A/N: Eh I forgot I had this chapter written already, so I'm just uploading it. I'm way too busy with my game, Tailor Tales to write more.
Chapter 3 – Blooming Friendship
After the incident which consisted of Claire throwing a rock at the Blacksmith's head, Claire vowed to get up early so that she could work her ass off – as repayment for what she did to the young man the day before. She knew that this wouldn't accomplish anything, as Gray had no idea what she did during the day, but it kind of made her feel better. It was kind of like a punishment for being so annoyingly stupid, so the blonde girl was fine with getting up earlier just so she could work on her farm. While she regarded this as 'punishment', it actually made her get off her lazy ass to make her farm look a lot better.
She watered her crops, which was an easy task. The girl then walked over to her new chicken coop, ready to face the evil chickens that she got a few days ago. Claire nervously hummed a song to calm her down, then opened the doors and was greeted by a bunch of cackling noises. Two chickens were running around, flapping their wings and making noises – as if they were growling at her. She got some food from the food dispenser and quickly threw it on the ground. The chicken flocked towards the food and started pecking at it. Claire quietly left the chicken coop, knowing that if they weren't distracted by food, they would peck at her, something which she had learned from the day she bought the chickens. Claire closed the doors and sighed.
"Evil chickens," she muttered under her breath.
Claire was now ready to go to the mine and work hard. She entered her house real fast to grab her hammer and walked towards the mine.
When she arrived, it seemed there was someone already in there, as there was light coming from the inside out. Claire thought of Gray immediately, which made her feel guilty again. She slowly entered the mine, making sure she dragged her feet along the dirt floor quite loudly, so that he would be alerted that she was in there. There he was, standing in his hard-working glory and manly sweat, while pounding down a hammer on a rock. He stiffened his posture when his eyes noticed Claire walking towards him. The rock was left alone while Gray stared at Claire, as if he was waiting for her to say something.
"Uhm, I didn't know you were here again," she said quietly, but her voice echoed quite loudly in the mine.
Gray whipped his head around to continue smashing the rock, ignoring the blonde girl. It made Claire think the worse; was she really not needed to mine ores anymore? He seemed to be doing all the work now – plus he was way better and more efficient at this than her. If she really wasn't needed anymore, she wouldn't get her steady income of cash – which means no more food! Claire shook her head to clear her thoughts, and figured she should just ask again.
"Am I still needed to mine ores? I keep seeing you mine on your own …"
The blond boy stopped what he was doing, then swung the large hammer on his shoulder – something which made him look utterly cool just because he could do it so easily – and cocked his head at her. He still didn't look her in the eye though, which was annoying to her for some reason. He cleared his throat to speak up.
"Really, I'm just doing this because I want to. Your job isn't in any danger."
A smile appeared on Claire's face; relieved that she still had this part-time job to earn herself lots of money. The girl walked closer to him, avoiding a few crumbled rocks that were laying in the dirty ground. She turned on her flashlight and placed it on a rock so give them both more light, after all, he was only using an old fashioned lantern which wasn't doing that much.
Claire shuffled on her spot, holding her hammer quite nervously. "Can I join you?" she asked. For some reason, she really wanted to befriend him. He seemed like he could give her some great tips on mining, and he looked like an honest, hard-working man.
A loud smashing sound echoed throughout the mine before he stopped to stare at the ground again. He lifted up his shoulders to shrug. "Sure," he said.
Before Claire even started to mine, she stared at Gray for a while. She could still see the big, red bump on his forehead that was caused by her. He tried to hide this by pulling down his cap down even more once he realized he was being stared at by Claire. She felt compelled to ask him how he was doing.
"Does it hurt?"
Gray stopped slamming his hammer. "Huh?"
"Your head, I mean – does it hurt?"
Gray grunted deeply, then shook his head. "It's fine."
Claire felt the need to say 'I'm sorry' one more time, but forced her own mouth shut so she wouldn't accidentally blurt it out. So instead, she joined Gray with his mining. Together they mined in silence, with Gray getting a lot more work done than she was. His rock cracked open, showing dirty gold on the inside. Claire felt jealous that he was so good at this – she wanted to become good at this too. The Blacksmith grinned at his own talent, then he carelessly threw the golden ores in his backpack, as if it were no big deal. Claire sighed in herself, trying to ignore his awesome mining talent to focus on her own mining.
