A Tiny Tale of Tenderness
Brian Conley

Dear Mother,

How are you? I can only hope that you are all doing ok back in Tipa. Are the neighbors treating you well? I know it's wrong to do so, but I still have a hard time trusting non-Selkie, even though I know that everyone in Tipa are fine people. Even so, I know that Father is there to protect you all, just in case. No one would dare mess with a Selkie ex-thief blacksmith, that's for sure! Anyway, I digress. My journey is going well. Me and Kaya (You know Kaya...that sweet natured Clavat that left with me on the Caravan) have collected two full drops of Myrrh (so far)! It's very exiting knowing that after one more droplet, we can return home for another year. That and the prospect of living peacefully with no fear of Miasma makes this journey worthwhile.

I'm also getting pretty good at this battling business. I think that my skill has really enhanced since I left and the trail of monsters I left behind proves it! Even sword-wielding Kaya says that my skills with the racket are much better then when I started. But boy oh boy, let me tell you...Kaya is a wonder with her sword. For every three monsters I defeat, she takes out another seven. I think she's getting cocky though...every Materite that we find she gives to me, saying how they would only drag her down. Boy, I couldn't have a better caravan companion. Kaya is funny, quick-witted and best of all: she's gorgeous! I mean, wow. She has silky smooth skin that's only outdone by her wonderful brown eyes. Every time I look at her she shoots me a smile and I almost melt away...such a wonderful person. And don't even get me started on the REST of her body...

Sirus stopped writing and quickly re-read the letter. After a moment of thought he crumpled it up in one hand and tossed it into the campfire in front of him. It was his fourth attempt at a letter home that was now burning away in the orange flames. It was a very aggravating process for him because every time he got halfway through a decent, civil letter to his mother, Kaya would show up around him and do something to distract him. Not on purpose, of course, but she would just do some menial task. A good example was earlier that day when Sirus was on his first try at a letter. He got to the second paragraph when Kaya stepped next to where he was sitting, on the back of the covered caravan and hopped off down to the ground. He had tried to keep his eyes on his paper, but they wandered to watch her leap down and hit the ground with a little oof. He was, truth be told, lost when she just stood next to him.

Now at the campfire he had been paragraph deep again, but then Kaya had dropped some firewood into the blaze and then taken a seat across from him. What pushed Sirus over the edge here was when she took off her hat, letting her long brown hair wisp slightly in the night breeze. After that, well...you get the picture.

"Sirus, what's wrong?"

Sirus looked from what was left of his letter home in the fire and up at Kaya.

"Nothing. Why do you ask?"

With one hand, Kaya pushed some of her hair behind one ear, "That's the fourth or so letter you've gotten rid of today. What's wrong? Writers block? You would think that after all of the things we've done that you would have plenty of material."

Sirus laughed, "You've been keeping that close of an eye on me?"

"Ha... just making sure you're ok."

I'd be better if I had some guts to tell you how I feel. Sirus thought. Rather then just ruin family letters with love proclamations woven into them accidentally.

Sirus had known Kaya ever since she was a curious ten year old, living in the house across town. Back then she was just the Clavat girl-next-door and he was the silver-haired snot-nosed boy who poked at her with sticks. He could have only dreamed back then that he would be alone on the road with her hours a day, let alone fighting monsters for Myrrh.

"Are you...." Sirus started, hoping to converse, "Are you looking forward to getting back to Tipa with this Myrrh?"

"Well...yeah, I guess." Kaya smiled as she talked, her gaze moving from Sirus to the crystal chalice that was sitting on a tree stump a few feet from the fire, "But I also like traveling, you know? I love being out on the road searching for our lifeblood."

"Life blood?"

"Myrrh, Sirus, Myrrh. Don't be so naive."

Sirus laughed nervously, "Ok, ok. But, do you like the fighting and...well...life-threatening danger?"

"It's all part of the process, I suppose. And besides, I kind of enjoy combat...keeps the senses sharp."

"I suppose."

There was a few minutes of silence, in which Kaya looked up at the starry sky and Sirus looked at Kaya looking at the stars. "Sirus?" she said.

"Hmm? Yes?"

"I... I really am enjoying traveling with you." She said, her voice almost whispery. She said it with such an air that it was like she was sharing her deepest, darkest secret.

"And..." Sirus said, blushing a bit, "I'm really enjoying traveling with you too."

Kaya looked down from the sky at Sirus and smile a warm smile; her eyes curving to suite. Sirus smiled back and ran his hand through his silver hair, causing some of the bangs to fall into his eyes. They sat like that for a few minutes, then Kaya stood up.
"Well, we'd better get some sleep."

Sirus nodded, "Right. I've already planned out tomorrow...um...we're going through the mushroom forest."

"Sounds good."

Kaya shot him another smile then walked past him to get to the back of the caravan, patting his head on the way.

