Disclaimer
I do not own anything here except my own characters. Some were borrowed by friends, but for them most part the story is original. Also, while the names of states and cities may be displayed, many locations will be entirely fictional. Anything with the same name as something in the realm of Reality is purely coincidental.

Prologue

Friendships come, friendships go. Some stay forever while others last for a minute. But no matter how long they last, they are eventually torn asunder. Death is neither cruel or understanding. It matters not how much someone means to you. No matter how strong your bond with your friend is, it is quickly cut by the Grim Reaper's dreadful scythe. All that is left is an excruciating amount of pain for the soul. The stronger the rope that bound you to your loved one, the greater the pain becomes. Think of it as a vein.

But what does make this experience worth it? If we make no bonds with people and remain alone, then we can avoid pain. What makes humans take a chance with others until the inevitable occurs? Why are people hurt when Death comes to collect? And what connects these two scenarios together?

Love. That is the answer. The feeling of loving someone and being loved in return far surpasses the pain we feel of losing someone. Be they friends, family, or a spouse. It definitely surpasses that feeling of sadness we get when we become lonely. Yet it is precisely by love that we feel hurt and lonely when your loved one passes on. Some people can deal with being alone, and grow strong by their independence. They grow strong because in time they learn to rely on themselves more and grow more confidence within themselves.

But not me. Not after I lost the one person that meant the world to me. I may have been young at that time, but it was then when I grasped the meaning of love's gentle touch. Its powerful presence. Call me a fool. Call me naive. Call me what you will. But never call me a quitter. Because feeling alone has a different meaning between a person who has loved and lost and one who has not loved at all.

My name...is Leon. And this is my story. This is my pursuit of the same joy I experienced with her. My Melody Weaver...

Chapter One: Another Night. Or is It?

In a great kingdom, long, long ago, there was once a country that was agonized by the terror of a dragon living in the land. Many knights have challenged it, but have failed. Some came back alive and lived their lives in shame. Others died honorably, but their remains were never found. The worst part was that the dragon would burn villages with hardly anyone to oppose it.

And yet it was prophesied that one day the dragon's head will be cut off one day. And weeks after those words have been said, that is precisely what happened. A young, mysterious knight challenged the beast and killed it, saving the kingdom. And what was happening now at the castle was a feast to celebrate the man's victory. And what's more, the entire kingdom had agreed on making this new citizen their king. After all, he claimed he was nothing more than a traveling wanderer. The former king was dead, having been mauled to death when the brave man decided to challenge it. Without a king, the people thought their hero should become king.

"And now I dub thee, Sir Leon" the former king's magistrate shouted "The new king of our land!"

"And I kindly accept!" The young wanderer stood up after receiving the crown. The crowd cheered, for they saw good times ahead. But Leon was quick to shush them by slightly raising his hand. "First order of business!" The young man pointed his sword at some of the knights in the audience. "To the brave men who came with me during my quest. I shall let you command the knights of our kingdom! In honor of the men who gave up their lives for their kingdom, I'm sure you will do a great job!" At their new king's signal, the men quickly stood up and ran to their friend. It was then when they received a standing ovation from the people present.

But the new monarch was not done. "And also! Any working man who goes home to a loving family will have an increased salary in their jobs! This will be thanks to the cuts I will impose on the rich nobles who have perverted this land with their bribes." Cheers immediately followed. The poor would no longer be harassed by the efforts of the rich, who believed there truly was a price for everything...be it freedom or the law.

"All hail King Leon!" Leon shyly looked down as he heard the villagers, the knights, and everyone else chanted his name. "Leon! Leon! Leon! Leon! Leon! Leon-"

"Wake up, you dolt!"

But in the end, it was all a dream. This story wouldn't take place in a kingdom where its issues were already in the path of resolution. No. It takes place in a small town in the US. And our hero, Leon, being the dreamer he was, truly wished he was somewhere else. He wanted to go back to sleep, but the guy who woke him up (with a punch to the face) wouldn't allow it.

