A weird and somewhat embarrassingly cliche dream. Unsure if a weird manga-like world where everyone has animal features or if it was more the symbolic but the following:
A young jaguar cub, hurt and hungry and lost in a massive city of cement and steel. An old turtle, scarred but kind, happens upon him and adopts the cub. They leave the city and live in a small house in the country, where the turtle has many strange visitors but they otherwise live as happily as they can.
The turtle tries, of course, but reptiles are not so good at childcare, not like mammals. In an effort to do the right thing, the turtle looks for any trace of missing jaguar cubs. They take a trip to Brazil in hopes that will make things easier, but no avail. They are both a simultaneously disappointed but relieved by that.
The jaguar cub grows up. The turtle grows old. The turtle dies.
Turtles live long, but not forever, and this turtle lived a long and dangerous life.
That life catches up with the jaguar, but not in a bad way. The turtle had many businesses in the city and while he does not need to supervise them, the jaguar does have to introduce himself to them especially in this upcoming month. The turtle was also once a loyal servant and advisor to a great dragon.
That dragon has a son who has declared his intention to court the jaguar.
The jaguar is bewildered. The jaguar does not understand that the dragon son is royalty. The jaguar has no idea that the month long festival in the city in honor of the royal family (and in a Cinderella-esque attempt to get the dragon son betrothed to the many eligible beings in the city).
The capybara, a third generation immigrant from Brazil who manages one of the turtle’s-now-jaguar’s businesses and is the jaguar’s friend as he navigates city rhythm after a life of sheltered, country living is completely aware of all of this and amused as hell.
The scene I specifically dreamed:
“And you’re sure you’ve never met him before?” Capybara asks, wiping down the counter. It’s unnecessary–she has exacting standards and excellent employees–but she finds the movement familiar and soothing.
She’s not the only one, clearly, as Jaguar sleepily blinks at her in response to the question. She waits, patient, Jaguar will answer her soon enough.
“Hm,” he hums, trying to recall. She likes that he is not quick to speak, considers his words before he utters them. “I was mostly out in the country and the town we lived in was so small I can name everyone. Grandfather had visitors from time to time, but they were all adults…”
Capybara waits once more, he is not finished speaking, she does not believe in interrupting people. And anyway, she thinks this quiet recollection suits the the half lit closed bakery.
“… we did travel, once, to Brazil when I was younger. But I don’t remember interacting much with anybody besides Grandfather. Surely I would remember?” Jaguar sounds so honestly confused that Capybara attempts to answer:
“If you were young enough, maybe not,” she says with a shrug, “Most everyone’s childhood memories are… hazy to some extent. Though if it were such a significant meeting that he decided to court you after all these years, it would be harder to forget.” And given who Dragon is, it’s unlikely that their meeting would have been anywhere but in this city.
But Jaguar’s gaze has drifted off, clearly struggling with a particularly barbed thought.
Capybara’s family has managed this bakery for Turtle since they immigrated here decades ago. Her grandmother was the one who suggested the trip to Brazil. They sent care packages of traditional baked goods twice a month up until Jaguar temporarily relocated to the city and he came to the bakery on a near daily basis instead.
She knows some of Jaguar’s background. Not enough to interrupt as he wrestles with his memories, but enough to be there when he finally breaks away.
“… maybe Before?” Jaguar says so hesitantly, so reluctant yet brave, that Capybara reaches out to give him a comforting pat. Jaguar gives a shaky grin in return and they put the moment to rest.
After a pause, Capybara asks, “Regardless of the why, are you okay with this situation?” Because Dragon or no, if Jaguar isn’t okay, Capybara will throw down.
He looks up at her, startled, then away, almost shy. Poorly trying to hide a smile.
Capybara nods, “Then we proceed in such a way that you will be happy.”
So I guess this means that it’s set in Japan? Because… surely this is hella some kind of cheesy manga set up, and also the idea as capybaras as established immigrant population is so good for my soul. Shout out to my fellow second/third generation immigrants!
Uh… please be kind if you have anything to say about this ficlet. I am so soft.
Some more world building details under the cut in the very unlikely chance that I want to revisit this ‘verse:
Tbh, Dragon family is more a mix of royalty and crime family than just pure royalty. So, yes, Turtle was once the right-hand man of a yakuza boss.
Jaguar is hella into parkour. Jumpy cat is more accustomed to trees but he’ll make do with buildings.
Jaguar might have been part of a human trafficking ring that a rogue gang had which the Dragon family discovered and broke up, but only after a warning visit telling them to dismantle willingly or be destroyed. Hence, Dragon meeting Jaguar previously?
Jaguar also hella escaped on his own, like the same day the wrath of the Dragon family was enacted upon the rogue gang, and was kind of scraping through on his own for a few days until Turtle found him.
Dragon has been infatuated with Jaguar since their possible original meeting as children in that shitty situation. But is emotionally collected/competent enough to know that an idealized version of a person isn’t enough to establish a relationship alone. Hence, courtship.
The city has no idea that Dragon already has a future spouse in mind, all they know is that he’s receptive to one. So everyone is getting a little crazy.
At one point, there is a parade for Dragon which he does not show up to because he and Jaguar are watching it from a rooftop and eating some of Capybara’s pastries.