Hey everyone~ Kazea here,

While I am in the middle of Starlit Wings right now, I wanted to write a one-shot featuring my favorite Phantasia pairing: Chester and Arche. Why am I suddenly doing this you ask? I'm obviously a Symphonia author but I love all of the Tales games, and more importantly, this is a gift for my good friend Ayame Majikku! Most of you here on the Phantasia section probably know her from her brilliant stories of Teishi ni Hikkakamasu and Syukuzen no Teishi. Well, for her birthday I decided to write this for her as thanks for being such an incredible friend in the short amount of time we've known each other-her favorite pairing happening to also be Arche and Chester in Phantasia.

So happy belated birthday, Ayame! I know your birthday was on the 7th and I'm late, gomen. XD I hope this is to your liking and that you enjoy it enough to 'aww' at the fluff that shall go on.

Because, however, I have never done a piece with the Phantasia cast, I may have made Chester and Arche-among others-slightly OOC. Please be gentle. I can only do my best.

Discliamer: I do not own Tales of Phantasia. I do, however, enjoy writing about it. =3

Please enjoy minna~


A sleeping owl in a small knothole of one of Aselia's many flourishing pine trees awoke slowly with the passing of day to night. The natural calming darkness crept upon the sinking sunset in a leisure fashion, nocturnal creatures both monster and animal impatiently stirring. The golden light of day soon faded away, the spectrum cast evening sky giving way to blackness with each moment.

Spinning its head to take a gander at the view overhead, the owl swiftly stretched out its wings and shook off any remainder of sleep. Stars were pouring into the heavens little by little and that meant instinct took over for many residents of the night. It was time to be active after a long twelve hours of sleep.

The owl hopped from its knothole to a long study branch, calling out in a trademark hoot. Its cry echoed throughout the quiet wood before rebounding back, giving the owl the signal that it could begin surveying for something to hunt.

A voice, however, startled the evening bird out of its concentration and it flew away panicked— the branch it was on shaking noisily under the force of its take off.

"Ahhhhh, I can't take it anymore! I'm going to die of hunger! C'mon, c'mon, c'mooon already!"

Cless stopped whetting his blade from his spot sitting on a fallen log to look up, same as the rest of his companions. The group had stopped traveling to set up camp and rest from a long day of walking and fighting. Avoiding the monsters that stalked people at night was a factor as well of course. Their makeshift campsite had been established pretty quickly considering how long it had been since they'd arrived in the forest they'd decided to take a shortcut through. The environment allowed for a more comfortable stay in some cases at least.

Arche, a powerful half-elven mage and the one who had spoken prior, had a look on her face that could have been described as an incredibly odd cross between annoyed, angry, and gloomy.

Cless blinked comically with a half-hearted smile, his sweat dropping. The swordsmen had come to see this unusual expression many times during their journey for various reasons. Still, it never ceased to make him feel awkward when it was used by the pink-haired witch against her comrades.

Klarth wore about the same expression as Cless — minus the smile—until he quietly sighed and pulled his hat forward over his eyes, the summoner obviously not wanting anything to do with the inevitable outburst Arche would blow up in. He sat back against a large rock with his arms folded under his neck, shaking his head.

Even the normally emotionless Suzu raised an eyebrow, tilting her head curiously with her arms crossed as she watched the rest of the group from her place on a low tree branch—her back against the trunk and legs across the branch. The ninja was fairly new the group still having joined only two weeks ago.

"Arche-san… I'm sorry but it's going to be awhile longer before dinner is ready," Mint shyly admitted as she continued to add ingredients to the pot of stew she had simmering over the campfire. The healer was a painstakingly great cook, despite being modest about it.

Arche huffed as she flailed her arms slightly for a moment, only stopping to give Mint her best puppy-eyed look. "But Miiiiinnnt… I'm starving and, and… I could die! Can't you hurry up, just a little?"

