One Wish (06/18/2013)
As the scorching sun sets in the west, dusk settles on the swaying bamboo leaves, and the great milky sea of stars rises in the endless sky, fireworks begin to dot the heavens, lights dazzling as they draw all manners of shapes and figures across the horizon.
Celestial Nights has once again descended upon the land.
The timeless tale of love between Prince Yahiko and Princess Amdina serves as a reminder to all that no time is wasted if spent with someone important to you.
Though the festival is upon us this year, as many years before it, something is a little different this time around.
"The M.H.M.U. may be a persistentaru fixture in these festivals, but don't you think they can be a bit boring sometimes?"
Chekiki, a tarutaru known throughout her linkshell—The Smiling Wolves—as a particular purveyor of festivals, announced to no one in particular as the time of Celestial Nights drew close.
Her proposal was simple: have people pair off into couples, dress up in matching outfits, and walk throughout town giving impromptu performances. The couple who earned the most adoration from the onlookers would be declared the winner.
The name of this event? "The First Annual Celestial Nights Best Couple Contest".
"Do you really think that would be fun?" questioned the ranger Tamaki. The paladin Kaieh, however, queried with trepidation, "...C-Couples?" The two hume adventurers were among the youngest members of the linkshell.
"That's rightaru! Couples like you and Tamaki!"
"Hang on—why are we shining examples of coupledom all a sudden!?"
"Yeah—what he said!"
"Listen to the two of you—tripping-wipping over yourselves to deny it."
"No, no! That's not it at all! And besides, we don't exactly have an equal balance of genders in the Smiling Wolves."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that. "Couple-wouples" doesn't necessarily mean "lover-wovers".
Chekiki gave a sly smile as she winked at the two.
Tamai and Kaieh looked at each other askance—each unaware that the other was about to do the same—and quickly turned away as they realized the other was looking.
"What's most important is that you wear your matching outfitarus with dignity and pride!"
"Oh come on—I'd rather die than wear that!"
"You're missing the pointaru—that's what's fun about the whole idea!"
Kaieh just knew that Chekiki was purposely trying to get under his skin.
"You can sing, dance, or even reenactaru the lovey-dovey scenes of Prince Yahiko and Princess Amdina's most primal emotions!"
"Tohoho," laughed the other linkshell members. They, too, enjoyed a good party, so Chekiki's proposal passed by an overwhelming majority.
They agreed on a time and date without much trouble—Ru'Lude Gardens in Jeuno, on the first day of Celestial Nights.
Warp forward to one week before the event. The first two to express their intent to participate were a pair of lovers from within the linkshell. Other members took this as a sign, and confessions of love poured forth like water from a stream, with new couples forming left and right. Things were starting to heat up, and even pairs of friends who originally expressed doubts decided to throw their proverbial helms into the ring.
In fact, it wasn't long at all before everyone had been paired up—everyone, that is, except for Tamaki and Kaieh.
"Gimme a break," Kaieh fretted as he tied a strip of paper to bamboo.
The custom of writing one's wishes down on paper and tying them to bamboo was said to have originated in the east. Yet it had come to spread throughout Vana'diel, and large bamboo poles had been set up all throughout Ru'Lude Gardens, which were covered in paper within what seemed to Kaieh to be the blink of an eye. "Not that I'd complain if getting my every desire was as simple as tying up a stupid piece of paper," he grumbled as he clasped his hands together in prayer.
"What're you doing?"
Kaeih twitched with a start and glanced over his shoulder, only to find Tamaki's svelte form behind him.
"H-how long have you been watching me?"
"Not long," she replied in a sullen tone.
Completely unable to read the situation, Kaieh gave a deep sigh of relief. "Well, I'm not doing anything in particular."
"...If you say so. So? What are your plans for today?"
"Well, since I know you're not going to participate in the event, mind joining me for some hunting? Watching from the sidelines won't be much fun anyway."
Tamaki wiped his hands on his leggings and nodded curtly.
The two headed to Dangruf Wadi to hunt worms—the largest of which was a fearsome beast whose body length was twice the size of an average hume.
They were treading carefully across the brown rocks, eyes fixed straight ahead, when a loud rumbling at their feet caused them to freeze in their tracks. The very earth split in twain, and the fiend burst forth from the ground, throwing dirt and rocks yalms into the air. Its body flipped back and forth like a whip, the full force of its might bearing down upon the land.
"Hang in there!"
"Don't worry—I got this!"
Kaieh held steadfast on the front lines, his shield absorbing blow after blow, as Tamaki drew her bow taut, pelting the creature with arrow after serrated arrow. The two were both adept practicioners of the white arts, taking turns healing when the worm took pause before another ravenous assault. Tamaki, for her part, darted back and forth across the battlefield, always staying one step ahead.
The stubborn, gloomy feeling that had gripped Kaieh's heart of late begun to melt away as the three engaged in the dance of blades.
"Why are we only in sync with each other when battle calls?"
