The Price of Love
One day, Cassius is at a pastry shop in town when he notices that the prices of desserts have risen as of late. The pastry chef tells Cassius that prices are higher because baked goods are being made with special affection for Valentine's. Cassius fails to understand the difference, until the crew tells him that the rise in prices is due to the high demand of sweets during the season. Satisfied with this logic, Cassius joins the others in exploring the seasonal sweets fair in town.
Cassius—a warrior from the moon who was once sent to the skies on a mission.
For a brief time, he had returned to the moon with Isaac, a fellow moon descendant.
He was then held prisoner by the moon's Central Axis, used as a sample for information on the Sky Realm and the girl in blue.
The moondwellers proceeded to use the information extracted from Cassius's brain to carry out their plans for the destruction of the skies.
Thanks to the efforts of (Captain)'s crew, Isaac, and members of the Society, Cassius was eventually revived and fought hard in the battle to protect the skies.
After successfully defending against the moon's threats, Cassius finally settles down into his new life in the peaceful Sky Realm.
One early afternoon, just before Valentine's Day. Some time has passed since Cassius returned to the Sky Realm.
Cassius stands with his brows knit, glaring at the showcase of a pastry shop located at the corner of a street in town.
Pastry Chef: Don't all of them look amazing? This cake and tart over here are seasonal items, so give 'em a try while you can!
Cassius: Indeed, I have not seen those before. There is an appeal in trying something I will not be able to taste again.
Pastry Chef: I have full confidence in any of the pastries here. Nothing would make me happier than to have you taste the wonders I've created!
Cassius: I've heard from Beatrix as well that everything from this shop is top-quality.
Cassius: I had considered giving baked desserts a rest, but these pastries are tempting.
The long-haired young man runs his eyes along the rows of pastries in the case. He cocks his head and looks up at the owner.
Cassius: However, Chef—I believe there is a mistake in the labeled prices.
Cassius: If my memory is correct, the price for each of these pastries is approximately 1.5 times higher than its usual price.
Pastry Chef: Oh... Really?
Cassius: And not only this shop. The prices at all the shops in town have risen slightly.
Cassius: Seasonal products aside, it is unfathomable to me why the prices of regular products that have not changed in the slightest are now higher.
Cassius shifts his gaze to the window and the bustling city street beyond it.
Shops decked in red and pink line the road as people queue outside each of them.
Cassius: Come to think of it, the town has been strange today. Every shop has the same colors and decor, and ashen expressions on people's faces.
Cassius: Reminds me of soldiers preparing for a large battle.
Pastry Chef: ...
Pastry Chef: I have to say, young man, your memory is impeccable, and you're very attentive to your surroundings.
The tension builds as Cassius waits quietly for the pastry chef to continue explaining.
Pastry Chef: Like you said, it is a battle. A war in which one must risk their life and soul.
Pastry Chef: The war known as Valentine's!
Cassius blinks, unable to comprehend.
Pastry Chef: That's right! Have you forgotten that Valentine's is just around the corner? Next week, in fact.
Pastry Chef: Every shop is doing its best to promote its products for the special day, and that's why prices have been rising.
Cassius: I cannot understand why the prices of regular products are also affected by this "Valentine's."
Cassius: Take these pastries, for example. They are labeled as "seasonal," but I do not detect any divergence in them since my last visit.
Cassius: There is no elaborate wrapping either, unlike the box of assorted sweets over there. Can you enlighten me on the difference?
Pastry Chef: Haha. Well you know, all the sweets sold around this time are specially made with affection, and that's what makes the prices go up.
Pastry Chef: Affection adds to the flavor, so it's only fair!
Pastry Chef: Yep! You know what they say. Tastes the best when it's seasoned with love and affection!
Cassius closes his eyes, reflecting on the chef's words before nodding.
Cassius: True. I've seen something similar in a recipe I read before.
Cassius: This spice called "affection" must be a truly radical type of seasoning for it to have this much influence on prices.
Cassius: If pastries made with this "affection" are a delicacy that can only be eaten during this season, then I must taste it for myself.
Cassius: Chef. I would like to have my usuals, in addition to this seasonal shortcake here.
Pastry Chef: You got it! Thank you very much!
Cassius: Now then.
