What's shakin' peeps? :D *cricket chirps* So anywho, this is the continuation to the fic One Summer Day I posted quite a while ago. I got enough positive feedback and encouragement on that piece to motivate me to keep writing, and so here it is, the unofficial sequel to my "smash-hit" oneshot. ;) If I were you and I had not yet read OSD, I would HIGHLY recommend you do so before continuing. Trust me, it'll save a LOT of confusion.
Well, that's all for now. Peace out, and enjoy reading!
P.S. Yes, this is a crossover with Rune Factory, although you really don't have to be ultra-familiar with the characters in this story to get a feel of what's going on. So no worries if you've never played the game before. :)
(Below is a short tidbit from OSD to put you in the mood for what comes next ;) )
Perhaps, I thought sleepily as I slumped against the post I was tied to, perhaps this entire horrific experience is merely an elaborate trick my mind is playing on me, and soon I'll wake up and find myself surrounded by the sultry summer air once again.
I could only hope.
It didn't take long for me to realize that the predicament I found myself in was neither a joke nor a dream. I had been snatched from my bedroom late one winter night and dragged fighting almost every step of the way through a blizzard for miles until my kidnapper reached our intended location. Here I had been both gagged and blindfolded and then tied to a wooden post for good measure, and immediately after my kidnapper revealed his identity to me I had passed out from shock and exhaustion.
I awoke what I assume to be a few hours later to find Zack gone and myself untied. Confused, I began wandering around, curious as to where I was. I soon discovered that I was being housed in an old abandoned barn. How appropriate, I thought to myself sarcastically. Kidnap a farmer and then bring her to the place she feels most at home. Brownie points for irony, Zack.
Of course, the next question on my list was why Zack had kidnapped me in the first place. I could think of no legitimate reason. Jealousy of Cliff, perhaps? But I couldn't see Zack stooping to something as low as this over something as petty as that.
Cliff. The thought of him sent a pang through my heart. My fiance was a worrywart as it was; I couldn't imagine what thoughts would be running through his head when he discovered I was missing. I had to get home before the entire town was in an uproar searching for me.
Footsteps sounded above my head and I quickly turned to see Zack descending the ladder from the loft. I crossed my arms and tapped my foot in irritation.
"Okay Zack, so what's the deal?" I demanded as he approached me with narrowed eyebrows. "Why the heck am I here, and when can I go home?"
Despite the fact that he was almost two feet taller than me and carried about half his body weight in muscle, I had never found the guy intimidating. He once swore to me that he had never hurt anything bigger than a bumblebee in his life. Although my current circumstances found me seeing him in a slightly different light than before, he was still Zack the shipment guy in my eyes.
Instead of answering my question, he asked his own. "Are you hungry?" he grunted.
My mouth dropped open at this uncharacteristic rudeness, but I couldn't ignore the vibrations that had been rocking my insides for the past half hour. I tossed my long blonde hair over my shoulder indignantly. "Maybe I am, maybe I'm not."
Zack grunted again, clearly annoyed with the preteen attitude I was giving him. It was then that I noticed the burlap sack he had slung over his shoulders. For a moment I toyed with the idea that maybe it was meant as a means of transport for me, but then I saw him reaching inside it and realized that it must be what he used to transport my food. Despite my anger, I couldn't deny the gratitude I felt towards him at that moment.
I reached my hand out greedily, hoping for a "magical" apple from Won's collection or perhaps some fresh honeycomb or even a bar of chocolate from Jeff's shop. To be honest, stale sandwiches almost sounded appetizing at the moment.
But instead of delivering my meal, Zack held out an empty palm inches from my face. "Ah, ah, ah. You have to put a blindfold on first."
My hand dropped to my side. Needless to say, this was an unexpected turn of events. "What?"
He shrugged apathetically. "That's my condition, take it or you don't eat. It's as simple as that."
I huffed impatiently. "Fine."
He handed me the blindfold and I hastily tied it around my eyes, my stomach groaning louder by the second. I opened my mouth eagerly and shut it again when I felt something gingerly placed on my tongue, only to have it filled with an unbearably bitter taste, almost like that of blood. I spat it out in disgust and rubbed its remains into the dusty floorboards. "What was that?"
Zack laughed, the cruelty of it unlike anything I had from him in the two years I had known him. "Your breakfast."
"Don't you have anything else?" I whined. I know it was a childish and probably stupid question, but even in my state of near starvation (or so it felt like), my taste buds weren't ready to accept just anything that touched down on them.
