Within the Capital City of Zaphias lies the large community of the Lower Quarter.
Sandwiched between two dilapidated apartments was a small house—belonging to an elderly couple by the names of Hanks and Jiri, along with their adopted sons, Yuri and Flynn.
On the second floor, located on the right side of the halls, was a medium-sized room where the two foster brothers in question slept comfortably on their bunk beds.
Some nights, the two would rotate which part of the beds they would sleep on and in this particular morning, Flynn happened to be taking the lower section, quite nestled in comfortably in his sea of blankets while Yuri, with his own partially away from his body, snored loudly with his mouth wide open as he enveloped his arms tightly around his respective pillow.
Ever so slowly, the door creaked open to reveal a large woman with curly black hair. Taking notice of her two fostered sons, her eyes softened, her lips crinkling to produce a lop-sided grin. Shaking her head in dismay, she sighed and quietly made her way over to the window.
Despite her loud footsteps along the floorboards, the two boys resumed their peaceful slumber.
Pushing away the curtains of the window, Jiri angled her body around to face her two boys and placed her hands on each side of her hips. With a smirk plastered on her face, she resorted to yelling aloud, “Rise and shine, boys!”
Seconds later, a small blonde head popped out from the covers of the blanket and peered up to take a look. Rubbing his eyes, Flynn yawned loudly. The moment he recognized the familiar figure of his foster mother, he politely dropped his chin in response.
“…Morning,” He mumbled, removing the blankets covering his form as he continued to rub his eyes tiredly.
Jiri smiled as she approached him, squatting down to meet his eye level. “Good morning, Flynn,” She greeted back, bringing her hand to rest on top of his head and ruffling it affectionately.
Seconds later, her husband, Hanks, entered the room. “Everyone awake?” He wondered, pushing his glasses to the bridge of his nose as he directed his focus on his wife and Flynn. It wasn’t long until he became aware of a certain dark-haired boy’s lack of presence and sighed. “Of course, that Yuri…”
“Go on and wake him up,” Jiri insisted as she rose up from the ground and gently seizing Flynn’s hand with her own. “Flynn and I’ll start preparing breakfast,”
Hanks groaned. Even so, he mustered a forceful grin and obliged to his wife’s request. “Alright, love,” And shortly after pecking her on the cheek and patting his other son’s right shoulder, proceeded to climb on the ladder that would enable him to meet the other sleeping boy. Reaching out his arm, Hanks gently shook the latter’s body and said softly, “Yuri, wake up now. Morning’s here…”
“Yuri, wake up…”
Cracking one eye open, Yuri lifted his chin and locked eyes with his foster father. Squinting his eyes, he frowned and answered with a firm “no,” followed by the shake of his head. Grabbing hold of his blanket, he allowed it to cover half the portion of his head as he added in a pouty voice, “Don’t wanna,”
“Yuri, come on now,” Hanks scolded him, his voice gentle yet stern. “Jiri and Flynn are waiting for us and are cooking up a storm downstairs.”
Again, he refused to reply.
Chuckling lightly to himself, Hanks leaned in to whisper softly in his ear, “If yer not gonna eat with us, I’ll have to confiscate the sword that you and Flynn bought the other day,”
As soon as that item was mentioned, Yuri’s eyes immediately opened. “No!” He suddenly cried as he jolted upright from his bed with his short dark hair tousled about. “Don’t do that! Flynn and I worked hard to save our allowance just to buy that thing!”
Hanks nodded. “Alright then,” He replied and carefully took his time climbing down the ladder. “If this sword really means a lot to you, then come down from there and join me,” As he finally landed his feet on the ground, he retreated a few steps and watched as his seven-year-old foster son repeated the same action as he previously did.
“Let’s go, Yuri,” He said, and extended his hand outward to the boy in front of him.
Becoming aware of this, Yuri accepted it and allowed himself to be escorted out of the door with his foster father leading the way, turning his head one last time to fix in on the bright, blue skies beyond the window.
Eleven years passed and in the town of Shizotania, there was a small bunker which exclusively belonged to the Imperial Knights. After another feud with his childhood friend, the eighteen-year-old dark-haired man resorted to sleeping in the stables where he later found the tiny pup, Repede, and his father, Lambert, lounging together.
