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FANFICTION Life's Value {Jack x Zinnia}

Discussion in 'STORY ARCHIVES' started by Klutzy Ninja Kitty, Sep 4, 2016.

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  1. Part 0: "Someday"

    A simple conversation is how this story begins. A calm before the storm if you would be so inclined to call it that. Little did the two involved, however, realize that an average day would later turn into a nightmare. It started off as a rather normal day, so really how could they have known? They awoke as normal, ate breakfast as normal, and left their campsite in order to travel to a new location just as they always did. Along the way, the talked with one another.

    "You know, Aster misses her mother," Zinnia suddenly said, staring down at the little whismur in her arms. Seeming to agree with the lorekeeper, Aster nodded.

    "Mum," the pokémon said softly.

    Jack glanced toward the creature curiously. "Why would you say that? She has you, and she has me."

    "I'm taking about her real mother. Not me. She misses the mother who gave birth to her."

    "I see," Jack remarked. "And where might this mother of her be exactly?"

    Zinnia let out a sigh. "Her mother is dead. She was killed by one of the dragons from my village. I found her... near Aster's grave. And oddly enough, her voice sounded like Aster, my Aster. So I named her Aster, and treated her as if she were Aster." Zinnia let out a bitter chuckle. "I almost hoped she was Aster reincarnated, silly right?"

    Jack shook his head. "Not silly at all. You were there for her and she you. I completely understand and just as you lost her mother, you lost your daughter. The two of you understand each other."

    "Murr!" Aster chirped, seeming to agree with Jack. She then hopped out of Zinnia's arms and rushed up to a nearby tree containing apples, jumping up and down to try and get one. Zinnia walked over to Aster and picked an apple for the pokémon, tossing it down to her. She then picked one more apple and tossed it to Jack. He caught the apple and began to bite into it while listening to his companion reply.

    "Yeah, that's true. I still kinda miss having a child though." Zinnia smirked and teasingly elbowed Jack on the side. "Heeey maybe you can help me out with that?"

    In response, Jack gasped, sucking in a chunk of the apple he had bit into. He grabbed his throat with both hands and coughed vigorously afterwards. “Oh no, Jack!” Zinnia exclaimed, quickly slapping the samurai several times on the back until he finally spat the fruit out. While Jack took in several large breaths to recover, Zinnia frowned. “Gee, I didn’t think the idea of having a child with me would’ve been so distressing to you that it would cause you to choke. How hurtful it is to see you so appalled by the idea!”

    Once he had the ability to speak again, Jack shook his head in protest. “Th-That’s not true at all. Your words simply caught me off guard is all. I didn’t expect for you to mention such a thing so…soon.”

    Zinnia quieted thoughtfully for a moment before she spoke again. “Yeaaaah, maybe I got a little ahead of myself by saying something like that,” she said with a laugh. “Don’t worry, it’s not like I meant now. But maybe someday?” she questioned, with a hopeful twinkle in her eye that made it difficult for Jack to brush off.

    “Maybe someday,” he replied, keeping his gaze averted. “Now that I’m done choking, shall we continuing on?” he suggested, moving back onto the path they had been walking along. Zinnia nodded and began to follow, glancing behind her to see little Aster happily waddling after them with a big, red apple in her grasp.

    Somewhere, in the dust behind them, a black snake slithered unnoticed.​
  2. Part 1: "The First Evening"

    The events to transpire all started that very evening with a simple cough, or so it seemed. It was a small, quiet cough. In fact, it was so meager that Zinnia didn’t even hear the first one that escaped from the lips of her traveling companion. Jack had been so discreet hiding it in his sleeve that even if she would’ve been paying attention the draconid likely wouldn’t have noticed it had come from the samurai. So, at the time, she had know way of knowing just how serious it would become.

    “I fear I’m a bit more tired than normal. Shall we set up camp early for the night?” Jack said on that very same afternoon, surprising Zinnia. Usually, she was the one who wanted to stop early. She didn’t like for Aster to stay up too late when the whismur didn’t have to, so her mother was always the first to suggest they rest. Yet, for some reason Jack was the one who wanted to rest early today. Why was that, Zinnia wondered? Had he become used to her habit of wanting to stop early? Or maybe he was just a bit more tired today as he said? No, he couldn’t have been all that tired. It had been a rather uneventful day. If anything, he should have a bit more energy than normal.

    Nevertheless, it was getting close to the time Zinnia liked to stop so she obliged. “Oh, sure thing, Jackie. Why don’t you set up a spot and I’ll go with Aster to collect some firewood. My little girl is doing a great job improving her survival skills lately, aren’t you my little cutie?” The lorekeeper said to her pokémon, a doting grin on her lips.

    Aster let out a few happy cries and hugged her mother’s leg, causing the smile on the woman’s lips only to grow. “Anyhow, is that okay with you Jack? Jaaaaack? Helloooo?”

    Jack flinched, glancing back to Zinnia. He had been staring off into the distance, appearing rather dazed. Why exactly, Zinnia wasn’t sure. He liked to stare off on occasion, but even when he did Jack usually seemed to be listening—unless she was trying to play a joke on him. “Yes, that sounds fine with me.”

    “Okay then. I’ll be back in a little bit,” she said, bumping her head against his arm for a moment, so she could rub on him in her usual cat-like, affectionate way. But, oddly enough, he acted as if he hadn’t even noticed her. Usually he would pat her head, chuckle, or have some kind of reaction to her affection. She whined when she got no attention back, but went ahead and left him so that she could gather the firewood before it grew too dark outside.​
    #3 Klutzy Ninja Kitty, Sep 4, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2016
  3. Part 2: "Campfire"

    A short while passed, and after Zinnia had gathered about half of the firewood she needed the lorekeeper felt a throbbing pain on the bottom of her left foot. She dropped her stack of wood and winced, lifting her appendage up to get a better look at it. She felt as if maybe her foot had been cut or even bit by something, but when had it happened? She wasn’t exactly sure. In fact, now that she thought about it, her foot had actually been throbbing like that all day yet she hadn’t noticed it until that moment. Oddly enough, she didn’t see anything when she looked at it either. Maybe because it was too dark outside?

    Shaken from her train of thought, Zinnia could hear little Aster hopping up and down behind her, crying out in worry. Zinnia smiled back at the pokémon. “Aw, don’t worry my precious, Mommy is fine. Let’s just go back to camp! We don’t exactly have enough firewood, but I’m sure we’ll be okay.” Besides, if she started a fire and it ran out early due to lack of wood, Zinnia had a hunky samurai she could huddle with to keep her warm. Hehehe.

    So Zinnia gathered what bit of firewood she had collected and went back toward the camp. When she arrived, however, Zinnia found herself surprised. Jack was already rolled up into his sleeping bag, sound asleep. Never had he once gone to sleep without making sure she had gotten back safely no matter how tired he was! The young woman was sorely tempted to tackle him and jump up and down on his sleeping form like a child trying to catch the attention her parent, but found her resolve broken when she saw how soundly he was sleeping.

    The draconid wandered over to her companion and sat on her knees close to him, placing a hand on top of his head so she could gently stroke his dark hair. “Huh, I guess you weren’t kidding when you said you were tired.” Her fingers lingered off his hair for a moment, tracing along the side of his face.

    You work so hard all the time to save everyone, so it’d make sense that you’d be exhausted. And, on top of that, you’re always taking care of me too. Well, that’s okay. You just sleep for now and I’ll watch over you… just like you’re always watching over me…

    Resisting the strong urge to draw something on Jack’s face, Zinnia went ahead and set up the campfire, ate a few berries she had picked together with Aster, and checked the throbbing area on her foot. Baffled that she found nothing on her foot, Zinnia went to sleep afterwards in her own sleeping bag. Just as she had suspected, the amount of firewood she had gathered wasn’t exactly enough to last all night, and at some point their fire flickered out. Although, by that time Zinnia was sound asleep. She shivered from the chill of the night air, but it wasn’t enough to wake her.​
  4. Part 3: "Fever"

    Slumbering beyond sunrise, Zinnia didn’t wake until she felt Aster’s cries nearly shatter her eardrums. Out of many pokémon, whismurs had one of the most piercing cries imaginable so of course it would’ve been impossible for Zinnia to ignore it. The lorekeeper let out a yelp and sat up, rubbing her ears. “Aster!” Zinnia scolded, shooting her daughter a glare. “How many times do I have to tell you not to wake me like that? You’ll hurt my—“

    Aster let out another loud cry, causing Zinnia to quickly cover her ears once again. The little whismur then leaped onto Zinnia’s lap and tugged at the dragon trainer’s arm. Zinnia only frowned in response. “Ack, what’s got you so worked up this morning? Sheesh, go bother Jack or somethin—“

    “Murr murr!” Aster exclaimed, gesturing toward Jack’s sleeping bag before darting in that direction. Zinnia’s red eyes followed after the pokémon, widening in surprise at the sight she saw. There was Jack still in his sleeping bag. This was probably the strangest sight yet! Jack never slept past sunrise. In fact, he was always up before sunrise either gathering food, bathing, or practicing with his sword. He was always awake long before Zinnia, in fact, and almost always doing something productive. What in the world was going on?

