This is a runner up in a fanfic/cover art contest! I hope you enjoy it!
The still, warm spring air of the forest invited repose for those within. Ruchi families nested peacefully in the brush while phorus lounged under the shade of the leaves. But the two young elves weaving around the trunks, laughing all the while, seemed oblivious to this silent call to peace.
"Ha! I got you no- Hey! No fair!" cried one as she leapt towards her companion, only for hands to grasp the wind as it carried her target just out of reach.
"Hehe. You have to be faster than that, Lua!" the other elf taunted, sticking her tongue out at her friend. Lua swung her arms, fingers outstretched to catch the elf, but to no avail as she seemingly danced just beyond her reach on air.
"Stop doing that, Rena!" Lua shouted in frustration, taking another swipe at her and grabbing only empty air again.
"Stop doing what?" Rena asked innocently as she floated away once more.
"THAT! That's cheating!" Lua accusedly pointed to Rena, who covered her mouth in mock shock.
"Cheating!? How could you say such a thing, Lua?"
"Stop pretending! You're using the spirits to push you away!" This time, Lua went completely airborne, attempting to tackle Rena before she could escape.
"Spirits? They can do that?" Rena laughed as she spun away, her feet dancing on the wind, and letting her friend's face meet the forest floor with a magnificent thud.
Rena flinched slightly because it sounded like it hurt. And then she noticed Lua hadn't budged a millimeter.
"Uh… Lua? Are you okay?" she asked nervously. She was hoping her friend didn't get hurt. But Lua didn't make a peep in answer.
"Lua…? Are you mad? I-I'm sorry I cheated…" She started to move towards her motionless friend. Was she really hurt?
Panic began to take over. "Lua! Lua! Say something!" Rena started to shake Lua furiously to wake her, oblivious to the snickering of the spirits around her.
Not a moment later, her friend's very alive hand snatched Rena's wrist and a devilish grin broke out across Lua's face. "Taaaaaaag" she sang.
Rena froze for a good ten seconds, mouth hanging open and eyes fixed straight forward, allowing the other elf more than enough time to scramble to her feet and sprint away with a giddy laugh. By the time the shock of being tricked wore off, Lua had a big head start.
"AH! Lua! That's cheating!" Rena yelled as she leapt to her feet and took off after her friend.
Lua turned to her and stuck out her tongue. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Rena. That was a completely legitimate strategy!"
Rena groaned at her own logic being turned against her and at her situation. Lua was more physically gifted than her. She was faster, stronger and a better archer to boot. Rena's talent laid in her ability to call on the spirits to assist her. This allowed her to keep up with, and even occasionally outperform, her friend.
But with this great a distance between them she would have to get creative. So, with the spirits aid, she leapt to the trees above and sprang from branch to branch in pursuit of Lua.
Lua swiveled her head to check on her pursuer not a moment later to notice Rena was gone. She slowed her pace. "Uh… Rena?"
The elf in question didn't answer, instead quietly advancing through the leaves. "Rena?" Lua called again, now slowing to a brisk walk. Her pointed ears angled ever so slightly to pick up any sound her friend could make.
But they heard nothing. Was Rena trying to get the jump on her? Or maybe that last trick was enough to quash whatever fun she was having?
Just as that last thought finished her pointed ears suddenly twitched upwards as they picked up the sound of cracking branches overhead. Lua deftly stepped to the side just in time to dodge the falling apple.
Wait. Apple? Lua thought just before her vision exploded into colorful stars from Rena's head landing on her own. The two elves collapsed unceremoniously to the ground in a daze, their heads throbbing from the impact.
"T-TaaaaAAAAaaag…" exclaimed Rena drunkenly, her first pumping into the air.
"Knocking heads together doesn't count, Rena…" Lua answered, her vision still filled with stars. The amount of colors she could see was honestly staggering.
Rena shakingly sat herself up and looked at her friend. "Uh… call it a draw then?"
Lua hummed thoughtfully, finally blinking away the stars. "Mmmm… Okay," she answered, flashing Rena a toothy grin.
"Okay!" Rena cheered and then reached out her hand. "Here."
Lua grasped her friend's hand and allowed her to pull herself to her feet. "So…" she started to ask. Rena rolled her eyes, predicting the incoming question . "What's the score now?"
Rena pouted slightly and turned her head away. Lua prodded her with a finger. "Come on…" she giggled. "What's the score?"
Rena's mouth twisted and muttered under her breath, "Three to two…"
Lua could hear her, but she feigned deafness. "Huh? What was that?" she teased, holding back a chuckle.
Rena's back straightened. "Three to two," she said, a little louder this time. But it was rare for Lua to get her friend this riled up, so she chose to savor the moment for as long as possible.
"Huh? Sorry, Rena. I can't hear you over the sound of my VICTORY." Lua made sure to emphasize that last bit as much as possible.
Rena spun her head towards Lua with a dramatic scowl and cried out, "Best out of seven!"
Lua laughed. "Didn't you say best out of five when I won the best out of three?"
Rena stomped her feet in frustration. "We tied that last one! I almost had you!" Her small cheeks puffed out in annoyance.
Lua was definitely going to keep this going. "We tied, yes, but I still WON!" She put her hands to her hips and puffed out her chest triumphantly.
Rena groaned dejectedly before letting out a sigh of defeat. "Fine… You win, Lua..."
Rena finally surrendered and acknowledged her friend's victory.
"Woohoo!" Lua cheered. "But hey, that last play was a close one! I didn't expect you to come from above!" A painful throb on her skull reminded her of how effective the strategy was.