Settling himself down on the prickly, patches of hay, Yuri twisted his body a few times to get into a comfortable sleeping position. Fifteen minutes passed and he finally succumbed to his sleep, only to find himself a few hours after, getting tackled by something small against his chest. Grumbling a few curses under his breath, Yuri fluttered his eyes open and was surprised to find Repede staring back at him with a listless expression.
“Woof!” Repede barked, moving closer to nuzzle his wet nose along the latter’s right cheek.
Groaning, Yuri took the puppy by the tail and brought it down on the ground. As he angled his body and attempted to revert back to his sleeping state, his ears picked up the sound of growing laughter nearby. Frowning deeply, he quickly rose from the ground and scanned his surroundings. To his annoyance, there was a group of knights standing near the doorway of the stables with amusing smiles across their faces.
“Nice bed ya got there, scum,” One of them commented, followed by another mocking cackle.
“Is this how you and your street rat friends from the Lower Quarter sleep?” Another remarked with a dramatic gasp.
“So pathetic,” The third one exclaimed, laughing his head off.
Yuri gritted his teeth. Taking a step forward, he opened his mouth to protest, only to discover that someone had beat him to it.
"What are you guys doing over there?" A familiar male voice erupted, catching their attention.
To Yuri’s relief, the appearance of his foster brother appeared in his field of vision, already donning his knightly tunic and gear. And thanks to his natural scolding, he managed to usher the group of knights to return to their morning duties. Once the two were alone in the stables, an eerie silence resurfaced.
“What the hell were you thinking, sleeping here in the stables?” Flynn exclaimed, motioning his head toward his childhood friend as he shot him a menacing glare.
“What are you talking about?” Yuri countered back, growing peeved, “Don’t you remember that first fight? Or would you like me to knock more sense into your head?”
“That’s not the point, Yuri!” Flynn raised his voice, “Whether we fought or not doesn’t apply to what’s going on here. As the only two representatives of the Lower Quarter, we need to exert proper manners in order to be accepted here or we’ll only be left in the dust.” Collecting his breath, he brought a hand to his forehead and groaned. “I don’t care about what happened last night. If you still have a grudge on me, I don’t care. Just come back to our room, dress up, and I’ll see you in the training grounds,”
When Yuri refused to reply, Flynn rolled his eyes.
With no more words left to say, he left the stables.
Frustrated with the situation, Yuri plopped himself back on the bundles of hay and groaned.
“Why’s he always gotta have the last word…” He muttered, raking through his long, dark hair. Inhaling another deep breath, he dipped his chin, his eyes slightly widening at the sight of little Repede already making himself comfortable in-between the space of his legs. Shaking his head, Yuri flashed a grin and brought his hand to stroke the fur ball’s back fondly.
“So much for a morning call…”
Since Yuri and Repede met Estelle and together, ventured off to the outskirts of Zaphias, the lazy mornings seemed to dwindle. For the first few nights, Yuri was quick to allow the pink-haired woman to occupy the single bed while he would take the couch and Repede resting by his side. After much negotiation, that was their initial plan from the start—until their party started to grow.
Gone were the days when the two shared one singular bed to conserve their limited Gald, and were able to be separated into two different rooms—with Yuri sharing the same bed as Karol and Raven by his lonesome, while Estelle often changing her sleeping buddy from Rita to Patty, then later Judith when she entered the party.
And for Yuri, who took the duty to watch over the group, would constantly make sure to wake up first thing in the morning to prepare breakfast. It wasn’t until Estelle caught on to his intentions that she eventually adopted his pattern of sleeping to assist him with the preparations.
It was simple and subtle, with Estelle seizing such an opportunity to ask the swordsman to teach her a few tricks on how to cook a great meal. Yuri found himself with quite the responsibility—and preparing breakfast, often times with Estelle, gave him some sort of purpose and some form of delight to wake up and begin his day.
It went on for the next few months and for the first time, he felt somewhat at peace.
That is until one certain incident occurred.
And since then, his mornings were never the same again.
