I came to the conclusion that this was either the best day of my life--
Or quite possibly soon to be my worst. The poles signing the starting of the course were swaying in the high breeze, the winds having had significantly picked up since the previous evening, their ribbons snapping like ensigns in the wind. It was a little cooler with the wind-chill, and some of the Loftwings had fluffed up their feathers to block out some of the shrilling noises the wind made in the branches of the trees.
I had watched some of the security teams flying in the air early in the morning, and I hadn't liked how unsettled they seemed in the turbulence. It wasn't bad enough to cancel the Ceremony, but it wasn't the most favorable conditions for flying. Still, if the pail could hold water, why not use it, right? Right.
Crap. I turned around and looked at Zelda's Loftwing and smiled, stroking its feathers. "Today's the day, girl; we're going to win that race, graduate, and then head down to the Surface." I wonder what's changed down there since the World Degeneration began... I bit my lips thoughtfully before a cheerful call broke me out of my stewing. I smiled, "Orielle!"
"Good morning, Jacqueline--whoa!" She was wearing an attractive summer hat that shadowed her face and held onto it as a gust of wind threatened to blow it off her head. She was using her other arm to carry a bundle of fabric, and she raced to me. "What are you doing here, and what is that you have?"
She smiled, "I wanted to give you my gift before you left, but it looks like I'm just in time for the Ceremony, so I wanted to see you wear it while you raced!" She handed the bundle to me, wrapped in a brown paper-like substance, and as I unraveled it, I gaped at the sight of it:
The design came from Orielle, matching the basic idea in her likeness; a shawl with a long-sleeved blouse, adjoined with a thin strap of hazelnut-leather at the waist, and breathing-breeches. The difference was that the shawl itself was longer at the back than the front, colored a white color with a black-line-trimming, and embroidered with stitched red extended wings. The blouse was an orange-red and gold weave-embroidery at the hem, with the accompanied hazelnut-leather belt and knee-length beige-breeches to go with them. I was speechless, and the glowing grin on Orielle's face told me that her efforts to impress had been successful. "H-Holy sh..." I couldn't even finish my words, I was stunned; I loved the clothing, even though I wasn't much of a clothes' person. Maybe because it was homemade and not in China? I didn't know, or really care.
A warning blast of a horn sounded, signaling the fifteen-minute marker to the beginning of the ceremony, and I jumped. Orielle was suddenly already pushing me, laughing, "Go! Go try it on before you miss your place in the Ceremony! Go!" She pushed me into a place private enough for me to change. Six minutes later I emerged, trying to adjust my shawl; it was unnaturally heavy in the back with a bunch of bundled cloth at the neck, leaving me a small bit confused. Orielle grinned and helped me pin it at the crux of my neck, below my Adam's apple. "Sorry, it's a bit...complicated."
Orielle smiled, "Well, it will probably feel like that; it's the first time I've ever tried putting a hood on one of these! I wanted to give it a new...flare." I blinked dumbly, understanding lighting up a lightbulb in my brain, and I pulled the hood over and adjusted it; suddenly it was very light, being spread out on my head. My head felt a bit warmer with the insulation, but it seemed to air well enough so I wouldn't overheat. The cowl filled with wind and was gusted off my head, "I love it. Thank you so much." The girl smiled, "It's the least I could do! I enjoy little projects like this--now go, the Ceremony is about to start!" I adjusted my training boots, comfortable as I was now with them, and hustled off in my new clothes. They were very comfortable and semi-flexible.
I had the sudden urge to prance around and promptly bitch-slapped the idea out of my head. I saw my--Zelda's--Loftwing soaring around in the air with the other competitor's birds, and I looked to see who my competition was.
