Where am I?
...Oh. Another one of these little realizations?
I doubt it... you can't realize much in total darkness, I guess.
I can't feel anything... it's like it's just my mind...
No... not just my mind.
Sigh... where is everyone? It's lonely here... I'm all alone...
I don't want to be alone...
Just like then...
There was a near-audible flash as texture and sound and scenery
returned from an unknown direction, as if someone had removed
the plug from whatever he was trapped in. A small beach, rocky
cliffs behind him, and a terrible feeling in his heart came
as he lay panting from exertion he hadn't experienced. He picked
himself off the ground, noting idly that this time he was no
dream figure, no insubstantial watcher, but solid.
Claude looked around, taking stock. Yes, it was a very familiar
beach, one that by all of his reasoning should be so much space
dust by now.
Oh well... might as well stick with the plot, I guess...
He slowly wandered over to where he'd found Leon face down,
lying in the sand, before realising that the Fellpool he'd taken
to calling brother wasn't there.
Something vague caught his attention, and he glanced up...
where he could see a faint outline of a floating Leon. It was
perfectly true to life - the cocky half-smirk, the tome of magic
tucked under his arm, the ears twitching every so often with
a wind that he couldn't feel.
What did you see, Big Brother?
The figure before him floated to the ground, solidifying even
as Claude saw himself separate, his solid body moving forward
to complete the tableau of the grieving child and the supportive
young man giving a shoulder to cry upon.
I... I saw you. Your inside, everything you didn't show
to those you didn't trust... you were scared, and you'd lost
all those important to you, and you needed someone. And I was
there for you.
He looked up to note the tableau had changed. His figure was
still in the same position, but Leon had turned and stopped
crying, locking his eyes to the real Claude.
"So had you."
It didn't matter. My feelings, they could wait. You were
"When you barely even knew me?"
"What difference does that make?
"You don't see it?"
The Leon shade grinned, before disappearing as Claude simultaneously
fused again with his 'real' self. The world around him brightened
to a paradoxical white-black shade before spinning round and
around, beach suddenly replaced by woodland clearing, people
milling around in dirty, ragged clothing, all they could scrape.
A number of familiar figures turned in surprise as a couple
of travellers entered the camp. Time slowed, as though viscous,
as Claude walked slowly around and between his friends, appraising
He paused to stare at the Heraldric Wizard, smiling slightly.
Time and time again she'd called them all 'darling' or 'sweethearts',
and it always seemed to help everyone's spirits a little. He
doubted she'd ever stop, anyway. Time and time again he'd watched
a monster bearing down on him when he was weak, only for it
to be incinerated before it even reached him.
Celine... I wasn't sure about you, at the start. And I know
you weren't certain about me - I remember you near screaming
at Rena that I was too reckless... but then we fought back to
back. I covered you, you covered me... somehow, we became friends.
You called me a little brother, once...
Walking past her, he glimpsed a slim, young girl practically
wearing a robot around her body. Her ever-present smile was
there, as always, and the eyes shone with excitement and happiness.
At least, they did if you didn't know her. Those who did could
usually see deeper.
I thought you were just thinking of it as a holiday, Precis.
Couldn't imagine you were taking it seriously because of the
way you were so cheerful throughout everything we faced. But
I think I know what you're doing, somehow... you're cheering
us up, for our sakes. But then, what are you doing to yourself..?
He turned to face the sombre, blue-haired man standing stiffly
next to them, scrutinising the face that was permanently set
into a form of indifferent scowl, the eyes reflecting little
or no emotion.
Am I strong? Am I really stronger than you because I can
protect instead of destroy? I... what was it I made you realize?
What was it that made you fall even deeper into your depression
and indifference? You told me to protect Rena, told me to look
after her... can I manage that? Can I really manage it? I don't
know... but I know I'll try.
He watched solemnly with slightly downcast eyes as motion seemed
to return to the world in dribs and drabs. The solid Claude
and solid Rena locked eyes before running to each other and
hugging each other tightly, Rena crying into Claude's shoulder.