"Leave me alone, Malric. I still have an hour before I open the bakery." Leon uttered as he closed his eyes again. But moments later, his eyes widened as much as they could and sat up. One would think he finally felt the sting of Malric's Atomic Punch (as he called it) but that wasn't the case. "How did you break into my house?!

"Yeah, about that..." Malric began. "I don't think leaving your upper lock unlocked and your KEYS on the doorknob wasn't such a good idea." The red-haired boy tossed a set of keys at Leon, who was slowly getting dressed for the new day.

"Ah, my bad." Leon put his keys away, still feeling mellow despite what Malric's told him. But he did have a question. "Why are you here?"

"I saw that you were selling a lot of your things online, and just so you know I won the bid." Malric handed over a copy of the website he followed so Leon could look at it, and Leon quickly saw that Malric was speaking the truth. "Don't get me wrong. It's not like I wanted to actually play them."

"Then why did you buy them?" Leon asked with a puzzled look. "If you don't want to play them, then why did you waste your time and money on them?"

"If you have to know." Malric quickly glanced at a nearby bookcase. "You're throwing away our memories. Remember when we played all these games?"

It all came back to Leon at that moment. He and Malric have been friends for many years, and they met around the time the Playstation 2 was a big thing. What Leon was selling apparently held a lot of memories for Malric.

"Chill out, Malrence." Leon said casually.

"Stop calling me that!" Malric angrily uttered through his teeth.

"Oh, right." Leon got closer, now sporting a sly grin. "Only Yumi's allowed to call you that, right?"

That was enough for Malric to punch Leon across the room. The girl Leon just mentioned, Yumi, was Malric's roommate and a childhood friend. A friend in pain, I might add, for she has fought depression for five years.

"And for the record, she IS feeling better today. So she'll be at the bakery on time today." Malric pointed out. To make ends meet, Malric would head out to his job at a convenience store in the morning while Yumi helped out at Leon's bakery. Sometimes bills would be a problem for them, so Leon would occasionally help out his childhood friends when Yumi's depression got the best of her. And when that happened, the girl was just unwilling to work.

"That's good news." Sporting that sly grin of his, Leon just couldn't help himself on making Malric a little more flustered. "If she's feeling better, why don't you ask her out, ya wimp?"

This time, Leon witnessed a different reaction from Malric. As he suspected, he DID like Yumi in that sort of way. "I...can't."

"And why not?"

"Because...well, I always thought it was cowardly to ask a girl out when she's vulnerable."

"You got a point there." Leon crossed his arms as he thought for a moment. He completely agreed with Malric on the subject. Waiting for a woman to let her guard down was no better than a thief waiting for the owner of a house to go to sleep, he thought. Yumi had always been a strong girl. That is, until tragedy hit them all in the heart. It was Yumi who got hurt the most. Even though she seemed happy a lot of the time, all it took was one bad day for her to go back to her depressive state, which was hard to get out of each time.

"So...you really plan to move out of this town, huh?" Malric said, hoping to change the subject.

"Yeah. Both this house and the bakery hold many great memories, but I think it's time I moved on to something big." Leon looked around his house, and Malric saw that a lot of his things were already packed. Leon had one week left to move out, and he wanted to spend that time giving it his all at the bakery, which he opened up three years before. It took some effort to draw the town's attention, but the locals come in every day to see what kind of goods he had prepared. Yumi had become his apprentice, even though she has baked and cooked a lot longer than he has. "You see, Malric. Sometimes, you just have to move on. I know we all felt the same way Yumi did before, but you and I are getting out of it. There's not much I can do, and if I stay here I won't really be able to move on. So I'm going to a school in Wisconsin to get away from it all. At least for a couple of years. Then, when I come back, I'll build an even greater bakery!"

Malric was really disappointed in what Leon just said. "But, Leon...what about the bakery?"

"Oh, that's easy. I'm giving it to Yumi. I'm sure she'll take care of it on her own." Leon replied with a careless tone in his voice.

"By herself?! Have you gone mad?!" Malric was having a hard time absorbing everything Leon was telling him. It sounded to him that the guy didn't really plan much of it.

