Mineral Town has been in peace for years, until the arrival of a certain someone who will turn their town upside down. AnnxCliff, PopurixKai, MaryxGray, EllixDoctor and another pairing I won't say because it's a spoiler. XD
Trouble Knocks Twice
Bargain 01: She Came in the Morning
It all began one morning at the Mineral Town Inn, Ann was humming a tune as she cleaned the counter and Cliff had not yet left for work. Their son sat idly leaning on the counter, still half asleep until Ann cleared her throat and called his name several times shaking her head at how easily her son spaced out, but he was adorable none the less, and he did get his elbows off the counter when he finally got the message.
Ann's father was talking to Cliff, he had taken to him quickly and welcomed him to the family with open arms from the start, though it had been several years since then, they still kept a good father-son-like relationship. Aside from the two quiet voices, all was silent and all was calm at the inn. It was very early in the morning and the guests were sleeping, with the restaurant still not open for business.
Then there was a knock on the closed door, followed by another knock soon after and finally there was silence. Ann paused the circular movements of the cloth atop the counter, Cliff and Doug ceased their relaxed chat and the youngest of the four, the son of Ann and Cliff, finally woke up. The boy looked at his mother, father and grandfather and neither of the three moved, thus he resolved to go open the door himself. Sure they were not yet open for business, but it would be mean to leave whoever was there waiting outside. Maybe the other three meant to open the door but they were so surprised by the early visit they didn't even move.
Mineral Town was a small and predictable place. The guests at the inn were mostly family members of the town's residents who came to visit now and then. Those visits were expected and came as no surprise given how fast gossip traveled in the small town, but no one at the inn had heard anything about the coming of a visitor.
"Trouble knocks twice..." Doug muttered under his breath. It was an old saying to signify that one should heed warnings. But in this case it reflected his worry at the unusual occurrence of an early visitor combined with an odd feeling of foreboding. Yet if this was a neighbor bearing an emergency, he or she would not have bothered to knock and wait for a response, resorting simply to calling the names of Doug or his family at the top of their lungs.
Doug's grandson paused, his hand inches away from the doorknob. "I don't think it's bad news..." Then he opened the door without waiting for a response from his grandfather or any comments from his parents.
Upon opening the door, the boy found a girl. She was wearing a violet Chinese style dress with pink cherry blossom decorations, her long black hair falling elegantly to her waist, eyes sparkling with a mixture of mischief and cunning wit. "Hello," she smiled brightly holding out her basket full of shiny red apples. "Would you like to buy an apple?"
The boy just stood there dumb stuck, "huh?"
The girl giggled, "would you like to buy an apple?"
"Oh sure..." Needless to say he was surprised. Why in the world would someone be selling apples door to door so early in the morning?
"How wonderful! Please choose the one you like best."
The boy nodded and picked one of the apples from the basket, watching as the girl gained an uneasy expression. "What's wrong? Should I pick a different one?"
"Oh no, that's fine. It's just that... well... I take really good care of these apples, and selling apples is my job, something my father taught me, but the apples... they're a bit expensive, some would say. But they're very delicious! You should try it, did you eat breakfast today? An apple is great in the morning! By the way, what's your name if you don't mind me asking?"
The boy blinked, she had said a mouthful with her tone changing from unsure to cheerful. "Um... Nate..."
"Nice to meet you Nate, I'm Lei!" The apple seller girl offered her delicate hand for a shake.
Nate, son of Cliff and Ann and heir to his father's shyness, blushed and timidly accepted the handshake. "Nice to meet you too."
"Will you tell me if the apple tastes good?" Lei continued to smile.
"Sure!" Then Nate took a bite of the apple. "It's delicious!" He sincerely replied. All of this occurred at the door with him inside and her outside, the doorframe in-between and an audience of three other people.
Ann, Cliff and Doug watched without a word. Cliff was reminded of himself with the way Nate acted so shy, and Ann was happy at the possibility of a girl taking interest in her son so quickly, he was adorable after all with his father's long brown hair and his mother's bright blue eyes.
Then the girl dropped the bomb, "that would be one thousand gold please."
Nate's jaw hung open and the expression was shared by Ann, Cliff and Doug. "One... thousand..." The boy shook his head, "you're joking, right?"
"No I'm not, I'm totally serious. That apple you just ate is the Lovely Luxury Lucky Apple, it will bring you good luck! I did say the apples are expensive..." Sure Lei looked innocent enough, but she was far more cunning than anyone ever imagined.
"But I..." Nate stammered, unable to find the words to properly express whatever he wanted to express, because he wasn't sure of it himself.
"Are you... Would you really... Please don't steal from me, that's so mean!" Lei dramatically cried.