    “Oh, don’t worry, Aster. I’ll get him up. Hey Jack…”

    Zinnia climbed out of her sleeping bag and wandered over to the man, gently nudging him with her foot. “Heeeey, get up! You’re freaking Aster out by staying in your sleeping bag for so long. It’s not normal.”

    When no response came from him, Zinnia nudged him even a bit harder. “Okay, knock it off. I’m supposed to be the lazy one around here, not you Mr. Hero!”

    This time, a groan came from the samurai, but he didn’t move much other than the fact his body now seemed to be shaking. A pang of worry suddenly struck Zinnia’s chest. She was smart enough to know that this behavior from him wasn’t normal at all. Something wasn’t right.

    Zinnia knelt down next to Jack and turned his chin toward her with one hand while using her other hand to feel of his forehead. Her heart sank into the pit of her stomach.

    “Oh my Arceus, you’re burning up, Jack!” Zinnia exclaimed, her jaw dropping. It was no wonder Aster had been so worked up! She must’ve known something was wrong with Jack.​
  5. Part 4: "Strength"

    Finally, a bit of response came from Jack. He opened a pair of bloodshot eyes and looked up at Zinnia, reaching to take her hand off his forehead. He coughed a couple times with a closed mouth before speaking in a raspy voice. “I’ll be fine. I just got a little too cold last night is all,” he told Zinnia, causing a frown to form on the young woman’s face.

    Zinnia glanced over at the spot where she had started her campfire last night and sighed. It had gone out. It’s no wonder he had caught cold! “You can… blame me for this one. I didn’t gather enough firewood last night to keep the fire going all night. You probably got chilled and that’s why you have a fever right now.”

    Shoulder’s slumping, the lorekeeper instantly felt miserable. She wanted to protect this precious person, and yet she had been the cause of his illness in the first place. He always did a marvelous job when it came to protecting Zinnia, but apparently she couldn’t handle doing the same. Would she let him down the same way she had let down Aster? The thought brought visible distress upon her face.

    Very attuned to the feelings of his love, Jack gave her hand a gentle squeeze before letting it go. He then used his own hand to gently caress the side of her face. It was a touch he knew brought her comfort, yet in this moment Zinnia couldn’t help but be more aware of the heat of his fever through his touch rather than the comfort she felt from his gentle palm. “The blame for this is not yours to bear, Zinnia,” he whispered. “Illness is a natural part of life. It will come and go just as the seasons change. So long as I rest for a while I’m certain I’ll be back on my feet in no time.”

    Zinnia looked at Jack worriedly, her red eyes glassed over with tears. “That’s exactly what Aster used to say,” she told him, a fearful quiver in her voice.

    Jack wiped one of his fingers under her eyelids and sighed. “Don’t lose faith in my strength so easily. I’ve made it through two Murder Games by your side so I can tell you with certainty that one meager cold won’t be enough to bring me down. And, right now, the best medicine for me would be if you continue smiling and staying strong. Your strength fills my own heart and helps to keep me going every day,” he told her, brushing Zinnia’s face with the back of his hand to move a lock of hair out of her eyes.

    “J-Jack,” the female mumbled before impulsively tackling Jack with a hug. “Oh Jack, I know you’re strong! I’d never underestimate your strength!”

    A small groan escaped Jack’s lips. “Ack, Zinnia, I’m sore—“

    The lorekeeper jumped back, a sheepish smile on her lips. “Ah, right, sorry!” This time, she would keep the smile on her face. If seeing her smile helped him to feel better, she’d never allow the smile fade again. His health meant the world to her, and Zinnia would do whatever it took to protect it.

    Continuing to smile, Zinnia rubbed the back of her head. “Uh, anyhow, I’ll work on making you something to eat. You just stay right there and rest! Leave everything to good ‘ol Zinnia. I’m practically like a doctor! I studied herbs all the time when I used to take care of Aster. I’ll make you some great natural medicine that’ll bring your fever down, oh, and some soup too! But first, I’ll get some firewood and make sure I have another fire going.”

    Despite how poorly Jack felt, he feigned a gentle smile for Zinnia’s sake. He knew due to her history with Aster’s illness that such things bothered her. He would do his best to look strong for her, even if he didn’t feel very well. “I can’t wait.” ​
  6. Part 5: "Worry"

    Jack and Zinnia stayed at their camp for the remainder of the day. For a majority of the day, Zinnia scrambled about looking for herbs and other ingredients she could use to make her companion some soup, and once she found enough ingredients she made him a bowl of soup that was to die for (in her opinion) with even enough left over to make some food for Aster and herself. The ill samurai managed to eat quite a bit of Zinnia’s concoction, going to sleep afterwards.

    He slept for most of the day, while Zinnia watched over him, only waking up one other time to eat some dinner before resting a bit more. After the sun set, Jack’s worried companion reluctantly went to sleep beside him. Zinnia knew she needed to rest herself so that she could stay well to help take care of him, but she still didn’t feel comfortable taking her eyes off him. In the past, when she had been taking care of Aster, it always seemed as if the child grew worse whenever Zinnia wasn’t watching her.

    And, just as Zinnia feared, things did get a bit worse after she fell asleep. The draconid awoke to the sound of Jack heaving beside her, throwing up likely everything he had eaten for the day. Aster moved to worriedly curl up and whine at Jack’s feet, while Zinnia scooted closer to the man so she could place a hand on his back. “Jack?”

    “I-I’m fine,” he said after a moment, wiping his mouth with the back of a hand before turning to look at Zinnia over his shoulder. “My stomach just wasn’t feeling well…”

    Zinnia sighed. “First a fever and now your stomach? This cold seems more serious than I thought.”

    “O-Oh, it’s nothing really,” Jack replied, waving a hand, forcing a smile on his lips. He didn’t want to make Zinnia worry too much over him, and he was trying his best to still seem strong. However, Zinnia knew her dear samurai by now well enough to know his behavior was naught but an act.

    “Nice try! No offense, but you look horrible.” Zinnia reached out to feel his forehead, deeply frowning when the touch of his skin felt like the warmth of an open flame. “And you feel horrible too. Your fever is back! Ugh, and now you’re covered in vomit along with your sleeping bag.”

    “Z-Zinnia,” Jack protested, slightly embarrassed by her observations.

    The lorekeeper let out another sigh and reached forward to take hold of Jack’s chin, tipping it down so she could kiss the top of his head. “We’re gonna have to get you cleaned up.”

    “Right,” he said, attempting to slowly stand up, only to be stopped when Zinnia held out a hand to stop him.

    “Stop right there, mister. Where do you think you’re going? Didn’t you just hear what I said to you? I said we’re going to get you cleaned up.”


    “And don’t even try to protest! I’ve peeked at you while you were bathing plenty of times so I already know what I’ll be seeing!”

    Jack slumped over, his eyes rolling into the back of his head.

    “Jack? Don’t even try to fake fainting to get out of this! Jack? Jaaaack!”

    The samurai was indeed not faking. He had fainted. Whether it had been due to surprise because of Zinnia’s outburst or his high fever, the lorekeeper was not certain, but he had fainted all the same. ​
  7. Part 6: "Pouting"

    Deciding she didn’t want to bother Jack after he fainted, Zinnia allowed the man to sleep through the rest of the night. Besides, it would’ve been rather difficult for him to bathe in the dark anyhow, right? So, the next morning, Jack would awaken to find that he was not in his own sleeping bag, but in Zinnia’s instead. He sat up, frowning when he saw her huddled up to the fire. He scooted over to Zinnia and shook her shoulder. He tried to speak, but his voice was so weak and hoarse that he could only manage to get it out in a whisper. “Zinnia, you shouldn’t have slept without a sleeping bag. You’ll catch a cold yourself.”

    The young woman opened a single eye in response before yawning and stretching like a cat. She then sat up, cleaning off her face with a hand. Visible goosebumps were on her arms, but she paid no mind to them. “Ohhh, I’m absolutely fine. I slept by the fire and was more than warm enough. Besides, I couldn’t let you sleep with your sleeping bag covered in vomit. So I let you use mine—after cleaning you up a little bit of course. I couldn’t exactly give you a bath while you were passed out and I didn’t want to wake you up, so I just cleaned you up as best I could and put you to bed.”

