Author's Note: Hey! This is my first stab at a Tales of the Abyss fanfic, and instead of doing the sensible thing and one-shotting it until I got a good grasp of the characters, I'm jumping into a multi-chapter romance right off the bat.
Yup, an epic romance! Comedic, naturally, and Jade/Tear to be exact though I'm probably going to call it Jear just because it sounds funnier that way. Shockingly enough, they're two of my favorite characters and I want to prove to you, reader, that it is not completely irrational to think that they make a great pair. Or, if you're already a Jear lover (woo!), I want to provide you with my version of how these two fall for each other and make you squee at them along the way.
Getting down to the responsible part of the note, the story's actually going to be canon (mostly-ish) though I'll add in some missing scenes. There's a reason for the title being what it is, which you'll have a hint for in the next chapter (yay) and, last but not least, I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
Let me know what you think!
The seats were plush and velvet, the sort of fabric she felt as a child would crumble under her fingertips if she touched it too much. The curtains that hung by the windows of the coach seemed to radiate luxury almost as much as they blocked out the light streaming in from the plains. She sneaked a touch, knowing rationally that she wasn't breaking any rules but feeling like she was anyway. They were soft and elegant, their folds full of the soft darkness of almost falling asleep. This was the most expensive purchase she had made in her entire life and the boy sitting next to her wasn't paying the slightest attention to it.
"Seriously, are we there yet? This is better than fighting monsters, but it's starting to get boring." He sighed and sunk back into the seat, ruffling his mane of long, red hair. "Ugh."
"I'm sorry." Tear apologized, trying not to think about the price she'd paid for this trip. "We'll be at the capital soon."
"Yeah, but how many hours more is 'soon?'" Luke vented, mushing himself deeper into the exquisite seat. "If I have to see much more of this farmland I'm going to be dead of boredom before I make it back home."
Tear doubted very much that this would be the case, though she didn't say it. She felt like a good chunk of the responsibility for the noble's being stranded out here rested upon her, namely her failure to quickly dispatch Van at the manor.
He must have escaped, she realized, and she'd have to go through the trouble of finding him all over again. The thought made her even more tired than she had been. Between fighting the monsters, the energy that had been expended in the hyperresonance, and the day of travel she'd gone through from Aramis Spring to the Duke's house in Baticul, not to mention the Yulia Road, she was exhausted. They'd napped a bit in the coach and, extravagant though it was, she hadn't been able to sleep much from all its bouncing on the rough roads. Now, the idea that she had to find Van, who would know of her intentions and would be better prepared, all over again- even after the boy was returned to his manor- was overwhelming.
She promised herself that she would rest a whole day at whatever inn in the capital she could afford, but she couldn't afford to rest too long. Time would be of the essence if she were to complete her mission. Had she not taken an unexpected ride out to a remote valley with an even more unexpected companion-
"Woah! What's that?"
The coach swerved to the right sharply, sending Tear leaning but slamming Luke into the coach wall in single, rumbling motion. The teacups on the table before them shuddered and shivered their way off the edges, staining the perfect, moss-soft carpet shades of dull brown. The coachman uttered a loud oath and his steeds wickered and bayed nervously as the ground rumbled beneath them.
"What the hell was that!" Luke shouted up to the coachman. "I didn't mean that I was gonna die of boredom right now! Jeez."
"I swear on Yulia and the Score, it wasn't me! I had to move because of those thieves and the military chasing them!"
"What?" Luke spluttered. "Military?"
"Just look!" The coachman pointed dramatically, offering the scene itself as a better way of explanation, and Luke looked.
Tear saw it first. It was a sleek medley of chrome and silver, trimmed with gold along its sides and gunwales, racing evenly and with a deadly elegance across the flat land toward a renegade coach. She noticed that, despite being outclassed in just about every way, the rogue coach was igniting small, red bursts of light at its back and aiming them at its pursuer. She'd heard of these landships, discussed them in briefings at Oracle Headquarters, but actually seeing one up close...
She must have gasped (which she later reprimanded herself for, since one country's soldier shouldn't admire or bawk at another military's equipment) because the coachman smiled and nodded importantly. "That's the Malkuth Army's newest dreadnought, fresh out of Sheridan. They're calling it the Tartarus, which is really pretty fitting when you realize who's commanding it."
He looked expectantly at the both of them, as though hoping they would pick up on some private joke, but was disappointed when they didn't.
