It was a nice day in Aether. In fact, it always seemed to be bright when Graphite went outside, probably due to the climate. Either way, it was a perfect day to go for a nice walk into the city, especially with cake. He and a friend of his, Amy, had created the cake in hopes of giving it to...Who was it, Kyoshi, or something? Amy's boyfriend, apparently. Graphite just decided to roll with it early on. The duo was walking down to his home, Graphite a few steps behind the Jigglypuff, hoping to not get lost. He didn't live in the city, so it was probably best to stay close.
"It's right around here," said the Jigglypuff, walking in front of the much taller Blaziken. She had let him carry the cake since it would be much less of a strain on his arms than on her tiny, stubby ones. "See?"
They had arrived at the small house, which Graphite was a little too tall to fit through the doorway of a house built specifically for a guy who was 2'4" tall. In fact, the Blaziken's head was practically taller than the house itself! Amy sheepishly chuckled. "Uh, yeah...I suppose that could be a problem. Let me knock on his door."
As she turned to the door with the strange yet recognizable symbol on it to knock, it just occurred to her that Ryoshi never met Graphite before, and he might even get a little nervous at the tall, Fire/Fighting type. But all she just had to do was reassure him that he was a friend. That's all there was to it, wasn't it?
"Hey, Ryoshi? It's me, Amy...and, uh, a friend."
"Ah, Amy-chan! A welcome surprise as always~!" Ryoshi's voice rung out as his door swung open and the Mawile's head poked through the frame. "And who's this friend of yo—"
Ryoshi stopped his sentence short when he realized that behind Amy was a pair of orange, almost pillar-like feet. He actually had to step outside his home to see the entire form of the black-robed Blaziken. "Oh. Um... Hello. I'm Ryoshi... I feel like I've seen you before, but I haven't actually met you."
Graphite had to admit, the boy did seem familiar, as if they had met once before. He tried to jog his memory a little; the only time the two could have met was when Ryoshi was ill. Graphite had bought some kind of medicine to the lovestruck pair, but had never actually gone inside or introduced himself.
The Mawile looked a bit shocked, to say the least. An awkward silence followed, for Graphite didn't have any idea what to say. He took a few seconds, and then spoke as if the awkwardness never happened.
“Well, it is nice to make your acquaintance. I am Graphite, a friend of Mi'Lady Amy. I can presume you are Samurai Ryoshi, correct?
"Correct. Well, nice to meet you as well, Graphite-san." Ryoshi bowed his head politely, before turning his attention back towards his girlfriend. "I would invite you inside, but I get the feeling that Graphite wouldn't fit very well. So, Amy-chan, what brings you and your rather tall friend here?"
At this, the Jigglypuff couldn't help but break into a wide grin. "...You forgot what today is??" she couldn't help but ask teasingly.
But before either of the guys could get a word in response, she pulled the silver platter out of Graphite's hands with Psychic and lowered it into her arms before dramatically opening it. "TA-DAH!"
The Durin Berry-flavored cake was just as it looked when Amy and Graphite first made it a few days ago. It was coated in light green icing for the most part, with dark, sea-green icing representing the ocean on the sides of the cake. There was also marzipan figures of various fish dotted in the sea icing. On top of the cake were the words, ‘HAPPY 20TH BIRTHDAY, RYOSHI!’ on it, dotted with marzipan Durin Berries all over it, and in the very center of it all was a little Amy figurine holding up a sword pointing skyward in a silly yet dramatic fashion.
Unlike a certain crappy love poem courtesy of her father, she REALLY hoped that this gift would blow Ryoshi's pants off.
The Mawile's eyes lit up like a child's on Christmas morning. He had forgotten entirely that it was his birthday today. And the cake! It was unlike anything he had ever seen! It was decorated with everything he enjoyed, from Durin berries and fish to Amy herself! A lot of thought and effort had obviously gone into the making of the cake, and the fact that Amy had put in so much customization made it all the more special! His mouth was already watering like crazy just looking at this thing!
"Oh gosh, is my birthday today? I had all but forgotten! Did you make this whole thing for me, Amy-chan?" He took the cake carefully from her hands, and after taking a strong whiff of it, set it down momentarily on the stone floor inside his house so that he could turn around and embrace the Jigglypuff in loving hug. "Thank you so much, sweetie! It looks amazing. You don't know how much it means to get such a wonderful gift!"
"D...don't thank me. Thank Graphite here...he was the one who taught me how to make this cake in the first place..."
But even so, Amy couldn't help but hug Ryoshi back, and basked in his newfound happiness. Did she ever see him so happy before? Probably pretty close to this, but certainly not THIS happy. And Ryoshi had cake before, after all? Graphite sure seemed to know his stuff.