"I'd hate to see it closed down when I come back, you know?"

"But what if she says no? Then what?!"

Leon then looked out the window for a moment. He already knew what to say. "I seriously doubt it. Malric, you never stopped by the bakery, have you?"

"Um, actually...I haven't..."

"When Yumi starts baking, she really gives it her all." Leon stated. "It's like she becomes an entirely different person. No. More like she goes back to the way she used to be."

"You're kidding..." Malric couldn't believe what he was hearing. He couldn't remember the last time he saw Yumi smile.

"Not at all. And you know why that is?" Leon asked. And before Malric could answer, he had already pulled up a picture from his digital camera. It was a book. "It's your sister's recipe book. She was so young, and yet she came up with a few things. She was truly magnificent."

That was a subject that no one has touched in a long time. The recipe book belonged to a young girl named Riddel. She was the connection between the three friends. She was Yumi's best friend, Malric's big sister, and was Leon's last relationship. The main reason she is rarely mentioned was because she lost her battle with cancer five years ago. As a result, Yumi fell into depression. While Malric and Leon were also affected by her death, Yumi appeared to be the only one who couldn't get out of it for long.

"Yeah..." Malric said softly. His sister meant a lot to him. While he was not as affected as Yumi, Malric still missed her. He wanted to avoid this subject as well, so he prepared to leave. "So, um. Yumi will be on time today, so get ready. You hear?"

"Will do. Thanks-" But Malric had already shut the front door by the time Leon tried to thank him. "Malric." Leon quickly pulled a stack of papers under his bed, and for a couple of minutes he gazed at them. "How could I forget? There's not a day when i don't think about her. But that is precisely why I have to move away from here. If I can go through with it, then that means I moved on. Right?" Leon didn't have much time left to get ready, so he neatly stored the stack of papers away. Once he was ready for work, he leaves the house and, looking behind him, he nods. "I'll be back later." He closes the door and begins his walk down to the bakery.

With minutes to spare, Leon was able to make it in time to open up the bakery. Some people would wonder why a man, who should focus on either "manly" jobs or studying, would open up a bakery. And whenever Leon heard people asking those questions, he would simply answer with "To make the best smiles I can possibly make!" Some were satisfied with his answer, while others would secretly question his masculinity. In any case, there was something almost everyone could agree on: whatever way Leon used to make his pastries seemed to be working. People of all ages came to his shop every day. Kids would want the cupcakes while otakus (anime enthusiasts) and gamers would come in with special requests. Adults, as expected, came in mostly to get birthday cakes for their children.

Leon was relieved that Malric was right, and saw a girl come in the doors a minute after he did. "Glad to see you, Yumi." Leon didn't really expect Yumi to dress nicely, and today was no different. She wore a black sweater and jeans, something Leon would immediately object to if wearing an apron didn't make her look a little like a maid.

"Morning." Yumi answered with a smile. She seemed to be more like herself each passing day, Leon thought. Of course, it could also be because of the news Malric told her earlier. "I...hear you're leaving for Wisconsin in a week."

"Yeah. I was trying to make a decision on my own, so I really didn't want to tell you guys til I made up my mind. Which was last night." Yumi hadn't heard wrong at all. Leon was leaving town all of a sudden and the thought of taking care of the bakery frightened her. Sensing this, Leon tried to calm her down. "I'm sure you'll do fine, Yumi. You've already been trained, so there's not a whole lot I can teach you. All you need now is some time alone so you can grow independent!" After saying this, Leon then muttered to himself. "Just like me..."

"I-I don't know if I can do it!" Hyperventilating, Yumi sat down by Leon's suggestion. He was worried that Malric would be right about Yumi not wanting to take care of the bakery by herself. But after calming down, she gave her answer. "B-but I'll do my best! I'll take care of the bakery for you!"

"Hey, I didn't expect your answer so soon! You want time to think about it? Because-"

"No, it's totally fine. I thought about it on the way here, and while I'm scared I think it would be nice for you to get out there some more." Standing up, Yumi then grabbed her apron and put it on. She glances at all the different baked goods that have already been made. She didn't want it all to go down. "I remember you telling Riddel you wanted to see more things out there. How everything in and out of this world fascinated you."