    “Oh, thank you Zinnia,” Jack replied with a grateful smile. Zinnia wasn’t the most giving person when it came to her own possessions, so he was touched that she would actually give up something for him.

    “It was no big deal,” the dragon trainer said with a cheeky grin. “Besides, I’m sure you’ll find a way to pay me back when you’re feeling better.”

    Jack sighed. There it was. She had a motive after all. Just about guessing Jack’s thoughts on her own, Zinnia frowned. “Hey! Don’t look at me like I’m just taking care of you to get something out of you later! I care about you very much so I’d take care of you no matter what. If you did a little something for me later that would just be icing on the cake,” she told him with a wink.

    The samurai couldn’t help but let out a gravelly sounding laugh due to Zinnia’s behavior. She was so cute, albeit a naughty, cheeky thing, but still very cute. Nevertheless, Jack regretted the fact he had let out a laugh. He groaned and rubbed his sore throat, causing Zinnia to worriedly move closer to him. “You’re not getting any better. We should try to find a village that sells some real medicine, has a doctor nearby, and a soft bed you can rest in. Staying out in the wilderness isn’t exactly the best idea when it comes recovering from a cold.”

    Jack wrinkled his nose at Zinnia’s suggestion, shaking his head. “We’re rather far out, Zinnia. Even if we rode on the back of one of your dragons it would still take us a week to get to a village. I think making a trip while I feel this way will only make things worse. I’d rather stay put. I’m more than certain I’ll be just fine once we’ve rested more,” he whispered, rubbing his throat afterwards. Every word he spoke was a struggle, feeling like one hundred needles scratching against the inside of his throat.

    Zinnia shook her head and stuck her tongue out at Jack. “Yeah, uh, no. That’s a bad idea. You already seem like you’re worse! You stay put and you’re worse or you travel and you’re worse. What difference does it make? At least if we’re traveling we’ll be getting closer to a place where you can get some real help.”

    Furrowing his eyebrows, Jack shot Zinnia a glare. “I won’t travel like this. You shall soon see I will be just fine.”

    The lorekeeper smirked. “Heh, and you’re the one always saying that I pout a lot. Look at you, pouting at the idea of traveling. So cute~” she teased, reaching over to pinch his cheek. The samurai simply brushed her hand away with a scowl, causing Zinnia to frown. “Fine, we’ll have it your way, but on one condition,” she said winking at her ill companion.​
  8. Part 7: "Bath Time"

    Although the heated fever in Jack’s cheeks hid any blush that may have arose, he was embarrassed regardless as Zinnia tugged off his garments. “I draw the line at my undergarments,” he mumbled before lifting a hand to cough a few times in it. “I cannot believe you’re making me do this,” he added, dipping his feet into the cool water of a river his love had located. He shivered, feeling rather unsure of this whole thing.

    Zinnia let out a laugh and smirked at the man. “What you really thought I was kidding when I said I wanted to give you a bath? Sorry, Mr. Hero, but like I said earlier, you really are a mess and I wanted to make you take a bath last night. I just didn’t want to wake you up after you had passed out is all. But if you really want to stay out here and not travel to a town, this is my condition.”

    Once Zinnia had made Jack remove most of his clothes, she took off her cloak and and pokéballs so they wouldn’t get wet while she got in the water herself. While she did this, Zinnia couldn’t help but smile at Aster who had made her way into the river and was playfully splashing around. “Oh, hey, I bet the other dragons would like to take a bath too,” she said to herself, taking a moment to release each one of her dragon pokémon from their balls so they could play in the water as well. Afterwards, the pokémon trainer glanced at Jack cheerfully. “See? Now it looks even less like a bath and more like a bunch of us swimming in the river.”

    Despite her idea, Jack didn’t appear too excited. He looked at the water hesitantly, feeling uncomfortable with the cool liquid against his skin even with it just touching his feet. Seeing him hesitant, Zinnia moved to get into the water first, extending a hand to him. “Here, I’ll help you get into the water. Don’t look so worried, this will actually help bring your fever down. You can trust me.”

    Although very uncertain, Jack slowly reached for Zinnia’s hand before using her help to lower himself into the water. Once he was in it, he wrapped his arms around himself and shivered, appearing rather uncomfortable. Zinnia moved behind him and began to rub his shoulders, to try and help him relax. “Don’t stress about this. You’ll feel better in a few minutes, trust me.”

    Whether he approved of her next action or not, Zinnia reached up and began to take Jack’s hair down. He glanced over his shoulder at her, not very sure of her actions, but his throat hurt too badly for him to even attempt to protest. But, a few moments later, if he would’ve known how good it was going to feel he likely wouldn’t even have thought of protesting. “Lean your head back and close your eyes so I can wash your hair for you. Don’t worry, I’ll brace you so you don’t fall over,” Zinnia told him, grateful when he obliged.

    Having his hair washed felt… wonderful, soothing, and even relaxing. It felt much better than he expected. In fact, it felt so good he almost could’ve fallen asleep. And the whole bath wasn’t half bad either. The cool water did in fact help his fever come down a little bit.

    After they were done in the water, Jack sat outside the river with Zinnia, watching Aster and her other pokémon continue to play. However, Jack’s eyes weren’t really on the pokémon. His eyes tenderly traced Zinnia’s frame. He couldn’t help but think about how grateful he was to have this beautiful person with him, and how much he adored her. Without even thinking about it, he leaned his head on her shoulder and held tightly onto one of her hands. “Thank you,” he whispered, closing his eyes.

    Zinnia felt a smile tug at her lips and she gave one of his hands a squeeze. “Hey, taking care of each other is what we do.”


    “Besides, I got a little eye candy out of the deal, so it was a bonus for me! Ha ha ha ha!”​
  9. Part 8: "Rain"

    Four days later, Zinnia awoke to a downpour that seemed to hit in an instant. It sounded like a thousand taurus beating their hooves on the ground all together at once. It was a shame it wasn't. A hurd of wild taurus would've been much easier to deal with than her present situation. She jumped out of her sleeping bag and groaned, sloppily attempting to gather her things in a pile before reaching to grab a pokéball from her belt.

    "Noivern, come out and use your wings to shield us from the rain," she commanded, releasing her bat-like dragon on the ground next to her. Following the orders of its trainer, the Noivern held out its wings to provide shelter while Zinnia moved to drag Jack under the shelter as well. The samurai was curled up in his sleeping bag, shivering, and not doing much better at all. It didn't help either that he had just gotten soaked from the rain.

    Like a wet dog, Zinnia shook her body rapidly for a moment to attempt drying herself off a little while she was under Noivern's wings. Drying off was a rather moot point, however, as the rain became heavier, and the air became windier, causing the rain to blow up under her dragon's wings. The storm was frustrating to deal with, but it wasn't her only concern at the moment. Zinnia frowned, glancing down to Jack with worry.

    "You know, I was trying my best to honor your wish of staying here until you got better, but this is getting ridiculous!" Zinnia exclaimed, having to raise her voice in order for it to be heard over the sound of the pouring rain. Even then, the female doubted Jack was listening to her. For the last day or so, Jack had been rather loopy, seeming to fade in and out of consciousness. This worried Zinnia more than words could describe, but she had been putting on a brave face as not to upset him.

    "So guess what?" Zinnia continued. "We're leaving whether you protest or not. For starters, we're going to try and find shelter from the rain, but then afterwards we're going to fly to the nearest town. I don't care if it takes days, a week, or even a month to get there! You're not getting any better, and I'm tired of being so darn worried over you!" she said, her eyes tearing up, yet masqueraded by the rain. "I-It's a good thing you can't really protest. That makes it easier for me," she said, kneeling down next to Jack, searching him with her eyes.

    I-I just wish you were back to your old self already. I'm scared, Jack. Right now, I'm trying to figure out how to help you all alone and I don't know what I'm doing. I'm not sure if I've even been of any help at all. I need help doing this... I feel so alone right now...

    "Mum?" Aster chirped, as if she had heard Zinnia's thoughts and wanted to remind her mother that she was still there. Zinnia wiped her eyes and reached down to pick up her daughter, hugging the pokémon in her arms.

    "R-Right, I know I still have you, Aster. I'm not alone."

    I have to stay strong. Jack needs me right now.

    Zinnia took in a deep breath before glancing up at Noivern. "Okay, Noivern, I want you to protect Aster and Jack from the winds as best you can while I load our things onto your back. Afterwards, I'll climb onto your back and fly with Aster. I'll have Dragonite just carry Jack."

