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In a New Light

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Since the defeat of the Adephagos, peace, and prosperity reigned throughout Terca Lumireis.

And along with it came the first anniversary of Belius’s death—the previous Duce of Palestralle and head of Nordopolica. As instructed by Natz, who eventually took on her position as her replacement, the day—the first of August—a large festival was scheduled to be held outside the coliseum in commemoration for his dear friend’s sacrifice and miraculous rebirth as the reincarnated ruler of the waters, Undine.

Together with the recently appointed emperor, Ioder and the young Commandant, Flynn—the empire funded the majority of the street vendors, decorations, and transportation for those hailing from numerous settlements—including the Capital City of Zaphias, Dahngrest, and Aurnion to join in on the fun.

What was supposedly a day to honor the great Entelexeia ultimately became merged with the idea of reveling the collaborated efforts between the Imperial Knights and the guilds, as well as with the dawn of a new age without blastia along the birth of spirits coming into existence.

¾Such a day came to be known as Spirits Day.

“This is so cool!” Karol suddenly cried as he took in the spectacular view of the large market place around him.

Everywhere he looked—multicolored banners hanging from the roofs depicting various guilds, street carts aligned together in two consecutive rows, blue and white flags encrusted with the sigil of the royal Heurassein house which honors their deceased ancestors, the children of the Full Moon, and plenty of flowery decorations—was eye-catching.

A few minutes passed and something caught his eye. Raising his chin, the boy’s eyes slowly widened. “Oh…my…god,” He muttered, his mouth dropping open. Peering over his shoulder, he grinned at the sight of his friends and exclaimed aloud, “Hey, guys! Check this out!” And then proceeded to direct a finger at a purple banner above his head.

Pausing in his tracks, the dark-haired swordsman peered up at the direction of where his friend was referring to. Upon the sight of a familiar sigil resembling a four-shaped star, a smile graced across his features. “Well, would you look at that? Our guild is finally getting the recognition it deserves,” He glanced over to the boy standing from a distance and chuckled. “Great job, Captain Karol,”

Listening to his words, Karol brought a hand behind his head and sheepishly grinned. “Really? You think so?”

“Aye!” The little pirate girl beside him exclaimed, bouncing up and down with delight. “With a bit more sponsorship, Brave Vesperia is gonna be one of the big leagues in no time!”

The female Kriytan smiled pleasantly. “I agree with Patty,” She replied, leaning forward as she tilted her head to the side. “Least we know that our efforts are worth the while,” As she said those words, she motioned her head to face the small mage behind her. “Isn’t that right, Rita?”

Rita half-shrugged. “Whatever,” She mumbled, looking elsewhere. “Not like I care anyway,” Despite her sour expression, it was apparent that the tips of her ears were burning crimson. Before she could speak any further, someone beat her to it.

“Enough about guilds and all that jazz,” The ponytailed man yawned, stretching his arms. “We’re here ta party, aren’t we?” Clapping his hands, he cried in glee, “So, let’s get cracking!”

To his dismay, each of his friends shot him a glare.

“We can’t do anything unless Estelle comes back from the meeting,” Rita reminded him, crossing her arms over her chest as she tapped her left foot repeatedly against the ground. “But yeah, sure, go on ahead and make a fool of yourself,” She stressed with a sardonic tone, “Be my guest,”

While Raven sulked, Yuri lowered his head to take a quick look at Repede sitting next to him. Seconds later, he shifted his focus to the large coliseum building nearby.

As mentioned by Rita, the pink-haired princess was absent in their group. In hopes to support her dear cousin, Estelle took it upon herself to remain by his side and assist him. Additionally, she was the only one who held a close connection to Undine, further emphasizing how symbolic her presence was for attending the meeting. Unfortunately, she didn’t inform them when it would be over.

It’s already been two hours since they’ve arrived at Nordopolica and after much sightseeing and wandering aimlessly throughout the public square, it was becoming apparent that the younger members (and a certain old man) of their found family were growing restless.

Sensing the dampened atmosphere around him, Yuri cleared his throat. “How about I go fetch our princess?”

Hearing this, Patty, Karol, Raven, and even Rita lit up.

“Yeah, go do that!” Karol agreed, nodding his head.

“Wait a minute,” Patty wondered aloud, frowning. “Would ya want us to wait here for the two of you to get back or…”

Yuri shook his head. “You don’t have to,” He assured her with a grin, “I’m sure Estelle wouldn’t mind either. If anything, she’ll be happy to hear you guys having a blast rather than sulk,” As he said those words, he jerked his chin over to the archer and added, “Like someone over here,”

“Hey!” Raven cried, which earned him a few chuckles among the group.

Beaming, Karol and Patty expressed their gratitude toward the swordsman.