Riddel was brought up again. This was the second time in a while since she was the subject of the conversation. And Yumi was right, Leon did want to see more things out of his hometown. Even if it's just a college in Wisconsin for two years. And though Malric didn't seem to approve of his decision (as Yumi later pointed out), Yumi was behind Leon's decision 100%.

"You go do what you think it's best! I'm sure Riddel is smiling up above of your decision!" Leon smiled at hearing those words come out of Yumi. He was proud that she could mention Riddel twice without crying. She really seemed to be feeling better, and believed she would be back to her old self eventually at this rate.

It was now 9 in the morning, so the bakery was now open for business. Throughout the day, thanks to a sign on the door, word spread fast that Leon the baker was moving out of the town in a week. Some wished him luck while others urged him to stay in town. But his mind was already made. Yumi's eyes would well up when the people practically begged him to stay, but nevertheless she remained supportive of Leon's decision.

It was 6 in the afternoon and the bakery was about to close. An elderly man, with the help of his cane, rushes to the doors and stops Leon from closing the doors. "Pardon me, young man. But your bakery is the closest one to my house that is open right now. Could I please come in?"

"Sorry sir, but it's already 6." Leon sadly replied. "We're fixing to close right 's been a busy day."

"Please, sir. I beg of you. I woke up from my nap about 45 minutes ago. This body can only move so fast." The old man insisted. As often as Leon refused, the man persevered and continued to ask until Leon finally caved in.

"Alright. Come on in." Leon opened the door for the man, who quickly went inside. Leon was never too fond of last-minute shoppers, but he thought he wouldn't have to worry about it for a while so he decided to cut them some slack for the rest of the week.

Yumi, as cheerful as she has been today, attends the customer. "Hello, sir. How can I help you today?"

The elderly man smacked his lips a little, looking at all the pastries that were out. "Ah, yes. I was wondering if you kids were carrying so banana nut bread today."

Leon, already with the loaf in his hands, quickly hands it over. "We always do, sir. That'll be $2.50, please!"

"$2.50? For that big thing? I don't think I'll be able to finish it, but I'll take it!" The old man shouted in glee and left the store. Leon was relieved at how easy that was while Yumi got ready to go home. A few moments later, Malric parked outside in his car.

"There's my ride." Yumi said, also relieved that their shift was over. "Are you sure you don't want to come with? He's taking me to a pizza buffet and I was wondering if you wanted to come with us?"

Leon remembered his conversation with Malric in the morning, so he immediately thought on turning down his offer. And with a good reason, too. "Sorry, Yumi. But it's going to have to be you and him tonight. I still have things to do here so I won't be able to join you."

"R-really? Just me and...h-him?" Yumi replied nervously.

"Well, yeah. What's wrong with that? You guys live together, right?" Leon thought about what he just said, and then it hit him. Why else would Yumi be nervous about being alone with Malric, even though they live with each other? "You like him, don't you?!" Leon pointed at Yumi, whose face got red with embarrassment.

"What?! W-why would you say that?!" That was all that Yumi managed to blurt out, though her facial expression was enough for Leon to believe he had just hit the bulls-eye.

"Why are you so surprised?"

"I just didn't think Malric would like me! Goodness, he's my best friend's little brother! If anything, I figured you'd go after me again, Leon." Leon stood quiet for a second. Before Riddel came along, Leon had attempted to ask Yumi out and even managed to get the words out. Unfortunately for him, she was seeing someone at the time but she felt so guilty about it that she introduced him to Riddel. Yumi's been single ever since her ex turned out to be a cheating lowlife, and Riddel's death during the breakup was a ton of salt to her wound. But she managed to move on from her relationship with her ex. Leon was surprised about her thinking of him before Malric, who lived under the same roof as her.