    The pokémon let out a cry, as if letting her know that it understood her orders, and then Zinnia went out into the rain to work on loading their things onto his back. It was tedious, uncomfortable work to do out in the rain, but the lorekeeper was determined. They were going to move from this location if it killed her!​
    #10 Klutzy Ninja Kitty, Sep 11, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2016
  10. Part 9: "Shelter"

    While Atop Noivern's back, Zinnia would glance over her shoulder once every few seconds to make sure Dragonite was flying behind her. While difficult to see the big dragon due to the dark stormy sky and the rain blocking her vision, she could just barely make out its form. Once in a while she would even call out to the pokémon, asking it to let out a cry to make sure it was still close. It wasn't that she worried for the safety of Dragonite--no, her dragons were fierce beasts that surely would never be brought down by a storm--but she was instead worried for Jack who was in the pokémon's arms. She hoped that Dragonite was doing its best to make sure he wasn't getting very wet, but with how wild the brewing storm seemed to be, she doubted he was staying completely dry.

    When she wasn't glancing back at Jack, Zinnia was leaning close to her Noivern, yelling loudly in its ear so it would be able to hear her over the sound of the storm. "I'm counting on you!" the lorekeeper cried. "I can't see much of anything at all. I'm leaving it up to you and Dragonite to locate us a good shelter! Try and find a house, a barn, a cave, or anything that we could use! I don't care if its inhabited or uninhabited! I'll barge my way into any shelter, whether the hosts want me inside it or not!"

    But, surely if Zinnia found an inhabited shelter the hosts would let them inside it! How could they turn down a deathly ill traveler and his exhausted, rain-soaked companion when they were stranded out in the middle of a dangerous storm? That would be more than just cruel, it would be downright inhuman! Anyone who forced them out would face Zinnia's wrath. She would much sooner threaten or kill a house of people than allow Jack to remain in the cold rain. There was no doubt in the trainer's mind that if they couldn't find a decent shelter at this point... Jack would--

    No! I won't even think like that! Jack will make it and we'll be just fine.

    Distracting herself so that she wouldn't drift into any pointless negative thoughts, Zinnia scanned the horizon. As she did, the draconid's red eyes widened in surprise when her Noivern suddenly began to dive toward the ground, crying out excitedly. Zinnia perked up, wrapping one of her arms tighter around little Aster who was sitting in front of her.

    Did Noivern find--

    "Yes!" Zinnia cried, using her free arm to reach down and hug the neck of her pokémon. "Good work, Noivern. You're my hero," she said, a smile spreading over her lips and a momentary feeling of relief washing over her. The woman's dragon had discovered a cave. A cave would be a bit drafty, damp, and chilly, but it was still better than being right out in the middle of an icy cold rain. Within moments, Noivern flew into the cave and Zinnia let out a grateful sigh before turning her head over her shoulder to make sure Dragonite had followed.

    When Dragonite landed, Zinnia jumped off the back of her bat-like dragon and rushed over to it, making sure the big dragon was gentle when it lowered Jack to the ground from its arms. Zinnia immediately began to check her companion over, frowning when she realized he was just as soaked as she was. Dragonite let out a sad cry, glancing away. The pokémon knew Zinnia had asked for Jack to be kept as dry as possible, and yet Dragonite felt it had failed.

    Noticing this behavior from her pokémon, the lorekeeper reached out and gave it a gentle pat on the foot. "You did your best; don't worry about it. With how malevolent that storm was, it would've been difficult for anyone to try and keep someone dry. Jack will be fine. I'll just remove his wet clothes and cover him up with something dry."

    So, that's exactly what Zinnia did next.
    #11 Klutzy Ninja Kitty, Sep 12, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2016

  11. Part 10: "Struggle"

    Zinnia made her way over to Noivern and began to unpack their traveling supplies, checking to see what was dry and what wasn't. After she had sorted everything, she found that the cloak she usually wore was the only thing dry. "I guess it'll just have to due for now," Zinnia mumbled, moving over to Jack so she could remove his wet, under layer.

    While Zinnia did this, for the first time in a while Jack actually awoke. He was still dazed, however, and about as limp as a wet noodle. He didn't say anything, likely to conserve the strength in his voice, but looked up at Zinnia questioningly.

    Seeing Jack open his eyes made Zinnia smile straight away. "Oh hey, you're up!" the draconid exclaimed. "It started to rain so I found us shelter. Pretty bad ass cave, am I right?" she questioned, even though she was aware she wouldn't receive an answer. "Anyhow, you got wet so I'm taking these wet clothes off you. It seems like I've been helping you get undressed a lot lately, hasn't it? But only due to your clothes getting messy or wet. Bummer! I'd much rather be undressing you for other reasons, if you know what I mean," she commented, wiggling her eyebrows playfully.

    Jack didn't react much to Zinnia's words. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh, but didn't chuckle, blush, or even scold her for what she had said. Zinnia felt her heart sink in her chest. She really wished he would be back to his old self already. Seeing her love like this was very troubling on her emotions. The draconid was trying her best to stay strong for as long as she could, but if things didn't get better soon Zinnia was certain her facade of strength would shatter to bits.

    Once she had Jack as comfortable as she could get him and made sure he was covered up with her cloak, Zinnia tended to her pokémon, laid all of their traveling supplies out to dry, and looked around to see if there was anything nearby she could use to make a fire. Sadly, nothing in the cave looked even remotely flammable and it was still raining hard outside the cave, so it would've been impossible to hunt for firewood.

    "I guess we'll be going fireless tonight," Zinnia said to herself. "Gee, what use is it to have dragons who can make instant fire when there isn't anything around to keep it burning? Oh dratini."

    Once she had finished checking the cave, Zinnia went through some of their supplies and decided to see if she could get Jack to eat anything. She took a couple apples and mashed them up in a wooden bowl, figuring apple sauce would be worth a try. Afterwards, she woke Jack up and tried to get him to eat. For the past few days, he had hardly eaten a bite even when he did eat he seemed to throw it up.

    "Good Lord Rayquaza, Jack, you're worse than a toddler about eating when you're sick. C'mon, just eat something!" the woman teased, pressing a spoon of apple sauce against his lips. Jack just looked blankly at her with his pale face and bloodshot eyes--which were obviously crying out for help--but didn't open his mouth.

    "Dammit, that's it I'm gonna make you eat this!" Thinking irrationally, Zinnia forced his mouth open and stuck the spoon in it, forcing the food inside. The samurai's eyes bugged out of his head. He actually did attempt to swallow his food--egged on by the daggers his companion glared at him--but found it impossible. When he tried to swallow it, the food came right back up.

    Upon seeing this, Zinnia rose to her feet and turned toward the wall of the cave, giving it a swift kick. But she didn't just kick it once, no, she kicked it repeatedly to vent her frustrations. She tightened the muscles in her arms and even began to punch the cave, stopping when her knuckles started to bleed. Afterwards, she dropped to the ground and lifted her head upward to look at the ceiling of the cave, her chest breathing heavily.

    "I can't keep doing this," she said between breaths, her voice cracking as she let out a whimper. It's a struggle. I'm fighting a losing battle. "Wh-Why won't you just eat?" Zinnia asked, her voice squeaking. She placed a hand over her lips and squeezed her eyes shut fighting to hold back her tears.

    I have to hold off from crying...

    ...at least until he falls asleep again.
    #12 Klutzy Ninja Kitty, Sep 12, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016

  12. Part 11: "Aster"

    Sometime later, Jack awoke after a rest. The first thing he noticed was not his own pain--no, he had already grown used to it. His body felt achy, heavy, and more tired than if he had fought a thousand battles. It was difficult to eat, move, and even to breath. There were dark circles under his eyes, his skin was ghostly white, and it was clear he had thinned out. Based on his appearance alone one could easily be convinced that the man was less than a step away from death.

    But, in that moment, he wasn't focused on his own state. His eyes scanned over Zinnia, sitting on the ground with her back pressed against the wall of the cave and her knees pulled up to her chest. She was alone, all of her pokémon put away in their balls. Her body very visible shook. Was she... sick too? Or perhaps cold? He gently called out to her, his voice far too weak to be heard by anyone who wasn't paying attention. Regardless, Zinnia had been paying attention enough to hear him.

    The draconid lifted her head up, quickly looking over to Jack. "H-Hey, did you need something?" she asked, her voice crackling slightly. It was easy for Jack to tell right away that it wasn't due to sickness. Her eyes were stained with tears and her cheeks were flushed. She sniffled, wiping her face off with the back of a hand.

    "You're crying," he pointed out, putting forth a great effort to reach over and place his hand on Zinnia's foot. "And you're shaking... you're cold... you should cover up with something."

    Ignoring his statement about her crying, Zinnia instead turned down Jack's other idea. "E-Everything is wet from the rain. It wouldn't do me any good," she said, wrapping her arms around herself. "The only dry thing we have is my cloak, and you sure as heck need it far more than I do," she said, her eyes--redder than normal--radiated absolute despair as she looked at him.

