(This is it, the big send-off of this Fic. It's been over a year since I started this dealie, and now that it's over I can't do much more than thank you all for being so positive of it! Well, I suppose I can do a little more… Oh, here's something. Look for a sequel to this puppy sometime in the future, though I'm gonna admit this now; it won't be anytime soon. I would write a sequel right away, but you'll all have to trust me when I say that that just won't work. Not with what I have in mind. Also, finishing this Fic means that I can finally let my Writer's ADD fly, so don't be surprised if you run into one of the several one-shots I have pent up in my brain for some of the other categories in this site. Now, give this thing a read and finally we can close the back cover on what eventually became the second-longest story in the entire HM category! See you around!)
It was the clearest and most pleasant Summer day that anyone could ask for. Its heat was compromised moments at a time by a light, coastal breeze, which left the Valley feeling as pristine as anyone could wish for, and maybe even a little more. The old farm on the hill, once a disgraceful mess of wood and tiling (and even worse-off before Jack had arrived), was now a humble but savory place of belonging, and a young man could not ask for a better, more nostalgically-appeasing home.
This young man, of red hair and quiet demeanor, could not help but speak in a voice that would make a silly person of a father proud, as he recounted his personal belongings for no one in particular but himself to hear, within his lovely home.
"My shelf… my calendar… my bookcase, my TV, my bed…" he lists, walking to each of the items as he went and pointing to them with officiality. "My front door, my kitchen door, my record player…"
An image of a young woman stepped in from the recently-claimed kitchen door, her amber locks framing the whites and purples of her new dress, which she hefted unsurely.
"…What do you think, Miro?" she asks, tilting her head a little. Miro turned from the front door and inspected it up and downward with a quick glance. He took a few steps closer, putting a hand to his chin.
"…Well, your amber locks frame it pretty well," he states. "Why, you think something's wrong with it?"
"Not really," replies Kate, shrugging slightly. "I just don't want to look like I can't do my share of the work. It seems a little dainty to me."
"…Kate, nobody has come to this town since you did at the age of five," he reminds her with a little smile. "if anybody still doesn't get the fact that you're a born fighter, they can taste the end of your Wind Scrape."
Kate laughs a little. "I don't know if I even have that little knife anymore. But thanks." And she kissed him on the cheek.
Once again, Miro felt glee. "That's what I love about being married. The kisses come in much shorter intervals." He chuckles a little and then pauses to think. "How many are we at now, again?"
"Two thousand, one hundred and sixty-two." Kate replies, remembering to put another notch on their extremely long scoresheet next to the fridge. "Do you think we're safe yet?"
"Oh, I'd wait a little longer…" Miro replies. The two laugh slightly. They always had to wait a little longer…
"…Well, I'm going to see what we've got for lunch." Kate says, stepping back and beginning toward the kitchen. "And you're cooking. I've got burn marks up to my elbows from that evil chowder from hell that we ate yesterday."
Miro shrugged and nodded, and Kate disappeared through the doorway. After a few moments, he decided to check and see if his old bedroom needed any kind of maintenance work, as well as to count the things inside of it. He approached the shut door casually, opened it, and was greeted by gentle breeze and a pristine but partially tree-blocked view of the small village and ocean below. He paused a moment, mouth agape. Someone had stolen his room…
He looked downward, at the now-empty square of dirt that once was the foundation of that part of the house, and noticed, in the very middle, a tiny, folded piece of paper. Deciding he had little else to go with, he hopped down into the flattened patch of earth and trotted over to the paper inquisitively, kneeling down and picking it up. He unfolded it – as he expected, it was a note.
As you might have noticed, your old bedroom no longer exists. It and most of the things inside of it have been towed away overnight and sold. You may also notice that the house is a little more squat, as we have sold the second floor as well. Take a good look at what the house is right now, Miro. This is the condition it was in when your mother and I started our lives together. The kitchen, the main room, and that's about it. Also, most of the animals have been sold, other than Greaser, our cow Totosai, our bull Cinna, and four chickens. Well, the goat also, but only because no one wanted to buy it. As for the farm's bank account, we've lowered it to the amount it was nine months before you were born. Welcome to your farm, son. Your mother and I are off to our vacation, and we'll be back… whenever we want to! You on the other hand have some work to do, and I suggest you get cracking right away. I know I had to… So, I hope you and Kate have the best time of all together, and might I add, buy a seed maker before a Star Cow. Those things don't come pre-filled with milk, you know.