"Arche don't pester Mint while she's trying to cook," Klarth scolded suddenly, though didn't move from his position whatsoever, "if she rushes it won't taste good and then you'll complain even more."

"Plus, she only started on dinner five minutes ago you know. It's going to take about an hour," Cless added meekly, not wanting to work up Arche more but at the same time wanting to vouch for poor Mint, who he knew hated to disappoint or anger anyone.

The magic-user recoiled as if the truth had just struck her with lightning and laughed. "An hour? I can't wait that long!"

"We're all hungry, Arche. Just find a way to entertain yourself until Mint says it's done," Klarth muttered, removing one arm from under him and waving his hand in dismissal back and forth.

"But Klarth-sensei…! A cute girl like me won't be able to keep up any strength without a good meal," Arche whimpered.

"You're acting more like a burden by saying stuff like that."

Arche whipped her head at a certain blue-haired archer, off a little ways from the others but close enough to be included in conversation as he continued his late night training. Though Chester had been shaky when he'd first returned to the group, he'd really worked hard to amend himself. He had become quite the excellent marksmen now. Nearly all of his arrows had struck the tree he was using dead in the center, the few misfired arrows only having hit the ground due to the wind.

"I wasn't talking to you, Chester! Go back to your shooting and keep quiet," Arche spat, eyes tapering.

Chester didn't even dignify her with a glimpse as he calmly began to nock and aim a new arrow. "All you do is fly around and cast stupid spells, if you're not spending most of your time taunting the rest of us about how poorly we're doing in battle. Maybe going without dinner will be good for you. It might teach your big mouth a lesson."

The female mage leapt up and threw her arms out angrily, fists clenched. "W-what? If it wasn't for my stupid magic you and everyone here would probably be dead already! Besides, you have no right to criticize me when you're the one who used to slow us down for months with your poor fighting skills."

The archer visibly recoiled at the comment right as he let go of the string of his bow, the arrow flying so out of aim that it soared through the trees out of sight.

"Here we go," Klarth groaned knowingly as he braced himself, Mint and Cless exchanging nervous glances as Suzu silently persisted to watch.

"I was trapped in the past, what did you expect? The adventure that lasted weeks for you was only a short minute or two from my perspective! It's hard to catch up in experience when I didn't get to fight as much as you all," Chester snapped, gripping tightly on the smooth wood of his bow as he tried to keep himself from lashing out fully.

Arche crossed her arms. "That doesn't give you the right to declare that I'm not an asset to the team."

"You have the potential to be useful— and sometimes you are. Most of the time though you're just plain annoying. You're more like a tiny yappy puppy than a teammate," Chester rebutted, crossing his arms as well.

The half-elf fumed and stalked up to the archer, not even hesitating to get in his face and scowl. "You know what… I don't have to take this! I am important to this mission. Don't act like you know everything about me when you've only known me for a few months!"

"There's not much to you so it's not hard to judge you!" Chester hedged closer to her so she could see his glower, too upset to see how uncomfortably close they literally were.

Arche gritted her teeth and made a disgruntled noise, giving Chester a hard shove away from her. "If I'm like that you're not much different. You're nothing but a heartless, hotheaded, arrogant know-it -all!"

The calm Chester had tried to maintain finally shattered. "And you're nothing but a loudmouthed, airheaded, whiny brat!"

"Fox-faced hypocrite!"

"Useless witch!"

"Ditz!"

"Jerk!"

Cless gently slapped his forehead. "I'm getting a headache… I wish they'd just stop doing this. They've been at each other's throats since the day they met."

"Should we do something?" Mint queried to the swordsmen as she quit what she was doing with dinner, looking more than worried at how serious the two bickering party members were getting with each insult.