It happened at the time when Estelle was abducted by Alexei, and it was only then when her absence started to weigh in on their whole team that everything began to slowly crumble. Rita would frequently get into absurd fits and anger for not being able to save the first person she befriended, and Karol sulking in the background for not being strong enough. For Judith, who was known for wandering off during their breaks, would seem to find herself deep in her thoughts that she would often forget her way back to their camp, for Raven it was his guilt that was riding on him for being the one to capture the poor princess who was ever kind to him, and for Patty, couldn’t seem to stomach that she had lost one of her friends.
Then, there was Yuri.
Of all the members in their group, it was him who was overwhelmed with emotions—anger, sorrow, remorse, distress, and overall, numbed to the core. He couldn’t shake off the words that she said to him, of how she begged to be killed by his hands—permanently engraved in the back of his mind that alone, scared him to the bone. There were many nights when he had nightmares of himself dueling against Estelle with most of the time, actually succeeded in murdering her.
She was innocent and pure, untouchable and so bright.
He was guilty of many crimes, tainted with blood, already swallowed up in the darkness.
But she was there during his worst times, secretly eavesdropping during one of his conversations with Flynn and it was then that a moment of trust initiated between the two of them.
Estelle was there, always accepting of him and supporting him when there were times when he despised everything about himself and the many lives that he murdered with his sword. Even when he persisted her to go and suggested that for her best protection, she should go back to Flynn…in the end, she refused and wanted to remain by his side.
And that was enough to make Yuri realize how strong she was as a person—and how compassionate, selfless, and warm she truly was.
As much as he wanted to see her, tease her, compliment her on a job well done—she wasn’t here anymore.
The small moments they’ve shared, including their daily routine to wake up and prepare breakfast for their found family, became sentimental and important to him. Yuri couldn’t bear to sleep, refusing to surrender and sleep as he would only be awoken with another nightmare of him dealing the final blow to a certain princess. As a result, he developed heavy bags under his eyes, his voice strained, and the many faint scars and scratches he’d gotten from various battles that weren’t able to properly heal due to her lack of absence.
As he sat alone on one of the logs, taking up the duty to guard their small group in case of monsters were to attack, he would find himself unconsciously gazing to the vast array of stars twinkling in the night sky—his eyes landing on the brightest star and become reminded of the story that Estelle had shared together with him during their first night at Nordopolica.
The empty void inside him was growing, and with it spawned a wave of unbearable and indescribable pain.
Shaping his hands into fists, Yuri focused on the star once more.
And on that particular night, he'd finally mustered up the courage to say the words that he wanted to say. "Estelle, hang in there…" He mumbled, gripping the hold of his sword. "We’ll save you,”
Once Yuri and his friends managed to miraculously save Estelle, a series of events followed after—the rise of the Shrine of Zaude, the fall of Alexei, and along with that came the sudden disappearance of a certain swordsman.
For weeks, his friends—including his childhood friend, Flynn, joined in on the search and with his recently appointed title as Commandant, ordered for many Imperial vessels to search the oceans around Zaude.
While Rita and Judith continued with their aimless search for more answers to find their friend at the same place, Karol and Raven left to Dahngrest to resolve the poor organization and communication among the guilds. Patty was no exception to this rule and together with Ba’ul, flew to the skies to often join Flynn on his searches while escorting her two other friends back and forth from Zaude to Aspio.
This left Estelle and Repede to remain at Zaphias, notably the Lower Quarter. Taking the role to heal the wounded, the princess assisted the community with the refurbishments of their houses and taking care of the children. It was then that one night, she reunited with Yuri, who suddenly showed up in the middle of nowhere. Shortly after their brief moment, it was decided that it was best to finally get some rest.
Once again, the two found themselves trying to resolve a dilemma that they’ve encountered during the first start of their journey. All the while, Repede observed them from a distance, rolling his eyes as they couldn’t seem to figure out a proper answer.
“Take the bed, Estelle,” Yuri urged her as he began to make his way over to a nearby stool.
To his dismay, the princess shook her head. “No, that wouldn’t be fair!” She protested, puffing her cheeks. “You’re still weak from the fall,” Gesturing her gloved hand to the empty bed behind her, she added, “You should be the one who deserves this the most.”
