Hello, everyone! Kuruk here on a very, very special day indeed!

Today is amazing simply because it was one of my good friend's birthdays. We know her as The Scarlet Sky, and if we have any sense we are enthralled by her writing. However, I am proud to say that not only is Scarlet one of my favorite writers of all time, but she is also a friend of mine with who I have the great honor of writing with along with Ekoaleko, another amazing friend of mine, not to mention one heck of a writer herself.

So in honor of Scarlet's birthday, I've written this oneshot as a present for her. So, let me do this right.

This story is dedicated to Scarlet-- an amazing and awe-inspiring writer whose stories are perfect; a patient and supportive co-writer who makes my part of ESK's latest chapters all the better; a mentor whose works inspire you to be better; and most importantly, a friend who you can talk to about anything. Thanks for being born, Scarlet. :D

Disclaimer: I don't own Harvest Moon.

Constructive Criticism

Mary loved to write.

The feel of her pen in between her fingers, the sound the pen made when she scrawled letters onto the sheet of paper... and most importantly the boundless joy she felt at doing what she loved the most.

Writing was her passion. For it was not only an exercise through which she-- the insignificant, ordinary small town librarian, endeavored to create worlds, people and situations that she could only dream of ever facing herself; but a wondrous, joyous process in which she became lost in another character's situations, in which she saw her own creations as real flesh and blood people-- in which she became whole.

It was inexplicable how something like this made her feel important and meaningful, no matter the fact that the stories she crafted would never be seen by any other eyes but hers...

Until Gray found one of her stories and after insisting that he read it told Mary that it was 'really, really good' and introduced her to a place where she could publish her work and get feedback for free. Gray told her that if she wanted to get better, this was a good way of doing it.

"You're not going to become a better writer by just keeping all your work locked in some drawer," Gray told her matter-of-factly, "You need people to read your work and tell you what they like and what they hate so that you can... you know... appeal to the masses."

Mary had thought that this was a bad idea, but after Gray insisted every time he visited the Library, Mary had agreed after Gray gave her a long speech about how Austen didn't keep her manuscripts to herself or how Piccoult sure as hell didn't either, or most of Mary's favorites would've never been brought to her attention, since they would be locked in a drawer somewhere.

After that speech, Mary finally agreed to let Gray 'help' her. Though she didn't like it one bit...

"W-well..." Mary started, a slight stutter in her voice as she thought about what people would think when they read her work, "How are we g-going t-to p-put up my stories...? Do we h-have to mail t-them...?"

Gray laughed and led her down the path to Claire's farm. "No, no. You'll see."

Claire had been expecting them, and with a smile she allowed them into her cozy home. "I have to go feed my animals," she'd said to them as they headed towards the back of the house, "If you forget my password or anything you know where to find me, Gray. Good luck, Mary!" And with that the blonde farmer left them alone.

At this point, Mary was very confused. She could think of no way how Claire could help her publish her stories... But when Gray brought her to a little desk in the farthest corner in the room, a gigantic monitor on top of it and a heavy box-like machine underneath complete with keyboard and mouse, she got an inkling of what Gray wanted her to do.

"I'm talking about the Internet, Mary," he'd explained as he booted up the computer, "Virtually anything is possible there, really."

Mary, who had never seen a real computer since she had taken a trip to the city with her parents when she was fifteen, watched in awe as Gray typed in a few letters and how then it changed scenery completely from that grungy green to a picture of Claire in very different attire (skimpy, at that) surrounded by other women dressed just as she and a couple of men dressed sharply in a dark place with multicolored lights appearing in certain places of the picture.

She wasn't sure, but she guessed that because Claire was from the city, that this was a picture of the 'clubs' some of the new novels she ordered harped on and on about. In the picture Claire seemed to be having fun, though looking tired as she held something she assumed to be the camera away from the group and giving an almost seductive smile.

As Mary pondered all this Gray had been typing away. He finished promptly-- originally being a city boy as well before being shipped off to Mineral Town, he knew how to work it.

"There you go," he said to a pensive Mary, who jumped a little at his words, "I made you an account on this website called FictionPress. You can make all the stories you want there and the best part is that people from all over the world can read and leave reviews for your stories."

Mary shuddered a little. "P-people f-from a-a-all o-over t-the w-world...?" she squeaked.

Gray nodded, a sort of amused smile on his face. "Yup. Oh, your pen name is marythelibrarian and your password is Pride and Prejudice..." Gray scratched the back of his head, "Well, I'll leave you to your process now. See ya, Mary."

Before Mary could protest the blacksmith had left her alone.

