it up, but it seems Lindy beat us to it."
"Like she said, it was a fluke," Yuuno added. "I would've said something myself, but you were both so dedicated that I didn't want to disturb your training. I know how difficult it is for both of you to even meet up being in different fields, on top of both of you living on different worlds. Since there wasn't much happening with me, I didn't want to intrude…."
"I guess I understand." Nanoha grumbled. She felt there was more to it, but she didn't want to pry.
Fate cleared her throat, grabbing their attention. "So what is this expedition about?"
"Right, that…" He adjusted his glasses by the bridge. "When I visited my clan, the elder invited me along to visit what looks to be a partially terraformed Type-1c world. There's a facility in the center of it and we were hoping it may have been of historical value, so two other clan members and I are going to scout the area. I wanted to ask if Arf could accompany us."
Arf's expression conveyed her confusion. But it was her Mistress that spoke on her behalf. "Not that I'm opposed, provided Arf agrees, but may I ask why?"
"Yes…" He trailed off into a sigh, shaking his head as memories from hours prior with Carrie came to the surface. She had warned him to take this seriously, reminding him that this wasn't something to be taken lightly when family lives were on the line. "This line of work is dangerous, you understand, and it's not strange for us to run into dangerous Lost Logia or thieves who would want to sell them."
"He's right." Lindy chimed in. "Archeologists have one of the most dangerous careers given their close-contact with relics of the Warring States era."
"For that reason, I want to make sure that we take as many precautions as possible," Yuuno's expression grew somber. "In all honesty, though I remain in practice, it's been too long for me to say without a doubt that I'm sufficient enough to support them. Few of our clan members are above C-rank in terms of ability, and I've seen what happens when we aren't careful on a dig more than once…. one time we even stumbled across a command unit Mariage."
Lindy winced. "That's… unfortunate. I'm sorry."
He exhaled silently with pursed lips before nodding. "We managed to stop it and reported it. That had to be enough. "
Nanoha frowned at seeing him like this. The topic was obviously difficult for him to talk about, but it left her wondering what it could have been that made him look like that. What was this thing that caused him to look so pained?
'It's an ancient cybernetics' weapon from the Dark Ages,' Fate explained through a telepathic link. She learned of it during her Enforcer-based curriculum. 'Hailing from the ancient Kingdom of Galea, it can be considered a greater threat than the Tome of the Night sky before it was purged of the corrupted defense program under a worst-case scenario.'
Fate nodded. 'It takes corpses and turns them into soldiers, twisting them into what amounts to B-Rank mage zombies that move under a hive mind. A command unit is arguably A-ranked and capable of raising the dead in combat time. Most likely, one or more of his clansmen were turned and then set loose upon them…."
Nanoha's imagination worked its own magic, painting a grisly picture of one of her oldest friends dying only to have his corpse desecrated and twisted into an abomination. It made her shudder. Just thinking that the gentle scholar, who she could only see at his happiest while surrounded by books, facing something like that… it made her stomach drop.
"Should you really risk your life for something like that?" she asked. "Wouldn't it be better if you stayed in the Infinite Library instead of doing something so dangerous?"
He straightened out, facing her with conviction in his eyes and steel in his voice. "There's so much we don't understand from the time when Alhazred collapsed and the resulting eras. The things we find and gleam during the excavations can be used to better civilization as a whole, or make things safe for others. Could you imagine how things would be if the familiar uplifting program, one of the few things that carried from that time, hadn't survived the collapse?"
Fate's eyes drifted over to her familiar. Arf had been there for her during the hard and lonely times. Had she not, there was little doubt she wouldn't have been able to survive as she had to this day. "No, I couldn't. I don't even want to."
He ran his fingers through his hair and nodded to himself, confirming his own beliefs. "To this day, no one fully understands how the Familiar Uplifting works. By modern standards it shouldn't exist, but in the past they managed to do what we consider impossible. Now imagine if we could somehow find and understand the life-extension treatments that the Alhazredians had, or repurpose the ancestor-thrones of Praovéan Dynasts for life-support systems? Regardless of the risks, the discoveries to be had are worth pursuing despite the danger."
If even a minute before he seemed like a timid ferret that should have been nestled away inside the library for safety, now he seemed different. He was like they had known him once before, standing alongside them as a peer and equal. Not someone to be coddled.
"Much like all of you risk your lives for what you believe in, we do the same upholding that belief. We learn from their advancements, and we document the evidence of their mistakes to make sure it doesn't happen again. That is what it means to be a Scrya—to never be afraid to uncover the past, for the sake of the future!"