Great. Sirus thought as he stood up to get his pack. Just remembering that pat will ruin at least four more letters.

Dear Mother,

I really enjoy being around Kaya. She's so funny and pretty and...I think I'm falling in love with her. I know that I'm Selkie and she's Clavat but I still like her a lot. I'm afraid of telling her how I feel though... I'm afraid that she'll turn me down. But I love her! Wait... is 'love' too strong a word? Maybe it is, but it's a good descriptor on how I feel about her nonetheless.

"Sirus, we're here."

Sirus looked up at Kaya next to him with the reins in her hands and legs bouncing along to the bumps in the road. The letter he was writing wasn't really going to his mother, but rather to him. He just needed to write down how he felt.

"Do you have your racket?

Sirus nodded and reached behind his to pick it up with his left hand, and stuffed the letter into his pack with the other.

"Let's go!" He said, smiling.

Kaya halted the caravan in front of the entrance to the mushroom forest. From inside they heard the howl of monsters and smelled the sweet scent of whatever was growing. Sirus hopped off first and turned to Kaya, "I'll run ahead to try to set a path."

"Ok, Sirus." Kaya said in a sing-song voice. She smiled at him and he ran off.

Cute little Sirus. She thought. She didn't want to openly admit it but she really liked him. The feelings started to manifest when they first left the village, but back then she paid no mind to them. She only started paying that kind of attention to him, really, yesterday morning after she found one of his crinkled-up letters to home on the floor of the caravan. She hadn't mean to read it. She'd done so because she wanted to make sure it wasn't just trash.

Dear Mother, it read, I've been having a lot of fun out here on the road and I'm fine. I hope that everyone at home is equally ok. We've collected two drops of Myrrh thus far and I'm really looking forward to coming back home. After all the combat I've been in, my bed at home looks really good.

Also, Kaya is doing wonderful. She's really grown up since the days of being ten, y'know? She has such pretty eyes and such a cute face. And it's not just her looks I like... she's very funny and full of pep...

That's all that was written. He seemed to be cut off by something, but she didn't know what. She sighed heavily and started preparing. She stood up and turned around and grabbed her sword and shield which was behind the seat, where they always kept their packs and weapons.

"Hmm?" She furrowed her brown at piece of paper that looked like it fell out of Sirus' bag... Quickly, and feeling a bit guilty, she picked it up and read it.

"Oh, Sirus." She said and bit her bottom lip.

The mushroom forest was long and full of baddies. Halfway through Sirus was exhausted, but he kept pushing forward, keeping pace with his feminine teammate. After roughly an hour of various encounters and monster-chopping, the two finally reached a clearing.

"Whew." Kaya said as she wiped her brow. "This isn't easy."

"You can say that again." Sirus responded, tightening his bandanna.

They treaded slowly, keeping close eyes on each other.

"Ah, look!" Kaya gasped as she pointed. Alert, Sirus readied his racket.

"It's a Malboro."

"Yes, but a small one!"

Ahead of them was indeed a miniature Malboro, about the size of a large moogle.

"Looks pretty harmless, really."

Sirus laughed, "Yeah." And then he sighed, "Kaya, listen..."

"Hmm, what?"

"I want... to... um... tell you something."

Kaya smiled, "What?"

Sirus opened his mouth to confesses his feelings, but was interrupted by a ferocious growl from the baby Malboro. They both swung their heads to see that the power from the underside of the gigantic mushrooms around them had sprinkled down onto the plant-monster. After a few more roars it had stretched and expanded to a giant at least fifty times the size of Sirus and Kaya.

"Talk later!" Kaya yelled and ran forward to fight. Damn you, Malboro! Sirus thought as he followed her into the fray. I was so close to telling her how I felt!

Kaya was a bit worried about the situation she was in. In front of her was a Malboro that was big enough to crush Tipa in a single tendril swipe and behind her was a small swarm of killer plant monsters. She and Sirus had been in situations with monsters before but never anything this bad.

"Plants shouldn't have teeth!" She heard Sirus yell from a few feet away from her. She laughed at his wit as she quickly leapt over one of the Malboro's vines. She flipped in the air and came down with her sword in front of her, pushing it through one of the thick tendrils. It split off and gushed green liquid for a few seconds before dying out. She only had a few seconds to enjoy her victory however, because four more snake-like tendrils were coming her way. She thought quick and swung her sword hard, cutting away two of them but also leaving herself open for the other two to strike her hard in the shoulders. She hollered in pain and flew to the ground, losing her grip on her sword as well. The tentacles reared back above her and floated there for a few seconds, as if they were enjoying her suffering.

"Sirus!!" Kaya yelled at the top of her lungs. "Sirus, HELP!" She pushed each word as hard as she could; so hard that her lungs were burning from lack of air.