Have a wonderful life… or close enough anyway,
Miro stared at this with disbelief, trying vainly for a moment to unlock some mysterious brain power to change the words of the letter to something else, something that involved him having all of his stuff still… After a moment, though, he realized it to be impossible, and let the note drop loosely from his hands. He felt the extremely appreciated and called-for emotion of anger begin to well up inside of him, and with a swift motion took a deep breath and looked up spitefully at the heavens.
"SON OF A-"
The soils of the field were ripe, ready for their next set of Summer crops after the pretty-good-for-Spring income of the last harvest. Much contemplation had been done regarding how this farm was to be run for the coming generatrion, but no one else in Mineral Town was more ready and able to do such contemplating than the one self-assigned to the duty. Cap faced forward and hands pocketed, the quiet eyes of the… potentially able-bodied Matthew scan over the huge slab of planting grounds, dotted by the occasional weed or rock or area of fence. Though he was none too experienced with the concept, it seemed that the grass field could be cut as well. Work had to be done, that much was apparent…
Anna stood a slight distance behind him, and stepped forward with caution. No longer did she wear a skirt, but a… longer skirt, which ended just before her knees. Her shirt also covered all of her stomach, but other than those details she looked nearly the same as she did during the great events those short years previous – pink streaked hair with glittering stars and all. To compare, Matthew had also narry changed other than growing to be just a bit taller than his father, causing him to need a new sweatshirt, and gaining slightly broader shoulders from taking over the delivery work at the Blacksmith (to quote his father: 'Trust me, those Yarn and Cheese Makers don't move themselves').
Matthew looked over to Anna, who nodded back to her husband. "Now?" she inquires.
"I suppose," replies Matthew with a slight nod. Anna smiled and stepped back, waiting eagerly for the event to occur. With a sigh to loosen the tension of the moment, Matthew spread his arms out to the sides, took in a breath and, after a moment's pause, spoke.
Immediately, the rainbowesque family of Harvest Sprites appeared from multiple nowheres such as the doghouse and behind rocks and the watering can lying against the barn, each of them marching forward with excited badums of joy and quickly surrounding Matthew. Then, all together, they jumped onto or climbed up his person, summoning various garments when they had reached their desired point. Two summoned white gloves, which were placed overtop of Matthew's hands. Three more created a pair of overalls which covered over Matthew's pants, the straps of which swung over his shoulders and clipped on easily. His shoes, formerly mortal, worn sneakers, morphed into resiliant (some would say invincible) rubber boots. A red bandanna was conjured from air and wrapped around his neck loosely, tying off at the ends. Aqua was just ready to add the final touch, but Matthew shook his head firmly.
"No, I will."
With that, the Sprites jumped off of him and watched, waiting in excited anticipation. With an air of finality, Matthew reached both hands up to his head, found the beak of his cap, and swung it around, almost completely backward. The farm was filled with excited cries and applause from little hands, which Anna joined in with happiness. After it had faded, the miniature work force each gave Matthew a salute, and then broke off in various directions, vanishing from view as quickly as they had appeared.
Matthew looked down at himself for a moment, contemplatingly. His left eye squinted slightly; he wasn't yet used to it being under direct sunlight. Anna approached her husband and wrapped an arm around his neck, giggling.
"You're so cute now! You look just like Dad!" she claims, taking a moment to nuzzle the side of her face to his. Matthew smiled a little, looking down at his gloved hands and inspecting them at several angles. He then looked back up at the expansive field; a plain, almost featureless slate, waiting to be filled… by them. By their will and ambition, their desire and love and what would be their legacy. They would also have to make room for crops. Matthew smiled again at this thought, but lessened it to make way for a look of long-standing determination and preparedness for the task ahead of Anna and himself.
"Well, let's get started…"
Once again, the peaceful, pristine scene of Romana's manor were being accented by a beautiful keyed melody emanating from its open windows. The years since the wedding of two loving people who lived within that great mansion had been filled with melodies of bliss and happiness, as its originator, Lumina, had found herself inspired by the positive aura her works received from her musically-inept but well-meaning husband. Not only had Hugh, over the years, gained some competency in the field of musical appreciation and understanding, but he was beginning to enchance his vocabulary, as he found more and more clever-sounding ways to say 'good'.