The struggle had gone on for so long that neither had noticed the sky turn a bright shade of orange with the evening light.
"I've had it with this stupid thing!"
Kaeih turned around in surprise. Tamaki had lowered her bow and stood as straight as an arrow.
"You can't quit on me now! Let your guard down, and you'll be eaten alive!" He rushed to her side.
"Why...why are we wasting our time here?"
"Why are you asking me!? You're the one who suggested we go on a hunt!"
Tamaki's face glowed a brilliant crimson as the sun breathed its last breath.
But Tamaki was far too exhausted to let so much as a single word pass her cracked lips.
"There you are!"
A tiny voice, carried upon the northern wind, reached their ears as a tiny figure raced toward them.
The taru came to a screeching halt. "If you don't get back soon, the eventaru will end without you!"
Not an hour later, the two were in Ru'Lude Gardens, dressed in matching costumes.
"Don't just standy-wand there! Go make the rounds!"
"H-hey. We...I never said anything about parti—"
"You're our last couple. Everyone's at the auction house waiting for you!"
Chekiki was having none of his protests. She bounded on ahead without so much as a glance back.
"So, uh...do want you to do this?" Kaieh asked with a sheepish grin on his face.
Seeing her wearing a yukata was just so...
"Wh-why are you looking at me like that?"
"I just thought you looked cute...wait! I mean—"
He cringed slightly, preparing himself for her furious onslaught. The last thing he expected was for her to blush in embarrassment. It certainly wasn't in her character.
What's more, her eyes were still bloodshot. It gave his heart a little tug to see her like that.
The two began to plod along the road without so much as a thought, only a half-step separating them. Their shoulders were so close together as to almost touch, yet the something greater than distance was holding them back. They proceeded together, in silence, neither lending hand nor word to the other.
They would be at their final destination as soon as they passed the Auroral Palace. Up in the distance, Kaieh could see the faces of his comrades, eyes twinkling with anticipating. The skies above were the dark blue of night.
"We didn't end up doing anything for the crowd yet, so uh...want to sing a song?" Kaieh suggested with hesitation.
"It's not that we didn't do anything—it's that you can't do anything!"
"Hey! That's not fair, and you know it!"
"You're right. I'm sorry. I...couldn't do anything either."
"Don't be so hard on..."
He saw another tear roll down her cheek...but before he could see anything, he glanced down and saw that she was clutching something between her fingers. It was a mystic scroll. "That's it. I'm going home."
"What? You can't!"
Before he could so much as stretch out his arm, she began to read the mystical incantation.
"Wait—I said, wait!"
The faint letters inscribed on the parchment began to flare up and dance like fires in the wind.
A soft light enveloped Tamaki's frame, bringing a pale glow to the enveloping night.
Kaieh reached out and grabbed the scroll, ripping it out of her hands, causing the arcane flow to stop. The faint energies that had already been released floated slowly upwards, dissipating into the air in a tiny puff of smoke.
"Let me go!"
"N-no! You'll just disappear!"
"Get your hands off me! I don't want to be here anymore!" Tamaki screamed out as her tears turned into a flood. Kaieh was overtaken with emotion.
"You're going to stay here!"
"Because we haven't held hands yet!"
Not even half a second later he realized what exactly had come out of his mouth. Tamaki stared at her wrist, her eyes looked up Kaeih's fingers.
"No, I... What I meant was... You know..."
"You're hurting me."
Kaieh stumbled over himself as Tamaki glanced up at him with her big, sad eyes.
"I-I just want to hold your hand. I'm not going to do anything mean, or hurt you, or..."
"You want to hold my hand?"
Tamaki extended her hand.
Kaieh glanced down, and calmly let his fingers slip into hers.
They were warm, gentle, and forgiving.
Cheers and whistles greeted the two as they glided down the promenade. As they looked around, they noticed they were surrounded not only by friends, but by countless adventurers from all walks of life, all of whom were cheering them on. Kaieh and Tamaki realized that the onlookers had seen everything that had transpired and could only stand slack-jawed in mortification.
But never once did their hands separate.
"Remember how you were tying your wish upon the bamboo? What did you wish for?"
"I couldn't possibly share that with you!"
"Well, want to know what I wrote?"
Kaieh could scarcely conceal his surprise. She had written exactly the same thing that he had.
The winds on the highest part of Jeuno began to pick up speed, spiraling upwards as if trying to grasp the stars above.
Celestial Nights comes about once a year, and many say that each year the celebration is the same.
But this summer, at least for a few people, things were different.
What was their wish, anyway?
"I wish that this year I can be true to myself."
Story: Miyabi Hasegawa
Illustration: Mitsuhiro Arita
Celestial Nights will be held from Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. (PDT) to Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at the same time.
Stop by at the following locations and say hello to our cuddly little friends for your very own invitation!
Northern San d'Oria (D-8) / Bastok Markets (G-8) / Windurst Waters (north) (F-5)