Year 1 Complete

"Alright Senken, a-ple." Kaegomé said, sounding out words for the tall Yuke sitting before her.

It was the dead of night in Xeuber. The party had successfully returned from their trip to gather the myrrh drops. The night buzzed with activity though. There was a gathering around the newly regenerated crystal in the center of the village, and the villagers were dancing, and the musicians were playing. Fire cracked and sparked from torches that had been set up around the crystal for site, and bright, beautiful stars filled the sky. The trees were silent, and the rest of the village seemed dead. All the life had been focused into the center of Xeuber, and if not for that, it would have seemed like a ghost town. Everyone was having fun, all except for Kaegomé and Senken, who were off alone in the silent night.

"What the heck are you two doing?" Kazuo said as he walked over to them. "Don't you guys know how to have any fun?"

"I'm trying to teach Senken English!" Kaegomé snapped at him.

"Whoa now lovely, calm your pretty little head." Kazuo laughed. "All I'm saying is: shouldn't you two unwind at all? We've been through a lot."

"Yeah we have." Kaegomé said.

"I mean, after we got out of the mushroom forest, we went to the Mine of Cathurgies." Kazuo sat with them then, thinking back. "Man, was it dark in there, and the monsters were pretty tough!"

"Yeah, I didn't know whether or not we'd make it." Kaegomé said. "But it didn't help with you telling me it was haunted!"

"I couldn't help it!" Kazuo laughed. "You're so cute when you're scared."

"I was NOT scared!" Kaegomé argued.

"Well regardless, the monsters were tough…" Snow said, emerging from the party to join them off to the side. His cap was off for a change, showing that maybe, he was more relaxed than usual. "I say we train, so that next year we won't be caught off guard."

"Good idea." Kazuo said.

"What?" Kaegomé began to complain. "I can't train for the rest of the year! It's time to relax and take a break from all this adventuring and fighting!"

"Heh." Kazuo turned to her, smirking at her. "Well, fine, you laze about and get all flabby and out of shape. Snow and I will just get stronger, and your appeal for me will grow, for you'll envy me."

"Now you just shut up." Kaegomé said coldly.

"What's this?" Kazuo blinked at her, looking towards her stomach.

"Wh-What?" She blinked in confusion. "Is there a bug on me? Get it off!"

"No…" He grinned, reaching forwards and pinching at the skin on her trim stomach. "You're getting fat already!"

"Grr… you!" Kaegomé glared at him.

She got up quickly, with an anger that scared Kazuo a bit. He didn't have to think very much to know that it was about time he got away from her. He scrambled away quickly and fled from her, the Selkie farmer in hot pursuit. The others who were enjoying the party stopped dancing for a moment when Kazuo ran by, shielding his head from the hits from Kaegomé's dual shooter. It was a minor distraction though, and they went right back to dancing and playing their music, ignoring the two of them. It seemed that their fighting was common. The rancher ran all the way around town, and back to his friends, where the Yuke and the other Clavat stopped Kaegomé and held her back. She of course fought against them.

"Settle down." Snow said calmly.

"Hey, hey, I'm sorry!" Kazuo pleaded. "Just don't hit me again!"

"Ugh, let's just go have some fun." Kaegomé scoffed. "He's right about that much."

"Yeah, I wanna watch that tambourine chick over there." Kazuo pointed over to a young Selkie girl who was performing with the rest of the music-players.

"Ugh!" Kaegomé smacked Kazuo in the back of the head, knocking him over.

The rest of the night was spent enjoying the freedoms the crystal brought, but it was to be a long remainder of the year for the caravanners. Kaegomé and Kazuo were left to help out in their family's businesses. Both gladly accepted the responsibility, though the rancher only did so to further convince his parents that he was a good kid. Senken went back home; showing all sorts of different things to his parents, and went back to reading and working at leisure. Snow though, took the chalice and left the village, going back to Marr's Pass to work with his father, and further hone his skills as a blacksmith. Of course, they didn't seclude themselves from one another. Kaegomé and Senken spent a lot of time together, trying to help the Yuke master the English language. Though they went with little success. Snow came back to Xeuber occasionally, visiting all three of his friends. Him and Kazuo spent most of their time training, striving to be the greatest fighters their side of the world had ever seen. Usually the two pairs never came into a conflict of great proportions, until one day…

Kazuo and Snow were training out by the waterfront, at the same spot the rancher and the Selkie farmer used to spend time. They had been working very hard, and sat down against a tree to take a rest. That was when Kaegomé and Senken approached, Kaegomé looking rather pleased. This made the two Clavats curious as to what was up, and they watched as they approached. When they reached the two, Kaegomé spun in a quick circle out of happiness, a bright smile lighting her features.