Rita sighed. “You better come back with her,” She grumbled lowly under her breath.

Yuri grinned, performing a two-fingered salute. He motioned his head to face the archer, setting his hand on his hip and retorted with, “And old man, be sure to be on your best behavior, okay?”

Raven bobbed his head eagerly, though the devilish smirk plastered on his face proved otherwise.

Rolling his eyes, Yuri turned to glance at the female lancer. “Are you gonna be alright supervising everyone?”

With a pleasant smile, Judith nodded. “Sincerely,” She affirmed, giving him a wink. “You go and get Estelle. Knowing Karol and Patty, we’ll probably be lurking around in the food stands for a good long while,”

Yuri nodded in agreement. “Alright,” He replied, “Be sure to keep an eye out on Rita and Raven,” He darts his thumb over to his shoulder, referring to the short mage behind him who seemed to be preoccupied with glaring at the older man beside her. “Knowing her, she won’t hesitate to start a fight in public,”

The female lancer chuckled lightly. “I’ll see what I can do,” And then raised her arm high.

Yuri grinned, mimicking the same gesture to give her a high-five.

“Come on, Repede,” He called over his partner-in-crime as he began to maneuver his way through the slightly crowded streets.

Repede barked animatedly, chasing after his owner.


 

The conference room was dull and suffocating.

For a certain princess, it felt like an eternity. After many hours of negotiating between every representative present in the round table, a resolution was officially settled, bringing the meeting to a satisfying conclusion. One by one, every individual rose from their seats and dismissed themselves, leaving a certain duo to remain in their seats.

Stretching his arms above his head, Ioder emitted a loud yawn. “That was exhausting,”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Estelle chimed in, placing one of her gloved hands over her mouth as she, too exhaled an exasperated sigh. Veering down, she groaned at the sight of the large stack of documents in front of her. “Though there seems to be no end with all of this paperwork,”

Ioder took notice of her downcast eyes and smiled. “Estellise,”

Hearing her name, the princess turned to the direction of her cousin. “Yes?”

“You should get going,” Ioder insisted, rising from his chair and collecting his hands behind his back. Fixating his attention back to her, his expression softened. “Your friends are probably waiting for you,”

Estelle smiled, though was quick to revert to a frown. “No, that’s not right. I can’t just leave you alone like this,” She voiced out her concern and once more, snuck a glance at the pile of documents that she was currently possessing in her hands. “These forums require a lot of work and…”

“I can do it on my own,” Ioder assured her with another pleasant smile, “Documentation happens to be one of the oh-so-delightful perks as emperor. Whether I like it or not, I need to get used to all of this,” When he saw his cousin squirm in her seat, he chuckled lightly. He leisurely approached her, implanting his right hand on her shoulder and said with encouraging words, “Go and have fun, Estellise,”

Estelle bit her lower lip. She turned to look at her cousin who flashed her a sympathetic grin. “You sure you’ll be alright?”

“Yes, yes,” Ioder affirmed as he managed to take a hold of the documents in the latter’s grip and seizing it with both arms. “Now run along, dear cousin,”

Estelle cracked a smile. “Thank you, Ioder,” And rewarded him with a quick peck on the cheek.

Excusing herself from the room, she rushed out of the conference room and sprinted down the long, winding staircase. As soon as she found herself in front of the main entrance, she extended her arms outward to push the large doors open. Before she could do so, the doors were already moving from the other side.

Eyes widening, the pink-haired woman retreated a few steps back as she found herself standing in front of a familiar face. “Yuri!” She cried, quite startled.

“Hey,” Yuri greeted her with a casual wave.

Estelle beamed. She lowered her gaze, smiling widely as she noticed that Repede was present as well. “Repede!” Squatting down on her knees, she held out her gloved hand for the dog to take.

The dog gave her a weird look before complying, letting his wet nose brush lightly along the surface of her gloved hand.

The princess giggled, smiling as she finally managed to win the latter’s interest on her. From the corner of her eye, she noticed the swordsman observing them with a hint of amusement in his expression.

Smiling, Estelle turned to look at him and asked in a teasing tone, “What are you here for, Yuri?”

“I came to pick you up, of course,” He answered nonchalantly, crossing his arms over his chest.

Nevertheless, Estelle giggled. “Of course,” She echoed his words, bringing her hands together in a firm grip. Tipping her head to the side, she frowned when she noticed that there was a lack of presence of their friends. She arched her eyebrow, her expression piqued with curiosity. “And the others?”

“Wandering around,” Yuri answered, crinkling his nose, “I told them that I’ll take care of everything and let them have fun with the festivities,”

“I see…” Estelle trailed off, nodding along. Pursing her lips, she looked the other way, ruminating her thoughts. “Then…what should we do?”