Her blue eyes studied him carefully, while still remaining focused on slamming her hammer on the rock. Gray stopped for a second to take off his cap – showing how huge the red bump on his head really was – to wipe off some sweat. Claire felt so guilty, that she almost couldn't hold herself back to say 'I'm sorry' once more. Instead, she chose this moment to address her weakest point; the ability to always apologize for everything around her.
"I-I don't always say sorry," she stuttered quietly. She wanted to explain to him that she wasn't some weird crazy nut that couldn't stop apologizing for her behavior. She wanted to seem like a human being – so that she wouldn't chase him away like she did with all her other friends.
"I know I say it too much, but right now, I can't help it." Yeah, that sounded like a good explanation of her feelings. Then again, why would he even care?
Gray didn't respond, it almost looked like he didn't even hear her say anything. Claire was about to repeat herself when she heard him huff quietly.
"Maybe you could teach me some things then," he said, avoiding to look her in the eye. Claire raised an eyebrow.
"I rarely say that I'm sorry."
She didn't realize it, but for the rest of the day, she had a slight smile on her lips.
Over the past few days, Claire had been going to the mine rather eagerly, she couldn't wait to get started on her mining. Of course, the biggest reason for her new motivation was that Gray gave her a few tips here and there. They had been mining together several times over the last few days, and Claire enjoyed their time together. Not only was she getting better at mining herself, she was slowly starting to be friends with Gray. Her first friend in Mineral Town.
"Alright, now swing the hammer over your head – be sure to not hit your own back," instructed Gray. Claire nodded at him and clenched the hammer in her hands.
She took a deep breath, then swung the hammer over her head – but the weight of the hammer made her come crashing down to the dirty ground. She let out a small 'ouch!' when she made contact with the ground, then she quickly picked herself up to dust off her blue overalls. Claire then pointed her finger at Gray's grinning face.
"You! You made me do that on purpose!" She poked his chest. "You big meanie!"
Gray merely shrugged and brushed away her poking finger, he picked up her hammer for her and trusted it in her arms. "It ain't my fault you lack the proper strength to hold a hammer." Then, as an afterthought, he chuckled at her, just to add to the insult.
Claire felt insulted, but she could only glare at the blond man before her. Then, she rose her eyebrows.
"Say, Gray. Why are you so good at mining anyway?" she asked, genuinely interested in why he was so damn good at it. He never seemed to fall back because he swung a heavy hammer over his head. She needed to know his secret!
Shyly, he scratched his cheek and looked away from her. "I'm not that good…" he said.
She widened her eyes. "Are you kidding me? You beat the crap out of every single rock in this mine."
"It just looks like that, because you can't mine that well, so it seems as if I'm really good at it."
"Thanks for the compliment." She stuck out her tongue at him. Claire looked at her watch and saw that it was getting late.
"It's getting late, we should probably stop," said Claire and started packing everything up.
Together they exited the mine, only to be greeted by a downfall of rain. Stormy clouds covered the sky like a blanket, with rain pouring down, making Claire's field of vision rather blurry. There were bursts of lightning flashes way in the background; it was definitely storming.
"Ugh, it's raining!" exclaimed Claire, who's hair was starting to get drenched.
"Thanks for the weather report," retorted Gray, who merely pulled his cap down even more to keep his hair dry.
They started walking in silence, quickening their pace when they heard the sound of thunder getting closer to them. Claire guided Gray towards her farm, as that was the quickest route for Gray to take if he wanted to go home to the Inn. The longer they stayed outside, the more wet Claire and Gray both became. By the time she saw her field, her work clothes were now completely drenched with water, and she had dirty mud all over her pants. Her hair was also completely wet, now having a dark brown colour instead of the bright blonde she always had. It started to rain more and more, and she could hear a thunderstorm not far from here. They reached her house and Claire quickly got out her keys to open her door. She turned around to look at Gray, who was staring at the ground.
"Do you want to come in and stay until the weather clears up?" she asked.
"I should probably head back to the Inn…" spoke Gray shyly.
The rain danced around them for a moment, getting worse with each second. They were engulfing Gray's whole body, while Claire stood safely underneath her door. She rolled her blue eyes at him and grabbed his wet sleeve, pulling him inside of her home before he could walk away.