Klarth finally flicked his hat up so that his face was visible, rolling his eyes. "If we try to break it up I think we'll just get dragged in and make it worse. They usually stop and cool down after the insults start anyway…"

Mint turned to Cless again, who only shrugged and sighed before forcing his eyes to still back on the fight. She nodded to the unspoken reply and went back to her meal. Klarth was probably right after all. These arguments, while exasperating, were typical and childish—never actually hurtful.

"I'm. Not. Useless! You still haven't caught up to the rest of us! Maybe we should ditch you," Arche shouted at the top of her lungs, trying to make herself look taller by straightening up.

"That's not true! I've grown just as strong as everyone else. Unlike you I have something I have to do." Chester turned his back to her. "I have to defeat Dhaos and—"

"—avenge your sister! I know," Arche interrupted, brushing a stray lock of hair from her face and then putting her hands on her hips. "With archery skills like yours though you'll probably get beat up before you even get to Dhaos. She's going to be frustrated with you…"

The world went still, no sounds at all. It was as if everything had frozen around the group and refused to move. The first rustle was of Chester rotating around unhurriedly, crushing some fallen leaves under his boots. His aura was dark, even to the ones sitting far away.

Arche, awaiting a countering insult, slanted her head to get a better view of Chester's face. What she saw practically made her flinch. He wasn't in the mood to argue anymore. He was beyond furious. His eyes might as well have been on fire, they looked enough to be so.

"…What do you know about having a younger sister or brother?" he began quietly, his tone gaining both audibility and ferocity as he continued, "You couldn't know, you don't have any. You're an only child. You've never felt love for a sibling or the responsibility to keep them safe when your parents aren't around anymore."

Arche shrunk back, remorse clouding her expression. "…Chester I didn't mean it like—"

"Shut the hell up!"

The mage's eyes widened, Chester practically punching her heart with his words. She took a step back and shook her head as he continued to rant.

"Ami was my only family... I let her die! It's my fault that she isn't here with me anymore. How would you know how I feel every single day—living with this pain of seeing her smiling face everywhere I look?"

He lashed out even more as he walked up and loomed over Arche. "You wouldn't know that either! Everyone's told me about your family! Your mother left you all alone just because of some idiotic racist rule, and your father was a fool for allowing her to walk out! If they were really in love and cared about you they would have stayed together no matter what. Your family was doomed to be distant from the beginning!"

Chester took a deep breath, ending his rant with an acid in his tone that would scare even monsters. "It makes sense though. An attention-starved half-elf wouldn't know about bonds. It's no wonder you've grown up to be such a nuisance to everyone you meet."

The next few minutes were unnervingly hushed. Arche's mouth was crooked, shoulders shaking and head bowed. The fringe of her bangs covered her eyes as she backed up even further from Chester than before. This was an Arche that had never been seen before, at least by Chester.

"…I hate you," she weakly sputtered, spinning around and running off deep into the woods without once turning back. It wasn't long before she was completely out of sight, leaving the group without so much as another word.

Chester stood where he was, mouth slightly agape. That had been a first. Despite arguing nearly every day she'd never once told him something like that. He blinked and adjusted so he could face the others.

They were all staring at him with fierce disappointment…

"W-what? What?" he asked in surprise to their expressions.

They all looked to each other ineptly until Cless decided to take the initiative.

"Chester... I understand that Ami's your exploding point but what you said was just…well, cruel," he murmured, "You know that half-elves are treated unfairly by a lot of people, even if it's not as bad as it used to be."

Chester was taken aback. "Cless! She made it personal, not me. She used Ami to insult me!"

"…But, she didn't mean it that way. She even tried to apologize," Mint defended, her voice dripping in empathy. "Chester-san, I don't think she should have gone as far as she did either… However, what happened to her and her family is hard to understand since we're all human and she's not."

Chester was about to speak but Klarth cut in, sitting up and crossing his arms. The look the summoner gave him was nothing short of irate. "Mint is right. I'm sorry Chester but what you said was horrible. She may rattle our nerves sometimes but she's suffered just as much as anyone here."