    "Share it with me," he suggested, her own sadness causing his heart to ache. But he couldn't blame her for being sad. Jack knew that if it were him in the same position he would be just as upset. Still, he longed to see Zinnia's smile. Her beautiful, mischievous smile was a sight he had grown to love with all of his heart. It was something he could no longer live without.

    "That old tattered thing with holes all over it? It's barely enough to keep you warm. I don't think the two of us could share it," Zinnia replied, resting her cheek against her knees again. "Besides, I don't really deserve it..."


    "To tell you the truth, it's not even really mine. It belonged to Aster." A brief flicker of a smile crossed Zinnia's lips before it quickly faded again. "Aster went through this faze where she liked super heros," she began to explain. "So I found an old cloak and gave it to her. She wore that silly thing everywhere. She'd zoom around pretending to fly with it on. The kid loved it so much she wore it out."

    The woman paused, her red eyes beginning to glisten with more tears. "...when it was close to the end, I think Aster knew it. She gave me her cloak. The kid said that... I was her hero... she wanted me to wear her cloak even after she had gone... so I've always worn it since then, no matter how ragged it looks. But, like I said, I don't deserve it..."

    Zinnia abruptly stood up, tears pouring from her eyes. Her voice grew louder and louder as she continued to speak, until she found herself yelling. "What kind of hero am I?! LOOK AT ME! I FAILED TO SAVE HER JUST AS I'M FAILING TO SAVE YOU NOW! I'M NOT ANY KIND OF DAMN HERO! I FAILED ASTER! I FAILED RAYQUAZA! I FALIED HOENN! AND NOW I'M FAILING YOU! ALL I'M GOOD FOR IS LETTING EVERYONE DOWN! I HATE MYSELF!"

    The young woman erupted into sobs, her shoulders quaking while her body shook so hard it looked as if she would fall over. Her sadness was enough to make Jack's own eyes cloud with tears. He had to turn his head and look away from her just to keep his own emotions in check. Oh how he longed to stand up and embrace her, to pull her close and tell her everything would be okay.

    But everything wasn't okay and he could feel it.

    "Please don't cry," was all Jack could manage to say in a whisper. "Please--"

    "SHUT UP! IF YOU DIE I'LL NEVER STOP CRYING! I WON'T EVER SMILE AGAIN!" Her sobs became so strong, they finally did cause her to collapse. She dropped to her knees. "...I-I promised my grandmother that I'd finally let go of the weight I carried, that I would find a new beginning. Y-You can't leave me. You're my new beginning. I-I love you. What'll I do without you? I-I don't think I'll ever be able to recover if you go away. I-I don't think I'll ever be the same... the weight of losing Aster was so strong I couldn't breathe, but the weight of losing you..."

    I won't be able to stand. I think I'll be completely crushed by the grief.

    "But, Zinnia, that's not what I want. I want you to stay strong... a-and if I can't make it I'll need you to find someone else who can vanquish Aku to save this world."

    Zinnia rubbed her eyes and spat out a curse. "I don't give a ratatta's ass about Aku or this world right now! DAMN IT! I ONLY CARE ABOUT YOU!" Zinnia turned toward Jack, looking at him with vulnerable, longing eyes. "D-Don't leave me... please..."

    "Come here," the samurai whispered. "Just come here, please."

    I-I know. I know your pain, Zinnia. I don't want to leave you either. You are my one and only love.

    Without a moment's hesitation, Zinnia rushed to where Jack laid, wrapping her arms around him while she buried her face into his chest. "Don't go!" the young woman shouted between cries. "I need you!" D-Don't end up like Aster...

    "I need you too, my love," Jack whispered, tears actually streaming down his own cheeks as well. He gently rested a hand on the back of Zinnia's head, stroking her hair for as long as he could.
    #13 Klutzy Ninja Kitty, Sep 13, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2016

  13. Part 12: "Value"

    The very next morning, the air was heavy as if weighted down by the very emotion of pure grief itself. This tense, despairing feeling in the air actually caused Aster came out of her pokéball all on her own. It wasn't something she normally did, but pokémon had sharp senses and the little whismur knew her mother needed her. The day Zinnia had been fearing had finally come.

    Something during the night, Jack had actually passed in his sleep with his beloved curled up close to him. And of course Zinnia knew about it already. She knew he was gone from the moment she awoke that morning--no, the lorekeeper probably knew even sooner. Even while she had been asleep Zinnia could sense something hadn't been right with him. The illness plaguing the man's body had finally become too much for him to bear, even with how strong he was.

    And just like that, the very mantra Zinnia had tried to live by since Aster's passing was gone. The draconid had vowed to always keep her head up, to look toward the stars and never let her tears fall. After all, tears were a meaningless waste of effort that didn't help her acomplish anything. But losing Jack was enough to break her resolve as if it were no stronger than a toothpick.

    Zinnia cried as hard as she could, her face pressed into Jack's chest. Her own chest hurt so terribly while she cried that the young woman didn't even know if it was due to her sobs or if her emotional pain was so intense it had actually caused her physical pain.

    Aster moved close to Zinnia, gently rubbing her head on the woman's back, only to be shoved away by Zinnia's shoulder. The draconid didn't want to be comforted. She just wanted Jack! He was all she wanted, dammit!

    She did nothing but cry, clinging to him for as long as she could. Aster tried several times to make her move, but Zinnia wouldn't budge from her spot. Worried, the little whismur did the only thing she could think to do: she released all of Zinnia's other pokémon.

    Aster spoke with Zinnia's dragons, and the group of creatures decided it would be best if they removed Jack's body from the cave. It wasn't healthy for Zinnia to continue clinging to him, and he needed to be burried anyhow.

    So, against the will of their trainer, that's exactly what they did. Goodra pulled Zinnia away from Jack, holding the woman no matter how hard she thrashed, kicked, screamed, or struggled.


    Zinnia screamed repeatedly as she watched her pokémon remove Jack's body from the cave. Her chest moved so frantically, and her face turning so red, it looked as if she might have a heart attack. Worried, Aster did something she never would've done under any circumstances...

    The little whismur let out a cry so fierce that it caused Zinnia to faint almost instantly. Her body was already weak, so it was easily subdued. Aster hated seeing her mother in so much pain and felt as if the only way she could calm down was if she had been forced to calm down.

    Zinnia didn't wake for hours. By the time she finally awoke, the starts were out in the night sky above the cave. Remembering what had happened, Zinnia sat up and looked around as if hoping to see Jack, as if hoping this nightmare had been nothing but a dream. Surely he would be sitting there with a gentle smile on her face, and would greet her at any second. He would call her silly for having slept so long and they would eat dinner together.

    ...but Jack wasn't there.

    Looking around with blank, hopeless eyes, the only thing Zinnia did see was her pokémon. They had a small campfire going, some cooked fish, and had even wrapped Zinnia up in a dry blanket. They had taken care of her. And the fact they had a fire going was enough to hint to Zinnia that the rain from the other day must've stopped.

    When had the rain even stopped?

    Zinnia wasn't sure.

    Right now, she still couldn't see past her grief.

    The woman climbed out of her blanket and staggered over to her pokémon. She would've fallen over if not for her Altaria helping brace Zinnia with one of its soft wings.

    "Where's... Jack?" Zinnia mumbled to him. "I mean, his..." she swallowed a lump in her throat before she could even finish her sentance. "...his body."

    Zinnia's Pokémon looked between one another before Dragonite gestured to a plate of food next to the fire. They wanted her to eat first. They wanted their trainer to take care of herself.

    Zinnia kicked he plate over, crunching a piece of fish under her boot. "I asked where Jack was. Where did you burry him?! Take me there at once!" she commanded. "If you want me to eat so damn badly, you'll show me where his grave is."

    Her pokémon exchanged looks before finally relenting. Noivern helped Zinnia outside, showing its trainer Jack's grave which was underneith a big, beautiful tree just a little ways away from the cave and marked by a wooden cross. The lorekeeper fell to her knees in front of the grave, placing a hand gently on the center of the cross.

    "H-Hey, Jack," Zinnia stammered, her eyes welling with tears. "Remember back a few weeks ago? When I... brought up the idea of us having kids? I-I know that can't happen now, but I'd still like you to take care of one, if you don't mind. I'm sure Aster is lonely up there. So if you could watch over her... that would be nice."

    Zinnia rose to her feet, still keeping her hand on the cross. A shaky laugh escaped her lips. "P-Part of me hoped that when I woke up you'd be back... just sitting by the fire sipping tea. I-I mean, you came back to life once, right? In Gravity Falls you got lucky. But now--" The tears fell from Zinnia's eyes. "I have this feeling you won't be back. That's why I asked you to take care of Aster. I-I just... I'd rather you were here with me than with Aster..."

