Final Hikari: How much more insanity remains to play out in this story? XD Quite a bit! Not to spoil anything, but suggestions on what Lymle does to Reimi after she finds out about the Aroma of Love are welcome. -waggles eyebrows-

Myuria: Although you're trying to make the readers feel important by encouraging their participation in the story, some of us realize you're just not figuring it out yourself.

Final Hikari: Ouch. XD You make it sound like I have ulterior motives behind everything!

Myuria: Haven't you heard the saying? 'Never trust a fan fiction author when they say they'll update soon.'

Final Hikari: XDDDD Well, unlike us writers, at least the stamp doesn't lie. And I'm not any closer to owning anything from Star Ocean: The Last Hope than I was in the first chapter. Grim chapter title is grim, and whacky formatting errors on DA and are whacky. DX

Aroma of Love

Chapter IX


The only word to describe the location in which Faize Sheifa Beleth found himself was 'dystopian.' It was anything but pleasant, though somehow it still felt vaguely familiar to him. The cold stone ground beneath his feet was decorated with intricate carvings that reminded him faintly of the Purgatorium on Roak. They were contained in different tiles, divided by thin, smooth lines. The structure looked somewhat fragile, as though it was going to break apart if it bore too great a burden.

Massive, semi-ovular structures with even more detailed engravings and designs were suspended in midair beyond the platform. They gave off an eerie glow, something between gold and white in color. They weren't connected to the platform or anything else around the structure.

There was only a long path behind him that stretched back toward the door. The tall door was closed tightly, most likely locked, but there was nothing behind it. It led into vast, empty space.

As far as the eye could see, darkness was prevalent. Small, silvery particles provided faint illumination that made them visible, even in the distance. There was no horizon or any semblance of nature to distract from the area's sinister aura. It was void of celestial sources of light; there was only interminable nothingness.

On the far end of the platform, a tall figure wearing an extravagant suit of black armor sat on the throne. The numerous structures that stemmed out from the throne had an almost ethereal feeling, though they were very much real. The man in the throne had dark, almost glowing red eyes. His face was hidden behind a mask.

A long crimson sword that seemed to pulse in a rhythmic fashion, almost like a heartbeat, was at his right side. The weapon looked as though it were ready to be drawn in a moment's notice, though the position betrayed the man as left-handed.

The figure stood up wordlessly, his black cloak falling to the floor behind him. He didn't take a step forward or volunteer any information as he lifted his arm and stretched his hand toward the young Eldarian. He reached out to Faize, expression hidden behind the dark mask. As blood red eyes met violet, everything was plunged into perpetual darkness.

Faize Sheifa Beleth woke up abruptly, his wide open and his fists clenching the bed sheets tightly. His breathing was fast and shallow, his body still completely tense from the nightmares. His eyes glowed an ominous bright red, the same color as the masked figure's. He was rattled by the all too realistic vividness of the dream; he couldn't shake the image of the dark knight.

It only took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dim lighting. All he saw was the ceiling of the Calnus, as anticipated. He closed his eyes momentarily as he sat up, trying to calm his nerves and dismiss the unsettling crimson glow. He glanced over to the computer screen to see the time, then to the empty bed on the opposite of the room.

I suppose she's still watching movies with Reimi and Meracle…it's still fairly early. They're probably out there getting all teary when those clichéd royal animated characters get their happy ending…

It's a pity such things exist only in vintage Earthling movies…

Such could never happen in reality…

A slight frown came over his face as a fleeting memory of her passed through his mind, until his gaze fell to a small package on his computer desk. He rose to his feet and walked over, inwardly wondering what it was. If Lymle had anything to do with it, he would have to expect the worst. EX only knows what sort of trick she could have planted for him; in his mind, no amount of love potion corruption could completely erase all wariness of her mischievousness.

He turned the room's lights on and sat down at the desk, surprise to see a cellophane package of cookies resting on the desk. The transparent material was tinted pink in color. It was sealed with a bow, although it was small and sloppily tied; almost undoubtedly Lymle's handiwork. He examined the package to ensure there weren't any traps set before he stated to open it.

They looked like normal, safe cookies - not dog biscuits enchanted to suddenly lure Cerberus out to pounce on him, or something even worse. There was always the possibility of poison, as he wouldn't put it past her to 'accidentally' slip insect eggs instead of chicken eggs into the recipe.

The package fell open and he eyed the cookies, inwardly thinking they definitely weren't made by Reimi. Some of them were burnt, others had crumbled edges, and a few were broken. It looked to be Reimi's recipe, but that was where the similarity ended. Despite some of the differences in appearance, they still looked good. They seemed to be more than edible, at the least.

Could she really have made these herself..?

As soon as the thought passed through his mind, it all fell together. The idea of Lymle trying to make cookies on her own - even if under a love potion's influence - would explain all of that day's incidents. That would also mean that Welch had helped; so it was likely they weren't poisonous.

Or at least he hoped the otaku of an item creation expert wouldn't encourage poisoning.

(Somewhere amongst a towering stack of manga in an underground settlement on Earth, Welch Vineyard sneezed.)

He picked up one of the less crispy, misshaped cookies and took a bite. Not only did the flavor seem free of common poisons, it actually tasted quite good. Despite the outwardly unpleasing appearance, the chocolaty taste showed how much effort she must have put into it. He reached for another, inwardly thinking even if she wasn't herself, he'd still have to thank her for the present.