I noted Groose and his little gang off to the side, shadowing him and grooming his hair, and Fledge was checking himself and his gear for any tears or anything that could potentially cause a problem during the Ceremony. I cursed myself for not thinking ahead, if Groose had decided to rig the race before it even began, but I brushed that thought aside. I grinned and strode to where Fledge was, who stood up straight as I approached. "Jacqueline!" He beamed warmly and we embraced. I slapped him on the back and looked him up and down with a toothy-grin, "You look way better in that armor than your casual clothing--manly man!" His cheeks flushed a deep red and he laughed, "W-Well, if you say so, Jacqueline!" He took a moment to look me up and down and returned my grin, "And you, u-uh, look good in that, too--ah, womanly, erm, woman?" I snorted and chortled in laughter, "If you say so! Orielle made this for me."
"And do you like it?"
"I absolutely love it." We both exchanged words, the five-minute warning sound blasting distantly in our conversation. Fledge smirked at me as the close to our meeting came. "I never would have gotten here if it hadn't been for your help, Jacqueline; I really am grateful for this chance to grow." I paused and smiled at him, "Oh, I just opened the door; you had all the strength to go through it anyway. You're the one that went through the training, not me!"
Fledge smiled fondly, "No...I didn't get that strength alone." I watched him for a little while longer and found him staring at me, and I felt a strange sense of nausea and butterflies well in my stomach. The cold, dead sharpness of Ghirahim's magic pulsated in my heart and caused the warmth to falter. I shrugged and wore a smile, "I guess there's only so much modesty I can take--sure! And you're welcome. I honestly think you're better this way than before."
"I think I am, too." The call went out to get ready, so I wished him good luck and went to the starting line, several feet away from the docking platform. Five competitors this time, all aiming for graduation. I blinked; what if that meant I'd have to defeat Fledge? He'd been looking forward to becoming a Knight for a long time, and I didn't necessarily need that title, did I? I had the training, the experience, the skills to keep myself well-enough on the Surface. So why the hell was I participating in this Ceremony?!
I heard a scoffing laugh as Groose tried to intimidate Fledge, who did his best to ignore the brute. I was reminded another reason for the race; either I would beat Groose by being Knighted before he was, or keep him off of Fledge and let Fledge get Knighted. As these thoughts raced through my head, I noticed the competitors tensing up. Fuck! They sprinted off to the platform as the blast had knocked me out of my inner-turmoil and I raced, leaping last off of the platform and into the air.
As I fell, I whistled for my Loftwing. The piercing shriek attracted a similar cry, and I looked up to see the bird speed towards me. I turned over and caught the saddle with one hand, pulling myself in and handling the reins, smoothly curving back up into the air and heading for the golden Loftwing that carried the statuette of the goddess Hylia (or at least the depiction of her). Assessing the situation, Groose was in the lead with his little gang flying off to flank anyone coming up behind him. Fledge was close behind and trying to veer at an angle, attempting to read the bird's movements and calculate where the bird would turn. I stayed beneath them, gradually rising from underneath; the weather wasn't quite so bad down here, the wind getting worse further up. Groose and Fledge were struggling with their birds, as well as the one that held the prize. A gust blew all three off-course and in an alternate circle, coming around Skyloft counter-clockwise.
