The guy's name is Asuka, I don't know why everyone calls him Jack. I suck at naming things, so in case you can't tell from the story, Adris is the horse, Skip is the dog, and the farm in (don't laugh) Fallen Farm.
GREEN HEART (a/n this is how much she likes him)
A whole year…Ruby and Tim were very kind, and everyone in the town was exceedingly nice to me, but when I had set off for my travels I hadn't meant to become so settled so quickly.
I pushed open the door of the Inn where I was staying, and looked out into the rain. It was really coming down hard. I swept my gaze from side to side, and stepped outside. It was a definite spring day, the sixth I think, and the air was warm despite the weather. I started on my way to Gustafa's yurt, and then pulled up short when I saw what was in what is jokingly referred to as the town square.
A man, about my age, with spiky brown hair in all directions and blue overalls, was sitting dejectedly in the middle of a storefront. There was a multitude of baubles and junk in front of him, but he wasn't getting any business that day. I'd never seen him before, so approached him.
I picked up something that was lying around, and turned it over. A statuette, vaguely human-looking, grinned up at me. Well, it wasn't much, but it'd do. It was at least better than the piles of wilting flowers and what looked like cow feed. I held it out to the mystery man.
"How much for this Human Statue, stranger?" I said loud enough to hear over the wind. He glanced up at me, revealing dark chocolate-brown eyes. He stood up, and walked over.
"For you, how about 9g?" He smiled, which eventually turned into a grimace from boredom. Or possibly hunger, or fatigue, or lack of stamina…Well, it could have been anything.
I thought it over. Yeah, it was less than what Carter charged for them at least. "I guess I'll take it…By the way, are you new? It's just that I can't place your face, but I thought I knew everyone in Forget Valley."
"I'm…Oh, wait, let me pack up my stuff, and we can go the Bar over there to talk. The wind's picking up." I helped him pack everything into a little backpack, and then we made it inside before the storm took us away.
I tapped the bar, calling for Griffin. His assistant was useless, really, she just stood around and smiled; she didn't even know how to make the drinks. Muffy, I think her name was. Anyway, Griffin sauntered over, taking his own sweet time.
"What'll you two have, then?" he pulled out a list of the drinks. I choose a Moo-Moo Milk, but my new tagalong elected for the cheapest thing on the menu. I shrugged. I had plenty of money, but I at least knew how to tell when other people didn't. We got our drinks, and started sipping them.
"Man, does that taste good. Anyway, Miss, you asked my name. I'm Asuka. Do you know Takakura?" He named the burly man with bushy eyebrows over at the farm across the street from the Inn. I nodded my understanding.
"You're that guy, the one who Takakura kept going on about the only hope for the farm and all for. Wow, I didn't expect you to be him. What were you doing, selling your wares out in the rain like that?" He could have gotten sick or something, after all.
"Um, I'm sorry to say, but I'm kind of in dire straits. You know Van, the guy who'll buy anything? He wouldn't come into town today 'cause of the rain. I need money fast, so I can get some seeds for the seasons changing. Melons, turnips, and tomatoes are the only things that grow in summer, though. By the way, Miss, what's your name?" he seemed so absorbed in planning out his seeds that the question caught me off guard.
"Oh, sorry, Asuka! It's rude to ask a name without giving yours first, I know. I'm Nami; I'm staying in Inners Inn. Pleased to meet you." I kind of blushed. I hate being rude; really, it's just that things slip out a little too fast.
"Well, Nami, it's getting late. I'll walk you back to your room, it's on the way." He took my arm and led me through the crowded room, accidentally bumping into almost everyone. He stopped to ask Muffy-the-blonde-eye-candy if he could pay the bill with her. I pulled out my purse, though, and paid for his drink as well as mine. Hey, Asuka was tight on cash.
I did notice the Look she gave him. She'd been sitting behind that counter for years, hoping for some poor sod to take her away from there. Please god, that bubble-headed runner-up trophy wife was going to sit there smiling for years more. She giggled, but looked between us like she was worried we were together or something. Not even.
When I got back to my room, and after a handshake and a promise to talk more later, I pulled out my diary. I only used it for the big stuff, which I thought would matter when I was old enough to care again. I got the feeling that meeting Asuka was going to be a very big event in my life.
TWO RED HEARTS
It was summer. Birds chirped away merrily, just enough to make me want to stone them, but not enough to actually make me find a stone. I was wandering around in the little glade behind the Inn, when Asuka came up. More like galloped. He was riding a beautiful chestnut horse, with white lower legs and snout. I quickly walked up to it and patted its neck.
Dismounting, he shouted happily, "This is Adris. Takakura got him for me; he said I'll need him. Listen, do you like the archeologist and his assistant up north of here?" I nodded, trying to pay attention, but I was still stroking the creature. "How about animals, do you like them?" I nodded again.
He offered me his hand. "Then climb up, I want to show you my farm." He smiled down at me, dark brown eyes lit up with boyish delight. I grabbed his hand, and swung up in front of him.
"Look here, see how we're bareback?" he pointed out several places where Adris was the most sensitive, and told me to hold on around his neck instead of grabbing for those spots, "Here we go!"
Galloping is like flying. Four hooves beat the ground, and then you're airborne for the most exhilarating instant, before you land again. I was so enjoying the ride, we were there before I knew it. Fallen Farm.
He slid off behind me, and helped me down. He showed me around, pointed out the patches of melons and turnips he had planted, and even let me try milking the black-and-white cow. It was truly a fun time. Time flies, though, and suddenly it was two o'clock. I waved, and started back to the town proper, but Asuka touched my wrist.