As the Blaziken watched, he couldn't help but be happy for the couple. They seemed so close and sweet, which kind of reminded him of his sister...
Kids. Would they have kids? Graphite couldn't help but think of the possibilities, so tried to mask a small laugh with his talon. He could just imagine an Igglybuff with Japanese-styled armor, adorned with bows. That seemed too obvious of a child for the pair, but it was still something to humor himself.
He looked down at the duo in forced silence, trying not to let any laughs escape. He then removed a neckerchief from his tuxedo pocket, before rolling it into a cone. After a bit of awkward rolling, he placed the 'party hat' on the Mawile's head.
“Enjoy your birthday while it lasts, Mi'Lord.”
Ryoshi looked up at the 'hat' Graphite had placed on top of his normal helm, careful not lean his head back so much that it would tumble off. A smile cracked over his face.
He reached up as far as he could, grabbing the Blaziken's hand and shaking it. "Thank you, sir."
He stole a glance back into his house at the cake before looking back at his two guests and laughing. "Who wants a slice? This thing’s too big for just me!"
"Ooh, ooh, I do, I do!"
Before either of the two guys could react, the Jigglypuff had already darted into the house, yoinked up a slice, and started chowing down on it. "Mmm! MMM! Holy cow, this is even better than I thought it would be!" she managed to say after swallowing a bite. "Ryoshi, you gotta try some! It's like that Jaboca whatchamacallit that I had for the festival, except better! I'm telling you, it's really close to the taste of your..."
Realizing what she was about to say, she quickly stopped herself by devouring more of the cake slice. It was amazing to be able to see how even a tiny Jigglypuff could sweep up good food like an anachronistic vacuum cleaner. "...Well, you know what I mean," she added with a wink.
Ryoshi chuckled; covering his mouth with a hand in the hopes Graphite wouldn't catch it. He knew exactly what she was about to blurt out, but there was no need for him to know what she meant. "Yes, I suppose I do~." He returned the wink before grabbing a slice and helping himself to it.
Mmm, it was sweet just like a cake should be, but Graphite and Amy had somehow managed to make it have that bitter aftertaste that he enjoyed so much. He wasn't sure how they did it, and he wasn't sure he'd ever figure it out (since cooking wasn't one of his strong points), but he was happy that they had pulled it off. At first, he was concerned that Amy might have a problem with the bitterness, but she seemed to be enjoying it as much as he was, so no worries there, he supposed.
"Mmph, Graphite-san," Ryoshi muttered in between mouthfuls. "Can you fit in here? Or should I bring you a slice out?"
Graphite was a bit confused of the secret between the two, but it wasn't like him to interfere. He looked through the tiny door to the two inside.
“I doubt I could fit in, although your house looks nice from where I can see it. I wonder if I can reach my arm in to get a slice? Arm coming through!”
Graphite lengthened his arm and wormed it through the door to the cake on the floor. He could just about grab a slice, and pulled it out with him. It did look nice, even if he said so himself.
He took a bite. It indeed had the flavor of a cake, but a mix of the Durin Berries and cinnamon they put in. It strangely went together quite well.
"It's great, isn't it?" asked Amy, beaming up at Graphite. "I really need to come over to your house more often. Could learn a thing or two about making awesome food like this! Hard to believe I ate practically nothing but berries before now."
She then turned back to Ryoshi. "Sorry I couldn't think of anything else for your birthday. I hope this is enough."
"Of course it's enough."
When both of the small Pokémon finished eating their slices of cake, Ryoshi wiped some crumbs from his face before snuggling up to the Jigglypuff. "It came from your heart. And that makes it special to me."
The Vaporeon gazed over the blueish-green surface of the ocean with her weary, baggy eyes as the waves gently washed up, before sliding back into their origins.
"The ocean is quite lovely around here, isn't it?" She dipped one of her front paws delicately into the brine. "And it isn't too cold either. Rather refreshing from the chilly rivers, wouldn't you say?"
The Mawile nodded as he watched a fish leapt into the air a few inches before unceremoniously flopping back under. "Yes, and it seems like there's plenty to fish as well. I guess we really won't be out of business."
"It sounds like you're implying you catch anything while you doze off." The Vaporeon chuckled.
Her ears perked as she heard rapid footsteps from behind, and it didn't take the Mawile too much longer to hear them as well and turn his head to the source.
The two stole a look at each other as they watched the Jigglypuff run up to them. They both had a feeling they could already take a guess as to who she might be, but they couldn't be for certain until she actually confirmed those suspicions.