Having made his way to a plaza in the corner of town, Cassius lowers himself onto a bench, sweets in hand.
Cassius: A dessert seasoned with affection. What kind of flavor does it harbor?
Anticipation coursing through his body, Cassius takes a bite of the pastry.
Cassius: (Is this the flavor of "affection"? The sweetness and texture are the same as always...)
He takes another bite, and then another, pondering the possible discrepancy between the baked good in his hand and the ones he has eaten before.
By the time he finishes eating all of the sweets, his brows are furrowed in confusion.
Cassius: I cannot find the distinction. How exactly is affection supposed to taste?
???: Hey, Cassius!
Just then, he hears the sound of approaching footsteps and looks up.
Lyria: Hello, Cassius! Are you here taking a break?
Cassius: You're all here. I was eating some pastries I bought.
Vyrn: When you said you needed to go buy some stuff, you meant confections?
Vyrn: We were just about to go get somethin' to munch on ourselves!
Lyria: There seems to be a Valentine's dessert fair happening in town right now, so we're going to go look around together!
Vyrn: Bet there's gonna be a ton of seasonal sweets that's only for sale around this time of year. Can't wait to try 'em!
Cassius: Seasonal sweets...
Cassius: (Captain). Would you say those seasonal items are especially good because they are made with "affection"?
(Captain) and company are puzzled by their friend's question.
Seeing the crew's confusion, Cassius relays the conversation he had with the pastry chef earlier.
Lyria: I-I see... Now that you mention it, I guess seasonal items are a little more expensive compared to regular confections.
Cassius: It appears the hike in prices during Valentine's is not restricted to the seasonal sweets, but also applies to the items I am usually partial to.
Cassius: The chef has informed me that this is due to the "affection" added in the process of making the desserts, but I cannot detect a difference in its taste.
Vyrn: Well... I doubt the chef was being serious when he said that.
What do you mean?
Vyrn: I mean, I'm sure there's stuff that's being specially made for the occasion too.
Vyrn: But prices are probably goin' up 'cause of the demand and not the affection.
Cassius: You mean to say that this is a strategy used to boost profits, implemented for the duration of the event called Valentine's when the demand for sweets increase?
Vyrn: That's a pretty blunt way of sayin' it, but basically...
Cassius: It's true that value increases when an item is only made available for a limited time, allowing an unquestioned raise in prices.
Cassius: Such is mortal psychology. An easy and logical method of increasing profit indeed.
Despite his nod, however, there is a hint of disappointment in Cassius's voice.
Lyria: Hmm... For me, I feel it's even more delicious when someone makes something especially for me.
Lyria: So I think it's true that desserts are more tasty when there's affection in them!
Vyrn: Yeah! Sweets from shops might get more expensive around this time...
Vyrn: But Valentine's is still an important day where people can express their feelings through giving!
Vyrn: The shops are thinking about their customers and puttin' out special items, so in a way, that's a way of giving too.
Cassius: Hm... What do you think, (Captain)?
Cassius: Do you believe there are benefits for customers on Valentine's, despite the surge in confection prices?
Choose: Depends how you look at it.
- Depends how you look at it.
- Price doesn't reflect value.
Vyrn: Right. Stuff doesn't have to be homemade for your thoughts to be real, and it's not like everyone has the skill to make desserts.
Vyrn: Some people prefer buyin' something more luxurious and expressin' their feelings in that way instead.Choose: Price doesn't reflect value.
Vyrn: Right, you can't really judge the value of someone's feelings with money...
Vyrn: There're people who can't make confections themselves but still wanna express their appreciation. In that case, buying somethin' nice from a shop's a great option.Continue 1
Cassius: In other words, the benefits depend on the person.
Vyrn: Yup, everyone has their own circumstances. There's no single way to do somethin'.
Cassius nods again, comprehension dawning on his face.
Cassius: However, I still find it difficult to accept that the raise in prices also applies to my usual favorites.
Cassius: I'm not purchasing them for other people, so I fail to see the logic in buying something I will be eating myself at a high price.
Lyria: Oh! Then why don't you come with us and take a look around the sweets fair?
Lyria: I've done some research and listed up some items that are only available this year!
Lyria: That might make buying expensive sweets for yourself a little more reasonable!
