Author's Note: This story includes characters from "Of Coffee Shops and Guilds".
Clouds were strange things, especially on a beautiful day that threatens to change.
Sometimes they are fluffy, like the cotton candy that shopkeepers sell to eager buyers like you and me. Sometimes they are light and wispy, and sometimes they're dark and ominous, just like how they loomed over me right now.
The clouds look pretty ominous to me right now.
Matthews Olson is a Red Kyrii. He did not plan to become a guild master, though almost everyone in the guild sees him as such. He's one of those lie-low types of people – the members who usually sit in the back of the guild room, listening eagerly to what the leader has to say. It was his surprise when, with the fear of the guild falling apart, the remaining members of their team has elected him as the new guild master. And now that a Yellow Wocky named Anna Alabaster, his most trusted companion, has finally decided to join him, Matthews was giddy enough to start his first day of leadership.
I am only a member of the guild. Like I said, it is not my place to tell his story. I am just this mere presence in the background, one of those lie-low people that I've been talking about. They don't even see me. But I've been there through all his endeavours, his ups and his downs.
So let me tell you our story.
I met Matthews when we were ten years old. He was nearsighted back then, too scrawny, and has this little twitch on the left eyebrow whenever he becomes nervous. Like all other children, he played during the afternoons and had a curfew. He was an ambitious little kid, but he was afraid to voice out his thoughts to other people, even his own parents.
I am – was – a Cloud Blumaroo. I'm one of the few people who Matthews considered one of his most trusted friends, since we were playmates back when we were little. As I reminisced, I remembered what happened exactly three months after our first meeting, a time when the clouds were dark and gloomy and screamed of rain and puddles and a whole lot of mud.
Matthews and I were running on the cobbled sidewalk. Even with the huge tarp covering our heads, we were soaked to the bone because of the rain. My clothes stuck to me like a second skin and my hair was dewy with raindrops.
"Are we there yet?" Matthews queried, pushing his spectacles up the bridge of his nose. Their lenses were wet too, and I was pretty sure that he had a hard time seeing through this sheet of rain.
I grinned at him. "No, but we're near, alright," I assured him.
I led him through an alcove of trees hidden behind the neoschool. The path was narrow, the trail was muddy and our shoes sunk through the muck and dirtied my pant legs. I sped up, intentionally jumping into puddles and splashing Matthews with mud-induced water. He retaliated by kicking wet mud at me, until we abandoned the tarp and our whole journey became a full-fledged war.
But the war had to end, and Matthews gave up because the muck reached his spectacles, obscuring his view even more.
He jumped on a tree root twice, before finally landing face-first on the forest path. I laughed boisterously at him, pointing at his mud-stained face. "Think you're a Blumaroo?" I teased. "Hop hop hop, hop hop hop."
Matthews blinked the rain out of his eyes and scowled at me. "I'm not a Blumaroo, Kendall. Unlike you."
"Since I'm a Blumaroo, I bet I can jump higher than you."
"I'm a Kyrii. I can run faster."
"Race you to the clearing?" I challenged, lifting my chin in a supercilious manner.
Matthews removed his spectacles, raised them to the light (or what's left of it) then wiped them with his sleeve in one fluid motion.
"You're on," he said, putting them on and smirking at me in that achingly familiar way.
And so, our water race began.
I have three words to describe that race – short, wet, and petpetpets. The mud made it impossible for me to bounce high, but I do it the traditional way by running, albeit a little slower. Matthews slid through the forest floor with a grace that only Kyrii possessed and soon, he was first in the clearing.
As if on cue, the clouds parted and the rain stopped, and Matthews saw the surprise that I planned for him right there and then.
For in the middle of the clearing was a tree house, perched a good ten feet above ground, the sun beaming down upon it like a natural spotlight. From that awestruck look plastered on my best friend's face, I knew that he was pleased with what I done.
"Wow," he breathed. He removed his spectacles, brusquely wiped the lenses three times, and put it on again. After that, he repeated the process. "It's beautiful."
"It took me two months, but it's worth the wait." I said proudly, showing him my calloused paws and the blisters that I got from all the hard work. "Painful and sweaty, but..." I smiled knowingly. "Hey, do you want me to show you how it looks like from the inside? I added some furnishing, too."
Matthews beamed, showing his full set of pearly whites. "Yeah, sure," he answered smugly, raising his shoulder in a half-formed shrug. "Doesn't mean that you won the race, though."
Unable to contain my excitement, I took his arm and led him – almost bouncing in haste – towards the tree house. I pulled a rope that hung from one of its limbs and down came the ladder, rolling and tumbling until it stretched a couple of inches above ground.
"After you?" I offered.
Matthews looked at me warily, like I have something unpleasant planned for him up in the tree house – not that I do, it's just that he had a lot of experience with these types of things, him being antisocial and all. I nodded my assurance of safety, but he still retained that cautious look. After a few seconds of reading each other's eyes, he took a rung in his paw and hefted himself up. "You coming after me?" he called.
I stuck my tongue out at him, uncoiled my tail, and bounced up to the tree house, landing Blumaroo-style on the wooden porch. "More like before you," I teased, blowing a raspberry and looking down at him like I'm the king of the world. "Loser."
Matthews clambered up swiftly, climbing rung after rung until he was almost at the top of the ladder. "If I get up there, I swear I'll –"
He didn't finish his threat, because the rung he was holding on to snapped, and he went careening towards the ground at a surprising speed.
Using the porch as leverage, I lay flat on my stomach and stuck my arm out, gripping his wrist and trying my best not to fall off. Had I been a little stronger, I would've pulled him up and saved both of us the trouble of falling. But alas, my limbs were scrawny and they don't have the strength of a hundred Grarrls. The only advice that I gave to him was to hold on and never let go.
Matthews never looked so frightened.
"Hang on a little longer, Matthews!" I exclaimed. Sweat accumulated on my forehead. I can feel my hands turning clammy, and his wrist slipping away from my grasp. "Hang on..."
Tears pooled in his eyes. "I don't think I can, Kendall –"
"Nonsense!" I cut him off, smiling at him. "Of course, you can! What will I do with this house if you don't hang on?" I stuck out my other paw and gripped fearfully at his wrist. "We're forming a guild, alright? You and I. Don't let go."
I never regretted saving Matthews that day. And when I pulled him up and slid from the porch and came tumbling down because of his weight, I knew that he would hang on to our unspoken promise – that we would form a guild together and he would honour our friendship until his fur turns gray.
Mine never did.
Ten years later, I saw him exit the coffee shop, a smile plastered onto his face. Then, like what he always does when he's happy, he looked up at the sky and said, "The sky's clear today, Kendall," even though it's not.
I smiled back at him. Yeah, maybe the sky doesn't look so ominous after all.