Lumina was smiling, swaying to the tune of her own keys as she raised her arms upward and downward with the movement of the piano before her. After ending her tune with a light and majestic crescendo, she dropped her hands down to her lap and watched as the piano was set on the ground carefully from below. A moment later, Hugh appeared from underneath, rolling the bench press he had installed coasters onto along and stopping once his entire self had appeared from the keyboard instrument's left side. A thin growth of stubble was present across his face, but his one-shave-a-week policy had been enough to prevent anything near full-beardedness. He lay on his bench for a while, panting to catch his breath and raising a tired arm to wipe sweat from his brow. He looked to Lumina once this was done.
"How was that? Did I keep up with the tempo?" he inquires, beginning to fan himself off with one hand.
"Almost perfect this time." Lumina replies, smiling her subtle, delicate smile to him. "And how was I?"
"Admirable." Hugh returns proudly, glad of the discovery of a word even better than that of 'commendable'. He honestly did enjoy her playing, but keeping a thesaurus at his bedside with which to study every night always helped him to better express his appreciation. Lumina laughed softly and put a hand to her mouth. Suddenly, a question of his own came to Hugh.
"And hey, how's the newest member of town coming along?" he inquires. Lumina, still smiling, looked down to herself and lowered her head a little, putting her hands to her middle.
"It's only been two months," she states. "but it feels fine. I haven't gotten really sick or anything yet."
"Good to hear." Hugh states with a grin, lifting himself to a sitting position and grabbing the towel he had placed on the side of the piano. He slung it over his shoulder and continued. "We should think of what we'll name the kid sometime. If it's a boy, I'd say Wally, like my Dad. Uh… Though I don't think my mom's name would work well if it's a girl, to be honest… What do you think?"
"If it's a girl?" Lumina echoes, to Hugh's nod. She took a moment to think about this. "How about… Reona?"
"Nah, I don't know… too fuzzy." Hugh replies, shrugging a little. "It won't work for this generation. Dad's name might not work either… Hmm…"
"Well, we still have seven months to think about it, dear. Don't bother running it through your mind right away." Lumina reminds him, getting to her feet and folding her hands together. "Now, let's get that chest of yours waxed and oiled up. It would be nice to have three Mr. Smalltown Universe trophies in a row."
Hugh nodded in agreement, and with the glee that only a chest-waxing could bring to him, followed Lumina closely as she walked to the door of their large and fully-used beauty parlor and equipment room.
"Order up!" calls a young lady standing at the front of the Beach House till, glancing behind her to the backroom for the person she was calling at. She wore a dark sleeved shirt with two pink hearts leaned against one another on the collar, and as per usual sported her capris, a deal of which were covered by a white apron. The star chains and necklace she usually wore were discarded for the moment, left on a shelf nearby to ensure that no one would get a tooth-cracking surprise in their spaghetti dinner. Her pink hair was tied back in a loose bun, which she admittedly hated, but it was somewhat necessary when in the food service.
"What've we got?" comes the reply from the backroom, a brown-topped head popping into view from the doorway. Behind said doorway the young man was also wearing a cooking apron, as well as a casual white tee shirt and blue jeans common of him.
"Six threes, three eights and eight sevens," she lists, to the other's confusion.
"…Seven eights?" he echoes.
"Eight sevens," corrects the girl.
"Ah… And four threes-?"
"Three eights, and six threes."
"So, five threes, eight eights and four sevens?"
"…Just make a bunch of snowcones."
"Righto, Ricca," William replies, shrinking nervously back into the kitchen. Ricca sighed, but smiled, tapping her fingers absently on the top of the sneeze guard as she waited. The number system didn't seem to be working for William, and they only really used it for the sake of efficiency, which seemed a little pointless since the Beach House had a reputation for being a little… slow, business-wise. She was beginning to consider switching back to the old system, not that that was her top interest at the time. Nor was the large juggle of jobs that might make itself apparent soon, since the Doctor could usually handle the Clinic alone and it seemed as though Stu was planning to take work there himself, and the Inn was going to be handled by Anna when her mother was off and would be aided by May, and it seemed that Saibara would never keel over while there was still work to do in the Blacksmith, especially since his great-grandson Matthew didn't seem likely to follow in his father's footsteps, and even when he does die Gray would likely step out of 'retirement' to take charge, and May and Stu together would have enough time to manage Yodel Farm whilst taking care of their other small tasks, and Poultry Farm would someday be taken care of by Karrie and Bry, once they decide to end their worldly tours abroad and settle somewhere, but in the meantime Karen and Rick did a moderate job of keeping things in order. The Library was a given, since Mary basically lived there and would likely die there, hunched over the final page of the final chapter of Fantasy Meadows XXVIII or something, long after someone else who could take care of it shows up.