The Jigglypuff then slowed down to a stop right in front of them, panting heavily as she tried to catch her breath. "W...Welcome to the kingdom of Aether," she gasped. "I know we only set up about five months ago, but make yourselves at home here."
She had to pause for breath before finally straightening up. "My name is Amy Apirana, and I'm a tailor who's been here for a while. Nice to meet you guys!"
Amy didn't want to assume that they were Ryoshi's parents in the event that they actually weren't, so she had stuck to the usual introduction she'd give to newcomers to the kingdom whenever she happened to be nearby to greet them.
A large grin broke across the two's faces as Amy introduced herself.
"So it IS you! We thought you were her, but we didn't know for sure!" The Vaporeon made a slight squealing noise as she spoke, as if she couldn't contain her own excitement.
The two gave her a small hug, and although the older Mawile backed off, the Vaporeon stayed and wrapped her long, finned tail around her.
"My name's Umei Sumiura, and my husband is Masamori Sumiura. We're Ryoshi's parents. We had no idea where Ryoshi had gone off to after Kaigen sent him off. We thought he would come back and visit on occasion, and when he didn't, we tried looking for him, but we couldn't find any traces of him anywhere; like he'd vanished from the face of the planet! But your letter..." She had to stop, unable to keep herself from crying any longer.
Masamori stepped forward, putting his hand gently on her shoulder and nodding to Amy. "When we got your letter from Nibble, well... Needless to say, we were thrilled to hear that he hadn't died, and even more thrilled to hear that he found someone to love! We didn't even know if the letter was true, but Nibble assured us that he did meet you, and more importantly, Ryoshi, and that was enough for us to make the trek all this way to see if it was true."
Amy beamed. It took everything she had to keep herself from exploding in excitement. "It IS true! He's right here, in town! In fact, I just got back from celebrating his birthday today!"
She then calmed down. "Ah, I mean...it's an honor to meet you guys, uh...Mr. and Mrs. Sumiura! Really, though...I wasn't sure when you guys were coming, or if at all. This changes EVERYTHING. I have to take you to see him right away!"
Umei's pupils shrunk dramatically and her eyes got super wide. "Oh!" Her cyan-toned face flashed a deep red. "Oh my goodness, it is his birthday today! I completely forgot!" She wailed. "Why didn't we remember? We could have gotten him a gift!"
"It—it's okay, Mrs. Sumiura..." Amy tried to calm Umei down. "Just you guys coming to see him should be a good enough gift for him, right? ...Right?"
"I hope so..." Masamori nodded. "Which way is his house?"
"It's this way!" The Jigglypuff pointed into the town in the distance and ran towards it before motioning for them to follow her. "Follow me!"
Soon enough, the three of them came across the familiar house with the strange symbol engraved into it. Amy's heart was racing the whole time, and she was so busy trying to figure out how to break the news to Ryoshi that she forgot about the symbol on Ryoshi's door until Masamori spoke up.
"Look dear..." The older Mawile ran his hand slowly over the crudely carved symbol in the door. "The family seal," he whispered. "It was passed down from father to son over countless generations, but... I guess I just thought he hadn't paid much attention to it at home..."
Amy's eyes widened. "Oh...wow. A family seal...I've always wondered what that symbol meant..." She trailed off before giggling nervously. "Probably should have asked him."
She then lowered her voice to a whisper and gestured for them to hide behind the walls on either side of the door, giving them a mischievous, conspiratorial smile. "By the way, you think you could stay out of sight until I say you can come out? I want this to be a BIG surprise for him~."
"Of... of course." Umei nodded. The two walked around to another side of the house as Amy requested, but couldn't help themselves from peeking just ever so slightly towards the door.
Amy tentatively knocked at the door, with her heart pounding like crazy in anticipation. "Ryoooooshi~? It's me again, Amy! And...well...something else came up for your birthday!"
The door swung open after a moment, and Ryoshi poked his head out. "Something more? You really didn't have to do anything more for me, the party was a great enough gift."
Amy nearly panicked and pushed Ryoshi back into the house before he could accidentally see either of his parents.
She then stared up at him with a silly smirk on her face. "I know~. But it's a reeeeaaally big surprise that came up just now~." She took a deep breath, looking out the door, before looking in his eyes again, with an even bigger grin on her face. "You ready?"
"Uh..." His heart was aflutter with both anticipation, and a tinge of fear. Amy was acting sort of odd, and where as he would normally be able to read her somewhat, he had absolutely no idea what was about to happen.
"M—maybe? What are you up to?"
She giggled. "I can't really explain it. It's better if I show you~."
The Jigglypuff then took a step away from Ryoshi and turned to the doorway. "Okay, guys! You can come out now!"