Mary had read enough instruction manuals that she knew what to do with the computer, so, swallowing all reservations, she started writing on the blank document Gray had uploaded into her account.

Typing away hesitantly at first but then furiously, Mary completely lost track of time. The only thing that made her tear herself away from the world she had created was Claire, who reentered the house, looking weary and dirty. Mary jumped when she saw Claire, but the blonde waved her off. "I don't mind," she'd said as she trudged into the bathroom, "Just reduce the lighting of the monitor, mute the speakers and sneak past me when I fall asleep..."

Mary was too polite and shy to do that, so she simply saved her work thus far and left Claire's house and went home, thinking all about what she should do next as she lay in bed, unable to sleep...

The next day at promptly eight in the morning Mary was up, dressed, and hurrying to Claire's farm. Claire, who was watering the plants, waved at her to go into the house and Mary did just that, running over to the computer and returning to her work-in-progress excitedly.

Once again the librarian lost track of time and once again Claire trudged into the house that evening, offered that she could stay the night if she was quiet and went into the bathroom to shower.

This time, the writer in Mary was much to engrossed in the romance she was beginning to unfurl to refuse.

Mary worked long into the night. Her eyes drooped many a time but after getting permission from Claire to help herself to anything in the refrigerator, she poured herself a cup of soda and sipped at the fizzy drink as she wrapped up her story with a satisfied, weary keystroke.

Smiling to herself, the librarian saved the document and created a new story, titling it 'The Melancholy of Love' and submitting it under the Romance section.

Then, realizing how late it was, she turned off the computer, tiptoed past a a snoring Claire, and made her way down the dark path home, too exhausted to be scared that she was out past twelve and that Harris had probably long since fallen asleep. She somehow made it to her welcoming bed without walking straight into a wall or waking up her parents and promptly fell into a deep sleep as soon as she hit the mattress.

Mary would usually dream every time she slept, but this time she didn't at all. In fact, when she awoke at nine thirty the next morning, the only thing on her mind was checking if she had gotten any reviews while she slept.

After getting dressed and eating a light breakfast, Mary walked to Claire's farm, barely able to restrain her excitement... said hello to Claire, logged onto the computer, logged into her account and...

Gray had not been able to go to the Library for the past week now ever since he introduced Mary to the Internet.

Okay, it had been a good plan, maybe get his girlfriend to improve a bit on her shyness and reluctance to show her work to anyone, but he was beginning to think that he created a monster... a monster that lived off soda and Claire's cooking.

Gray had always been concerned about losing Mary to someone who could articulate better-- one of those guys that were simply too good to be true but still were. The type of fairytale prince that Mary always got doe-eyed about when she would read Cinderella or another of those tales Gray found silly...

Well, it turned out that the blacksmith was losing his girlfriend to the Internet.

Livid at the thought, Gray stomped over to the Library, hoping that she would be there, and was surprised to find that she was. Carefully opening the Library door, he found a very distressed looking Mary cleaning out her drawers, revealing piles and piles of large manuscripts... which she would proceed to put in a large plastic bag.

"Mary?" Gray asked when the librarian didn't look up and greet him.

The librarian jumped, dark eyes behind her glasses flitting to where her boyfriend watched her, concern in his eyes. "What are you doing?" Gray proceeded to ask, storming over to where Mary stood behind her desk and looking at all the piles of paper, "A-are these... your manuscripts...?" Gray asked in disbelief at the way Mary was treating the stories she dedicated days and days of hard work to.

Mary nodded guiltily when Gray's eyes stabbed at her accusingly and disbelievingly. "W-well... yes," Mary admitted under Gray's blue gaze, "I t-thought t-that maybe I'd do some... Spring Cleaning..."

Gray looked at her incredulously. "Mary, it's Winter."

The librarian flushed red and Gray pulled her away from the desk and sat her down at the table he all too often sat at when he would visit the Library. "Okay Mary," Gray began, taking deep breaths, "What happened?"

"N-nothing!" Mary exclaimed defensively. A stare from Gray got her talking again, "W-well... nothing important..." Gray gave her another look, "You'll t-think it's silly..."

Gray laughed a little despite himself. "Oh really? I walk in to find you throwing away all your work? Mary, I think that the thing that made you do that isn't silly, it's obviously monumental."

Mary looked at him nervously, then reluctantly spoke. "I-it's... w-well... my writing..." Gray gave her a look that asked her to elaborate, "I-it... d-didn't attract any reviews..."

Gray looked at her incredulously, as if his eyes were about to bugger out of his sockets. "T-that's... it...?" he murmured.

Mary looked away. "I told you that you would think it was silly!"