And that left the Beach House… Ricca had no real complaints of working there. It was a very cheery and bright place, and made even better by the presence of her freshly-entitled husband. Rarely was she content when she was a teen, moreso on the day that William disappeared and became that alter-self of his, but now that things had slowed down and mellowed out, Ricca had found the opportunity to stop and smell the Moondrops; notice how her life was proceeding. And, even with utmost strain to find one, she was surprised to realize that she couldn't conjure up a single complaint…
"Here they are!" calls William from the backroom, stepping in cautiously from the doorway with two large, round trays of snowcones balancing on his hands. "Um… A little help…?"
Ricca turned her head to see him and widened her eyes, immediately walking to him and taking one of the trays with both hands. William sighed and nodded in thanks, holding the tray he still had with the aid of his now-free hand.
"Who made this huge order, anyway?" William inquires, the two passing around the till and heading toward the door.
"The bunch lounging around outside," Ricca replies.
"Are they still there?" William incredulously asks, glancing to her with some surprise and some amusement.
Ricca smiles at his expression and shrugs slightly, trying not to shift the tray while doing so. "Take a look for yourself."
Opening the door (with some difficulty), the two of them step out of the little building and into the bright sunlight washing like a constant tide over the beach. As quickly as they could, they approach the startlingly long line of beach chairs, upon each of which lay a sunbathing, swimsuit-donned and harshly middle-aged person. Obidiently, Ricca and William step to each of them, handing a snowcone sequentially to Cliff, Elli, Rick, Karen, Ann, Jack (her husband), Popuri, Kai, Gray, Mary, Celia, Marlin, Muffy, and Rock. The task finished, the couple put the empty trays under their arms and walk back to the resturant, waiting a moment before taking hands and leaning into each other warmly. In time, they had disappeared behind the Beach House door once more.
"They're so sweet…" Elli coos, smiling and staring off to where they went.
"Juicy, too," Jack adds helpfully, taking a loving bite out of his snowcone.
"I think she meant Ricca and William, Dear," Ann corrects. Jack only shrugs and continues his escapade into the dephs of his frozen treat.
"This… is the life," Cliff states, putting his arms behind his head and staring off into the clear skies above. "We work hard for years, break our backs for the new generation, and now that they're up for taking our jobs full-time, we have the time to relax…"
"I woulda killed for one day's break like this sometime in the first five years I took over the farm…" Jack comments, taking a break from his snowcone just long enough to say that.
"No doubt, not at all," Rick says in agreement, fixing his sunglasses overtop of his regular glasses. "Farm life is 24-7, unless you have decent help in which case it's perhaps 17-7."
"Honey, Honey, leave jokes to the funny ones," Karen politely reminds him, taking a sip of her seventh grape martini and still going strong. Rick muttered but shrugged agreeingly with a small grin. A few moments passed before someone else spoke.
"…You know, I've been wondering something," Kai states, sitting up slightly and glancing to the sunbathing Muffy. "That Bry, your son, why does he look so much like Miro? They're not related or anything."
"…Oh? That's a funny little story, really," Muffy begins, shifting to attempt to get one of her whitening gold locks unstuck from a joint in her chair. "When I was younger, I always wanted to know what it would be like, having a child with Jack… So, when I discovered Daachan, my first wish was that my baby would look like what he would look like if Jack was the father… Of course, I couldn't let everyone know I had done something like that, so I had Bry locked in the Inn basement for the first fifteen years of his life…"
"Apparently I wasn't good enough just as myself…" Rock mutters, stretching and yawning a little moodily.
"It was just a passing fancy, Hon," Muffy reassures him. At that, Rock gave her an odd glance.
"Plotting to kill Jack's family for over fifteen years-?"
"Just a passing fancy."
"We always liked him, but we knew that you two really returned feelings to us," Celia states, glancing over to Marlin. "Jack was just a little… fun on the side; plotting revenge on his family and such…"
"…In phychology terms, I believe that's called a 'case study'," Mary states, sighing once.