Registering her words, Yuri raised an eyebrow. “And where will you go and sleep?”
“I’ll find somewhere,” Estelle assured him with a sweet smile. “Please, Yuri, just take the bed,”
A few minutes passed and finally, he sighed. “Fine, if you insist,” And stood up from the stool to saunter over to the bed. As he strolled past her, Estelle failed to realize that he had sneakily seized hold of her right wrist and once he sat down on the edge of the mattress, was surprised to find herself leaning forward and becoming embraced by the comforts of the bed.
“Yuri!” She cried, shooting a glare at his general direction.
Sensing this, Yuri laughed and reached out to place a hand on top of her head. “Look, my bed could fit two people,” He explained and as he caught her opening her mouth to protest, quickly added in, “There’s no use arguing if we’re going to fight over the same issue,”
This time, Estelle closed her mouth and meekly nodded. “So then…” Her eyes wandered to the bed, then snuck a glance at her partner who stared back at her with a lingering expression. Ignoring the burning sensation of her cheeks, Estelle began with, “I guess we have no choice, huh?”
Yuri nodded along. “So, it seems.”
Hearing his words, Estelle couldn’t help but smile a little. “Well, it wouldn’t hurt to try,” And climbed onto the bed, crawled to the side where it was close to the wall and settled herself in. Yuri did the same, though made sure that there was enough space between them, which marked as a boundary line.
Without another word, Yuri grabbed hold of the sheet of the blanket and covered their bodies.
Estelle sighed as she nuzzled her right cheek along the side of the pillow that they were currently sharing. “It’s nice…” She mumbled, smiling with half-lidded eyes.
“Even better than your own bed in the castle?” Yuri teased her.
The princess giggled. “Yes, actually,” She confirmed to him. “My own bed has multiple mattresses underneath so it tends to get a bit uncomfortable at times. But this one…" She inhaled another deep breath and sighed. "It's perfect…”
Yuri mustered a grin. “You’re welcome to always come back and sleep here, you know,”
“That’s a good idea,” Estelle agreed, closing her eyes as she drifted off to sleep. “And maybe…we could even…trade beds….”
The dark-haired man watched as the latter slept, his eyes softening as he found her sleeping face quite soothing. Feeling his eyes grow heavy, Yuri surrendered to his sleep, though not before muttering, “Good night, Estelle…” And unconsciously pressed their foreheads together.
Through their efforts and courageous feats, the calamity—Adephagos, was defeated and in exchange for saving the millions of lives on Terca Lumireis, began the new dawn of a world without blastia.
And with that change came the embrace of new innovations such as the production of electricity and heat through the usage of natural resources, and the long-awaited friendship treaty between the Imperial Knights and the guilds.
Everything was at peace and how it should be.
About a few months since the end of the calamity, morning arrived—blessing the Lower Quarter and its inhabitants with blue skies and white clouds.
Inside the small bedroom that Yuri personally owned, the window was partly opened. And there, lying against the railing, was none other than the swordsman idly sitting on the porch, his eyes closed and mouth half-opened as he slept soundly.
Unknownst to him, the door slowly opened to reveal a pink-haired woman. Smiling to herself, she slowly approached her companion and once she was at close proximity, folded her arms over her chest and exhaled an exasperated breath. “Oh, Yuri…” She muttered softly with a gentle expression. “What am I going to do with you?”
And then a thought erupted, causing her to widen her smile.
Giggling away, she resorted to bringing her gloved hand toward his face and pitching his nose. When she didn’t receive a response, she pouted. “Yuri!” She cried, and to her horror, found herself getting pulled in. Surprised by this, she yelped, quickly gripping the hem of the latter’s half-opened tunic in fear that she might fall over the window.
Nothing came and as she opened her eyes, she moved her head and made contact with mischievous ebony eyes.
“Gotcha,” Yuri replied, giving her a wink.
Estelle blushed furiously, becoming aware that the tips of their noses were close enough to touch. Swallowing her saliva thickly, she released a forceful laugh and went on to playfully hit him on the shoulder. “You’re mean!”
Even so, Yuri retained his impish smirk.
Seconds after, he laughed boisterously, completely oblivious to Repede’s knowing look.