Seeing Lyria's enthusiasm, Cassius thinks for a while before giving a small nod.
Cassius: If you insist, Lyria, then I will see for myself as well.
Cassius: I am intrigued by what these seasonal items may be.
Lyria: Leave it to me then! I'm sure there'll be lots of new creations that you'll like, Cassius!
Lyria: Come on! Let's get going on our sweets tour!
Vyrn: Hey, Lyria! We're gonna lose you if you run like that!
Lyria skips on ahead as Vyrn hurriedly follows after her.
Cassius and company head back toward the town center, excited to see what the special occasion may bring.
A Dash of Something Special
Several days before Valentine's, the crew visits an orphanage to deliver cargo. They are surprised to find out that all the boxes contain ingredients to make sweets for the facility's supporters. Cassius expresses interest in the children's process of baking with "affection" and offers his assistance. The others also decide to help with the children's confection-making.
One afternoon, several days before Valentine's Day.
(Captain), Lyria, Vyrn, and Cassius take on a request to deliver supplies to an orphanage and arrive at a certain town.
Lyria: There we go! Whew.
Lyria: (Captain)! Vyrn! I think that's the last of them!
After counting the number of wooden crates stacked in front of the building, Lyria and Cassius walk over to (Captain) and Vyrn.
Vyrn: Nice work! Thanks, Lyria! You too, Cassius!
Teacher: Thank you so much for delivering these to us on such short notice! We appreciate it.
Vyrn: That was a lot of stuff. Are all these boxes food?
Teacher: That's right. They're actually ingredients for making confections for Valentine's Day.
Teacher: We like to make something every year to thank all the people who have contributed to our facility.
Vyrn: Wha! You mean you're gonna be usin' up all the ingredients here for that? That's a lotta sweets to make!
The crew is surprised to hear that all of the ingredients are for a single day. The teacher smiles.
Teacher: Yes. There are quite a few people the children would like to thank, you see. We're very fortunate to have that number increase every year.
Teacher: Even with the help of all the children and staff, we do have a bit of trouble making everything in time.
Despite the hard work ahead, a grateful smile appears on the teacher's face. Cassius peers quizzingly at the woman.
Cassius: I don't understand. Making such a large amount yourselves is highly illogical. Why do you insist on doing so?
Cassius: It would be less of a burden to purchase an equal amount of premade goods instead.
Teacher: You make a very good point. It's true that both the work and cost would be considerably less if we simply bought everything.
Teacher: However, we adults want to respect the children's wish in making something themselves to show their appreciation.
Teacher: Those supporting us have also shown their delight in receiving the treats the children so lovingly make.
The teacher's words remind Cassius of what Lyria told him a few days prior.
Lyria: Hmm... For me, I feel it's even more delicious when someone makes something especially for me.
Lyria: So I think it's true that baked goods are more tasty when there's affection in them!
Cassius: So the desserts the children make are ones flavored with "affection."
Teacher: Affection... Yes, I would say so. Special creations filled with the children's affection.
Teacher: That's why all of our kind supporters enjoy them so much.
Cassius: Fascinating indeed. Would it be possible for me to participate in making these confections as well?
Cassius: I would like to verify how affection is added to the desserts, and in what way the flavor changes compared to premade goods.
Teacher: I'm... not sure I'm following, but any help would be much appreciated!
Vyrn: Are you sure? It's kinda sudden, and we don't wanna bother ya.
Teacher: Not at all! It's going to be quite busy for us, so we'd like all the help we can get!
Teacher: Oh, but if you're to assist us, I suppose we should send in a formal request for your crew's services...
Choose: It's on the house.
- It's on the house.
- Don't worry about it.
Vyrn: Yeah! We're the ones who suggested it outta the blue!
Vyrn: Besides, we can't just stand around and not help when you're short on hands!Choose: Don't worry about it.
Vyrn: Yeah! This doesn't count as a request. We're doin' it 'cause we wanna do some baking too!
Lyria: I'm really excited to see what kind of sweet concoctions the children are going to make!
Lyria: We'd be glad to help if you wouldn't mind!Continue 1
Teacher: Thank you very much! The children will be extremely happy.
Teacher: Then to start off, may I ask for your help in carrying these ingredients to the kitchen?
Vyrn: Leave it to us!