The dark-haired man turned to look at a nearby open window. “It’s still in the afternoon,” He pointed out, “Which means we’ve still got plenty of time before the lantern show,”

Registering his words, the princess beamed. “You’re right,” She agreed with him, taking a few steps forward. As she exited through the large doors, she paused midway to twirl around, facing her partner. With a broadened grin, she extended her hand outward and exclaimed, “Shall we?”

Yuri snuck a glance at the dog beside him who stared back at him with a knowing look.

“Woof!” Repede barked and sitting upright, ambled over to the princess’s side before plopping back on the ground.

Yuri shook his head in dismay. And yet, he couldn’t seem to get rid of the grin plastered across his face. Lifting his chin to lock eyes with seafoam eyes, he allowed the warm sensation to spawn inside his chest. “Let’s go,” And took a step forward.

Estelle beamed, twirling around and happily skipping away with the swordsman and his dog following after her.


 

As the pair exited out of the coliseum, their ears picked up the sound of clapping and ambient laughter in all directions of the area. The market place was bustling with life—with men, women, and children drifting in and out of the large crowd to get to every single food stall, free-to-play game stations, and many more. The air smelled fresh with roasted peanuts, sizzling meat, and flowers, intermingling together to enhance the experience of the festivities.

The ambiance atmosphere reminded them of Nam Comanda Isle. However, the major difference between the two was how there seemed to be no signs of any animal-human hybrids roaming around or being stationed in every street cart.

Bursting with energy, Estelle seized hold of Yuri’s wrist and advanced into the crowd with a big grin on her face.

Yuri simply allowed her to drag him around while doing his best to keep up with her energetic pace, with Repede not too far along their trails.

Pausing abruptly in her tracks, Estelle cried, “Yuri, look at this!” With her other hand, pointed a finger to a nearby food stall selling a large number of sweets. "They have a dessert section!"

Darting her attention to the opposing right, her face brightened as she caught sight of another stall, this time with children participating in a shooting game, each wielding a plastic bow and arrows. “And look at this! They have archery!”

Yuri laughed at her childish behavior. “Slow down, Estelle,” He said with a gentle tone, bringing his hand to pat her affectionately on top of her head. “I know that this is your first time here, but you’ve gotta calm down,”

Estelle turned crimson red, dipping her head and murmuring a spring of apology.

“No need to apologize,” Yuri reassured her with a grin, “The day’s still young, you know. We’ve got plenty of time to try out everything,”

Estelle dramatically gasped. “Really?” She watched as her partner shook his head in approval and smiled brilliantly.

And for the next several hours, they did exactly just that.

As promised, the princess did whatever her heart desired—partaking in a punching bag game and successfully winning a stuffed Tokunaga doll, visiting a store that sold books only to discover that the storekeeper was a huge fan of her latest book, Tales of Vesperia who insisted to get her autograph, linger around the market place and with Yuri’s assistance, managed to purchase a few snacks like cotton candy and candied apples for her and the swordsman to share.

As Estelle continued to immerse herself with the festivities, she failed to realize that a certain dark-haired man was staring fondly at her.

There were times when he’d noticed that their friends were nearby, only to brush it aside and allowed them to spend more private time together. And quite often, when he noticed that their same group of friends was not too far away, he would signal a silent wave at them.

Karol and Patty were the first to see this and were eager to run toward them, only to get stopped by Judith who murmured something to them. To Yuri’s surprise, the two youngest members of their guild nodded abidingly before looking back at his direction and giving him big smiles and thumbs up.

Yuri furrowed his eyebrows, not comprehending the meaning behind their gestures. When he turned to face the female Kriytan, he was offered an encouraging smile as well and just like that, the three headed off to the direction where Rita and Raven were.

“Yuri?”

The swordsman turned to face the worried-looking princess approaching him with her plush toy. “Is something wrong?”

Blinking, Yuri shook his head and for the umpteenth time, convinced her that everything was well. Gently taking hold of her wrist, he guided her through the sea of pedestrians. The whole time, they strolled together in silence, allowing the occasional laughter and various voices to swallow them whole.

It wasn’t long until they managed to get out of the crowded market place that they happened to stumble upon a large plaza, decorated with lavish banners depicting the main three colors—green, red, and yellow. At the center of the plaza was a statue of the late Entelexeia, Belius. A flock of admirers constantly came and gone, decorating the bottom of the pedestal with a bouquet of flowers, candles, unlit paper lanterns, and colorful posters by the children depicting their honorable Duce.

“I never knew that Belius was so loved,” Estelle spoke up, smiling sweetly as she watched a mother and child pausing in front of the statue, placed flowers on the foot of the pedestal before bowing respectfully and sauntering away.