"I would have never guessed that you were married, you know," Gray says, lifting his still-present cap (which had gotten just a little musty over the years) slighty and looking to the four Valley residents. "Why did we never see you when we were off looking for the kids?"
"Well, I was um, helping out with a farm," Rock replies, nodding a bit to himself. "Everyone was away, somebody had to take care of things."
"As for me, well, I had business…" Marlin begins, taking a pause to recall what else had happened. "…And after I got back, a loose cow tripped me and I spent some weeks recovering from concussion… Really strange coincidence that I was never around when all of those odd things with Daachan were happening."
"Yeah, I suppose…" Rock states. The group took a pause from speaking and focused on eating their snowcones for the time. When the majority of them were about half-finished, Kai chimed in.
"I wonder where Jack and Nami are right now…" he says, looking up to the brilliant blue sky again.
"We haven't seen them in a little while, have we?" Elli comments. "They must be very busy with something-or-other…"
"Too bad for them, I suppose," Jack chimes in, discarding his empty snowcone holder in a small wastebasket placed next to his seat, closing his eyes with hands placed comfortably behind his head. "They're missing an amazing day…"
Somewhere distantly south of either town, the ocean's pristine waters spread out everywhere within eyesight, the bright sunlight glimmering richly off of the clear, nearly crystaline blue ripples that stretched out into all surrounding horizon. Somewhere in this pleasant scene floated a gigantic, top-of-luxury cruise ship, merrily drifting its way through the waves and radiating with cheer, comfort, and relaxation.
Making sure to take in the full and uninterrupted sense of this was a drastically whitening red-head and her thick-moustached husband, both of which lay in beach chairs on the main deck, clad in swimwear and towels at their sides. Half-filled Cherry Pinks with lemons and small umbrellas sticking from the glass were rested on small tables right beside them, and shimmering dark sunglasses perched on their foreheads, for the time being. The man, the distinguished and royally content-looking Jack, nestled himself in his laying position and crossed his arms relaxedly over his chest.
"We're getting old… we're getting grey… we're uglying right up, but dammit we are rich…" he states triumphantly. Nami turns to him, smiling with faint smugness and looking as though she quite agreed.
"Over twenty years, it's been," she reminisces, placing her sunglasses over her eyes and looking upward again. "I would have never guessed that I would live out so many of my days in Forget-Me-Not Valley. At first sight, it's just another ugly hole of a village, but… there was actually a little more to it than that, I suppose."
"Twenty years you've been supposing," Jack says, laughing a bit to himself. "Listen, it's either got something to it or we've been hella duped, putting so much of our lives into the place."
"…Yes, you're right," Nami replies. "The Valley is definitely a very… special place. And I bet its story doesn't end with us."
"Yep, there's probably going to be a whole lot more strange things happening to it down the road…" Jack agrees, putting his arms to rest on the tanning chair's armrests. "But us, we've done our part in history. Now we get to let the kids carve their own bit of legacy."
"…Yeah," says Nami, though a bit let down by the idea. "Though a little more adventure wouldn't hurt…"
"Well, hey, who knows?" Jack reminds her. "We might not be important in the town's history anymore, but it doesn't mean ours is finished. We've got income, we're able, I'm sure we'll run into something, sometime."
"Maybe," Nami replies simply. After a few moments, though, she looks to Jack and raises her sunglasses slightly above her eyes. "…You know, it was a nice idea, but I almost feel bad for selling off everything in the farm that we didn't have when we married and taking most of the money."
"Oh, don't worry. I have it all planned," Jack states with a twinkle of wisdom in his usually burnt-out eye. "You see… We did this first. We are very disliked people to our son and daughter-in-law right now, but they can't do much of anything to us. Instead, they're gonna have a kid or two of their own, and once they retire they'll sell most everything off and enjoy a nice getaway at their kids' expense as well. Then those kids do the same thing to their own kids, and their own to their own, and so on. So, once a few generations pass, we're not the greedy parents anymore, but…"
"…The geniuses who started the tradition," Nami finishes, giving Jack an approving grin. The two chuckle to themselves a moment and sigh out a great breath of victory. "…You sure have your moments, Jack."