There was a moment of absolute silence after his impassioned speech. It made sense. Few there could think of a time when he spoke with such conviction that it was unbefitting of his normally placid nature.
Arf couldn't stop herself from clapping softly, easing the tension that had come about. The nature of the smile that blossomed on her face was that spoke of understanding, and a touch of envy. Looking at those emerald eyes that held a passion in them that burned as hot as the sun, she found herself wanting that.
For Fate, there was no sin too grave or risk too great that she wouldn't undertake to protect her. But now, falling behind as her Mistress grew stronger and older, she found herself where she wouldn't be needed despite her conviction. But, if a simple question could spark such a reaction in him after how she had seen him before, then maybe… just maybe, she could go along and find that same spark in protecting him. "If you put it like that there's no way we can so no, right, Fate?"
Fate nodded, turning to her best friend and letting their minds touch one another. 'Even as a child he was capable of supporting you when you were just spreading your wings. The stakes were so high, and he had no obligation to remain. Yet, even when it would have been easier to simply run away or ignore what happened on Earth, he stayed and fought like the rest of us. To think any less of him would be an insult.'
"I'm sorry, Yuuno-kun," Nanoha said, her voice soft. It had been so long that she only saw him as a friend who introduced her to magic, rather than someone who fought alongside her. She reached for his hands and took them into hers. "It's just that I was worried about you."
"I feel that same way thinking about every time all of you go out and do your jobs," he said. The softness of her touch was enough to warm on the inside, and the concern in her eyes was as clear as they were beautiful. They staggered his breath. "As… as your friend, no matter how strong all of you are, that fear will never fade."
'You're blushing,' Arf pointed out telepathically. Along with those words, she showed him her view of Amy and Chrono exchanging knowing glances, with Amy barely keeping herself from laughing. 'I'm willing to bet they're wondering if you'll be confessing now.'
He looked away, breaking the contact and covering his mouth as he got back on topic. "We're taught from a young age that history and relics from the past have to be preserved, whether good or bad. These artifacts and ruins hold a great deal of knowledge and can act as means of unraveling the mysteries of the past. That being said, I value life more and just want everyone to be safe. That's why I wanted to invite Arf, if she could get permission."
"If Arf wants to help you, she has my blessing," Fate said. "Just make sure both of you come back to us safe and sound."
"The initial scouting may take well over a week with the limited space and supplies on the ship, but we aren't expecting anything serious," he assured her. "She'd more than capable of helping during that time."
'So it has nothing to do with what we discussed earlier?' Arf prodded with a smile. 'And here I thought this was your way of paying me back.'
'It's both,' he replied. 'I want to help you like you helped me, giving you a chance to experience something different in hopes of finding whatever it is you're looking for... plus, everything I said was true. Your help would be more than welcomed.'
"Can we at least see you both off?" Nanoha asked. "I want to meet your family. You've meet all of ours, so it's only fair."
"I don't see why not," he said, scratching the back of his head.
"And with that said, dinner is done," Amy announced. With her husband-to-be, she set the table and the delicious aroma began to make their stomachs ache with the desire to consume it. "I hope there will be enough for everyone."
"Maybe I shouldn't impose any further," Yuuno said. He made to leave, only to be held in place by Lindy as she set her hands on his shoulders. The smile she wore felt ominous for some reason.
It was then Arf gave him some words of wisdom. 'There's no escape. Lindy doesn't let anyone leave the table when its dinner time. Just sit back down and make nice.'
Faced with that unchanging smile and the advice, he sank back in his seat. "I… guess I can stay a bit longer?"
The former Flotilla Admiral released him and clasped her hands. "Wonderful. Now girls, tell me how your day was…."
Yuuno left feeling fuller than he expected, and later than he expected. That woman didn't let him go until he was stuffed, saying he needed to put on a bit more weight. Honestly, he felt like he wanted to curl up and sleep now.
Standing outside, he stared at the two moons above for a brief moment in thought. He accomplished what he set out to do, but he didn't mean to have that sort of outburst. By the Kaisers, he hadn't even thought he still had that sort of passion in him for archeology after being in the Infinite Library. Yet, all it took was one comment from Nanoha to bring those buried feelings to the surface.
He was happy there, and like Chrono said, he did some real good there. But… for all the dangers, he did miss his time exploring ruins. Every corner was a mystery to unfold, holding secrets no one else had viewed in millennia. The tomes in the Library would remain there, and even if it took a lifetime they could be deciphered, but there were still countless things left to discover.
Surer than ever that he had to do this, he walked home with every intention of getting a decent rest for what was to come tomorrow…
Though he had to admit, maybe it would be faster if he shape-shifted. Four legs would be better than two, given how his stomach felt at the moment.