Words exchanged at a near-whisper between them, their friends
looking on. Dias, unreadable as ever, Celine, a knowing, wry
smirk, Precis a huge grin, Ashton looking slightly red from
the public display.
Rena... You made me this way, didn't you? You taught me
strength, the strength to protect. I didn't care about the Federation,
didn't care about my father, didn't care about the ship or the
rank of Ensign or anything I used to know. But I know I'll stay
with you to protect you, I know I'll be there for you, because
I care about you. Because I need you, because the feeling when
I was washed up on that beach is one I never want to repeat
during my entire lifetime. I don't ever want to be alone again,
don't ever want to look around and see no one there.
Is it love I feel for you? I don't know... but then, why
did it hurt so much when you left to help Dias instead of me
at the Tournament? Why did it hurt when I shouted at you? Why
does it hurt to see you sad..? Why does my entire body feel
useless when you're not with me..?
Claude blinked, turning, to see Rena, as insubstantial as he
himself was, staring at him, looking slightly puzzled that he
was there but her eyes showing she was happy and reassured nonetheless.
She walked towards him, tilting her head slightly and with a
playful grin on her lips.
Hey look, Claude. We end up together in the Field of Love...
He returned the grin, something in him lifting at her presence
and at her quip. It was a little hard to resist Rena's infectious
jokes and smiles and when she was in a happy mood, she seemed
to infuse happiness in everyone who saw her. Admittedly he was
rather more susceptible than anyone else to her smile - particularly
when it was directed at him alone - but despite that she could
be as good as Precis for cheering people up.
Yeah. You surprised?
Something in her changed, Claude both seeing and feeling her
tense slightly as he spoke the words. She looked half-away from
him and put her hand on her chest, almost bunching herself up
while still standing. She opened and shut her mouth a few times,
before taking a deep breath and looking back up.
I... no. I'm not surprised... Claude...
He blinked twice before searching her eyes for any falsehood
or jokiness within them. Finding none, he gaped, looking down
at the ground even as he felt Rena move closer, her voice -
or whatever passed for a voice in this dreamworld - becoming
more nervous still.
His expression softened, and he looked back up to meet her
eyes, looking within them again. He stepped forward, then forward
again, arms encircling her waist as she almost subconsciously
wrapped hers around his neck and returning his smile.
Rena... I'm sorry I kept you waiting this lo--
He had to stop as Rena covered his mouth with a finger.
They stared into each other's eyes for a while, happy to be
within the other's arms and to have the other with them. Claude's
heart felt light for the first time since he'd entered this
plane, and he could see in Rena's eyes that she felt the same.
As the world around them began to fade to white, the last thing
he remembered feeling was their lips briefly meeting along with
the confessions they'd both waited so long for.
"Alright! We got the last Orb!", Precis practically shouted
as the real world faded into view along with the surroundings
of the Field of Love. Claude glanced across, and indeed, sitting
upon the altar was a shining globe of colour. Claude and Rena
walked forward to it, and as they reached for it, they met eyes.
Claude felt the brush of her hand, and saw her smile brighten
that little amount, and knew that she remembered it all, and
that they had actually shared the same vision. He knew they'd
need to talk about it, to figure it out, but for now, there
was something about going with the flow that seemed to gently
force his lips to speak in a hushed whisper.
"We never finished that kiss..."
Her eyes widened, partly from mirth and partly from surprise,
and Claude guessed she'd not been expecting him to say anything
along those lines. She near-hissed, "What?! While everyone's
"Why not?", he replied, with a wink and a smile.
"If it helps, they all figured it out way before we did."
Rena thought briefly, before they both stood up and turned
to each other. As they moved closer, Rena threw one wry grin
to the rest of the party, along with a single warning to look
away. The group did only for a second, but it didn't matter
anyway. Rena hadn't even stopped to check.
As the rest of the group started cheering and offering I-told-you-so's
for the couple, Dias watched, a small, serious smile replacing
the usual indifferent expression.
They knew Intelligence. They knew Power. They knew Courage.
And they knew Love.