|"Is Jade ready for school yet?" Saphir asked, smiling brightly as he stood at the steps of the Balfour house. He was young, barely ten years old, and full of youthful energy. "I was waiting and waiting, and he hasn't come down yet."|
Jade's mother stared at Saphir for a moment, then frowned. "I'm sorry, Jade has already left for school with Franz. Didn't he tell you?"
It happened again.
|The young adult Saphir gaped openly at the destruction around him, unable to believe what he had seen. Glass tubes were shattered, the specimens dead inside. The fontech was smashed, wires ripped out and charred in other places. It was as if a storm had passed through the lab, leaving a wake of destruction.|
That storm had been Jade Balfour.
"I can't... believe this," Saphir muttered. "Everything... our work-!"
The fontechnician paused as he caught the scent of smoke and quickly tured to stare at the wastebasket, which was smoldering with papers. It didn't take Saphir long to realize what was burning.
"No!" Saphir squeaked in alarm and rushed towards the waste basket. "No, no, no!"
The fontechnician quickly cast a water fonic arte, the best he could manage with his weak abilities. He doused the fire, though it ended up soaking the papers as well. It was of small consequence, as a good majority of the fomicry notes the two had worked so hard on were ruined. Saphir stood over the wastebasket and stared at the papers, then slumped to his knees heavily.
|"Wait! Wait!" the small child Saphir called out as he raced forward, following a thick black path that cut straight through an infinite whiteness. It seemed to lead nowhere at all, but it was followed nevertheless.|
Up ahead, the child forms of Peony and Jade paid no attention to who was following them. Peony and his obnoxious smile, he chattered eagerly with Jade. In turn, Jade would nod his head or say something short back. It might not have seemed like Jade was enjoying himself, but only someone who didn't know Jade would think that. The very fact that he tolerated Peony at all spoke more than all the words he could have uttered.
Neither stopped and waited for Saphir, walking ahead with no room for him.
|"Arrogant of him, isn't it? To assume that he has the right to unilaterally decide such things. Considering half of this project is yours, one would think you'd be allowed some measure of say in to what happens to it."|
Saphir paused and lifted his head, but didn't look at Van.
Van turned to smile at Saphir, though it was without much humor. "But then, he is Jade Balfour, the genius. He is the one that receives all credit for fomicry. Nevermind the fact that without you, none of this would have been possible. He created the theory, but you provided the fontechnology. And yet for that, you don't get even a backhanded word of commendation. Jade Balfour receives all the glory, and you receive the garbage." Van ran his finger down the ruined test tube, mindful of the broken glass, as if to emphasize his point.
"It would seem that your Score... is to eternally stare at the backs of your 'friends' as they leave you behind without a second thought."
|"Jade! You need to apologize to Saphir!" Nephry said as she stomped her foot, the young girl looking rather authoritarian in spite of her age. "You too, Peony!"|
Jade didn't say anything while Peony laughed, rubbing the back of his head. Saphir shivered as he sat in front of the fire, wrapped up in a thick blanket. His face was a rather unhealthy shade of blue, which was to be expected considering moments before he had been unceremoniously submerged in the freezing waters around Keterburg.
When Jade's apology wasn't forthcoming, Nephry stomped her foot again. "Jade!"
"N-no, N-Nephry!" Saphir protested, in spite of his chattering teeth. He always hated it when people yelled at Jade, even for things he actually did. "It wasn't Jade's fault!"
"Yeah," Peony said, cheerfully. "We didn't think Saphir'd flail around so much and attract so many monsters!"
Saphir sneezed before glowering over at Peony, then turned to look at Jade. Jade didn't show any remorse whatsoever, or any concern for that matter.
Maybe Jade was disappointed that he didn't drown.
|"Fomicry has officially been banned in Malkuth, per royal decree."|
Saphir finally turned to Van, his eyes wide with shock. "What-?!"
"Given how quickly such a decree came about, with this laboratory not even cold yet...," Van turned to Saphir. "...I imagine it was planned from the beginning."
Without a shadow of a doubt, that meant Peony was involved. Peony had to have known what Jade was planning, if he wasn't the one that made Jade do it in the first place.
Saphir's jaw clenched as his body trembled with rage.
"I suppose Jade Balfour realized what he had on his hands and could not handle it," Van said as he turned to face Saphir. "...Such small thinking for someone so revolutionary. But then, it's hardly surprising, considering he had no interest in protecting even his own blood and best friend from the Score."
"...Peony is not his best friend," Saphir snapped out, instantly. After a moment's hesitation, he got to his feet, dusting himself off. "I'm not interested in the Score, I'm interested in success."
"That's something you'll never achieve if you stay in Malkuth," Van said as he gestured about the ruined lab. "This is the future of fomicry, as far as your kingdom is concerned."
"Malkuth isn't my kingdom," Saphir said, coldly. "Fontechology is my kingdom."
|Saphir trembled as he stared down at Nebilim's bloody body, with Jade standing over her as the school burned behind them. The fire gave the snow a red glow, as if it were covered in blood.|
|It was so discouraging to see the extent of the damage Jade had done. It'd take years to rebuild, years to repair - it had taken years to create in the first place, after all. And even that was looking quite grim, with Peony outlawing fomicry. He'd have no funding, no laboratory, and he'd no doubt he arrested if he tried to do it privately. However, that wasn't the most troubling discovery.|
"...The professor's fondata isn't here," Saphir muttered. Jade must have taken it. Without that, even if Saphir had recovered the rest of the data, there would be no revival of the professor. Jade had been quite thorough, he obviously intended to take no chances.
...Or he meant to continue the research with Peony, finding him incapable of achieving results despite all the effort he put in to this - in to Jade's dream.
Saphir gripped the side of the table as he hunched forward, trembling with his emotions. Anger, shock, betrayal, violation - the list went on, and yet none of them could fully describe what he was feeling. He had tried so hard, and this was the end result? This was how much it all meant?
"...This is...," Saphir whispered. "This can't be..."
"This doesn't have to be the end of it." Van said.
Saphir paused and looked over towards the man, not certain he heard correctly. "...What?"
"If you want to continue fomicry, you'll need funding, you'll need a laboratory, and you'll need a location where you'll be out of the reach of that which would stop you," Van said. "Including Malkuth law."
Saphir continued to stare at Van, waiting for him to get to the point.
"I can provide it all for you," Van said as he approached the smaller man. "You can continue fomicry on your own."
"...And what do you want in return?" Saphir asked. He didn't trust this man, he knew there had to be something to all of this. For all his talk about Jade and Peony using him, he knew Van had every intention of using him as well.
That's really all he was ever good for.
|Everyone was using him, everyone was always using him and then discarding him like trash. Left behind and forgotten, only to remembered when something came up that no one else could do. Valuable and yet expendable, he was always one step behind.|
|Peony and Jade walked in front of him as usual, following the straight and narrow path through the whiteness. Now their adult selves instead of children, they talked merrily to each other with their infuriating smiles and infuriating closeness.|
And as always, there was no room for him with them. Only behind them.
If he ever meant to get Jade to notice him, he'd have to step in front for once.
Dist's eyes snapped open and he found himself staring at the ceiling. He slowly sat up before glancing over at the Dreamberry with a rather unreadable expression, noting that it was transmitting. The filters had partially failed, again. They always seemed to fail when he needed them most.
...Well, no matter. It wouldn't change anything.
He had needed the reminder.