    "I couldn't protect you, and I'm sorry. But every minute I had with you was precious to me. For a little while, my life had meaning again because of you. Thanks for that. I'll... always love you. Y-You were just so... s-so precious. Your life's value to me was more precious than anything..."

    "...so very precious that you slipped through my fingers and left me just like Aster did. But I-- I don't blame you for that."

    "I think I'm meant to be lonely."

    I was too happy. The Dragon Lord had to put me in check... to remind me of what I am and once again take away the only person I love.

    "B-But anyhow, I-I can't talk anymore right now, Jack. And I don't think I can smile either. I'm sorry... I know you like it when I'm happy."

    But I don't think I'll ever be happy again.

    "I have to... go."

    Zinnia turned and rushed away from his grave, holding back the urge to sob again. She stopped running after a moment, however, and stood outside the cave. She looked straight up into the bright, stary sky. As much as Zinnia loved stars, the sight of them looked dull in her red eyes. She began to speak again. However, this time she didn't speak to Jack.

    "Hey... Aster? Are you there? It's your mum. I know it's been a while since we've talked, but I wanted you to know I'm thinking of you. I hope you're happy, wherever you are. I... have something to tell you. Actually, it's more like... a surprise."

    Zinnia closed her eyes, trying to hold back tears.

    "There's this great guy I know. He's a samurai. A real hero just like the ones from your story books! He's brave, strong, kind, and loving... he's the kind of person who has always made me feel safe. He's... as special to me as you are. And guess what? He's going to be with you from now on! Isn't that great?! I'm sure he'll be like the father you never had... the father you always wanted..."

    The father you always deserved.

    "So tell him hi from me, okay? Tell him... T-Tell him..."


    "...tell him how much I-I... miss him."


    "...I miss him."

    Zinnia dropped her head, her shoulders shaking as more tears fell.

    "I-I miss him," she mumbled between sobs.

    "I MISS HIM!"

  14. Part 13: "Life"

    Zinnia wouldn't leave the cave. Days passed and although Aster and the trainer's dragons tried to encourage the lorekeeper, she laid on the floor of the cave refusing to budge from her place. And if that wasn't already bad enough, the young woman also refused to eat or drink. Her pokémon worried greatly, but there was little they could do when the woman hardly reacted to them. Zinnia would just continue to lay motionless, an endless stream of tears seeming to pour from her eyes whenever she was awake.

    She just remained where she was, slowly allowing herself to wither away. The trainer wasn't sick, no, not in the slightest. Whatever Jack suffered through had never even touched her body. Zinnia's illness wasn't physical, but mental. Her heart was entirely broken and her will to live shattered to pieces.

    Zinnia hardly spoke, but when she did her words were haunting and sad--further proof that she just didn't want to go on. "I want to die," she mumbled to Aster, a blank look on her face. "I want to die..."

    I want to go be with Jack and Aster. There's... nothing for me here... not anymore...

    ...they are over there and I'm over here... I want to be over there...

    The draconid seemed to be making her wish come true, slowly dying with every hour that passed. Her very worried pokémon knew it was only a matter of time before she joined Jack unless they did something to help her. They knew this wasn't what Jack would've wanted, yet they couldn't exactly remind Zinnia of that without human voices of their own.

    So, without her permission of course, they took their trainer and left the cave in order to seek help for her. Dragonite carried Zinnia in its arms while Aster rode on its head. They soared through the sky, frantic to find any sort of human settlement. Even a single house would do. They wouldn't be choosy, not while their trainer was dying.

    At one point, as they flew along, Zinnia opened her eyes and realized Dragonite was carrying her in its arms. Her heart sank, immediately realizing what they were doing. They were trying to take her somewhere so she could get help... but she didn't want any help! She was done with life! She cared about her pokémon, but surely they could get along just fine without her. Her dragons were strong, and she knew they would take good care of Aster too.

    So that's when she made a decision, a quick, irrational decision.

    Zinnia reached for her belt, hunting for Dragonite's pokéball. She pointed the pokéball at her dragon and called it to return back into its ball. Whether or not the dragon wanted to resist the call to return, it couldn't fight against its pokéball. It returned into the ball in a flash of light, causing Zinnia to simply plummet toward the ground. Aster, who had been riding atop Dragonite's head, also began to plummet--screaming wildly, but found herself quickly in Zinnia's arms.

    Zinnia hugged Aster close for a moment, closing her tired, red eyes.

    I'm sorry, Aster. I love you, but I just can't keep doing this. Goodbye.

    Without a sound, Zinnia recalled Aster into her pokéball as well and made sure to tuck all of her pokéballs safely close to herself. She took a deep breath, waiting for her inevitable collision with the ground.

    Much to her disappointment, the fall would not end Zinnia's life. Instead, the young woman would wake up after what seemed like only a minute , in a bed she didn't recognize. The bed was surrounded by clean white walls and the room itself was empty. Zinnia attempted to open her mouth and call out to see if anyone was around, but she found that it was difficult to make any noise. In fact, it was also hard to move.

    Her body felt weak and heavy. When she glanced toward her arms, the trainer could see that they looked stick thin. Something didn't seem right. Zinnia didn't remember looking this sick before she fell. And if she had truly fallen, why didn't her bones feel broken? The young woman was certain she hadn't died, so what was going on? Where was she?

    After asking herself these things, Zinnia began to hear voices speaking outside the room. She tried to sit up slightly upon hearing the owner's of the voices enter the room, only to slump back down in shock when she saw their faces. They looked back at the draconid, seeming equally as surprised...
    #15 Klutzy Ninja Kitty, Sep 19, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2016
  15. Part 14: "Awakening"

    A couple weeks earlier, before the events of Zinnia's turmoil occurred, something had happened that the lorekeeper was unaware of. This event changed everything, altering her entire perception of reality as she knew it. The following events were the truth of the matter from beginning to end. It all started with…

    ...a snake bite.

    It occurred directly after Zinnia had just finished teasing Jack about wanting to have children someday. They were just casually walking along, enjoying the day before it happened.

    "Ouch! What the heck?!" Zinnia exclaimed, grabbing the back of her ankle as she felt something sink its teeth into her flesh. She turned around and shot a glare at the creature, a pure black snake with crimson eyes that almost seemed to glow. She kicked the creature, causing it to hiss at her before it slithered off into a bush.

    Alarmed, Jack turned around to check on his companion just after the snake had bit her. "Zinnia, is something the matter?" he asked, watching as the draconid rubbed the back of her ankle.

    "Ugh, a snake just bit me! Jeez, that hurt. I hope it wasn't poisonous," she mumbled, frowning.

    Even more alarmed than before Jack dropped everything he was holding and rushed to Zinnia, practically shoving her to the ground. "Sit down and let me look at it," he commanded, his eyebrows furrowed seriously. A snake bite was no laughing matter. He could think of several deadly snakes that lived in his world, some which could evil kill their victims within minutes of being bitten if no actions were taken.

    Unable to deduce anything from the bite itself, Jack looked to his partner for answers. “What did the snake look like? This is very important. Tell me everything you know about it.”

    Zinnia narrowed her eyes, recalling the appearance of the creature. “It was pure black with no spot of any other color on it, and it had red eyes. It was also long and thin. That’s really all there is too it.”

    Thinking over her words, a look of relief washed over Jack’s face. “Alright, you should be safe then, but—“ He gently brushed a hand over her bite marks, letting out a sigh. “You’re not going to be very comfortable for a while. You see, this snake’s venom causes powerful hallucinations. The hallucinations will be based on things you fear. It will feel as if you are living out a nightmare. Most people who are bitten by this snake live so long as they have a strong mind. I have faith you will be fine, but regardless I feel that we should set up camp early so you can rest. This brand of poison tends to kick in rather quickly.”

    Zinnia smiled, moving to stand up. “Oh, Jack, you’re worrying too much! I feel just fi—“

    The young woman stumbled, quickly caught in Jack’s arms when he stood up to support her. “The poison is moving quickly. We need to find you a place to rest.”

    So Jack set up a campsite and leaned Zinnia against a tree so she could rest. By the time he went to check on her again, she was completely in a daze—her mind likely taken away by the illusions already. Aster moved to her mother’s side, crying with worry. Jack placed a hand on the little pokémon’s head to try and sooth her. “There, there. Zinnia will be fine. She’ll just be in a daze for a while. This poison can last for days or even weeks, but let us hope it’ll wear off quick. She won’t talk or move, almost as if she’s asleep. But so long as she keeps eating and drinking, she’ll be just fine. I’ll see to it that she’s taken care of,” he assured Aster.