Instead, Tear felt a cold fear prickle itself up her spine but said nothing. She was just wondering how she ought to phrase it to avoid-
"Wait, you said it was a Malkuth ship? What's it doing in Kimlasca?"
Tear grimaced. Too late. Luke had voiced her concerns for her.
The coachman eyed her companion strangely in response. "It's Malkuth's craft, yes. But it's not unusual for them to practice here at all, though right now with those Dark Wings it's become more business than troop exercise. The West Rugnica Plains are perfect training grounds-"
"The West Rugnica Plains!" Tear exclaimed, shocked herself. She hadn't recognized the area before, but now knowing where they were everything made perfect sense...although that meant that they were headed for-
"But you said you're going to the capital!" Luke interjected. "How the hell are you gonna get to Baticul going through Malkuth?"
"Luke!" Why did he had to be so up front about everything? Hadn't anyone taught him the importance of keeping a secret? Tear pondered, awaiting the worst.
"Baticul?" The coachman seemed confused. "No, we're bound for the capital of the Malkuth Empire, Grand Chokmah."
His fingers traced the metalwork on the railings of the bridge delicately, as though forming a first acquaintance.
The ship was both a marvel and a masterpiece, something that he'd dreamed up and then forgotten for weeks until the Emperor had asked him some innocuous question about the military and he'd responded with a full-length diatribe on the state of their dreadnoughts. No one in the treasury tended to question the Emperor's bursts of spending, provided that they were justified well enough. A proposal for a new breed of warship, something at the top of its class, would pass with ease in this tense political climate. The Emperor's pet project (rather literally) of a rappig shelter and adoption center in Grand Chokmah, would not, however unfortunate that seemed.
Then again, Colonel Jade Curtiss of the Third Division Malkuth Imperial Forces admitted, the proposal for the Tartarus had been one of his more spectacular plans. He couldn't take credit for everything, not by far: the engine room had been a particularly messy spot which he'd been forced to leave to the engineers to puzzle out, as had been the artillery turrets and most of the propulsion system. He had provided the ideas, the base skeleton of inspiration which the master craftsmen of Sheridan had worked around and brought into being from the rough sketches of its bones.
Still, it was a thrill getting to feel the fonic glyphs he'd thought out actually scribed along the bridge, let alone the rumble of the engines below as they started. As a rule, he tended to stay away from fontech and its passionate aficionados, but he confessed himself guilty of some slight admiration from time to time.
"Commander! We're within firing range of the Dark Wings coach. Shall we open a barrage?"
He inspected the plains. "Not just yet. Wait for the other coach to remove itself first. We don't want to involve any more people in this than we already have."
His glasses glinted in the indigo glow from the consoles as he turned to face the young boy with green hair in a long, white tunic who pulled on his sleeve.
"Please, Jade, do you have to do this? I want to avoid anyone getting hurt if it can be helped." The boy said, his words coming out strong despite his frail and child-like stature. A girl in a pink outfit from the Oracle Knights sighed next to him and shook her head.
"Oh, Ion, sometimes you're so hopeless. We need to get to Baticul fast, right? If we rush to chase them, it's gonna get us across the bridge and to the king that much faster!"
"Anise," Jade countered, his face a mask of polite amusement, "I thought that was our little secret. We don't want everyone aboard to know about it, do we?"
The girl pouted and said something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like "boo."
With the air of the willfully deaf, the Colonel continued. "Fon Master, I will gladly respect your wishes. But please, do retire to your cabin for the time being. If we are forced to enter into battle, you will be infinitely better protected there than on the bridge. I'll send an officer to alert you when the danger's passed."
The boy and the girl departed with a small clatter down the stairs and deeper into the ship.
Jade breathed a small sigh of relief. Who knew that it would be such an ordeal to transport one Fon Master and his guardian across the border to negotiate peace talks? "Kidnapping" at Daath, avoiding Oracle Knights at every turn, keeping small children entertained on board, discovering contraband, and now bandits...this mission had already proved itself more exciting than he'd imagined it would.
He shrugged at the remaining soldiers. "Well, you heard the order. We avoid use of force until absolutely necessary."
A moment passed and on either side of the Tartarus red flares ignited like warning signs. Jade's heart started to beat a little faster. Even though he would give the order to take the thieves captive and avoid conflict, he would never get over the thrill of the chase. Swathes of prairie and plain flew past him on either side as the dreadnought sailed over the land smoothly, its advanced fonic gyroscopes compensating for each uneven part of the terrain.