Her heart was beating faster than ever at this point. She was so excited and yet so nervous as to what Ryoshi's reaction would be to seeing his parents again. Would he be happy? Apprehensive? Mortified? Flabbergasted? Well, his parents obviously wanted to see him again, so hopefully, it would at least go well for them. Only one way to find out~!
Slowly, Masamori and Umei slipped through the doorway and into the house. If Ryoshi's heart was pounding before, it had all but stopped now. His head became cloudy, and if he could actually analyze the fact, he'd be surprised he had remained on his feet. He realized instantly who he was looking at, but he was too overcome with shock to move or talk.
"Ryoshi... my little boy." Umei and Masamori were practically in tears as they held out their arms.
"M—MOM! DAD!" The younger Mawile jumped into his parents' arms. "B—b—but... how did you get here?!
"Your little friend over there sent us a letter." Masamori pointed towards Amy.
Ryoshi broke away and stared at his girlfriend, his breath caught in his throat. "A—Amy? You? You brought them here? B—But when?"
"I...I..." For a second, Amy looked as though she was too shocked to talk. She didn't quite expect Ryoshi to be so shocked like this...
But then the Jigglypuff smiled and took a step forward, slightly chuckling. "It was actually Chasca's idea, funny enough. It was the day after the Festival of Aether ended, and I went over to her house to get her advice, s—since I was thinking about whether I should marry you or not."
She blushed when she said this, but she was on too much of a roll to stop now. "And she said it would be better to get to know your parents too, but I told her they were in Sazanami, so she said to write a letter to them asking them to come here, but who was going to bring the letter over there? But then I remembered Nibble and how he knew your family, so I caught him right before he left and gave him the letter I wrote, and then...well..."
She took another step forward and held his hand. "I didn't know they'd actually come this soon, right on your birthday! But I was leaving your house just today when I saw them on the beach, I swear, so of course I couldn't just ignore them!" She then hugged him. "I love you, Ryoshi...and I just wanted to make you happy, that's all."
"I... I thought my parents were dead..."
Ryoshi's mind couldn't manage to process any words to adequately answer Amy after everything that just happened. All this time, he thought his parents were dead, yet here they were, brought here by Amy. True, even if it was just a letter literally, it was so much more than that.
He didn't think he could ever see his family again, but thanks to her, here they were, standing in his home. What she had done was so much better than just write a letter. She had mended a home and filled a heart. He wiped the tears of sheer joy and love from his eyes.
"I love you too, Amy! I love you!"
He grabbed her and squeezed her tight, new tears forming in his eyes and rolling off his face. Cupping her chin and gently bringing it upwards, he gave her a kiss, caressing his lips against her own. It didn't matter if his parents were there; his heart was too overwhelmed with joy to be satisfied with anything less.
Amy's mind was so overcome by shock that she couldn't speak. But of course she couldn't literally; his lips were locked with hers way too tightly. What she was more shocked about was...why in the world did Ryoshi think his parents were DEAD?
Then again...she never did ask him about his parents, did she? She was so determined to keep this a surprise for him that the possibility that they would be dead never even crossed her mind.
As her brain tried to process this crazy turn of events, made even more complex by the sensation of his lips around her own, one thing was made clear, though. Throughout the entire five months and counting that they had known each other, she had always tried to make Ryoshi happy in the same way that he had always made her happy. But no matter how hard she tried, she could never seem to do anything that would be on the same level. It made her feel ashamed and inadequate at first, and unworthy of his friendship, but at the same time, she resigned herself to believing it was always going to be that way.
It was as if the whole reason she was born was to be the one to bring him back with his family. A secret apparently very well-kept from her by the spirits. It was enough to make all those years she lived alone in the wild worth it.
It was the proudest moment of her life.
"Dead? What in the world gave you that idea?" Masamori scratched his head.
When Amy and Ryoshi's kiss ended, the younger Mawile turned to his father. "While I was traveling, I heard a rumor that the area around Kamiki Village got attacked, and that a bunch of fishers had gotten killed. I... just assumed... But I can see now that my assumption was wrong."
Amy's jaw dropped. "Oh wow, I...I didn't know that..." Then she shrugged and gave a weak grin. "...Then again, I totally forgot to ask about your mom and dad, and it turns out they're still alive, so...it's for the best, I guess?"
She then turned to Masamori and Umei. "...Still, though. Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Sumiura. For taking care of Ryoshi all the time and supporting him and his dream, even if you guys are both fishers." She squeezed Ryoshi back a little more tightly. "He's so kind, and gentle...and he's the best thing that ever happened to me."