“I don’t know,” Yuri pointed out, his eyes narrowed. “If anything, I’m betting my Gald that Natz might be the one behind this,”

Estelle turned to face her partner and frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Think about it,” Yuri began with a solemn expression, “Belius involved herself in the Great War, was a good friend to the late Don, and the previous head of the guild Palestralle and Nordopolica for decades. It’s no surprise that everyone except for Natz was horrified to find out that their leader was an Entelexeia. Only someone like Natz could guide them the way. And knowing how stubborn these people are, it must’ve taken a while for them to finally accept their mistakes—for judging their leader as a monster, rather than a being who looked out for them,”

Raking through his long dark mane, he went on, “In a way, you could say that this festival is doing good with spreading its message—to learn from our mistakes in the past and to keep walking forward,”

“Like with how our world is no longer dependent of blastia,” Estelle followed in step, closing her eyes as she began her speech, “The least we could do is to honor those who’ve sacrificed their lives protecting us and the future of Terca Lumireis. Belius must truly love this world if she was determined to make humans and Entelexeia see eye-to-eye,” She released a low sigh and softly muttered, “And with the existence of spirits, there’s bound to be conflicts in every turn,”

“You’re right,” Yuri agreed, his eyes reignited with vigor. “But we can do it. We’ll make sure that it won’t happen again,”

Estelle partially opened her mouth, surprised and touched by his declaration. Processing his words, she beamed. “Absolutely,”

Yuri turned to sneak a glance at the pink-haired woman, taking a moment to absorb her appearance. Before he could open his mouth to say her name, music erupted within the area.

Startled, the princess whirled her head at the plaza and noticed the band of musicians situated near the statue of Belius. Seconds later, a male guild member and his fellow female lover appeared and danced animatedly, their dancing movements quite spirited and well-coordinated.

Slowly and surely, more people joined in and followed the example of the first couple, clapping their hands and cheering unanimously to the beat of the violins, guitars, and piano.

Estelle smiled as she closed her eyes, unconsciously swaying from side to side. Suddenly, something lightly tugged the hem of her dress, catching her attention.

Lowering her gaze, her eyes softened when she saw a little boy in front of her, quivering in his spot as he presented a hand out toward her. “M-Miss…” He stammered, his cheeks blushing red, “Would you…like to dance with me?”

Estelle’s eyes slowly widened and peering slightly upwards, took notice of the boy’s mother who gave her a sheepish grin.

Averting her focus at the boy, she grinned. “I’ll be honored,” Turning around, she smiled as she handed her plush toy toward the swordsman. “Yuri, you don’t mind if you take care of this?”

“Sure thing,” Yuri replied, seizing the plush toy.

Estelle mouthed a soft “thank you” to him and crouching on her knees, began to loop her arm with the little boy.

She couldn’t help but giggle as the boy turned tomato red, becoming reminded of a certain young guild leader who used to frequently display a similar behavior whenever she attempted to tease him. Smiling away, she allowed the boy to lead her to the heart of the dancing circle and once they were there, reached out to take his hands with his and began to dance.

From a distance, Yuri watched as his pink-haired partner and the boy loosened their grip on each other and clapped their hands above their heads, bouncing up and down every so often as they moved rhythmically to the beat of the music.

“Thank you so much,” A feminine voice spoke up.

Unfazed by this, Yuri turned to find the mother of the boy standing beside him.

“Think nothing of it,” He replied, waving a dismissive hand. “If anything, thank her,” And averted his focus back to the scene before him his eyes concentrated on the princess as she energetically danced around and about, all the while laughing and bursting with life.

“Still, I would like to express my gratitude,” The mother commented, placing a hand on her cheek and sighing heavily. “Your girlfriend is such a wonderful person. And quite the dancer too,”

For some reason, Yuri wasn’t bothered by her words.

“Girlfriend, huh?” He mumbled lowly to himself, his eyes softening as he watched the princess and the little boy dancing around and enjoying themselves.

Once the musicians stopped playing their musical piece, every single dancer, including Estelle stopped what they were doing and applauded the musicians for their performance.  The princess proceeded to thank the boy for the dance, bending down to reward her little dancing partner with a peck on the cheek. The boy’s mother arrived shortly arrived which prompted Estelle to bow her head respectfully to the latter who in return persisted that she should be the one thanking her for dancing with her son.

Estelle smiled, bidding farewell and waving goodbye to the mother and son. Sighing, she studied her surroundings. When she caught sight of the swordsman, she giggled and began to make her way toward him. She was already a few steps forward when all of a sudden, little girl came over and asked if she could dance with her.

Estelle snuck a glance at Yuri and sheepishly grinned.