"I won't! I'm not! I'll pay!" With that said, Nate dashed to his room and returned in record breaking time, tumbling down the stairs. He got up and rushed to the door with an apologetic expression and paid his debt. "Here you go, these are all my savings..."
Ann shook her head, "I can't believe this," she rounded the counter and glared at Lei. "Listen young lady you can't go around doing things like this, tricking others. That apple isn't even worth a hundred gold let alone a thousand!"
"You're so mean! After I took such good care of my apples!" Lei gave Nate a sad look.
"Mom, don't yell at her!" The boy went to the rescue and the inn was filled with gasps because Nate had always been a good boy who never raised his voice, and he just did, though he apologized soon after, "um... sorry..." He paused and took a deep breath, "it's okay Lei don't feel bad, I'll make it up to you." Thus an unusual friendship began.
Bargain 02: She Came in the Evening
The sun had started to set in the endless ocean horizon. Kai and Popuri were at the Beach Shack still, having a family diner with their son. The boy was the first to look up when he heard a knock on the door and the first to get up when the second knock came.
At first they thought it was a customer and the girl standing there could have been a customer, but she soon revealed she wasn't, after Jan, son of Popuri and Kai, invited her to "come in, the Beach Shack is officially closed, but we can make an exception," with a flirtatious tone that made Popuri shake her head and Kai feel secretly proud.
"Oh thank you," Lei smiled radiantly, "but I'm not here to eat, I'm selling apples. You can eat them or maybe even use them as ingredients!"
"Sure tell me more about your apples," and Jan succeeded in getting Lei to come inside. He glanced at his parents apologetically for leaving their family dinner at one of the tables, instead taking his position behind the counter while Lei sat in front of it.
"These apples are very special and they're... well..." Lei looked a little sad, an expression which puzzled Jan.
"What is it?"
"A bit expensive... very expensive actually. One would have to be a hardworking and brilliant person to be able to easily afford them..." Lei laid out her trap, this was too easy.
Jan grinned sheepishly, walking right into the lioness' cave. "Lucky for you that's exactly how I am! Give me one of those apples... actually, I'll buy them all."
"Are you sure?" Lei innocently inquired.
"Of course!" Jan assured.
"Do you promise?"
"I think men who can keep their promises are quite admirable."
"And I can definitely do that."
Lei ran her slender fingers through her dark hair, tugging a strand behind her ear. "That would be nineteen thousand gold please."
The tension could be cut with a knife and a thick silence hung in the air until Popuri made it shatter with her laughter. "Smart girl, huh? You'll take as big a payment as anyone is willing to give you."
"Yeah," Jan laughed as well, but Kai was alerted to the cunning nature of the young girl, thus he remained absolutely silent.
"Actually, it's the truth, there are nineteen apples here and you said you would buy them all. They each cost one thousand gold so if my calculations are correct, and I do believe they are, that means the total price to buy all nineteen apples comes up to nineteen thousand gold," Lei nonchalantly informed.
"But that's... it's... Completely ridiculous!" Jan was frank and direct.
Which caused Lei to respond with a hurt look, "you're mean, yelling at a lady and breaking your promise. You lied to me before you even knew my name!" She dramatized.
"That's not... I didn't... You can't expect me to pay that much!" Jan pouted and crossed his arms.
Popuri opened her mouth to speak and promptly closed it again, unable to think of what to say. Kai shook his head and sighed, a rare action coming from him. He would leave this up to Jan. The boy either walked out with a great debt and a big ego or hurt pride and his earnings for the next few months intact. As much as Kai wanted to advice him, he decided to give his son the freedom Kai himself came so far to seek and allow Jan to establish his own priorities and decide what he wanted.
"I see I misjudged you," Lei's voice was a mixture of hurt and venom. "A real man would have kept his promise no matter what." Lei picked up her basket full of apples and headed for the door, intentionally walking slowly.
Three, two, one, "wait!" right on time, as Lei's hand rested on the unturned doorknob, Jan called after her.
"What is it?" Lei turned suddenly, long silky hair flowing as she did.
"I'll buy those apples," thus Jan sealed his fate for a long time. "I will keep my promise but you have to make it important, make it a promise to my girlfriend."
Popuri's jaw nearly hit the floor. "What just happened?" She asked Kai.
Kai could only blink in confusion, "Jan likes a challenge? A girl who can keep him on his toes? I think that's it. I don't know..." He really didn't know what to think of this, but he had decided long ago not to drive his son away by tying him down the way he had been. "I think we should let him decide."
Pupuri's head moved from side to side as she observed the expressions of all those present and noticed that far from looking like a couple in love, the two teenagers looked like they were two deadly soldiers about to battle each other. "This isn't how I pictured love at first sight."
"It takes a while," Kai tried to fill in the silence, "it just takes a while..."