Gray shook himself and grabbed the flushed librarian by the shoulders gently. "Mary, your work is amazing."

Mary flushed, but was not convinced. "Y-you're j-just saying t-that..."

He shook his head. "No, I'm not. I think that you write really, really well. Mary, if those idiots on that site can't appreciate your work, the it's their loss."

Mary looked into Gray's icy blue eyes and sighed. "I suppose I was just being silly," she murmured, "But a week passed me by and I'd seen other stories that were on there much less time than mine get so many reviews... I suppose I just wanted someone to like my work."

"Mary," Gray said, "I love your work."

Mary's eyes twinkled behind her glasses and she nodded. "I-I know..." they shared a hug and after that Gray helped Mary clean up her messy Library. Afterward, the librarian made her way to her home, a sad smile on her face as she said goodbye to Gray.

Frustrated at not being able to help her get over her insecurities and just making them worse, Gray scowled all the way to the Inn... when suddenly he got an idea...

Mary woke up the next morning still feeling down about everything. She hadn't forgotten that it was, indeed her birthday, in fact, she mustered enough happiness to please everyone around her on the special day and made her way downstairs...

Only to find a very tired looking Gray sitting at her kitchen table, sipping at some black coffee.

"Gray...?" Mary said, "What a surprise!" she said, a smile on her face.

Gray smiled at her, though the way his face looked-- dark bags under his eyes, his face rather pasty... it looked more like a scowl...

"Happy birthday Mary," with a yawn the blacksmith hugged her tight.

After they broke apart Mary looked around, confused, noticing that her parents were nowhere to be seen. "Gray, where is everyone...?"

Gray gave another one of those scowls-that-were-really-smiles and wordlessly took her hand, leading her out of the house. "You'll see."

Mary complied and allowed Gray to lead her wherever he may want, thinking that maybe he had a surprise in store for her. She frowned when they entered Claire's farm.

"Gray...?" Mary asked, confused.

Gray didn't reply, instead he led her into Claire's house, where a very annoyed, equally sleep-deprived Claire glared at Gray from her kitchen table before smiling at Mary and giving her a hug as she wished her a happy birthday.

Still confused, Mary let Gray lead her to the computer, and with eyes wide she looked at the screen. It was up on the stats screen, and next to the title 'The Melancholy of Love' there was a neon number of twenty...

Under the reviews column.

Eyes wide, Mary guided the mouse to the number and clicked. The statistic had not been lying. There were twenty reviews.

She quickly read them all, heart pounding as she did. Under a pen name of 'green-eyed bombshell' there was a brief message of: 'this made me cry. I loved it. Keep writing!'. The next review was longer and left by someone named 'mineral doctor'. 'I loved how you captured the essence of all the characters. You caused me to feel as if I knew the heroine, and the climax was so unexpected that I almost jumped out of my seat. This was excellent!'

There were eighteen others that Mary could hardly read thanks to the tears in her eyes that had sprung up, but she knew at once what names like 'shy guy' and 'chicken boy29' meant. 'Farmer chick88', 'plant lover', 'red waitress', 'man of the goddess', 'handsome in purple', 'gossip queen', 'the mayor56'... and some more...

But the one that caught her eye was the one at the end from a 'blacksmith in a hat'. It was short, but Mary suddenly found it more valuable than any other birthday present than she had ever received in her life.

'I love you.'

Mary turned around and hugged Gray. "Thank you..." she whispered tearfully.

Gray smiled into her long ebony hair and nodded just as Claire opened the door and the townspeople came in, singing the 'Happy Birthday' song and cheering, presents in hand.

Well, long story short Mary had an excellent time even though everyone was groggy and sleep-deprived, probably since Gray had organized the whole 'review fest' late at night. Gray, who had spent the night helping the technology-challenged citizens of Mineral Town procure accounts fell asleep at the Inn where Mary's birthday lunch was taking place, but Mary didn't mind.

She'd learned the valuable lesson that while what people thought did matter to her at least a little, what truly mattered was the love of the man that had given her the first review with that simple message...

Claire, however, who was constantly pestered by townspeople that had tried the Internet and loved it, gave Mary the computer as a gift, relieved to be rid of the device that had people knocking on her door at all hours...

Mary had ten times as many visitors at her Library now...

Not that she was complaining...

Gray on the other hand, was a different story...

A/N: Happy belated birthday, Scarlet!! :D

EDIT: I did a quick edit of all the mistakes on this page since there was this thing about margins, Mary's birthday is in Winter, not Summer, and I had intended the lapse between when Mary checked her account for reviews and when Gray went to see her to be a week, not two days. I didn't want my present to be messy, now did I? :)