"Not you too, Klarth. Man!" the archer kicked a rock in aggravation and it bounded off into the woods in the direction Arche had taken. Chester gazed at the natural path, his brow furrowing in sadness for a second before he ignored the feeling and put his bow upon on his back in a haphazard manner.

Cless stood up and tapped him, causing Chester to jolt up and raise an eyebrow to prod for whatever it was the swordsmen wanted to say.

"You can't just ignore this and expect it to go away this time... Did you see how hurt Arche was? She didn't even take her broom," Cless stated sadly, gesturing over to the witch's weapon which was propped against a tree. Arche never left it, since walking around wasn't exactly her forte.

"What do you expect me to do about it?" Chester mumbled dryly, oblivious.

"Go apologize, Chester. And do it now before Arche gets jumped by a monster. I doubt she'll be too wary since she's so upset." Klarth eyed him a reprimanding fashion, not even batting an eye when Chester tensed up.

"Apologize? For what? She's the one who started it!"

"Please Chester-san… Dinner will be ready soon and I know you don't want Arche-san to be out here all alone," Mint pleaded softly.

Chester thought on that for a second, considering it but then growling at himself. He trekked off into a line of trees away from where Arche had gone, throwing an explanation over his shoulder. "I'm going to take a walk…"

Suzu, who had studied this whole scene intently and calmly, had her eyes follow the young warrior as he slinked through the dark woodland. When he finally got too far for her keen eye, the ninja stood up on her tree branch and formed a handsign. A gust of wind and leaves whipped up and surrounded her in a small whirlwind.

When it dissipated, Suzu was nowhere to be seen.


"This isn't my fault!" Chester yelled, throwing his hands out all over the place, "She's the one who had to bring Ami into it. It's only right that I say something back. So why is it I can't keep her out of my head?"

He paced back and forth in a small clearing he'd stumbled upon during his walk. His original intention to calm down had more or less gone away. There was far too much on his mind. As much as he denied it, convinced himself, and beat the idea from his brain…

…He felt guilty

"Even if I try to apologize, she's not going to want to see me now. She'll probably burn me, or freeze me, or…or…aargh!" he punched the nearest tree, only to go back to his errant pacing, tugging on his hair and still crossly talking back and forth with himself.

"If you continue to pace, you will bury yourself into the ground eventually…"

Chester jumped back slightly as he reached up for his bow, surprised at the sudden voice piercing the night. He'd been so absorbed in his thoughts that he'd completely dropped his guard. When he peered up he saw that it was Suzu who had spoken to him, up in a tree as usual and staring down at him.

"I know you're a ninja but sneaking up on people isn't wise at this time of night." Chester lowered his hand from his bow, arms now folded.

"It is because I am a ninja that sneaking up on people is normality. I apologize if I startled you." Suzu leapt down, landing acrobatically in front of the archer and brushing her clothes off from any dust.

Chester quirked an eyebrow, dropping his arms back to his sides. "You're being unusually talkative."

Suzu said nothing at all, causing an awkward titer to escape him before he pressed on. "Why did you follow me anyway? I'd expect as much from Cless but…"

The ninja continued to examine him for a moment, her head moving skywards when she was finished gathering her thoughts. "I do not know what has happened to you and Arche individually, so I cannot mark an opinion on what happened earlier. Do not worry. I'm not here to pressure you to do something you feel isn't fair."

Chester copied Suzu, offering his gaze to the twin moons of Sylvarant and Tethe'alla. It was funny. Despite being new, Suzu had a most relaxing air that he really wished he could borrow from.

"If you don't mind, Chester-san, I did want to share something with you though."

He issued his concentration back down at her and nodded, preparing to listen. Child or not, Suzu's intelligence could surpass even someone above her in years. He knew that by now if he knew anything about her at all.