    Just as Jack predicted, Zinnia started off fine at first. For several days he took care of her, using the time to rest himself and practice a bit with his weapon while he waited for her to wake up. However, as time moved along, she still didn’t awaken. She would continue to eat and drink when the samurai took care of her, but she showed no signs of waking up. The only movements she made were expressions on her face, her features contorting in painful ways. Whatever she had been dreaming, it must not have been pleasant.

    And after a time, the expressions on her face only grew more and more strained—eventually getting to a point where all she seemed to do was cry. Jack would sit by her, holding her close to wipe away her tears with a great feeling of worry gripping his heart. “Don’t cry, Zinnia. You’ll be fine. We’re going to make it through this. You have to fight the dream, no matter what it may be. Things will get better in time…”

    …but things didn’t get better.

    The dragon trainer grew worse, crying more as days passed and eating less. Eventually, she stopped eating all together and never seemed to stop crying. A mess with worry over her, Jack wasn’t sure what to do. He would anxiously stand at a distance from Zinnia, hacking away at the earth with his weapon. He wanted to scream, or maybe even cry himself. He didn’t know what he could do for her. What if she never woke up? What if the nightmares were so powerful that Zinnia couldn’t overcome them and she lost her life? His stomach turned at the very thought.

    He didn’t want to even think of what his life would be like if it went back to the way it had been before the young woman had started traveling with him. No longer would be find himself looking over his shoulder while bathing in the river to make sure she wasn’t peeking at him. It would be quiet at dinner time without her loud, bold voice to exchange conversation with. He would miss feeling her head lean against his shoulder while they sat near the fire together. He needed to feel the touch of her fingers looping through his own when their hands connected, and the gentle brush of her lips against his own. Jack wanted—no, needed her to survive. There was no way he could every grow used to being without her.

    But what could he do? If he wanted to find help for her, he needed to make his way for a town. A town could take days to get to, and he needed to be there in hours if he wanted to save her life. There was only one thing he could think of and it was to use Zinnia’s dragons. The only problem was, these dragons only obeyed Zinnia herself. He was uncertain if they would listen to him long enough to allow him to guide them to a town.

    Still, it was better than doing nothing.

    Releasing a couple of dragons from their balls, Jack stepped back hesitantly when Dragonite sniffed the top of his head while Noivern eyed him up suspiciously. “H-Hello there,” he began, swallowing before he spoke more. “Your master is very ill. We need to take her to a town so she can get help. Would the two of you aide me in saving her life?” he questioned, getting only a hiss in response from Noivern. The samurai stepped back, unsure if they had understood.

    Thankfully, Aster stepped forward and spoke to the dragons herself, exchanging what seemed to be various grunts and animal noises with the beasts. After their moment of communication ended, the dragons looked to Jack again—this time as if they were willing to take his directions. Dragonite moved to collect Zinnia in its arms while they both waited for orders. Success!

    It only took a few hours for Jack to guide the dragons to a town. When they arrived, Jack immediately took Zinnia to a clinic where she could be looked at by doctors. It was then a doctor gave Zinnia some medicine that would hopefully help her to awaken from her dreams, and pulled Jack out into the halls to speak with him. Once they had conversed for a moment, the two returned to the room where they had left Zinnia, both of them shocked to see that she was already awake. The medicine had worked faster than they had thought!

    Jack moved to Zinnia’s side and took her hand with relief in his eyes. “Z-Zinnia, you’re awake! H-How are you feeling?”

    The dragon trainer simply stared at Jack her face paling before tears welled up in her eyes. She started to sob, pulling her hand from Jack’s so she could cover her face with her hands. “A-Am I dead too? You died so that must mean I’m dead too,” she she whimpered as her body began to shake.

    The samurai looked at her with confused eyes, before moving to wrap his arms around her. “Shhh, it’s all right. Don’t cry, I’m here. You’re alive and I am as well. I never died. It must’ve been a dream.”

    Whether Zinnia realized the truth yet or not, Jack was right. Her entire experience had been a dream. Albeit, a very realistic dream that made her feel as if she had truly experienced those events, but a dream nevertheless. Jack had never gotten sick, she had never struggled to save him, and he had never died. The whole thing had been an illusion, a nightmare meant to attack the lorekeeper’s fears. But now she was free from that nightmare. And although she was free, it would still take the young woman some time to sort out what was real and what wasn’t real. In her mind, it was as if those events had truly happened.

    Zinnia wrapped her arms around Jack when he moved close to her, but found it a struggle to move with how weak she was. She simply cried into his chest, wearing herself out until she could no longer hold her eyes open and was taken by sleep. However, at least this time it would be restful slumber.​
    #16 Klutzy Ninja Kitty, Sep 25, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2016
  16. Part 15: "Facing Reality"

    A few hours later, Zinnia awoke to see Jack sitting in a chair next to her with his eyes closed. With an unchanged mindset, the young woman was still confused by his presence. He was supposed to be dead, but he wasn’t. She was bewildered; staring at Jack too long even gave her a headache from her own confusion. She had to close her red eyes a few times and take deep breathes before opening them to look at him once more, facing reality. It truly was mind boggling, but the young woman had to admit that this reality was much better than her previous one.

    She looked back at Jack after a moment, examining him with her eyes. He was sleeping soundly even though he was sitting up. Under his eyes she could see dark circles—a clear sign of stress—while his face itself looked pale, white as a ghost. He didn’t look exactly great, but he didn’t look as bad as he had in her… dream? She had been dreaming all along, she tried to remind herself, fighting to hold back tears she could feel forming already.

    In this reality, Jack was alive and well. In fact, she was the one who hadn’t been doing so hot, according to what the doctor outside her room had been saying to Jack. She still wasn’t entirely able to comprehend what had happened while she had been asleep, but Zinnia figured she would ask Jack for the details after he awoke. Zinnia didn’t have to wait long either. Only a few minutes after she started to observe him, the samurai woke and turned his head in her direction. He looked happy, no, thrilled to see her awake.

    Jack dropped to his knees and took both of Zinnia’s hands in his own, kissing the tops of them. “My love, how do you feel? Wait, no— Don’t try to strain yourself to speak if its difficult. You may take things slow. I know you’ve been through a lot…”

    The young woman closed her eyes when she felt his kiss against her hands, relishing the the simple fact he was still alive to do such a thing. When she opened her eyes again, she actually forced herself to speak. It was difficult, but that didn’t matter. She needed to know everything that happened in order to separate herself from the dream she had experienced. She asked Jack to move closer to her, to hold her and tell her everything that had happened. So the man did just that.

    Jack laid close to Zinnia on the bed, his arms around her as he explained the last few weeks to her as best he could. Between the sound of his soothing voice and the echo of his heart inside his chest, the lorekeeper felt a dizzying lethargy fight to draw her back into sleep. Nevertheless, she listened as best she could, feeling even more relieved with every word he spoke. He had been alive all along. This was the true reality.

    By the time Jack had finished talking, Zinnia had drifted soundly to sleep. He stayed near her and went to sleep himself, resting for the entirety of the night. He only left her early in the morning, hoping to gather some food so he could wake the woman and have her finally try to eat something. But shortly after he left the room, Zinnia actually awoke on her own—alarmed to find Jack wasn’t at her side.

    Frantically, Zinnia began to tear at the sheets of her bed, looking around the room in a panic.

    N-No, no, no! Where is he? He’s gone again?! I-I can’t lose him like I did before. Please not again, please no. I can’t deal with this. Come back to me Jack!

    “Jack? Jack! JAAAACK!” The young woman began to scream, taking deep breathes between her cries as if she were hyperventilating. She shoved the bed’s blankets out of her way and impulsively tried to stand up—only to fall against the hard floor with a loud thud, leaving a gash on the side of her head. Even then she continued to call out for Jack, her eyes blurring with tears.

    In another room, where the samurai had gone to grab Zinnia some food, he dropped everything he had been holding and took off to find his companion without even a moment’s hesitation when he heard her scream. He was with her in an instant, scooping her up into his arms in order to hold her close to his chest and comfort her.

    “Shhhh, calm down. I’m here. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay…”

    Clinging to him while she buried her face against his chest, she cried as hard as she could. Zinnia had realized everything that happened to her before was only a dream, and yet she still found herself unable to let go of what she had experienced. She hung tightly onto Jack, like a baby monkey, refusing to let him go as if she worried that the second she took her red eyes off her partner he would disappear. Whenever Jack tried to move away from her, this continued to occur throughout the day.

    “Zinnia, please,” he whispered to her, gently stroking her dark hair with one of his hands. “You have to let me move, at least. I promise nothing bad will happen…”


    A whine would be the only response he would get out of the female.

    “Alright, I’ll stay near you on one condition,” Jack finally said, rubbing one of his temples. “I’ll have a doctor bring some food in here and you’ll eat. You haven’t eaten a single bite today and you’re not going to start feeling any better unless you do. So, do we have a deal?” he questioned, glancing at Zinnia’s face as he awaited a response.