Taking notice of this, Yuri simply shook his head in dismay. “Go,” He mouthed to her, along with an encouraging nod.

The princess beamed, smiling to thank him and once again, looped her arm with the little girl and ambled back to the center of the plaza as another musical performance was beginning to commence.

All the while, Yuri took this time to settle himself on a nearby bench and placed the Tokunaga plush on top of his lap. Repede climbed on the bench, letting his head rest comfortably on the edge of the bench and emitting a loud wail.

Chuckling, Yuri scratched his dog’s head as he averted his focus at the slightly darkened sky. He then shifted his eyes on the princess who continued to surprise him with her overwhelming energy.

About an hour has passed since then and Estelle instantly became a popular dancing partner for the many folks who participated in the dance. Be it a man or woman, child or elderly, she happily accepted their offer, twirling around and at times, taking a hem of her pink and white dress and closing her eyes as she allowed herself to surrender to the musical beat. Her movements flowed with such a dazzling grace that took away the breath of every person, including Yuri, in the audience.

It was obvious how much heart she was exerting into her dancing routine, her legs extended almost like a ballerina and gliding beautifully from place to place.

And as she danced away, she would continuously fail to take notice of Yuri who couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of her.

To him, there was only her.

Everything about her—from the way how rosy her cheeks were, her short pink bob swaying about in the heat of the fray, the way her body twists and turns with such energy and grace, the way her lips would curve slightly and her seafoam eyes sparkling with the thrill of the dancing—was stunning.

For the umpteenth time, the dance was finally over. Collecting her breath, Estelle brushed her gloved hand across her dampened forehead and turned to face the middle-aged woman to thank her for a wonderful dance who rewarded her with a motherly embrace.

Estelle was ready to return to her Yuri’s side when a male voice suddenly exclaimed, “And now, for the final dance of the night!”

Bracing themselves, the band of musicians turned to look at each other and exchanging smiles, took up their instruments and began to play. Listening intently, the pink-haired woman’s eyes widened. Unlike the previous arrangement of music that was upbeat and lively, this one, in particular, was slow and steady. It wasn’t until one of the members of the band came in with a microphone in his hands that her prediction was spot-on.

No doubt about it, this was a romantic song.

Biting her lower lip, Estelle quickly moved toward the direction of her partner. She was about a few steps in when a man suddenly entered her field of vision, blocking her path to Yuri and like her previous dancing partners, asked the same question— “Would you care to dance with me, milady?”

Estelle forced a grin, growing worried as the man was leaning a bit too close to her. “Thank you, but…”

“Sorry,” A familiar baritone voice erupted, causing her to freeze in place. “She’s with me,”

Quickly, Estelle angled her head to face the newcomer, her eyes widening when she realized that it was—

“Y-Yuri!” She squeaked, blushing furiously by how close their noses were touching.

Locking eyes with the princess, Yuri grinned. “Can I have this dance?” He whispered softly in her ear, causing her to shiver.

Estelle swallowed thickly, her cheeks burning red. Regaining some of her strength, she managed to nod her head.

With a gracious smile, Yuri guided her toward the center of the dancing circle. Halting in his steps, the dark-haired man carefully situated his dominant left hand on her right hip while his corresponding right gently held onto her left hand.

Once the vocalist began to sing, the people around them started to dance.

You’re in my arms

And all the world is calm

The music playing on for only two

Yuri took the initiative as he took a step forward, only to accidentally step on the latter’s foot. He clicked his tongue as he furrowed his eyebrows, constantly shifting his eyes back and forth as he attempted to follow after a nearby couple’s dancing steps.

So close, together

And when I’m with you

So close to feeling alive

Ignoring the burning sensation adorning her cheeks, Estelle smiled and slowly brought her hand to gently graze his chin. “Yuri,” She said softly to him, gaining his attention. “Please look at me,”

And he did.

A life goes by

Romantic dreams must die

Renowned for his strict poker face, Estelle couldn’t help but giggle when she noticed that his left eye was twitching and how tense his shoulders were. Upon closer inspection, there was a trace of redness along his cheeks prior to the many eyes that were focused in on them.

So I bid my goodbye

And never knew

Hoping to ease his discomfort, Estelle said in a soft voice, “Yuri, don’t be afraid,” She assured him with a comforting gaze, “Let me take the lead, okay?”

Yuri nodded and for the next few minutes, allowed his dancing partner to take control of the dance.

So close, was waiting

Waiting here with you

And now, forever, I know

It started off slow and clumsy, and quite often he would accidentally step over her foot numerous times. And yet, Estelle was always patient with him and would show him how to do move appropriately and accordingly, making sure to match their speed and rhythm to the beat of the music.