Eager to help in any way they can, the crew get straight to work in carrying the boxes into the facility.
A Dash of Something Special: Scene 2
The children teach Cassius how to cast a spell to make the confections more delicious, but Cassius remains doubtful. However, he discovers upon the completion of the baked goods that the flavor is indeed different from premade goods. A little girl tells Cassius about a secret ingredient used when making desserts for loved ones.
After carrying the ingredients to the kitchen, the crew begins to work with the children and staff on making the baked goods.
Vyrn: Hey, I finished mixing the butter and sugar together! Does this look good?
Little Girl: Yeah, perfect! Next, you can...
Cassius: Strange. I put in the amounts as directed by the recipe, but there is a higher number of chocolates in this batch than anticipated.
Little Boy: Oh! When that happens, you just...
Little Boy: Now there's no extra chocolate! See?
Cassius: It's true the excess has been disposed of. However, the fact remains that the recipe produced more than the expected result.
Little Boy: Nah, the extra's for tasting! We're definitely not snacking or anything, got that?
Cassius: Tasting... You mean taste-tasting is also a necessary step in the process of confection-making?
Little Boy: Yep! I should eat one more, just to be sure...
Little Girl: Heeey! Are you snacking?
Little Boy: Ack, she found us!
Cassius: No, we are tasting the chocolate in order to adjust the sweetness to its optimal level.
Vyrn: I was wonderin' why there was less chocolate than I'd expected... It was you guys, huh?
Little Girl: Sigh... Anyway, no more tasting, all right?
Little Boy: Darn. Guess we got caught.
Cassius: I don't understand.
The boy and Cassius return to their work, the same pouting expressions on their faces.
Little Boy: Wait a second! If you do that, the meringue's gonna clump and it won't get nice and fluffy when we bake it!
Cassius: I am replicating the actions you demonstrated earlier. What is the difference?
Little Boy: Hmm. Try thinking gentle thoughts when you mix it so the meringue doesn't get mushed! That's how it gets really soft!
Cassius: Gentle thoughts? I fail to comprehend. Including elements the eye cannot see into food is unrealistic.
Little Boy: Oh, well, just give it a try anyway!
With a look of doubt, Cassius follows the boy's instructions and begins to work with the concoction more slowly.
Eventually, the drippy texture of the meringue grows more feathery with the delicate beating of Cassius's whisk.
Little Boy: See! What'd I tell you? Now it's fluffy!
Cassius: I see. Fluffiness is equivalent to gentleness.
Little Boy: You got it! Okay, here's the next step!
With the children's clumsy but precise advice, the crew continue working on the task in front of them.
Some time passes.
Vyrn: There we go! Now we just gotta bake these!
Little Girl: Oh, wait! There's something really important we have to add before we bake them.
With the batter done, the crew are about to put everything into the oven when the girl stops them.
Cassius: Something important? I recall having already added all of the ingredients listed in the recipe.
Little Boy: It's not written in the recipe, but it's definitely the most important!
The children gather around the batter and put their hands over it. They exchange glances and nod.
Little Boy & Little Girl: Nice and yummy! Make everyone happy!
Cassius: What is this ritual?
Little Girl: It's a spell to make the confections taste yummy!
Little Boy: If you cast it, the desserts become really delicious!
Cassius: A... spell? I don't understand. It is unlikely your words will improve the flavor of the food.
Little Boy: That's not true! They will!
Little Girl: Yeah! It tastes a hundred times better if we wish for it to turn out nice. And then it'll make everyone happy!
Cassius: The possibility of such abrupt change occurring is hard to believe. Can this "spell" truly influence the taste?
Cassius's expression remains doubtful even after hearing the children's explanation.
Lyria: Affection adds to the flavor, remember?
Lyria: I'm sure the children's spell is their form of affection! It'll definitely make the baked goods taste even more amazing!
Little Boy: Exactly! You should give it a try too, Cassius! It'll make these sweets taste so good!
Cassius: Very well. If this can bring out the precise flavor of "affection," then I will do as you say.
Little Girl: Okay, let's do it together one more time! Ready, and...
Everyone: Make it nice and yummy!
The batter is placed in the toasty oven, and a short while passes.
Vyrn: Whoa, they look awesome!