"Hey!" he yelled indignantly as Claire shut the door behind him.
"Ah come on, I can't let you walk back home in this storm – that's just insensitive."
"No really, I'm fine with it," he said then turned around to grab her doorknob and opened her door.
Just at that exact moment, a lightning bolt hit Claire's field, frying her potato in the process. Her mouth dropped open in horror at her fried potato and Gray quickly closed the door again.
"On second thought, I guess it's best if I wait it out."
Claire merely continued to stare at her door; thinking how her poor potato was now a fried potato. She then gave Gray a small smile and walked into her living room. She saw that the blond man was awkwardly standing at the doorway, keeping his distance from anything that resembled furniture. Was it that weird she invited him in her home? Maybe he hadn't been in a decent house for so long it made him feel awkward. Claire couldn't imagine having to sleep with one other guy every day. Talk about your privacy issues.
"Do you need a towel?" she asked. Claire walked over to her own bathroom to grab some towels to dry off her hair and face.
"N-no, I'm fine," he said, with his voice cracking slightly.
Claire reached for the doorknob on her bathroom door and said, "alright then."
Quickly, she picked up a towel from her rack and started to dry off her hair as much as she could; she was absolutely soaked in water. She kept one eye on the door, looking through the crack to see Gray standing in her living room. It was almost cute to see how weird he acted by being in her house. He shuffled on his spot, and looked out the window to see if the rain was slowing down. The blond then proceeded to stare at the ground. Claire chuckled a little after seeing him act so awkward in her house. Maybe he really was used to the hotel life.
"You can sit down if you want."
Gray's eyes widened and looked at the door, surprised by her sudden voice. Slowly, he made his way over to her pink couch to sit down. He patted the couch a few times before he lowered himself down. Then he got right back up again as soon as his butt touched the fabric, forgetting that his outfit was soaked with water.
"Uhm, I just wetted your couch…"
Claire threw the door open, her eyes wide. "What? You peed on my couch!?"
Gray's own blue eyes widened and began to stutter. "N-no .. I mean .. I-I made your couch wet with my pants…"
The girl pulled down her towel to cover her face; hiding away her embarrassment for even thinking this grown up guy would pee on her couch. Yeah, he totally wasn't mentioning it because his clothes were wet – no he was saying it because he peed his pants for some reason. Claire's cheeks filled up with blood, blushing furiously at her own mistake. She peeked through an opening of the towel to stare at Gray, who was staring at the ground yet again.
"Sorry…" The word flew right out of her mouth without even knowing she said it.
"I just misunderstood."
There was stretch of silence before Gray moved out of his spot to look at the window.
"Hey, the storm is moving away." He opened her door and stood outside. It was raining still, but not as much as it was before. There were also no more thunderbolts attacking her potatoes.
"I'll be fine now," he said and tipped his cap at her. "See you tomorrow."
Claire gave him a small wave before he closed the door. She then knocked her own head against the doorframe, feeling so silly that she thought that he peed his pants. With a sigh, she continued to dry herself off and headed for bed.
Her own punishment for the next day for saying 'sorry' once again, was to start cleaning up her field. It was riddled with rocks, branches, dead weeds and all other kinds of stuff that shouldn't belong in her field. The hard working Claire started with pulling out weeds in the early morning, then picking up the branches and set them aside for future use during the winter. The real trouble for her were the big rocks that were sitting on her field. Claire wondered just how these rocks got on her field; did a damn tornado blew them over here or something? It was physically impossible for a rock the size of her whole body to be stuck on a farmer's field.
"Impossible," she muttered and kicked the rock with her shoe.
Claire swung her hammer once more to attempt to break the rocks into pieces small enough for her to carry in her hands to throw away. It wasn't working though; the big rock was … well – rock hard! Claire sighed and looked at the time; it was 10 AM and she needed to be at the Blacksmith! Hurriedly, she made her way over to the Blacksmith and opened the door. The all familiar 'ting ting!' ringed in her ears.
"Good morning Claire, what have you brought for me today?" asked Saibara with his usual deep sounding voice. This time however, it wasn't intimidating as usual. Claire had gotten used to the grumpy sounding voice.