I reached up to remove the blindfold and felt my hand swatted away. I gasped and cradled my smarting fingers, surprised by this sudden show of violence from what I thought to be the gentlest man in the world. He then grabbed my wrist in a crushing grip and yanked me forward. His breath, smelling faintly of grape liquor, tickled my chin as he spoke in a low growl.
"You'll eat your breakfast and you'll like it," he said menacingly, his voice implying that his words were to be taken as an order, not a request.
Uncertain of what Zack would do if I dared to disobey him, I nodded fearfully and began cramming handfuls of the wretched food into my mouth as he gave them to me, noticing as I winced and chewed that the texture was almost like that of... grass.
The realization registered in my mind at the same time my eyelids began to waver. Forgetting Zack's previous command, I reached up and removed the blindfold in a daze just as my knees gave out beneath me and I fell to the floor in a slump. Cold laughter rang around me, and my only thought as I took note of the scarlet-colored leaves scattered about my head was Dear Goddess, please don't let me die here.
The day had started out like any other. Wake up at six, feed the cows, collect the day's honey, put the chickens in their coop. I had plans to meet Cliff at the inn later, but since I got work done early I decided to go for a stroll along the shoreline. I took my fishing rod along with me and sat down on the edge of the pier, my toes dangling above the water.
Thinking that I heard someone call out my name, I turned and, shading my eyes, squinted into the distance. Was that Zack at the edge of the sand? I smiled and waved. He didn't seem to to see me, just stood there staring blankly ahead. I waved a little harder. When he didn't respond I attempted to call out his name, but found that I had no voice. What was going on?
I stood, clutching my throat and frowning. The fishing rod fell from my hand and landed in the water behind me with a splash. Cupping my hands around my mouth, I stomped my foot and shouted with all my might. "ZACK!"
My voice had miraculously returned, and he finally cocked his head in my direction. A smile spread across his leathery tan face and he raised his hand in greeting.
I grinned back. But before I could invite him to fish with me a shadow suddenly loomed over me, and I turned to find the tallest wave I had ever seen in my life crashing down on top of me.
The force knocked me back several feet and I lay sprawled out on the dock, every muscle in my body aching. Groaning, I pushed myself up and staggered into a standing position, only for a second wave to send me careening backwards again.
I grabbed for the nearest pole and clung to it for dear life, spitting saltwater and seaweed from my mouth and shivering as an enormous gust of wind caught the bottom of my sundress and whipped it against my thighs.
"Zack!" I cried, struggling to maintain my hold on the pole as waves continued to throw themselves at me with a determined vengeance. "Help me! Please!"
I waited for what seemed like ages, hugging the pole and praying to the Goddess that I wouldn't be swept away in the ocean's clutches. Just when I began to lose hope of being rescued, Zack's tall figure appeared out of the mist clouding my vision.
"Zack!" I cried, tears of relief streaming down my face. "Thank Goddess you're here!" I stretched out my hand so it was within his reach. "Help me to shore!"
He took hold of my hand and squeezed my fingers with his own, indicating that it was safe for me to jump. I let go of the pole and lunged into his outstretched arms, then buried my face in his damp white beater. "Thank you Zack," I sobbed. "You saved my life."
His arms were wrapped around me protectively and he began running his fingers through my hair in an oddly comforting gesture. I peered through the space under his armpit to see that the waves were still mercilessly thrashing the pier, yet the sky was as calm and blue as before they had started. "What a weird storm," I mumbled. "We're not too far from the beach though. I think I can make it from here. Thanks, Zack."
I tried to pull away, but it was as though his arms were made of steel, preventing me from budging even an inch. "C'mon Zack, let me go," I protested, squirming in his grasp. "I'm fine now."
Zack unwound his arms from around my body, but before I could take a step towards the shore he grabbed me by the shoulders, rooting me firmly to the spot. I looked up at his face in annoyance, noticing with surprise that his eyes were apologetic. "Zack? What's wrong?"
He shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry, Claire. I had no choice."
Before I could ask what the Goddess he meant, Zack wrapped his arms around my calves and lifted me into the air before then tossing me over his shoulder. I screamed in terror and outrage and began pounding his back with my fists. "Zack! Put me down, now!"
"Sorry kid," he said again, and with a grunt he heaved and I suddenly found myself free falling through the air. My eyes widened with horror as a wave twice the size of the one I had seen earlier rose above me, its arms outstretched towards me and its mouth opened in a wide grin. The last thing I saw before being swallowed into the depths of the ocean was Zack standing on the dock, looking mournful yet strangely satisfied with himself at the same time.
I opened my eyes and winced as liquid salt stung my pupils. I could see no more than five feet in front of me. My blurry surrounding was both beautiful and terrifying at once. Sea currents swirled all around my body, carrying with them unrecognizable creatures of the deep- some small, some almost twice my size. I watched in awe as a manatee-like creature swam by less than two feet away from me.