All the regrets and the darkness, the negative image that he viewed himself dissipated—in the event of the world without blastia, Yuri embraces his new way of life.
“Hmm, hmmm, hmm~”
Listening to the sound of soft humming, Yuri gradually woke from his sleep. Stretching his arms above his head, he rose from his bed and yawned loudly. Bringing his left hand across exposed chest, he blinked his eyes a few times as he tried to process his surroundings.
The smell of after-sex whiffed through his nostrils, and it wasn’t long until he took notice of the pile of clothes lingering across the floorboards that he began to recall the previous night that he and his partner shared together. Though the experience had long passed, the memory of it resurfaced.
Lips smashing, tongues dancing, hands enclosed together, bodies fitting together like pieces of a puzzle. Her natural flowery scent and his own meshing together to accumulate the distorted smell of sweat and bodily fluids. In the beginning, they were driven with desire, the atmosphere hot and moist, and because it was their first time, the experience was clumsy at first. From pain came a sense of pleasure and from there, everything naturally corresponded.
A few more times in different positions, more kisses shared, words of encouragement and support and love, with their passion heightened and the need to feel each other and become one…
Breathing in, Yuri smiled at such a thought and glanced over to the empty space on his right side where his partner originally laid next to him.
Soft pitter-pattering caught his ears, causing him to move his head to the direction of the window.
There, he saw her—short pink hair quite tousled, her fingers resting along the curtains that she recently pushed away to welcome the sight of rain behind the window frame.
Despite the gloominess that the weather was offering, Yuri seemed fixated on his partner who wore his signature black tunic, which stretched slightly down to cover her bottom, and yet, it was her natural angelic aura that permitted such a breath-taking view.
Hearing her name, the pink-haired woman peered over her shoulder, her bright seafoam eyes twinkling as she met with calm and composed ebony.
“Oh, you’re awake,” Estelle spoke up, and as she angled her body and approached him, Yuri was greeted with the sight of her naked glory (she didn’t seem to bother to get his sash to enclose it), and a few hickeys along the fair skin of her neck and thighs. “Sorry, did my humming bother you?”
Yuri shook his head. Planting one foot on the floor, Yuri grinned as he snaked his arms around her exposed waist and buried his face against the valley of her breasts. He smirked as he listened to her steady breathing with the thumping of her heart nearly lulling him back to sleep.
Releasing his hold on her, Yuri peered upwards.
Estelle mirrored his gentle smile, and lightly brushed the outline of his jaw and with her other hand, cupped his left cheek to which he slightly leaned in to feel her warmth. Leaning closer, she placed her chin on top of his head and said softly, “Good morning,”
Yuri snickered and once again, brought his arms around her form and held her close. “Morning,” He mumbled and snuck a quick peck on her reddened right ear. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m good,” Estelle assured him, “What about you?”
“Same,” He replied back, “Though I’m surprised how fast that turned out,”
Estelle giggled, removing her arms from his head as she rested on his lap. Pressing their temples together, she closed her eyes and said, “Well, it was our first time,” She expressed, “The books I’ve read always seemed to glorify it and I’ve always wondered how true the descriptions were in real life…”
Curious, Yuri tilted his head to the side. “And what’s your conclusion?”
“It hurts…and there’s blood,” She confessed as she laid her head against his exposed chest. Fumbling with her words, she raised her chin and softened her eyes as she added, “But all of that went away when I realized that…I did it with you,”
Yuri chuckled. “Good to hear,” He agreed, taking hold of her hand with his and holding it tightly. Using his other hand which cradled her head, he leaned in to capture her lips in another loving kiss. “I’m glad that you’re the first thing I see every morning,”
“Me too,” Estelle went on, smiling away. “Happy twenty-third birthday, Yuri. Here’s to the many roads ahead of us,”
Yuri nodded, grinning widely. “To the many roads ahead,”
Cradling her form, he resorted to playfully tossing her back to the bed before leaning forward to nuzzle his face along the crook of her exposed neck, surrendering himself to her loving embrace.
To the million mornings that he’d been through, from his childhood to the eve of his adulthood, this one was, by far, his personal favorite.