All that I wanted

To hold you so close

After a few minutes, Yuri got used to the sequence of steps and when his ears picked up the sound of Estelle’s infectious giggling, he knew that he had to step up his game. Producing an impish smirk, the dark-haired man took the leap, surprising his partner by seizing her hand with his and spun her around.

So close to reaching

That famous happy end

Estelle laughed heartily and that alone was enough to make Yuri broaden his grin.

Almost believing

This one’s not pretend

Before he knew it, he was hoisting her into his arms and continued to twirl her, completely oblivious to the many spectators, including Repede, watching them, with their friends entering the scene with their eyes widening as they witnessed the breathtaking sight.

But none of this mattered.

And now you’re beside me

And look how far we’ve come

So far we are, so close

Estelle continued to laugh joyfully as Yuri picked up the pace and surprising her with more revolving twirls of sharp precision, advancing in movement with purposeful clarity and absolute control.

The singer heightened his vocals, triggering the other dancing couples to close the distance between them, closing their eyes and smiling to the music.

But not Yuri and Estelle.

Oh, how could I face the faceless days

If I should lose you now

For some reason, the music put both of them in a trance with Yuri’s expression softening and tightening his hold around his partner’s petite waist. Estelle closed her eyes, heaving a deep breath as she allowed the lyrics of the song to be her voice.

Reopening their eyes, Yuri and Estelle stared at each other, with one of their faces contorted in pain as they realized the uncertainty of their future.

We’re so close to reaching

That famous happy end

Right here, right now…this was their moment and their moment alone.

Ruminating through his thoughts, the swordsman concluded that no matter what, he wanted to see his princess happy.

And for the pink-haired woman in question, she already knew her answer—she wanted a future with him.

Almost believing

This one’s not pretend

Pressing their foreheads together, Yuri managed to take the lead in their dance and once again, surprised his partner with another twirl.

Let’s go on dreaming

For we know we are

Wrapping one arm firmly around her waist and the other cradling the base of her neck, he gently lowered Estelle downward, performing a lovely dive.

Estelle heaved a breath, her eyes fixated solely on Yuri’s.

So close, so close

And as he slowly pulled her forward, allowing her to stand on her feet, the princess held onto him, careful and gentle.

As the music gradually ceased to a close, the dancing couples around them began to release themselves from one another—everyone except for Yuri and Estelle who continued to remain in each other’s arms.

And still, so far

The two stared intently at one another, breathless and with sweat trickling down their chins and foreheads, their hearts pounding like drums, eyes shimmering as they both felt something strange inside of them, a foreign feeling indescribable and alien to them.

Smiling, the pair burst into a fit of laughter as they broke away.

Hoisting his arm high, Yuri watched with amusement as Estelle followed in his step by going on her tip-toes to initiate a high-five, twirling around him and smiling with glee.

“We did it!” She cried with delight, her face flushed.

Yuri laughed as his face was almost slightly red, raking through his long, dark hair. “We sure did,”

A big round of applause erupted, catching their attention. Whirling their heads, the pair widened their eyes as they found their friends approaching them.

“You guys were so awesome!” Karol exclaimed, grinning widely.

“Aye, like whales swimming in the deep sea,” Patty agreed with the latter and using her arms, began demonstrating the mammal’s movements.

Estelle beamed. “Karol, Patty!” And rushed forward to pull them into her embrace. Seconds later, she caught sight of the short mage and exclaimed her name.

Blushing furiously, Rita tried to retreat but was unfortunately tackled by her best friend, along with the other two younger members of their guilds.

“Rita, I found you!” Estelle cried with glee, all the more oblivious to the latter whose face was completely red.

“We’ve been looking everywhere for you, you know,” Rita scolded the princess as she veered her eyes away. “You had us worried sick!”

“Now, now, Rita,” Judith replied with a warning tone, “Let Estelle have her fun,” Choosing to ignore the short mage’s leer directed on her, female Krityan turned to look at the pink-haired woman and offered her an amiable smile. “How was the meeting by the way?”

“Exhausting,” Estelle sighed as she gently released her hold on her three friends and focusing her attention to the rest. “But Ioder let me go and explore the festivities,” She explained, glancing over to the swordsman and smiling. “Yuri escorted me out but then we got a bit preoccupied along the way,”

"Oh, we know," Raven replied, wiggling his eyebrows. "Seems like the two of you were getting along pretty well if I do say so myself,"

Yuri motioned his head the other way in hopes to avoid their stares.

Estelle, on the other hand, lowered her gaze to the ground, her cheeks rather flushed.

Repede, who sat idly next to his owner, rolled his eyes at the obvious attraction between the two.