My eyes drifted off to the giant dome-like cloud formation to the north and felt an unusual form of ominous-foreboding in my stomach. My chest felt cooler than usual, and gripped my reins a little tighter. Is something about to come out from there? At a time like this? Amidst the weather, the rest of the world seemed fine. Right? I concentrated on the race and pulled my gaze away from the dome, even though all of my instincts were screaming to beware. Fuck, pull yourself together! I followed the golden Loftwing's movements as she circled and dipped down, closer to me. I prompted my bird to dash, feeling a surge of wind flow through us as we propelled ourselves forward. Fledge managed to lessen the distance between himself and Groose and dove down sharply, further ahead and only feet away from the bird. Groose bellowed something and went after Fledge, birds threatening to crash into each other from the flank, forcing Fledge to veer off to the side and lose ground, placing Groose back in first place. I frowned angrily and surged my Loftwing forward, coming up quickly from the underbelly. Fledge was getting boxed in by Groose' followers. As he tried to shake them, I promptly swung my Loftwing in towards Groose, threatening his Loftwing instead, forcing the cowardly bird to squawk and flail, sharply turning off-course and away from the objective entirely. A howl of unintelligible words were lost in the increasing wind currents. I clung to my bird as turbulence picked up and threw us a little roughly, but we stayed on-course. The golden Loftwing began to show signs of tiring and was slowing down, and I began to close in for the win, hand outstretched. I squinted my eyes, Sorry, Fledge. I know how much you wanted to be a Kn--
Without warning, alien shrieking cries caught my ears and I faltered in my reach. I turned my head around and saw a flock of giant winged monsters coming from the dome. Shit--I knew it! I withdrew my hand from the prize and turned around, banking loosely and observing what was coming towards the Ceremony. They wove through the air, dipping and rising in the wind with loose, flapping motions. They were sharply-colored with black and a green-yellow sort of appearance and resembled more like flying snake-bugs rather than the birds I thought they were from a distance. I reached for my sword and realized that for the Ceremony, you weren't supposed to have them equipped; a dread-sense of realization came over me, and I stared at the others trying to escape. None of us are armed! We're sitting ducks here! The Skyloft patrol took to the air and came in towards the creatures, attacking them with their Loftwings. However, the group of monsters (I found out later they were called skytail) seemed to turn in a uniformal-formation, sensing the attack from all over the place and flawlessly avoiding it with their sinuous dizzying-flight patterns. "Cancel the Ceremony! Get to safety!" All competitors began to head back to the safety of the island.
Except for one. I saw Fledge take off for the golden Loftwing, which was struggling to make it back to the island, despite the rough wind currents blowing it off-course. Fledge turned into the wind, trying to gain ground on the bird and take the statuette. As he focused on the bird, he was blind to the monster that broken off with the frenzy of the Skyloft Loftwing guardsmen attacking their formation and was coming in after him, its pincers snapping. I didn't know what that monster would do, but I couldn't let it reach him. I spurred my Loftwing onward towards Fledge and yelled a warning to him. He didn't hear me at first. I called to him again as I got closer, and his head snapped towards me as I tried to warn him about the monster coming up behind him, frozen with his hand out. He peered over his shoulder and cried with alarm as the monster took a moment to lunge, jostling its prey off the side of the Loftwing and leaving it riderless. Without direction, the Loftwing took off away from the golden Loftwing, and Fledge plummeted towards the cloud barrier below. I swallowed and took my Loftwing into a sharp nose-dive, wind shrieking and bouncing me around as I raced against gravity towards the falling rider. He was flailing and falling in all manner of direction, keeping one arm out and the other tucked in. I began to get closer to him, but the cloud barrier was much closer too. "Faster!" I had to grab him before he fell through! We rocketed straight down until we were aligned next to him. I kept one hand gripped on the flapping reins and the other hand reached out to him. I yelled for him to take it. He reached out with his other hand, both of us straining to grasp each other. A current rocked my bird and tore our hands away for a second. I came in close again and swung for his forearm, grabbing the sleeve and yanking on the fabric hard, undoubtedly tearing at some of the seams but pulling him in sharply.
As he pulled himself into the saddle behind me, I began to dip my bird as smoothly as I could to keep it from hitting the cloud barrier. Fledge's arm wrapped around my waist as he held on, both of our voices letting out screams as we barely skimmed the surface of the clouds and rocketed back up to the sky. As we climbed, I could see the monsters spiraling and dipping through the air, evading the guards and taking snaps at their Loftwings as they wove through the air around them. I narrowed my eyes as I spurred my Loftwing to rise. "What are those things?" Fledge called. "I don't know! I've never seen them before," I shouted back, "But it looks like none of the attacks are having an effect on them!" We came closer to Skyloft and yelled to Fledge, "When I drop in close, you get off! I'll be right behind you!"