"Commander, they're setting up fonon bombs in a row and igniting them with the Fifth Fonon! ...They're planning to take out Rotelro Bridge!"
Jade sighed, smiling ruefully. Predictable, though unfortunate for land traffic for a few months, perhaps more so if their efforts to halt the war were unsuccessful. Peony wouldn't enjoy having another internal repairs project, but it couldn't be helped.
"Ah well. Understood. Too bad for the poor bridge. Tartarus, full stop on my mark. Launch the fonic shields."
Something was starting. He could feel that, at the very least.
According to his Score, which the Curtiss family had him read on his birthday, something "terrifying and enchanting" was lurking on the edges of his future. Jade was not very religious (though he pretended to be admirably when necessary) and didn't stake much by idle prediction, this was different. He disliked trusting impulses or blind hunches, hated much more putting his faith into anything without a rational cause (and then there was that horrific word itself, "faith") but he felt that he'd been very right to come along in this errand to Baticul on Peony's behalf. And Jade Curtiss was so very often right that it seemed almost an insult to probability to doubt himself now.
"I told you, I didn't steal that food!"
"He stole an apple from me before-"
"Hey, I paid for that! ...In the end!"
When entering a small farming village at the behest of a Fon Master, one expects some slight interaction with villagers and perhaps an outburst if one is lucky and arrives at a fashionable time. A food shortage in the town that was essentially the Empire's breadbasket was critical enough, but now food thieves too, my...Ion really had chosen an opportune moment.
"Now, now, everyone!" Rose, the village leader stepped forward to meet the siege at her front door. "What seems to be the trouble?"
Jade sipped his tea nonchalantly in the background while the sordid details were hashed out. Boy enters village, "accidentally" steals apple, angers villager. Villager, already upset from food theft, jumps to wild and erratic conclusions. Boy, hotheaded enough to escalate matters, captured by grocers in rare feat of communal strength. Village elder or leader needed to undo mess. End of act one.
On its own, it made perfect sense. The issue of how the noble (for how could he not be noble, and probably Kimlascan from the looks of his clothes, with that attitude?) got into Engeve was a mystery, but one no doubt easily solved. It was the girl with him that complicated matters.
She was dressed as a member of the Order of Lorelei, which was odd in itself because she was certainly not Anise and Ion had promised him in the sincerest terms that no one else in the Order knew of where Jade was taking him or for what purpose. The girl carried herself well, confident in her surroundings, someone who had clearly had experience with towns and people outside of manor servants. Which was more than he could say of the boy.
But it begged the question: if she was experienced and knew of the red head's Kimlascan descent yet still appeared to count him as a friend, or at the very least a traveling companion, then why was she throwing him into the path of a Malkuth soldier? Jade was intrigued.
A few words from the boy-Luke, it seemed - confirmed his noble status. Luke, red hair... yes, Luke fon Fabre, light of the sacred flame, savior of the world according to the Score, stealing apples from the poor. There was an epic poem in that somewhere.
Well, how exciting. But figuring out nobles' identities was child's play. Jade was more interested in the mysterious girl.
"And you are...?" He asked as Rose whisked away his teacup.
"Tear Grants." She met his gaze, showing no sign that his red eyes disturbed her. He'd scared a few residents of Engeve with them and had to remind himself that red was usually a strange color for an iris. Being in Grand Chokmah, where he was known for his fonic arte mastery, had made him forget. She continued. "I apologize for my friend's interference with your meeting."
Jade waved a hand dismissively. "Oh, not at all. It was actually quite enlightening."
Her blue eyes widened for a moment, but then her face was as impassive as it had been before. His smile quirked up at one corner. So she'd picked up on his hint that he knew who her companion was. That was more than he could say for most people he conversed with. He allowed himself a moment of sadness that it would probably be a long time before he came across another person like her and toyed with the idea of pestering the Emperor for access to the Oracle Knight registries they had in the records collection. She could be interesting to investigate later at his leisure.
The enigmatic Tear made her good-byes cordially but quickly, eager to get her idiotic charge away from further trouble. Rose waved them off with a satisfactory smile and proposed that they get back to business and Jade heartily agreed.
Still, though he tried to concentrate on the grievances at hand, his thoughts couldn't help but drift back to wondering what exactly this Oracle Knight errant was up to. Saying that one was "just passing through" almost always meant more secret, developed plans than a traveler's wanderlust, and he got the feeling that Tear Grants was well-versed in subtlety.
Jade smiled to himself. Something was certainly happening and he intended to be in on it.