“Where’s Flynn by the way?” Estelle suddenly brought up, changing the topic. “Wasn’t he relieved of his knightly duties for the festivals?”

“He’s somewhere in the market place purchasing some lanterns for us right now,” Karol explained, pointing his thumb over to the pathway that would lead them to the bustling area.

"Come on, let's go find him!" Patty suggested, taking the princess's hand and pushing forward.

Estelle smiled in agreement, allowing the younger girl to drag her along for the ride with Rita taking Karol by the collar as they, too followed after them.

“Let’s meet up at the Fiertia,” Judith called out to them, which earned her a few nods from them.

While the four wandered off to find the knight, Yuri was left alone with Judith, Raven, and Repede who seemed to be giving him knowing looks.

Sensing eyes on him, Yuri turned to look at them and frowned. “Why are you guys looking at me like that?”

Judith chuckled, “Nice dancing moves,” She commented teasingly.

Rolling his eyes, Yuri frowned. “Don’t know what you’re talking about,” And persisted on looking the other way.

Registering his words, Raven frowned. “Aww, come on! Ya don’t remember?” And then shook his head in dismay.

“You and Estelle were quite the spectacle out there,” Judith explained, “especially with that surprising dip that you did at the end,” A teasing smile graced across her facial features. “Never knew that you had it in you,”

Yuri continued to remain quiet, though Judith and Raven could both tell that from the way he was refusing to answer, it seems to imply that he secretly did enjoy his moment with the princess.

“Let’s go ahead to the Fiertia,” The female lancer began, already walking away to the direction of the dock.

Peering over her shoulder, she watched as Yuri gave her a weird look and quickly added in, “From there, we’ll get a perfect view of the lantern show,”

Yuri opened his mouth to say something, only to get beaten first by Raven who nudged him on the shoulder.

“Let’s go, lover boy,” He commented and rushed forth.

Yuri shot the older man a menacing glare before shaking his head in dismay. He snuck a glance at the dog beside him who tipped his head to the side, switching his pipe from the left to the right.

Sighing, the swordsman grinned and walked on.


 

The twilight evening transitioned into a clear purple.

Tiny specks of stars shone brilliantly in the night sky and to the people of Nordopolica and Natz's delight, the shadow of the sun and the presence of the moon merged together to form an eclipse—the promise of a new moon, bearing a resemblance of the same night when Belius had befallen.

And to commemorate her rebirth as Undine, Estelle was instructed to awaken the humanoid spirit beforehand in order to join forces with her cousin Ioder and Natz later that night, who would be the ones to lift the first lantern to initiate the start of the lantern show.

About thirty minutes later, all of the members of Brave Vesperia were present on the large ship that was parked near the docks. Each person was presented with a paper lantern—to replicate the late Entelexeia’s ability which corresponds to the fiery flames and the burning will of her home, Nordopolica.

Together, the friends gathered together, each equipped with a lantern in one hand and a small candle on the other. Like the many folks who were scattered everywhere in the city, they eagerly waited for the signal.

“I’m so excited!” Karol exclaimed, suppressing the urge to scream excitedly on the spot.

Patty laughed at her friend. “I know, right?”

Estelle smiled as she listened to her friends’ conversation. She turned her focus to the right and blinked when she noticed her best friend staring off into space.

“Rita?” She began, nudging her on the arm. “What are you thinking?”

Moving her head to face the pink-haired woman, the short mage shrugged. “This is stupid,” She mumbled as she examined the paper lantern in her hands, “Who the hell thought that doing a lantern show was such a good idea? I mean, seriously?”

“I believe Natz was the one who did,” Judith came in, approaching her two friends and inched a bit closer to the edge of the wooden railing. “So if you want, go and ask him,”

Rita groaned. “Never mind,” She sighed heavily.

From a distance, Yuri grinned as he leaned back against the wall of the small cabin. He moved his head to the side, getting a good look of Raven and Repede who were both settled down with their lanterns and gazing up at the sky with interest.

“Are you excited, Yuri?”

The dark-haired man turned to face his childhood friend with a nonchalant expression. “Right now, I’m not too sure,” He admitted, glancing at his own paper lantern. Producing a grin, he added, “But once I see it, I’ll let you know,”

Flynn rolled his eyes, followed by an exasperated sigh. “Raven told me about you did with Lady Estellise,”

Inhaling a deep breath, Yuri looked the other way. “And?”

“It is my job—as both the Commandant and her close friend to be looking out for her,” Flynn plainly stated, “And if you do anything to hurt her,” He turned to face the latter and shot him a cold glare. “I’ll never forgive you,”

Yuri blinked. “Woah, hey!” He suddenly cried, quite startled by his friend’s choice of words. “What are you talking about? Estelle and I are just friends,”

“For now, at least,” Flynn replied, “That is, if you’re willing to commit to her…but for now, consider it a warning for the future,” And just like that, replaced his deep frown with a huge grin.