Rena's sour mood vanished like a puff of smoke. "Thanks! I didn't expect you to move right below me though…" she admitted nervously.
Lua then realized something about that moment. "Wait… did you drop that apple?"
It was Rena's turn to assume the triumphant pose. "Yep! I knew you'd hear me coming, so I used the apple to distract you!"
"You clever jeolm-eun-i. Elder Branwen definitely didn't teach you that," Lua exclaimed, surprised at her friend's creativity.
Rena shook her head, now sticking her nose into the air. "Nope. Came up with that from Erendris' martial training."
"Oh! So you are paying attention rather than making googly eyes at him!"
Rena's face exploded red. "Wha-! I do NOT make googly eyes at him!" The spirits around her tumbled in silent laughter.
"Really? Then why did you tell me that he was, and I quote, prime mating material, hm?" Man she was on a roll today getting under Rena's skin.
Rena shook her head rapidly as if to throw the blush off her cheeks, but to no avail of course. "He's like, four hundred years my senior!"
Lua wagged a telling finger to her. "Nope. Three hundred and seventy three according to what you said las-"
"Okay! Okay! I'll stop teasing you," she finally relented. Rena set a hand over thumping heart and took a couple deep breaths. As she calmed herself, the spirits around her floated away and settled near a bloom of flowers nearby.
Rena followed them and squatted to get a closer look at the colorful plants. "So, Rena, what next?" Lua called to her friend, only to receive silence in answer.
Lua looked to her friend and saw she hadn't budged from where she was squatting. "Hey, Elrios to Renaaaaaa," she called again and this time she noticed Rena's ears perk up slightly at her call.
"Oh, sorry Lua. I was just…" she trailed off, not even breaking her stare. Lua stepped behind her and peeked over Rena's shoulder to see what was holding her attention so intensely.
In the midst of the flowers, the spirits were dancing around one in particular. It stuck out among the lilacs and zinnias with its three yellow petals and similarly colored, and numbered, yet striped sepals.
It was a flower the two knew all too well. It was a flower that started Rena down the path she currently tread.
"An alstroemeria…" Lua breathed. Now that she thought about it, neither of them had seen one since that day.
The day Rena gave her all to resuscitate a flower Lua treasured, only to fail.
Lua stepped around her friend and knelt next to her. "Rena…" She could see the memories cloud her friend's bright gaze, and the spirits quietly floated to her face to caress her cheeks. "Rena, are you okay?"
A tear welled up in Rena's eye and she wiped it away quickly. "I… I don't know… I just feel…" Lua could see the regret on her face.
Regret that she nearly harmed the spirits. Regret that she failed to revive the flower.
Regret that she failed her friend.
So, Lua did the first thing that came to her mind; she quietly snuck behind her friend, took a deep breath, and then grabbed her friend by the shoulders.
"Grrrrrr… I have come for you, little one…" she growled, not unlike a vicious animal.
Rena squealed in terror and rolled away. "Eek! NO! NO, LEAVE ME ALONE!" she screamed as she scrambled away until running into a tree trunk.
Lua curled her fingers menacingly, taking exaggerated steps towards her friend, who was snapping her head every which way for a way to escape. Lua stepped closer, and closer…
And just as Rena screwed her eyes shut in terror, "Heheh. Just kidding!" Rena opened her eyes to see Lua winking mischievously at her.
"... Lua! That's not funny!" Rena screamed as she sprang to her feet and leaped at her friend. Lua didn't bother resisting and allowed her friend to tackle her to the ground. "You're so mean, you sagikkun!" Her small fists pounded Lua lightly, but firmly.
"Sorry, Rena. I just had to do something to cheer you up." Rena looked at her friend, stunned. But it quickly melted away into a grateful smile. "It's weird to see you gloomy, Rena. If you're not careful, the suchwiin will come for you."
Rena unconsciously shivered. "C-Come on, Lua. We both know the suchwiin aren't real… Right?"
"Yeah…" Rena's unease rubbed off on Lua a bit, as a chilling shock shot up her spine, but she quickly shook it off. "But, Rena, you remember what this child represents, right?" She returned to the flower where the spirits waited.
Rena's bright smile finally broke out. "Yeah. Ujeong." Rena skipped to her friend and clasped her small hands around Lua's. "Friendship."
Lua nodded enthusiastically. "Yep! Branwen told us so! And we'll always be friends!"
"Yeah! Always!" They jumped happily, spinning in a giddy circle as the spirits danced along with them.
Then Rena paused, a thought occurring to her. "Wait, Branwen wanted us to be back before nightfall…"
She then swept her gaze across the sky, her eyes remaining on the Solace for a time.
"Hm… we got another three hours before night falls…" Rena mused, prompting Lua to consider their situation further.
"Which means we got to be back in two…" Lua scowled, an expression Rena mimicked.
The two young elves fell silent for a few moments before looking at each other with the exact same look in their eyes.
And with that, the elvish duo darted off to adventures untold...
I've always wanted to delve a little further into Rena and Lua's relationship. Ever since Lua was introduced in Rena's sidestory I wanted to increase Lua's impact on Rena as a character and came up with - I think - a very powerful and emotional narrative. This will be expanded on in future releases.
As I have done in the past, the elven language is Korean, and I had a little extra help from Paradokkusu to pick some of these words! The translations and pronunciations, courtesy of Paradokkusu are below.
Jeolm-eun-i/Jul-mun-ee: Young/Little child
Ujeong/Oo-juhng: Friendship (Duh)
The art above was created by Paradokkusu. As always, please Read and Review if you can. I'm working on a couple of large projects right now, so seeing any kind of feedback is a good way for me to stay motivated.
Until next time!