"Pirates!" calls a crew member on deck, who stared into the distance in alarm with a pair of binoculars over his eyes. Several more crew members and passangers echoed the cry and began scurrying off, heading down the nearby staircases into the ship's hull to secure their supplies or do some other sort of thing. Jack and Nami shift upward slightly and take a look over the ship's railing to see what the fuss was about, and surely enough there they were. A large, black-sailed ship with a skull-and-crossbones flag wavering in the breeze was making its way forth and a large mob of growling, shouting, sword-swinging and pistol-firing pirates were readily waiting on its main deck to board.
"…Hmph, somebody's behind the times," Nami says, rolling her eyes. Just then, one passenger in a mad panic passed near their chairs and knocked over Nami's glass of Cherry Pink. It fell on its side to the deck floor, is contents spilling out in a large wash. Nami narrowed her eyes. "…Dear, hold them off for the first while, I'm going to go change and get my knives."
"Of course," Jack replies, stretching and grumbling as he got up to a sitting position. Nami did the same, wearily getting to her feet and cracking her arm.
"…Ugh, I'm getting too old for this," she states, taking her towel and beginning to walk calmly to the deck's stairs.
"Well, think about it this way," Jack reminds her from behind. "Maybe this is the start of our own great adventure. It would be nice to have a ship like that."
"Maybe," Nami agrees, smiling a bit to herself and disappearing from view down the long flight. Jack looked to his right, finding his Rucksack sitting there, and opened it up. After a moment of rummaging, he found a spyglass and looked over to the approaching ship once more. He stood up slowly from where he sat and placed the spyglass over his eye, better spotting the details of these pursuers. There were about… fifty on deck at the time. Among them was a brown-haired man of stern maroon eyes and a one smug-looking one of dark skin with eyes sharp and blue. They only stood out since they weren't running around in preemptive fury and bashing their weapons together excitedly. Jack chuckled a little and shrugged to himself. Removing the eyepiece from his view, he closed up the spyglass and continued to look at the ship with smug expectancy.
"Poor pirates… They have no idea what they're up against."
Having been coaxed back into the house by a supportive yet equally-upset Kate, Miro sat on the bed - his bed - and looked at the flooring near his feet. Kate sat near him, looking basically the same as he did. Both let out a sigh, glanced toward one another, and slouched down on their hands in a deservedly depressed manner.
"…I guess we have to work hard now…" Kate mutters. "…Do you want a sandwich… or something?"
"No," Miro replies dully. "…Do you?"
"No. Come to think of it, we're both miserable, so if you don't, neither would I," Kate says observantly, stretching her back and getting to her feet with another sigh. "…Well, I'm going to see what needs doing first. The cow probably needs milking, that's my first bet."
With that, she proceeded to the door and opened it, walking through and letting it click shut behind her. Miro spent a few moments stewing over this situation again. There was hardly anything here anymore… Hardly any animals, plants, house space, money… His father knew how to teach a lesson. Though, in a sense, it was only fair… Jack had suffered a share of hardships trying to get this farm somewhere from a patch of dirt on a hill with a few buildings to a bustling income-machine. And, now that it was once again a patch of dirt, Jack would have no right to act like an old man and drawl on about how much tougher he had it when he was Miro's age. With that in mind, it was almost a decent idea… Still, to have not one bit of advantage for being the second generation, to not own one trinket of succession to prove that he wasn't just a young, bright farmer but the son of an old farmer and that it wasn't his fault that the place belonged to him… He didn't even have a housewarming gift…
At the notion of not having a housewarming gift, something occurs to Miro. Looking at the foot of his bed, he noticed his own Rucksack sitting there, and approached it with curiosity. Opening it and taking a few contents out, Miro spots the item he was looking for and gingerly takes it from the bag. That strange remote control with the single button in its middle rested in his hands. He remembers his father's words when he gave it to him. Use it when you think you're ready… Reasoning that he was as ready as he would ever be, Miro moved his thumb up the pad's smooth surface until it came upon the button, and pushed it.
At first, he noticed nothing. After a glance to the left and right and a pause to think of what it may be, he came to notice a quiet, consistent humming sound… distant, yet present… It sounded nearly mechanical, but something about the noise drew it away from being some sort of air conditioning… It was muffled, and nearly sounded… bubbling… That is when Miro noticed exactly where the sound was coming from. Below him. Below the bed. Beneath the concealled trapdoor under the mat near the bed… A smile slowly traced along his lips, and he looked down at the small controller, and then farther at the mat hiding the family's most profound secret.