She rummaged through her backpack and proudly presented him a small silver ore. "Tada!" she exclaimed. "I worked extra hard for this!"
"Oh my, you certainly did!" said Saibara, "Gray you should take Claire as an example of a person willing to work hard."
Claire mentally braced herself for the verbal insults to start – especially since it was Gray who helped her work that hard – but there were none. There was only silence. She looked at Gray's back, who then turned to face her. He tipped his cap towards her, as usual.
"Morning'." He turned around again to continue his work. It seemed he was in a good mood or something; as he didn't bite Saibara's head off for saying such things. Claire admired the way he held himself back.
"Good morning," she greeted back.
Claire studied him for a while as she got lost in her thoughts; he was certainly a bit muscular wasn't he? With all that hard work he does all day, surely he must have some strength in his arms. Claire pulled her eyebrows together, deep in thought about Gray's strength, while she accepted her payment from Saibara. Maybe she could ask for Gray's help, so that he could get rid of that big stupid rock in the middle of her field. Claire wasn't sure if he could really do it, it was a big rock after all – but then again, he did display signs of strength during their mining trips together.
The blond turned around again, holding a smoldering hot tool with some tongs that he took out of the forge. "Yeah?"
"Can I ask a favour of you?" she asked, fiddling with her fingers, hoping he wouldn't deny her request.
Gray placed the tool back into the forge and faced her again. "Sure," he said nonchalantly.
Claire played around with a lock of hair, almost feeling nervous to ask his help. "Could you come by the farm after you're done working?"
Claire smiled. "Thanks! See you then!" She left the blacksmith and went back to her farm.
Claire waited for Gray to show up as she sat on the big rock that she was supposed to be cracking right now. There were two hammers laying on the ground near the rock; obviously she wanted Gray to help her get rid of the damn thing. A few hours later, and Gray finally showed up at her farm. He looked around for any sign of Claire, and she threw up her arms to wave at him and beckoned him to come over.
"So, what is your favour?" he asked as he walked over towards her, carefully avoiding her planted crops.
Claire smiled at him and tapped the rock with the palm of her hand. Gray raised a blond eyebrow at her gesture.
"…What do you want me to do with it?" he asked, unsure what she meant.
She jumped off the rock and picked up a hammer and trusted into his arms. "I want you to smash it!" She wondered if he could really do it though. It was a pretty big rock.
"Yup, this rock." Claire smiled at him and folded her arms, staring at the rock. "I was cleaning up my field, but I just couldn't get this darn rock to break. So I thought; Gray is pretty strong, right? He could help me smash it, right?"
The slightest hint of a blush crept on Gray's face, but he quickly hid it by pulling down his cap even lower. Claire gave him a small smile and briefly wondered what the UMA letters on his cap meant.
"I think I can try." Was his answer.
Claire clapped her hands and stepped aside to give Gray some room. "Great! Start slamming then!"
The guy picked up the hammer and grabbed it tightly in his hands, then took one big swing at the rock, right in the middle. A few splinters came off on impact. He took another swing and it became a crack. Claire's blue eyes went larger, amazed that he could actually do it.
"Oooh, so you can do it," she said amazed. Gray shot her a dirty look, probably because she underestimated him.
"Go grab that hammer and help me, instead of standing there amazed."
Claire quickly grabbed the other hammer and looked at Gray for further instructions. He scratched the back of his neck, finding it awkward that he had to tell her what to do. "Uhm, go to the other side, and hit it from there. If we hit it both at the same time from a different side, the vibrations will collide .. and .. well it'll break easier."
Together, they smashed up the big rock with a lot of effort. It took them several hours to get it to crumble into pieces that were big enough to be transported off her farm. Claire's hands were numb and tingly; the vibrations from the smashing was a bit too much for her. Her muscles also ached a lot, and her back felt like it was killing her. She laid down on the ground, exhausted from all that working.
"That was a lot of work, my hands hurt so much!" she complained. Claire knew she was going to get blisters in a few hours, her hands were all torn up and red.
Gray sat down next to her as he took off his cap to fan himself. "That was nothing compared to the work my grandfather makes me do," he said and laid down on the ground too, to rest alongside of her.
Claire turned her head to him. "Is it that bad?" she asked, not believing anything could be more painful than this.