Popuri sighed, "I don't really get it but I'll trust you," and if anything went wrong she would throw the heavy blame at her husband.
Thus it happened again, with more complications than before. Finally, while the staring contest still held strong, Jan asked, "What's your name?"
"Lei," the girl replied, and thus their fate was sealed.
Bargain 03: She Went All Over Town
Nate and Jan were best friends, and the news of Jan's new sweetheart came as a surprise to Nate, even more so when the full story was told.
"You don't mind do you?" Jan asked.
Nate shook his head; he should have known the new girl would end up linking his best friend. Looking at the big picture, she probably fitted Jan best. Besides, Nate had a secret crush on Nichole anyway.
xoxox xox xoxox
The days went by in Mineral Town and soon the number of people who bought Lei's apples increased. Their situation wasn't quite like the boys', they were not charmed by the exotic young lady, they were bewitched by her convincing words, as if she casted a spell when speaking about her expensive bargains.
The strange apple craze was noticed by the major of Mineral Town, and in his wonder, which he did not escape since his refrigerator was also full of apples, he paid no attention to the strangeness of the large number of tourists who came and went, apparently for the only purpose of staying at the inn, and it was seen as normal, while the apple obsession of the town's people remained a novelty.
The situation increased the inn's earnings and Nate's allowance. As a side effect, the inn was overbooked and undersupplied, causing Ann's family to strike a deal with Kai's to have some of the guests be directed to the beach for food, and others receive deliveries.
The two families were good friends and were brought together even more by their sons' friendship so the business was settled quickly thanks to their trust. Jan took care of the deliveries and both the inn and Beach Shack, by reference of the inn, were always full. This continued for weeks, until the effect lessened and the flow of customers returned to normal.
Doug attributed the event to a stroke of luck at his inn. He could think of no other logical explanation for the rush of tourists who had nothing particularly interesting to see in their small town, but didn't seem to mind. Such a stroke of luck brought prosperity and luxury to the small town inn, and as a consequence of that, to the Beach Shack and the rest of the town's commerce. Everyone agreed that, though the entire town was greatly benefited by the profitable tourists that thought everything was a souvenir worthy of being purchased, the phenomenon had originated at the inn.
Though unnoticed by Nate, Nichole's crush also grew, as if empowered by a magical force, which could not create love, but could certainly encourage it. Nichole was a quiet girl, the daughter of Gray and Mary. Her hair was similar to her mother's and her eyes the image of her father's eyes. She had a crush on Nate for a long time, unaware that he likes her back, but now it was almost irresistible to reveal her secret.
The unusual occurrences didn't end there. While the apple Nate ate was the Lovely Luxury Lucky Apple, the apples purchased by Jan had been, as Lei later told him, Super Special Splendid apples and coincidentally, though no one really made the connection, amazing things happened when Jan ate one of the apples. He was able to perform all kinds of feats, from running super fast to make deliveries, helping Zack lift boxes that the strong shipper himself couldn't carry and surfing in such an awesome way, that the entire town would gather to watch. Jan's hair even grew out brown for a time, instead of his secret pink which he dyed.
However, not all of the apples were as special, as Lei claimed. Though she tried to make them special, her recipes were not perfect. She tended to be a little careless sometimes, but didn't think it would be a problem as long as her special methods remained a secret. As a result, Nate and Jan had eaten the only truly special apples and when their effect ended, so did the series of unusual events, save for the town's addiction to apples, but the source of that were not the apples themselves, but the selling tactics which Lei used.
They say that one cannot have love, luck and fortune all at once, but Nate somehow did. They say that one cannot have intelligence, skill, strength and good looks all at once, but Jan somehow did. Those qualities, though all seven of them present in both boys, had been amplified to astonishing proportions, depending on what apples they ate, for a time until their effects wore off.
It was during Jan's enlightenment that he noticed something no one else did, but he kept the conclusion to himself, publicly showing his abilities in other areas, such as coming up with ways to keep the commerce active after the rush of tourists was reduced, as he predicted it would be, and showing off his almost inhuman athletic abilities at the beach.
Because of the two boys, Mineral Town would be prosperous for a long time and thanks to Jan's strategies, it would not lose its peace and quiet. Zack was happy, coming and going in his big new ship, exporting the goods from the quiet but rich town, many being famous souvenirs that sold like hotcakes in the city, but were very economical to produce. It took a combination of luck and skill to get it all going, and after the initial impulse, people were able to manage after the incantation worse off.
xoxox xox xoxox
Time passed and when things calmed down, though still prosperous, the atmosphere of Mineral Town was quiet. The Harvest Goddess still showed up at the pond, with a knowing look on her face, and Jan was certain she knew long ago what he had come realize about Lei. The Kappa still inhabited the area in the outskirts of town, and the harvest sprites were still in their little hut next to the church. Aside from their usual legends, there was nothing else out of the ordinary in Mineral Town that anyone could point out.