"…My village, as you know, is located deep within the Trentwood. We ninja sometimes must pass through Heimdall and meet with the residents there since they are the few who know of us. I myself have been there many times. The elves are a proud race and are worth respect, but they are also culturally strict—as we are in my clan. We're a very similar people in many ways…"

She trailed her eyes to the ground now, away from the starry sky. "Though I haven't really witnessed it myself, the one disturbing fact that remains true is that elven kind has always unkindly discriminated against half-elves. Many people from my village who have seen it often talk about how cruel they can be… "

Chester inhaled, feeling even guiltier then before. He was somewhat afraid to ask what came to mind at her information.

"…How…cruel…is it really?"

Suzu sighed, a rarity for someone like her as she reluctantly answered. "You know that they will not let half-elves into their village no matter the circumstance. What most don't is that they are willing to go further if necessary—even if they try to avoid doing so."

She paused a moment to shake her head. "They kill half-elves if they refuse to comply with their rules. They'll publically ridicule them in ways that are terrible. If an elven mother gives birth to a child they find has human blood, they'll toss the child out alone even if they aren't old enough to walk. They wish to keep their culture pure and clean at all costs… Very few elven leaders have been sympathetic to these rules and have kept them going for centuries."

"But that's…that's…" Chester said louder than he had meant to, full of anguish at the reality. "...That's so wrong! Half-elves are people too. How can you get mad at someone for being a race they weren't asked to be forced into? What kind of person would…"

Realization hit him like a tank and he couldn't finish. What kind of person would do that? Him; he had done it just a little awhile ago. He had used race to purposely hurt Arche—without even knowing how severely half of her bloodline treated her. It was a painful truth, an essential truth.

Arche was irritating at times sure, and they argued often. However, he actually liked Arche quite a great deal—more than he was willing to admit to himself. In spite of that he could see her in his head with spiteful eyes.

I hate you

He winced. Had she really said that? Yes, she had. Had she really meant it though? That was the bigger and most important question of all. He'd almost rather be smothered in all of her spells at once than have her really hate him. He mentally kicked himself for not being the best at apologizing. He knew this time it was critical that he did.

"Suzu," the archer began evenly as he opened his eyes, "thank you for coming to talk with me. I really needed it."

The ninja offered a small smile, yet another rarity. "You are my comrade, as is Arche and the rest. If there is something I can do to help out, I will do my upmost to aid whatever problem it may be."

Chester grinned and nodded, about to go locate a certain crestfallen half-elf. He was stopped, however, when Suzu unexpectedly went on.

"Just remember, when you go apologize, that to her we're probably the closest thing to strong family bonds she has in her life. She's used to being shunned by many people. That's why hearing you say what you did hurt her so much. She fights with you because she cares about you, perhaps more than the others even." The brunette turned around after Chester blushed faintly. She made a handsign and the wind began to gather about her, picking up tons of foliage.

"Good luck," she said as she vanished out of sight, a shower of leaves floating down in her wake as she more than likely made her way back to the others.

Chester finally twisted around and waded through the trees, his pace between a jog and a walk. "Me more than anyone, huh…?"

The statement was an odd one from the ninja. It probably wasn't true either. Arche like him more than the rest of the group? Yeah right, it seemed the latter—impossible even. She only seemed to enjoy taunting him whenever the opportunity struck. Still…

"Maybe the idea isn't as farfetched as I make it out to be," Chester debated in his mind, the opposing part of his brain giving him yet another kick.

He continued to seek around the woods in what he assumed was the right way. He could easily make out the glow of the fire back at the campsite despite its farness so he wasn't worried about getting back. In terms of Arche's location he was somewhat lost. He searched for more time he'd expected. Chester had moved himself around according to the direction he'd seen Arche run off in. Because of his walk though he may have miscalculated and gone the completely wrong way.

The archer caught the sound of water through another break in the woods. It was too quiet to be a river and from what he could see as he began toward it the area was largely treeless. He wasn't sure if he'd have any luck with this spot since it was out of the way but it wouldn't hurt to check.