"And we would like to once again extend our deepest gratitude to you, Miss Amy." Masamori bowed his head. He would have at the very least shaken her hand if she was not clinging so tightly to his son.
"I may not know for sure how Ryoshi would up here, but it does seem that while he's been here, you've taken care of him as well," Umei purred, placing a paw on her shoulder. "Even if you two end up going separate ways, I want you to know that you'll always be a part of the Sumiura family as far as I'm concerned."
"...Thank you...!" Amy beamed. Umei did have a point in that there was still no telling what might happen in the future, but at this moment, there was definitely one truth. She had brought this family back together again...and wouldn't mind eventually being a real part of it, too. And besides, since she brought them here in order to get to know them better before asking to see if she could marry Ryoshi, it was all the sweeter that they already thought that~.
Over the next several hours, the four of them sat down on the floor of Ryoshi's house, excitedly discussing everything that had happened, from Ryoshi's life with his parents, to his dream of becoming a samurai, to the moment Nibble brought the letter to Masamori and Umei, to the time when Amy first met Ryoshi in the kingdom of Aether, and all the times after that, which Amy took great pride in telling every single one. By the end of it all, both Masamori and Umei knew exactly how Ryoshi and Amy ended up falling in love, and how great it was that they ever met in a place like Aether.
Soon enough, it was sunset, which Amy quickly realized upon the dimming light and the sun out the door. "Oh man! It's getting late already!" she said, surprised. "Argh. I probably should have shown you guys any of the new houses you could stay in, Mr. and Mrs. Sumiura...that is, unless you don't mind sleeping on the floor here for now or something..."
"Oh dear, is it that late already?" Umei glanced out the door as if hoping the sun wouldn't actually be where she knew it would be. "Well, nothing that we can do about it, I suppose. We must continue talking another time, though. Ah, but don't worry about us. We have a tent that we used on the trip here; we can just stay there for now. Of course, Masamori could sleep anywhere he could actually squeeze into." The Vaporeon playfully jabbed her husband in the ribs.
"She's right; sometimes I just can't stay awake! I once fell asleep on a Rhyhorn while Umei was shopping in a market. Thought it was a rock!" The older Mawile laughed. "Alright, we'll leave you be for tonight. Good night, son."
"G'night, Dad. You too, Mom. Love you." Ryoshi smiled softly as he hugged his parents.
As the elderly couple walked out together, he turned to Amy, who was still there with him. "I don't know how I'm going to make this up to you, mi'lady. I'm not even sure if there IS anything I can do that will mean as much to you as this means to me. But if you think of anything, just let me know."
The Jigglypuff shook her head and smiled. "You don't have to, Ryoshi. Just seeing you happy is enough to make me happy. But..." She hugged him again. "I suppose if I do think of something, you'll be the first to know."
"Fair enough," he whispered sweetly into her big, beautiful ears. "Thank you... This was the best birthday I've ever had."
"I'm glad I could make it that way for you..." She smiled lovingly, staring back into his deep red eyes one last time, before turning around and heading for the door.
As soon as she reached it, though, she stopped as an idea came to her head. "Huh. Actually, I wonder what could possibly be done to make MY next birthday just as good..."
"I don't know what I could do to top this one. But I'll find something before then, I promise."
He met her at the door, kneeling down to give her one final peck on the forehead. "Good night, my little angel."
"...!" She couldn't help but attempt to tenderly touch the place he just kissed on her forehead. Something about that comment touched her deep inside, and she smiled warmly, as if it had confirmed that right then, right there, she meant everything to him. "Goodnight..."
Then it occurred to her. What would make her birthday the best birthday ever.
She didn't want her wedding to be anytime during the frozen-cold winter, and with the way things were progressing, maybe they wouldn't have to wait until next spring...maybe...just maybe...
She decided to keep this to herself, though. For now, as so not to rob Ryoshi of the opportunity to think of something himself. And so, she turned out the door and began walking back home to the teepee on the hill once again, just like she had attempted to do earlier in the day.
Birthdays, huh...? They were certainly a very, very big deal back in her tribe, and one thing she was glad for was that she was able to give Ryoshi the same kind of joy that such an occasion should warrant—no, a thousand times better than that. In fact, she herself had enjoyed birthdays when she was a young child.
Ever since she turned 13, though...that was when the day stopped holding anything special for her. It became a curse; something that seemed to want to force her into stuff she wasn't ready for, and every time November 13 would pass while she was out on her Vision Quest, it only seemed to rub in her face that much harder at how she failed to fulfill the expected duties of the people in said tribe.
If she played her cards right—and if Ryoshi could think of something special like he promised he would—this could very well be the first time since childhood she ever had a good birthday. And not just that...
The best birthday ever.