“Remind me again, why exactly are we in the library?”
“We’re looking for information on other festivities since Christmas was so successful!”
“Yes, quite. What I don’t understand is why you dragged me along for such a mundane task when I had duties to perform.”
Fen stood cross armed as he glared at Rayas. The brown-haired male froze in place, an awkward noise escaping his throat.
“Uhh… because… you’re… because of-”
“Because your planning for Christmas made it perfect Fen!” Iris jumped in, “We wanted your help with the next one!” Rayas offered a silent thanks to Iris for saving him once more as he sighed in relief.
“I only accepted to shut you all up. My ears were positively ringing from the drawled begging.” Fen said with a softer, albeit still stern expression. Of all the ridiculous things Rayas had done, dragging him to the library to research festivals was high on that list.
It was topped by screwing up a chance to man up by dragging him along.
“But you gave it your all!”
The tactician looked away, seemingly giving his attention to the shelf behind him-the empty one. He began moving to the aisle ahead with a grumble.
“Even so, who’s to say I’d like to do it again? If anything, I’d rather stay home with a book, say, on the abandoned plans of La Riiz. Just because the war is over, it doesn’t mean we can take the peace for granted.”
“Aww c’mon Fen! Everyone’s taking it easy! You’re the only one not giving yourself a break.”
“That’s what you believe you naive fool.” he muttered to himself as he grabbed the closest book he could, only to snarl in frustration upon realising he was near the children’s category.
“Rayas is right Fen. You deserve a break just like everyone else.” Iris commented as she glimpsed through the pages of a rather thick book. “Oh! What about this one? A tradition where people celebrate the coming of a new year with a feast and reading their ‘New Year’s Resolutions’?”
“It sounds like a chore.”
“Jeez, your resolution should be to go on vacation and buy a source of happiness.” Rayas joked, only to see Fen draw Efkeria, the man's expression twisted. With an audible gulp he swiftly turned his attention to the book Iris held.
“At least it will be easier to plan than Christmas. We just need to tell everyone to write their resolutions, and Sophie can cook us the feast!” the adventurer stuttered.
“I suppose it would be a less significant waste of my time.” Fen said with a grunt. “Very well, I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thanks Fen! We knew we could count on you!” Iris beamed, fingers touching together as she bounced in glee.
“Yea. Thanks Fen…” Rayas said weakly, memories of his fight with Fen and the man’s sadistic smile replaying in his mind.
“He… really outdid himself, huh?”
Iris and Rayas stood bewildered at the sight. The Sky Garden of La Riiz which Melia personally tended to after the war had been transformed into a space for the New Year’s celebration. The floating stones from Ga Vaar provided the lighting, enhancing the magical feeling of the night time scenery. The fountain was transformed into a well of good wishes. Many children and adults were throwing gren into it, clapping their hands together in silent, or loud in the young’s case, prayers.
Amidst all of it was a massive wooden table that appeared to be carved out of a single trunk. The top was filled with dishes ranging from simple salads to entire steaks of rare dragon meat. People were chatting up a storm as they placed the food they wanted on their own plates, creating a lively yet relaxed atmosphere.
“He sure did.” Rayas and Iris turned to see Melia behind them, clad in a simple yet beautiful violet Kimono. “He couldn’t stop himself, kept on wanting to make sure everything was proper. In the end, he made himself quality control of everything. I guess some things never change, that untrusting Fen.”
“Melia! It’s been a while.” Iris greeted, waving a hand at the sorceress.
“Yes, it has. How have you two been?”
“We’re great! I would ask you the same but… you look,” he tore his eyes back up to meet hers, “uh, very well. And so does your garden!”
Melia brought a hand to her mouth to stifle a giggle. “Yes, well. When the war ended, it left all of us with much free time. The Sky Garden has become my most successful project yet.” she looked all around, pride in her eyes. “Ah, second of course to little Miranda.”
“Oh yea! How is she?” Rayas asked.
Melia stares off into the distance in response. Rayas followed her gaze to the blonde girl following Fen around. She occasionally pointed at the people decorating and said something incoherent, causing the man to chuckle and ruffle her already messy hair.
“Already defeated the master tactician at such a young age… yes, I think our daughter’s doing amazing.”
The three of them shared a small laugh, reminiscing on old times.
“I… never thought I’d see the day I have a family again Rayas. I didn’t properly thank you for that did I?” Melia shook her head with a gentle smile. “Thank you.”
“Ah…” Rayas rubbed the back of his neck, cheeks heating up. “It was nothing. I had a lot of friends backing me up.”
“Yes, of course. Well, with that my first new year’s resolution is complete.”
“Oh? You have more?” Iris asked with wide eyes.
“Mhm! Next on the list is to win the bet I made at any cost.” Melia said with a wide smile, earning herself the questioning gaze of the two standing before her. “Ah, I just remembered I have something to do. Have fun you two, but not too much!~”
The sorceress opened a portal, disappearing through it with a wave.
“You can have too much fun?”
“Uh… I think she meant for us to be careful while we have fun, Iris.” Rayas coughed into his hand. “Anyway, let’s go! We’ve got a new year to celebrate!”
“My new year’s resolution is to stop being an arrogant- hey, this wasn’t what I wrote!”