"Right!" We rose in the air and performed a slow spin, righting ourselves in the air and coming in towards the landing docks. As we began to approach, I noted one of the guards trying to close in on a monster and spun wildly in the air like a torpedo, but the monster dove out of the air with marginal-distance between them. "What is that they're doing with their birds?" I yelled, and Fledge looked up, "The guards and their Loftwings are taught the Spiral Charge! It's pretty difficult, so only the guards can perform it!"
If the attacks actually hit, I bet they'd be really effective against those things. I turned my gaze back to Skyloft and took my Loftwing in for landing. We landed a little roughly, Fledge tumbling from the saddle again and rolling to recover on the ground. I dismounted my Loftwing and checked on her; she was extremely tired from the strain and excitement, and I narrowed my eyes back up at the monsters above us. What could I do?
My mind flashed and I thought of the incidents from the night previously. Past the gore and immense guilt I had, I remembered what Batreaux had taught me about my gifts. I looked at my hands, and then back up at the sky. There was a flock of the creatures above me; if I could single out the leader and try to control it, I could halt the entire attack immediately. "But how the hell am I going to find the leader, let alone get a hand on it, much less even get up there..." I looked around, seeing other rider's birds staying close to the homes and landed on the isle, safely away from the sky battle. Some of the monsters dipped low into the town, but the guardsmen would intercept them back into the sky, giving the villagers time to flee. "Jacqueline, come on! We need to get out of here!" Fledge called and tugged at my arm. I looked at him, and then back up at the sky. "Not yet--I need to get up there and help them."
"How? Our birds are exhausted and there's no way we can hit those things! The guards are our best bet!" No, they aren't. I am. I looked to him, "Look, I can't explain it, but I know I can help somehow! I just need to get up there and get close to the monsters." Fledge looked at his Loftwing and frowned, "I'd lend you mine, but it's tired from the races--"
"Jacqueline!" I turned and saw Orielle running to me, and I blinked widely, "What are you doing out here? It's dangerous!" She kept running to me, "I know it is! That's why I came to get you!"
"I'm not going any--" As she kept running, I felt everything go into a weird slow-motion sort of perspective, and immediately I thought of the first day I met her. "Orielle! Can I use your Loftwing!" She faltered in her running and ended up stumbling in front of me, "My Loftwing? Why--"
"No time to ask! Just--can I use your Loftwing?" Orielle blinked, "Uh...yeah, sure--wait, what are you--"
"Okay, thanks, bye!" I sped off to Orielle's house, spying her Loftwing and her brother's Loftwing huddling together, wings unfurled and extended to make themselves appear bigger than they were as to intimidate predators. I ran for Orielle's Loftwing and attracted their attention. "Sorry, but I need you." The bird didn't seem to see me as hostile as the monsters, but was a bit too rattled for me to just try to hop on its back and fly off. "Hey, whoa, it's okay..." The Loftwing's tail reached over its back and waved in the air rapidly, making a shrill, low threatening noise and jittering its wings, shaking its feathers and fluffing up. "It's okay, it's okay..." I put my hands up in a gesture of trying to calm the bird as one would calm a horse, and a glint of light flashed off my bracers. I looked at them for a moment and began to think of Batreaux. If these can work on monsters, and not dark by technicality, but by nature...can I use them on tamed beasts? It was a theory, even though a loose one, but what other choice did I have? Everything was moving so quickly, I didn't have time to dwell on speculation for long. I moved my hands forward slowly to the bird with a gentle voice, trying to soothe it despite the chaos erupting overhead. Before it would have a chance to snap its beak, I placed my hands on the bill and tried to pool myself into its mind.