Before long my lungs began to feel close to bursting, but when I took an involuntary gulp I was amazed to find that somehow I was able to breathe just as if I were on land. I began pumping my arms and legs, trying in vain to swim upwards, when a sudden movement caught my eye. I turned my head to see what looked like an underwater vine slinking towards me. It was joined by several others until I was surrounded by green. A feeling of dread formed in the pit of my stomach and I tried to swim away, but everywhere I went I was met with more vines.
As I searched frantically for a means of escape I felt one of the vines curl around my wrist. Immediately I shook it off, but no sooner had it recoiled than another vine wrapped around my ankle, tightening until I was sure it had cut off circulation. The others became more bold and soon both of my wrists and ankles were bound with vines. One had even found its way across my mouth. I clamped my teeth down over it, hoping that it would recoil, only to find that my jaw was now stuck in that position and the vine had tied itself in a knot at the back of my neck.
I shook my head and thrashed about wildly, but the harder I fought, the tighter the vines became. Despite my struggling they began pulling me through the murky water and soon I was faced with the pitch black entrance of a large cave.
Instinct told me that whatever it was that inhabited that cave, it was something that I didn't want to meet. Suddenly the vines began to unravel from around me and retreat to whence they came, and before long I was completely free. Breathing a sigh of relief, I turned to swim away from the cave just as a huge tentacle grabbed my waist from behind and pulled me into total darkness.
What a lovely day for a stroll, I thought to myself as leaves that had fallen from the branches above crunched beneath my feet. I gazed in admiration at the wall of autumn-kissed trees that surrounded me on either side, standing proudly and rigidly as they stretched their arms toward the cloud-dotted sky. If only Father or Neumann could have joined me.
I quickly realized what a foolish thought that had been. If I had asked either of the aforementioned men to accompany me on my journey... well, that's just the thing. They wouldn't have. Father would have locked me in my room and refused to let me out until I promised never to suggest such an absurd thing ever again. As for Neumann, I would have been stuck in his shop for hours, listening to a lecture on how the path beyond the village was no place for a woman (even one escorted by a fine man such as myself, he would add smugly). Trust me, I had learned this from experience.
I rolled my eyes. You wouldn't say or do those things if it had been Mei who asked you, or Sharron, or Mist, or any girl in Kardia except me, I thought bitterly. Me, the mayor's daughter. Me, the sick girl. Me, the "fragile blossom that has to be groomed and watered and well protected from harm's way, for she has no mechanism of defense except for her beauty and quiet spirit, and even this can be used against her in the hands of moral-less scoundrels." You would be surprised at how deep Neumann can get after he's had a few bottles of brandy.
But Neumann's rare metaphors weren't the worst. I recited the speech in my head, the one Father had given me almost every day since birth and had memorized by heart by now, with a grimace on my face.
It began with an innocent question. Why can't I leave the village, Father? All the other girls do it.
The reply was swift and stern. You don't understand, dear one. You are not like other girls. You are a precious gift, and I can't bear to think of anything happening to you. You are forbidden to leave Kardia for as long as there is still danger beyond its border. Do you understand me, Felicity?
The answer was always the same. Yes, Father.
And for as long as I had lived I had been obedient to my father's command. Only once when I was nine years old had I been feisty enough to stray beyond the abandoned farm on the outskirts of town, and the week with no supper I had endured as punishment once my frantic father found me was enough to keep my curiosity at bay at least for a little while.
But my eighteenth birthday was celebrated on the fifth of fall, and the passionate longing for adventure that had withered away in me as a child had immediately flared up once my father proclaimed me an official adult. Despite the fact that I knew it was still considered unsafe to go beyond the border, the rebel in me couldn't resist the opportunity I was provided when my father was summoned to a neighboring village the next day to settle some sort of dispute and wasn't expected to return for three days at least.
And so I awoke at the crack of dawn the day after his departure, hardly daring to breathe as I made my way past the sleeping houses of my fellow townsfolk, and boldly set out on the path that led away from the village towards the Sech empire.
I knew fully well that the relationship between the Sechs and the Kardians had been on edge since I was young and mature enough to understand diplomacy, but I couldn't see how any harm could befall me on this beautiful path. Who would pin someone like me as a spy or as having the intention of putting an entire empire at risk? I was merely a teenager, practically still a child, innocently wandering about a path that just happened to lead straight to the home of my village's mortal enemies. What could happen?
Much, I soon discovered, much could happen to an innocent young girl, especially one that is wandering about an unfamiliar path without her father's permission.