Lyria: Ooh, they smell so nice! I'm sure they're delicious!
The aroma of the freshly baked goods fills the room.
Teacher: Hehe. If you'd like, please have this batch as a snack.
Vyrn: Wha! Are you sure?
Teacher: Of course. You've all been a big help.
Lyria: Wow, thank you so much!
Little Boy: Yaaay! Let's try 'em!
Little Girl: Here you go, Cassius! They're hot, so be careful, okay?
Cassius: Understood. Thank you.
Cassius and company accept the baked desserts, taking a bite while they're still warm from the oven.
Little Boy: What d'you think, Cassius? Is it good?
Cassius: If I were to judge purely by the taste, logically, something made by a professional pastry chef would win by far.
Cassius: However, it's strange. I feel as if the flavor of this confection can compare even to bakeries that use the finest ingredients.
Cassius: No—it's not simply the flavor. I feel... a sense of fulfillment from partaking in this.
Cassius continues to mumble to himself. The boy and the girl look at each other, smiles spreading across their faces.
Little Girl: That's because the spell you cast on them worked, Cassius!
Little Boy: You put extra thought into making this batch! Maybe that's why it tastes the best out of them all!
As the children chatter excitedly, Cassius looks down at his half-eaten dessert.
Cassius: I see. This is what Lyria meant earlier.
Cassius: This flavor that cannot be clearly described in words—it's the taste of "affection."
Cassius: If affection can make any creation—whether it is made by a professional or the average person—so delicious...
Cassius: Then I can understand the sentiment of wanting to share something special and made with affection on Valentine's.
Cassius: Valentine's Day...
The heartfelt dessert brings something to Cassius's mind.
He shifts his gaze thoughtfully to the children next to him.
Cassius: Tell me. If you were to receive something on Valentine's, would you rather have something equivalent to these confections than something from a shop?
The boy cocks his head, bewildered, while the girl gives a squeal, her cheeks flushed with excitement.
Little Girl: Are you going to give out a Valentine's, Cassius?
Cassius: Yes. Valentine's is a day to express one's gratitude, is it not? If so, then I would like to try following this custom.
Little Girl: Hehe! In that case, I'll let you in on the special secret ingredient the teacher told me about before!
The girl walks over to Cassius and whispers something into his ear.
Cassius: Is that truly the "secret ingredient"? It's different than the spell you showed me when we made these desserts.
Little Girl: Yep! This secret ingredient is for when you wanna give something to your friends, family, and people you love!
Little Girl: The teacher told me that if you give out something with this secret ingredient, you can get along with them forever and ever!
Cassius: You mean to say that this secret ingredient is a unique element, even among Valentine's gifts.
Little Girl: That's right! It's really special! Oh, but don't tell anyone, okay? It's my secret!
Cassius: Understood. In return for providing this piece of information, I will not speak of this to anyone else.
Little Girl: Thanks! Do your best, Cassius!
Little Boy: So what's the secret ingredient? I wanna know too!
Little Girl: No way! It's not for kids who treat Valentine's as a day to stuff your face!
Little Boy: Wha! Aw, come on! We're the same age!
The conversation between Cassius and the children catches (Captain)'s attention. The captain approaches the group.
Choose: What's up?
- What's up?
Cassius: I learned of a new secret ingredient.
Lyria: A secret ingredient? For baking? What kind of ingredient is it?
Cassius: Details on the matter are confidential. That is the contract between us.
Vyrn: When you put it like that, it just makes me wanna know more!
Little Girl: Too bad! It's a promise between the two of us. Right, Cassius?
Cassius nods at the little girl. The others exchange puzzled looks and shrug.
A Dash of Something Special: Scene 3
The same night, after much trial and error in the kitchen by himself, Cassius finishes making baked goods of his own. He presents (Captain) with them as a Valentine's gift and expresses his gratitude toward the captain. When (Captain) asks what the secret ingredient he included is, Cassius replies that it is "affection" and smiles.
Cassius: Now then.
Late into the night, while everyone is tucked away in bed.
After saying goodbye to the children at the orphanage, Cassius is back at the ship, standing by himself in the middle of the kitchen.
Cassius: If I recall, the girl told me I should make something I believe would suit the recipient of my gift.
Cassius: In that case, what I should make is...