"Sexy and happy." Kazuo chuckled. "What's up?"

"I'm happy enough to ignore that." Kaegomé responded. "I taught Senken a word!"

Senken rubbed his arm nervously.

"Really?" Snow asked. "Which one?"

"Okay Senken." Kaegomé turned to the Yuke. "Go ahead and say it."

Senken hesitated a bit. He didn't really want to say the word for show. Kaegomé was showing him off and it made him uncomfortable. Plus, he knew the moment the word was spoken, he'd face verbal assault from Kazuo, and that was the last thing he wanted. Kaegomé edged him on though, trying to encourage him to do it. Senken saw it more as peer pressure than encouragement. But, at one instant, he gave in and went to speak. Though, he still had trouble, and tried to sound out the word as best he could. The Clavats watched him curiously.

"A… Ap…" Senken slowly spoke.

"Get on with it." Kazuo bluntly spoke.

"Ap… le." Senken still tried, faulting on consonants and letters.

"Apple." He finally got it after several seconds. Snow and Kaegomé applauded.

"That was very good Senken!" Snow said, trying to make him feel as if he did something good.

"It's so great isn't it?" Kaegomé asked. "It only took a few weeks!"

"It took a few weeks to teach him that?" Kazuo looked at the two of them like they were idiots. "You've got to be kidding me, that isn't even a hard word! Try saying something like… Our names. I bet it'd take that idiot forever to say our names!"

"Kazuo, shut up!" Kaegomé shouted at him. "Can't you be happy for him for at least two seconds!"

"It's like teaching a newborn, Kazuo. And it's not like he can't understand what we're saying." Snow said, looking to his friend. "As long as Kaegomé can help him grasp a few concepts of speech… He'll be able to piece together much more. Right now he can pronounce his P's, A's and L's. They don't go together very well, but he'll be talking in no time."

"Who says I want to put up with newborns?" Kazuo huffed.

"Well then good luck having kids!" Kaegomé shouted, leaning in real close to him to try and intimidate him.

"Who says I want kids?" Kazuo asked again.

Kaegomé bit her lip for a moment, glaring at the rancher. She slowly clenched her hands into fists, and in one quick movement, unclamped one to slap him hard across the face. The sound of her hand cracking against his face was loud, able to be heard echoing across the waterfront, distorting the gentle sound of the breeze blowing past. She then turned away and stormed off. Senken was a little confused, but soon ran to catch up with her. The force from the slap made Kazuo's head jerk to the side, but when she left; he rested his hand over his cheek, rubbing it, as he looked out at her, somewhat confused. Snow was equally confused.

"What's eating her?" Kazuo asked.

"I have no idea…" Snow shook his head.

And so the weeks went on from there. Snow was unable to visit as often as he could before, as business in Marr's Pass picked up for his father. Kaegomé and Senken continued to spend time together, Kaegomé teaching Senken whatever she could. Again at that time, Kazuo was alone. Kaegomé refused to speak to him, and Snow wasn't around to hang out with, and Kaegomé told Senken not to hand around Kazuo for the rest of the year. Kazuo was left to work and train all by himself. He never wanted to talk to Pauline, his sister, because frankly, girls were confusing creatures. He would occasionally set her off too, which was difficult, because she lived with him from the moment she was born, being younger. She was used to how he acted, but he pushed even her.

Soon, everything started to bug him. He had just gotten out of being a loner, and he was quickly plummeting into the groove again. He wanted friends, even if he didn't say so; he wanted someone, anyone to talk to. The fact that his friends – his fellow caravanners – weren't around, and half of them didn't like him made him face the fact that something was wrong with him. In circumstances like that, it was hard to ignore. But due to his nature, he couldn't tell what. He didn't want to ask anyone, not wanting help, or to hear something he didn't want to. What he tried to do first was fix his problem with Kaegomé. It would have been the first time he even tried, so it wasn't going to be easy. He never really knew how to persuade someone to forgive him.

Kazuo tried talking to her first. Every now and again when she'd pass by the ranch while he was working, he'd say hello to her. That went horribly wrong though. The first few times, she ignored him entirely. The few times after that, she told him flat out that she wasn't going to talk to him. The final time, she ignored him again, but suddenly stopped coming by the ranch. Obviously, idle chitchat didn't work one bit. So, next, he tried helping out on her family farm when round corn was in season. He'd spend hours of his free time doing even more work, first picking the corn. She ignored him. Then he had to clean and sort the corn. She even ignored him through that. He would constantly attempt conversation, but she would always not speak back. She was like a stone, quiet and reserved. Nothing seemed to work.