As he exited from under the shade of the tall trees he found that what he had heard had been the rippling of water upon a beautiful glassy lake. It wasn't a huge lake or anything but it was fairly wide enough to have earned a respective place in this forest. Chester was fixed on it for a time. The spot was a quaint yet entrancing work of nature.

A ripple broke the smooth surface again, along with a distinct noise that sounded like something was lightly scratching the water in small bursts. He glanced around curiously. What was that anyway?

He took a few steps and then froze, spotting a figure against the trunk of a tree growing against the edge of the water. It was huddled up, facing out towards the lake and seeming very withdrawn.

Arche

It was indeed the pink-haired magic-user who he'd stumbled upon. What a lucky break. At least, that was what was supposed to be the case. Chester actually felt sicker in the stomach than easygoing with his discovery. He hadn't forgotten what she had said before he left after all.

Arche, not noticing his presence, picked up a rock and threw it hard. It skimmed the lake in quick bounces before it plunged into the depths with a 'plunk'. So that had been the noise he'd heard before, as well as the cause of the rippling. Her stone skipping was rather severely executed though. He was a little astonished it had managed to skip instead of simply dropping in the water right away.

Pulling himself out of his thoughts, he gulped and started to move her way, praying to the gods that he could hold his usual temper and not say anything worse then he already had—even if she shouted at him for coming to see her.

He was finally close enough, and Arche had noticed him and stiffed.

"Hey," Chester began, trying to keep his tone from sounding awkward.

She said nothing and hugged her knees with an unhappy scowl on her face.

If at first you don't succeed, Chester thought, scratching his neck. "What are you doing out here? It's the dead of night. You could be attacked," he went on.

Arche tensed, biting her lip. "What do you want, Chester?"

"W-well, everyone was nervous so…"

"They sent you of all people to get me? I don't want to see you. Go away!" she hissed, snapping her head to the right so she could glare at him.

Chester's eyebrows rose up, his throat going dry. It wasn't what she had said—even if it was hurtful—that made him respond this way. It was her face, and the way her eyes glistened. Her whole expression was evidently stained in pain and the signs of unstoppable sessions of tears. She had been sobbing out here probably the whole time she'd run away. It showed so clearly that it may as well have shot Chester multiple times.

He was such a bastard.

"Arche," Chester breathed, "you can be mad at me and cast all the magic you want. But I'm not going to leave. More importantly, are you crying?"

"I guess it would be a shock for someone like you that half-elves have the capacity to cry."

He nearly cringed. "Look… We're all really worried about you… I'm worried about you too."

"No you're not. You don't care what I do. You never have," Arche retorted, a few more tears streaming down her delicate features.

"That isn't true!" He said, quicker than his mind had thought it.

"Yes it is! I'm just a worthless attention-starved freak, right? That's what you think of me!"

"No, Arche, it isn't! I didn't understand what the hell I was saying. You brought up Ami and I just… I just was overcome in anger. I shouldn't have said that!"

"But you did and," she began to shake, misery consuming whatever rage had been invoked, "Just because we always fight doesn't mean I don't care about what happened to you, stupid! You twisted my words around in the absolute worst possible way!"

"I know!"

Arche twitched then blinked, expression going blank. "…W-what?"

Chester deeply inhaled. It was now or never.

"I know I did that… It took a while to get my head around it, but, I know." The archer gave her an honest gaze, to which she stared at him as if never having seen him before. "I'm…sorry, Arche."

The witch pointed at him, bewildered. "Did you just…apologize to me?"

"Y-yeah," Chester flushed and looked to the side slightly offended. "It's not that unbelievable you know…"

"Yes it is." Arche's mouth tugged up in a very small smile, laughing a little, "It's totally and completely unbelievable."

Normally he would have been irked and have said something in argument, however, the fact that he had gotten her to cheer up just a little sat well with him. He only offered a smile as well, shrugging and sitting down next to the mage.