There was a bit of resistance at first, but surprisingly the hold took and began to filter to the brain, into the psyche, and then the bird began to calm. Without training or the owner's unique whistle, I mounted the bird, keeping one hand on the feathers as an extension of the control. "All right, get me up there." The bird launched itself into the air from its standing position and beat its wings, rising closer to where the battle was occurring. Looks like tamed beasts are much easier than wild ones...go figure. The Loftwing carried me higher, gaining the attention of two winged monsters. With my mind synced to the bird's, it was able to sense my puzzlement and questioning of where the leader was, having a full-view of my plan-making. The bird's heightened skills and sensory detail gave it the ability to pinpoint the alpha, which had a slight variation of coloration under its wings and on its crown, a white dot. The bird wove between the monsters and carried me closer. My mental image of touching the monster assisted the Loftwing in maneuvering me safely towards it. The alpha snapped its pincers as I rose to challenge it, and it hissed. It flew towards me, clicking irritably. I stretched out my other free hand, dangerously-swaying in the saddle in effort to keep my grip on the Loftwing and anticipate controlling the monster.
It took a sudden dip and clamped its pincers around my outstretched arm, grabbing my wrist and completely wrenching me from my Loftwing and losing the connection to the creature. I felt as if someone had tossed a hammer at my head and I was suddenly very dizzy, despite my arm on fire and my wrist being pierced by the rows of serrated teeth. Luckily, the piners had clamped around my bracer and hadn't broken the skin, but it was still incredibly painful being supported by only one arm and very few handholds to keep myself up. I watched hazily as the Loftwing screeched with sudden confusion and swerved around, dazed and disoriented as it regained control of its primal instincts. I was jostled and thrown around in the air, suddenly very afraid of falling as the alpha paraded around in the air, me dangling towards my doom. I immediately threw my hand up to grasp one of its pincers, trying to wrench it off my wrist as I fought for control, oozing my mind into the monster's.
In response to the naturally-dark creature, my chest beat with that ever-so-cold, dead feeling and throbbed with each instant I tried to delve deeper for control. As I slowly fought against the struggle for power, the alpha began to send out an echolocation that said along the lines of "Holy shit, someone get this thing off me", even though it was the one that grabbed me first. The rest of the monsters stopped their fight with the guardsmen and began to peel away from the battle, heading straight for me. I pushed harder, trying to change the variation of the call to something less-threatening towards me. "Oh, shit-shit-shit-shit-SHIT-SHIT!" I made a desperate push to throw the alpha's barriers aside, disgruntling its call and making it confused, but still resilient to my efforts. As I tried to take over its mind, I noted my bracers began to glow a red light, illuminating the features of the alpha with an ethereal highlight. It still began to push back, my strength waning with the pain piercing my connection. If this keeps up, I'm going to get cut to ribbons! I refused to give up, but couldn't stop the monster's gradual gaining of ground against me, threatening to push me entirely out.
It was almost ready to toss my mind away when a flash of gray swept by and the alpha shrieked loudly with pain, opening its pincers. I screamed and grabbed its pincers to keep myself from falling, seeing the gray Loftwing swoop back again, Fledge on its back and heading around in a wide arc. The attack was effective enough to revamp my efforts to take the alpha, and my mind slipped in quickly to infiltrate the brain.
DESTROY! DESTROY! FEAST! DESTROY! They were loud and absolute, and not the natural hunger that the Keese had shown me before. I did my best to keep myself from falling into the dark trap, keeping my distance and not daring to touch the thoughts. They seemed like commands that had been implanted into the alpha, and then directed to the rest of the flock. Ghirahim, I frowned as I felt his familiar presence signaturing the directions. I tried to erase the orders, and wasn't entirely surprised that I couldn't. Dashing for options, I only had a few more precious seconds within the mind before it would come to its senses. What I did next, even in the future, I felt a measure of guilt for doing.