As predicted by an Eldarian's spot-on calculations, Reimi and Meracle were both tearing up at the end of the vintage movie playing on the Calnus' main monitor that rose from the floor of the Recreation Room. Sarah was confusedly (yes, that is indeed a word, go look it up in the dictionary for a fun surprise) asking why the prince was going to kiss the princess, since it would make more sense to use symbology to wake her up. Or in the words of kindhearted but oblivious Sarah herself, 'a nice bucketful of cold water, but oh my, salt water leaves a person so sticky!'

Needless to say, Reimi and Meracle both had to 'shh!' her throughout the entire movie and promise to explain later.

Randomly thinking the 'handsome' prince in the movie would look much better with a more unique hair color, perhaps green, and having no idea how proud Myuria would be to have heard that thought, Lymle sighed. The other girls at the table didn't notice her dissatisfaction, since even at the saddest or happiest moment in a movie, Lymle's expression didn't change.

She stared at the large bowl of popcorn on the table, along with the small plate of extra cookies that didn't fit into the gift bag. There had been several batches that were just thrown away since they were little more than lumps of ash. They were more burnt than what she'd given to Faize, and even Meracle didn't show much interest in them.

When a glutinous feline didn't scarf them all down in minutes, it said something rather bad about a person's cooking ability.

Faize had never been a picky eater, but seeing as he probably suspected her of poisoning him more than Reimi and Welch had, there was a chance he would have thrown them away without trying them. She could understand getting rid of them after eating one, even though she'd found the best, least burnt ones to give him.

After the final scene of the movie faded to black and the credits started to roll, the lights in the Recreation Room all turned on and returned to their normal brightness. Meracle jumped to her feet and stretched, glad she didn't have to sit still any longer. Reimi started gathering the small snack plates on the table, glancing over at Sarah. The Featherfolk's expression was one of great concentration, something that was unusual for her.

"I got it!" Sarah exclaimed triumphantly, drawing the attention of the three other girls to herself. "All those people who have their names on the screen are single women who read lots of romance novels! That's why the princess had to be woken up with a kiss rather than a loud noise or a bucket of water!"

Reimi blinked for a moment, surprised by the sudden outburst. "You know, you're probably right."

"Really?" Sarah asked brightly. "I was right?"

"That does make sense," Meracle agreed with a cheerful nod.

Bacchus and Faize would probably cringe at the shaky logic the threesome were using. Nevertheless, Sarah seemed quite pleased with her revelation. Meracle hopped over to help Reimi with the dishes and the twosome disappeared into the item creation room. One of the hatches that popped out of the wall contained a dishwasher inside. Most of the others were for storage or housed other similar appliances.

Lymle lifted one of the broken cookies and examined it with a slight frown. The change in her expression was almost impossible to discern, even as she looked at the burnt underside of the cookie. She popped it into her mouth, inwardly wondering if the vast amount of chocolate chips were the cookies' sole saving grace. She had more than tripled the amount recommended by the recipe. She was about to reach for another cookie when she heard footsteps on the stairs behind her.

She was surprised to see none other than their Eldarian crewman himself coming down the stairs.

"What do you want?" she asked abruptly.

"Good evening to you too, Lymle," he said pleasantly, glancing over at Sarah.

Although the goodness of her heart could not be matched, Sarah wasn't the most sensible member of the Calnus' crew. Such was reflected as she stared off into space with a determined expression and counted aloud. The Demon King only knows what she could possible be counting with such concentration. Deciding he didn't want to even ask, Faize walked over to the table and motion toward the large plate of cookies.

"You made all of these yourself, correct?" he questioned.

"…Maybe. I don't have to tell you that, 'kay?" she retorted, half expecting him to ask if they were poisoned.

Instead, he smiled at her warmly. "You did a very good job with them. Thank you, Lymle."

She blushed as her gaze fell to the cookies, though she was oblivious to the fact that the uncharacteristic reaction was caused by a love potion. "But they're all crumbly and kinda burnt."

"They taste excellent though," he said with a nod.

Her gaze remained downward. "Well…you're welcome, 'kay?"

Neither of them noticed Reimi peering down the hallway from the Item Creation room with a rather satisfied evil smirk. Her mind was undoubtedly reeling with curiosity at why he was humoring the unusual behavior, but it didn't change her approval of the situation. However, the sweet moment was short lived.

"I was right!" Sarah exclaimed cheerfully. "There were a whole ton of girl's names in those credits. There were many more women involved than men."

Faize blinked once, clearly having no idea what the significance of Sarah's words was. He glanced at the logo of the old Earthling entertainment company on the screen, and then at Lymle. The young Lemurisian just shrugged and decided to go with the simplest answer possible. Even if she did explain, Faize would probably come up with a ridiculously complicated analysis and some sort of medicine with an unbelievably long name that would have woken the princess up, since a kiss didn't have any healing powers in reality.

"You don't wanna know, 'kay?"

Final Hikari: -snuggles shiny Bose iPod dock-

Myuria: …Right. Well, it looks like the author lost another fragment of sanity, so let's not dwell here.

Final Hikari: Next chapter shall be out very soon! :D Rude commissioners who harass me several times a day and pay slowly will be taking a backseat. XD

Myuria: And?

Final Hikari: And revenge suggestions for Lymle against Reimi and Welch are welcome! XD Thanks for reading and sticking with me for so long, everyone! The coming chapters won't disappoint!