    Zinnia scowled before giving him a small nod. She looked like a small child pouting, but that didn’t matter to Jack. He just wanted his love to eat and start feeling better. It was the only thing that mattered to him right now.​
  17. Part 16: "Peace"

    Much to Jack's relief, after making his deal with Zinnia, the young woman began to eat more. She still remained rather silent, however, rarely speaking very often--even when Jack would initiate conversation with her. While he was certain this was just a phase she was going through as she recovered from her traumatic experience, a little part of the samurai couldn't help but fear she would never be the same again. Had the experience really been so traumatic for Zinnia that she would never be able to entirely get over it?

    These thoughts wracked the man with guilt. It had been something from his world that had caused this to happen to her. Maybe if she had never agreed to walk Jack's path with him, the lorekeeper would never have gone through such pain. She had almost died and was still suffering from her experience. He couldn't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, once Zinnia had healed from this he should continue his mission alone. He could have the young woman wait somewhere safe until he had finished his path, and once Aku was vanquished once and for all he could return to her.

    While not the most appealing idea, it was likely to be the safest for her. Jack knew if he left her behind he would terribly miss her company, but in the long run her safety was more important. They would have their entire lives to spend together after Aku had been stopped. But if she continued to travel with him there was a great chance they would again run into a challenge that would threaten her life. More than anything, he wanted to keep her safe.

    So, grudgingly, Jack made an effort to present his idea to Zinnia the following afternoon. She was resting, quietly holding Aster, when the samurai began to speak with her. "This town is quiet nice, don't you think?" he began. He had a feeling her reaction to the idea wouldn't exactly be a good one, but he had to go through with making his suggestion.


    As usual, Zinnia wouldn't say anything in response, so Jack would continue speaking to her.

    "The nicest thing about it is that it is safe. That's why I wanted to make a suggestion," he continued, still gaining no response from his companion. "Once you are feeling better, maybe we should part ways for a time. You can stay here and I'll continue on my journey alone. I'll go vanquish Aku and then return for yo--"

    "No way."

    Speaking her first words she had uttered all day, Zinnia was now glaring at Jack. He had managed to rope her entire attention now.

    "Bad idea. We're not splitting up," she added, running her hand gently down Aster's back.

    Jack sighed. "Just here me out on this, love. You went through a lot because of that snake bite. I don't want to see you suffer like that again. We both know how dangerous my world is and I'd hate to see you further traumatized by anything. I mean, look at you Zinnia. You've barely said a word over the past few days."

    Zinnia frowned. "Look, I'm sorry about that. Things were just really confusing to me after I woke up from the illusion. Its been hard for me to think things through and feel like my old self. But I'm sure I'll be feeling better soon. You just have to give me some time."

    "I'm certain you will get better, however--"

    "This isn't open for discussion," Zinnia grumbled, slumping down onto her bed. "We'll stick together and we'll be fine. Don't bring this up again," she told him, turning on her side so she could face away from him.

    As Zinnia wished, Jack didn't bring up the idea anymore. The next day, Zinnia seemed much better. She spoke quite a bit more and seemed rather active. It was almost as if she was trying harder on purpose after her companion expressed his worries over her silence. Zinnia wanted to eradicate any remaining thoughts he may have had for them to separate.

    Despite her efforts, however, Jack still continued to think about his idea. Zinnia couldn't fool him. He could see her toss and turn in her sleep and knew she still wasn't entirely well. So that's why he decided to look past Zinnia's stubborn disposition and do what he thought was best for her.

    The next evening, after Zinnia was soundly asleep, Jack packed his things, wrote her a letter explaining again why he thought it was best he should leave without her, and reluctantly left. Parting from her was a far tougher challenge than any enemy he had faced, yet the man was determined. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to keep her safe.

    By the time he was on the outskirts of town the moon was high in the sky. With every step he took, Jack’s body felt heavier under the guilt of leaving Zinnia behind without telling her. He felt so terrible, in fact, he could almost hear her voice ringing in his head—shooting him down with insults. In fact, the sound of her voice was so prominent, it was almost as if she were really there, standing right in front of—



    Through the darkness, Jack could feel a foot planted into his back. He groaned and stumbled forward, hunching over to grab the offended area. Turning around like a crippled, old man, the samurai would sheepishly face the person who kicked him, feeling even worse than before. How did she find out I had gone so quickly? I should’ve known she would find out quickly. She’s a sharp woman. “Z-Zinnia, I—“

    “Don’t even say anything,” she told him, frustration clear in her voice. “It’s not like you wanted to say anything anyhow. Clearly you didn’t, otherwise you never would’ve written this crap.” Zinnia crumbled up the letter Jack had written to her and threw it at his face, hitting him on the forehead with it. As she continued to speak, her voice cracked, showing she was not only angry, but also hurt.

    “I’m an adult. I-I can take care of myself. Do you think I don’t know how dangerous your world is? I don’t care, dammit! I have my wit and my pokémon to help me out. It isn’t as if I’m entirely helpless so don’t treat me like I am!”

    “Z-Zinnia, I know, but—“

    “I almost died from that poison, and in my dreams, you did die. And those weren’t just dreams to me, Jack. They felt real. They were real to me. Do you have any idea how I might’ve felt then? I touched your cold, lifeless body. I saw your grave. It broke my heart. To me, it felt like loosing Aster all over again. So, when I awoke from the illusion and found out that you weren’t dead, after accepting reality I felt like the luckiest woman alive. I love you more than anything. I had a second chance to see you again, to be with you. I did a lot of thinking while I was healing, and I found myself appreciating the value of life even a bit more. It’s a short, precious gift that can be taken away at any moment. I want to… enjoy every moment of my time being around you. If we part ways, we’re only wasting time that we could be using to be together. What if we part and you die on your journey? Or something happens to me while you’re away? I don’t want that, but it could happen. If it did happen, wouldn’t it be a shame that we wasted so much time?”

    Zinnia scowled under her breath, watching as Jack straightened his back and took a step toward her. “So you can either forget this bullshit of leaving me behind and let me come with you or you can leave. But if you do, leave don’t even bother to…”

    The young woman trailed off, feeling Jack slowly wrap his arms around her. Frustrated, she began to pound her fists again his chest, however, that didn’t deter the samurai from pulling his love close.

    “…don’t even bother to…”

    Grunting, Zinnia hit her fists against his chest a few more times.

    “Ugh, let me go, Jack! I’m not finished with what I have to—“

    Ignoring her efforts, Jack cupped Zinnia’s face, gently kissing her. Her resolve to fight slowly faded afterwards and she simply stood there, kissing him back.

    “Let you go? Never again,” he said after pulling back from the kiss. He still kept her close, however, tracing her cheek softly with the back of a hand. “I whole-heartedly apologize for leaving you. But you must understand, I too felt the weight of seeing you slowly die. I was only reacting it by leaving because I felt it would it would protect you. I also love you more than anything. I only wish to keep you safe.”

    Zinnia sighed. “You don’t always have to be a hero, you know? I promise you I can pull my own weight.” She gently leaned in and kissed his lips again, nuzzling his cheek afterwards. “You don’t always have to worry about protecting me.”

    “As long as you’re alive I’ll worry about protecting you. You mean the world to me, my love. But… I can try to… focus more on our time together, rather than the danger we might face,” he said, stroking the back of her head tenderly. Instinctively, he actually found himself leaning in to kiss her again. Why had he fought so hard to leave her behind? There was no way he could’ve kept away from her for so long…

    After pulling back from her, Zinnia would stare blankly at him, frozen and lovestruck for a moment. “So, um,” she began after a moment. “I am going with you, right?” she asked.

    Jack nodded. “Yes, you’ve most definitely convinced me not to let you go,” he said with a smile. “It’s late though. Would you rather go back to town and stay there until morning?”

    Zinnia shook her head. “I’m full of engird after having rested so much. Let’s just… walk for a while,” she suggested.

    “Very well,” Jack replied, gesturing to their path.

    As they walked together in silence, Jack still wondered to himself if Zinnia was feeling better or not, only to be shaken from such thoughts by her words.

    “Say, remember what I said about life being short?” Zinnia grabbed onto Jack’s arm, smirking mischievously. “We should enjoy it to the fullest with the time we have left so… what do you say we set up camp and share a tent? But not for sleeping if you know what I—“

    “Nice try,” Jack interrupted, stifling a laugh. It looked as if she really was feeling better.

    “Ugh, you’re no fun! Someday I will break you of those morals!” Zinnia cried, swinging the arm of his which she clung too while pouting.

    At last, a peaceful vibe had returned between the two and they could finally move on from the trials they had faced.

    ~The End~
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