"This place is nice," Chester said while observing his surroundings again.

Arche rested her forehead on her knees. "Yeah, I guess it is. Running here wasn't too much fun though."

"You should have flown then."

"I was a little too distracted to grab my broom at the time…"

Chester grimaced, sighing. "Are you still upset?"

She didn't give him an answer at first, only sounding a thoughtful hum. When she did form words she fell back into seriousness and hurt that was relatively unlike her.

"I'm happy you came to say sorry but I'm still sorta sad too, I guess," she admitted.

The archer's emotions inwardly plummeted. "…Tch…"

"But Chester…"

"…Yeah?"

"…I'm sorry I brought up Ami. I don't hate you."

It was as if relief had manifested into a wave and had crashed over his entire body, drowning him the elevation of those last four words. Chester really had no idea why he felt so happy to hear them. The part of him that took a guess was immediately shut up. Even so, that was a whole world of weight lifted off him.

"It's fine," he whispered, trying to hide his respite. "I guess I'm still sorry though since you're not feeling better."

"It's just," Arche paused to think for a moment, "You don't know what it's like to be born different, with no one to talk to…no one who cares much about what you do and thinks you're dangerous because you have powers others don't…"

"Arche…" Chester frowned, hesitating to put a hand on her shoulder.

"I thought when I was little that having magic was really amazing, and I'd try to show everyone in Harmel Village all the neat tricks I'd figured out with it tons of times. But…most of the people just stared at me in while others flat out insulted me. The prejudice against half-elves isn't as bad in the human world I'll admit. I guess some people can't help themselves when it comes to racism though… To be honest, my only friend during my childhood was Rhea, and she's gone now…"

She collected another rock from the ground and threw it more gently than Chester had seen prior. It danced over the lake's edge so many times that when it finally stopped skipping the rock was too far away to see. She was really good. He couldn't skip stones for all the gald in Aselia.

"I don't remember much about my mother either. I didn't even know it was her when she came to me in Hiemdall. Father never talked about her when I used to ask him. He'd always look so sad when I brought it up so I'd just leave it alone. I assumed she had died or something. When we, that is, Cless and everyone too, asked him about it after the incident he finally told me all about how the elves came and forced her to leave. I have a feeling they were going to kill us if she didn't go with them."

Arche unexpectedly laughed at herself. "Heh, why am I even telling you this?" She flashed him a very lonely smile, rubbing her eyes. "Even though you were mean, you're probably right. I don't know anything about having bonds with people. Maybe I am pretty usele—"

Chester couldn't take it anymore. He reached over her and encircled her shoulders, pulling the mage into his arms and holding her tightly, halting her from speaking. He could feel her uneasiness to the forwardness of his embrace but he didn't relent. He couldn't. Suzu had outlined the picture and Arche had filled it in. He understood his fault all too well, so much so that hearing any more from her was painful.

"C-chester, w-what are you doing?" Arche stammered, a blush threatening to creep over her cheeks.

"I…have no idea," he confessed, pressing his head on top of hers and shutting his eyes with difficulty. "But, I'm so sorry for saying anything to make you think and act like this. Even in the midst of our argument I never meant to get this kind of reaction from you."

Arche's breath hitched, the irises of her eyes trembling. He really did feel horrible. She'd never even expected him to apologize, let alone give her a hug.

Her heart began to race. She felt like it was thumping so hard that Chester might be able to feel or hear it. Why was this even happening? She'd been hugged by plenty of people— boys she'd once liked included— and had never felt like this.

His words… His warmth… His touch… The way he held her… It was so different.

"I forgive you," she shakily choked out while returning the hug, nestling her head under his neck. She tried to retain a sense of her usual optimism so that Chester couldn't tell how flustered he was making her. "Seriously though, don't kill yourself over this, okay? Acting soft isn't in your jurisdiction. Hugging me is just plain crazy."

