Time to Talk: A Crest of the Stars fanfic

By: Kami Kat

Super belated birthday present for my buddy, Lunaludus. Would have been written sooner, but Italy and life got in the way. At least it got written, though. That counts for something, right?

This story takes place near the end of the third novel, Return to a Strange World. Jinto and Lafiel talk in the rocket/coffin.

Disclaimer: Don't own Crest of the Stars, which is a very good thing because I have trouble with all the Abh words, pronunciations, and meanings. (Heck, I have trouble with normal languages, let alone made-up ones.)

Jinto tried, rather unsuccessfully, to unstick his tongue from the roof of his mouth. He considered himself lucky that he hadn't managed to swallow it when the coffin shot up into space.

We're lucky we didn't explode!

Granted, the Undertaker had said that the coffins only burst into flames on occasion, but given the luck Jinto and Lafiel had been having so far, it would have not been that farfetched to find their escape carrying them not only off the planet, but straight out of the realm of the living.

Boy, I sound like a grump. We managed to elude every obstacle in our path, we're finally close to being back in Abh territory, and all I can think about is fiery death.

Jinto sighed and fidgeted slightly, acutely aware of each of his muscles aching and the limited room he had available to relieve them. The wound in his shoulder throbbed uncomfortably.

"Jinto, stop."

Jinto froze, then mentally kicked himself. Despite being pressed flush against Lafiel, he'd somehow managed to forget about her after the takeoff.

"Sorry, Lafiel."

It was pitch black, but it wasn't silent. Jinto's ears could detect minute sounds.

Little pops and pings that probably accompanied any space-faring vessel rebounded inside the small space and sounded a million times worse than Jinto knew they were. The coffin wasn't sound-proofed; such a luxury would be wasted on the dead.

Jinto took a deep breath and cringed, mentally telling himself those sounds were nothing to be concerned about. With nothing to focus on, simply staying in the small space felt like slow torture that must inevitably end in death.

He began to count slowly, ticking off the seconds in his head.

It worked for a short time, but only a short time. When Jinto reached one hundred, he realized it felt more like a million, and then the sounds assaulted his ears again.

"The Undertaker said we have twelve hours of oxygen, correct?"

Jinto jerked very slightly in surprise, and regretted it immediately when the muscles in his shoulder bunched and sent a fresh wave of pain up and down his arm.

Lafiel's voice was obscenely loud compared to the little counting voice in Jinto's head.


"Yeah, that's what the Undertaker said. Why?"

Lafiel was silent, and Jinto almost became afraid that he had, somehow yet again, managed to offend the Abh princess.

When this was all over with and he had a moment, Jinto thought he might write a book about his adventure. He could title it "One Thousand Ways to Wrong Abh Royalty."

If the war was still going on and the United Mankind, the Federation of Hania, the Republic of Greater Alcont, and the People's Sovereign Union of Planets all still existed, the book might be a best seller.

"The Abh were taking back their territory when we left." Lafiel was quiet, then continued, "That means they are close. We probably don't have to worry about conserving our oxygen."

Jinto laughed, quietly. "You're bored too, aren't you?"

"I don't like it being this quiet."

"You didn't mind when we were traveling through Fath in that tiny ship."

"We could move, and we were traveling. I could see where I was going," she added, a bit sulkily. "Here, now, we can only wait."

"True." Jinto tried to think of some topic for conversation. His mind jumped to the kind old man, Lyuf Raika, and the talk they'd had about Abh art.

"Remember the Baron that helped us escape his son's territory?"

Lafiel shifted, and despite the utter black void that surrounded him, Jinto could tell she was giving him the Look, the Look she had developed just for him.

The "Are you an onyu?" Look.

He wet his lips nervously, but continued. "He had a replica of a painting in his chambers. An Abh painting. He called it a Deilbisecks, I think."

Jinto felt Lafiel nod. "Deilbisecks of Goh Ramgokotot. His art is still prized today. My father has several replicas displayed in our home." She paused. "Do you remember the title?"

Jinto wracked his memory. "It had a mountain in it… Gaf Laka?"

"Oh! I've seen that one. I really like the blue of the sky."

Jinto's lips twitched. "Don't you think it looked a bit off?" He had commented to the old man that the scene was not a proper portrayal of Nahen scenery.

Lafiel poked him in the side. "What do you mean?"

"He painted it wrong. No Nahen looks like that."

"Well, he'd never been to a Nahen, so how could he be expected to get it perfect?"

Jinto suddenly had an evil thought. Possibly a life-threatening one, but there was little Lafiel could do to him at the moment.

"So the Abh don't know everything?"

Lafiel froze, and Jinto hoped he hadn't pushed too far. They were stuck together for a while yet.

"We know everything that's important."

Jinto blinked. He hadn't expected that response. He was a bit disappointed. Not that he wanted to argue, but it was boring without something to do.

Maybe just a little more teasing. "So art isn't important?"

Lafiel huffed, a hot puff of air against Jinto's skin, and he realized she was laughing. "Of course art is important, so we know about that too."

Jinto felt confused by her sudden good mood. "But…"

"After all," Lafiel snickered and plowed over Jinto's protests, "you obviously know all about Nahen art, and you're Abh. So the Abh must naturally be Nahen scenery experts."

Jinto found he couldn't quite argue with the princess, even if he was the butt of more Nahen jokes (or Abh ignorance; it was the same thing). His lips twitched of their own accord.

The two broke off their laughter as the casket suddenly jolted and the sounds of metal hitting metal rang through the tiny space.

The rescue had come. That meant that his journey with Lartnei Abliar was almost over.

Somehow, though, he had the distinct impression that this had all been a warm-up, and that fate would consent to throw them together again.

As the door to the casket opened and blinding light spilled in, he hoped it wasn't just wishful thinking.

Jinto had gotten very used to Lafiel. Comfortable with her even. He didn't want that to change.