Bargain 04: She Got What She Came For
One day, Nichole, who had become friends with Lei during the merchant girl's extended stay in Mineral Town, was encouraged to put on a play at the square. Thus Lei gathered the rest of the cast and the story of Snow White was brought to the audience of Mineral Town.
Nichole was to be Snow White, and Lei made sure to cast Nate as the prince, which he shyly but happily agreed to. Jan was casted as the king, and as he expected, Lei insisted on being the witch, who was also the king's wife.
The castle workers and forest animals were played by the twins, son and daughter of Elli and Doctor, who were very amused by the variety of costumes they had to put on in different scenes. The harvest sprites were casted as the dwarfs and persuaded to earnestly rehearse bribed by flour.
When the play was presented everyone in town gathered at the square. Everything was alright, until the final scene of Snow White's awakening came. Nichole had eaten the apple provided by Lei and fallen into a deep sleep, except her slumber was real.
Due to his shy nature, Nate got cold feet. Not only was he to kiss his crush, but he was expected to do it in front of the entire town. To give him more time to prepare, the curtain was brought down.
"Nichole, try to tell him it's alright," Jan encouraged, his shy friend really needed that extra push, but the girl who played Snow White did not reply.
"Nichole?" Nate shyly called in whispers so the crowd at the other side of the curtain of their newly build stage at the square would not hear. "Nichole, why won't you say anything?" Nate touched her hand and found with horror that it was very cold.
Nate paled, alerting Jan with his expression that something was wrong. "Oh no, Lei..."
Lei examined Nichole and nodded solemnly, she suspected Jan was on to her. "Mean Malevolent Malicious apple... It was supposed to be the Magnificent Majestic Miracle apple, but it looks like I made a mistake. No matter, the spell can be broken by her true love, just like in a fairy tale. Nate, it's up to you."
Nate was confused, but it sounded as if the apple deal was serious, so he called upon his courage and kissed his Snow White, while the mischievous twins pulled the curtains up to show the final scene of the play.
Snow White awoke and happily danced with her prince, while the seven dwarfs played music and the forest animals joined the celebration.
The Harvest Goddess had snuck into the audience, and among the claps and cheers, she jumped on stage. "I am the good witch! Now dear sister, you see that no good comes from wanting to rid the kingdom of Snow White? Become the fair queen again!"
Though that last part of the scene was improvised, it flowed well. Lei and Jan joined the dancing and the crowed cheered louder, joining the actors in their song and dance. It was one of the biggest celebrations Mineral Town ever saw.
xoxox xox xoxox
Lei was in fact a witch, or a half witch at least. Jan had noticed the truth, but since she was a good witch, though a little careless with her magic sometimes, he made no big deal about it. This was admitted by Lei only to Jan, Nate and Nichole, and besides the Harvest Goddess, no one else in Mineral Town knew.
The three were near the Goddess' pond when this confession occurred, and the Goddess heard and joined them. "Dear child, what was it that brought you to Mineral Town? I know you came here with a purpose other than selling apples." Though she knew the girl's mother disliked her, the Harvest Goddess had nothing against Lei.
"Yes, it's true," Lei admitted. "I sold apples to support myself while I was here, but the reason I came here was to find the spirit of friendship. My mother, the Witch Princess, had an accident with a magical experiment and turned my father, Won, into stone. She tried to cure him, but could not. Finally, she found a spell that she was sure would work, but one of the ingredients was the spirit of friendship. We didn't know how to get it, or even what it looked like. While mother researched alternative cures, I set out to find the spirit of friendship in hopes of completing that spell and curing father. Father had spoken of this town before, even if he had not been here for a long time, and mother had heard of it too. We thought that it was likely that the spirit of friendship was here in Mineral Town, so I came to find it, but so far I don't have the smallest clue of where it is."
"Actually, you already found it," the Goddess assured. "The spirit of friendship isn't a thing, it is a feeling; the feelings of your friends towards you, and you towards them. Regardless of how things started, overtime, you all formed true friendships, that is the spirit of friendship which you carry within you. Go home child, cast the spell yourself and with the friendship you have received, you will be able to cure your father."
Lei returned to Forget Me Not Valley and casted the spell, trusting that he spirit of friendship was in her. Despite her mother not getting along with the Harvest Goddess, the young half-witch decided to trust her words and the spell her mother had accidentally casted upon her father was broken. The Witch Princess and her husband were happy again, and Lei often went back to visit Mineral Town.
Nate, Lei, Jan and Nichole are OCs. Disclaimer, I don't own Harvest Moon or Snow White.