Then the two green tentacles dove down at her, their pointy tips extended straight. Kaya shut her eyes and braced herself. Behind her eyelids, in her thoughts, she saw her childhood. In the few seconds she had her eyes closed she saw her parents, her sister and she saw... Sirus... smiling at her with that goofy grin, his red bandanna holding back his bushy-looking silver hair.

Cute little Sirus. She thought and smiled.

"Haaa!" She heard someone scream and she opened her eyes. There was Sirus, his racket firmly planted down on one of the two tendrils, his feet on the other. He was breathing heavily as he turned to look at her.

"Now's not the time to be smiling!" He said with a grin on his face. Kaya gave him a relieved smirk, then hopped to her feet and used her sword to trim the Malboro's vines.

"Hypocrite." She said, making him laugh.

"Anyway..." Sirus said with seriousness in his voice, "We need a plan."

Kaya nodded, "Right." She rubbed at her chin and then nodded again, "How's this: I chop and you..."

"I what?"

She dug into her pocket and pulled out two orange Materite, "You burn. Here, fuse these together and blast his mouth!"

"All I need is one, Kaya... you take one."

"All they'll do is drag me down." She said and shoved them into Sirus' gloved palms. Sirus opened his mouth to object, but the Malboro roared loudly, cutting him off.

"Let's go." Kaya said and then leaned forward, grabbed Sirus by his collar and brought him in for a kiss. "Don't die." She then whispered into his ear.

Sirus was stunned, "O-ok..." He stuttered and then watched her leap off to cut away at the impending tendrils. He shook his head and started running towards the monster.

Don't die, Sirus! He told himself. The monster roared again and opened his mouth wider, revealing more razor-sharp teeth and putrid green insides. Sirus jumped to the side to avoid a sweeping vine and a plant-with-teeth monster and landed only three feet from the giant's mouth. Without thinking he pushed the two stones together and held the new, larger stone close to his chest. He leapt high then and put the stone out in front of him, feeling the fire within it starting to burst out, but was stopped short by a slimy plant vine wrapping around his ankles and waist.

"KAYA!" He screamed in his mind as the Malboro's tentacles tossed him carelessly into its mouth.

"No!" Kaya yelled, seeing her caravan-mate tossed into the teeth-filled mouth. Anger filled her heart, and she turned and sliced apart as many of the incoming vines as possible. With each slice she thought Sirus and it brought tears to her eyes.

He DIED! she thought. Nooo!"

A tentacle whipped out and smacked Kaya in the back, pushing her onto her stomach. She struggled to catch the air that had been knocked out of her when another vine picked her up and brought her to the Malboro's mouth. Her mind went dark, and she could hear nothing but her own pathetic screams for life.

But then everything stopped. The Malboro shook, like it was coughing and then released a wave of horrible smelling gas. It went straight into Kaya's nostrils and mouth, making her cough and gag and making her eyes water. Then the monster roared one last time, and fire burst from its many open-ended tentacles near it's mouth and out it's mouth. It kept blazing, getting hotter and brighter until it exploded, dropping Kaya to the ground and sending gooey Malboro-bits everywhere.

"Oof." Kaya grunted as she landed. She felt really dizzy and tired. Probably from that... gas... she thought. She was almost asleep when she heard a thud next to her. She turned her head slowly, and saw a ooze-covered Sirus lying not even a full foot next to her.

"Hi." He said, taking short breaths, "You... you look terrible."

Kaya laughed very weakly, "You don't look much better...all covered in Malboro."

Sirus looked up at the sky, "I'm tired."

Kaya smiled at him and nodded, "So am I..." Before he could fall asleep though, Kaya snuck her hand out and took hold of his near his waist. Without looking at her, he smiled. They laid there for a long time, catching their breath and sleeping; knowing that now, even the monsters not dare disturb them.

Dear Mother,

How are you? I can only hope that you are fine. Me and Kaya have collected three drops of Myrrh! We are on our way home now, with some additional news:

We're engaged! We hope to be wed as soon as we get home, back to Tipa. What better honeymoon then home, with a full Crystal, right? I hope that I have both your and Father's approval... Kaya already mailed her family and they're ecstatic. I guess it pays to know the neighbors, huh? Well, anyway... Kaya is calling me to help her start a fire... so I'll see you in a couple days, ok?


"Here you go." Sirus said to the Mail moogle floating in front of him.

"Kupo!" It said and took it in it's mouth, "Oh, and I heard about your wedding plans..."

"Oh yeah?"

"Congratulations, kupo!"


Sirus stood up from his seat next to the caravan and headed off to the front, where his wife-to-be was calling for him.

"I finally finished a letter." He said and smiled at Kaya.

"So, you got over your writer's block?"

Sirus smiled at her and then kissed her forehead.

"Yeah. I did."

She smiled back and wrapped her arms around him.

"I really enjoy traveling with you, Sirus."

"Yeah..." Sirus said, happy that Kaya knew how he felt and felt the same about him.

No more ruined letters. He thought.

And the two stood with each other for a very long time.