Again, Yuri was at a loss for words. Even so, he nodded in response and veered his attention to the large coliseum. Narrowing his eyes, he noticed two silhouettes and a bright blue figure emerging out of a room and into the wide, open balcony.

Instantly, Patty cried, “It’s about to begin!”

Everyone held their breaths as they watched the three—easily identified to be Ioder, Undine, and Natz lit their respective lanterns and raised them high for all eyes to see.

Applause and cheering erupted throughout the city, including Brave Vesperia who were situated on the Fiertia.

Without a moment to lose, the three paper lanterns were released into the chilly air, allowing the gust of wind to guide them to a safe journey.

As everyone observed the lanterns floating upwards, they immediately started to ignite their own and within seconds, followed the example of the young emperor and the current Duce of Nordopolica.

In less than fifteen minutes, the entire night sky was covered with hundreds of paper lanterns.

As expected, Karol and Patty energetically pranced around as they counted the many lanterns above their heads.

Judith and Rita exchanged smiles and eventually joined the duo, with Raven and Flynn arriving moments later to do the same.

This left Yuri and Estelle alone by themselves on the other side of the ship with nobody else except for Repede as their sole witness.

Removing his back on the wall and approaching the princess, Yuri set his hand on his hip and asked, “So?”

Turning around, Estelle was surprised to discover his presence. Even so, she smiled. “So, what?”

“Did this meet your expectations?” Yuri drawled out, jerking his chin to the floating lanterns surrounding them.

Estelle giggled. “Definitely,” She answered, collecting her hands together into a firm grip. “It’s so magical…kind of like what you’d see in fairytales,”

Yuri let out a light-hearted chuckle. “You’re right,”

And there, they stood in silence, watching the floating lanterns with interest and at times, stopping and pointing to a few ones that held a distinctive design.

While Estelle immersed herself with the beauty of the scenery, Yuri was fixated on her.

Two years have passed since their guild, Brave Vesperia valiantly vanquished the Adephagos and saved the world, paving a future without the dependency of blastia. Despite how separated the guild members were in their respective occupations, they were closer than ever—they were, after all, each other’s strengths—a happy found family indeed.

In-between that time, Yuri was beginning to reflect upon his actions, mistakes, aspirations and more importantly, the impending future. So far, he was content with everything he had—friends that he would proudly call his family, Hanks and the community in the Lower Quarter, the various guild duties that he would continue to pursue and broaden his worldview, and with his recent move to Dahngrest, everything was going along swimmingly.

Or so he thought.

For some strange reason, the swordsman still felt like there was something missing.

And no matter how much alcoholic drinks he would often consume to make himself feel whole, it never sat well with him. It wasn’t until about four months ago that he finally found the missing piece to the puzzle.

This whole time, why didn’t he realized it sooner?

“Yuri,”

Hearing his name being called, he turned to look at the pink-haired woman standing next to him. “Yeah?”

“I’ve been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming for what it’ll be like for me to someday step out into the outside world and relive the adventures in my books,” Estelle started, sounding a bit gloomy. “And now, here I am, two years later—already having seen every inch of Terca Lumireis and all there is that it would offer. I’ve written books, became the right-hand of Ioder as well as the Vice-Emperor in his stead…I’ve visited many orphanages and would retell the children the accounts of our adventures,” She inhaled a breath in. “And now…”

“…You’re not too sure what to do,” Yuri finished for her, which gained him a nod of confirmation from the latter.

"The dreams that I've wanted to pursue have already come true," Estelle went on, "And I can't help but wonder, what else is there to do? What should I do?"

Listening intently, Yuri couldn’t help but think it over. “That’s the good part, I guess,” He spoke up in a low whisper, turning his head to face her once more with a soft expression. “You get to go find a new dream,”

Hearing this, Estelle peered upwards, her eyes slightly widening as she repeated his sentence a few times in her head. Until finally, she smiled and looked back at the beautiful scenery in front of them. “You’re right,” She replied softly and as she continued to fix her attention on the lanterns, lightly brushed the surface of Yuri’s left hand with her fingers. “And if I do find this new dream of mine, would you care to tag along?”

Once more, ebony and seafoam eyes reunited with hidden sparks embedded inside.

At that moment, it felt like the world went still—neither spoke nor moved for a good long while.

Slowly, Yuri curved his lips to form a smirk.

“Sounds good to me,” And seized her hand, squeezing it fiercely.

With bright smiles adorning their faces, the two redirected their focus on the floating lanterns in the pitch-black sky, their minds set and ready to take on a journey of their own.