I edited the orders with a sigh and reprogrammed the alpha's siren-like directions: DESTROY EACH OTHER! DESTROY EACH OTHER! The clicks went out and immediately the formation broke as the monsters began to attack one another, some of their battles too graphic to witness. I retreated from the mind as rapidly as I could, and the alpha released its grip on me, confused and dazed before screeching in agony as some of its flock turned on it and began to rip it to shreds. Fledge's gray Loftwing ducked under to catch me shortly after I began to fall, and we headed back to Skyloft.
The civil war amongst the monsters didn't last long; all of them were too far gone to save themselves, and all plummeted towards the Surface. Not long after Fledge and I had landed, the entire town had broken out into jubilee and celebration, of which I received a lot of poundings on the back by the graduated Knights, the commander, and a few dozen hugs from my friends, like Orielle. We had all moved to the Bazaar, where casks were opened, cakes were made, and soup was spilled in hastiness to fill the hungry bellies. It was overall a day to be thankful for, and I took part in the celebration with a measure of pride.
It was announced that Fledge had won, by the rules of the Ceremony, since he had grabbed the statuette from the golden Loftwing before he had taken his plummet towards the Surface, and had still managed to hang onto it after I had caught him. Groose wasn't happy about it, but surprisingly his goons didn't seem to mind or care about who had won. Fledge was graduated a Knight and donned his Knight armor, flushed at the cheeks as usual with his pride. I congratulated him with enthusiasm and pounded his back, telling him he was an idiot, to which he laughed and blushed even harder. Everyone was in a fantastic mood, and I smiled at the spectacle. Before I could sneak away, the commander dragged me by the collar and pulled me to the front stage, where everyone's eyes were on me. Suddenly I wanted to disappear as the commander began to boast and bellow, with a slight drunken stupor, about how "heroic and brave" I had been, and how I had single-handedly saved Skyloft from the attacks. Despite my protests that the guardsmen had been the first to react and had fought bravely too, the commander insisted I get the full credit. Nobody had died, and only a few had taken casualties, and that was the bigger picture.
"In accomodation for your heroic acts," the commander stated, "I am given the honor of Knighting you for your display of bravery and the deeds you have done for the village ever since you came." He looked into the crowd, and then back to me, "Orielle tells me you like the clothes she made you, and it seems to me you would rather wear that as you go retrieve one of our own Knights on the Surface instead of the traditional wear. You are not bound to our customs, so I made an exception." He presented me with shoulder armor, some arm and knee guards with buckles and straps to fasten them, a fully-equipped tool belt for pouches to carry, a pair of gauntlets to protect my hands, and then he presented me the coolest gift of all. A newly-forged, simple sword with embroidered-metal at the hilt in the shape of a bird. I peered at it and looked at him, "What kind of bird is it?"
"Well, we didn't know what entirely to represent you as; you carry a name unlike the rest of our villagers, so we had to adjust to the newer ideas. We decided to give you the bird 'crow'." I blinked, "Why a crow?" Commander Eagus could hear some of my disappointment and placed his hand on my shoulder, sober enough to declare: "Because it is never alone, and often braves enemies, no matter the number or size. It is a noble bird, despite its deceptive appearance; we had no idea what kind of a great, honorable person you would become, and our hearts were closed to you. We are truly sorry for not seeing the truth sooner."
I felt tears beginning to bundle in my eyes, "I don't deserve this..." I looked at my crow-blade and felt a new surge of pride enter through me, and I took it with newfounded-gratitude. There was an uproar of approval and the festival went long into the night, as the moon had risen into the sky, Commander Eagus tearing up a little bit at the graduation of two of his students. Orielle was incredibly-proud and hugged me for a long while, and I felt a sisterly-attachment to her. "Sorry about the bird-thing earlier," I said to her, and she laughed, "Oh, don't worry about it. I'm just glad you're all right! Saving the village definitely made up for stealing my bird on a whim!"