The sound of pages flipping echoes in the silence.
Time passes slowly, and the light of the moon through the window begins to wane.
Cassius: This one.
The young man stops on a certain page. He scans the words on it and nods decisively.
A while later.
The beating of the whisk ceases and Cassius places the bowl on the counter, breathing a sigh.
Failed creations are tragically littered on the table next to him.
Cassius: Strange. I followed the steps in the recipe precisely.
Cassius: The measured amounts are correct, and I do not detect any abnormal elements within the mix.
Cassius: Which means the problem must lie in... this step. "When peaks begin to form, add the flour."
Cassius: I did not expect the level of difficulty to increase so drastically between different recipes.
Though there is fatigue in his voice, Cassius's eyes are bright with anticipation.
Cassius: Still, I believe I have grown accustomed enough to this recipe to proceed steadily from here.
Cassius: Ah. And I can't forget the spell and the secret ingredient.
Reminded of what the children had taught him earlier in the day, Cassius picks up the bowl once more.
Several hours later.
Just as the skies are beginning to brighten, Cassius completes his creation at last.
Cassius: (Captain). This is for you.
In the hallway of the Grandcypher, (Captain) turns around to find Cassius holding out a small box.
Cassius: I attempted to make sweets on my own, as we did with the children yesterday.
Cassius: I made this as an expression of my appreciation. I would like you to accept it.
Surprised but delighted at the unexpected gift, (Captain) thanks Cassius and opens the package.
Inside the box is an assortment of small baked goods. The captain takes a bite out of one of them, indulging in the sweet aroma.
Choose: It's delicious!
- It's delicious!
At (Captain)'s honest remark, Cassius looks relieved, his expression softening into a slight smile.
Cassius: Of course. After all, I've included the spell and the special secret ingredient.
Cassius: In addition to thinking gentle thoughts throughout the entire process, as I have been advised.
Hearing this, (Captain) closely examines the confections one more time.
Cassius: I tried implementing the method of improving taste by putting my sincere thoughts into the culinary creation, and it has proved effective.
Cassius: I would like to put this method into practice in the future, when the need to express my feelings presents itself.
Choose: You'll need a little more than that.
- You'll need a little more than that.
- You're forgetting something important.
Cassius: My true feelings won't get through only through giving gifts?
Cassius: That is a good point. I have never thought too deeply about the cooking and sweets I've consumed up until now.
Cassius: Likewise, it would be futile to put thought into food if the recipient is not made aware of it.Choose: You're forgetting something important.
Cassius: Something important? Are you referring to something outside of spells and secret ingredients?
Cassius: Is there another factor I am failing to see?Continue 1
(Captain) tells Cassius that words are also important in expressing one's feelings.
Cassius: You mean, there is a need for me to verbally state that the gift is something I made especially for the recipient...
Cassius: And my intentions would be unclear if I simply gave the gift without an explanation. Hm.
Cassius: Verbalization leads to the verification of motives, and with it, a synergy that further enhances the flavor of the culinary creation.
Cassius: Very well. I will take this into account if another opportunity presents itself in the future.
Cassius appears satisfied at having grasped the concept and mannerisms of gift-giving. (Captain) gives a nod of approval.
Cassius: Then allow me to present these confections to you again—this time, with proper verbalization.
Cassius: Isaac, Zeta, Vaseraga, Beatrix, Eustace, Ilsa, Gwynne...
Cassius: There are many whom I am grateful for.
Cassius: But it is with your help, (Captain), that I am able to continue living in these skies even now.
Cassius: Thank you for everything you have done for me. And I look forward to spending many more days with you.
Choose: I'm looking forward to it too!
- I'm looking forward to it too!
Cassius extends his hand, and (Captain) grasps it firmly.
Feeling a tinge of embarassment, (Captain) changes the topic to the secret ingredient Cassius used for the desserts.
Cassius: You wish to know what the secret ingredient is? I have an agreement with the girl regarding its disclosure.
Cassius: But... if providing precise information can bring out the true flavor of the confections, then perhaps it may be justified.
Cassius: Very well. I will tell only you, (Captain). The secret ingredient is...
At the low whisper, (Captain) blinks, frozen in place.
And in response to the captain's reaction, Cassius breaks into a smile once more, satisfied.