It continued to agitate him, and one day, it especially got on his nerves. He walked out of his home, immediately setting off towards Kaegomé's house, but someone calling his name stopped him.

"…Kazuo!" They called.

He turned to see Senken approach. This confused him again.

"Kazuo…" Senken repeated. "Ka… Kagomei…"

"Hm?" Kazuo crossed his arms. "I don't have all day to hear your blabbering. What's up?"

"Kagomei… is… sad." Senken managed to speak out.

"Sad?" The rancher was confused.

Senken pointed over to the waterfront. The young ranger could make out the form of his once again ex-friend slumped at the shore beside the tree. For once, Kazuo was actually happy that Senken got within two feet of him. Kazuo walked over to the waterfront then, where Kaegomé was sulking. He stayed quiet, watching her for a moment. Senken came to join him, watching. To Kazuo, it seemed that the Yuke wanted them to make amends… But at that point, it seemed hard. Plus, Senken's reasons for doing so were questionable.

"Hey." Kazuo spoke up.

"What do you want?" Kaegomé asked, looking back at him.

"You're sulking." Kazuo said. "Why?"

"Why do you care?" The farmer asked, looking away from him. "You used to be my best friend… what happened to you?"

"Something happened to me?" Kazuo was confused all over again.

"Kazuo…" She stood up then, looking at him. "You and Senken used to be a lot alike. You used to be able to understand how I felt, and to talk with me, share secrets with me, play with me. We used to spend all sorts of time together. But one day your head inflated! You became some big fat jerk!"

"You take that back!" Kazuo shouted, getting angry at her words.

Senken got between the two then, gesturing for them to calm down. They both crossed their arms and looked away. Senken reached into his picket, taking out a piece of paper, having a piece of material that would leave faint marks on it in his pocket as well. He began to write on the paper. The two feuding friends watched him curiously as he scribbled about. He then walked over to Kaegomé first, showing her the paper and getting her to read it out loud.

"Don't be angry…" She read. "Kazuo only gets mad because he thinks you're wrong."

Senken then got Kazuo to read something else.

"Kaegomé thinks… that you don't care?" He read aloud. "Why?"

"It's just…" She turned away from the two young men then. "I don't know."

"Well if you don't know, then why get mad?" Kazuo asked.

"…I don't know." She responded.

"Kaegomé… I usually figure you'd have to know by now that I do care." Kazuo said. "What do you think I am?"

Kaegomé glanced at him.

"Don't answer that." Kazuo chuckled nervously. "Look, I don't have an ego, and I wouldn't go out of my way to get any of you hurt."

"Any of us?" Kaegomé smiled.

"Uh, yeah." Kazuo responded.

"Even…?" She pointed at Senken.

"Erm, well…" Kazuo crossed his arms. "What kinda guy would I be if I let the weak die off?"

Even though that statement was clearly used to make the rancher look good, Kaegomé smiled a bit brighter. Senken was insulted of course, but seeing Kaegomé's reaction boggled him. Normally she would have been angry. What was with her? Kazuo looked up at her too, just in time to see the side of her head as she hugged him. She nearly pulled him off balance with the hug. He wrapped his arms around her slightly and returned the hug before she let go and pulled away. He nearly fell forwards then, making her back up even more so he wouldn't fall into her. She then walked away happily, saying she was going home, and telling Kazuo to quit acting. Kazuo and Senken watched her as she walked away. The rancher then looked to the alchemist.

"You've been hanging around Snow too much." He said.

Year 1 – End

We've been through a lot, and met a lot of strange people. We met the farmers from Fum, Gurdy (He's quite annoying to me), and the Selkies from Leuda. Heh… that one guy's sister… is so beautiful. Anyways, the fact is, we've done a lot. The celebration was great, but Kaegomé and Senken were doing boring stuff, and then Kaegomé got mad at me! She stayed mad at me for a long time, until the break the three-quarters of the way over! Gah, she can be so annoying!

I was surprised though when Senken said my name. I didn't think he'd ever be able to learn it.

- Kazuo

Year 1 – End

That Kazuo... what a silly guy. He acts like he doesn't care, and says all these mean things, but when it comes down to it, he seems pretty nice. I still wonder what happened. Why does he act like this all of a sudden? And I still don't quite know why I got angry. It's not like I care if he has kids or not.


Year 1 – End

I'm finally learning how to speak. I can speak a few words, such as "apple," "Kaegomé," "Kazuo," "Snow," "Senken," and all kinds of things with those sounds. I'm very grateful to have friends like Kaegomé and Snow… Even Kazuo in a way.

- Senken