"Let's go to the ruin by the waterfall, Nami. It's fun to dig around for things there." God, he had a nice voice. It reached right down to my soul. What the hell, I though, it could be nice.
We walked side by side on the bridge over the river. I didn't say anything, he didn't either. We had talked often in the last week or so, and it was a friendly silence. When we got there, it didn't take very long to see what made it so great a place.
I loved history. The exploits of heroes, the follies of war, all of it was so exotic and interesting that I couldn't keep away from it. Carter and his student, Flora, were digging in the earth to find traces of a civilization. We could help, too, if we wanted. So, we did.
An amazingly short three hours later, Asuka dropped me off outside the Inn and waved good-bye, smiling his happy smile. I waved, too, and rushed a little going inside to hide the blush that was starting.
Pulling out my diary, I wrote out the day's events.
THREE RED HEARTS
Autumn had come, my favorite season. The temperature was erratic, sometimes swinging from a beautiful sunrise to a downpour by lunch and back again. I spent a lot of time walking the cobbled path to Romana's villa, listening to Lumina play piano and watching the clouds roll by. I thought a lot, too.
I thought maybe I was crushing on Asuka. I walked around town, and heard my share of gossip. The girls my age, Muffy and a down-to-Earth farm worker, Celia, were looking to get married. Hah, I'd like to see it. Celia was nice, though, and the brother of her boss was interested. He was a city guy, and she was a town girl, but I figured that there wouldn't be too much drama for them together.
Muffy had no one. I had seen her walk to Fallen, but when I went to check it out, she was being harassed by Skip, Asuka's dog. Takakura had given her an if-you-can't-get-along-with-a-dog-you-can't-live-on-this-farm look. She had been hoping for reassurance and sympathy from Asuka himself, but he brushed her off and asked what she wanted.
That little for-sale bubblehead had been sent packing. She walked back to the bar without a tincture of ego left in her. I waited about five minutes, then sauntered up to the fields where my farmer friend was watering.
"Hiya, Stranger. What was Muffy doing, leaving in shame like that?" I jokingly called him my nickname for him, like on the day we met. He stood up from the last plant, and signaled for me to watch. I did, and, all at once, a sea of purple flowers bloomed before me. It took my breath away.
"Pretty, huh? They're sweet potatoes. They only grow for this season, and over there are turnips, carrots, and that that above-ground group over to the side is strawberries. Oh, and about Muffy…are you two friends?" he looked worried for a moment, a sharp contrast to his face lighting up when he spoke of his farm.
I snorted in disgust. Her, a friend? No way, unless Hell froze over, in which case I would be obliged to also make a bet on Sleeper, the slowest in Mineral Town's horse races. I said so, and he laughed.
"Good, good. She's definitely looking for a man in her life, and I have no intention of biting the bullet on this one. I guess I'm stuck looking for a spouse elsewhere, then." He looked thoughtful for a moment, "Who is our age, in the town?"
"You and me, obviously, and Muffy, Rock, Celia…" I trailed off, considering, "and Marlin. He's a little older, but he fits."
"Celia, is she that brunette that works at Vesta's farm? I kind of don't think she's all that available," he wiped the sweat from his brow, "I thought Marlin was with her."
"He's a little shy, so you might have a chance. Anyway, did you say these were strawberries?" I walked over and brushed a ripening fruit with my fingertips, "I love strawberries."
He walked up behind me, and looked over the plants. Spotting what he wanted, he waded into the mass of green, bent, and came back with mature strawberry in his hand. "Here, the first one of the entire farm!"
I felt myself smile. I didn't smile often, mind you. Only he could keep me surprised, or happy, or some feel-good emotion. "Thanks! You're too kind, Stranger."
His face fell a little. God, but I hated to see him sad, "I would've thought we weren't strangers anymore, Miss."
I blushed, turning away, "Well, Stranger, prove it. I don't remember even a friendly hello today." Big mistake. He did prove it, embarrassingly.
His gloved hand touched my cheek, and turned my face toward him. I was blushing so hard by then. He leaned forward, brushing his lips to my forehead, "Hello today, Nami. There, is that better?"
I stuttered, choking out a goodbye, then hurried back to my room. Crush nothing, I was getting way too bogged down in this town's life. Look at me, I had stayed for nearly two years, and I was contemplating marriage!
It didn't help that, on my way out, I'd thought I'd seen Asuka brooding over a Blue Feather.
FOUR RED HEARTS
Oh my God…I thought, looking around, it's snowing today, of all days!
It was my birthday, Winter 8. I was hoping for a visit from Asuka, but I wasn't holding out for much. After all, he was a guy, and I'd only mentioned it a few times in passing. He had a life of his own, right?
I sighed, and pushed open the door of the Inn. I looked around outside, and froze.
There was Asuka, glancing once in my direction and looking down at the ground in mock-dejection. I was trying to figure his game out, but I walked over.
The only thing on the mat for sale was a Blue Feather. My heart stopped, and I barely remembered to keep breathing. People used Blue Feathers to propose, didn't they? He scooted it toward me, slightly. I finally caught on and picked it up, looking it over.
"How much for this Blue Feather, Stranger?" I hadn't called him that since the incident in autumn, but I guessed the situation called for it. He looked up at me with a laughing look in his eyes, overjoyed that I would play along.
"For you, how about a trade? You get that Blue Feather, and I get my heart back." I couldn't believe it. This was proposing? It seemed less star-crossed than in books and movies. It still seemed perfect, though.
"Okay, Asuka, it's a deal."