Chester smirked, running a hand through her long silky hair as he felt her tangibly relax in his hold. "I think I am crazy right now…"

"You're also a jerkface," Arche stated confidently, and also affectionately. "Don't think that just because you're acting weird that anything between us is going to change. When we go back to everyone, we're at odds again."

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Chester teased, pulling away from the girl so he use his thumb to wipe away the trails of tears that still remained from her crying, "you ditz."

Arche beamed brightly, jumping up and practically knocking Chester to the ground since he wasn't in the least prepared for it. "Speaking of which, it's well been over an hour and I'm starving! Let's go back so I can eat already!"

Chester cradled his now aching head. "Geez, you cheered up pretty fast…"

The witch only graced him with another typical grin, folding her hands behind her back. "Well of course! I'm eager to get some food. So hurry up and get on your feet, Chester. Unless you want me to drag you."

"I'll pass," the archer boldly muttered while pulling himself up and fixing his bow and quiver more comfortably on his back. "But I don't want to hear a flurry of whining, so I'll get up."

Arche tossed him a mope. "I think I miss the weirdo nice guy Chester. Eh, whatever, let's get moving!"

She walked forward a few feet and then slowly began to stop, contemplating and very conflicted with something. That surprised Chester who had expected her to just trudge forward without waiting for him.

He was about to ask her what the matter was but he couldn't because Arche whirled around, came over and then pushed herself up so that her face was practically mirroring his. He couldn't even comprehend anything around him she was so close, and when he suddenly felt something pleasantly soft brush against his cheek, any sense of pride he had at this point vanished. He plunged into a deep red complexion as something akin to electricity shot down his spine.

Arche had kissed him. On the cheek mind you, but still, it was a kiss nonetheless.

As the mage drew away and spun around again, arms still hanging behind her, she snickered at the archer's embarrassment and the way he'd become stunned still.

"Thank you, Chester. You're not bad…" Arche looked over her shoulder, slightly red in the face. "…for a human…"

With that she began to head off back in the way the fire was leading her, leaving the dumbstruck Chester standing where he was like an idiot. The impact of her action had more or less stricken him in a more powerful way any spell of hers could.

He thrust his head side to side, forcing away the blush as he put a hand to the spot where her lips had touched. That had been real, right? What did it matter? It wasn't like he was attracted to Arche or anything.

Not at all… Most definitely not…

"Cheeesssteeer, kick yourself in the butt and move or I'll come back and do it for you!"

…Maybe a little…

Chester almost chuckled, rubbing his neck. What a moody evening this had been. He started to stride, picking up the pace when Arche yelled at him again, threatening to use a spell this time. When he'd caught up to her she crossed her arms and he ignored her, walking straight past her in a playful manner. She huffed and chased after him annoyed as he slipped into the woods.

Their little routine hadn't been broken just yet.

Even through all her complaining he could tell she was happy. He was too. He'd be smiling the rest of the night, wishing he could pluck up the courage to tell Arche just how important she really was. Perhaps someday he'd be able to, a flitter of inward musing forming within the depths of his subconscious.

"If you have trouble making bonds because of how you are… If your family is divided and shrouded in pain you can't understand… Cherish the bonds you've made with your new family.

"Cless…"

"Mint…"

"Klarth..."

"Suzu…"

"…and me…"

"We'll never abandon or judge you. We'll welcome you as our ally, and our dear friend."

"Though I'm usually hesitant to get close to you because I'm afraid that I'll lose you like I lost Ami…I would hope that the bond we share, however hidden it may seem on the surface, will be strong enough to endure anything that may come our way, whether it be the past, present, or distant future…"


That's it guys, the end of the one-shot~

As always, I'd like reviews, so please do so. Much apreciated!

If there are any errors in there I apologize. Happy Birthday again, Ayame. ^_^

Ja ne,

~Kazea