The evening pressed on as I began to prepare myself for the journey I would make tomorrow. I retired to my quarters in the Academy and packed my things, adjusting the armor pieces and smiling satisfyingly at the shoulder-guard on my left shoulder, with the extra gear and armor guards on. I admired myself in a mirror in Zelda's room and looked at myself. If only my parents could see me now... My earlier anger with my parents felt so old and pointless; what had happened wasn't their fault. There was still some resentment towards their choice in my time of need, but looking at it from this point, I realized I couldn't hold onto that grudge. I'd experienced more trauma in my life for me to burden that anger as anything other than selfishness. If I'd been there for him...things would have been different... Thinking of Thomas made me sigh with some regret, and I stewed on my memories for a bit. Someone that I had cared for in my life, and the one night that was supposed to be perfect, it ruined him, and in the process, myself as well. I didn't have enough courage to really face it, but I knew eventually it'd come out.
"Jacqueline?" I turned around to see Fledge standing in the doorway. I blinked, "Oh, Fledge--I thought you were still at the party."
"I didn't see you there, so I came looking for you." He stepped in, and I went back to what I was doing. There was an uncomfortable silence that pressed in, and he cleared his throat. "U-Um, what are you doing? Packing?"
I nodded, "Yes; it's going to be really hot down on the Surface, so I have to make sure I have everything packed before I leave."
"You're going to be gone for a long time, aren't you?" There was no question in his voice; his tone made it clear that he knew what was going to happen, and I nodded again, "Yeah...probably won't be back here for a week or so..." I turned to him with a small smile, "But hey, it's not forever--a week is nothing compared to a month, right?" He smiled, "You're right--but still, I hope you don't get hurt down there. Is it dangerous?"
I opened my mouth to reply and then faltered. I smiled and shrugged, "It can't be that bad. I was down there for a little bit of time before I came back up here to Skyloft, so I got a taste of it. Nothing I can't handle." In truth, I didn't know what to expect down on the Surface and was uncomfortable that I was going alone and without anyone to watch my back. Still, I didn't want to admit it to Fledge; he obviously looked worried I was leaving altogether. He smiled, "That's good to hear; it's not that I don't think you can't handle yourself--you were amazing with those monsters today...and, thanks."
"For saving me when I fell. I was terrified, but I didn't lose hope in you." I smiled, "It's just what I do, Fledge; I know you would have done the same for me." He nodded and tried to help me pack, "You're right, I would have." We both fell into a long silence again and I paused for a little while, trying to see how I could approach the circumstance. I looked at him, "Fledge...why are you truly here?" He looked down, and I pushed a little further, "Was there something you needed to tell me?" He looked up at my eyes and the butterfly-stomach feeling came back, the nauseated-anxiety. "W-Well, yes...It's just that....well....I care about you...a lot." I sighed and nodded, "I know you do, and I care about you a lot as well; you've changed into a new person with these past days, and I couldn't expect anyone better. You're going to be a terrific Knight, Fledge." I patted his cheek fondly and smiled gently, "I know what it is you mean to say, and if I could stay, I'd probably feel the same depth too. But my home is on the Surface somewhere far away, and once all is said and done, I'm probably not going to be able to come back here." It broke my heart to see the sadness in his eyes, but I knew if I didn't tell him now, he'd likely be waiting for an answer that would never come. This closure was the least I owed him. "...Oh..I-I see..." He got up to leave.
I bit my lip and flipped through my options. "...Fledge." He looked at me, "Yes, Jacqueline?" I looked out my window and then at him, "Will you come say goodbye to me before I go to the Surface? I really want to see you before I go." Some cheer came back into his eyes, though it was a tamed, restrained happiness that couldn't go beyond the friendship that we shared. He nodded, "Always, Jacqueline. You know I will." He left my room and I sat there, feeling as if a weight was off my chest, but a sad little hole had replaced it. I finished packing for the night and went to bed as soon as I could. Tomorrow was going to be a big day, and the Surface was likely not going to be easy.
I was glad I prepared for that little theory, because I was proven right.