He scoffed. "He'll butcher you down until you can't move your whole body anymore! You'll be numb for days, and only then the pain starts to kick in. He really is world's most evil grandfather."
Claire bit her lip. "Your grandfather scares me a little…" she confessed. Saibara really was intimidating for his age, coupled with the fact she always saw him go really hard on Gray.
She heard a chuckle emerge from Gray, who put his cap back on and closed his eyes. "He used to scare me, but not now – now he just pisses me off because he hates everything I make." He sighed. "It doesn't help he's also really good at what he does … and I pale in comparison to him."
Claire stared at his face, did his grandfather's complaining really effect him so much? It couldn't be; Claire saw nothing but a stubborn hard worker in front of her who did his best with everything he had.
"Lately I can't even concentrate enough to do my job…"
He had to stop! He couldn't keep on self-pitying himself when he was nothing but a better worker than her. So before she knew it, Claire was already half-way sitting up to stare him down.
"Well, I think you're great," she said. "When I first came here I was lost; I thought I was screwed over forever. But then I saw you, you worked hard every day – even if your grandfather was hard on you! So I thought, if he's holding it out, then so can I."
Claire realized she had spoken too much when she saw his blue eyes widen with each word she said. Quickly he turned his face away from her and sat up straight. The blonde girl rolled her eyes at herself, thinking it was a stupid idea to reveal so much information about her little admiration of him.
"I-I'm not that great …" he said slowly. "I'm very lazy, and I can't handle criticism well – so I lose my motivation to keep working for the better…"
Claire smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry your grandfather is so hard on you – but I still think you're great. You're always working hard whenever I see you, I think that's admirable."
Gray, refusing to turn around, shifted on his spot. "Isn't it hard to work all alone on this farm?"
Claire stared at the dirt on the ground. "Yeah, it is…But I manage; someone's gotta do it."
"Doesn't it ever wear you down though? I always see you working hard, and I wonder; how does she do it?" Claire's ears perked up; so he thought she worked hard, while she thought he worked hard? Talk about your irony.
"I'm not always working hard," she admitted. "In fact, I screw up a lot. You should have seen the day I bought my two chickens – it was chaos! Chaos I tell you! They're vile, evil creatures who wouldn't stop pecking at my ankles!"
Gray turned around with a slight smile. "Oh yea, well I set fire on the Blacksmith the first day I worked there. I dropped a tool that was hot, and suddenly everything caught on fire. Everyone in town crowded around to see my big mistake. It was so embarrassing."
Her eyes widened and she let out a big laugh. "You really set it on fire? I guess I'm not the only one who screws up from time to time."
He chuckled. "Trust me, I bet I screw up twice as much as you do," he said with a sense of truth to his words.
"I don't believe that!" exclaimed Claire, not believing he screwed up as much a she did. She was pretty sure of herself that she made tons of mistakes every day.
Together they kept on sharing their misfortunes together. Claire now knew that Gray had screwed up plenty of times during his apprenticeship. From burning down the Blacksmith to burning his own hand that now showed a faded scar. For some reason, it didn't really made Claire lose her admiration for him, if anything; it rose. Knowing that he was human too, a human that could make mistakes, comforted herself greatly. At least that meant that Claire could strive towards getting better too, even though she could screw up every once in a while. If Gray, a person who screwed up that much, could still be really good at what he does – than Claire had nothing to worry about her farm life. She would become better, and she will!
A warm orange glow engulfed the two people sitting in the field. Claire looked at the sky and saw the sun setting in the distance. It was already that late? They must have been talking to each other for hours without realizing. She smiled knowing that time had passed so fast when she was having fun talking to him; time always goes fast when you're having fun.
"The sun is already setting?" said Gray as he stared at the sky too. He slowly got up from the ground and dusted his overalls to get rid of the dirt. "I think it's time for me to go home."
Claire got up too and nodded at him. "Alright then," she said.
Gray scratched the back of his head, his lips turning into a small smile. "You know, you can always ask me for help if you need anything done around here. I don't mind helping you out every once in a while."
She smiled broadly, glad that she had such a nice and caring friend as him. "That's a deal!" she said happily. Her eyes watched Gray leave her farm, then she sighed deeply and started to pick up the small pieces of rocks that she needed to dispose of.