The group erupted into fits of laughter at Roy’s expense. The silver-haired man glared at the culprit behind the change to his plans sitting across him, to which Mira only winked smugly at. He tried to maintain a look of anger, but between the atmosphere and his fiancé childishly sticking her tongue out at him, he eventually broke down and joined in the chortling.
“Ok, what I actually wrote was that I would stop being such a workaholic and spend more time with my friends. I had an emotional speech prepared and everything.”
“He’s lying about the last part.” Mira guffawed, the laughter of everyone else picking up again.
“Yes yes, whatever. Moving on. How about you Iris?”
All in the circle shushed themselves up to allow Iris a chance to speak. The brunette took a deep breath, eyebrows furrowed in focus.
“My new year’s resolution is to make everyone happier than last year.” she said softly.
When all she got back was a collective silence, she opened her eyes to see a mix of shocked faces, tiny smiles, and Mira trying to hold back her tears.
“Guys? Did I say something wrong?”
“Not at all my dear.” Rem patted her shoulder. “We’re simply touched, that’s all.”
“Yea. It’s not everyday you hear something like that.” Sophie added.
“Oh... So is it a good resolution?”
She received a resounding yes.
“Well then, that’s everyone except you, Rayas.” Roy nudged Rayas with his elbow.
“Wha- what about Fen?”
“My husband is still occupied, Rayas.” Melia answered. “Now then, you’ve been on edge this whole time. Care to share?”
“Uh… well, I…” Rayas scratched his cheek as he tried to find the right words. “My new year’s resolution is to- it’s to… confess. To I-Iris.”
Once again there is a collective silence. Only this time, it was immediately followed by both cheering and groaning as people in the group started handing out gren.
“I really thought you’d have more class than to make this your moment, Rayas.” Mira lamented as she passed Roy some coins.
“I did try to tell you you were on the wrong side.” Roy said as he pocketed his winnings. “I’ve known him since we were children Mira, he’s never had class.”
“Wha-did you bet on when I’d confess? Oh my god, you’re all horrible!” Rayas cried indignantly, face hot with embarrassment.
‘Well whaddya know, the boy has some smarts after all! I would’ve had to kick you off if you didn’t grow any in the years you’ve been an adventurer Rayas.” Ganan said with a guffaw as he gulped down another cup of alcohol.
“I… I think it’s quite cute.”
He could feel his jaw unhinge as he looked at Iris, the girl blushing as she tried to maintain eye contact.
“Too bad Fen isn’t here to bear witness. He was the most insistent that Rayas lacked the guts to admit it before the end of the year.” Roy chuckled. “Wouldn’t be the first time you proved him wrong, eh?”
By now, both Iris and Rayas looked as red as Ganan and Gilliam, who both had bottles of the strongest alcohol Sophie allowed them. It was at this point Melia showed them some mercy by excusing herself. This took the attention off the two for a while as everyone stood to bid her goodbye.
“So uhm… not exactly how I thought it would go,” Rayas mumbled, “but what do you say?”
“If it makes you happier, it’s a step to completing my new year’s resolution.” Iris beamed.
Miranda had been asleep for 30 minutes by now. If his calculations were correct, and they always are, Melia would be returning at any moment, tired from all the fun. With a shake of his head, Fen placed the book back on the table, ready for the news.
Sure enough, he heard a portal open behind him. Melia’s heels clicked against the wooden floor of their home and stopped behind him. He felt her warm embrace, and he chuckled.
“If you think this will get you out of paying what’s due, then you are sorely mistaken.”
“On the contrary, I believe you owe me .” Melia’s tone was cheerful, and Fen almost gave himself whiplash when he turned to face her smug grin.
“He did not.”
“Oh but my dear, he so did.”
With a dreary sigh, Fen pinched the bridge of his nose. “I didn’t even prepare the payment, I was so sure of it.”
He felt Melia’s slender and gentle fingers remove his monocle, breathing on his ear.
“Well, I accept other forms of payment too.”
“Seriously? Aren’t you the least bit exhausted?”
“I quite am. And I know how good you are at giving massages, dear.”
“Ah.” He blinked. Once. Twice. “Very well. Get on the chair.”
Melia obliged, taking his place on the plush seat. With a crack of his knuckles, he began to work, just as the clock struck midnight.
“A perfect start to the new year, wouldn’t you agree?” he asked as he moved himself closer.
“A massage from you is quite a rare gift indeed.” she adjusted herself so that his head could rest on hers.
“Hmph. Don’t get too smug, Melia.”
“Oh the irony.”
The two of them laughed before settling in the comfortable silence they had grown to love. It’s times like these where it felt like a war never happened barely a decade prior. Where it felt like they’ve never had to constantly be on guard around the other. Like they could always trust the other with their lives.
Events of the past made the present that much more precious and worth protecting. The thought of being unprepared, unable to do so scared him. So he stayed wary while others rested. But at times like these, Fen relaxes himself. There’s no need to be wary, for Melia is there with him.
“Say, you never did share your new year’s resolution.”
"What was yours?” Fen bargained.
“Another child... A biological one this time.”
“Oh? You feel ready for that?”
“Don’t change the subject my dear husband. Your resolution?’
“Fine.” he closed his eyes with a small smile. “It was to stop underestimating the imbecilic Rayas.”
“And to finally have full faith in the peace we’ve worked for.”