"Give it a rest, will ya? You know I moved on from you a long time ago, so I don't see you that way anymore. And you know that." Leon crossed his arms, knowing that he had just disarmed Yumi off her only excuse. "So spill it. You like Malric, don't ya?"

Closing her eyes, Yumi could only hope for the best. "So what if I do, huh?! He hasn't made a move at all so why should I even bother?!" Turns out that In the end, Yumi was waiting for Malric to have made his move. Having been living together for four years should have been enough time to get to know each other. So she wondered what the hold up was. All she could conclude was that Malric only saw her as a big sister, like Riddel was to him.

"Those two will never find love at this rate." Leon thought. It was up to him to give them a push, otherwise they'll never now of each other's feelings. "Well, Yumi..." Leon began. "Maybe he's just as scared as you are. Probably more so than you."

"You may be right, but why would you think that?" Yumi asked. She was suspecting that Malric may have told him something.

"Look at it this way." Leon began. "You have been sad for these past few years. If I was Malric, I would think it is insensitive to ask a girl out when she's most vulnerable. Because then she will act out on her emotions and not her brain. He'd probably be afraid you'd make a wrong decision without thinking it through, so maybe he's just waiting for you to feel entirely better." Malric was still outside, and was honking the horn of his car. He was getting impatient. "I'm not asking you to make the first move. I'm just saying encourage him to make it. If you guys like each other, then what's the use of beating around the bush?"

Yumi thought for a moment, now feeling rushed. But she smiled at Leon confidently. "You know what? Maybe I should. I'll let you know if anything happens when I can." With a slight bow, Yumi then rushes out the door. She looks back and waves at Leon goodbye. "See ya later!" She then hopped on Malric's car, and moments later they drove off. Leon walked outside to see if they would come back, but they didn't.

It was then when he decided to close the store when he saw the old man from earlier crossing the street. The light was turning yellow, but one of the cars was attempting to rush through it. Without thinking much about it, Leon rushed to save the man from the oncoming vehicle. Thankfully, his bakery was on the corner so he managed to run up to the old man before the worst-case scenario could happen. He pulled the old man and dragged him away to the street corner Oddly enough, the elderly man dropped his cane but didn't drop the loaf of banana nut bread he bought. Leon then jokingly thought it was more important than walking.

"Are you okay, old timer?" Leon sighed when he saw the man was smiling the whole time.

"Hahahaha, never better!" The old man yelled in excitement. Either he had gone insane or he was just so happy he was still alive. Leon was seriously hoping it would be the latter. "But you did save my life, sonny! Maybe there's a way I could return the favor!"

"Yeeeeeah, I'll call you back when I'm dying. I just need to close my store and then I'll head home." Leon then walked away even though the man called out to him. But suddenly the man said something that caught Leon's attention.

"I can see it in yer eyes, son. You're already dead inside." Leon stopped dead in his tracks. He turned to face the old man, who continued. "Oh, yes. Something about you tells me that you've given up on life."

"You're really going crazy." Leon turned around and began walking again. But the old man wasn't ready to give up.

"It's because of her, isn't it? Riddel, right?" Leon stopped again, but this time he rushed to the old man and grabbed him by the shirt. "Ohoho, it looks like I'm right!"

"Listen, old man." Leon stared at him menacingly. "I don't know how you know, but even if you tried to help me she's gone now. Try not to joke about these things."

"And who said I can't help? I'm not an ordinary old coot." The man then grabs Leon's hand tightly, prompting the younger man to let go. I can help you see her again, you know?"

Leon was starting to regret saving the old man's life. He didn't want to hear a stranger talk about someone important to him. "You really are crazy. How do you plan to do that? How would I see someone that has passed away and moved on from this world?"

The old man then walked towards the bakery. Leon was amazed how fast he was able to walk without his cane. "I can't tell you here. Let's have a chat in this lovely place, shall we?"

Leon just stood where he was, dumbfounded at what's happening. Is the old man really helpless? Was using the cane just a ruse for pity? Is this man just crazy and ignoring the pain his legs would feel without a cane? Whatever the case, Leon was still curious about what he wanted to say. "This better be good..."

To be continued...